Eminent scientist behaving badly

James Watson has really put his foot in it this time. He has a tendency to say some shockingly offensive and bizarre things.

Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "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". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

Or, rather, our wanting to see our particular ethnic or racial group as superior to all others is not enough to make it so. There seems to be no environment on earth (except, perhaps, the coddled womb of the upper middle class lifestyle) where the average human being can afford to dispense with intelligence — and that includes Africa — and even where populations have been isolated for ten thousand years at a time, as in North America and Australia, we don't see powers of reason decaying. And of course, Africa is not significantly geographically or genetically isolated at all.

The article is like a summary of Watson's greatest gaffes.

In 1997, he told a British newspaper that a woman should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could determine it would be homosexual. He later insisted he was talking about a "hypothetical" choice which could never be applied. He has also suggested a link between skin colour and sex drive, positing the theory that black people have higher libidos, and argued in favour of genetic screening and engineering on the basis that "stupidity" could one day be cured. He has claimed that beauty could be genetically manufactured, saying: "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would great."

Zuska has another one.

He smiles. "Rosalind is my cross," he says slowly. "I'll bear it. I think she was partially autistic." He pauses for a while, before repeating the suggestion, as if to make it clear that this is no off-the-cuff insult, but a considered diagnosis. "I'd never really thought of scientists as autistic until this whole business of high-intelligence autism came up. There is probably no other explanation for Rosalind's behaviour.

It's like he thinks everyone is inferior. That's a relative term, so you might be wondering, inferior to what? I happen to know that he thinks very highly of the Scots-Irish, and considers them to be the driving force behind American successes.

I'll give you three guesses what Watson's own background might be.

More like this

Really. I am not making this up. As quoted in The Guardian: He smiles. "Rosalind is my cross," he says slowly. "I'll bear it. I think she was partially autistic." He pauses for a while, before repeating the suggestion, as if to make it clear that this is no off-the-cuff insult, but a considered…
Just for fun. A repost of something that floated to the top several months ago. October 17th 2007 to be exact. There is a reason I'm reposting this. For now, I'll let you guess. It is now time to kick James Watson's ass. The man is a terrible embarrassment to us all. ("Us" being scientists…
Spitting on Rosalind Franklin's grave is apparently not satisfying enough for Jim Watson. When you are a largemouth ass, you have to do much, much more. So now he's maligned all of Africa and everyone of African descent. Here's a quote: he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa"…
[via Times Online] Dr Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and author of "Avoid Boring People", says thathe was "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…

The scary thing is that the fundies will use this to discredit both genetics and evolutionary biology, as if science is all a hoax because one major contributor grew up in a less enlightened time and place.

By Brandon P. (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Tactless, certainly. Watson should know that human intelligence is a taboo subject that one simply does not discuss in polite society.

Despite individual and population differences in every other human characteristic, clearly the brain is the only organ that shows no variation; Equal selection pressures, equal drift, equal mutations. How fortunate; there's just one big homogeneous brain plan!

And no, I'm not commenting either way on the veracity of Watson's comments, since they are by necessity political statements rather than scientific ones. That's the problem.

I'm afraid your desire to have all peoples be inherently and fundamentally equal isn't enough to make it so, either.

Sub-Saharan Africans DO score poorly on IQ tests on average, likely for reasons associated with nutrition and disease in early childhood.

As for the abortion thing - I thought you supported the right of women to do what they wished with their bodies. If reliable markers indicative of homosexuality are found, surely you wouldn't force women to carry an undesired fetus - even if the reason it's undesired is that it's gay.

Right? Right?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Just goes to show two things:

1) Even very clever, high acheiving people can be wrong (and stupendously impolitic whilst doing it).

2) That we should be thankful that science is, in part, the process of doubting the word of the experts. Nullius in verbia indeed!

Pity, because this will be seized upon by the usual loons and touted as "High Priest of Scientistofacist Darwinism wants to kill the blacks and ugly people".

IIRC there are differences in intelligence between races at the extreme ends of the bell curve. II also RC those differences are statistically insignificant compared to the high degree of overlap and that the differences WITHIN races are more significant than the differences BETWEEN races.

Doubtless the usual loons will seize on this as validation of their racism, and equally doubtless the other group of reality denying loons will seize on this and deny any racial differences at all.* It does strike me as significant and hilarious that anti-Enlightenment denial of reality is so popular with both typically right wing racist loons and typically left wing politically correct post modernists. Who'd have thought the two would get on so well?

Oh well, it's sad to see a highly recognised and capable bloke make a total arse of himself.

Louis

* There is a perniciously stupid way to misunderstand this. It's the basis of the Is/Ought fallacy. A hypothetical (and deliberately bad) example: Black people are highly represented in international sprinting tournaments. Black people are, at the extreme end of the bell curve, faster than white people. My PA has to run to get me my coffee in time. Therefore black people are only fit to be my PA. Doesn't really work does it? It's the same argument that Watson is using, effectively.

I will cheerfully acknowledge that certain racial differences exist. I will also cheerfully acknowledge that in most cases I can think of the difference within a "race" is more than the difference between "races". And I will very cheerfully acknolwedge that in those cases making any distinction on "race" is flawed in the extreme. However, there are useful uses of "race" for example in medicine (certain racial groups are more likely to have thallasemia for example) and in these cases certain distinctions based on "race" can be valid and productive. It's all about what follows from the evidence. Gosh, that sounds like science. Gosh, that also sound very different to what Watson's pronouncement is.

Unfortunately, much weight will be added to his comments by the inevitably foolish response of many of his opponents.

For example, when The Bell Curve came out, the criticism could be (roughly) divided into two categories. The first was detailed scientific refutation of its claims, as provided by Steven Jay Gould and others. This was overshadowed however, by the second category, namely hysterical denunciation which failed to engage any of the arguments, and condemned the fact that anyone could even ask such a question.

Such a reaction is highly beneficial to the "scientific" racists, as they can simply claim that an inconvenient truth is being suppressed by political correctness.

I hope, PZ, that his critics will follow your example, and attack his arguments rather than his conclusion.

Watson is a tosspot, pure and simple.

IIRC there are differences in intelligence between races at the extreme ends of the bell curve. II also RC those differences are statistically insignificant compared to the high degree of overlap and that the differences WITHIN races are more significant than the differences BETWEEN races.

No, that's gender you're thinking of. Racial and ethnic groups vary far more than that.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

This is a good example of how scientists are different from fundies--if a scientist behaves like an idiot, it is possible to reject his behavior, and still appreciate past work.
We don't have "Watsonists" but "geneticists". So, science marches on, despite personalities.
Just remember, there is no such thing as a "Darwinist" or "Evolutionists"--just "biologist".

Why is it unreasonable to suggest that black people might be intellectually inferior? Why does PZ consider this ludicrous and easily dismissible?

The "everyone is equal" philosophy doesn't always bear itself out. You can't expect it to be a universal law. Maybe there is a significant intellectual disparity between some races. Who knows? Watson at least has a point.

PZ is continually proving himself a faith-head, PC-fundamentalist.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Despite individual and population differences in every other human characteristic, clearly the brain is the only organ that shows no variation;

And why should variation in the brain coincide with variation in skin color? After all, nothing else seems to.

Better yet, why should anything coincide with the US definition of "black", which includes everyone with any visible amount of African ancestry in the last few centuries, even Colin "Paleface" Powell? Or with the US definition of "white", sorry, "Caucasian", which doesn't even include the southern 1/3 of Europe?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I can explain Watson in three words.

White. Man's. Burden.

I'm afraid I have to agree with Caledonian. The intelligence of various groups of people has absolutely nothing to do with our desires for racial equality or inequality.

It is important that the scientific community shows WHY he is wrong in saying this - using experimental data - rather than dismiss it because it has unpleasant consequences for our ideals of equality.

(certain racial groups are more likely to have thallasemia for example)

Yes, the Mediterranean Race.

How many believers in race have recognized a separate Mediterranean race in the last 50 years?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think that it's an interesting area for examination. What is "intellectualy inferior"? If I write an IQ test, it will reflect my upbringing. Let's ask some tribesmen in Africa to develop the test, and see how we do.

"You see a gazelle, a zebra and a giraffe at a watering hole. Which do you select to kill?"

"Which will provide you better food value; 20 grubs, 24 millipedes, or a cobra?"

'The Double Helix' was a key inspiration for me becoming a scientist in the first place. I have given it away to other young, budding scientists as a gift to inspire their scientific drive. It will always have a place on my book shelf.

None of this garbage, not one word, should take away from the extraordinary contribution to science made by this man.

This situation just reinforces the difficulties with idolatry of any kind. The man is human and, apparently, somewhat racist. Yes, he should know better, but I think we can safely divorce this stupidity from his actual contributions to molecular biology. We (or at least I) try to do the same with Francis Collins; recognize the extraordinary contributions while pointing out and harshly criticizing the flaws. No one is above criticism.

At #5: Exactly. I saw very little in the article refuting his baseless statement on scientific grounds. He claims vaguely that 'studies show' his stupid claims. What studies? I simply don't understand how even poor scientific reporting can fail to ask that question. When a scientist, or anyone, makes a claim, then bases it on 'studies' they should be automatically asked to cite them. If they can't or won't their remarks are pointless.

His racism is clearly not based on any fact, and I would like to see him discredited on that account. Not because his statement is inherently untrue or a violates an unquestionable bit of dogma, but because despite his claims of studies or evidence supporting him, he has no such evidence.

By Fnord Prefect (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

No, that's gender you're thinking of. Racial and ethnic groups vary far more than that.

Any evidence of this? That "intelligence is same as ours" is a specious comment. Even if their environment is less than hospitable for personal growth, "our" intelligence spread easily encompasses theirs.

I'm trying to say that for just about each disease -- just about each gene -- you'd have to recognize its own set of races.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Well, seeing as how intelligence has never been very well defined, and that each culture has its own definitions of what should constitute intelligence, I'm not sure what leg you're standing on, Caledonian et. al.

Yes. If Caledonian and friends can point to a study that shows racial differences in intelligence (however you want to measure it) that manages to effectively control for incredibly complex social conditions that we don't understand, it would be appreciated.

I feel compelled to whip out the SETI definition of intelligence: "the ability to build a radio telescope". That one works. That one is rigorous and testable. =8-)

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I have a question.... what if its true?

Regardless of evolution, certainly we can expect differences among the populations due to genetics, but also, environment, sociological differences, and so forth.

We have to recognize the certainly it doesnt mean that all people from africa have a lower IQ (as opposed to just dumb), it just may mean the the average is shifted down, with tails at both ends like in any other country (every single person I have worked with from Ghana has totally blown me away with their intellect and decency).

So what if it is? Shouldn't all our policies be designed in a way to benefit the maximum amount of people, meaning the entire bell curve regardless of where the average is?

As an example, not that we do this, Doesn't making something handicap accessible make it easier for everyone? Have any of you tried watching TV with closed captions on? The shows are far more understandable!

Even if the average is lower in africa, our policies shouldn't be designed to only reach those at one end or another of the bell curve.

just a thought.

p.s. I doubt very much if given the same opportunities and same nutrition that there is any difference at all in IQ.

I knew he was going to say something like this for oh so long now. The main problem is that he think testing for intelligence is possible, which shows you, even famous scientists with a lot of respect, at their core, can be idiots.

When you test people with equal social pressures, desire, time available to study, equal opportunities to learn, opportunities to succeed, and equal resources and about a zillion other social and physical situations all being equal, and you get a wide difference in range, means and std etc... then you can start to wonder if he is right.

Until then, we see he is just a guy living in a bubble that has no sense of what the real world is, and I would love to see how long he would last, in all his brilliance, in the average street situation.

"Why is it unreasonable to suggest that black people might be intellectually inferior? Why does PZ consider this ludicrous and easily dismissible?"
John Smith, I think you hit the nail - unwillingly - on the head. The problem is that we put value labels on differences and often use those to justify all sorts of atrocities. Why would someone with a lower IQ be considered "inferior" ? By whose standards ? I have not the slighetest idea whether africans have different IQs or libidos or whatever - but I can tell you that a bushman/woman manages to survive in an environment in which I'd be dead within a day.

It is true that there are difference between different races. To my knowledge there is no conclusive evidence that all humans regardless of race have the same potential for intelligence. I think intelligence can be measured and so can physical fitness. There is the possibility that he is correct. Until there is conclusive evidence that he is wrong, I don't think so many people should scorn him. Just like Richard Dawkins says about the nice comforting idea of going to heaven or having a soul- just because it is comforting -that doesn't make it *TRUE*...

By robotaholic (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

As an example, not that we do this, Doesn't making something handicap accessible make it easier for everyone? Have any of you tried watching TV with closed captions on? The shows are far more understandable!

Ever tried comparing NOVA with American Idol? Americal Idol is far easier to grasp! Why can't NOVA be more like that?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

From a 1996 article in American Psychologist:

It is widely agreed that standardized tests do not sample all forms of intelligence. Obvious examples include creativity, wisdom, practical sense, and social sensitivity; there are surely others. Despite the importance of these abilities we know very little about them: how they develop, what factors influence that development, how they are related to more traditional measures.

So if you want to hold IQ testing as the gold standard, you're leaving out an awful lot of factors that otherwise figure into intelligence. Creativity and practical sense are the two that jumped out at me most. We call artistic savants geniuses based on their creative aptitude. Do we hold a double standard when extending that genius to equally creative non-White people?

Hi, Lago! Sorry for hijacking this thread -- you have twice accused me of somehow sweeping GSP under the rug, I answered twice (if late), and you never came back to those threads (the one on the quill knobs of Velociraptor and the one on my adoption into the OM). Could you elaborate now, please?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I have not the slighetest idea whether africans have different IQs or libidos or whatever - but I can tell you that a bushman/woman manages to survive in an environment in which I'd be dead within a day.

Without assistance, how long could the Bushman live in, say, downtown Detroit?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian,

No I'm pretty sure it's races as well. To cite two populist, secondary sources: I seem to remember something being mentioned in "The Selfish Gene" about this, and a quick check of Wikipedia (that most {cough} "reliable" of secondary sources!) backs me up. Look up "race and intelligence (test scores)" and "race and intelligence (explanations)" on Wikipedia for example. Sorry I can't be more precise than that, I don't have the book to hand, and I can only afford a quick look at Wikipedia.

Anyway, it would seem to me that the immediate counter to your claim is to look at that data (Wiki has some discussion of it). That data does not support the claim that, for example, the difference between the lowest IQ black/white individual and the highest IQ black/white individual is smaller than the lowest black vs lowest white or highest black vs highest white or mean black v mean white. I.e. the interracial differences are smaller than the intraracial differences. Obviously it dicusses also the limitations of testing etc.

Louis

Americal Idol is far easier to grasp!

Are the decisions as rigged as in the German and the Austrian equivalents, for example...? I wouldn't call rigged decisions "easy to grasp".

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Arguments that use intelligence tests as a measure make the same mistake that arguments using strength as a measure for being a combat soldier make. Intelligence speaks to the ability to solve a problem. Problems get solved with all the tools at hand, sensory input, brain size, physical conditions and abilities. To say that Africans or any other group is less intelligent based on tests is totally missing the point of what it is to be alive and reactive with ones environment. Sure it may be true that men are on the whole a little bit larger and stronger than women, or that some Kenyans can run long distances better than most whites, or that little boys do better in some math applications, but in the end it is how the problems get solved and everyone uses all the tools at their disposal to do so. When you look at it this way, all the differences become unimportant. When I worked in the steel mill women were just beginning to break into employment there. Men would say a woman can't lift that 100 pound impact wrench all day. The answer is: "Of course not, nobody but a fool would. The woman will use a power lift." The fact that I won't run a long distance race against a person that is gifted by nature and nurture to excel at such an endeavor does not make me inferior. It just means that I have to save my pennies for the bus fare.

By Nick in Tacoma (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

That data does not support the claim that, for example, the difference between the lowest IQ black/white individual and the highest IQ black/white individual is smaller than the lowest black vs lowest white or highest black vs highest white or mean black v mean white.

What possible relevance do you imagine that comparison has to this discussion?

Your argument also holds for people with Down Syndrome. Should we conclude that there's no significant difference in intelligence between normal people and those with DS because the differences within the normal population are greater than those between normality and DS?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Are the decisions as rigged as in the German and the Austrian equivalents, for example...? I wouldn't call rigged decisions "easy to grasp".

Well here in Murka, they are firmly grasped...by the balls, until they tell us all they know.

"Without assistance, how long could the Bushman live in, say, downtown Detroit?"

Without assistance, I wouldn't be able to live there very long either. If no one's gonna give you food or shelter or protection in that city, and you've got no bank on you, it doesn't matter where you're from. Luckily I have relatives there, and you can usually find people who will help you.

robotaholic

I don't think anyone is saying that there is absolutely no chance that potential for intelligence* doesn't have a racial factor. But it's not like testing isn't being done. People have been testing intelligence for years, and they're slowly getting better at it. Currently, the trend seems to be showing that differences in intelligence, with all variables controlled for, seem to be narrowing. That in itself isn't a conclusion, of course, but it should give pause when idiots like you start spouting "PROVE THE RACES ARE EQUAL! PROVE IT!" We aren't scorning him because he suggested that races might not have the same potential for intelligence; we're scorning him because he is blatantly using that possibility as a springboard for his own virulent racism.

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

That is not the measured, sensitive response of someone awaiting the outcome of intelligence testing. That is a disgusting racist, and you are abetting him with your nonsense.

Jeez, some of you folks are dunces. If there was no essential difference in the capacity to reason between us Moderns and Europeans in the Middle Ages, even those who lived in Russia, the sparsest, most inclimate, least fertile, most predator rich section of Europe, and we have an entire tradition of literature ecclesiastical, scientific, and personal to prove that lack of difference, then how can you honestly sit there and smugly assume that sub-saharan Africans, who by the way, live in an infinitely richer environment that Saharan or Mediterranean Africans, are stupider than everyone else? Bigotry, thats how.

I.Q. tests do a better job of exposing the inherent biases of those who write them than they do of registering the intelligence of the test taker; any psychologist can tell you that.

As to showing he is wrong, hundreds of studies have over the last 60 years. How many times do biologists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, and historians have to win this argument before you damned racists will pack up your crap and admit you're wrong?!? And why does Watson's opinion on this even matter? If he's such an expert of genetics then he'd be well aware that, bereft of an environment which encourages the use of traits, traits are not expressed in a life form. Genetics could be, at best, a predictive science of predispositions, but never one of immutable determinations regarding skill and ability, yet this is precisely how he treats it in his comments. By doing so he does not contribute constructively to the debate, as some posters here seem to think, but merely exposes his own ignorance of the advances made in genetic sciences since his partially stolen discovery over half a century ago.

*whatever that is

I also want to echo two points raised more thoroughly by others:

1) There isn't a comprehensive way to test "intelligence". I.e. intelligence is generally quite a nebulous concept. Where it is well defined it can be well tested but no one in their right mind pretends this then extends to all the other narrowly or generally defined concepts of "intelligence". In other words: IQ tests test the ability to do IQ tests (and related functions).

2) "Even if true so what". This angle is very important. Like the hypothetical and frivolous example I gave above, the fact that on average black people are the fastest runners does not mean it automatically follows that black people are therefore the people who should run to get my coffee. It absolutely does not follow! So what if on average the average black person's IQ is lower than the average white person's? It makes no difference to anything because the suitability of someone to rule is a) rarely based on their intellect despite what we might wish (I'm looking at you Bush!), and b) general trends do not necessarily predict INDIVIDUAL abilities. It's the fallacy of composition again. Just because some group has a property, it does not automatically follow that it's components all have that property.

Basically, it's just a fantastic excuse for a good old fashion fight.

Anyway, everyone knows that the really stupid people on the planet are those people betting on South Africa to win the Rugby World Cup (which in all seriousness they probably will but shhh I didn;t say that) because England are going to win. Stands to reason dunnit. After all, I'm an England fan and thus better than some dodgy South African fan, so England are going to win, right?

Hmmmm. Perhaps not.

Louis

"John Smith, I think you hit the nail - unwillingly - on the head. The problem is that we put value labels on differences and often use those to justify all sorts of atrocities. Why would someone with a lower IQ be considered "inferior" ? By whose standards ? I have not the slighetest idea whether africans have different IQs or libidos or whatever - but I can tell you that a bushman/woman manages to survive in an environment in which I'd be dead within a day."

Yes, but maybe Africa is economically worse-off than other continents due to the average intellectual inferiority of its inhabitants. If this is true, then maybe our social policies shouldn't make the assumption that the Africans can perform various tasks anywhere near as competently as we can.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

If there was no essential difference in the capacity to reason between us Moderns and Europeans in the Middle Ages, even those who lived in Russia, the sparsest, most inclimate, least fertile, most predator rich section of Europe, and we have an entire tradition of literature ecclesiastical, scientific, and personal to prove that lack of difference, then how can you honestly sit there and smugly assume that sub-saharan Africans, who by the way, live in an infinitely richer environment that Saharan or Mediterranean Africans, are stupider than everyone else? Bigotry, thats how.

