The Race and IQ Question

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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13 Responses to “The Race and IQ Question”

  1. Thom Blake Says:

    I hope you realize you’re using “epicycle” metaphorically here. It had a specific technical definition in the historical period, and it was not so much about ad-hoc revisions to the hypothesis to fit the data, but rather following the rule that “math involving planetary bodies must be done with circles”. It’s not that they were wrong, exactly, it’s just that they were following an unwieldy methodology.

  2. fortaleza84 Says:

    “I hope you realize you’re using ‘epicycle’ metaphorically here.”

    Yes, the word has come to be used as a metaphor for ad-hoc revisions to a hypothesis to fit the data.

    “It’s not that they were wrong, exactly, it’s just that they were following an unwieldy methodology.”

    Well, if you model the movement of the planets using circles and circular epicycles, can you make reasonable accurate predictions about those planets’ movements?

  3. Thom Blake Says:

    “Well, if you model the movement of the planets using circles and circular epicycles, can you make reasonable accurate predictions about those planets’ movements?”

    I’d guess that you could, though it might involve some infinite sequences, which of course the Medievals wouldn’t know how to calculate. The exercise of developing such models will have to be left for another lifetime, as they’d be bad models anyway.

  4. fortaleza84 Says:

    FWIW, I recall reading a book 25 or 30 years ago which said that you can never accurately model an ellipse using just circles and (a finite amount of) epicycles.

    In any event, the analogy is imperfect because ellipses and circles are just mathematical constructs. Assuming that one can exactly model an ellipse with a circle and an infinite series of epicycles, it’s arguably meaningless to say that one model is correct and the other is wrong. As you say, the epicycles are just unwieldy.

  5. Leo Says:

    MixedNuts from Less Wrong here.

    Okay, so the observation I’ve made, and interpret you as talking about, is:

    In the US, people are divided into (overlapping) groups called “races”. This division is complicated but involves differences in ancestry and phenotype, and thus in genome. The average IQ (and score on other measures of cognitive ability) of the group called “white” in the US is higher than that of the group called “black”.

    Note that your observation is not the same as mine. You say “and in the rest of the world”. I’d like to see your data for that.

    [fortaleza84: I can try to find you some data, but first you must represent to me that you are seriously skeptical about my claim. This is Rule 4(a) of my personal rules of debate. The reason I have this rule is that some people have a tendency to demand cites for points they do not seriously dispute as a way of distracting the issues.]

    First, the US race system is very US-specific. I’ve seen studies that classified North Africans as “non-Hispanic whites”; children of an African-descent and an European-descent parent are black, not somewhere between black and white. So it’s not trivial to translate data from other race systems into the US one. Second, collecting race vs IQ data is illegal in some countries. But there’s nothing stopping us from considering US whites and US blacks, and the causes of their differing IQs.

    Your hypothesis: The origin of this gap is mostly genetic.

    [fortaleza84: Actually, my claim is a bit milder than that — it’s that a significant amount of the gap is genetic in origin.]

    The biggest competing hypothesis is that it’s mostly cultural. White children get better education because they have richer parents, live in neighborhoods with better schools, and have parents more able and willing to help them learn (explaining the asymmetry between mothers and fathers). White people in general are more encouraged to look smart and work on their studies, even correcting for income and neighborhood, and this kind of pressure works (“stereotype threat”).

    The big prediction difference between those theories is that if we all became race-blind, the gap would disappear after a few generations.

    [fortaleza84: That’s not the only prediction difference. For example, one would also predict that if the difference were mostly cultural, there would be some groups of blacks who were basically the same as whites in intelligence. ]

    Unfortunately, we don’t have such an environment handy. Maybe you disagree with that? You say “When discrimination ended against Jews in academia, Jewish people did just fine”. But this deals only with the crudest forms of discrimination, just plain barring a group from entering or advancing.

    The kind of discrimination through stereotype pressure I’m pointing to is well illustrated by an episode of _What would you do?_ where a white and a black boys separately pretend to be stealing a bike in a park and get widely differing reactions. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0kV_b3IK9M ) Yes, it’s _Mythbusters_-level rigor, and it’s the “thieving” stereotype rather than the “stupid” or “lazy” ones, but we could test those if you disagree.

