In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff


We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.







Try Advanced Search


  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...


CultureBlogs
Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
PhilosoBlog
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Gregdotorg
BookSlut
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Cronaca
Plep
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Seablogger
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette


Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Samizdata
Junius
Joanne Jacobs
CalPundit
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Public Interest.co.uk
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
Spleenville
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
CinderellaBloggerfella
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
InstaPundit
MindFloss
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes


Miscellaneous
Redwood Dragon
IMAO
The Invisible Hand
ScrappleFace
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz

Links


Our Last 50 Referrers







« Razib, Cosmos, Meat | Main | Artist Post Link List (Donald) - 1 »

December 03, 2008

Cochran and Harpending's New One

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

John Derbyshire loves Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's new book about how the advent of civilization didn't slam the brakes on human evolution, it has instead speeded evolution up.

I'm looking forward to the book myself, as one of the most bedrock of bedrock beliefs back in the day was that human evolution screeched to a halt 50,000 years ago. Fun to witness the Blank Slate mind-frame finally busting up, isn't it? 40 years of near-totalitarian denial and top-down mind-control -- man, that was one long and weird stretch.

You can pre-order Cochran and Harpending's book here.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at December 3, 2008




Comments

The real interesting part of that article is the comment debate following it. John Medaille is awesome.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on December 3, 2008 1:26 PM



There seems to be conflation of two arguments: that human nature is everywhere the same, and that human nature is wholly plastic. The second implies the first, but not vice versa.

Derbyshire also seems deliberately disingenuous about some of his points. Why is it difficult for people to accept intrinsic difference rather than external malice? The obvious reason is the visible reality of external malice in the recent past - on a massive scale, and usually justified by bogus claims of intrinsic difference. Once badly burned, many times shy.

Another factor that cuts across this area is the ideology of cultural equivalency. There is indeed evidence that outcome differences between ethnic groups may have roots in biological differences which it is forbidden to notice. There is also evidence that outcome differences have roots in cultural differences, which may not be judged.

However, the point is well made that civilization has evolutionary effects on humans. There are lots of ways this could happen. I recall The Rawness suggesting that slavery culled the most intelligent blacks, while selecting for the most cunning. (This could be tested by comparing populations of New World slave descendants with Africans.)

I happen to think a major culling occurred during urbanization in pre-sanitation times - and that blacks, who urbanized later, were spared this culling.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on December 3, 2008 2:35 PM



I don't know if the Harpending and Cochran book mentions this (I've already ordered it, so I should find out soon enough), but examination of skulls from mediaeval and early modern times in England indicated that people even that recently had slightly more slant to their foreheads and slightly more pronounced facial features, with implications, IIRC, for the size of their frontal cortical tissue.

Small amounts of cortex go a long way. It's staggering to contemplate that evolution may have produced significant, if small, differences in brain structure over a timespan of as little as 500-800 years.

We live in interesting times.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 3, 2008 4:19 PM



I recall The Rawness suggesting that slavery culled the most intelligent blacks, while selecting for the most cunning. (This could be tested by comparing populations of New World slave descendants with Africans.)

Not sure if that would work, as too much time has passed and too many conditions have changed since slavery. I recall reading from several different geneticists that blacks in North America are slowly closing the IQ gap due to environmental reasons and cultural immersion, and in the past two generations, James Flynn and Dickens found that the black/white IQ gap has closed 5-6 points.

http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2006/08/white-black-iq-gap-has-shrunk-in.html

Currently blacks in America have also been found to have significantly higher average IQ than blacks in Africa. (I believe 15 points higher, but I'm going off memory and could be wrong.)

Also, I don't think slavery made American blacks lower in IQ than African blacks so much as it heavily retarded the upward average group IQ movement that should normally have happened under deep immersion in Western culture.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on December 3, 2008 6:03 PM



Challenging PC notions will always be worthwhile, but quasi-science versus pseudo-science is not worthwhile. Derbyshire's fuss-potting over his library, his more-deeply-read-than-thou attitude, the unnecessary but inevitable lump of German, courteously but ostentatiously translated...all signs of insecurity and signs that something facile is on the way. Sure enough, it comes:
"religion—a branch of anthropology so far as I am concerned..."
That's just the warm-up. Then comes:
"Jews have been keeping pretty much to themselves for three thousand years..."
We'll store that one alongside Mann's Hockey Stick.