Ah, essentialist thinking! How comforting that the old fallacies never go out of style.

Australian aboriginals demonstrate markedly higher spatial awareness and geographic memory than their European-descended counterparts. The sword of differences cuts both ways.

What part of "nutrition and disease" didn't you understand?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Regardless of evolution, certainly we can expect differences among the populations due to genetics, but also, environment, sociological differences, and so forth.

Right, differences among populations, which is by no means co-extensive with skin colour (just look at, say, the Watusi compared to various pygmy groups). "Blacks" (or "Africans") are no more a population in the genetic sense than, say, all people with brown hair. As a biologist, Watson should know this, so his statement is really nothing other than garden-variety racism.

My Ph.D. advisor used to say that appointments to the National Academy of Sciences should be written in disappearing ink. I guess that goes for Nobel prizes, too.

>> Have any of you tried watching TV with closed captions on? The shows are far more understandable!

techskeptic, perhaps it's time to visit an audiologist.

On those occasions when I've watched TV with someone who needs them, I find closed captions to be extremely distracting -- especially the real-time ones that accompany newscasts. They lag behind the images by many seconds and are generally full of often-hilarious misspellings and misinterpretations. You'd think this would be easy to fix -- just use the newscaster's teleprompter as the source of the captions and run them concurrently with what s/he's reading. Why is this done so badly?

/off-topic rant

By Donnie B. (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian,

The relevance it has to the discussion is because you disagreed with precisely that! I said that the interracial difference was smaller than the intraracial difference and you said "No, that's for gender". I went and checked it out just to refresh my memory and found that I was in fact right. Who knew! I also gave you several metrics there, not just one. The point of course being that interracial differences are indeed less significant that intraracial ones based on the available data. I think this shows the poor quality of the data and definitions, and the complexity of the phenomena under study more than anything btw.

Incidentally: I am NOT claiming that no difference exists, I'm claiming that the differences in IQ between races that do exist are not, on average, statistically significant (which given that "race" is such a nedbulous concept, is precisely what we should expect) when compared to differences withn "races".

Your Downs argument does not work because a) Downs is known to cause mental retardation, having a higher concentration of melanin in the skin isn't (i.e. there is a know caustive link between lower IQ and Downs, there is no know caustive link between race and IQ and the data doesn't even support a strong correlation) and b) the spread of IQ in people with Down's syndrome is comparatively narrow, unlike for example the spread of IQ in Caucasians.

But since you're replying to a strawman anyway, I'm not obviously worried.

Louis

The irony is that 150 years ago, all these characterisations were being made about the Irish as explanations for their perennial poverty compared to the English.

By Ashley Moore (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith @ #40,

Is that your racism showing? I suppose your final conjecture there is controlled for centuries of imperial, colonial, and religious control, up to today, right?

Sorry, I forgot to add the obvious point that this means we cannot reliably use racial characteristics as a predictor of IQ, especially in individual cases.

What Watson was saying was "because on average race X has a lower IQ score than race Y, individuals from race X are less suited to rule than individuals of race Y".

What I'm saying is that this argument is not only logically flawed, but it is unsupported by the data (i.e. if you have a specific candidate for ruler from race X and another from race Y then the general IQ data about races X and Y tell you nothing useful about the IQ of the candidates because of the fallacy of composition and because the IQ differences between races X and Y and less than the IQ differences within races X and Y).

Get it?

Louis

John Smith,

Of course, it is a sign of deep intelligence and thoughtful objectivity to generalize - in a sober manner, to be sure - about the cognitive skills of the population of an entire continent.

And of course, Africa's economic problems, which are serious, have nothing to do with the wholesale exploitation, murder, rape, and inhuman behavior of those oh-so-civilized and intelligent white-skinned Eurpoeans who ran roughshod over Africa (and, often, still do).

But let's ignore that. Let us continue to discuss your fascinating notion that racism is merely common sense. And let us do so in the thoughtful, serious fashion that any dispassionate discussion of ideas deserves.

Pass the schnapps and cigars, Mr. Smith, do you mind, sir? Oh, and please don't get any ash on that lampshade in if you can. Jewish skin, you know. Very rare.

"That is not the measured, sensitive response of someone awaiting the outcome of intelligence testing. That is a disgusting racist, and you are abetting him with your nonsense."

Exactly - it is not only a wicked thing to say, it is demonstrably, laughably false. As a team leader of a number of staff over the years, I have had to manage a large number of people of African origin. Some haven't been too bright, others extremely so. Exactly the same applies for the numerous white and Asian members of staff I've managed. Simply, the human race is a mixed bag and everyday experience for all but the most ardent racist would be enough to confirm this.

By the way, I know that's not a scientific analysis - but my experience does at least give the lie to Watson's disgraceful suggestion that it is somehow the experience of managers that black employees are noticeably worse than employees of other races. What a petulant, ignorant fool.

Rudi

By Rudi Tapper (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Funny thing about this thread is that it's, in general, a bunch of white people talking to other white people, showboating just how non-racist they are. ...when, in reality, we've all made jokes, quips, and even have real thoughts that say quite otherwise. Not acknowledging that and even stating otherwise doesn't make you a better person. It makes you fake and no better than Haggard's hypocrisy with homosexuality and his meth-riddled trists.

Amazingly Dr Watson hasn't made any mention of old age vis-a-vis intelligence. Maybe he should write about differences between senile seniors and bright prodigies to highlight the differences between people of different ages.

Considering he is 79, I doubt he will.

It should be noted that the Irish were for centuries thought by the English to be genetically inferior and inherently stupid- a stereotype which persists to this very day.

I even had a professor in Imperial College who would call something 'Irish' when he meant stupid.

It just seemed natural to Englishmen that the Irish must be backward. After all, the English had produced Newton, Darwin, had developed an empire and countless other achievements. The Irish on the other hand seemed to be congenital drunks who lived in poverty, who never made a serious attempt to drag themselves out of their backward and primitive life-styles.

I have mixed views on race and intelligence, but being Irish has put things into some perspective. I agree with Caledonian that however you look at it, Africans don't score as well (1 std deviation lower) on IQ tests. I think this is something we need to take seriously. A project like the one laptop per child might be a good start in bringing up their score.

By Christian Burnham (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

even though it is politically incorrect to agree with the scientific research done,the data is the data and should be held to the light,even if it is an unpopular finding!!stop trying to squelch the data!!that is simply picking and choosing what you want to be true and what is actually true of differing race intelligence!!if you do that you will no longer be taken seriously as a scientist!!

The irony is that 150 years ago, all these characterisations were being made about the Irish as explanations for their perennial poverty compared to the English.

IIRC, the Irish also score worse on average than the British.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think anyone spouting off such gazzillion times refuted rasistic crap should be put to a IQ test of a very special sort - he shoould be given a piece of land somewhere mid somalia, a pile of wood to build a hut and make tools and weapons and one pair clothes. Then they should be left there and prevented from leaving rural somalia for a year.

Here's a paragraph from Watson's book, DNA:

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

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

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

Nothing to see here, folks; just an old man letting his boyhood anxieties out for a run. We are all like that. We never really leave our childhood behind.

By Kevin Donoghue (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Yes, but maybe Africa is economically worse-off than other continents due to the average intellectual inferiority of its inhabitants."

Maybe it would be wise to do a little reading and thinking before positing ignorant tripe?

Pre-colonial Africa was possibly the richest continent on earth, but is now a continent of impoverished nations due to factors such as colonial asset-stripping, civil wars (such as the one inadvertantly engineered by the Belgians in Rwanda), drought, crippling dept repayments to the international community, and disease (not least of all the propagation of AIDS, in part, due to superstition cultivated by Western churches).

That doesn't even start to address the problems in Watson's arguments, not least of all that nobody has meaningfully shown that Africans or Blacks, or any other relatively arbitrary racial or ethnic grouping, is less intelligent. For a start, you and others making similar arguments, talk as though you think that Africa is a single country with a single ethnic and racial (and genetic) identity. This is clearly not so.

If Watson hadn't shared a Nobel prize for the structure of DNA, then he'd never be allowed a platform for his offensive and archaic opinions (which have been noted to extend beyond racism to also include misogyny and some fairly immoral/amoral and extraordinary opinions on eugenics). But, who will tell one of the Fathers of Modern Genetics to shut up?

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"And of course, Africa's economic problems, which are serious, have nothing to do with the wholesale exploitation, murder, rape, and inhuman behavior of those oh-so-civilized and intelligent white-skinned Eurpoeans who ran roughshod over Africa (and, often, still do)."

Africa was far behind the civilized world even before the Europeans got there, so you should drop that boring canard. As for murder and rape: that's generally African-on-African violence.

"But let's ignore that. Let us continue to discuss your fascinating notion that racism is merely common sense. And let us do so in the thoughtful, serious fashion that any dispassionate discussion of ideas deserves."
That's what I was talking about: PC-fanaticism. You've resorted to using typical fundamentalist tactics -- lying and misrepresentation. I did not say that any races are inferior intellectually; I suggested that *maybe* some are. This is a perfectly reasonable position, and you are simply frothing-at-the-mouth faith-head if you're going to insist otherwise.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

when, in reality, we've all made jokes, quips, and even have real thoughts that say quite otherwise

Well I for one do my best to escape that racist past I was taught. I no longer (and haven't for many years) indulge in such jokes and quips, and try to real-time correct any racist thoughts. Now how does that make me hypocritical?

eric,

Where is that data? Unsquelch it, would you please?

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

Where does Watson say the differences he's talking about need to be genetic as opposed to environmental?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

To quote that great philosopher, The Who, "I hope I die before I get old."

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Bernard Bumner:

But, who will tell one of the Fathers of Modern Genetics to shut up?

"Shut up, Watson."

Just think: if Watson and Crick hadn't chosen to work on DNA, the Nobel Prize for the double helix might well have gone to Linus Pauling and Rosalind Franklin. And remember, Pauling said he'd done it all to be worthy of his wife's respect.

Caucasian Jesus can tell the colour of someone's skin via the medium of the internet, and sees through their written pretence of liberalism, right to their racist hearts; this peculiar form of world-wide-web omniscience also means that he is able to see all of the electronic porn in the world, all at the same time...

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caucasian Jesus from #51,

You must have a hell of a browser to be able to see the color of skin of the people commenting here. That said...

You state that we are "a bunch of white people talking to other white people, showboating just how non-racist they are. ...when, in reality, we've all made jokes, quips, and even have real thoughts that say quite otherwise."

I think you're confusing a couple things here. Having read through the posts a couple times, I don't see much showboating. I do see people taking this issue very seriously. I see people who are attempting to overcome the racial prejudices that were taught to us when we're young, and who believe that we're all created equal.

If errors are made in one's life, which there will be, it doesn't make one a hypocrite. That kind of thinking is what the right wing likes to use when they point out that someone like Jesse Jackson's has made questionable comments, and therefore is a racist himself and should be ignored. They, on the other hand, pretty much proclaim their twisted views, and then get off scott-free from the "hypocrite" label.

Caledonian,
Watson said: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically"

I would say this refers to genetic evolution.

By Ashley Moore (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I would say this refers to genetic evolution.

And the part where the traits he's talking about are said to be genetic?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

As an example, not that we do this, Doesn't making something handicap accessible make it easier for everyone?

Obviously, you've never tripped over one of those sidewalk cutouts for wheelchairs or had to open an automated door by hand. (Not that I'm objecting to any of these, but it doesn't always make things easier.)

Caledonian, did you read the article?

The third paragraph:

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when "testing" suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

See that last sentence? It would've been nice if they included the quote, but that looks pretty definitive to me.

Per Caucasian Jesus (love your website, BTW),

Your logic requires that everyone who ever believed in a god and is now atheist is a hypocrit.

I find it hard to believe that living in Africa with all it's wars, killer disease, dictators, famines, insects and animals is going to make the population stupid. The stress should if anything kill of the dumb ones. If any population would have the corner on fat, dumb and stupid it would us 1st worlders.

Caledonian:

Where does Watson say the differences he's talking about need to be genetic as opposed to environmental?

When he talks about "people who have to deal with black employees".

See that last sentence? It would've been nice if they included the quote, but that looks pretty definitive to me.

Yes? Genes responsible for differences in human intelligence probably will be located within the decade.

The key link, the association between genetic differences in intelligence and demonstrated differences between racial groups, isn't there.

Maybe it was there in the actual quotes. But you're objecting to a projection.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Watson reminds me a bit the obsession of the Nazis with population genetics which ultimately led to mass murder, first of the mentally ill, then of the Jews, as well as Gypsies, homosexuals, and Slavs.
In 1940, Himmler established a "German Racial Register" in an attempt to define which other Europeans might qualify as ethnically German. Eventually the register would contain the measurements, the photographs, and the medical records of 1.5 million people, all gathered with the aim of identifying and isolating the people who had the greatest potential for Germanization, and expelling or murdering the rest.

Reading some of the comments in this thread, it seems some people haven't learned this lesson...

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I find it hard to believe that living in Africa with all it's wars, killer disease, dictators, famines, insects and animals is going to make the population stupid.

That's because you don't understand much about development.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

It's always important to remember things like this when you encounter an appeal to authority. It's perfectly possible to be a Nobel Prize-winning scientist about one thing, and a complete idiot about another. Thanks for reminding us, Dr. Watson!

Funny thing...My high school psychology textbook, if I recall, had a little grey box featuring Watson as an example of a prominent scientist who succeeded despite relatively unimpressive IQ scores (120 something). An opposing box had a feature on a janitor with a 180 IQ who refused to be "part of the system".

Watson might be a bit complexed on the subject of intelligence.

Come one Caledonian, Watson is a geneticist (one of the first geneticists, President of Cold Spring Harbor - one of the foremost centres for genetics in the world) and he believes that intelligence has a strong genetic basis. (e.g. Stupidity should be cured, says DNA discoverer. February 2003 NewScientist.com)

I think it is safe to assume that he was talking about an inherent genetic basis for differences in intelligence, or else drawing the distinction along racial lines makes even less sense (not that talking about the genetics of race necessarily makes sense anyway).

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

It just amuses me that so many people are getting their panties in a twist because, not of something that was said, but a perceived link in a juxaposition in what was said.

The individual points are undeniable. It's only their combination that offends your sense of blasphemy.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian,
I don't believe you are trying to connect the dots. I'm also not sure what your position here is. He says "we" view "them" as intellectual equals, and "they" aren't, and he identifies "them" as "inferiors" based on their skin color. That's not racist?

Even so, here's a different set of assertions (originally from Chicago Tribune), so whatever he says about "testing shows not really" is bogus.
http://www.africaresource.com/content/view/235/217/

Why is it unreasonable to suggest that black people might be intellectually inferior?

Because there exist black people who aren't intellectually inferior. Duh!

Or maybe you're trying to make an argument like, "There are genes associated with intellectual inferiority, and black people are marginally more likely to carry those genes." That's an interesting argument, and I'm sure we'd all love to see evidence for it!

Of course, once we've identified those genes, we don't need to worry about race any more. Instead of categorizing people as "black" or "white", we can categorize them as "smart" or "stupid". (I know that intelligence-level is probably a continuum, just like skin color. But from a public-policy standpoint it's easier to just have two categories.)

Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if it might be a bad idea to pay too much attention to those genes. A motivated stupid person might accomplish more than an unmotivated smart person, and motivation-level is probably controlled by a whole different set of genes.

Maybe the best public policy is just to start with the assumption that people are equal, present them with equal opportunities, and see what they accomplish?

Watson at least has a point.
On the top of his Klan hood, you mean?

By chaos_engineer (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

It's safe to say that Mr. Smith is a racist; ignore him.

Our Scottish friend is backpedalling madly because he has suddenly realised the implicit racism in his remarks, while lashing out in all directions. Ignore him.

Noam Chomsky rightly remarked that in a racist culture, people will ask questions like "Exactly how much more stupid are black people than the rest of us?", and such people should not enjoy the luxury of having such silly questions answered.

And, yes, Watson is a racist. He did some good work once upon a time. Let's not forget that.

John Smith,

Oh, dear.! I'm a "frothing-at-the-mouth faith-head" for thinking that your "maybe" was gratuitous. What happened to comity? We're having a civilized discussion here. How the world has coarsened since the halcyon days of King Leopold of Belgium. I could respond that anyone who has to resort to insults like yours clearly has a heckuva nerve questioning the intelligence of anyone else, let alone an entire continent. But I won't as that would be deeply inappropriate conduct when having a dispassionate discussion of serious ideas, like the common sense of racism.

John, you say that it's a "perfectly reasonable position" to assert that Africans are less intelligent than Europeans, like our good Dr. Watson does. Oh, did I forget that "maybe" again? I'm so terribly sorry. In any case, I'm certain that is a reasonable position in your social milieu, ever so contemptuous of PC-fanatics like myself, who refuse to acknowledge the reality (maybe, don't forget the maybe) of intellectual differences between races.

Yes, indeed. A continent like, say, Europe, which massacres death 6 million people because they didn't like the shape of their nose, now there's an intellectually superior race. Oh, did I just over-generalize by blaming an entire continent for the Holocaust? Or is the Holocaust, too, one of those big "maybes" for you?

And then there is that other intellectually gifted race, the British, from whence our fine Dr. Watson sprang. Oh, how smart they were in India! How profoundly intelligent they were even to their own kind, as contemporary descriptions of 19th century British slums make ever so abundantly clear.

Yes, it is quite reasonable to keep all questions open if you wish to be a truly objective thinker, interested in the truth wherever it leads. And if the truth leads us to the inescapable conclusion that both our own culture and our own race are so completely superior to another as to warrant classification as a separate species - maybe - , well, let us not permit the liberal cliches of political correctness to hold us back from saying so!

Yes, Europe is responsible for deeply profound idiocy. But Europe produced Wagner! What have the Africans done for music that's half as important? Sure, the British were so stoopid they didn't know how to prevent scurvy. But they weren't innately stupid - maybe - like those Africans who blame AIDS on the West.

After all, Europeans aren't superstitious but based in reason. Europeans don't worship totems, for heaven's sakes! And to claim that the subtle, ever so nuanced, symbolism of Roman Catholicism is as totemic as the fetishism of ...let's not mince words here... maybe savages... is willful foolishness.

Yes, let us seek out the evidence which we, as superior humans of European descent (maybe), are uniquely qualified to amass and assess. Let us carefully discuss the evidence amongst ourselves, generously conferring with a genuine African or two to make sure we don't ignore their views.

Objectivity! Objectivity! Objectivity! Only we of European descent (except for gypsies, of course) are smart enough, self-aware enough to be truly objective.

Maybe.

Arguments that use intelligence tests as a measure make the same mistake that arguments using strength as a measure for being a combat soldier make.

This is OT, but, Nick, strength is an absolutely essential measure for modern combat soldiers. US infantrymen carry a combat load of approximately 80 lbs or so. They must be strong enough to bear that load unassisted on any terrain and in any climate for months without slowing down their unit.

We shouldn't make artificial measures like Watson there, but we also shouldn't pretend perfectly valid measures don't matter. A 100 lb person will not succeed as a modern soldier just as a 200 lb person would not be a successful jockey.

All persons from African countries I have spoken to so far were extremely bright. But they all lived in Europe. Because everyone with money tries to send his/her kids to a good university outside of Africa. Add in that many qualified people are explicitly hired from Africa (in the UK live thousands of nurses) so it's quite obvious that this might have a lot more to do with "brain drain" than some race being more stupid than another.

LOL I love how these threads rapidly descend into overblown accusations of denying reality in order to acheive a covert racist goal and overblown accusations of denying reality order to acheive an overt impression of political correctness.

It's highly amusing.

Louis

IANA geneticist, but I gather it's agreed among same that the variety of genes within the non-African subset of humanity is much smaller than that within the numerically smaller ancestral stock of Africans (even allowing for a few minor mutations such as those for blue eyes, epicanthic folds, etc).

These racist and ignorant (see comments # 7 & 59 in particular) babblings might best be illustrated by a cartoon of beagles congratulating themselves on their own superiority to wolves, since the latter haven't learned to roll over on command.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"A 100 lb person will not succeed as a modern soldier just as a 200 lb person would not be a successful jockey."

Except that really isn't the argument. The point being made would be more analogous as to whether a 175 lb soldier could be as good at what he does, or even better, than a 180 lb soldier.

Caledonian,

it just amuses me that you are trying to defend Watson, without really expressing your point of view.
Watson is like Bush, one more victim of early dementia. He should spend more time encouraging scientists to study this unfortunately very frequent condition than to make recommendations on economic policies for Africa.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Black" is not a "race". (Africans and Micronesians are seperated further than Africans and Europeans, for example)

There are is more genetic variation within Africa thatn there is in the rest of the world.

So this: Despite individual and population differences in every other human characteristic, clearly the brain is the only organ that shows no variation is a load of codswollop.

I'm trying to think of a single characteristic that is unique to a single genetic cline, and I can't think of one.