    I think it’s obvious that effects of this type are causing part of the IQ gap. I also think that it’s not obvious (indeed, not known at all) whether there’s any significant gap left from other (including genetic) causes.

    While I’m happy to read and write ridiculously long posts on any question of fact, I’m also wondering what you want to do with the answer anyway.

    [fortaleza84: Why do you wonder that? If you want to start discussing my motivations behind discussing the race and IQ question, then perhaps you should first lay out your own motivations.]

    If we want to remove discrimination, well, there’s obviously still lots of it so we have to do just that either way. If we want to use IQ tests as a measure of racial discrimination, the existence of a genetic gap doesn’t imply it won’t work, it implies we should look at genetic groups within races, expect a gap based on their differences, and check for discrimination as deviation from this expected gap.

    Finally: I’m afraid that thinking about this is making our brains do Evil Things ( http://lesswrong.com/lw/2pw/the_affect_heuristic_sentiment_and_art/ ). I’m afraid that calling something evidence for a genetic gap will, after three steps of mangled headlines, result in people deciding that black people should all be killed. I’m not afraid a genetic gap might exist, because I’m not more horrified by genetic IQ differences between races than between individuals.

  6. Leo Says:

    About non-US gaps: I expect the usual correlations between income, education, parental education, to show up everywhere. Correcting for them, I still expect gaps in countries with big racial discrimination, and that’s most of them. I can’t think of a country with large black and white (in the country’s race system) populations that doesn’t discriminate in that direction. I do have some different expectations (e.g. what happens to the gap between whites and Arabs in European countries when immigration changes the genetic makeup of the Arabic population but not the social perception of Arabs), but I still expect whites to do better than blacks on IQ tests in countries where the concepts are applicable. (I would still like some cites to confirm, but yeah, not a point of contention.)

    [fortaleza84: I’m not sure what your point is here. Are you seriously skeptical of my claim about the rest of the world or not? Do you dispute my claim about the rest of the world or not?]

    But you missed my point here. What I’m disputing is not IQ differences between blacks and whites in various countries, it’s the relevance of those gaps for interpreting the gap observed in the US. Afro-Americans predominantly come from the gulf of Guinea. So if we do a study in, say, South Sudan, showing an IQ gap between blacks and whites, we have found that 1) people with ancestors from Western Europe do better than people with ancestors from both the gulf of Guinea and Western Europe (US study) and 2) people with ancestors from Western Europe do better than people with a mix of Nilotic ancestors. This does suggest a (possibly genetic) advantage given by Western European ancestry, but it’s “they do better than each of two unrelated groups”, not “they do better than the same group in two different countries”. There’s no such group as “blacks”, not without specifying a race system. (Then again, there are Bantu everywhere, so sprinkling studies over Subsaharan Africa might reveal things about this group.)

    [Fortaleza84: Again, I’m not sure what your point is here. Do you dispute that black weak intelligence is universal in space and time?]

    “For example, one would also predict that if the difference were mostly cultural, there would be some groups of blacks who were basically the same as whites in intelligence.”

    Huh? How does that follow? If you mean “in the US”,

    [Fortaleza84: No, I’m talking about the entire world.]

    can’t see why; discrimination and stereotypes are about the same everywhere with only differences of degree and explicit effort to counterbalance them. If you mean “worldwide”, then there are in fact a lot of different cultures, but given that countries with lots of white and black people are either countries where whites colonized black natives, or countries where blacks were imported as slaves, we expect discrimination to hurt blacks everywhere.

    If the difference is mostly genetic, then surely we should expect one of the many genetic groups called “black” in the US (though not necessarily living in the US) to be at least as smart as whites, unless for some reason their few common traits include intelligence.

    [fortaleza84: Why would we expect that?]

    Any other prediction differences?

    [fortaleza84: Sure, but it’s not on me to name them. My argument rests primarily on the fact that poor black intelligence is universal in space and time.]

    “If you want to start discussing my motivations behind discussing the race and IQ question, then perhaps you should first lay out your own motivations.”

    I’m not planning to do anything with the answer. You were talking about it, and it’s a question of fact with a definite answer, and you sound like you’re capable of changing my mind if I’m wrong and yours if you are, so I answered. Idle curiosity.

    [fortaleza84: :shrug: I find the issue interesting]

    And, er, you still haven’t said why it’s obvious that a significant part of the gap is genetic.

    [fortaleza84: Yes I have.]

