Archive for February, 2012

Race and Intelligence: The Diversity Argument

February 9, 2012

In a recent exchange, I actually ran into an argument on the race and intelligence question which I had never heard before. I call it the “diversity argument,” and it basically goes like this:

1. Blacks are more genetically diverse than other racial groups; therefore

2. One would expect that there exist black subgroups at the extreme end of any human attribute which (a) one can measure; (b) is primarily genetically driven; and (c) is not informed by blacks’ ancestral environment.

3. One does not observe any black subgroup with extremely high intelligence; therefore

4. The weak intelligence of blacks must be primarily the result of something besides genetics.

This argument definitely deserves points for creativity but I think it has two, perhaps 3 fatal flaws.

First, and most importantly, it does not appear to be true in practice. For example, there does not appear to be any evidence of any black subgroup which is extremely good at weightlifting. If you look at the list of olympic weightlifting champions over the years; or winners of the world’s strongest man competition, judging by their names and countries of origin, there appear to be very few, perhaps no blacks at all.

Second, it’s entirely possible that blacks’ weak intelligence is informed by their ancestral environment. Presumably being smarter requires that some parts of your brain be larger or more active, which would necessarily require more heat production. Surely heat stroke is a bigger risk in parts of the world where it helps to have dark skin.

Last, the argument assume a certain equilibrium is in effect, i.e. that whatever genes make you smart have had a reasonable opportunity to come into the world’s black population and become part of the black genetic diversity. By why should one assume that? Presumably “smart genes” originated in some subset of the world and if that place was not in Africa it would take time for them to find their way into the black population.