I don't see what the big deal is, the media are just treating intelligence like religion. Just submit this hypothesis to an empirical test, find the truth and get on with our lives already. I have better things to do than to argue about what should be taboo or not. When would people realise that Science cannot be discriminatory since it is just stating and drawing (useful) patterns from the world we live in?

Louis,

Descend? Descend??? Who's descending? What am i, an ape?

Espousing racist ideas, like John Smith's, is merely refusing to kowtow to liberal myths about equality. Can John Smith help the fact he was a born a superior being because of his race? Should he be ashamed of that?

Seriously, Louis, what's your problem?

All right you biologists, it's time to find a cognitive psychologist. They've been over this territory. "The Bell Curve"'s explanations are not the best explanation for the differences in IQ scores between the "races".

By the way, this topic of differences in IQ between ethnicities is a perfectly respectable topic. No one should be scared to talk about it. Shame on anyone who says it shouldn't be studied. It HAS been studied, and so far the best preliminary explanation is that the differences are NOT genetic.

Wow. I didn't know so many supposedly rational atheists could be such bigots. I know the people in our local atheist group would be appalled by what's been displayed here.

I suggest the superior whites on this board go get a copy of GUNS,GERMS AND STEEL.
Maybe your impressive IQs will be able to handle it.
But then again ...

#3 @Caledonian:
"As for the abortion thing - I thought you supported the right of women to do what they wished with their bodies. If reliable markers indicative of homosexuality are found, surely you wouldn't force women to carry an undesired fetus - even if the reason it's undesired is that it's gay."

Yes, a woman has the right to abort for any reason she wants. Including some hypothetical homosexuality test.

It's stupid to frame the point as Watson did, though.

"And of course, Africa's economic problems, which are serious, have nothing to do with the wholesale exploitation, murder, rape, and inhuman behavior of those oh-so-civilized and intelligent white-skinned Eurpoeans who ran roughshod over Africa (and, often, still do)"

Well, tristero, colonialism ended nearly 50 years ago in Africa. At some point that argument/excuse gets a tad old. For sure, the effects of colonialism, the willy-nilly drawing of national borders by colonial powers without consideration of tribal and ethnic realities still causes much of the bloodshed in Africa. But at some point Africans need to solve those problems without butchering each other - and I don't see that much of that has happened. I think the differences between "us" and Africans are less genetic than they are cultural. Colonial powers have foisted governmental systems onto the continent for which its citizens simply don't seem to have much taste.
Oh, and your reference to "jewish skin on your lamp shade" ? I would say that was way over the top.

Pierce R. Butler wrote: "These racist and ignorant (see comments # 7 & 59 in particular) babblings might best be illustrated by a cartoon of beagles congratulating themselves on their own superiority to wolves, since the latter haven't learned to roll over on command."
Yes, for the accomplishments of whites (e.g. pretty much the whole of science) are totally like rolling over on command. (What the hell are you talking about‽ Who the hell is this commander of whites, for whom we perform our tricks‽)

J,

"By the way, this topic of differences in IQ between ethnicities is a perfectly respectable topic. No one should be scared to talk about it. Shame on anyone who says it shouldn't be studied."

It's not whether it should be studied. It's whether it should be discussed in a serious fashion with out-and-out racists and rightwing ideologues. Shame on anyone who says it should.

One dismisses racists. One ridicules them. One deplores them. But one doesn't grant them a place at the table of reasonable discussions of ethnic differences.

Ever.

Tristero,

{I think you're joking, it's so hard to tell in text sometimes, which is why I always telegraph my jokes, so...}

Yes, you're an ape. And a damned dirty one at that. I however am an Englishman, and as such have won the great lottery of life. Frankly I think black people, poor people and ugly women should be shot and that Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Littlejohn (UKians whill know who these people are) should be made joint Prime Ministers and Robert Kilroy Silk made King. Frankly there are too many unintelligent immigrants coming over here, stealing our jobs and trying to kill us in our sleep by blowing up planes and raping us with massive ricin covered strap on dildos.

Don't even get me started on those lefty bastards trying to tell us to stop driving our Bentley's because a polar bear might get heat rash or be our cousin or something.

Yours

Colonel Bigot-Smythe

P.S. If you're not joing, I'm sorry. Although possibly not for the reasons you think.

Wow, brt 97, what the hell are you smoking? No science from those filthy ignorant Egyptians, nothing form those stoopid Mayans, they knew nothing.

And I too am appalled at the racist stances some here are taking. I think the concept is certainly worth investigating, but some of you are entering into the discussion assuming a white superiority, when available evidence points otherwise.

Jan (#91),
the problem Jan, is that when it comes to two so poorly defined terms as intelligence and race, empirical findings and science can come up with whatever results suit your particular ideological agenda.

If you can provide a scientific defintion of race and intelligence that everyone can adhere to, I see no reason not to perform the empirical studies.

Until then, any mention of genetic predispositions of a particular "race" for a particular "intellectual phenotype" will remain a fruitless and totally pathetic endeavour.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Umiliik,

"at some point Africans need to solve those problems without butchering each other - and I don't see that much of that has happened"

I completely agree. They need to act like Europeans did in the 1940's. What the hell is wrong with those Africans?

Better yet, Africans should behave the way Americans do today in dealing with their problems.

As for that lampshade, did I say it was "mine?" But you're right, lampshades made of skin are over the top. Let's keep this discussion non-hysterical and focus soberly on just how superior Europeans are culturally - maybe - and how liberals are trying to suppress that knowledge - definitely.

And while we're at it, let's carefully, soberly, and seriously give some thought to the implications of being an intellectually superior race of humans and whether such superior beings have any right to permit the less superior to overrun an entire continent through unrestrained breeding.

Now there's an idea far more illuminating than lampshades made of human skin.

Tristero,

Well, PZ argues with these ID folks all the time. Why not people who think there's something to this IQ&Race thing?

And to call ALL people who feel that way "racists" who should be shunned... well, I don't like it. It's a confusing topic, and I can see how a non-racist might conclude there's something to the race-IQ hypothesis. The best way to deal with this is to educate people. The truth will set us free.

True Bob,

First of all, thanks! :)

But my logic doesn't dictate that all post-theist atheists are hypocrites; rather, if the atheist still taught that Christianity was true while thinking otherwise, then that would be hypocritical.

I am surprised by some of the (so-called) non-showboating explanations for why race, genetics, and intelligence aren't related because bla bla and bla bla. Now I'm not saying I'm racist (although my character clearly is, just take a look at the site), but why is it so hard to acknowledge that if we have significant race-based truths in medicine (for instance, "African Americans" are x more likely to get this, Asians are x more likely to get this), then why can't it be the case that our brains are different, too?

As an example, blacks and whites have hearts. Many blacks and white have great, working hearts. But blacks might be more likely to, outside of extraneous factors, have heart disease. That might be considered a medical truth. So why do we look favorably on noting (and acknowledging!) physiological differences of the heart, but when it comes to the brain we're blinded by political correctness?

It's a double standard even in medicine that's blinded by societal pressures. Now whether Watson's comments are founded on science, that's another thing. But scientists saying "this can't be this because of x" is ridiculous when we already acknowledge physiological differences and truths that are based on race.

Tristero,

Your anti-European raving is a disgraceful product of PC-fanaticism. It's despicably intellectually dishonest. You entirely, and very conveniently, overlook the European scientific advancement and development of modern civilzation. The African contenient has achieved very little in both regards.

Africa was economically and technologically behind Europe and Asia even before the colonization started. It is still far behind, and most notable progress over there appears to come directly from external aid. African immigrants have always tended to occupy low social stations compared with immigrants belonging to other races. Now surely this is sufficient to induce us to *suspect* that this group of people might be -- to some extent -- intellectually disadvantaged.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

J,

"call ALL people who feel that way "racists" who should be shunned."

I was talking about John Smith. I'm not the guy who generalizes about entire continents. He is.

"The truth will set us free. "

Yes, but whose truth will set whom free?

Look, J. It's very simple: You don't argue with Dr. Watson when it comes to his racism. You cringe.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Watson's claims have not passed this test.

However, our revulsion and horror of a hypothesis should not determine its truth.

I am optimistic that evidence will support equality, but nature is impersonal.

This is really dumb. Africans have a higher genetic diversity than all the other races, seeing as how they're closer to our place of origin. And many "white" ethnic groups are more closely related to the Africans than to each other. So how are they (we - I'm one) supposed to have the good brain genes and not Africans? And where are these genes? Loci? Didn't think so, Watson.

Of course "maybe" they are different. But the point is that someone's got to have evidence of such a phenomenon before it is lifted up from the status of mere hypothesis. And I reject the notion that it warrants serious discussion under the guise of open-mindedness before that evidence is ever found.

I'm glad it was Watson, and not Crick that said this. Crick was my hero - the patron scientist of the late bloomer.

Mango, #95

"Yes, a woman has the right to abort for any reason she wants. Including some hypothetical homosexuality test."

are you sure that what you are saying is ok ?
I'm all for a woman's right to choose during the legal timeframes, but the idea that in the future one could get a genetic predisposition profiling of a particular embryo's genome and select for or against abortion depending on the results sounds very Orwellian to me.
So here we go, let's fuck tonight. Next, for $1299 I can get a complete genetic profile of the new embryo :

under normalised parental conditions (tbd), this particular genome has a :
- higher probability than average of having homosexual tendencies
- blue eyes, blond, male, probable height 1m82, penis size 9.5 inches
- smaller probability than average of becoming obese
- most probable life expectancy 82.5 years based on parents income, place of living and food habits
-etc...

So, honey, what do we choose, do you want to abort or not ?

I mean, why not in 15 years time ?
I guess there are going to be some interesting debates in the near future.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Let's keep this discussion non-hysterical and focus soberly on just how superior Europeans are culturally .."
AND
"intellectually superior race of humans.."

Huh ? Say what ? Where, tristero, did I say that europeans are culturally superior or are a superior race of human beings ???

you are putting words into my mouth. Noweher did I say anything about europenas being culturally superior.

Let's put it this way. Dr Watson appears to have about as much insight to world politics or socioeconomics than Dembski has to information theory.

John Smith,

You, sir, have crossed a line. I am not a PC-fanatic. I use a Mac, thank you very much, and I expect an immediate apology or I demand satisfaction.

I very much appreciate your hedging your suspicions about the intellectual disadvantages of an entire continent. It demonstrates how truly serious you are and how important it is to engage this issue with enlightening references to rigorous scientific work on the relationship between ethnicity and intelligence.

I couldn't agree more with your appreciation of European scientific advancement. The entire European continent, even little Lichtenstein's littlest citizens, contributed to it.

And I am certain that when the scientific results come in and show that racist white guys who call others "intellectually dishonest" have far lower IQs than ants, you will join me in protesting the methodology. For one thing, which ants were used in the comparison?

Now that's the kind of brilliant thinking that comes from a Euro-centric worldview. Question everything. Especially the intelligence and civilized character of people who don't look like us.

why can't it be the case that our brains are different, too?

It can. Sickle cell anemia/malaria resistance is evidence of "racial" differences. Watson makes unsupported (and refuted) assertions, that's my problem here. I think it may be worth investigating (although it has been done). Gender differences should be examined as well.

But where do we define "intelligence"? Watson's (attributed) phrase was "equal powers of reason", which includes a hell of a lot more than so-called IQ.

And how do we define "race"? How about standardized DNA profiles? But who chooses and how? Based on "racial" characteristics?

The gist of the article is that Watson says blacks are inferior to whites, and DNA will show how. Sounds to me like he has his conclusion already.

May I ask a pertinent question? How many of the respondents have ever been to southern Africa?

By WuffenCuckoo (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

The problem with claiming that "certain races are inherently inferior" is that it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to "certain races are inherently inferior and should not be considered as fully human as we are, so we can fuck 'em over with a song in our racist motherfucking hearts."

Lynne Cheney remarked in an interview this week that her genealogical tracings of Dick ("Dick") Cheney's ancestry turned up an eighth-cousin relationship to Barack Obama.

I wonder if Watson would toss and turn at night if he learned how closely he is undoubtedly related to people with more visible melanin. Would he become "inherently gloomy" about his own prospects?

And does he lie awake in a cold sweat at the realization that, some day, we'll all be a sort of dark beige?

I'll give you three guesses what Watson's own background might be.
Same as mine.
He's a way better geneticist than I am, but he doesn't speak Japanese. So which of us is smarter?

umiliik,

"Howeher did I say anything about europenas being culturally superior."

I apologize profusely. You never did say Europeans were "culturally superior' just implied that the reasons there were differences between us and them in how well problems get solved were cultural, and implied that the West is far better at doing so. I certainly don't want to accuse you unfairly so here is what you said:

"at some point Africans need to solve those problems without butchering each other - and I don't see that much of that has happened. I think the differences between "us" and Africans are less genetic than they are cultural."

To which you added:

"Colonial powers have foisted governmental systems onto the continent for which its citizens simply don't seem to have much taste. "

Imagine that.

Watson is far from the only one. William Shockley, co-Nobel Prize winner in Physics sometime in the late 1950s for discovery of the transistor effect, was another. In his later years, he expounded on the belief that black people as a group had lower intelligence than whites. It was embarrassing.

"I very much appreciate your hedging your suspicions about the intellectual disadvantages of an entire continent. It demonstrates how truly serious you are and how important it is to engage this issue with enlightening references to rigorous scientific work on the relationship between ethnicity and intelligence."
That's the thing. I welcome scientific research into the matter, but I doubt in this current political climate it could ever be done. You get pounced on and savagely lambasted for merely suggesting that Africans may be, on average, intellectually inferior.

These days, any slightly un-PC comment is inevitably misrepresented. Richard Dawkins himself once leapt to Watson's defense, writing a letter to The Independent after Watson was accused of advocating the abortion of babies with homosexual genes. (Watson, in fact, also raised the possibility of aborting babies with heterosexual genes. He was speaking purely hypothetically.)

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Wuffen,

That's an impertinent question. We are all IN southern Africa, right now.

"May I ask a pertinent question? How many of the respondents have ever been to southern Africa?"

WuffenCuckoo #115:

Me, me, me! I've been. I even have relatives out in Southern Africa (Zimbabwe to be precise, and they are having one hell of a crappy time at the moment, poor sods. The ones in Cape Town are ok though.)

Nice place I thought.

Louis

I don't think Watson has the support of his claims and may very well be racist but anyone who makes this kind of suggestion, in regards to racist or differences between men and women is going to be called a racist or sexist regardless of the facts.

We know that in athletics West Africans have more fast twitch muscle fiber and longer legs which explain why people of West African descent are the winners of nearly every 100 m race in the olympics. Likewise Europeans have the same kind of dominance in swimming events. It doesn't really suggest that one group has a greater overall athleticism but each has a niche to which it has an advantage.

It would be foolish to suggest that there isn't some variation that applies similarly to poweers of intelligence. I don't know what the results would tell but there are most certainly differences between races and definitely among sexes in areas of intelligence but our political climate makes a true study of this nearly impossible.

By lovetoykilljoy (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

So what are the racial factors that make me so much smarter than Caledonian and John Smith?

My ancestry is equal parts Balt and Southern Slav.

Anti-PC != correct.

Well, John Smith, howzabout this little hypothesis:

Some races create science, art, culture, other races destroy science, art, culture.

Gee, that sounds soooo familiar.

John Smith,

"You get pounced on and savagely lambasted for merely suggesting that Africans may be, on average, intellectually inferior."

Imagine that.

"Richard Dawkins himself once leapt to Watson's defense, writing a letter to The Independent after Watson was accused of advocating the abortion of babies with homosexual genes. (Watson, in fact, also raised the possibility of aborting babies with heterosexual genes. He was speaking purely hypothetically."

Of course he was. Purely hypothetical. But don't get me wrong. We should encourage hypotheses, John Smith! It's real scientific.

Like way the hypothetical Ann Coulter hypothetically imagined the very real Timothy McVeigh hypothetically blowing up the offices of the New York Times. Or the way Pat Robertson ever so really prayed for the hypothetical deaths of Supreme Court justices.

John Smith:

You entirely, and very conveniently, overlook the European scientific advancement and development of modern civilzation.

But surely sir you aren't including the Semitic race in "European"?! While they are no doubt cunning, such as that Einstein fellow, or that obscene Freud bloke, they are hardly "European"! Sure you are referring to proper Caucasian (or dare I say, "Aryan") Europeans.

he thinks very highly of the Scots-Irish, and considers them to be the driving force behind American successes.

Which explains why Appalachia is the economic and technical powerhouse it is today.

Seriously, though I'll never get to, I'd dearly like to re-run the experiment. I'd like to see Watson plunked down in the resource-poor environment, say, of the current Senegalese AIDS researchers, and see if--deprived of the infrastructure and support system he takes for granted--he still could accomplish all he did.

It's a shame that that's untestable, because--one way or another--the results would be illuminating. Of course, one of the current crop of essentialists could volunteer to work under those conditions to demonstrate his essential superiority to shut us up once and for all. I'm not holidng my breath waiting for that, though.

(and before Caledonian's amygdala explodes once again, I will just point out that I'm not including him as an essentialist in that description, because he recognizes the role that nutrition and disease play in this problem.)

WuffenCuckoo, I spent some time living in Eastern Africa.

In general, I found the people I met to be intellectually superior to the average Albertan.

Then again, many Albertans are descended from Polish and Ukrainian settlers, and we all know how dumb the Polacks and Bohunks are.

I for one welcome our alien overlords, who will determine all our racial differences, but first will be "which tastes best".

Lovetoykilljoy

"anyone who makes this kind of suggestion, in regards to racist or differences between men and women is going to be called a racist or sexist regardless of the facts."

Not from me. I would never call anyone a racist who merely tries to initiate a serious discussion of race with racists.

I would call them an idiot.

Re #106
"Africa was economically and technologically behind Europe and Asia even before the colonization started. It is still far behind, and most notable progress over there appears to come directly from external aid. African immigrants have always tended to occupy low social stations compared with immigrants belonging to other races. Now surely this is sufficient to induce us to *suspect* that this group of people might be -- to some extent -- intellectually disadvantaged."

No it isn't. What about environmental factors and how those pressures contributed to scientific and cultural advances of the regions in question?

Does having a certain social station in a foreign culture reflect on intelligence at all? Does a poor immigrant have a low social station due to his intelligence or due to the role the surrounding culture assigns him?

By suspecting low intelligence, you are skipping several other possible contributing factors...factors that probably have a much greater influence.

Tristero,

Watson took the hypothetical case of aborting EITHER homosexual or heterosexual babies. So he wasn't picking on any one group (unlike Coulter and Robertson). At the time he made it clear that he wasn't advocating the abortion at all. He even said so afterwards. So what is the big deal? At worse his comment was clumsy and ill-advised.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith #106,

you are really racist,no way around it.
So what are you, I mean have you done a genetic test to check your origins ? How many % of which particulat haplogroup are you ? Do you know ? Just check it and come back before you talk about such things.
And even your basic history knowledge is lacking. Africa was not always behind Europe. You know where Egypt and the Maghreb lie ? Now check 10-13th century science.
The reasons why Europe became more technologically and economically advanced afterwards is a subject of many debates, but to claim that it has racial or genetic origins is completely stupid. What is the significance of 500 years of history on an evolutionary scale?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"By suspecting low intelligence, you are skipping several other possible contributing factors...factors that probably have a much greater influence."
I'm not doing that at all. Maybe it's mainly due to cultural factors, and maybe mainly due to innate factors. Or maybe it's essentially half each. I cannot decide between these three explanations.

What you are doing is refusing to believe that the economic disparity can possibly be mainly due to innate factors. You are DISMISSING one hypothesis at the outset. The analogue to religious fundamentalism is obvious.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"May I ask a pertinent question? How many of the respondents have ever been to southern Africa?"

I would have to answer that I haven't. However, my question to you would be why you consider this to be a "pertinent question". I lived in Japan for over a year, spent considerable time in South Korea. Lived for a while in a poor town about a hundred miles south of Mexico City. Would that be pertinent to a discussion of race, or can I only get a good understanding of this topic by living in a particular part of the African continent?

Seems like a very odd question. Would someone from South Africa have no understanding of the things discussed here if they had never been to Holland?

Being a white guy married to an African (Ethiopian) woman I have read along with great interest and occasional amusement. Having visited the African continent on three occasions certainly doesn't make me an authority on the intelligence of its residents but I have had the good fortune of interacting with a great number of African people in Africa and here in the US.

I personally know a good many highly intelligent Ethiopian folks. What is funny is that they disparage the intellect of their African neighbors of different tribes. The dominant "highland" tribes of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Amhara and the Tigray attribute lower intelligence (and bigger penises) to their southern "low land" neighbors the Anyuak, Walita, Omo and the Jinka. They look down on them as "baria" or black people.

There are over eighty separate tribes and languages in Ethiopia alone. Some of these tribes have been genetically separated for thousands of years and are quite visually distinct from on another. Even a "farange" like me can easily identify the physical characteristics of many of these distinct populations.

Are there true differences in intellectual ability between these tribes? I have no idea but I kind of doubt it based on my interactions with the people from these different groups. What I find interesting is that the different tribes have definite opinions of the relative intelligence of each tribes.