    Also, what’s your position on “A significant part of the gap is cultural”?

    [fortaleza84: It depends on what you mean by “cultural.” Probably blacks’ inherent weak intelligence leads to cultures which undermine their intelligence. Would that kind of effect count as cultural? If so, then yes.]

  7. Leo Says:

    Okay, so you are making a strong claim about the world so my “Ehn, let’s restrict this to the US if we lack worldwide data” doesn’t work. And I didn’t say what I thought of your claim because I didn’t understand it.

    “Do you dispute that black weak intelligence is universal in space and time?”

    Definitely! I don’t think it’s false, I think it’s outright meaningless. There’s no such thing as “black”. You can say “I measured IQ of blacks in the US, and of blacks in Kenya, and of blacks in South Sudan”, but what you’re really saying is “I measured IQ of people whose ancestry was a mix of Western European and some Bantu ethnic groups, and of people whose ancestry was a mix of some other Bantu ethnic groups, and of people whose ancestry was a mix of Nilotic ethnic groups”.

    <[fortaleza84: I don't understand your point. Just because the group known as "blacks" includes different ethnic groups and people with European ancestry, why does it follow that "there's no such thing as black"?

    Is it your position that any time a group X includes different subgroups, it follows that "there is no such thing as Group X"?]

    But okay, let’s be charitable; these groups aren’t all called “black” for no reason. We can define a semi-reasonable universal criterion for “black”. What are you basing your grouping on? I guess the most straightforward way is to use the categories in use in the country of study. But that has strange effects; the same person is black in the US and neither (or both) in metropolitan France and white in Martinique. You could also use phenotypical traits like skin color, of if available ancestry data. What did you use?

    [fortaleza84: I haven’t used any precise definition at the moment, because it’s not really necessary. Nobody can reasonably dispute that most of the people living in Haiti are “black” by any reasonable definition. Or that for the most part, Jamaicans living in the United Kingdom are “black” for the most part.]

    Also, why are you talking about weak black intelligence? If you accept what I said above about blacks being not one big group but a lot of different groups, it sounds more like “Whites smarter than US::blacks, Kenya::blacks and South Sudan::blacks: that’s strong white intelligence”. If you don’t and thus just have a “Whites smarter than blacks” observation, there’s no particular reason to expect low IQ blacks (relative to nonwhite races) rather than high IQ whites (relative to nonblack races). Even if it’s purely a relative claim and thus completely equivalent, it seems like better for our mental health to phrase it as “whites are smart” rather than “blacks are stupid” because the latter will leak more.

    [fortaleza84: I have no idea what your point is here. Generally speaking black people have weak intelligence. No reasonable person will seriously dispute this.]

    “If the difference is mostly genetic, then surely we should expect one of the many genetic groups called “black” in the US (though not necessarily living in the US) to be at least as smart as whites, unless for some reason their few common traits include intelligence.

    [fortaleza84: Why would we expect that?]”

    Because there’s half a metric shitload of genetic groups called “black”. If their average IQs aren’t all that closely correlated, then high variance will bump at least a few of them above (Western European-descended) whites. So if we don’t observe that, there must be low variance: all genetic groups called “black” in the US have about the same IQ. So that means they have in common: skin color, hair texture, a few facial features, intelligence, and just about nothing else. That doesn’t sound right – why would they have only these traits in common?

    [fortaleza84: I imagine there are other traits too. Besides which, there are plenty of reasonable explanations why the group known as “blacks” might have (genetically) weak intelligence even though that group has a lot of variation in other respects.]

    This is mitigated if by “black” you only mean “descended from Bantu”, since they have a lot more ancestry and phenotype in common, and rapid expansion could plausibly require tradeoffs involving intelligence. You wouldn’t detect that unless your studies were explicitly looking at non-Bantu groups.

    “And, er, you still haven’t said why it’s obvious that a significant part of the gap is genetic.

    [fortaleza84: Yes I have.]”

    …look, if we have failed to communicate clearly, saying you sent stuff into the channel isn’t going to clear things up.

    [fortaleza84: Sure, what will clear things up is if you read my post carefully.]

    I’m saying exactly what the imaginary questioner said last:

    “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.”

    Yeah, but discrimination against blacks in education in the US hasn’t ended, and discrimination for whites in black-majority countries hasn’t ended, so what’s your point? This is compatible with a non-genetic explanation.