Academic persecution of the non-PC is real, as I know from a mate who was a student union lawyer for many years. What happened to Larry Summers is a big worry. If people like Cochran and Derbyshire could approach their vast subjects with the awe of true scholars, they'd be an alternative rather than a reaction to PC. Both strike me as hopelessly vain characters, the last type you'd want for a job of this kind.

Living and working around a large aboriginal community, one has reason every day to question public policy on race. Drugs, booze, inbreeding, incest, poor nutrition, welfarism...not a good time or place for IQ testing, guys. What I do know is this: in nearly all cases of healthy, cohesive families in our indigenous community, the common factor is religion. Christian religion, practised seriously. In my immediate area, it tends to be Adventists. To the north of where I live, it tends to be Catholics. Nowhere is the influence of active Christianity so stark and so beneficial.

Lastly, when half-formed academic notions are half-digested by certain enthusiasts, they do indeed become social hazards. You only have to look at the commenters on Roissy's very successful blog. It's a rush of males queuing to condemn some perceived beta behaviour by some other male. If you're late into the comments, you may have to relegate the victim to gamma or even delta to get some attention. The underlying message is: "Me alpha." I doubt the intention of these gene-and-race eggheads is malicious, but let's hope we don't get another round of "Me Aryan".

Posted by: Robert Townshend on December 3, 2008 6:07 PM



Why is it difficult for people to accept intrinsic difference rather than external malice? The obvious reason is the visible reality of external malice in the recent past - on a massive scale, and usually justified by bogus claims of intrinsic difference. Once badly burned, many times shy.

It's worse than that. I've challenged groups of racialists to come up with actual existing examples of where belief in intellectual differences between groups has had a positive outcome on a society... anywhere...

You could hear the crickets chirp. (Except for the odd nut-job who declared that the historical extermination or enslavement of the 'lesser' race was a good thing...)

Regardless of where on believes the facts lie, there's no denying that the injustices perpetrated because of belief in equality are utterly dwarfed by the injustices perpetrated because of belief in inequality.

I'll be a lot more sympathetic to racialist views when hundreds of millions are dead because of belief in equality.

Posted by: Tom West on December 3, 2008 9:07 PM



Tom, the question is not whether a set of beliefs benefits society, it's whether that set of beliefs is consistent with objective reality. Perhaps everyone would be happier if we still believed in Santa Clause, but that doesn't make him exist.

Regarding the harm caused by devout blank-slateism... I refer you to a generation of terrible education policy, affirmative action and 2nd wave feminism. Not as bad as the consequences of our biologically-ingrained in-group/out-group racialist thinking, but we can't change basic human instincts. Comforting and pleasant, but ultimately false beliefs on the other hand, can be dropped like a bad habit.

Posted by: Zdeno on December 4, 2008 12:12 AM



Tom: I've challenged groups of racialists to come up with actual existing examples of where belief in intellectual differences between groups has had a positive outcome on a society... anywhere...

You should also challenge groups of blank-slaters to "come up with actual existing examples of where [denial of] intellectual differences between groups has had a positive outcome on a society...anywhere...

Maybe you can come up with an example yourself, Tom. But I can't help thinking that it's never occurred to you to challenge blank-slaters about that matter. Or about anything.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 4, 2008 10:25 AM



And R. Townshend, while I share your disdain for Cochran's braggadocio and needlessly antagonizing debating style, Henry Harpending is not like that at all. He's very responsible and is quite moderate in tone and modest in (verbal)demeanour. In person, he might be history's greatest monster, but in print he seems like a pretty decent guy.

As for Derbyshire, I must admit I rather like the Old Fart. But...he thinks anthropology is more scientific than linguistics? Whaaaat?

Posted by: PatrickH on December 4, 2008 10:30 AM



"I'll be a lot more sympathetic to racialist views when hundreds of millions are dead because of belief in equality."

I'm not sure that it is belief in inequality that led to millions dead. I think it is plain old tribalism. All those wars in hunter-gatherer days, or between apes, ... they didn't think they were less intelligent; just different and competing against my genes.

Belief in inequality is just a justification for underlying Darwinian aggression.

If folks are to get along we have to build a society in which everyone gets a chance and everyone gets an education which will lead to a good income. That means not insisting that everyone is suitable for every job.