They have recently been exposed to Chinese workers and engineers and have decided that they are very intelligent as a "race" if revolting in appearance.

Having been immersed in their very hospitable culture I can say that people are people and this whole topic is interesting at first blush but quite absurd in practice.

Oh, by the way they think we "faranges" are about as bright as the highland tribes but much less civilized. After spending time in their society I tend to agree with them.

"The reasons why Europe became more technologically and economically advanced afterwards is a subject of many debates, but to claim that it has racial or genetic origins is completely stupid. What is the significance of 500 years of history on an evolutionary scale? "
I'm not claiming that, you odious, despicable, dishonest, deceptive fundamentalist.

We atheists can indeed be cultish about some things, and here we're witnessing an instance of it. Dangerous, fundamentalist PC-fanaticism. Dogmatic insistence in the unsupported "everyone is equal" philosophy.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Dahan, there's nothing particularly odd about asking whether white members of a discussion of the intelligence of Africans in particular should have any evidence of which they speak.

When we get to a discussion about the savageness of Koreans or the laziness of Mexicans, you'll be our go-to guy.

John Smith,

I couldn't agree with you more. Truly, Watson's comments aren't that big a deal, just clumsy and ill-advised, like suggesting - hypothetically - that the world would be better off without Jews. All he wanted to do was explore in a sober manner the possibilities. Why anyone would get their knickers in a snit about Watson said really is beyond me.

It makes me suspect that there are a lot of incredibly stupid people in Europe.

"I couldn't agree with you more. Truly, Watson's comments aren't that big a deal, just clumsy and ill-advised, like suggesting - hypothetically - that the world would be better off without Jews. All he wanted to do was explore in a sober manner the possibilities. Why anyone would get their knickers in a snit about Watson said really is beyond me. "
More underhanded misrepresentative fundamentalist tricks. I didn't say anything about his comment concerning Jews. If he did say that, he is an anti-Semite, and I cannot defend him.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Africa was not always behind Europe. You know where Egypt and the Maghreb lie ? Now check 10-13th century science.

Check way earlier than that -- the Pyramids were built while "Europe", including Greece and Rome, were nothing more than savages.

@negentropyeater #110:
"I'm all for a woman's right to choose during the legal timeframes, but the idea that in the future one could get a genetic predisposition profiling of a particular embryo's genome and select for or against abortion depending on the results sounds very Orwellian to me."

Orwellian? Certainly not. Giving people freedom to choose is the opposite of Orwellian.

Yes, there will probably be a debate on that. I personally am against government intervention in reproductive decisions. Social implications may follow, but in my view they will be worse than the alternatives.

"...penis size 9.5 inches..."

Surely no parent would abort that child, given the tremendous career opportunities that would be open to him.

John Smith,
Pot; Kettle. Kettle; Pot.

"It makes me suspect that there are a lot of incredibly stupid people in Europe."
Another anti-European remark, eh? I'm detecting a hint of American jingoism here.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith 148,

That's nonsense. How can you expect that isolated groups would evolve the same capabilities? Of course Murkans are smarter than You're A Peein's. DNA analysis will prove it in the future.

Brownian,

I guess I was viewing this as a discussion on race vs intelligence, not being one specifically orientated toward those on the African continent. I do realize that Africans where singled out by Watson, but feel that that just reflects a general belief that some races are inferior in intellect.

John Smith,
where did you dream of a "Dogmatic insistence in the unsupported "everyone is equal" philosophy".
It's quite obvious that not everyone is equal, just look at you, you are intellectually challeged but that doesn't mean that everyone here is the same.
Can you try to understand (I know it's going to be difficult for you) that not buying in the argument that specific races have specific intellectual capabilities doesn't equate to an "everyone is equal" philosophy.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith, for someone who includes himself as part of "we atheists", you sure like to bandy the term 'fundamentalist' around.

Please use more specific and meaningful terminology, because as it stands you're doing a great impression of a creationist. Perhaps you should and Ben Stein could do a movie on how the study of racial differences in intelligence has been unfairly "expelled" from universities.

That is, if you can stand working with a Jew. We all know how they are.

I remember reading this article earlier this month:

Reuters Health: Brain atrophy linked to loss of social skills

October 04, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters Health)

As people age, they experience shrinkage in the part of the brain responsible for inhibiting appropriate behavior -- which may explain why your great-aunt asks embarrassing questions about your weight and older people seem to have fewer qualms about making racist remarks than younger individuals do, an Australian researcher suggests.
continued...

By Eric Kinateder (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Folks, it's been real. Gotta go.

But please, do give John Smith all the serious attention his eloquent appeals for an intellectually robust racism deserve.

And be sure, in your desire to turn this into a serious discussion with him, ignore that he calls those who disagree with him "odious, despicable, deceptive, devious fundamentalist[s]." He's just letting off steam. The important thing is to engage his ideas. He just might change his mind.

Or you could ignore him. Because if you ignore overt racism, it will go away. Everyone knows that.

But whatever you do, don't make fun of him, don't humiliate him, don't trash him, and don't call him a racist. Because that would show disrespect. For what does a racist deserve more than a right to be listened to with respect? And you can't have serious discussions with someone if you humiliate them, can you?

Oh, and John Smith? Of course I'm an American jingo. We're a force for good in the world. After all, we come from the most intellectually superior of European stock.

@#110

What sounds "Orwellian" to me is the thought of women being enslaved to give birth in order to avoid triggering other people's yuck reactions. As public regulation is concerned, how to distinguish between prudent and frivolous uses of safe reproductive technologies should be an issue of coverage by health insurance, and no more than that.

Why is anyone responding to John Smith? He's an obvious concern troll.

This is all I am going to say:
We're all human beings people! The little stupid differences are nothing compared to the big stupid similarities!
I personally don't give a crap about race and "who is the superior race?", and I am really sick and tired of those who do.

#97 The whites invented all science? That's new for me. Can you give me references?

And as a citizen from a third world country, racially mixed, I find this nauseating. But the worst is that Watson's attitude is in a lot of places. This summer I traveled to the US, and there in a top conference, I met this European guy who told me, when discussing priorities for developing world, that education was not a priority, instead it was food aid. Of course, you need nutrition and proper health in order to get educated, but saying that education is not necessary is perpetuating the dependency from foreign aid and credits (That are given to tyrants, and once they are gone the people has still a debt to pay for money that was used in an irresponsible way, given to nuts). It was obvious to me that he thought that giving education to people from undeveloped countries will be a waste of effort and resources, maybe because Watson's motives.

Yes, but maybe Africa is economically worse-off than other continents due to the average intellectual inferiority of its inhabitants.

Wow. Ever hear of a little place called Egypt? Invented paper? Built giant monuments? Library of Alexandria, greatest center of scholarship the world had ever known?

Northern Europeans, meanwhile, had barely figured out bronze. I'm sure "intellectual inferiority" was exactly the reason why.

I guess I was viewing this as a discussion on race vs intelligence, not being one specifically orientated toward those on the African continent. I do realize that Africans where singled out by Watson, but feel that that just reflects a general belief that some races are inferior in intellect.

I know that's what you meant, Dahan, and normally I'd agree but I've noticed the distinct lack of acknowledgement in this discussion of the fact that Asians are intellectually superior to Europeans, something we all know to be true, despite our wishes that everyone be 'equal'.

Seems like we've got a bunch of ethnocentric cherry-pickers here.

Watson has been dropping hints for a long time that he buys into this racist crap. I had kinda hoped for his sake that he'd kick the bucket before besmirching his reputation by coming out with it so unambiguously. Oh well. He fully deserves the shitstorm he'll get as a result.

And by the way, of all people to call somebody ELSE autistic-

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Closed captions -

I usually watch tv and movies on video with closed captions (exception - Dancing with the Stars). "They are incredibly distracting" until you get used to them - then they are extremely informative if you happen to miss a word. It's true that the real time captioning can lag behind, and often be erroneous - so it goes.

Besides having a bit of hearing loss, I also have a spouse whose native language is not English. It works for both of us.

This may be of interest to those are unclear about "human variation" versus "race."

"But please, do give John Smith all the serious attention his eloquent appeals for an intellectually robust racism deserve."
So I'm not allowed to even venture the POSSIBILITY that Africans may be intellectually inferior (on average), without being a racist? Yes, I believe my assessment of you was right on the mark.

I suggest you all desist with this continual, shameless false characterization of my arguments. It is a stock fundamentalist tactic -- can you not see this? The immediate dismissal of anything that goes against the "sacred" axioms -- doesn't it worry you? Come on, be fair.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

American jingoism?

Certainly not from me. I'm a European, I don't THINK Americans are stupid. I KNOW Americans are stupid. I've met them.

Apart from that nice Mr Bush. He seem really intelligent. Especially when you compare him to that Richard Feynman bloke.

Pass the bong, I think reality is returning.

Louis

P.S. There is little PC denial of reality going on here, although it does happen which is why I laugh at it. I think you'll find though, that the superiority of whites/Europeans/whoever is not supported by the biological, historical and anthropological data. Why did race/group X do better than race/group Y? Well the simple answer is it's vastly more complex than X is better than Y. Others have suggested that you read Guns, Germs and Steel. I second it. No one needs to deny reality, but lets not invent things that seem to fit our prejudices shall we.

How many of the respondents have ever been to southern Africa?

I've been to East Africa. Some of the people we met might have offered a rather low estimate of our intelligence (that is to say, women who choose to stomp around in jungle boots, climb hills and look at bugs instead of settling down and becoming respectable mamas :)

p.s.- Brownian, where'd you live in E.Africa?

Tristero, hmm, I am not sure I concur with your conclusion. My statment about cultural differences was in response to the ongoing debate about genetic differences and was not meant to be a (positive) value judgement of our (european) ability to solve problems. In fact, I don't know whether we (europeans) are better at solving problems than africans - looking e.g. at what happened in the wake of the collapse of Yugoslavia rather leads me to doubt that. Although I would also point out that at least during the past 50 years or so, there is a growing realization among most western europeans that problems don't get solved by violence ..
My whole point was that to blame colonialism for all or even most of africa's problems is a tiresome exercise in futility. And that africa has had 50 years time to address and rectify colonialism's injustices by other means than warfare... There are plenty of other countries and regions in the world that have done just that.

The title of his brand new book, Avoid Boring People was originally going to be Avoid Black People

Any point in repeating the ramblings of an old fool who thinks that one triumph in chemical structure makes him an expert on everything? I mean, I don't especially mind (oppose censorship) its being put out there, but it's just more drivel from a guy who's known for making unsupportable crank statements. We already know that not being religious is no proof against fakery and BS.

Any bon mots from JAD while you're at it?

Write that down.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Windy, though I travelled in Kenya and TZ with my ex visiting her family (yes, I am a miscegenist!), I spent most of my time in Uganda, Kampala particularly.

"Wow. Ever hear of a little place called Egypt? Invented paper? Built giant monuments? Library of Alexandria, greatest center of scholarship the world had ever known?"
Yes, I've heard of it. It doesn't change the fact the Africa's overall achievement has been significantly less impressive than that of Europe and Asia. And it doesn't change the fact that Africa still hasn't adapted to the modern age.

There are arguments you can make about Egyptians being ethnically different from most of the African population, but I need not go into that. All I'm offering is the POSSIBILITY that Africa's poor economic performance is primarily due to intellectual disparities. Confidently rule out this mere possibility if you like, but doing so would make you a fundamentalist.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Re # 138
"What you are doing is refusing to believe that the economic disparity can possibly be mainly due to innate factors. You are DISMISSING one hypothesis at the outset. The analogue to religious fundamentalism is obvious."

No, I am not. I am not refusing to "believe" anything. I am not dismissing anything. I am waiting for some evidence.

Project much?

"So I'm not allowed to even venture the POSSIBILITY that Africans may be intellectually inferior (on average), without being a racist?"
No one's stopping you from saying it. But you'd STILL be wrong.
Unless, of course, you have some pretty impressive peer-reviewed scientific literature to back up your assertion that Africans are dumber than everybody else.
No excuses. PROOF. NOW.

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Umilik,
I think you are mistaken about the last 50 years. Many African countries are still effectively under Imperial rule. Major powers provide weaponry and $ to rthe selected warlord/dick tater, because they'll agree to keep the resources flowing, cheap. Makes them all powerful over "their" people. Hell, look at Myanmar. Tell me they don't want change.

John Smith,

1. define what you mean with African : is it, living in Africa ? Or having more than x% of African haplogroups in your DNA, x tbd ? You see the point, or still don't want to understand.
2. define what you mean with intellectually inferior (on average) and how to measure it within the tbd African population vs the non-African population
3. publish the study if you get to some conclusion which is worth mentioning

Before that is done, saying that there exists the "possibility" of Africans being intellectually inferior to non-Africans will be considered a totally racist statement. If you don't understand why, that's because you are racist.Go and do your own DNA Y Chromosome haplogroup analysis, you'll be surprised with the results, and you might learn something.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"No one's stopping you from saying it. But you'd STILL be wrong.
Unless, of course, you have some pretty impressive peer-reviewed scientific literature to back up your assertion that Africans are dumber than everybody else.
No excuses. PROOF. NOW."
But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior. If you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you. Give me some evidence which suggests that I don't have a valid point.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

OK, I'm done with you gang of stupid, intellectually dishonest PC-fanatics.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior. If you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you. Give me some evidence which suggests that I don't have a valid point.

The burden of proof lies with the hypothesis-maker, John Smith.

Your 'possibility' is an hypothesis.

It's your job to provide evidence, not ours.

You obviously don't understand science in the least. What are you, a non-European or something?

OK, I'm done with you gang of stupid, intellectually dishonest PC-fanatics.

I'll put up my IQ against yours any day of the week there, John.

That is what we're talking about here, isn't it?

Give me evidence that you are not racist, Smith. All I am asserting is the possibility of your prejudice drawing you to those conclusions, you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you. Give me some evidence which suggests that I don't have a valid point.

"OK, I'm done with you gang of stupid, intellectually dishonest PC-fanatics."
Ah, the cardinal sign of wingnuttery-when all else fails, accuse the opposition of being "politically correct."

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Except that really isn't the argument. The point being made would be more analogous as to whether a 175 lb soldier could be as good at what he does, or even better, than a 180 lb soldier.

Right. All I was getting at is that a modern soldier needs an above average amount of strength to contribute at all. Anyone under the cutoff is completely excluded from the soldier population so a small difference in a nation's average size could make a big difference in military manpower.

Intelligence is a whole different can of worms though. You don't need any level of intelligence in particular to come up with a better mousetrap or more efficient way to do something. People with average and below average intelligence contribute to material progress every day. A few points of intelligence either way isn't likely to change things too much in any given population.

Re #177 - John Smith:

"But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior."

Fine, got that. But what about that assertion makes it worth even considering?

Oh yeah...evidence. Got some?

I feel compelled to whip out the SETI definition of intelligence: "the ability to build a radio telescope". That one works. That one is rigorous and testable.

Testable? Within the population of people who don't give a rat's ass about building a radiotelescope, what test would you use to distinguish those who have the (intellectual) ability to build a radiotelescope from those who do not?

PS: Yes, I see your tongue over there in your cheek; care to guess where mine is? ;^)

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Fine, got that. But what about that assertion makes it worth even considering?
Oh yeah...evidence. Got some?"
Noooooo! No you've done it! He's gonna shift the burden of proof again!

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith: I think there is enough evidence as to why African countries have failed to develop - compared to their European counterparts -- and the reasons do NOT include intellectual inferiority. You should look up Jared Diamond's research on this issue.

It seems like the majority of posters fit into the white, middle class, male demographic.

I hypothesize, based on the sample comments I have read here, that white middle class males are dumber on average than other populations.

(Caledonian, John Smith, Doddy, robotaholic, and James Watson being key data points of preliminary data that support my hypothesis.)

But don't worry, guys, I'm sure not *all* of you are as dumb as the average!

Grr. I hate these discussions.

That was a racist anti PC fanatic atheist troll, never met one before, suggest we ask for John Smith's autograph, a particularly interesting case.

BTW nobody reacted on my statement that Watson must be, like our beloved president, victim of early dementia.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

This is what it boils down to: I'm unsure. I don't know whether Africans are intellectually disadvantaged or not. I just don't know.

The people who call me a racist, on the other hand, are emphatically not uncertain. They just KNOW (so they think) that I don't have a point. How dare I suggest I'm unsure? Do I have proof that all races are not exactly equal? No? Then everyone can safely pay no heed to my racist remarks!

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith: AFRICANS ARE STUPID!
Us: No, they're not.
John Smith: Yes, they are!
Us: Prove it, then.
John: ...YOU PC FREAKS ARE SO MEAN! I DON'T HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING WAAAAH WAAAH WAAAH

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

What if someone were to merely assert the possibility that "John Smith" was a child molester?

"Psst. See that Smith guy over there, I heard he might be a child molester."

And perhaps this could be asserted in a circumstance that would be maximally humiliating for you--perhaps at a PTA meeting at your child's elementary school. Certainly you wouldn't be so PC as to object to that, would you? After all, it is a possibility. I don't see why we shouldn't explore it, do you?

It should be pointed out that Dr. Watson is not the first Nobel Prize winner to dabble in racism. Remember one William Shockley, Nobel Prize winner in physics and Stanford Un. professor of physics. Prof. Shockley wrote a number of articles purporting to demonstrate the intellectual inferiority of black Americans. The only thing that the articles demonstrated was the incompetence of Prof. Shockley in the science of genetics.

"I don't know whether Africans are intellectually disadvantaged or not. I just don't know."
WHY DID YOU SAY THEY WERE, THEN?!
There's a 'preview' button for a reason. THINK, man, before you post something that makes the whole world want to murder you.

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Kids Old men say the darnedest things.

John Smith,

I too am unsure if there is a teapot orbiting the sun filled up with little John Smiths who are making hypothetical statements about races.
Until I prove that this John Smith filled teapot exists, mentioning that there exists the possibility of this teapot existing doesn't make it real.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Windy, though I travelled in Kenya and TZ with my ex visiting her family (yes, I am a miscegenist!), I spent most of my time in Uganda, Kampala particularly.

OK, I was mostly in inland TZ, but that's sort of The Shire of Africa, I gather :)

SeanH:

Intelligence is a whole different can of worms though. You don't need any level of intelligence in particular to come up with a better mousetrap or more efficient way to do something. People with average and below average intelligence contribute to material progress every day. A few points of intelligence either way isn't likely to change things too much in any given population.

Exactly - even if there are differences in intelligence between populations, it does not necessarily follow that we must be "pessimistic" about the possibility of societal improvement like Watson says.

John Smith should also look up 'intellectual' before he goes around calling people intellectually dishonest.

Let's go over his understanding of science again, shall we?

But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior. If you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you.

Try using that one on your thesis committee.

That one's so funny it deserves a second laugh:

But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior. If you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you.

Let's see: I'm gonna assert the possibility that gravity works because repressive mothers-in-law from Outer Space dust push everything down. Refute me, or risk being called 'intellectually-dishonest'.

This is fun: I'm gonna assert the possibility that sex leads to babies because a small piece of the man's penis breaks off inside the woman's vagina and becomes a baby. The burden of proof is on you to show I'm wrong, you 'fundamentalists'.

Try it everyone; science is so much more fun (and easy!) when you can just assert things willy-nilly without having to do any work!

John, you're an idiot.

The burden's on you to demonstrate that I'm wrong, buddy.

James Watson got a Nobel Prize for beating out a crowd of other scientists working on this question by a few weeks, employing the (largely unrecognized and sometimes poorly credited help) of several other scientists at Cambridge.

Since then, he's been on a decades-long victory lap--collecting honoraria and the underpants of Nobel-worshiping undergraduates wherever he could get them.

So, who cares if the drink has finally got to him? He's some old, fairly clever guy with a huge ego and an adolescent's joy in shocking everyone. Just ignore him.

An arbitrary person in a population is unlikely to be a child molesterer. A more honest and illuminating analogy is this: take two random people, A and B, and consider the following hypothesis:

"A is more intelligent than B"

Now certainly it's a possibility. It's not unreasonable to be unsure and essentially fifty-fifty on this hypothesis. Of course, there's still no solid evidence either way. But what if A has been far more innovative and successful than B? Then it's reasonable to put the Bayesian probability of the truth of the hypothesis at greater than 0.5. How much greater than 0.5 is very debatable.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Well, Smith, do that test for Europeans 5000 years ago, and then, 3000 years ago, and tell me what does it says.

Or for South Koreans 60 years ago.

John Smith, you can spout the word 'Bayesian' all you want: it's still not sufficient to undo your previous retardity.

Still an idiot.

Besides, didn't you say you were done with us?

Thought you were done with us, John.

But since you're still around, I have an offer. I can get you entree into a resource-poor AIDS research environment where you can prove your essential superiority and shut us all up by outperforming the African scientists in the same environment. That would really show us.

Shall I book your ticket?

Watson is an obnoxious jerk and probably has racist/tribalist motives for the things he says. And of course he focuses on genetic rather than environmental factors. After all, you're either Scots/Irish like Watson, or you're not, and that's something you can never change.