    [fortaleza84: I was responding to the claim that attempts at ending discrimination have in general failed. This claim is false.]

  8. Leo Says:

    “I don’t understand your point. Just because the group known as “blacks” includes different ethnic groups and people with European ancestry, why does it follow that “there’s no such thing as black”?”

    That’s not my point. That’s is a point I and some other people have made, so I understand why you’d be confused, but it’s not the point I was making. My point is that there’s not one group known as “blacks” – there’s a group known as “blacks” by USans and a group known as “blacks” by urban French people and a group known as “blacks” by rural South Sudanese people and so on. You can extract a single group from this, but it’s not trivial – studies that claim to be talking about black people are talking about different groups.

    [fortaleza84: Ok, so you are saying that because there is not a clear universal definition of “black,” it follows that “there is no such thing as black.” Do I understand you correctly now?

    And if I do, is it your position that in general, that if there is not a clear universal definition of X, it follows that “there is no such thing as X”?]

    If you want to say all of those studies are talking about black people, you can say “black” is the union of all groups that have ever been called black. It gives you strange results (includes many Native Americans, for example), but works. If you want to say “nobody can really dispute that so-and-so is black”, you can say “black” is the intersection of all these groups. It also gives you strange results because many people called “black” in the US won’t be included, but studies done there are still about groups that include black people. You can also say “fuck it, I’ll use the US system” and have that work because most people called black in current race systems are also black in the US. But you should keep track of the criterion you’re using, otherwise you’ll start trying to apply results to groups that were never included in your studies.

    “I have no idea what your point is here.”

    You have either established:

    1) Whites are smarter than a bunch of groups. Then, you should say “whites have strong intelligence”; or
    2) Whites are smarter than blacks. Then, you could say “whites have strong intelligence” or “blacks have weak intelligence”. Assuming you are a typical human, it sounds like a really bad idea to use the latter statement. I get that you want to be a Paul Graham-type iconoclast and that’s noble and all that, but preventing horns effect and outgroup hostility are noble too.

    [fortaleza84: The world is not just blacks and whites. So it’s simpler to state that blacks generally speaking have weak intelligence (compared to the rest of the world.) Perhaps it is offensive, but that should not really matter. Please just use the principle of charity and get over it.]

    “Generally speaking black people have weak intelligence. No reasonable person will seriously dispute this.”

    Then give me the cites already!

    [fortaleza84: First you must comply with my rules of debate. Tell me that you are seriously skeptical that blacks as a group have weak intelligence. This may difficult for you since you apparently maintain that “there is no such thing as black,” but that’s not my problem.]

    “I imagine there are other traits too.”

    There could be, but it’s quite strange that none of them is a trait we care about measuring, like height or ability to run.

    [fortaleza84: Who is “we”? And what does it mean to “care about measuring” something? I doubt that there have been any worldwide studies comparing running speed.]

    “there are plenty of reasonable explanations why the group known as “blacks” might have (genetically) weak intelligence even though that group has a lot of variation in other respects.”

    I can’t think of one.

    [fortaleza84: Then let me help you a bit. Why do you think it is that blacks generally have a certain hair texture?]

    I can think of things like a Bantu expansion tradeoff, but that negates the “lot of variation” clause. I can also think of filters like “who gets caught and sold as a slave”, but that doesn’t work in African countries.

    Basically I don’t expect the universe to be set up to be evil, anymore than I expect it to be set up to be nice.

    “Sure, what will clear things up is if you read my post carefully.”

    Maybe you could have assumed I had read it carefully before answering the first time, and after you said “Yes I have”. Seriously, how could this assumption of bad faith *possibly* help? …besides driving me away so you can complain that people won’t debate you?

    [fortaleza84: It’s not an assumption, it’s a reasonable inference. Anyway, you are trying to go “meta” again. Under my rules of debate, you must (1) explain why you wish to discuss this issue; and (2) lay out your own position. Why do you think it is helpful to accuse me of assuming bad faith?]

    So you claim that, insofar as there are group called “white” and “black”. the former performs better than the latter on various tests, such as IQ. You further claim that non-genetic explanations of this gap are bogus, and therefore the real explanation must be genetic. What I’m looking for is the part where you debunk the bogus explanations.