When, as a result of lower average intelligence, the average black does not have as well-paying a job as the average white (or Asian) it must be clear that this is not because of oppression by whites. That's why race realism is important. That's why RR must not be suppressed. We are all equal before God, we all have equal political rights; but we cannot all expect equal income on our own merits. If we are to have equal income then it must come from political redistribution of wealth.

Insisting that blacks make less income than whites must be because of oppression because both groups are actually equally intelligent on the average is a prescription for social conflict.

Posted by: Robert Hume on December 4, 2008 11:43 AM



"I'll be a lot more sympathetic to racialist views when hundreds of millions are dead because of belief in equality."

I hate to break it to you, but it's already happened.

Posted by: Dennis Mangan on December 4, 2008 12:29 PM



That's why race realism is important. That's why RR must not be suppressed. We are all equal before God, we all have equal political rights; but we cannot all expect equal income on our own merits. If we are to have equal income then it must come from political redistribution of wealth.

So race realism is important because we need it to justify paying blacks less? That simply makes no sense. How could you ever even implement such a policy? What politician or CEO would dare commit the social and career suicide of attaching their name to it.

"John, based on your average IQ by race, not even your personal individual IQ or job performance, but the average IQ of your race, we are paying you less."

If you're going to start basing salaries and rewards on IQ, a policy I highly doubt ever coming about, then applicants will start demanding individual IQ tests because no one wants to be damned by their racial groups' average on the chance they may be an outlier.

Rather than race realism ideology, a smarter tactic for race realists would just be to advocate an IQ-based meritocracy based on individual IQ findings with no mention of race whatsoever rather than racial group IQ findings. Since whites and Asians have a higher average IQ anyway, they would benefit the most from this policy. The only blacks that would benefit from this policy would be the outliers, the blacks on the higher end of the IQ range. Over the course of each individual's career, further promotions and raises would be based on job performance. Exact results most race realists say they want, but presented in a much less controversial way.

Yet everyime I suggest this more practical approach to a race realist, an approach that would get them the same results they desire with a lot less controversy, they balk at it, and can never clarify why. Which leads me to think that a lot of race realism really is about a group of people who feel underappreciated and unacknowledged by society getting their public due. I think it boils down to white men wanting to get their props.

The fact that so many race realists can't wrap their heads around how politically impractical a cause this is is not surprising. I notice a lot of high IQ people complain about social ineptness growing up. I think this unsavviness about social policy advocacy to the masses they seem to have when pursuing race realism causes is a macro, large-scale example of that same social ineptness that plagued them on a one-on-one, individual basis growing up.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on December 4, 2008 1:37 PM



Rather than race realism ideology, a smarter tactic for race realists would just be to advocate an IQ-based meritocracy based on individual IQ findings with no mention of race whatsoever rather than racial group IQ findings. Since whites and Asians have a higher average IQ anyway, they would benefit the most from this policy. The only blacks that would benefit from this policy would be the outliers, the blacks on the higher end of the IQ range. Over the course of each individual's career, further promotions and raises would be based on job performance. Exact results most race realists say they want, but presented in a much less controversial way.

Yet everyime I suggest this more practical approach to a race realist, an approach that would get them the same results they desire with a lot less controversy, they balk at it, and can never clarify why.

T, you're making up a straw man. Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray, Jason Malloy and Steve Sailer, race realists all, wouldn't have any objection to your IQ meritocracy. In fact, it is pretty much what they have already proposed.

Posted by: Thursday on December 4, 2008 3:55 PM



PatrickH:

As for Derbyshire, I must admit I rather like the Old Fart. But...he thinks anthropology is more scientific than linguistics? Whaaaat?

Indeed, linguistics is almost the only field commonly categorized under "social sciences" that usually makes a lot of sense and has given us lots of interesting and accurate insights. My theory is that this is not only because human language inherently has a regular structure well amenable to common-sense analysis, but also because it lacks almost any ideologically problematic issues and politically inconvenient truths.

However, the problem is that the issues in linguistics that get the most attention in the media are usually the most fringe and controversial ones, which are totally unrepresentative of most of the field. The prime examples are Chomsky's theories and the rather inept attempts to find linguistic corroboration for genetic and archeological theories of prehistory. Derbyshire's ridiculously misinformed view indicates that he's probably read only that sort of stuff.

