16 December 2007

The unbearable light(minded)ness of The New Yorker

After the Nobel prize winner James Watson asserted six weeks ago that Africans have innately lower intelligence, fervid debates about race, genes and I.Q. have sprung up in publications and on the Web. Now that everybody and their mothers have an opinion on the subject, The New Yorker decided to came on the rescue of liberal values with this article on supposedely what we don't know about research on IQ and races.

In this piece, The New Yorker discovers the Flynn effect and somehow uses it to attack "hereditarians". The argument goes a bit like: According to the proven Flynn effect each generation is smarter than the previous one; since average IQ is not constant, what IQ tests measure is actually b/s and IQ (if it exists at all) is not genetically determined. Thus we cannot talk about IQ differences between races.

Ehm, someone please remind the octogenarians of TNY, another heavily genetically determined trait, height. It does change in every generation, but does that mean that there are no permanent average height differences between different races? How possible is it that asians will have the same average height with caucasians in the future? Ditto for IQ.

The rest of the article is a collection of wikipedia-style negations of all the evidence that supports IQ diferences among races. "There were actually three studies that had biases problems..." Yes, among thousand unbiased ones that do confirm the obvious: IQ exists, it is heavily genetic, and this genetic predisposition can and is different for different races that evolved separately.

It is funny to notice a mistake (admitted and corrected) in the TNY article: it claims that Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in their 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” proposed that Americans with low I.Q.s be “sequestered in a ‘high-tech’ version of an Indian reservation.” In fact, Herrnstein and Murray deplored the prospect of such “custodialism” and recommended that steps be taken to avert it.
That much about biases.

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