Archive for March, 2010

The Race and IQ Question

March 16, 2010

I started this blog to share my thoughts on the Race and IQ question. 

Bascially, I believe that a signifcant amount of the black/white difference in cognitive abilities is genetic in origin.  I also believe this is obvious to anyone who thinks about the issue critically.  Following is a very brief summary of the evidence and arguments which compel this conclusion.  Later, I plan to respond to some common objections.

In short, the black/white difference in cognitive abilities is both universal and intractable.  In other words, you see it pretty much everywhere in the United States and the rest of the world; further, various attempts to eliminate this gap have failed.  This is exactly what one would expect to happen if the difference were largely genetic in origin.    Every other explanation I have seen (and people are very creative in coming up with alternative explanations) is either inconsistent with large amounts of evidence or is so full of epicycles that it’s just not credible.

What is an epicycle?  It’s an ad hoc adjustment to a hypothesis so that the hypothesis will not be contradicted by reality.  To borrow an example from Eliezer Yudkowsky, suppose somebody claims to have a dragon in his garage.  If you open the garage and don’t see a dragon, you might reasonably conclude that the claim is wrong.  However, the claimant might say “No, there’s a dragon in my garage — it’s just an invisible dragon.”  The claimant has just added an epicycle to his hypothesis.  You might then propose setting up a machine to detect the dragon’s breathing and the claimant might respond “well, the dragon doesn’t breath.”  That’s another epicycle.  Given enough epicycles, at a certain point, reasonable people conclude that they hypothesis is no longer credible.

As a side point, it’s interesting to note that just like in the dragon example, epicycles frequently involve factors which are difficult or impossible to measure.

In any event, the alternative explanations on the race and intelligence question are so epicycle-laden; so ridiculous that anyone with half a brain would dismiss them out of hand if it were not for political correctness.  i.e. western culture believes that it’s very very bad to believe or advocate that genetics are a big part of the reason for the black/white gap in cognitive abilities.


Can you make an effort to state in more detailed terms what it would mean to find that “genetics play a significant role in the black/white IQ difference”, in other words what precise predictions this theory makes?

For one thing, one would predict that anywhere in the US or the world, if you give a test of cognitive ability to a somewhat representative group of blacks, they will do worse than a somewhat representative group of whites.

For another, one would expect that this gap would persist over time despite attempts to eradicate it.

Is that precise enough for you?


Talk to the experts in psychometrics, and they’ll tell you that this is still an open question.

I have no idea if this is true, but there’s such a strong taboo against speaking out against the Egalitarian Hypothesis it wouldn’t mean much.

The experiments that would give huge likelihood ratios just haven’t been done.

So what?  There’s more than enough evidence already.   If we were dealing with a subject that weren’t politically sensitive, for example relative intelligence of dog breeds, everyone would be satisfied that the gap is largely the result of genetics.


From what I can tell of your blog post, you said, “there’s evidence, it’s so obvious, people have alternative explanations but they’re bogus, there’s evidence, I bet whites do better than blacks on tests, there’s tons of evidence.”

Where’s the evidence?

I’m a little confused.  Do you deny that whites, generally speaking, outperform blacks on tests of cognitive ability?


And this is compatible with a non-genetic explanation: environmental in African countries, and from discrimination in rich countries. Attempts at eliminating other kinds of discrimination (e.g. gender) have also been less than successful.

That’s not true.  For example, when discrimination against Jews in academia ended, Jewish people did just fine.  When discrimination against blacks in baseball ended, they did just fine.

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March 15, 2010

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