Posted by: Vladimir on December 4, 2008 4:04 PM



Tom, the question is not whether a set of beliefs benefits society, it's whether that set of beliefs is consistent with objective reality.

Given the sketchiness of the science behind all of this, it's pretty clear that *anyone* making definitive statements about the 'science' of race is more intent on what the outcomes will mean than on the science. Call me back in 50 years when we actually have some *real* understanding about what's going on and more importantly, why. Right now, there's an awful lot of phlogiston floating around. (Evolutionary biology being the modern equivalent - a compelling narrative for people who don't want to wait for good science).

Maybe you can come up with an example yourself, Tom. But I can't help thinking that it's never occurred to you to challenge blank-slaters about that matter. Or about anything.

Hmm. An example of a society with an enduring belief in judging people by what they do, not what they are. Umm, I'll take... America.

Why do you think I find racialism so contemptible? It's an attempt to destroy one of the fundamental principles that has made America a success story.

Insisting that blacks make less income than whites must be because of oppression because both groups are actually equally intelligent on the average is a prescription for social conflict.

I'll pit the social conflict and suffering we see today against the social conflict and suffering we'd see in a society where the innate intellectual inferiority of whites to their superior Asian counterparts was accepted as fact. (I suppose that at least we could stop spending so much money on futile attempts to educate whites to Asian standards and have American test scores match standards elsewhere.)

I hate to break it to you, but it's already happened.

Nice toss-off. Now, some examples of how the 'myth of equality' has caused millions of deaths please?

Posted by: Tom West on December 4, 2008 9:19 PM



T, you're making up a straw man. Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray, Jason Malloy and Steve Sailer, race realists all, wouldn't have any objection to your IQ meritocracy. In fact, it is pretty much what they have already proposed.

I am talking about race realists I have conversed with. I have never conversed with Sailer and the other ones you mention, although I've read Sailer from time to time. But many of the race realists I have debated on this blog and on others like Roissy's blog all seem to be hung up on to this idea that nothing less than making the world embrace race realism will suffice to get their goals across. No matter how many more politically viable and less inflammatory policy suggestions I bring up that would be much more politically sensible, they always get hung up on the idea that acknowledgment of IQ by race will not be involved in the solution. The impression I get from them is that unless no solution will suffice for them unless it in some way incorporates IQ by race. Acknowledgment of IQ superiority seemed to be a nonnegotiable point. I've seen Vladimir get into similar debates on these blogs where his opponent seemed unwilling to accept any solution that did not include that aspect.

You say all the race realists you mention have proposed policy solutions that don't bring up average IQ by race at all, and I take your word for it. The reason I assumed that wasn't the case is because so many of their loyal followers are so against the concept of any solution I mention that does not incorporate average IQ by race that I figured such solutions weren't regularly offered by the leaders of the movement.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on December 4, 2008 10:50 PM



Forgive a naive question: What does "race realism" really mean? Does it just mean saying "Yeah, sure races really exist, and there seem to be some real differences between 'em"? If so, I have no trouble with it, and I suspect that most people in a practical day-to-day sense wouldn't quarrel with it either. Who would expect Who would expect Indians who inhabit the mountains of Peru to NOT differ in some ways from, say, Bantus or Lapps? Incidentally, I think this is a very cool and nifty feature of life -- humans come in a variety of models. What's not to enjoy about that?

But "race realism" as it's sometimes used seems to imply whole lots more than just the above paragraph. Am I wrong? And if not, what would all that extra stuff be?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 4, 2008 11:11 PM



Ricky Raw: "John, based on your average IQ by race, not even your personal individual IQ or job performance, but the average IQ of your race, we are paying you less."

No one is proposing that individual pay or promotion be determined by the characteristics of the individual's group. What is asserted (and enforced by law) is that difference in the distribution of individual merit between groups is impossible, so any difference in outcomes must be due to malice: therefore individual pay or promotion must be adjusted to produce equal outcomes for all groups, regardless of individual merit.

Until society acknowledges the reality of differing ability distributions among groups, society will continue to inflict grave injuries upon itself attempting to force reality to match a defective model.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on December 5, 2008 12:08 AM



What does "race realism" really mean?

Come on Michael, it should be obvious.

A race realist defines himself as accepting the fact that there are measurable differences between races, including intellectual differences.