Or can you? Imagine we can get control of genetic coding and gene expression, on an individual level, so that we can fix diseases. Maybe we can even fix stupidity. Boost Watson's brainpower a few points by setting him up to express some Neanderthal genes isolated from paleolithic bones (okay, that's snark now).

This does change the politics of the nature versus nurture debate. The PC crowd no longer has to wishfully attribute everything to environmental factors, since genetic factors can now be modified as well. The racists ... well, who cares what the racists have to say anyway?
.

By Voting Present (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

A sign that I've read too much interesting SF lately, I initially read the 'different intelligence' part as meaning 'different', not lesser. Of course, Watson probably didn't mean it that way, but considering how multivariate and strange intelligence actually is... well that is an interesting hypothesis IMO. Africans are the group to compare against, since they are the most different genetically (not really 'blacks' as anyone living in the US with a brain realizes that skin colour isn't a great marker).

Of course, any genetic based difference in humans is probably swamped by epigenetic and developmental variation... hell, probably swamped by in group genetic variation as well, though non-genetic heritable variation is certainly a huge and poorly understood factor with intelligence since the brain undergoes a developmental unfolding which makes most evo-devo examples look simple.

when you see Bayesian probabilities mentionned in a post, switch your "someone who has no clue Alarm".

John, if I wanted to know if A is more intelligent than B I wouldn't be using Bayesian probailities for that. How non-sensical.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I'm an idiot, am I? Good rebuttal.

For what it's worth, the fact that Europeans themselves were utter savages 5,000 years ago is one of the main reasons why I'm fifty-fifty. But it's not totally inconceivable that some significant evolution could occur within that time period. In any case, Europe's achievements have been far more impressive than those of Africa.

Will people stop using arguments of the Russell's teapot fashion? It's a rather delusional thing to do. Obviously a race's being more intelligent than another isn't as anywhere near improbable as some of the possibilities you've been crafting.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

#25:

Until there is conclusive evidence that he is wrong, I don't think so many people should scorn him.

The commenter then babbles on about Dawkins on religion, failing to notice that Dawkins' argument refutes what the commenter is saying.

Personally, I see this as fairly conclusive evidence of the commenter's intellectual inferiority. Of course, that doesn't mean we should treat him/her with disrespect. Oh no! So let me type this slowly. Watson here is asserting a theory. It is up to him to justify his belief in the correctness of this theory. For other theories, everybody else should reserve judgement until any evidence Watson cites can be evaluated. But just as, say, economists are skeptical of and sometimes scorn adherents of supply-side economics, the history of racist "research" into differences (eg, The Bell Curve) teaches us to mistrust any such theory.

So certainly any evidence Watson presents should be evaluated. But despite Watson's eminence, there's very good reason to doubt that he will turn out to be right. And every good reason to believe that assholes will promptly try to use his utterances to further their racist beliefs.

By Amit Joshi (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

My last post was rather incoherent. By "within that time period", I meant "from that time until European civilization began".

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

John Smith said:"But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior. If you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you. Give me some evidence which suggests that I don't have a valid point."

To make your assertion without qualification would indicate some prejudice against people of African descent. That that prejuidice appears applied universally would be consistent with racism. Does it make you a racist? Possibly not, unless you act on these irrational beliefs in suble or overt ways.

But, I need to say that racism does seem to permeate this discussion, since to even use the term race with the term African is to perpetuate a 19th century biological concept that contemporary science has shown to be without empirical support.

My position is that we are discussing ethnic differences, and it would behoove anyone to remember this, or you may perpetuate the very thing you oppose. This not PC, but the self correcting nature of science.

Joolva: I would except Caledonian from your assessment, his position is quite valid in that environmental factors such as Kwashikor could be attributed for sub saharan African intelligence scores being depressed, if one controlled for other variables.

Mike

Wow. If this is an eminent intellectual, what hope is there for lay-racists? Some people who spend their academic lives working with genes use them rhetorically.

These arguments assume that:

Intelligence is heritable,
IQ is a scientific quantity,
People can be lumped into homogeneous racial groups,
Those racial groups are homogeneous throughout

See http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/course/topics/curveball.html

It is interesting the vehemence with which John Smith was attacked for his assertion that Africans might be less intelligent on average than other "races". I am aware that people with less than purely academic motives have used similar arguments to do ghastly things to people. Still I don't see the need to personally attack Mr. Smith.

I remember seeing Charles Murray, co-author of "The Bell Curve", being personally assailed by Phil Donahue when he came on his show to discuss his book. Mr. Donahue took on the role of confrontational PC prosecutor with the full support of his mob-like audience.

I remember thinking it would have been more constructive to have had some of Mr. Murray's scientific peers discuss the relative merits, and demerits, of his work rather than have Mr. Donahue show his personal outrage.

But such is the nature of discussions that have anything to do with race. I do note that several posters requested that Mr. Smith produce some evidence to support his assertion. That is what I consider a proper response. Ad homs in the name of moral outrage only serve to cloud the issue.

By Lance Harting (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"But, I need to say that racism does seem to permeate this discussion, since to even use the term race with the term African is to perpetuate a 19th century biological concept that contemporary science has shown to be without empirical support."
Untrue. This is leftist pseudo-science promulgated by Gould and Lewontin. See Dawkins' discussion of race in The Ancestor's Tale.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

This is an interesting debate for a few reasons:

1) Accusations of Political Correctness
2) Racism
3) Intelligence

If Mr. Watson wants to make claims he needs evidence. And when you make claims that are controversial, you especially need evidence. It's scientifically proven that certain races have a higher chance of having certain diseases, because of the evidence. Mr. Watson can say what he wants but then he will be characterized as a racist if he can't back it up with even decent evidence. But truly, it's just a hypothesis. And I'm not sure how you test his hypothesis. You have to define two things that are very hard to define (race and intelligence). When Mr. Watson makes an off-the-cuff hyposthesis like this his bias and racist views come to light very quickly. But no, I don't think someone should be silenced who makes such a claim. And I don't think they should immediately be called a racist. The problem is, in this case, it's clear.

But this is a very interesting topic to research. It has an almost infinte amount of variables that are hard to define or control for.

By Something Rational (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I just wanted to comment on the European science thing. As someone with a major interest in science history in particular, as well as ancient civilizations, and the origins of civilizations and countries moreso than the petty wars and other details of a country's history, it seems from my readings that pretty much everyone's had a go of being on top as far as technology and science goes. I'm not a historian but I have a lot of miscellanous knowledges and inferences and connections I've made from facts I've garnered from a variety of topics (anthropology, history, even linguistics).

The first civilization was in the fertile crescent, Mesopotamia. Ethnically speaking, I guess they were some kind of African group, probably? I mean, the thing is, everyone moves around a lot, and there's lots of genetic drift, which is a problem if you want to decide everyone belongs to a particular race and you want to compare them to other races.

Egypt followed them up, similar ethnically and geographically, I think. Sub-Saharan or Saharan, I guess? Then the Greeks, and the Romans. Mediterranean this time. Concurrently and perhaps even previously to the Greeks, though, were the Chinese, though they consisted of many diverse tribes and states.

The Norse were pretty much ruling their part of the world by the eighth century and kept it up until at least the 11th. Where was the master race at this time? Well, from what I recall in my readings in linguistics, and tying this with a racial grouping, I believe the germanic tribes that later settled much of non-Scandivanian Europe (excepting much of the UK which had locals in the Welsh and Celtic to add to the mix) were essentially nomads, raiders, and barbarians even at this late stage.

I don't know when either the myriad Indian groups or Middle Eastern groups began to coalesce, but they were the most advanced in the world scientifically, mathematically, and in terms of unified political powers, I think, during the next few hundred years. Then Europe came into its own. Western Europe and the UK mostly.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, I think Germany and some other nearby countries were on top, but later in the 20th century, the colonies really came into their own. The US, and also Canada and Australia.

So, who's the most advanced in the world? Depends on what century you're in. I think it's poor science to take such a complicated mess of variables and so easily pick out race as the correlative factor, based on how things seem to be, right now. Culture is so huge, to discount it or assume it another effect with race the cause is ridiculous if you've spent any time studying the huge, unpredictable, inter-related forces of history. It's like predicting the weather, but more complicated.

Japan is a relatively recent break-off from China (certainly an eyeblink in evolutionary terms), yet Japan is a democracy and China, though pouring everything into technology, stifles free thought with its politics. The number of Noble winners from China is abysmal compared to the much smaller islands of Japan. Or various countries in Africa, for that matter. Culture, politics, economics.

If there's any correlate for race, in those rare cases of genetic isolation where the concept has any meaning, I'd be surprised if it turned out to be very significant. I mean, if you crunch the numbers, certainly someone will have to come out on top, but someone needs to isolate from all the other factors first, and when they do, will the necessary difference (because an exact equivalence of any given sample size is simply too unlikely) be outside the margin of error? Until we have some real data of that sort, we shouldn't speculate. Meanwhile our intended racial groups are all getting themselves mixed up. I'm certainly not pure myself.

The number and length of comments to this post and the article linked correlate to the political sensitivity to the subject of "race". Persons of immediate African ancestors excel in the military, sports and entertainment, areas where performance trumps cultural bias. Since we are all Africans, with various dermal melanin content, we should also contemplate what continuing to pigeon hole our darker brothers and sisters in the mentally inferior box without consideration of them as individual humans.

There are things that science cannot do yet. Measuring intelligence of individuals is not one of them. This is a political question, and the political history of racial discrimination is both well documented and horrible.

Ah, I read that this morning. The Taboo subject has come up with an icon on the "wrong side" of the issue.

Well, good luck in sorting it out. As far as I can see, any hopes to a rational, scientific conclusion have been destroyed by the well has being so poisoned, FROM BOTH SIDES, that it's impossible to sort it out.

John,

what about this argument :
Within Europe, Scandinavians have an above average representation of Blond people.
Within Europe, Scandinavians have an above average GDP/inh.

Therefore Blond haired people must be more intelligent than Brown haired.

Do you like it ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Unasemaje kiSwahili?

Kidogo tu :)

JS wrote:

For what it's worth, the fact that Europeans themselves were utter savages 5,000 years ago is one of the main reasons why I'm fifty-fifty. But it's not totally inconceivable that some significant evolution could occur within that time period.

No, but unfortunately, for most of us Europeans most of that 5000 years was spent not in the lofty halls of academia, but doing subsistence agriculture (for those of us who had gotten so far). How did Northern Europeans flaunt their superior intelligence before modern times? By inventing the ski?

Actually North American Aboriginals and Inuit invented the most advanced skis and snowshoes thousands of years ago. Europeans adopted theirs when they settled the New World, since their own designs were quite inferior at the time.

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

Bwaffff! So Watson has dealt with a lot of black employees? So have I.

Aside from certain demographical differences (talking a lot about church, family, etc.) they stubbornly persist in being unique individuals.

What is "being equal" anyway? Equality refers to everyone being entitled to equal rights under the law, equal access to due process, equal access to public libraries, etc. We are all entitled to them, no matter if someone has autism, mental retardation, developmental disability, etc., so WTF is Watson talking about anyway? I am very disappointed in him for this!

#216:

[...] still I don't see the need to personally attack Mr. Smith.

I remember seeing Charles Murray, co-author of "The Bell Curve", being personally assailed by Phil Donahue [...]

I remember thinking it would have been more constructive to have had some of Mr. Murray's scientific peers discuss the relative merits, and demerits, of his work rather than have Mr. Donahue show his personal outrage.

I strongly disagree. If someone pushes a pernicious theory, it's certainly good to refute it scientifically. But when the "evidence" originally cited turns out to be cooked, then it is wrong not to express outrage. Murray is a fucking crook for trying to trick people into believing his crap. He deserved to be attacked.

Watson also needs to be figuratively slapped around if it turns out he has no evidence for his remarks, beyond his personal prejudices.

By Amit Joshi (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Sub-Saharan Africans DO score poorly on IQ tests on average, likely for reasons associated with nutrition and disease in early childhood.

So sorry - you lose.

By Phoenician in … (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Bert #220, well said.
The past history of racial sciences and its supposedly genetical basis is exactly why when an eminient geneticist such as Watson makes such claims, he should be condemned. At least Blogg-condemned.

Of course, we are all racist to some extent. I for example had realised that when I was walking alone at night, if I was followed by a Black man I would speed up pace. There is a biais but it doesn't mean that this biais has any truth in it. If nobody told me before that the earth orbits the sun, my biais would be to think that it's the other way around.

Fighting against racism is realising that we can all fall victim of it, and correcting our error making brain.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I'm an idiot, am I? Good rebuttal.

Yes. You are.

Provide some evidence for your hypothesis and we'll have something worth rebutting.

Until then, I'm going to treat you like the same waste of time every other concern troll and creationist who post here are.

So far, it's the same old story: some fool posts some unsupported nonsense; we treat it as nonsense should be treated; said fool complains that we're 'mean', 'fundamentalist', 'PC', etc. while demonstrating absolutely no understanding of rationality, science, or a desire to learn; we get frustrated and insults are traded.

I'm so tired of the dance; I like to skip straight to insult-trading part.

Actually North American Aboriginals and Inuit invented the most advanced skis and snowshoes thousands of years ago. Europeans adopted theirs when they settled the New World, since their own designs were quite inferior at the time.

I only said that Europeans (or Eurasians) must have invented the ski (at least once), not whose skis were best. There are rock carvings depicting skis several thousand years old. (Minor quibble, but I'm not sure I buy the argument that all European ski designs were inferior - got any evidence for that?)

John Smith said "Untrue. This is leftist pseudo-science promulgated by Gould and Lewontin. See Dawkins' discussion of race in The Ancestor's Tale."

I am not sure what you are saying. Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man" I have read, I am not sure what Cyril Burt has to do with any of this, other than being a scientific fraud who could not keep his preconceptions from informing his experiments. Can you be specific? After all, I attribute Dawkin's taking issue with Gould as a failure to recognize the American parochialism inherent in the arguments Gould makes, which probably do not resonant in a continental context.

However, I do not need to read The Ancestor's Tale to inform you that you are grossly mistaken. Race is a taxonomic term, and as a category above the species, can be considered synthetic rather than natural. The classification of humans into races ignores the very basis for which the category race is employed, given there is very little true between group genetic heterogenity, and no barriers to cross fertilization, that the term should not be employed.

Specifically, if you wish to continue to employ the term Negroid as a race, you need to account for there being at least three distinct genetic branches within the region, consistent with linguisitic and migration patterns, as have also been noted in Indo European linguistic history.

To go further, you need to have determined that miscengenation trully operates in a manner of hybrid depression, to explain how African Americans that genetically are 98% Scot Irish perform poorly on IQ tests. You have to ignore both the fact that hybrid vigor is usually the norm with F1 crosses, and that the process of introgressive hybrization does not apply.

To go even further, if an unbiased measure of intelligence were ever developed, that assumption should be that it is the population of sub-saharan Africans that should score the highest, given the constraints Caledonian rightly pointed out do not apply. This would because of the greater within population heterozygosity.
Mike

Those who have hinted that the economic impoverishment of Africa somehow relates to the "lower average IQ" of Africans should definitely read Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Did someone already say that?

For all his huffing and puffing about genetic/intellectual superiority, its kind of funny that (reportedly) Watson's IQ was "only" 115.

mgr is quite correct. Unless some interesting new genes related to intelligence popped up after the (continually ongoing) exodus from Africa, once the environmental factors acting as a drag force on sub-Saharan Africans are removed, their greater genetic diversity strongly implies that they'll have the best (and the worst) minds on the planet, for the same reason that men dominate the high and low ends of trait distributions.

Whither racism then? People may well be taking supplements to increase their skin's melanin content in an attempt to pass for black.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I am superior to Jim Watson because:

1.He believes IQ is important, and I don't.

2.I have a higher IQ than he does.

3.I believe in human equality, and he doesn't.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Clearly, so-called "race realist" science will never die; not until there is complete understanding of the genetic-developmental basis of the brain and population differences - and probably not even then.

The "race-IQ differences" paradigm keeps crumbling. For example, it recently suffered a blow with microcephalin and ASPM.
http://foreigndispatches.typepad.com/dispatches/2006/12/the_iq_genes_th…

There is also better understanding of how maternal stress affects IQ...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/27/nrows27…

...as well as the relationship of heritability of IQ to socioeconomic status.
http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr04/herit.html

Now the "smart Jews" theory is making the rounds, which Larry Moran correctly criticizes.
http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/10/evolution-in-ashkenazi-jewish.html

As posted by Theresa at razib's blog:

He says that he is "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 I know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true". He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because "there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don't promote them when they haven't succeeded at the lower level". He writes that "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so".

link

Oh my goodness - could part of all this outrage be that Watson isn't advocating racial discrimat- your pardon, I mean affirmative action.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

231, re: skis.
I read it somewhere. Maybe check Wikipedia?

all this supposes that we know how to measure "intelligence" and that the measures we use are univeral, and have nothing to do with culture, language, or any other incidental.

Of course, we all know this just isn't true, but people will argue that blacks aren't as smart as whites, when what they really mean is that blacks aren't as white as whites. Let's not confuse being white with being intelligent... or superior.

If this is true, then maybe our social policies shouldn't make the assumption that the Africans can perform various tasks anywhere near as competently as we can.

Any African readers in the house?

I like how JS just *assumes* that everyone in this comment thread is like him (or her), and that the default here - on the interwebs which are accessible to most people with computers all over the world - is whatever he(/she) is. And that he(/she) can assume that the default is: probably white, Western, and materially comfortable. Not completely unreasonable assumptions, but pretty freaking ignorant and indicative of inherent bigotedness, don't you think?

The display of ignorance and impoverished thinking makes every argument JS advances suspect.

Jim Watson is the Madonna of molecular biology, except his tits are saggier.

By Great White Wonder (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

And thus begins the War on the Nobel Prize. "See, the Nobel prize means nothing. Those socialist Scandinavians gave one to Al Gore, they gave one to well-known racist "evilitionist" James Watson (continue, ignoring Kissinger and Mother Theresa)..."

Oh my goodness - could part of all this outrage be that Watson isn't advocating racial discrimat- your pardon, I mean affirmative action.

Well, since I'd not read the bolded part of the quote until you posted it here, I guess not, huh Sport?

Project much, Caledonian? Try reading what we write, not what you think we're trying to write. You're not that clever.

Untrue. This is leftist pseudo-science promulgated by Gould and Lewontin. See Dawkins' discussion of race in The Ancestor's Tale.

Errm, what? I happen to have The Ancestor's Tale right here, and here's a representative example:

Whatever we may think as observers of superficial appearances, the human species today is, to a geneticist, especially uniform. Taking such variation as the human population does possess, we can measure the fraction that is associated with regional groupings we call races. And it turns out to be a small percentage of the total: between 6 and 15% depending on how you measure it -- much smaller than in many other species where races have been distinguished. Geneticists conclude, therefore, that race is not a very important aspect of a person.

Have you actually read the book?

Well, since I'd not read the bolded part of the quote until you posted it here, I guess not, huh Sport?

So you admit that you didn't read the original interview at all, much less in its entirety, before expressing an opinion on Watson's views?

:uP

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

So you admit that you didn't read the original interview at all, much less in its entirety, before expressing an opinion on Watson's views?

I'm actually somewhat educated on the subject of race, though by no means an expert. I'm not interested in Watson's lay opinions on the matter.

For the most part, the opinions I expressed were on the views of you and John Smith.

So you admit that you didn't read the original interview at all, much less in its entirety, before expressing an opinion on Watson's views?

Oh, and I did read the article, albeit fairly quickly. I missed the quote in question.

So your conclusion is unwarranted.

I repeat: project much?

Why the hell are you people still bickering about this? Let me try to make the final point.
Genetics determines what we are, not who we are.
A person's race is a very poor factor in determining what that person is like.
RACE DOES NOT MATTER!
Just leave it.

I believe Watson also has said that if he knew beforehand that his son would have a neurological disorder, he would have terminated the pregnancy with his wife.

I'm so tired of the dance; I like to skip straight to insult-trading part.

This particular "debate" is so stale it's not even worthy of insult.

what's really funny, is that Watson's comments go far beyond even the "slight differences in intelligence" argument. For those that didn't notice, he flat out stated that Africans simply can't take care of themselves.

seriously, this has nothing to do with ANY science whatsoever.

He's just an old bigot, who's right about only one thing (but for obviously the wrong reason):

the application of Western ideology and politics has not done Africa any favors historically.

For some perspective, check out genetic diversity among humans and our relatives.

We really don't look all that different do we?

A Koko anecdote can help demonstrate how subjective IQ tests really are. She was given an IQ test that asked "What is good to eat", and had pictures of a flower, an ice cream cone, a piece of wood, and a nail. (I can't remember the last two, so I substituted something appropriate.)

The test said that "ice cream" was the answer, but "stupid" Koko picked the flower because, surprise surprise, gorillas eat flowers.

For me, that story really sells how subjective IQ tests can be.

