Home > Uncategorized > Race, genes, & intelligence, part 3

Race, genes, & intelligence, part 3

The more one thought about it the less one saw any justification for the evasive, self-defeating attitude of conservatives, or the outright self-betrayal of Anglo-American liberals. One might attribute it to mawkish sentimentality, venality, blindness, or cowardice, but none of these seemed sufficient to account for the situation. Perhaps the element that appeared from my experience to come the closest to the root cause was ignorance, but a strange, self-perpetuating kind of ignorance bordering on hypnosis, an ignorance nourished by the pervasive power of the news and entertainment media after it had first been instilled by the academic hierarchy-an ignorance buttressed by feelings of guilt which the ignorance itself created.
—Putnam, 1967. Race and Reality

D. The reasonability of positing the Hereditarian Hypothesis

Given various aspects of history, why argue the hypothesis?

For a scientific justification of positing this Hypothesis or any biologically based group differences refer hereL (7, 12, 32). For a sociopolitical justification and implications, refer here (14, 18, 32, 34, 35). For a discussion of the fallacies used to derail this hypothesis, refer here (5, 6, 7, 26, 27, 41).

On the sociopolitical level, one policy of western societies is to monitor ethnoracial participation in various fields and enforce, directly or indirectly, group based quotas (38) — whether these quotas are framed in terms of Affirmative Action or Diversity Policy (37). These quota are often justified on the basis of various claims of current discrimination, when not the legacy of historic discrimination. To the extent that endogenous factors within an ethnorace are the cause of the differences, this justification does not stand (47). Hunt and Carlson (2007) give a cogent discussion of this concern (107):

A great deal of public money has been spent on programs to improve the performance of African American and Latino children by making changes within the school system. One of the most important measures in effect at the time of this article, the No Child Left Behind Act, requires school systems to reduce the scholastic achievement gap between White, African American, and Latino children or risk losing substantial federal subsidies. Other federal and state legislation requires that schooling be “equal,” in the sense that the same content and type of instruction be offered to all ethnic groups. In the Larry P. v. Riles (1984) case, a federal appellate court ordered the State of California not to use intelligence tests to place African American children in special-education classes, on the grounds that systematically poorer performance of these children on intelligence tests was inherently prejudicial.

If we take the logic of the act and the court decisions together, the California schools are simultaneously required to (a) reduce the achievement gap and (b) do so without offering separate forms of instruction to African Americans based on screening for intelligence. The requirements are reasonable, providing that three implicit assumptions are correct. The first is that the achievement gap can be reduced by offering better instruction, the second is that the difference in the test scores of African American and White children does not reflect any difference in underlying mental competence at the time of testing, and the third is that children at different levels of intelligence do not need different forms of instruction.

The same argument applies to anti-discrimination laws. The principle that no one should be denied social benefits or opportunities on the basis of racial/ethnic status is accepted in the United States and in most developed countries. Discrimination is proscribed. But what counts as evidence for discrimination? The law is quite clear on this point.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) defines “adverse impact” as the use of a selection instrument that results in a selection ratio (ratio of hires to applicants) for a minority group that is less than .8 of the ratio of that group in the nonminority applicant population. Consider the following example, which is based on realistic numbers.

The Wonderlic test is a short intelligence test frequently used in employee selection. On the basis of a meta-analysis of data available in the early 1970s (Wonderlic & Wonderlic, 1972), Roth et al. (2001) estimated that, in an applicant pool for a job with moderate cognitive demands,2 the difference between the African American and White applicants is .72 standard deviation units (Roth et al., table 3).3 The applicant–hiring ratio for such jobs varies greatly, depending upon the amount of training required, area of the country, and general economic conditions. For simplicity, let us assume that it is 19:1, so that the top 5% of the applicant pool is being hired. This translates to a standard score of 1.65. If the two racial/ethnic populations are assumed to have an identical distribution of talent, the EEOC rule demands that if the top 5% of the White applicants are hired, at least the top 4% of the African Americans be hired. If we apply the .73- deviation-unit difference, a score of 1.65 in the White population would translate into a score of 2.38 in the African American applicant population, and would be achieved by slightly less than 1% of the applicants—well below the EEOC’s guideline. But this is not the end of the story!