Practically, on the other hand, race realism tends to equate with White Nationalism, or the idea that whites are horribly discriminated against, endangered, superior, whatever.

Until society acknowledges the reality of differing ability distributions among groups, society will continue to inflict grave injuries upon itself attempting to force reality to match a defective model.

I'd say the idea that *any* differences must be caused by discrimination rather than any of a thousand other factors (such as cultural attitudes towards education, in utero nutrition, just to name a few random ones) is only exceeded in stupidity by the idea that discrimination causes *no* difference in outcomes.

And 'grave injuries'? Give me a break!

Posted by: Tom West on December 5, 2008 12:40 AM



Tom West: I can't speak for Dennis Mangan, but I had a similar thought, and what I was thinking of was a form of egalitarianist ideology which has indeed killed hundreds of millions - Communism. True, Communism was never concerned with race, focusing on class differences, but it certainly was (and is) bloody, what with its purges, gulags, starvations, and wars. And it sucked in a lot of Western intellectuals with its noble-sounding, "high-minded" ideals, many of whom willingly served as apologists for it, excusing atrocities, "Hey, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs!", etc.

Of course, what the rabidly (class) egalitarian Marxist philosophy shares with the rabidly (racial) anti-egalitarian National Socialism, and what both share with liberalism, both modern and old-school (Rousseau, Voltaire, etc.), is a belief in the malleability and perfectability of humans, and a willingness to employ whatever means the State can get away with, to use whatever level of force is necessary, to achieve such ends. In the case of Communism and National Socialism, extreme force directed by totalitarian States, has been used; as did Robespierre et al. in trying to enforce the French Revolution's goals of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity"; while such methods have thus far been out of favour in liberal democratic societies today. For now, anyway.

Posted by: Will S. on December 5, 2008 12:58 AM




If you bought a copy of our book, at least you would know what you're arguing about.

I would say that we managed to come up with plausible explanations of several of the major unsolved questions of history and prehistory, including some contemporary questions. The approach is different, in that we take biology seriously - in particular, mathematical genetics.

Key topics: ed, how Neanderthals may have played a role in the birth of behavioral modernity, how human evolution has accelerated, adaptation to agriculture and complex societies (which includes human domestication), how trade and conquest stirred the genetic pot in Eurasia, the expansion of the Indo-Europeans, the European conquest and settlement of the Americas and Australasia, historical progress, and how the Ashkenazi Jews got their smarts.

Posted by: gcochran on December 5, 2008 3:18 AM



I'll be a lot more sympathetic to racialist views when hundreds of millions are dead because of belief in equality.

100 million dead from Communism.

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Book-Communism-Crimes-Repression/dp/0674076087

The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression

Harvard University Press

Amazon.com Review
When it was first published in France in 1997, Le livre noir du Communisme touched off a storm of controversy that continues to rage today. Even some of his contributors shied away from chief editor Stéphane Courtois's conclusion that Communism, in all its many forms, was morally no better than Nazism; the two totalitarian systems, Courtois argued, were far better at killing than at governing, as the world learned to its sorrow.

Communism did kill, Courtois and his fellow historians demonstrate, with ruthless efficiency: 25 million in Russia during the Bolshevik and Stalinist eras, perhaps 65 million in China under the eyes of Mao Zedong, 2 million in Cambodia, millions more Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America--an astonishingly high toll of victims. This freely expressed penchant for homicide, Courtois maintains, was no accident, but an integral trait of a philosophy, and a practical politics, that promised to erase class distinctions by erasing classes and the living humans that populated them. Courtois and his contributors document Communism's crimes in numbing detail, moving from country to country, revolution to revolution. The figures they offer will likely provoke argument, if not among cliometricians then among the ideologically inclined. So, too, will Courtois's suggestion that those who hold Lenin, Trotsky, and Ho Chi Minh in anything other than contempt are dupes, witting or not, of a murderous school of thought--one that, while in retreat around the world, still has many adherents. A thought-provoking work of history and social criticism, The Black Book of Communism fully merits the broadest possible readership and discussion. --Gregory McNamee

Posted by: blah on December 5, 2008 4:31 AM



Hmm. An example of a society with an enduring belief in judging people by what they do, not what they are. Umm, I'll take... America

Typically clever dodge, Tom. I asked you about the "denial of" differences, which precisely means NOT judging people by what they do, IF there are differences between them. Right? And your claim that denial of differences--what you misdescribe as judging people by what they do--is one of the fundamental principles that has made America a success story is laughable. SWPL doublethink and dissembling are not the reasons America is a great country.

Clever rewrite though. It's easy to respond to a difficult question if you just change all the words in it. You're as sneaky as Chris White and MQ.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 5, 2008 9:04 AM



Vladimir: Derbyshire's ridiculously misinformed view indicates that he's probably read only that sort of stuff.

I'm still astonished, Vladimir, that the Derb would think that linguistics, which if he reads the stuff you think he reads, would tend to support his worldview, would be less scientific than anthropology, a social science which would tend to undercut his world-view. You'd think it would be the other way around.

In any case, it's good to see you back here. I responded to something you'd written several weeks ago in a somewhat harsh manner, but your posts, while full of stuff for me to disagree with, are well-written, well-thought out, and YOU ANSWER QUESTIONS. YOU RESPOND TO POINTS.

Ahem. Sorry for the caps, but I've had a lot of problems debating issues like IQ with people here and elsewhere who will not respond honestly or straightforwardly to anything. Elisions, evasions, downright deceptions are the order of the day with certain folk. You're refreshingly straightforward and I hope to see more of you here.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 5, 2008 12:14 PM



Belief in the equality of man is communism?!? Good God man, just look at what you're saying!

While blank-slate-ism has certainly been a characteristic of communism, the equation of a belief in equality of groups with a belief in blank-slate-ism is something dreamt up in the minds of those who are afraid of attacking the issue directly (such as Derbyshire).

Now, let's skip being ridiculous. How many people have been killed because of society's belief in equality of man? (For the pedantic, not the equality of each, individual man).

Maybe you can come up with an example yourself, Tom. But I can't help thinking that it's never occurred to you to challenge blank-slaters about that matter. Or about anything.

PatrickH - Let me define my position better so we're not arguing semantics. I'm not a blank-slater, and consider the position stupid. I also believe that trying to make statements about intelligence based on what somebody is, rather than what they've shown, is both stupid and, more importantly, dangerous.

The so called race-realists fall into that camp. They would have us judge huge swaths of people's abilities by their race.

So, back to your reply:

Tom. I asked you about the "denial of" differences, which precisely means NOT judging people by what they do, IF there are differences between them. Right?

Wrong - you talked about denial of differences between groups. Individuals of course, are different everywhere. Belief in differences between groups means (inevitably) treating the groups differently regardless of their individual abilities.

That's the entire crux of the argument.

And sorry, it may be SWPL - but it's still absolutely one of the essential underpinnings of America's greatness: The promise that you will be judged as an individual, not as part of a group.

Obviously, there have been, and continue to be, failures of that promise. Such is the justification for AA and other programs. But overall, I think that compared to the rest of the world, America does quite well in allowing its citizens to reach their potential. And that ability to allow them to reach their potential is built on the bedrock of a belief in the equality of man.

Posted by: Tom West on December 5, 2008 10:40 PM



Tom West:

A race realist defines himself as accepting the fact that there are measurable differences between races, including intellectual differences.

Not really. I don't think even the most radical blank-slate egalitarian would deny that presently, there are measurable intellectual differences between races. If you take any measurable intellectual skill -- math, singing, chess, poker, solving IQ tests, whatever -- there will be at least some difference between races in their average ability. It's an undeniable empirical fact. What sets apart "race realists" from others is their belief that to a significant degree, these empirically demonstrable differences are a consequence of genetic differences between races. More relevant to Michael's question, in virtually all cases, their belief is based on hypostatizing a hypothetical mental parameter called g.

For a nice insight into the controversy, I recommend this series of essays that appeared last year on Cato Unbound:
http://www.cato-unbound.org/archives/november-2007/

Among the participants were James Flynn of the Flynn Effect fame and Linda Gottfredson, one of the principal academic advocates of the Jensenesque "race realist" view (yes, with the right connections, you can openly trumpet this stuff and still get and keep a tenure -- lefties might have >90% of academia under tight grip, but there are still exceptions). The debate also included two other prominent IQ researchers, Eric Turkheimer and Stephen Ceci, who strongly oppose this view.