(manual trackback)

Awww. Call the Waaahmbulance. Poor wittle Caledonian is an oppressed white male.

(And before you go all "evil feminist" on me, I've been married 21 years to a guy (white male) who has managed to get along just fine in spite of affirmative action.)

By Susan Krinard (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

For some perspective, check out genetic diversity among humans and our relatives.

We really don't look all that different do we?

A Koko anecdote can help demonstrate how subjective IQ tests really are. She was given an IQ test that asked "What is good to eat", and had pictures of a flower, an ice cream cone, a piece of wood, and a nail. (I can't remember the last two, so I substituted something appropriate.)

The test said that "ice cream" was the answer, but "stupid" Koko picked the flower because, surprise surprise, gorillas eat flowers.

For me, that story really sells how subjective IQ tests can be.

(manual trackback, corrected)

Variation in physical attributes vary within groups as much as between. But, some traits are very consistent in one group, skin color being one (black sub-saharan Africans), hair color (black hair of Chinese), and so forth. These obvious physical traits are what give us the population notion of different "races."

Now onto intelligence. The most significant, unique trait of humanity viz. other animals is self-awareness, a higher intelligence. Just as black hair is endemic among Chinese as a physical trait, why should innate intelligence not be as well something fixed by their DNA? Asian-Americans are over-represented in American universities, and are under-represented in prisons. A popular stereotype is that they are "good at math." You might now say this is because of their culture, but from where does culture come if not the general level of the collective intelligence? Culture does not exist as some super-organic ether -- it's a manifestation of the material brain.

The steady increase of brain size (measured in cubic centimeters) has been increasing for a million years in our ancestors. East Asians have larger brains than Caucasians, on average, taking into account total body size. That's not disputed. And since intelligence is a manifestation of the material brain and culture is as well, shouldn't larger brains mean more intelligence and a "better" civilization?

Well, back when my dad was in the service, the ratio of Scottish engineers to anyone else was like 10:1 for some odd reason, but we, I am also Scottish, can tell who the half wits are (guess who qualifies), and it takes one to not get the fact that, to quote something else my father said, "We where never too troubled about where we got wives/husbands, and guess which countries we fought *for* during both the crusades and during WWII." Give you a hint on that one. During the crusades we where not part of England, so we fought on the side of the Moors. During WWII, nearly the entire Scottish force was in Africa. Seems to me, from that perspective, its more reasonable to argue that we are smarter than everyone else **because** of genetic diversity, not because we are more "white" than everyone else.

Mind you, his real problem isn't so much that he is rehashing the same arguments, which would be rational, if they made sense, and instead rehashing "old versions" of the argument, than ignore little things like: a) pretty being, according to studies, more about breast and hip size (medium + wide being the preferred in all cultures *except* the ones that obsess about it, since it shows better reproductive health and fewer odds of complication either feeding children, or other health issues, involving overstressed backs, hard births, etc.) Basically, one has to ask if his ideal makes sense biologically, or he is one of this nuts that thinks having tits big enough to make balloon animals is "pretty". Worse, the statistics say jack about anything else, so what one person thinks is a pretty face is going to be something someone else thinks looks like their worst nightmare (and some of that seems to, from other studies, be influenced by the appearance of ones parents and whether their faces cause a negative of positive reaction). Basically, the study in that case indicated that those with "good" relationships with a parent where more likely to date someone with "similar" facial features to the parent. If their relationship was negative, it also had an impact on what faces they "liked".

And things just go down hill from there. For example, what does he mean about intelligence? Any idiot with half a clue about what the evidence suggests can tell you that aiming for a great mathematician *could* be possible, which is to say you might be able to produce someone with a 10% better **chance** at being good at math than someone else, but without any guarantee that other factors won't derail it, but the very act of *engineering* such a person might result in them having incredibly poor internal visualization. So, if you make them great at math, then you try to make them a famous sculptor, your probably going to end up with someone that **could have** been a genius at math, but is now instead whittling small wood carvings and selling them off a table at the local swap meet. If you want to do engineering on that level, only an idiot would assume that we know how, or that its as simple as tweaking one gene to get someone that can do "anything". What you might end up with is a mediocre artist with a penchant for calculating how long it will take you to figure out that you just over payed for a paper weight. Which I assume is hardly Watson's goal. lol

Sorry if this covers anything else already said, but gah!! Some times the number of comments are overwhelming when you also have a dozen other things to read. lol

negentropyeater: ... nobody reacted on my statement that Watson must be, like our beloved president, victim of early dementia.

The crucial difference being that, in his earlier life, Watson did achieve a significant academic position and, from there, contributed meaningfully to human understanding and progress.

Bush's intellectual accomplishments seem closer to those of, say, "John Smith" - nil to negative.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I don't this won't sound Politically Correct, but what if there are different evolutionary genetics between the various races on different continents over thousands of years?

If Neanderthals were still around today, would be politically incorrect to label them as having an inferior intellect based on their genetic makeup?

By No One of Cons… (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

" This is Watson at his most scandalous. He has said similar things about women before but I have never heard him get into this racist terrain. If he knew the literature in the subject he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically."

The complacency with the denigration of women here is a bit worrisome. THAT's what struck me about this article. "Eh...he insults women all the time because we *know* they're stupid. But black people? He should know when he's in too deep, man."

It occurs to me that the knee-jerk reactionaries are giving away something when they get angry with the hypothesis that Europeans are more intelligent than Africans: they seem to imply that there is something hugely desirable about being more intelligent.

Would these people be as infuriated by the hypothesis that Europeans age more quickly than Africans, or the hypothesis that Africans are much worse than Europeans at digesting milk?

Try substituting "strength" or "speed" where Watson has used "intelligence". Does what he says seem so incendiary now? Are you assuming that I want you to assume Africans have greater strength? You were right. Now try the thought experiment where Africans have lower strength.

You'll probably find your gut reaction is different each time. Why is it strongest when we use the term "intelligence"? Is it because we are brought up desperately attached to the notion that everything that's good about us depends on our intelligence? Are "strength" or "speed" or ability to digest milk, lesser qualities? And are we more willing to deprecate ourselves rather than those we see as more vulnerable?

Perhaps the people who get so upset by the idea that race X might have lower intelligence than Y should consider whether THEY are in fact the ones being closed-minded by assuming that intelligence (as we measure it) is actually important, and not merely interesting. Perhaps intelligence is actually only important to the European liberal!

Anyone who wants to draw conclusions about the relative intelligence of the races, can start by delineating where those races stop and start and exactly who is in them and why. Next you will have to tell us how the color of ones skin, or any other particular extrinsic differences seperate us into "races". When you can perform these tasks, you can start measuring, given equal cultural and nurturing parameters the relative intrinsic intelligence of the "races". Maybe that's why it isn't discussed too much. It's just not a fruitful discussion.
Race is not a biological delineation of different types of people, race is a function of political and societal decisions That's why, although all kinds of societal conditions may be due to the "relations" between races, measuring the intrinsic potential of people racially is useless.

#258:

"If Neanderthals were still around today, would be politically incorrect to label them as having an inferior intellect based on their genetic makeup?"

Yes. Just look how they react to those damn car insurance commercials. ;)

In response to #255: two very important points.

Firstly, that it is known that Asian Americans score higher on average in IQ tests than other groups. The conclusion that they are generally more intelligent than whites doesn't seem to worry (white) liberals. Why not?

Secondly, that it is often thought that we can "control" for poverty levels and other environmental factors and find that IQs across racial lines are in fact similar. But what if poverty and other environmental factors are in fact partially DEPENDENT on IQ levels? Is it not closed-minded to assume they aren't?

If anyone has read "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond -- a brilliant book by the way -- this was one thing that bothered me. He argued right from the start that environmental and not genetic variation determined the different trajectories of societal development around the world. But if it can be shown that the environment at least in part depends on the genes, then we have a chicken-and-egg scenario and there's no way to accurately claim that one and not the other is responsible.

I think showing this dependence is trivial. Genes and environment are inextricably linked. So, does poverty lead to low IQ or does low IQ lead to poverty which leads to low or lower IQ, and so on? Think about it.

I happen to know that he thinks very highly of the Scots-Irish

I don't WANT to be thought highly of by a racist..... at least not if the only reason is my race.

By Corey Fisher (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

to No One of Consequence:

Ignorance is never politically incorrect, it is only an invitation to be educated. Consider your assumptions:

1.) None of these paleolithic cultures interbreed after branching off, and were reproductively isolated from each other. For a short example, consider the populations around the Mediterranean, did the sickle cell trait evolve independently in Italian populations, or did it arise through interbreeding with members of the African population?

2.) If intelligence is the only human attribute that has evolutionary conseqences for the homo lineage, then because the neanderthals died out, they must not have had as great an intelligence as cro magnon. But, what if neanderthals were more intelligent than cro magnon, but died out due to other factors?

What is going on is the European culture is seeing hominid evolution as a tree with ourselves at the highest branch amoung all the other ethnicities. As a bush, we should be able to see that our intelligence is synergistic with our technology, both driven by local selection pressures. So when you look at a Kung san, and their tool kit of bows, arrows, and what not, they are evolutionarily successful employing their intelligence and employing the necessary tools to exploit the resources necessary to survive, and there is no internal impetus to change.

Mike

Professor Myers says: "There seems to be no environment on earth...where the average human being can afford to dispense with intelligence."

But Watson never claimed that in some environments humans can "dispense" with intelligence. Instead of being evasive, why don't you state why it is you think the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution did prove to have evolved identically.

Meyers also says: "And of course, Africa is not significantly geographically or genetically isolated at all."

There is measureable genetic distance between African and other populations. On what scientific basis do claim this is "obviously" not "significant"?

Myers quote of Dawkins is interesting, it suggests Myers doesn't know that what Dawkins claims there is outdated.

By Francis Crunk (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Idle speculation... but I sometimes wonder: if the male homosapien did not possess external sex organs would it still evidence this compulsive need to wag a measuring stick in everyone's face?

In defense of Watson (can't believe I wrote that) it is at least psychologically understandable why he seems to believe genetics will explain everything. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The viral cattle disease rinderpest had a massive and devastating effect throughout much of the cattle-raising parts of Africa, beginning in 1889, as did the smallpox outbreaks that occurred soon afterward. Rinderpest was introduced by the Italians during their invasion of Ethiopia. That's a long time ago, but was still an astonishing setback for the cultures that it affected, and it is still being dealt with today. See: http://tinyurl.com/ytbzyl

PZ,

Yes, I've read the book, but have you? Here's another extract:

"We can all happily agree that human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. That is one reason why I object to ticking boxes in forms and why I object to psoitive discrimination in job selection. But that doesn't mean that race is of 'virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance'. This is Edwards's point, and he reasons as follows. However small racial partition of the total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are are highly correlated with other racial characteristics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance."

That's what I was objecting to. People here keep saying that race is of no meaning, and they are clearly wrong. I know that variation within a so-called race is greater than variation between so-called races, but this is besides the point.

It's obviously stupid to say that race isn't a very important aspect of a person. In some societies, race has almost fixed social status. Racial persecution (which I obviously don't support) is itself proof that race can be a very important thing in a person's life.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

The complacency with the denigration of women here is a bit worrisome. THAT's what struck me about this article.

I heard Watson speak a few years back and I remember him justifying "borrowing" Rosalind Franklin's data because, well, she was just a woman and no doubt in a few years she'd go off and have babies, so she didn't really need the credit.

It's a great and enduring shame that we lost Francis Crick instead of this old douchebag, given that Crick actually went on and continued to do interesting and important science after he got his Nobel.

Again, I say I don't know whether black-skinned people (does anyone think that that's a meaningless label?) are on average less intelligent than light-skinned people. Maybe, maybe not. But it's absurd to rule out the possibility, in light of the greater economic and intellectual achievements of light-skinned people.

I'm not siding with James Watson. Judging from what I've heard, I think the guy's an asshole.

By John Smith (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Yellow people are smarter than white ones. We will subdue you in 30 years. Yo are going to bring me my tea. Ok?

Someone said, "For those that didn't notice, he flat out stated that Africans simply can't take care of themselves."

Could you please name an African country where the natives are taking good care of themselves?

John Smith at 270: I think you need to respond to my comment 232 before going on any further about race.

English (UK) composition has the thesis statement in the second to last paragraph, rather than American composition that has it in the first sentence. It gives the paragraph a completely different gloss than how you are reading it.

Mike

Re 275 garbled that--should read second to last sentence in the paragraph rather than second to last paragraph (though that would be an intriguing writing style).

Mike

Shorter Tom: NEGROES ARE STUPID, and you cannot convince me otherwise.

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think you owe me an apology.

The "open-minded" people here who suggest that maybe Watson is talking (through his hat) about something scientific really are full of it. and by "it" I mean "__it".
This was a subject that Gould handled beautifully in "The Mismeasure of Man," which was not simply an exercise in showing how false the "objective science" of the time was, but a warning that whenever results are found that reinforce cultural stereotypes, ESPECIALLY of "inferiority," they will eventually be found to be false.

There are some comments here, by people I have amassed great respect for, that I will likely never forget: they believe science is something it can never be: the foundation of human law.

With the exception of the insanity that is expressed in talking about the need for self-described intellectuals to match the birthrate of those they declare ignorant, I am never more disgusted with my "side" than on issues like this. Some of you are (perhaps for what seem like good reasons, perhaps from sheer ignorance - and few here are truly ignorant) closet racists, and should learn better.

By darwinfinch (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"but a warning that whenever results are found that reinforce cultural stereotypes, ESPECIALLY of "inferiority," they will eventually be found to be false."
Indeed. Need we remind everyone of "scientific racism"?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think racists are subhuman vermin jeopardizing the very survival of our species.
They should be all hunted down and processed to dog food( they are not even useful as organ donors or slaves ). Each and every racist. Otherwise they will permanently try to instigate a global genocidal war which would inevitably likely escalate in nuclear suicide of our species.

( note for teh FBI : i do not mean it seriously (yet) because I'm too tired to think or mean anythinq )

No, I think a much more suitable punishment is being forced to play Action 52 for the NES till they go insane. A fate worse than death, truly.

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

so moving on, why do we think that white people are not as successful as asians? is it the food, or are they intellectually inferior?

Apparently, David Marjanović's comments about the changing definitions of "race" through time and space (here and in another recent thread) went completely unnoticed.

"Race" is a cultural construct. Why do some people here insist on treating it as biology?

John Smith,

Still here, are ye? Well, I'm back.

"But all I'm asserting is the possibility that Africans are intellectually inferior. If you're going to tell me that I'm wrong, the burden of evidence (not "proof" -- asking for proof is just ridiculous) is on you. Give me some evidence which suggests that I don't have a valid point."

Why would I do that? You absolutely are asserting a possiblity. I won't deny it. I would be a fool to deny it. And mama tristero didn't raise a fool.

As to the contents of your assertion, I feel you are also correct in believing you are owed an answer of commensuate intellectual heft. And so I answer thus:

Tee hee tee hee tee hee tee hee!

love,

tristero

ps I note you insist on perpetuating that canard about PC-Fanatics. That is a foul lie, at least in my case. I am a mac guy, and DON'T YOU FORGET IT!

Yu can wrap a thud in silk, and a diamond in a newspaper. Do the wrap tells you the content?

It is my understanding that IQ tests were developed to test the severity of Mental Retardation.
An IQ test might be fun to take if you happen to take them well but it really is a piss poor way to rate *intelligence*.. whatever that might be.

It's fun to say my IQ is 140 but I act pretty stupid some times. ;-)

Grrr. Racists suck.

Until James Watson can show us there's a "race gene", he can't even talk about this subject. Attempts to find a race gene have been extremely unsuccessful.

Race is a social construct, not a scientific one. We are so mixed genetically, it's incredible.

Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are related. Isn't that enough proof right there?

Not sure if this has been pointed out before (didn't bother reading the whole damn thread), but race *is* effectively illusionary. Variations in genotype and phenotype are clinal, not racial - you can find as much genetic difference between a Kenyan and a Jamaican as between a Kenyan and a Briton.

Now throw in stereotype threat (look it up if you haven't heard of it), long periods of stupid racialist policies that result in minorities being concentrated in places with shitty schools, and street culture that's blatantly anti-intellectual. Tell me that doesn't have some effect.

Take a look at the rise in minority IQs when educational systems stop sucking, and tell me that genetics is all there is to it.

All of you who are pushing for this bullshit: you need to take a step back and look at your arguments. You're not exhibiting views that fit the facts; you're picking the facts to fit your views.

If you want to argue the case for biological determinism, you can at least switch over to gender-gap stuff, where you'll have some genetic ground on which to base your arguments, however flimsy. But this stuff? Nada.

By Gullible Jones (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Race" is a cultural construct. Why do some people here insist on treating it as biology?

Because lineages aren't, and the social concept of race and the biological concept of lineage overlap.

Are you the sort of person who's against approving drugs that are unlikely to work in general but are quite likely to function for African-Americans?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

a warning that whenever results are found that reinforce cultural stereotypes, ESPECIALLY of "inferiority," they will eventually be found to be false.

Because all stereotypes are false?

(snigger)

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

This highlights another longstanding rift in the rationalist / atheist / evolutionist community - alleged racial differences in the genetic basis of behavior, including IQ. (Sometimes confused with the question of whether race exists, which overlaps but is a different debate. One could posit be mentally equal "races," or alternatively, mentally statistically unequal "populations.") Creationists gloat about the racial skeletons in the evolutionist closet. (Of course, theists historically don't look any better when it comes to racism.) Galton and Haeckel's views on race and eugenics were the norm and antiracists like Franz Boas were in the minority. Only after WWII did antiracist scientists dominate, but they were continually challenged by racial psychometrists and more recently figures like Rushton, Sarich and Miele.

Not coincidentally Watson is also in favor of eugenics. Surely a relatively benign form.

Watson is missing that our western definition of intelligence is anti-evolutionary--an intelligent species adapts well so it can breed many healthy offspring, which us westerners appear to be doing much more poorly than those in racial groups Watson finds to be unintelligent.

The "people who have to deal with black employees" part is so utterly offensive that I can never respect this man again, and, frankly, Cold Spring Harbor should change the name of their school of Biological Sciences.

By ron richardson (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I apologize if the following has been mentioned already. I sympathize with those who've said Watson should be refuted on factual grounds, but that said, it seems to me the issue is more or less irrelevant. After all, it seems obvious that the raw computational capacity (something along those lines surely being the only thing that can be genetically determined) of the average human brain is massively under used. Most of the time folks react to life instinctively based on past experience or some emotional motivation; everyone has seen highly intelligent individuals act like stupendous idiots. The discipline to walk through life thoughtfully would be a prerequisite to having human behavior in any way predicted or limited by intelligence. Assuming all that's true one can conclude two things. Whether or not there are racial differences in intelligence is of no consequence at this point, as intelligence is universally under used, and therefore anyone trying to sell the idea that racial differences in intelligence explains anything in the social/geopolitical landscape (a question distinct from whether or not differences in intelligence exist), is up to no good.

Watson is missing that our western definition of intelligence is anti-evolutionary--an intelligent species adapts well so it can breed many healthy offspring

No.

That has nothing to do with either the popculture usage of 'intelligence' or the scientific cognitive psychological usage.

Again, as usual, the best argument in favor of eugenics is the people who are against eugenics.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Come off it, Caledonian!

Few of us can trace that mystical lineage very far into history. I can take one strand of mine back to 1642 but only because they owned the land they were still farming when I was born exactly 300 years later. The rest I can't take back much further than the early nineteenth century.

That still leaves me - and you - with, say, 200,000 years of genetic iheritance to account for and I have no idea what migrations, marriages, opportunistic sex with passing strangers and other evolutionary pressures there were in that time.

So I ask you - lineage, what lineage?

While SJ Gould's Mismeasure of Man is a classic and still valuable today, Gould did a disservice to antiracism with his insistence that the equality of all races is merely a "contingent fact of history." He argued that the races had not had enough time since their divergence to accumulate significant differences in intelligence, although history could have easily gone differently and produced mentally unequal races. This argument is incorrect - not because I think the races (or subcontinental populations, or whatever term you prefer) are genetically mentally unequal, but because there was in fact enough time for differences to accumulate. I suspect that the main reason why races are mentally equal is because the most important selective feature is not the natural environment (plants, animals, temperature, rainfall), but the environment of other socially-oriented minds communicating through the sophisticated symbolic medium of language - and gossiping, scheming, courting, allying, planning, storytelling, inventing. And that semiotic-social environment of language-using minds is a universal feature of the human species.

There's also the simple issue of tradeoffs - it's rarely possible to increase a useful characteristic without accepting a reduction in others.

Did it occur to none of you denialists that the disease- and parasite-riddled environment of sub-Saharan Africa might have required certain tradeoffs that might not have been relevant once the species migrated out of its original environmental conditions?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian: "the disease- and parasite-riddled environment of sub-Saharan Africa might have required certain tradeoffs"

Sure, I guess that's how Eurasians got so dumb after urbanization took off. Especially from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. Particularly Italy with its malaria problem. (sarcasm)

But you are onto something - parasites impose a very heavy economic cost on populations, especially in terms of human capital. Which along with bad governance is a major reason why Africa has lagged. Drastically reduce AIDS, TB, malaria and worms, and foster good governance, and sub-Saharan Africa will go in the direction of the Asian Tigers and India - which not long ago looked hopeless themselves.