    [fortaleza84: That’s not exactly my argument. My position is that the non-genetic explanations are so full of epicycles that they are not credible. I guess you could call such an explanation “bogus.” Anyway, I can give you a couple examples if you want but obviously I cannot provide an exhaustive list of explanations.]

    “I was responding to the claim that attempts at ending discrimination have in general failed. This claim is false.”

    Okay, there are examples of successful attempts at ending discrimination. There are also examples of failed attempts. So for each attempt we have to look at the results – not all automatically succeed or fail. In the specific cases of discrimination favoring whites over blacks in people with a large population of each, do you think discrimination has been successfully ended?

    [fortaleza84: It depends what you mean by “successfully ended.” In the United States in 2012, a given black person with reasonable diligence and high intelligence can expect to receive better treatment than a similarly situated white person in terms of college and graduate school admissions and employment by large organizations. If he wants to become a big firm lawyer; a college professor; a research scientist; etc. then discrimination has definitely ended and in fact will tilt in his favor. If a black person wants to get a low level job with a small organization, he will probably face some discrimination.]

  9. Leo Says:

    “Ok, so you are saying that because there is not a clear universal definition of “black,” it follows that “there is no such thing as black.” Do I understand you correctly now?

    And if I do, is it your position that in general, that if there is not a clear universal definition of X, it follows that “there is no such thing as X”?”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it (well, I’d say “universal” or “objective”, but not so much about the “clear” part). I admit I was exaggerating, though. I… guess that’s pretty much my position, yeah? At least it the case when you’re trying to integrate various reports on X made by people who use different definitions.

    [fortaleza84: The problem with your logic is that it leads to absurd results. For example, there isn’t a clear, universal definition of “Worms”; “The South”; “Bugs”; or “The West.” And yet if I were to assert that generally speaking, elephants are bigger than worms, no reasonable person would respond by claiming that “There’s no such thing as worms.”]

    “The world is not just blacks and whites. So it’s simpler to state that blacks generally speaking have weak intelligence (compared to the rest of the world.)”

    …that’s exactly why you shouldn’t state that, unless you also have data about other races.

    [fortaleza84: Who says I don’t? I assert that generally speaking blacks have weak intelligence compared to the rest of the world, i.e. whites, orientals, and other non-black groups.]

    “Under my rules of debate, you must (1) explain why you wish to discuss this issue; and (2) lay out your own position.”

    Is “this issue” still the race and IQ question?

    [fortaleza84: No, the issue of your accusation of my assumption of bad faith.]

    Then (1) ehn, you started it; (2) As I said earlier, “I think it’s obvious that effects of this type [discrimination] are causing part of the IQ gap. I also think that it’s not obvious (indeed, not known at all) whether there’s any significant gap left from other (including genetic) causes.”

    “Why do you think it is helpful to accuse me of assuming bad faith?”

    To make you explain what I didn’t understand, instead of telling me you already explained it.

    [fortaleza84: Then in response, I would say that such accusations are generally unproductive, at least as unproductive of what you accuse me of doing]

    “Tell me that you are seriously skeptical that blacks as a group have weak intelligence.”

    Okay. If you measure the IQs of various groups of people in several countries, including people self-identified as black in the US, and various unrelated African ethnicities (not just Bantu), south-east Asian and Oceanian ethnicities, then correct for income, education, residence, and parental such, then divide the results between “black” and “non-black” using whichever criterion you were using anyway, then I am seriously skeptical that the difference between averages will be much larger than the error on the average. (Say, probability 0.7-ish that it is.)

    [fortaleza84: Sorry, but you don’t get to re-write my claims and then demand cites. I assert that blacks as a group have weak intelligence relative to the rest of the world. Either you are seriously skeptical of this claim or you are not. Which is it?]

    “Who is “we”? And what does it mean to “care about measuring” something? I doubt that there have been any worldwide studies comparing running speed.”

    The Olympics. They’re not rigorous studies, but they do a good job of selecting the best runners in the world – and they tend to be Kalenjin much more often than Mbuti.

    [fortaleza84: Well using your example of the Olympics, there are other traits too within the limited scope of what the Olympics “measures.” For example, in weightlifting, blacks do relatively poorly compared to whites.]

    To answer the general question: traits that someone whose work I read would have been measuring anyway if we weren’t specifically looking for traits black people have in common.