Interestingly, in this debate, Gottfredson produced a classification of the main points and arguments in the controversy in a neat table format:
http://www.cato-unbound.org/wp-content/themes/unbound/media/images/gottfredson-table.html

Of course, as a fervent advocate of the "race realist" view, she dismisses the relevant counterarguments out of hand as "irrelevant" or "disproved", and sometimes also misrepresents them unfairly. Still, it's a useful overview of the main points where "race realists" claim to have decisive arguments, but where they, in my opinion, fail very badly.

For example, she dismisses out of hand skepticism about the reality of g, even though very convincing proofs have been offered that it's just a statistical fiction (which by itself doesn't say anything about the possibility of innate intellectual differences between races, but says a lot about the scientifically nonchalant attitude of the pro-g crowd). Or, the claim that IQ tests do not require cultural knowledge is ridiculous on its face -- someone should remind Ms. Gottfredson that holding a pencil and shuffling papers comfortably is a non-trivial piece of cultural knowledge. (I have no doubt that I would flunk miserably on an IQ test based on some medium completely alien to me.) And so on. Almost any step in this table shows how "race realists" neglect and dismiss out of hand various issues potentially fatal for their theories.


Posted by: Vladimir on December 6, 2008 4:01 AM



PatrickH:

I'm still astonished, Vladimir, that the Derb would think that linguistics, which if he reads the stuff you think he reads, would tend to support his worldview, would be less scientific than anthropology, a social science which would tend to undercut his world-view. You'd think it would be the other way around.

It's funny that of all people, Chomsky was in fact the first one who gave a serious blow to the then-reigning lefty orthodoxy of blank-slatism when he convincingly argued that human language abilities must include lots of innate pre-wiring. It's also kinda funny that Steven Pinker, probably the greatest voice against blank-slatism in the present generation, draws (IMO justified) ire from other linguists for presenting controversial Chomskyan views as scientific consensus in his popular books.

However, as for its relevance for "race realist" views, linguistics presents strong arguments not only against blank-slatism, but also against innate group intellectual differences and against the reality of g. To put it in a nutshell:

(1) Empirical findings in linguistics suggest that while lots of human language ability is pre-wired, this pre-wiring is absolutely identical across human races. A vast body of empirical work unequivocally demonstrates that kids of any race pick the language of the surrounding environment with absolute perfection, no matter what it is. Also, except for the Piraha controversy, which is about only one language in the world, nobody has ever found a language that wouldn't have the same expressive ability as others as soon as it gets adequate vocabulary for modern concepts. In contrast, if the high-level mental abilities of different races have diverged in their recent evolution, one would expect that language would also be affected at least somewhat.

(2) Language is a very high-level cognitive function, and yet, it seems to operate based on specialized circuits in the brain wholly separate from those handling other such functions. Again, there's a vast body of empirical work here, based on studying patients with localized brain damage. The existence of such specialized circuits, which has also been demonstrated for numerous other abilities relevant for IQ tests, is a strong (and IMO decisive) argument against the reality of g.


Also, thanks a lot for your other kind remarks!

Posted by: Vladimir on December 6, 2008 4:39 AM



Dayum, Vlad.
You ought to get a blog. Most critiques of the race realist position fall into the hysterical sort "We all are potentially equal in ability and anyone who says otherwise harbors ill intentions."

Really, you and Rick Raw have really touched on some things bugging me about the "realists" even though I think they've got a lot right and are a bit slimed (though like Rick says, a lot of it has to do with a really Aspergery understanding of how people tick).

What I'd like is someone to turn the same sort of doleful, skeptical, and yet informed on methods and practices eye on the sort of GSS statistical "research" that strikes me as a lot of "just so stories" that the same crowd is now really into churning out. Not that I don't think it's a worthwhile enterprise, that sort of data mining and sifting, but really, nobody is keeping a methodological reality check on them, and I just ain't mentally inclined or academically qualified to do so.

Me, my strengths lie elsewhere, and I'm inclined to just click my tongue silently at the rhetorical excesses of the young Turks of the Brave New World. You on the other hand, look like you could chew them up with little neuronal exertion.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on December 6, 2008 10:21 AM



Not really. I don't think even...

Vladimir, I stand corrected.

Posted by: Tom West on December 6, 2008 12:30 PM






Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments:



Remember your info?