BTW nobody reacted on my statement that Watson must be, like our beloved president, victim of early dementia.

Watson is 79. Does that count as "early"?

Captain Unelected, on the other hand, is a victim of the booze.

Will people stop using arguments of the Russell's teapot fashion? It's a rather delusional thing to do. Obviously a race's being more intelligent than another isn't as anywhere near improbable as some of the possibilities you've been crafting.

Why should intelligence be correlated to skin color or nose shape? Doesn't that sound absurd to you?

Oh, you mean it's correlated to geography? Fine, but why do you talk about races, then?

For the last time: you have fallen among the scientists. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, scientists are from Missouri. Show us the evidence. Put up or shut up. Publish or perish.

Oh my goodness - could part of all this outrage be that Watson isn't advocating racial discrimat- your pardon, I mean affirmative action.

Affirmative action is meant to produce a level playing field by overcoming the economic etc. etc. problems. Does it work as badly as you imply? (I've never seen it, for unsurprising reasons.)

The steady increase of brain size (measured in cubic centimeters) has been increasing for a million years in our ancestors.

Wrong.

East Asians have larger brains than Caucasians, on average, taking into account total body size. That's not disputed.

Neandertalers have larger brains than East Asians, on average, even when total body size is not taken into account (Neandertalers being quite short). That's not disputed.

Enter Alex the gray parrot. He was taught to read. With a brain the size of, I'm told, a walnut.

We don't know what a bloated brain like ours is good for. We really don't. That said, ours isn't that bloated either -- it's merely at the top of the expected range for a mammal of our size, just like a chimp's, an elephant's, or a dolphin's.

the hypothesis that Africans are much worse than Europeans at digesting milk?

That depends on which Africans. The trait has a very nice geographic distribution that doesn't care about skin color...

Professor Myers says: "There seems to be no environment on earth...where the average human being can afford to dispense with intelligence."

But Watson never claimed that in some environments humans can "dispense" with intelligence.

He implied it. He implied that less intelligence is necessary in Africa and therefore intelligence is less strongly selected for in Africa.

Instead of being evasive, why don't you state why it is you think the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution did prove to have evolved identically.

The geographic separation you are talking about never existed. Humans fuck, almost like bonobos. The most extreme isolation ever was experienced by the population of Easter Island for 400 years... I'm not aware of anyone ever designating these people a race of their own, yet they are most deserving of it of all mankind.

Meyers also says: "And of course, Africa is not significantly geographically or genetically isolated at all."

There is measureable genetic distance between African and other populations. On what scientific basis do claim this is "obviously" not "significant"?

Measurable difference? Nope, there's just clinal variation.

Myers quote of Dawkins is interesting, it suggests Myers doesn't know that what Dawkins claims there is outdated.

Elaborate, please.

John Smith, do you know what "taxonomic" means?

Could you please name an African country where the natives are taking good care of themselves?

Botswana? Just off the top of my head.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

And nice use of the word "denialists," Caledonian. Thanks a million, Hoofnagle brothers, for making such widespread abuse of the term possible.

Affirmative action is meant to produce a level playing field by overcoming the economic etc. etc. problems.

No, affirmative action is meant to create a playing field angled in favor of whichever minority group is demanding the affirmative action. A level playing field is just that - level, not tilted or biased to one side or another.

It inherently presupposes that a) race is an important consideration in determining whether someone is qualified, and b) that various minority groups are inherently inferior and members of those groups need to have lower standards applied to them as a consequence.

God, I miss Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Are you the sort of person who's against approving drugs that are unlikely to work in general but are quite likely to function for African-Americans?

In fact, I am. Such drugs shouldn't be prescribed based on skin color, but based on the trait that's actually relevant. Even though testing for its presence is more difficult than just looking at the patient. "African-Americans" are just about the least genetically homogeneous group I can think of!

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

In fact, I am. Such drugs shouldn't be prescribed based on skin color, but based on the trait that's actually relevant. Even though testing for its presence is more difficult than just looking at the patient. "African-Americans" are just about the least genetically homogeneous group I can think of!

It's not skin color at issue. What a ridiculous and ignorant claim to make!

In that brouhaha, the researchers didn't concern themselves with skin color or similar aspects of appearance, they simply inquired as to whether the patient self-identified as African-American. Based only on that, they were able to show that the drug in question was much more likely to be effective in that self-defined population than in the population at large.

Lineage matters! It affects appearance, metabolism, genetic diseases beyond counting, response to drugs... but you people want to reject knowledge, and the reality that the knowledge corresponds to, because it offends your cultural dogmas.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

NEWSFLAH!

The Science Museum in London has cancelled Watson's planned lecture on Friday, saying that his views go beyond the point of acceptable debate.

Full story on BBC News website.

techskeptic, perhaps it's time to visit an audiologist.

No, I've noticed it too; there's far too many shows on television that are hampered by really crappy sound production with loud music over quiet talking. I mentioned that to my wife and she was like "Oh thank God; I thought it was just me and I was going deaf."

This argument is incorrect - not because I think the races (or subcontinental populations, or whatever term you prefer) are genetically mentally unequal, but because there was in fact enough time for differences to accumulate.

When? What time? I don't think there's been any civilization in recorded history that wasn't aware of other civilizations and wasn't sending people to trade with them, people who also had sex with the indigenous peoples and begat offspring.

So there's been essentially no reproductive isolation between different human populations, at least not any isolation that wasn't extremely temporary and short-lived.

Caledonian wrote:

"Are you the sort of person who's against approving drugs that are unlikely to work in general but are quite likely to function for African-Americans?"

Come on, you know that's BS. BiDil has not been proven to be more effective for African-Americans; the study that got it FDA approval only used African-Americans, and the combination of generic drugs composing it has a history of effective use in people of other races. Pushing it as a "race-based medicine" is an obvious marketing ploy.

In case you're thinking of some other drug, I shall remind you again that race is not a reliable indicator of genotype - there's sickle-cell anemia wherever malaria is prevelant, for instance, and not just in dark-skinned African populations.

The one point I will concede is that you're right about Affirmative Action. It doesn't level the playing field, it just creates the appearance of a level playing field and wins support for politicians. As long as minorities aren't getting off on an equal footing, there are going to be problems, and having the colleges use quotas is not going to change that.

By Gullible Jones (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

A level playing field is just that - level, not tilted or biased to one side or another.

So tell me how you level an unlevel surface, Caledonian.

If you think you level a surface by pushing up equally on all sides, then I pray you never become a carpenter. But that's the logic of those opposed to affirmative action.

Okay, seeing Caledonian not only mischaracterizing arguments in favor of affirmative action but contrasting "affirmative action" with "Martin Luther King," really helps me understand where he's coming from. In fact, Dr. King favored "compensatory treatment" for black Americans.

It inherently presupposes that ... various minority groups are inherently inferior

It supposes nothing of the sort. It supposes that certain minority groups are disadvantaged. See if you can wrap your head around the difference.

Oh...man...am I the only one that thinks PZ is obnoxious as anybody else. Knee jerk...boring liberal. At least Watson is brave enough to say what he really thinks. PZ just likes his job...wants to keep it...nice and cozy. Watson doesn't need a job..can say what he wants.I have much more respect for him...right or wrong.

PZ just likes his job...wants to keep it...nice and cozy.

I imagine he does, but do you have any idea where he works? The town? The stuff PZ says around here doesn't exactly keep him off the radar. Hell, my parents have been using his name as an oath these past few weeks, even since they found out I read his blog.

As an oath? "By PZ, I shall avenge you!"

Do you mean as profanity? "Keep your PZin' hands off my clean windows, motherpzer! PZ off!"

I should like to know more of this peculiar havit of your parents'.

Since when were sub-Saharan Africans breast fed, like American children, on standardized tests?

Gee, I wonder why teachers spend an entire year preparing human offspring to perform for 4 hours on any number of them that sell?

If they keep using these tests at all, they ought to rename them.

The "IQ" tests have long been tossed from school districts. Haven't you scientists heard? Even way back in that other time zone, that Watson apparently still inhabits, they were well recognized as nothing more than school system success predictors, as culturally and personally biased as their creators.

BTW, when did scientists lay claims to, and define, "intelligence" from that complex range of characteristics and their relationships?

And gee, I wonder how Watson would do on an accordion or flute?

And how 'about after a famine or two?

"Keep your PZin' hands off my clean windows, motherpzer! PZ off!"

That actually has a nice ring to it. I've been using David Hilbert's name in vain up until now, and I think it's time to revise that policy.

It supposes nothing of the sort. It supposes that certain minority groups are disadvantaged.

1) That's still a gross racial prejudice.
2) Being disadvantaged does not imply that lower standards need to be applied. Only if you've decided that a certain fraction of accepted applicants need to belong to specific races do you need to change the standards, and only if there aren't enough people from that group to meet the standards.

It DOES imply inferiority of the group the standards are lowered for.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian: A level playing field is just that - level, not tilted or biased to one side or another.

Isn't it a pity that nicely planned-out athletic grounds are such a bad metaphor for the complex and utterly artificial pseudo-ecology of culture and economics, both arbitrary and rigged (to the advantage of those able to rig things), in which modern individuals must try to survive?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Isn't it a pity that nicely planned-out athletic grounds are such a bad metaphor for the complex and utterly artificial pseudo-ecology of culture and economics, both arbitrary and rigged (to the advantage of those able to rig things), in which modern individuals must try to survive?

Yes - although it's not utterly arbitrary, and not completely rigged, but that's another argument - but it's not my metaphor. I just use it.

What things boil down to is that everyone deserves a fair chance to be judged on their own merits. Affirmative action judges people based on which social construction they belong to, then lowers the standards if they belong to particular groups. It doesn't make things more equitable or eliminate racism, it simply reverses it.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Comment 307 "So there's been essentially no reproductive isolation between different human populations, at least not any isolation that wasn't extremely temporary and short-lived"

No, there hasn't been total reproductive isolation anywhere, but there has been some degree of isolation to produce the familiar look of East Indians, right? And the unique appearance of the Australian Aborigine. And that severe isolation, if not total, does matter in evolutionary trajectories.

Yay Mooser #261. You guys think we should address Watson's latest nutjobbery "seriously" on the merits of the argument?

Okay. We can do that when the good doctor gives us:

1) a rigorous definition of "race"
2) a rigorous definition of "intelligence"
3) some citations for the "studies" he mentions

Until he does so, I intend to dismiss him as a crank and a racist. He's not talking science, so neither can we.

Affirmative action is racist inasmuch as it requires choices be made on the grounds of race.

For example, it insists that, in the case of employment, if there are two equally-qualified applicants for a job, one black and one white, the black applicant should be chosen on the grounds that black people have been unfairly deprived of equal access to employment in the past. That choice is justified as being one step towards remedying all that past and present deprivation, even if the individual applicant has not come from a particularly deprived background.

However, discrimination in favour of the black applicant is also discrimination against the white applicant. They are two sides of the same coin. And, just as the black applicant may not have come from a deprived background so the white applicant may not be a racial bigot. Is there any justice in the white applicant, in effect, being punished for the sins of his or her ancestors, something over which they had no control and for which they cannot be reasonably held responsible?

We can agree that the purpose of affirmative action, to force racial prejudice out of selection processes and, more generally, to promote racial equality, is laudable. But can it be defended given that it is in some ways as discriminatory as the prejudice it is trying to roll back?

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Oh...man...am I the only one that thinks PZ is obnoxious as anybody else. Knee jerk...boring liberal.

No I find the "knee jerk liberal" or "PC-fanaticist" comebacks that you right-wing nutters toss out to be far more obnoxious.

At least Watson is brave enough to say what he really thinks. .. Watson doesn't need a job..can say what he wants.I have much more respect for him...right or wrong.

Why? Why do you have respect for someone who spouts out baseless racism? I have a pretty good idea why...

By Tube Sock (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

"For example, it insists that, in the case of employment, if there are two equally-qualified applicants for a job, one black and one white, the black applicant should be chosen on the grounds that black people have been unfairly deprived of equal access to employment in the past."

Can you site any law that supports this statement? Because that's not what any affirmative action law says at all.

By Tube Sock (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Participants in the above are concentrating on genetics, but for the individuals and societies as well, more important is the cultural capital we inherit from the society we live in. You may have a very well developed brain in all regards, but if you live in a society which does not like independent thinking, prefers authority over individuality, does not value knowledge and promotes censorship, then your chances of becoming the next Einstein, or just solving any complex problems, drop rapidly - because just having a brain is not enough.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Bernard Bumner wrote: But, who will tell one of the Fathers of Modern Genetics to shut up?
_______

I will. SHUT UP, you embarrassingly conceited and cosseted doofus!

Good stuff, Lousis, however, I am sure the stink emitted consistently by Caledungian will waft past our noses soon enough.

I'll give you three guesses what Watson's own background might be.

Dickhead. (Can I say that here?)

I notice a number of people using greater diversity as an argument for intelligence. Note that there isn't any necessary correlation between these two characteristics. Just take for example, there are greater diversity of monkeys on this planet. Humans being a less diverse species of monkey than the rest is still more intelligent than other monkeys.

Hmm, now it looks like some sort of anthropic principle, one group of monkey has to be more intelligent than the others. It is therefore comes no surprise that the most intelligent monkeys are the ones able to ask the question of which group of monkeys are the most intelligent. Well, call me a monkeycist if you want too, it doesn't change the facts.

Did it occur to none of you denialists that the disease- and parasite-riddled environment of sub-Saharan Africa might have required certain tradeoffs that might not have been relevant once the species migrated out of its original environmental conditions?

Much of the disparity in parasite-riddledness between Africa and, say, Europe might be of relatively recent origin, rather than a feature of our "original" environmental conditions. Widespread malaria epidemics in Africa are estimated to date back only a few thousand years. Later, malaria was endemic in Europe up till a hundred years ago or so. Lots of diseases originate in domestic animals, so you would expect the Neolithic centers for agriculture to also have been hotspots for disease.

On the other hand, many of your critics in this thread are forgetting that complete reproductive isolation is not needed for adaptive divergence! Here's some pertinent evidence.

Well, as it turns out, someone important outside of this virtual world has told Watson to shut up (cancelling his lectures at the Science Museum), so I'm pleased and surprised.

To all of the people who are discussing whether race is meaningful in this debate; the whole point is that Watson didn't mention race as a genetically meaningful concept, but the social concept of race as skin colour. He specifically says "black" people (and I'm sitting with the Sunday Times magazine by my side, as I write). He specifically refers to Africa as a whole ("their intelligence").

You really have to wonder what this bit is about:

He is also recruiting minorities at the lab and, he tells me, has just accepted a black girl "but," he comments, "there's no one to recruit."

(I accept that this is a quote that is given little context in the piece, and may therefore carry a tone of blatant racism which was unintended by Watson, but in the context of earlier quotes, it does seem quite damning. I'm not sure that I'd like to be black, or a "girl" in Watson's lab! Also, keep in mind that the piece was written by Charlotte Hunt-Grubbe, who used to work for Watson, and has a somewhat generous attitude towards him).

Is it possible that IQ may vary due to genetic variation amongst diverse subgroups of our species? Of course, but it hasn't been demonstrated by objective science. Ths also wasn't what Watson was saying, because he only made reference to skin colour!

If you would like to see how far Watson errs from science simply for the joy - to him - of being controversial, or perhaps because he really is as dull as his dubious expressions suggest, then look no further than:

"If I belive in something then I'll say it, I figure, generally, at least half the time I am reflecting common sense, which is not a lie."

If common sense was science (or even, generally "true"), then my mum would win a Nobel prize, as it is, she still doesn't understand what I do as a geneticist after almost ten years of patient explanation.

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

ian spedding wrote: "That choice is justified as being one step towards remedying all that past and present deprivation, even if the individual applicant has not come from a particularly deprived background."

Of course that's not all affirmative action seeks to remedy. It's indisputable that folks who are not "one of us" tend to be treated less well than folks who are just like us, no matter their background. So affirmative action is also meant to rebalance the scales in situations where, due to human nature, of two equally qualified candidates, the person who's just like us would typically have an edge.

The justification for affirmative action is essentially that it is the lesser of two evils. I'd love to make it unnecessary by doing away with the greater of two evils. We can hope....

Comment on many comments in this thread -

The two following propositions seem to me to be self-evidently nonsensical:

1. There is a single identifiable quantity called "intelligence" that can adequately describe the level of mental function of a human being, and which provides a valid, reliable way to discriminate among human beings as to relative level of mental function, in all relevant life situations.

2. There are tests that can objectively and reliably measure this single identifiable quantity.

I cannot see how anyone of reasonable intellectual function can possibly believe human behavior in the world is so simplistic that proposition #1 can be true.

Regarding #2, speaking as a person who has made a great deal of money (scholarships, course credits) from such tests, I think that as measures of mental capacity they are equally as valid and objective as those puzzles one used to find on roadside diner placemats.

Blacks invented Jazz, the most complex musical form in the world, and one of the ultimate expressions of the human intellect.

Watson stole information from a woman, and used the work of Linus Pauling, and the chemistry skills of of his friend Crick to come up with numerous ideas on what was already suspected by most until one fit (which required Crick to check as Watson did not understand bond angles and such). Most everyone else had other jobs to do and put little time into the pursuit, while Watson, using the minds of others, did little else.

I'm personally giving this one to "The Blacks"

Heck, the guy still has not even learned to type yet.

Lago says, "Blacks invented Jazz, the most complex musical form in the world..."
Wow! The whole world?
I'd suggest you spend a few years researching the development of polyphony in Western music. I suspect that the music of J.S. Bach is a tad bit more complex than even the best Jazz. Try a Bach oratorio. Try a Mozart mass while you're at it. Then try a Beethoven symphony.
I'm personally giving this one to "The Germans. And The Austrians."

By lago's an idiot (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian: Affirmative action ... doesn't make things more equitable or eliminate racism, it simply reverses it.

My father, a graduate of Princeton, told me he had made arrangements for me to have the inside track in applying there (an option I never exercised). He in turn may have had his entry eased by the connections of his father, a professor and dean at another university. Neither of these arrangements was rare or even unusual (among whites, that is).

Please don't try to tell us that the game was not rigged before affirmative action, or that (to switch metaphors in mid-stream) removing the a.a. thumb from one side of the scales would actually improve the resulting balance.

If anyone reading this has also had the stomach to peruse Clarence Thomas's new book: can you inform us whether, alongside his well-publicized wailing about the ignominy of his own affirmative action background, he addresses the stigma suffered by both George Bushes from their infamous unfair advantages in higher academia?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Much of the disparity in parasite-riddledness between Africa and, say, Europe might be of relatively recent origin, rather than a feature of our "original" environmental conditions.

I must disagree. In the territories in which our species evolved, we are likely to find a great many organisms that have developed a capability to parasitize us, because our ancestor species have been in the area for a long time.

In those places where we moved only recently, I would expect fewer parasites - although possibly more of the extremely virulent ones that through happenstance have the right traits to infect us.

Tsetse fly? That horrible eye worm? Those are African, as we'd expect.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

My father, a graduate of Princeton, told me he had made arrangements for me to have the inside track in applying there (an option I never exercised). He in turn may have had his entry eased by the connections of his father, a professor and dean at another university. Neither of these arrangements was rare or even unusual (among whites, that is).

I reject such behavior, too. At least your progenitors had the decency to recognize that it was abominable and needed to be kept secret. Imagine if they had openly proclaimed that they were making it easier for their progeny to enter!

That's what affirmative action is, only with race replacing filial affiliation.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Response to #9, and along the lines of #332. The error lies in confusing the *measure* of intelligence with the *construct* of intelligence. They are not identical.

Differences in IQ test scores do not imply that one population is "inferior" to another in any real sense -- it only means that one average score is lower than another.

By analogy: for years it was thought that formal operations -- the ability to think systematically using abstract logic -- was absent in many non-Euro-American cultures. This belief gradually changed when new tasks, the contents of which were more familiar to the children taking them, were used to assess cognitive development. (This also illustrates the self-corrective process of science).

Remember also that these tests have multiple components, are more informative qualitatively for individuals in clinical assessment, than quantitatively for large groups. Distill all of this into a single score and you lose most of the information the test has to offer. Make a grand generalization to entire populations and you go far beyond what the data can support.

Missing in this whole discussion is a critical appraisal of exactly what intelligence is (apart from the measures) and what it is supposed to do. How could these cultures manage complex economic, familial, and social arrangements without a highly developed intelligence?

I must disagree. In the territories in which our species evolved, we are likely to find a great many organisms that have developed a capability to parasitize us, because our ancestor species have been in the area for a long time. In those places where we moved only recently, I would expect fewer parasites - although possibly more of the extremely virulent ones that through happenstance have the right traits to infect us.