    Genetically-caused traits black people have in common tend to be adaptations to ultraviolet exposure (e.g. the hair texture example you gave), and some to heat but they don’t actually have much of these in common. I rather fail to see why adaptation to UV light and heat would reduce intelligence strongly enough to compensate for the runaway increase in all humans and the big variation between environments.

    [fortaleza84: How exactly is hair texture an adaptation to UV exposure?]

    “My position is that the non-genetic explanations are so full of epicycles that they are not credible. I can give you a couple examples if you want but obviously I cannot provide an exhaustive list of explanations.”

    How about the explanation I mentioned in my first comment, which is the biggest competitor and more and less my own position? Parental income, parental investment, neighborhood, discrimination of the form “teachers grade black kids poorly at equal performance”, discrimination of the form “black kids are discouraged from studying”, stereotype threat. If you debunk that one I’ll basically consider the issue settled in favor of genetic explanations.

    [fortaleza84: That’s really many different explanations. To take your discrimination explanation, I would note that Black people have weak intelligence even in countries were there there are essentially no non-blacks and therefore no racial discrimination. See, the problem with your approach is that you need to jump from explanation to explanation. The problem is discrimination, except when it’s something else. Occam’s Razor favors the simple explanation.]

    “In the United States in 2012, a given black person with reasonable diligence and high intelligence can expect to receive better treatment than a similarly situated white person in terms of college and graduate school admissions and employment by large organizations.”

    Huh, then we definitely have a prediction difference! I don’t know the US all that well, but I would still expect that admission quotas in favor of black candidates are not enough to compensate for other forms of discrimination.

    [fortaleza84: I’m not sure what you mean by “not enough to compensate.” It’s much easier for a similarly situated black person to get into an elite American college.]

    There’s been a study in France (I’ll dig it up if you want it) showing that identical resumes with pictures of black people got fewer answers than with pictures of white people.

    [fortaleza84: I don’t dispute that job discrimination against blacks exists in the US, so I am not sure what your point is here.]

  10. Leo Says:

    Whee, Internet access.

    “For example, there isn’t a clear, universal definition of “Worms”; “The South”; “Bugs”; or “The West.” And yet if I were to assert that generally speaking, elephants are bigger than worms, no reasonable person would respond by claiming that “There’s no such thing as worms.””

    Yes, but that’s because all elephants are much bigger than all worms.

    [fortaleza84: Assuming that’s true, so what? It only underscores the point that your reasoning leads to absurd results.]

    Obviously there’s enormous overlap between white intelligence and black intelligence, however you define “white”, “black”, or “intelligence” – the variance in both is much larger than the difference between averages. (I expect you agree with this.) If you were making assertions about the difference in size between worms and insects (that’s a well-defined category), whether you include pinworms or tapeworms would be very relevant. In particular, a study including pinworms and not tapeworms finding worms are smaller, and a study including tapeworms and not pinworms finding worms are bigger, would not contradict each other.

    [fortaleza84: I’m not sure what your point is here. Before, you seemed to be claiming that any category which does not have a clear, universal definition does not exist. Now you seem to be conceding that “worms” does exist and that generalizations can be made about the category even though there is not a clear, universal definition. (Of course my position is that the same thing is true about “blacks.”)

    So that I can understand your position, please explain to me your criteria for determining whether or not Category X “exists.”]

    I’m quite willing to talk about any group, or set of groups, you want to. It just requires checking that any studies we cite include enough subgroups of these groups, and not too many subgroups not in these groups. We could also cheat like dogs and define “black” to mean the group most convenient to talk about given the study results.

    “I assert that generally speaking blacks have weak intelligence compared to the rest of the world, i.e. whites, orientals, and other non-black groups.”

    Okay. That’s a strictly stronger assertion, but I expect studies that support the weaker one have a large enough scope to support it too. Also I hear “oriental” is a slur and this group calls itself “Asian”. Unless you meant a different group.

    “Then in response, I would say that such accusations are generally unproductive, at least as unproductive of what you accuse me of doing”

    I’ll stop doing that, then.

    “Sorry, but you don’t get to re-write my claims and then demand cites. I assert that blacks as a group have weak intelligence relative to the rest of the world. Either you are seriously skeptical of this claim or you are not. Which is it?”

    That looked like a fair rephrasing to me – I picked a sample of groups Wikipedia said were commonly called black. Can you produce another rephrasing that I agree is well-defined, or help me find well-defined terms that could go into a fair rephrasing? I am not skeptical at all of “US::blacks have weaker intelligence than US::whites and US::Asians, before and after correcting for income, education, and parental such”, somewhat skeptical of “Mostly-Bantu-descent people have weaker intelligence than the rest of the world, same corrections”, and seriously skeptical of the claim I tried as a rephrasing. All of these look to me like possible rephrasings of your claim (okay, the first one neglects the rest of the world, but correcting for school systems in poor countries is hard), which shows that I can’t parse it as a single claim to be skeptical of.

    [fortaleza84: I’ll try one more time, but this is probably your last chance. Define “blacks” as people who would be considered “black” if they were in the United States. For example, the vast majority of the people living in Haiti, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe would be considered “black” by this definition. I assert that “blacks” as a group have weak intelligence relative to the rest of the world’s population. Are you seriously skeptical of this claim or not? This is a simple reasonable question and I am going to have to insist on a yes or no answer.]

    Alternately, you could just show me the (easily-found subset of the) studies that convinced you in the first place, and I could extract a group to talk about, and see if that works as a rephrasing.

    “there are other traits too within the limited scope of what the Olympics “measures.” For example, in weightlifting, blacks do relatively poorly compared to whites.”

    My point wasn’t “the best black runners are better than the best white runners”. It was “the best black runners overwhelmingly come from this small group, and never from this other small group”, showing large variance in black running ability, with the best non-black runner group about competitive (slightly worse than, but not badly enough to never go to the Olympics) with the best black runner group, and the worst black runner group very far behind, worse than the average non-black runner group. Similarly, for weightlifting, I expect that the best black weightlifters are able to go to the Olympics from time to time, and come from a small number of groups (again, the Mbuti would suck). Checking is inconvenient because as you said they’re not the very best, but I’ll do it if you want.

    [fortaleza84: Please do check. I am seriously skeptical of the implicit claim that there is some group of blacks which does well in weightlifting.]

    The point is, if you try to sort ethnic groups by running or weightlifting ability, you’re going to get some black groups and some non-black groups at the very top, not all black groups neatly clustered at the top followed by non-white groups or the reverse. There are many black groups, so you should find one near or above white average. Similarly, if intelligence is mostly genetic and not an especially shared trait like skin color, you should get a wide spread of group averages, where the very top groups might be all white (Ashkenazi Jews represent!), but the top black group should still be comfortably above white average. For this not to happen requires that there is little variance in intelligence between black groups, so that even the top group can’t jump above white average. Most traits have large variance (running confirmed; weightlifting needs checking), so there needs to be a special reason for intelligence to vary so little.

    “How exactly is hair texture an adaptation to UV exposure?”

    I don’t know if this question is Socratic (“Explain why this is an adaptation and you’ll see why intelligence is too”), sincere (“How’s this work?”) or skeptical (“Huh? Why on Earth would it ever work that way?”). I’ll answer naively. A thick layer of hair on the top of your head protects against UVs. But doing it with straight hair would suck, because it’s very dense; you’d overheat. Kinky texture lets air circulate and refrigerate your head, while satisfying the thickness requirement.

    [fortaleza84: Ok, and perhaps lower intelligence of blacks is similarly an adaptation to heat. Presumably having greater intelligence requires that parts of the brain be larger, which produces more heat and increases the risk of heat stroke in hotter climates.]

    “That’s really many different explanations. To take your discrimination explanation, I would note that Black people have weak intelligence even in countries were there there are essentially no non-blacks and therefore no racial discrimination. See, the problem with your approach is that you need to jump from explanation to explanation. The problem is discrimination, except when it’s something else. Occam’s Razor favors the simple explanation.”

    It’s a complex explanation that involves many factors, yes. It does penalize its prior by Occam’s razor, but 1) any single factor can be debunked by showing that correcting for it changes nothing 2) it’s not rare for complex explanations to be true in sociology.

    [fortaleza84: If you have a choice between a simple explanation, and a complex explanation, the simple explanation is favored. That’s the problem with the non-genetic explanations for weak black intelligence. Far too many epicycles.]

    We know that parental income plays a role, because children of richer parents do better;

    [fortaleza84: Actually we do not know that, since there may be missing variables in play. And even without doing a formal study, one can observe that it’s been very common for the children of poor immigrants from the Orient and Eastern Europe to become wildly successful for the last 100 years, even up to the present day. I feel very confident in predicting that the children of poor immigrants from China will do a lot better on their SAT’s than the children of poor immigrants from Mexico.]

    and we know that some other things play a role, because correcting for parental income doesn’t make the difference disappear. Similarly, we know that individual income, poverty of country of birth, and discrimination (at least historically) are strong predictors. Why would you expect that a single factor remains, after correcting for several factors known to be strong?

    [fortaleza84: Why do you think I expect it?]

    “I’m not sure what you mean by “not enough to compensate.” It’s much easier for a similarly situated black person to get into an elite American college.”

    Well, clearly many people are going to subconsciously judge them stupider because of implicit associations. That’s at least one kind of discrimination, though I make no claim about its strength. You say overall it’s easier if you’re black, I say the opposite. Can we test?

    [fortaleza84: I’m a little confused, are you seriously skeptical of my claim? I assert that in the United States in 2012, a given black person with reasonable diligence and high intelligence can expect to receive better treatment than a similarly situated white person in terms of college and graduate school admissions and employment by large organizations. Do you dispute this or not?]

    “I don’t dispute that job discrimination against blacks exists in the US, so I am not sure what your point is here.”

    I mean it exists at all levels, not just in low-to-medium-wage jobs.

    [fortaleza84: Even for university professorships?]

  11. Chuck Says:

    “Where’s the evidence?”

    I agree, where’s the evidence? Specifically, where’s recent evidence (2000 on) of Black underperformance in multiethnic societies outside the US?

    [fortaleza84: My rules of debate are very clear. Before I go looking for evidence, you need to represent that you are seriously skeptical of a claim that I made. Please tell me exactly what claim I made of which you are seriously skeptical.]

    I was recently looking into the Black White UK gap and found that is has diminished greatly. To my mind, this calls into question a strong global genetic hypothesis.


    [fortaleza84: I’m happy to take a look at your evidence if you provide a cite and a link.]

    Of course, when I commented on this, I was pelted with HBD epicycles, concerning super-duper immigrant selection.

    [fortaleza84: I think the HBD-denialists take the cake for epicycling.]

  12. Chuck Says:

    Fortaleza84,

    I’m skeptical of this claim: “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.” Show me good evidence of a Black-White gap in Canada, for example.

    [fortaleza84: Here’s some data for the UK — I think it’s linked to your blog:

    https://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/glassessment.pdf

    Have a look at Table 4, which shows test scores for black children on the CAT (cognitive abilities test) as being significantly lower than those of white children. Does that satisfy you? Or must it be Canada?]

    • Chuck Says:

      fortaleza84,

      “Have a look at Table 4, which shows test scores for black children on the CAT (cognitive abilities test) as being significantly lower than those of white children”

      I know this. Here was my post: http://occidentalascent.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/partially-falsified/

      [fortaleza84: Yes, I mentioned that it was linked from your blog.]

      I’ve been trying to falsify a strong hereditarian hypothesis (– not because I don’t want there to be differences, but because I suspect that they don’t exist, and because I recognize that having a false belief about them is of no utility.)

      [fortaleza84: From a personal perspective, I doubt it makes much of a difference what you believe in terms of utility. Educated people on both sides of the debate generally avoid living in black neighborhoods.]

      And so I’m inspecting the gaps country by country. I think I might be able to falsify a hereditarian hypothesis based on Dutch results. Google “Holland White-Black Gap (Under construction).” Anyways, since you claimed that the Black-White difference is universal, I thought you might actually have data backing this claim up. Which might have saved me some trouble. It appears not.

      [fortaleza84: It depends what you mean by “actually have data.” I’ve seen enough over the years to be reasonably satisfied that the black-white intelligence gap is universal, just like I am reasonably satisfied that the height gap between human males and females is universal. Even though I cannot point cite and link to a scientific study which demonstrates that the adult men of Mongolia are generally taller than the adult girls of Mongolia.

      In the case of the intelligence gap, there are plenty of studies which suggest weak average intelligence in countries which are predominantly black and higher intelligence in countries which are not predominantly black. There is also plenty of intra-country evidence in places like the US. So you bear a rather heavy burden at this point to justify your skepticism.]

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