Intelligence tests are never perfect guides to performance. Suppose that, as is reasonable to believe, the correlation between test scores and job performance in the applicant population is approximately .5. (This is in the range established by Schmidt and Hunter, 1998, in their meta-analysis.) One could argue, then, that the mean difference in estimated job effectiveness is .36 instead of .72. If this reasoning is accepted, the top 2.5% of the African American population represents a pool of talent equivalent to the top 5% of Whites.
Depending on the assumptions that we make, the ratio of qualified applicants in the two applicant pools is either 1:1 (assuming d = 0), 1:5 (assuming d = .72) or 1:2 (assuming d = .36). Should the EEOC demand an impact ratio of not less than .8, .16, or .4? The choice is not a trivial one, for the choice made, combined with the proportions of the two racial/ethnic groups in the applicant population, will determine the mean effectiveness of the workforce (see Hunt, 1995, pp. 69–79). Disregarding such arguments in order to achieve equality of representation in a workforce or student body could lead to serious economic consequences (Gottfredson, 1994; Hunt, 1995). This is the point at which policy considerations come into play.

Average genetic differences are possible endogenous factor; there are, of course, others more significant factors such as culture and social capital (29, 40).

In addition to the above, to the extent the hypothesis is true some of the historic claims of discrimination will need to be revisited, along with the criticism of the ethnoeuropean culture. To quote Levin (14):

“The quota debate is patently about compensatory justice, since quotas are meant to redress injuries said to have been inflicted on blacks by whites. Lyndon Johnson introduced affirmative action for government contractors via the analogy of a man released from shackles required to run a foot race, and who (Johnson reasoned) deserves a head start to make up for his unjust handicap. Many quota advocates say they reject the redress rationale. Johnson’s metaphor has lost its vigor as it has been realized that an edge for the lame runner cheats his competitors, who are in no way responsible for his plight. In literal terms, affirmative action, particularly when state-imposed, is recognized as prima facie unfair to whites who never discriminated. To dodge this objection, defenders of affirmative action now say it is necessary to create role models or prevent renewed discrimination. Ronald Dworkin offers an elaborate rationale based on a distinction between personal and external preferences. Race spends a number of pages arguing that virtually all of these rationales tacitly rely on compensation, or share the compensatory premise that the race gap in attainment is due to harm done to blacks by whites. The compensation rationale and its many avatars are no firmer than the causal premise.”

“Because affirmative action rests on a theory of the cause of the racial attainment gap, Race argues, only the race differences in intelligence and motivation, which explain the gap more plausibly than racism, offers a convincing case against it. Negatively, racial discrimination cannot explain black failure because there is not enough of it.”

“That the attainment gap is explained by race differences in phenotypic intelligence and motivation allows heads-up compensation theorists to reply (as some have) that this phenotypic variance is itself caused by racism. Blacks don’t try because trying is pointless when the deck is stacked against them. And were racism thus indirectly responsible for the attainment gap, the compensation argument would reenter at one remove, with blacks deserving redress for their wrongfully caused dysfunctional traits. That is why letting the issue rest at the phenotypic level is inconclusive. The case for reparation can be judged only by looking at whether racism offers a better account than biology of the lower IQs and higher time preferences of blacks. The topic of genes is unavoidable, Race insists. No matter what the black shortcoming, some will insist that racism is its cause, or the cause of its cause, or the cause of that cause. Sooner or later, the genetic question must be faced.”

“In fact—this theme permeates Race—play of the gene card, far from being a gratuitous swipe at blacks, has been forced on defenders of justice by the constant diabolization of whites. It is impossible to be silent when silence amounts to an admission of guilt”

“Race contends that the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is consistent with state raceconsciousness. The Fourteenth Amendment excludes only racial classifications irrelevant to any vital government function. (Inborn, involuntary and immutable traits might well be relevant, as when the state denies driver’s licenses to the congenitally blind.) The Constitutional powers-that-be have decided that compensating blacks is a sufficiently central government function to support laws burdening whites.”

(I elaborate on this in Appendix IV: The Moral basis for arguing the Hereditarian Hypothesis)

Is positing the Hereditarian Hypothesis ‘racist’?

The claim that the Hereditarian hypothesis is ‘racist,’ is either based on a gross misinterpretation of the hypothesis or a gross misinterpretation of the meaning of “racism.” With regards to the hypothesis and its meaning, let me quote Levin (14):

“For one thing, I wished to make clear that no empirical facts about race imply that whites are better than blacks, a judgment so often imputed to hereditarians that only a full airing of the issue of value can put the imputation to rest. To this end Race presents a resolutely “naturalistic,” non realist view of values. There being no empirical phenomena requiring objective value for their explanation, we have no more reason to believe in it than to believe in phlogiston, or the little man that wasn’t there. A God’s-eye view favors neither high nor low time preferences; investing $150 may be more prudent than spending it on running shoes, but it is not inherently better.”

It is, however, not uncommon for people to either think or argue that hypothesizing a genetic etiology for group differences is “racist.” For example, take this excerpt from a recent article by psychologist Jerry Hirsh:

For example, since the mid-1850s, unscrupulous authors have purported to show that intelligence is determined by race. More recently, Nobel Prize winner William B. Shockley1 of Stanford University and educational psychologist Arthur Jensen1-2 of the University of California at Berkeley have argued that genetics accounts for alleged IQ differences among the races. There is neither valid scientific justification for this alleged inferiority nor for either of its presumed explanations. (Hirsh, 2010. Race, Genetics, and Scientific Integrity.

When it comes to popular debates, definitions such as Merriam-Webster’s are often citied:

Racism is the belief that the genetic factors which constitute race are a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.[

The claim, never clearly spelled out, is either that positing in genetic etiology for some group differences is, ipso facto, racist, or that only a racist would posit a genetic etiology, and therefore, positing a genetic etiology represents a racist act of some sort.

With regards to the former, the operant phrase in the definition of racism is and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. While a belief that genetic factors determine traits and capacities across populations is empirical, the belief that a group is “inherently superior/inferior” is metaphysical. The later belief is a necessary part of the given definition, yet the Hereditarian hypothesis, and it’s principle advocates, make no such contention. (See Appendix II.)
(For a discussion of this refer to Appendix II

This leaves the claim that the hereditarian hypothesis is racist because it is something that only racists would consider. Obviously, given that the HH is not ipso facto racist, positing it can’t be the ground for which its proponents are deemed to be racist in the first place, so an inference needs to be drawn based on other considerations. For a discussion of this refer to: Appendix III.

Is positing the Hereditarian Hypothesis ‘dangerous’?

To quote Linda Gottfredson (39):

“Some social scientists have written that certain scientific conclusions about intelligence are too ‘‘dangerous’’ to report freely or that society is better served by well-meaning lies. But are they correct? None has provided any reasoned argument or evidence, just allusions to evil and catastrophe, to justify this stance. Might they have it backwards? To my eye, efforts to hide or shade the truth about human variation are doing grievous harm to the body politic (e.g., Gottfredson, 2005b, 2007a). Keep in mind that false belief in infinite human malleability led to some of the worst horrors of the 20th century. I also think it is patronizing and usually self-serving when elites contend that the American public cannot be trusted with certain facts. The onus, in my view, is on those who would withhold information that is so relevant to public life. We should not be surprised that the public often misunderstands the results on intelligence, because it has been systematically miseducated by media accounts, many college textbooks, and other ostensible sources of enlightenment. We should worry about the destruction that disinformation wreaks, as when critics suggest that giving credence to Black– White IQ differences would mean believing that ‘‘Blacks are inferior.’’ My experience is that people get more serious-minded about IQ differences when they start to appreciate the greater practical difficulties and health risks faced by individuals of below-average intelligence, regardless of race.”

Saying that some who posits the Hereditarian hypothesis is ipso facto racist is defamatory and libelous.

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