That's why I said "most" of the difference in the parasite load depressing productivity - it's true that Africa is expected to have the most parasites adapted to infect humans, but the worst scourges currently (malaria and AIDS) weren't part of our "EEA".

Tsetse fly? That horrible eye worm? Those are African, as we'd expect.

Ï think the problem is not the tsetse fly as such (African bloodsucking insects are, if anything, wimpy compared to those of the Arctic summer) but its transmission of sleeping sickness. That's mirrored in the Americas by Chagas disease, so the most important risk factor seems to be closeness to tropics rather than evolutionary history. I'll give you the eye worm, but aren't other places with high population sizes and traditional agriculture, like China and India, quite well-stocked in human parasites as well?

The scariest part of this thing to me was the end of the article: "..we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

Someone said "Orwellian" earlier in this thread, but it wasn't about using the government to silence unpopular speech. I don't agree with his racism at all, but he should have the right to say any idiotic, self-discrediting crackpot thing he wants. There are places in the world right now where we atheists could get arrested for talking about the unpopular particulars of what we [don't] believe -- why is seemingly no one here outraged at the possibility of this happening to anyone? All things considered, atheism is a lot less popular than racism.

"A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular." - Adlai Stevenson

It DOES imply inferiority of the group the standards are lowered for.

Nice try, but you were talking about suppositions, not implications. Inferior does not logically follow from disadvantaged.

"Lago says, "Blacks invented Jazz, the most complex musical form in the world..."
Wow! The whole world?
I'd suggest you spend a few years researching the development of polyphony in Western music. I suspect that the music of J.S. Bach is a tad bit more complex than even the best Jazz. Try a Bach oratorio. Try a Mozart mass while you're at it. Then try a Beethoven symphony.
I'm personally giving this one to "The Germans. And The Austrians.""

I already have studied the above. I play Bach as one of my personal favorites, and I avoid the childish stylings of Mozart.

The Music forms you are discussing above generally use major, minor, diminished, half diminished, and some seventh chord. The rest are basic version of suspended chords based on above.

Basically put, the melodies are straight forward, and usually rather simple in nature, and the rhythm styles are very basic as either being 4/4 or 3/4, or some version based off of either. Triplet feels are often used commonly.

Now, Jazz? Jazz has all of the above, but then goes Waaaaay beyond the above, rhythmically, and melodically.

#342 reminds me that David Duke's IQ measurement is supposed to be extraordinarily high. I rest my case regarding the (in)adequacy of such tests to measure real-world mental acuity in performance of the huge variety of tasks involved in various humans' lives.

Someone way upthread said of the possibility that Africans are inherently less intelligent than other humans: "If this is true, then maybe our social policies shouldn't make the assumption that the Africans can perform various tasks anywhere near as competently as we can."

Back in 2001, USAID administrator Andrew Natsios argued against distributing anti-retroviral drugs to African AIDS patients. Why? ARV cocktails need to be taken several times a day on a strict schedule, and, according to Natsios, "many people in Africa have never seen a clock or a watch their entire lives. And if you say, 'One o'clock in the afternoon', they do not know what you are talking about."

This is what social policy based on the assumption of African intellectual inferiority looks like, and guess what? Not only is it ugly, it's bass-ackward wrong. As it turns out, Africans are perfectly capable of taking medicine on schedule. In fact, they're better at it than North Americans.

Oh, and here's one more thread in the vibrant tapestry of Watson's ass-hattery: a few years ago, back in my halcyon undergrad days, a female friend of mine (also an undergraduate) met Watson. Apparently, despite the nearly six decade age difference, he hit on her.

Evidence that "race" is not a scientific category: Barack Obama is defined as "black", but he could just as easily be defined as "white" since he is half and half.
Oh, but wait - any amount of blackness = Black in America! Obviously that is a very scientific defin... Riiiiiight. That classification system is based on RACISM.

It's just amazing to see the amount of willful ignorance that can mustered to protect the illusion of egalitariansim.

"I.Q. tests do a better job of exposing the inherent biases of those who write them than they do of registering the intelligence of the test taker; any psychologist can tell you that."

Those "inherent biases" seem to do an awfully good job at predicting a large range of life outcomes including income, social standing, education and even longevity. Those seem to be some valuable biases there.

I think it's pretty clear that nearly all who find Dr. Watson's statement distasteful likely don't have any inkling as to what the literature on the topic really looks like else so many of the common objections (e.g. test bias, income, parental education etc.) would never be raised. Indeed, they create quite a comfortable intellectual cocoon for themselves that allows them to ignore it all together.

By Moonglade (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian: I reject such behavior, too.

Well, isn't that special. Problem is, if Princeton or any other school were to do the same, their alumni contributions would plummet. The best they can do, when pressured to deliver greater justice, is to shove a few shims under the lowest corner of the table, rather than remove some from the upper side. Voila - affirmative action.

At least your progenitors had the decency to recognize that it was abominable and needed to be kept secret.

Ah, no, my impression at the time - and from commentaries encountered later - is that such deals are (were?) accepted and overt.

That's what affirmative action is, only with race replacing filial affiliation.

For someone who apparently enjoys flaunting an independent/iconoclastic persona, you sure seem stuck in a rut of repeating right-wing shibboleths.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Those "inherent biases" seem to do an awfully good job at predicting a large range of life outcomes including income, social standing, education and even longevity. Those seem to be some valuable biases there."

Missing out on your circle logic I gather?

#222
"Well, good luck in sorting it out. As far as I can see, any hopes to a rational, scientific conclusion have been destroyed by the well has being so poisoned, FROM BOTH SIDES, that it's impossible to sort it out."

I feel stupid for reading all these comments. I had hoped to run across some enlightening posts from cognitive scientists, and maybe some interesting links to real scientific research into these questions, but instead I was mostly bombarded from the start with loaded words like 'racist' and 'bigot'. PZ is guilty, too.

it's true that Africa is expected to have the most parasites adapted to infect humans, but the worst scourges currently (malaria and AIDS) weren't part of our "EEA".

HIV almost certainly came out of a simian species that we're closely related to. My point stands.

There are islands in the South Pacific that are in tropical zones as well, but had humans introduced to them relatively recently. My understanding is that those islanders were historically remarkably free of diseases and parasites, all things considered.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Caledonian,

Before you spout off about affirmative action I suggest you should read the Civil Rights Act of 1965, particularly Title VII, as well as the various court cases over the years, with particular attention paid to the 4/5th rule.

Your example is flawed. A choice between hiring a single black man or a single white man is not subject to affirmative action.

Basic affirmative action hiring requirements are determined by a rather complex formula called the 4/5th rule. As an example, consider the possibility of 20 job openings and 40 white men and 40 black men of equal qualifications apply. Yet 15 white men and 5 black men are hired. This means that 37% of white applicants were hired but only 12% of black applicants. In this case, the ratio between those percentages is .12/.37 =~ .3 where to avoid being sued under affirmative action laws, this ratio must be .8 or greater.

Note, that this ratio can be changed in several ways. If only 15 qualified black men apply, and then only 5 are hired, the ratio arrived at is (.33/.37) =~ 1. So if there are fewer applicants from the protected class, or more applicants from the privledged class can change the ratio, as can differences in hiring.

Now, I freely admit to have only scratched the surface of affirmative action laws in my studies. There are people who specialize in this area of knowledge, and I'm not one of them.

However, you have clearly demonstrated that you are unaware of what the legal requirements are.

I can't say that I'm surprised. For I've followed your comments for some time and you appear to revel in making confrontational comments. However, you rarely take the time to provide evidence for your assertions, typically claiming that you are only repeating what is common knowledge or clearly logical.

So this comment isn't really aimed at you, this comment is directed at those people who think that Caledonian has any justification in his claim that a black person automatically gets preferential hiring treatment because of his minority status. The reality is a bit more complex than he implies. Affirmative action laws are an attempt to identify and reduce the impact of institutionalized prejudical behavior.

The complete and total ignorance of Africa's centuries long brutal pillaging and destruction by European powers and proxies right into the 90s that is exibited by the racists here is tragic.

Africa's current economic state obviously can't be used as a measure for anything to do with inherant charateristics of the population and for a scientist with a knowledge of statistics and controls like Watson to ignore this scientific fact shows blinding racism.

It's on par with the slave master with his guns and dogs saying, "The slaves are dirty and can't read. Obviously, they are less intelligent."

By crackedmirror (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

"The complete and total ignorance of Africa's centuries long brutal pillaging and destruction by European powers and proxies right into the 90s that is exibited by the racists here is tragic."

And what was the relative state of sub-Saharan Africa prior to all of this brutality? Were you to tally the intellectual achievement of Greece, Rome and all of Europe and compare it to that of this area up until about 1500 AD, what do you think the balance sheet look like? Of course, we are conditioned to react emotionally to the question rather than seriously consider it. It's "bad" to think such things and we don't want to be bad people do we?

Paroxysms of denial.

Just because we don't know about the civilizations of Africa because they were cut off from Europe by Sahara doesn't mean they didn't exist.
IIRC, there was this place called Zimbabwe that traded with India. Its stone ruins were so sophisticated the Boers refused to believe it was created by Africans. Ancient Ghana, etc.
In fact, ancient Ghana had a population greater than that of Rome in 100 AD.
But we never learn about these in our history books, so people like John Smith can blithely assume no great civilization ever existed in Africa.

Wow. My respect for Dr. Watson just plummeted.

So this comment isn't really aimed at you, this comment is directed at those people who think that Caledonian has any justification in his claim that a black person automatically gets preferential hiring treatment because of his minority status. The reality is a bit more complex than he implies. Affirmative action laws are an attempt to identify and reduce the impact of institutionalized prejudical behavior.

But the presumption is that there's prejudice, when it might merely be the case that there aren't enough qualified candidates.

Which in reality is often the case.

So the result is that unqualified minority applicants are accepted.

his claim that a black person automatically gets preferential hiring treatment because of his minority status

I haven't argued that. If you wish to claim otherwise, quote the post where I did.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

The best option is to divest and segregate so that blacks can be left alone to recreate their ancient spacecraft piloting civilization and whites can have their peace.

It's been 15 years since the whiteman dominated UN abandoned the hopeless scary basketcase of Somolia. It's GDP and lifespan is now actually greater than the surrounding UN-approved starvation states.

The lesson is to let nations stand on their own feet. Or "racism" as some neocons say.

"Democracy" dealers of the world, bugger off! Leave people alone and mutually prosper. "Racism" is wise. "Racism" is benevolence. Else all you are stuck with in alternative is a usurist system that serves and wars for the handful of global elites.

By Hateration (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Reply to Tristero123:

Read the article carefully. Watson was referring to (black) Africans in Africa. Most respondents only know about Afro-Americans in the US. Not the same thing at all. You really need to visit Africa to see for yourself.

(Aside: A while ago there was a New Yorker article about life in Lagos. Read it and weep.)

Would you deny that Africa (south of the Sahara, say) is a basket case?

By WuffenCuckoo (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

Tube Sock

Can you site any law that supports this statement? Because that's not what any affirmative action law says at all.

If a police department, for example, is required by its affirmative action policy to achieve a racial mix amongst its officers that reflects the ethnic proportions of the local community then it might well find itself hiring less-qualified black applicants in order to meet its racial quotas by a given deadline.

That might not be stated specifically in the legislation and regulations but it will still be the effect in practice.

If you think that end justifies those means all well and good but it is still discrimination on racial grounds.

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 18 Oct 2007 #permalink

THE ONE @353,

Based on your argument, the Irish, the Slavs, and the Norwegians are all genetically inferior also because of this comparison with Greek and Roman civilization. Of course, this is exactly what was believed by scientists in the United States and elsewhere at various time. All driven by racism.

Anti-African racism is still socially acceptable so there are welcome parties for new efforts at the bad science to back it up. Anti-Slav, Anti-Irish, Anti-Italian racism no longer has a social acceptable cultural home (although Bush may have said something about Russian tendencies in the past couple days), so no one produces poor science to support it anymore.

Following on from comment 353

Scotland for centuries was viewed as a bunch of backward savages, who hadn't achieved anything of note. Yet look at Scotland's intellectual achievements in the late 18th century and onwards.

Would you deny that Africa (south of the Sahara, say) is a basket case?

Are you claiming that it is genetic?

My apologies Caledonian, I certainly miss-attributed a comment by someone else to you.

In fact it was Ian H Spedding FCD who wrote: "For example, it insists that, in the case of employment, if there are two equally-qualified applicants for a job, one black and one white, the black applicant should be chosen on the grounds that black people have been unfairly deprived of equal access to employment in the past."

Which is an entirely incorrect statement, but not made by Caledonian.

There are hundreds of additional laws dealing with minority and protected class treatment. Some of which I agree with, others make less sense to me. For example, I'm not entirely sure that I agree with the body of law which gives minority owned businesses certain tax breaks. While I understand the intention behind such law, the potential for abuse of it appears high.

Of course, as for this statement, of Caledonian's, "... there aren't enough qualified candidates. ... So the result is that unqualified minority applicants are accepted."

Which may be the case, but affirmative action laws do not require it. This would be a situation where the HR department of the company decided to award the job to an unqualified minority applicant over an unqualified non-minority applicant.

The point is that the affirmative action laws are not intended to increase the hiring of minorities, but to reduce the non-hiring of minorities. I'm sure that the subtlety of the difference is clear to you.

That's it - time to put my Watson bobblehead doll in a drawer.

By Brian Bartel (not verified) on 19 Oct 2007 #permalink

Watson has apologized "unreservedly", but the trustees of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have still suspended him.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 19 Oct 2007 #permalink

So John Smith, question for you:

My ancestry is predominately African. In the U.S., I'd be classed as Black/African-American, based on my skin color and hair texture. I identify as African-American.

I also score very well on standardized tests, and always have.

Is that because the roughly 10% European in my genetic makeup outweighs the other 90%? What percentage of African genes is needed to tip the balance from smart white person to dumb black person--because "white" and "black" are, of course, precisely defined terms. Right?

Read the article carefully. Watson was referring to (black) Africans in Africa. Most respondents only know about Afro-Americans in the US. Not the same thing at all.

So why did Watson equate the two? Or when he said "people who have to deal with black employees", did he mean African employers and employees?

You really need to visit Africa to see for yourself. (Aside: A while ago there was a New Yorker article about life in Lagos. Read it and weep.) Would you deny that Africa (south of the Sahara, say) is a basket case?

Yes I would, you seem to imply that there is no hope for any improvement there. Most of the governments suck (are governments genetically determined? What about North vs South Korea?) but there is, for example, a growing middle class in many places.

"Based on your argument, the Irish, the Slavs, and the Norwegians are all genetically inferior also because of this comparison with Greek and Roman civilization."

Not really as they've proven in numerous ways that they are capable of building and maintaining advanced nations. Sub-Sahara has not. I merely like to remind that blaming Africa's plight on colonialism and the like is merely a just so story that fails under minimal scrutiny. As Africa continues to fail with little abatement, equalitarians will hitch a ride to this excuse into eternity.

"In fact, ancient Ghana had a population greater than that of Rome in 100 AD."

Wow more populous. Impressive. The Sudan is also more populous than Switzerland. I know where I'd rather live. Your evasion is telling.

Not really as they've proven in numerous ways that they are capable of building and maintaining advanced nations. Sub-Sahara has not.

Yeah, and it's not like we are living in a period of immensely rapid change in all societies, so we would expect every ethnicity to have more or less achieved anything it's ever going to achieve by now. Right?

How would you have rated the capability of, say, Finns of building and maintaining an advanced nation in:
-1000 AD
-1500 AD
-1918 AD
-2007 AD?

Interestingly, Francis Collins has now entered the fray, declaring that Watson is wrong because the genes that affect intelligence are equally distribted.

But know only a few genes that can be directly tied to even the forms of intelligence we can measure. The field is in its infancy - there are only a handful of genes that we suspect are tied to mental development, and most are thought to be complex polygenic traits that can't be understood by looking at one gene alone.

So where is Collins getting this claim from? Maybe the waterfall told him.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 19 Oct 2007 #permalink

intelligence is an arbitrary and meaningless concept. You can see for example that the esteemed Watson is both very clever and very stupid at the same time, depending on what you aspect of his self-expression you look at. Plus, the determination of which bits of what he says are clever and which bits are stupid, are up to the person who is listening and have no objective reality. Please stop talking about intelligence as if it is a concrete thing! We all just live and experience life and talk to each other and hirt each other. You cant measure it.

And what is this assumption that is it is 'superior' and better to be 'economically advanced' and 'civilised'. Again this is all a load of cods wallop. I lived in the jungle and the people there couldnt care less about genetic discoveries but they are very content and seem to have found themselves a very sensible and sustainable way of life while we all stomp around destroying everything and thinking we are very clever. Piffle!

Despite individual and population differences in every other human characteristic, clearly the brain is the only organ that shows no variation;

And why should variation in the brain coincide with variation in skin color? After all, nothing else seems to.

Better yet, why should anything coincide with the US definition of "black", which includes everyone with any visible amount of African ancestry in the last few centuries, even Colin "Paleface" Powell? Or with the US definition of "white", sorry, "Caucasian", which doesn't even include the southern 1/3 of Europe?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

(certain racial groups are more likely to have thallasemia for example)

Yes, the Mediterranean Race.

How many believers in race have recognized a separate Mediterranean race in the last 50 years?

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I'm trying to say that for just about each disease -- just about each gene -- you'd have to recognize its own set of races.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

I feel compelled to whip out the SETI definition of intelligence: "the ability to build a radio telescope". That one works. That one is rigorous and testable. =8-)

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Hi, Lago! Sorry for hijacking this thread -- you have twice accused me of somehow sweeping GSP under the rug, I answered twice (if late), and you never came back to those threads (the one on the quill knobs of Velociraptor and the one on my adoption into the OM). Could you elaborate now, please?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Americal Idol is far easier to grasp!

Are the decisions as rigged as in the German and the Austrian equivalents, for example...? I wouldn't call rigged decisions "easy to grasp".

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

BTW nobody reacted on my statement that Watson must be, like our beloved president, victim of early dementia.

Watson is 79. Does that count as "early"?

Captain Unelected, on the other hand, is a victim of the booze.

Will people stop using arguments of the Russell's teapot fashion? It's a rather delusional thing to do. Obviously a race's being more intelligent than another isn't as anywhere near improbable as some of the possibilities you've been crafting.

Why should intelligence be correlated to skin color or nose shape? Doesn't that sound absurd to you?

Oh, you mean it's correlated to geography? Fine, but why do you talk about races, then?

For the last time: you have fallen among the scientists. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, scientists are from Missouri. Show us the evidence. Put up or shut up. Publish or perish.

Oh my goodness - could part of all this outrage be that Watson isn't advocating racial discrimat- your pardon, I mean affirmative action.

Affirmative action is meant to produce a level playing field by overcoming the economic etc. etc. problems. Does it work as badly as you imply? (I've never seen it, for unsurprising reasons.)

The steady increase of brain size (measured in cubic centimeters) has been increasing for a million years in our ancestors.

Wrong.

East Asians have larger brains than Caucasians, on average, taking into account total body size. That's not disputed.

Neandertalers have larger brains than East Asians, on average, even when total body size is not taken into account (Neandertalers being quite short). That's not disputed.

Enter Alex the gray parrot. He was taught to read. With a brain the size of, I'm told, a walnut.

We don't know what a bloated brain like ours is good for. We really don't. That said, ours isn't that bloated either -- it's merely at the top of the expected range for a mammal of our size, just like a chimp's, an elephant's, or a dolphin's.

the hypothesis that Africans are much worse than Europeans at digesting milk?

That depends on which Africans. The trait has a very nice geographic distribution that doesn't care about skin color...

Professor Myers says: "There seems to be no environment on earth...where the average human being can afford to dispense with intelligence."

But Watson never claimed that in some environments humans can "dispense" with intelligence.

He implied it. He implied that less intelligence is necessary in Africa and therefore intelligence is less strongly selected for in Africa.

Instead of being evasive, why don't you state why it is you think the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution did prove to have evolved identically.

The geographic separation you are talking about never existed. Humans fuck, almost like bonobos. The most extreme isolation ever was experienced by the population of Easter Island for 400 years... I'm not aware of anyone ever designating these people a race of their own, yet they are most deserving of it of all mankind.

Meyers also says: "And of course, Africa is not significantly geographically or genetically isolated at all."

There is measureable genetic distance between African and other populations. On what scientific basis do claim this is "obviously" not "significant"?

Measurable difference? Nope, there's just clinal variation.

Myers quote of Dawkins is interesting, it suggests Myers doesn't know that what Dawkins claims there is outdated.

Elaborate, please.

John Smith, do you know what "taxonomic" means?

Could you please name an African country where the natives are taking good care of themselves?

Botswana? Just off the top of my head.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Are you the sort of person who's against approving drugs that are unlikely to work in general but are quite likely to function for African-Americans?

In fact, I am. Such drugs shouldn't be prescribed based on skin color, but based on the trait that's actually relevant. Even though testing for its presence is more difficult than just looking at the patient. "African-Americans" are just about the least genetically homogeneous group I can think of!

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink