@Steve: racists exist and are real and the only reason for not calling someone a racist is to avoid a fight. I will walk away from them, though. One time at Microsoft I was in a new office and the other person in there managed in less than ten minutes after meeting to tell me that black people were responsible for all crime in America. I am not making this up. All.

I didn't call him any names. I simply excused myself, went to my manager and told him I did not want to share an office with that guy. I didn't give details. Then I went to the cafeteria and had some coffee and when I got back to the office it was he who was gone, his stuff cleared out. I guess he had already been on thin ice.

Anyway. There is one thing that troubles me about these discussions and about people like Murray. We know that intelligence is a characteristic that has some genetic foundation, so if two intelligent parents have children there is a strong likelihood that their children will be smart too, maybe even smarter than either, as was the case for me.

Cultures that favor intelligence are likelier to encourage marriages between smart parents leading to a disproportionate number of smart offspring. European Jews are such a culture; such people have a disproportionate number of members far on the right of the bell curve ("normal distribution" henceforth).

Ashkenazi Jews are a culture, not a race, though. The issue at hand here is race. When we talk of Asian-Americans we are discussing not just a race but a population strongly skewed by selection pressure; those who came to America from the other side of the world were likely skewed toward the more successful, correlating strongly with intelligence. I've lived with Asians half my life and have seen the powerful cultural imperatives toward achievement, some of which verge on cruelty. In one school where I was teaching English a student came in second in the aptitude tests among thousands; he went happily home to tell his parents, who turned away in disappointment: "why were you not first?"

OK, here we go. We have dealt with the notion that black people are less intelligent on average than others; the Asian : white : black continuum comes up in a lot of metrics.

But suppose they're right?

Mind you I am not suggesting nor do I believe that there are significant differences in average intelligence between the races, I don't want to believe that ... but suppose there are? Can we live with that? It won't last, of course, but suppose that, right now, it's true?

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"Mind you I am not suggesting nor do I believe that there are significant differences in average intelligence between the races, I don't want to believe that ... but suppose there are? Can we live with that?"

This is the other side of this problem. It's a fear based, as far as I can tell, on nothing.

Let's say that there are significant differences in average IQ. Let's say we find definitive proof that the average black person has an IQ ten points lower than the white person. So what now? How many employers currently use IQ tests? How relevant is IQ (as long as it's above a certain base level) to most jobs? What mechanism should we use to tell the difference between an above average black person and a below average white person? And what would we gain by doing so? How much of an impact does hard work have in addressing these differences? Why don't we have a "determination" or a "perseverance" quotient?

Underlying all of these debates is this idea that the IQ performance of our "race" is a reflection on us as individuals, or needs to impact the way we run society in some way. But there are dumb white people and dumb black people. Smart black people and smart white people. There are people of all "races" who are immensely talented artistically or practially but not good at IQ tests or tests in general.

This is why the pursuit of equality of *opportunity* is so important. The playing field isn't level. It never was. But there are people way dumber than me who are way richer. And people who are way smarter than me who are way poorer. There are so many factors that goevrn where you end up in life. All this fuss about the racial breakdown of a single measure of a single type of intelligence seems so silly to me.

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A ten point difference would be unmistakable and not masked well by overlap. I was thinking suppose there was a difference of one or two points; airborne tetraethyl lead from the days of leaded gasoline lowered IQ by 2.5 points for urban children, and we didn't even learn about that for a long time. Four times that and we would know.

Again, I don't believe there is a significant difference.

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Sep 19, 2022·edited Sep 19, 2022Author

"A ten point difference would be unmistakable and not masked well by overlap."

I admit I'm not an expert, but wouldn't that depend on where the difference occured on the scale? The diference between a 70 and 80 IQ would be very clear I think. But would that be the case for a 100 and 110?

But yeah, I guess the wider point is that definitive proof of an average racial IQ gap wouldn't change much about how society ran.

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Ten points is a LOT no matter where it is, except maybe for the difference between 170 and 180. A 110 IQ person is qualitatively different from a 100; more intellectually engaged, more curious, more likely to be a reader.

Even between 70 and 80 you have the difference between someone who can care for himself and hold a menial job and someone who likely can't.

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Ah, okay, fair enough, in that case, pretend I wrote "two or three" instead of "ten."

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I was imagining something like 0.2 points. The bigots would take that and say all black people are retarded. Real people would call it statistically insignificant.

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If I'm not mistaken +/- one standard deviation from nominal is IQ 85-115 which is the middle of low and high average (68% of humanity). IQ 70-130 is two +/- standard deviations (95% of humanity). Since we don't wear a red badge of IQ we don't really know the IQ of people we work with beyond levels of perceived competence. I doubt that I could guess anyone's IQ with accuracy, but then I've never cared to try.

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You're not mistaken, those figures are right. And ± 3SDs is 99.7%.

I would swear that in the past it was 10 points that comprised a standard deviation.

I wouldn't try to guess numbers either but there is an unmistakable indication when you're talking to smart people: they grasp what you're saying before you finish the sentence.

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I hate to be the conveyor of bad news, but there is a LOT of research on this matter over the decades. The measured differences tend towards about one standard deviation, tho the gap narrowed for a while then then rose again. But don't take my word for it, do your own research.

Let me hasten to add (sigh, so easy to be misunderstood by somebody, not saying you), that a measured difference between population groups does not automatically imply a genetic difference, and says nothing meaningful about individuals. The range within population groups is still far larger than any difference between means.

I take IQ measurements as an intermediate measurement, NOT as some unalterable and permanent fact (at the group level over generations), because we know from research that environment plays a very significant role, and environment can be changed. What it might mean is that some of our interventions might best be upstream of that measurement - that is, to raise the measure IQ at the population level. Once a person's g factor has solidified, it tends not to change much over a lifetime, and while it's only one measure of an individual, it does seem to have substantial effects on their success, including their income.

Let's not get silly and cite exceptions. That like disputing the fact that more men than women are in prison for violent crimes, by noting a particularly violent woman, or a particularly non-violent man. Cherry picked exceptions will alway occur in in sizable population, but do not disprove any statistics. And no widely read author disputes that many other factors are important, in total usually more important, than general intelligence. However, general intelligence (as an intermediate measurement of our success) does have a significant influence on outcomes.

Basically, I'm saying that taking g off the taboo list would allow us to attempt deeper interventions in order to try to better equalize opportunities. If we ignore all cognitive factors, materially equal opportunity as good as it is, will not produce equal outcomes, period. An attempt to influence the environmental factors which in turn influence measured cognitive ability should be a part of any attempt society makes to equalize opportunity in the broader sense.

Think about the problems with confining interventions exclusively to those downstream of cognitive ability. One thing such a limited policy tends to do is try to remove any measure of ability or knowledge from society, because they may not say what we want them to. So remove the SAT for example, or avoid teaching math above algebra in high school - so that some students don't reach their potential, and thus reducing the differential achievement.

And that doesn't have to be. I completely understand the fear that accurate and scientifically valid knowledge can potentially be misused, but I disagree that the proper approach to avoiding that is to suppress truth and salient science, as neo-progressive ideology is driven to do. (Any truth or science which doesn't reinforce the narrative, to be more specific). I believe the right answer is to vigorously counter any mis-interpretation mis-application with facts and evidence.

A technological society which treats objective reality and the scientific journey to incrementally improve our understanding of it - as just another story made up by those in power to remain in power, is not going to last very long, and the fall is not going to be pretty since our population carrying capacity depends on keeping the technology functioning.

My deepest principle of political philosophy is to base one's policies first and foremost on an accurate understanding of objective reality; any philosophy which fails to impedance match with reality is going to go down, no matter how pleasant it sounds in the abstract. We then use our rational intelligence to devise reality-based policies in tune with our values and goals, producing the best feeling result we can within the parameters of being reality based. I recognize that values to large degree analogize with axioms - things we cannot prove, but must assume. But to be functional, they must be layered atop objective reality, rather than trying to over-ride it. Neo-progressive ideology does not handle this well.

I'll give a brief example. Why not just print US $1 Billion in cash per person and give it to every resident of the country? Some people would find this a very attractive notion - they would love it if everybody was rich beyond imagining, and believe that this would accomplish it. But no matter how hard they try to sell me on how wonderful that outcome would be and why it's more fair - I am not buying, because my understanding of money and wealth indicates that such a policy would not achieve its ends, regardless of how noble its intentions. So - reality get primacy, values second, policy derives from both of these and does the best it can in an imperfect world of tradeoffs to optimize for the desired goals and values. In that order.

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"the only reason for not calling someone a racist is to avoid a fight."

Actually I think a far better reason for not calling someone a racist is because you want to have some hope of making them think more clearly. I've managed this on numerous occasions. Most people with racist attitudes don't think of themselves as racist. And pretty much everybody dislikes being called a racist. Which means that however accurate it might be, if you label somebody that way, the walls go up and productive conversation is impossible.

The people who write their diatribes calling people racist or calling everybody who disagrees with them (even me sometimes!) racist, only ever make matters worse. The person they're speaking with digs their heels in, or worse, uses the confrontation for justification of their belief that black people are spiteful and irrational and can't handle their "perfectly reasonable facts," further cementing their racist ideas.

But again, I want to change people's minds. Not fight with them, and not write them off as hopeless. Which means I'd rather engage with people when I think they're missing something important. I've spoken to many people who ended up seeing racial issues more clearly after a conversation or two.

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I take it from your spellings, Steve ("jewellery"; etc.) that you live in some Commonwealth country. I grew up in the USA, mostly in the south, and I've met hundreds of people who wore their racism with pride. We've had this conversation before; while I don't say that reaching people is hopeless I am a lot more pessimistic about it than you are. Your patience will bring you greater success than I have had, though my efforts have been more in trying to get gay men to stop the confrontational belligerence toward heterosexuals.

And yes, actually seeing that I changed someone's mind is more rewarding than anything.

Of course I understand about raising defensiveness. I have some insights into that I will never tell a living soul.

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I've had conversations about race with people from all over the world. In person and online. And yes, you're right, racism is different in different parts of the world because its roots are different and people's moral judgement of it is different. I've met many people who wore their racism with pride. But that doesn't mean their minds can't be changed.

I will never stop loving the opportunity to share this video. It's only 3 minutes long.


See also, one of my heroes, Daryl Davis.


I understand where the pessimism comes from. I'm an optimist, but I'm not naive or a fantasist. Even if you do everything perfectly, you only occasionally get the satisfaction of actually *seeing* that you've changed someone's mind (and even more rarely of having them admit it). But if it's possible to get through to the Grand Wizard of the KKK, I think there's hope for most people.

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Davis' achievement was done by making himself the exception. A virulent bigot can't have exceptions.

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Which is why talking to people as if they’re human beings instead of dismissing them or name-calling is effective. Sadly, especially nowadays, these are also exceptional behaviours.

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I don't do the name-calling thing but I do tend to disengage, having run out of patience long ago. In decades online I have only seen two conversions out of thousands of people, which is FAIAP zero.

But that exception strategy works. Once a bigot knows someone from the hated group to be a respectable person the whole attitude crumbles. I like to think I've been the exception a few times for gay-haters.

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I've been a big fan of Daryl Davis since I first learned his story.

Years ago, many assumed it was OK to use the N word around me, and while the war in Vietnam was fresh on people's minds, the "gook" word because I am white. People wear it on their sleeve less now, but how much is a reduction of racism and how much is caution? I cannot say..

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When using one of these words will get you escorted from your workplace under guard carrying a box of your personal stuff, it has a way of suppressing bigoted speech.

It was not that long ago that people would use the worst epithets on coworkers, I remember it well.

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Virtually all popular discussions about genetic differences between races occur around the assumption that the term “genetic” refers to the genome at the level of DNA sequences. This is a vast oversimplification of the state of the science on trait heritability. The core concept is that phenotype doesn’t map directly onto underlying genotype. To quote Sonia Sultan*:

“Phenotypes emerge from the dynamic interplay of different types of regulatory elements and not simply from the presence or absence of particular DNA sequences. Indeed, the very notion of genes as discrete pieces of developmental information has become open to question.” “A number of developmental factors can be transmitted across generations.”

The take home message is what we already know--- we shouldn’t prejudge any individual based on their ancestral or cultural heritage.

*Organism and Environment: Ecological Development, Niche Construction, and Adaptation, by Sonia E. Sultan, Department of Biology and Program in Environmental Studies Wesleyan University.

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> "we shouldn’t prejudge any individual based on their ancestral or cultural heritage."

Exactly. I know of no widely read author who does not agree with us on this point.

And you are right - the era of finding single genes which control some behavior or attribute was brief and not very fruitful. Today, whole genome influences are recognized as more important and more fruitful (albeit more laborius to illuminate).

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I disagree that Ashkenazi Jews are only a culture. I'm not sure what anyone's distinction is between ethnic group and race, so I'm not going to waste time on that distinction, but clearly Ashkenazi Jews are an ethnic group, with certain recognizable genetic markers. 23andMe has demonstrated that much to many of us.

There are, of course cultural components of being Jewish, as well. But I'm pretty sure that's not what 23andMe is measuring :-)

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I was raised Episcopalian but three of my grandparents were Jewish and a genetic test said that I am 87% Ashkenazi. Most of my mother's family was very elderly and I only met them a few times and yet when I find myself among people of that, umm, ethnic group I feel a weird at-home feeling that cannot be based on upbringing. When I write music I find myself using Klezmer-like modes, and I have never even heard Klezmer until I ran across the late Irving Fields.

Spooky stuff. Lamarckian, almost.

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That is spooky. Klezmer is incomprehensible to me; I have never seen a mathematical definition for it. That it would come naturally to you without cultural exposure is fascinating.

I plant find the link I had to your music compositions. Now if like to listen to it again.

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Modes are easiest to explain with the white keys on the piano. If you start tapping keys you will quickly learn that playing from C to the next C sounds "right"; do re mi fa so la ti do. This is Ionian mode, and pretty much all the music you have ever heard was based on it.

Now try playing from D to D; this is Dorian mode, and it's how blues musicians play. E to E, Phrygian, Japanese music. The others: F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian (the Godfather theme), B Locrian, get you burned alive in the Middle Ages.

If you listen to my Strands (https://soundcloud.com/cheopys/warmed-over) piece, which is pretty atonal, there is one piece that climbs up and down a scale starting at 1:22; this is a mixture of Lydian and Mixolydian, on the white keys it would be C D E F♯ G A B♭ C. I have a sweet tooth for this stuff. It's too fast for the altered notes to leap out as you as "wrong."

Klezmer is not exactly one of these modes, it's a Middle Eastern sort of scale that starts with Phrygian (E to E) but has some augmented seconds, I think Hava Nagila is E F—G♯ A B C—D(♯?) E. I just played it, confirmed. The D can be either note.

I love this stuff

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I just noticed that the excellent Android "SmartChord" ap lists "Jewish modes"; Adonai Malakh, Ahaba Rabba, Magen Abot and Jewish I & II. Extra notes where I'm more inclined to leave some out. If you have an android device, you might like that ap. The unlimited version is too cheap to not purchase.

Apologies again to all for the tangent.

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I like that music. The Lydian augmented 4 against the Mixolydian flat 7 is interesting. I've done next to nothing with Lydian. The continuous pitch change flow, without the noticeable note separation I'm accustomed to in your music is refreshing and new to me.

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You'll hear Lydian once in a long while, I can think of a few rock songs that use it briefly. The chorus in Bowie's "TVC15," the first song in David Gilmour's first solo album, Ian Anderson seemed to discover Lydian on Passion Play; a few others. Blues is almost always Dorian, lowered 3rd and 7th.

I looked for that app on iOS, can't find it, both my Android phones died from expanding batteries.

One really interesting scale, six notes, comes from taking the arpeggios of two chords a tritone apart and combining the notes, like C and F♯:

C D♭ E♮ F♯ G♮ A♯

Some jazz players experiment with stuff like this.

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I actually wrote a Medium article that nobody read about the use of the black keys for the five anhemitonic pentatonic modes.

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I understand the "church modes" well enough. Your last paragraph might help me make sense of Klezimer modes which is the one I mentioned not understanding. I did already think that Middle Eastern music often sounds Phrygian to me. I'll look at what you wrote.

As an old-time banjo player Ionian, Mixolydian and Dorian with a modal variation are the modes most familiar to me. I am not formally educated in music, and I was recently wondering why Am is notated with one sharp as if it were G Major instead of C Major (no sharps), Same for songs in Em commonly notated with two sharps. I puzzled out the answer in the notes tab of this SS. Dorian minor, rather than Aeolian relative minor (C/Am, G/Em), etc. If I was a music major, I wouldn't have to puzzle out such things for myself.

I create spreadsheets like this to do my thinking about such things. I changed my mind about what I was doing with what started as a quick hack and I left a bunch of useless artifacts of that. I wouldn't leave it like that if I was on the job. The circle of 5ths became a comparison of scales and chords on a number of banjo tunings. Don't judge the slop too harshly please. You should be able to use the pull downs at cells S1 & S2 in the circle tab. You probably don't care about banjos. Banjo tunings are all about sympathetic ringing of open strings, thus the sus4 sawmill tuning for modal tunes. We've got a new (to us) banjo player who tunes to Double D for fiddle tunes in D (capoing for A) while I normally stay in Open G, so our chords are different inversions which is a good thing. He mostly finger picks while I down pick (clawhammer). We don't step all over each other that way. You can see that on the SS.

The African ancestor tunings are probably lost in time. Banjos are spiked lutes that commonly have a short drone string. Gut string fretless gourd banjos evolved to the thing that became a uniquely American instrument. I think that black Americans abandoned the instrument because of the racism associated with the minstrels, but I see a movement to bring it back to black Americans which I see as a good thing. Opps, I got started on banjos ;0)


Thanks for the link again. Atonal music is not something I've gotten into. Key changes up a 5th, like D to A are easier to accommodate in my mind since only one note sounds accidental if you don't realize what happened. The Chord changes are a tip-off.

It's my candy too. Apologies for everyone else.

I just added the Modes tab from another SS. You might like it while ignoring banjos.

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There are three minor scales:

1) pure minor, A to A on the white keys; boring. The Godfather theme uses it.

2) harmonic minor, very often used in Baroque music; raised 7th but normal 6th. This is more used for chords than melodies: Am, Dm, E7 (with G♯)

3) melodic minor: raised 6th and 7th ascending, ordinary 6th and 7th descending. Also Baroque.

A B C D E F♯ G♯ A G♮ F♮ E D C B A

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I do hope you know about Bela Fleck

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"but suppose there are? Can we live with that?"

That is what makes it a 3rd rail issue. A presumption of truth of that has historically been a bad road.

I frequently include "where does that lead?" to decision making (akin to what could go wrong?). Your stated tendency to walk away from some fights is likely an understanding that the price of victory could be too high. The punchline from the movie "War Games" comes to mind. "The only way you win is to not play."

Do we really want an answer to that question? Where might that lead if the answer was yes? We look to history for that answer. Given that, what would be useful about such a discovery? I can think of nothing.

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For the record, no, I don't want an answer.

If such a difference exists then it is small and temporary and its revelation will only do harm, and then there is that near-total overlap.

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Exactly my thought.

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Let's consider an analogy.

Did it matter whether ulcers were mostly caused by stress, or by a bacterial infection?

If knowing the answer can make no difference in how we intervene to improve outcomes, perhaps we don't have any burning need to know the scientific truth.

If knowing the answer might inform better treatment (eg: antibiotics) and produce better real world results, then perhaps finding out would be useful. So we need to decide which situation obtains here.

In terms of evaluating an individual, every serious writer emphasizes that population level statistics are meaningless. Let's clear that one off the table.

In terms of evaluating a policy intended to change statistical outcomes in the real world, often it is helpful to understand the existing dynamics. If a police department is mistreating poor people of all races because their use of force policies are too loose, then requiring officers to take a racial Implicit Association Test is not going to improve outcomes, because you are ignoring the actual dynamics in favor of a narrative detached from reality. On the other hand, if they are discrimination based on race, perhaps that course is dead on. Being effective depends on understanding what dynamics are really going on.

If we were to form policies based on misunderstanding the dynamics of a social phenomenon, and our interventions fail to work, such that 50 years from now we are still barking up the wrong tree, does that matter more or less to one than maintaining a comfortable narrative today?

The sign of a misapprehension of reality based on political filters: generations of policies based on ideology or intuition, which are on the whole not accomplishing what they seek to accomplish. Is that something we see signs of, or not? It's certainly something to watch for in the future. If the existing paradigm is failing to produce the changes desired, perhaps one needs to relax the mental blinders, if one truly cares.

(If one is just seeking to signal virtue, then positively affecting real world outcomes is irrelevant; one can virtue signal for a century quite comfortably absent real progress on the ground. In that case, having an accurate model of the real world is more of a danger to the psychological and social payoffs, rather than being a benefit by helping to refine effectiveness.)


However, the way I would put the question is:

How would a rational person with strong liberal values best implement those values if there were measurable differences between population groups (any population groups, any kind of ability) with real world implications? And there are two sub-questions: how should a rational liberal respond if the differences were mostly due to potentially changeable environmental factors? Versus how they should respond if the differences were mostly due to unchangeable genetic factors.

One key here is that we are talking about strong liberal values, and rationality - we are not asking about how a neo-nazi should respond, but somebody whose nuanced and humane values we whole heartedly agree with, who seeks to improve the real world as effectively as possible.

I do have tentative answers. For assessing individuals, it doesn't matter. Assess each individual without pre-judgement. That's both moral and scientifically valid.

If differences matter to group level outcomes, and the society is focused on group level outcomes, then seeking effective interventions would make good sense to a liberal who wants to reduce defacto inequality of opportunity. IF unchangeable genetic factors predominate, then the best strategy is to reduce the identification.

Back to cognitive ability. Each nation in Europe has a different average IQ, which you can find if you are interested. White immigrants to the US from different nations have also shown population level differences. However, once they mingle within the US population, we give little to no salience to which nations their ancestors come from. If Franco-Americans score lower than Russo-Americans, that difference gets lost once we de-emphasize origins so there is no widely discerned national origin to hang a stereotype on. Then the cultures and genetic pools also get diluted and intermixed as well, making the differences both less objectively, and harder for humans to add interpretation to.

A highly visible distinction makes this approach more difficult, but moving in that direction (less salience among the population based on the distinguishing characteristic) still seems like the best approach from a traditional liberal viewpoint. Kids raised in a mixed race environment, absent stereotypes, tend to treat differences in "race" as unimportant. Physically visible of course, but not considered to be of high importance. Fostering that race or ethnicity neutral categorization is the best way to avoid stigmatizing individuals.

Between 1619 and the latter part of that century, African (involuntary) immigrants were treated the same as other indentured servants (there was no chattel slavery), working alongside European indentured servants, and being freed after 7 years. A majority of the Europeans who immigrated to the territories which became the US were indentured servants (most but not all "voluntary" by some definitions), and the involuntary African immigrants were just part of that flow. During their servitude they had the same (limited) rights, but after the term were equally free.

It was only a couple of generations later that life-long slavery was introduced, mostly for economic reasons we could go into. And then subsequent to that, the concept of "race" as relevant, and then the concepts of white supremacy among "races", were invented to rationalize the oppression of slavery - in that order.

I would go back to that time, and eliminate race as a relevant category to the psyches of Americans, no more important than hair color. Alas, that direction has been disparaged today.

So we had better hope, as I fervently do, that unchangeable genetic factors have very little influence on cognitive ability at the population group level. Because the neo-progressive toolkit is inadequate to adapt to that reality - within liberal values of equality - if it should come to pass. They prefer to deny reality to adapting to it (in general; not saying what the reality is in our current discussion).

And in the meanwhile, we know that changeable environmental factors play a significant role in cognitive ability, so we should do what we can to take advantage of that, as part of a broadened attempt to produce better equality of opportunity; and we need to emphasize that each individual needs to be treated as such without group-based pre-judgement, period. Drill it in. That's true of every scenario. And of course all of this is within a yet broader effort to address factors other then differences in abilities - like discrimination and stereotypes.

I note that France takes a different approach than the US in regard to "race". They are strongly against the concept of "race", and make it illegal to record the "race" of people - by the government or by private companies. I think that approach has positives (reducing the salience of race) and negatives (making it harder to compare outcomes to detect possible discrimination). I do not know which approach will produced the better outcome in 100 years; I do not take for granted that US approach of elevating racial identity as primary has been proven to work better in the long run, so I think we should have some humility and be open to learning.

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> "Cultures that favor intelligence are likelier to encourage marriages between smart parents leading to a disproportionate number of smart offspring."

This sounds like a hypothesis that cultural factors might, in a sufficiently reproductively separated population, over time through selective mating produce genetic proclivities towards increased intelligence compared to other populations.

I have some doubt about this culture-begets-genetics hypothesis. After all, the rest of the sufficiently separated population is also still reproducing as well, not just those at the top of the IQ curve. Mating assortment would more tend to increase the range of intelligence within a population, rather than to raise the mean; the range of variability would tend to grow until reaching some equilibrium with regression to the mean.

And I think that since general intelligence is known to be highly influenced by environment, cultures more highly valuing intelligence can perpetuate that propensity to produce intelligence though providing effective environments to foster that in offspring, without needing any recourse to genetics. Culture is another way to pass on characteristics, when sufficiently separate from other cultures.

(Now if a culture had some reproductively significant filtering - not just assortment - on the basis of intelligence, that could be another matter).

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I see no value in prefixing "general" to "intelligence." What's the alternative? Specific intelligence? What does that even mean? I favor a multitude of scales, separating skills like mathematics, 3D visualization, language .... over a single metric.

It is worth noting though that the single metric has fairly robust predictive value. People who are good at one kind of problem-solving tend to be good at others.

Though it cuts fine. I'm a very good programmer but when it comes to parsing strings I am a complete idiot.

Culture example: where European cultures favor a logical approach to discourse, African ones favor a discursive (storytelling) approach. This is a disadvantage on intelligence tests, which tend to be logic-based.

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"What's the alternative? Specific intelligence?"

Yeah, as you say, wouldn't this be in specific skills like mathematics or skill for languages perhaps? Again, I see no value in examining this across "racial" lines, but as a measure of aptitude it seemse pretty interesting, no?

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Don't get me started on language acquisition is my advice. A topic of endless fascination.

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The word "general" is absolutely crucial in modern discussions of cognitive science. The current established view rejects General intelligence for what is sometimes called "the Swiss army knife" theory. The idea is that we have lots of different abilities, each of which evolved to solve specific tasks. Later on, of course, those abilities were exapted to do tasks they were not originally designed for. But there is no single intelligence that is responsible for all of our abilities. In many cases, they occur in different parts of the brain specialized for language, face recognition, spatial orientation etc.

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University was a long time ago. Correction noted. Thanks.

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Chris (and anyone following this), the difference is that "general intelligence", often represented by an italicized lower case g, is a well researched term of art in psychometrics, not just a random justaposition of words.

Look up "g factor" in psychology. Wikipedia has a good short summary of the history, the supporting evidence accumulated over the past century, the critics, and the response to the critics. I'm serious - read it first and we can talk meaningfully. Until then it's like trying to discuss a "balanced binary tree" with somebody who is reasoning from just knowing what the individual words mean in common English usage, and knows zero about the terms of art in computer science.

Your talk of multiple skills is sensible and you are right that more can be captured with a multiple scale description - and that has been taken into account longer than I've been alive and I'm not young. Lumpers and splitters have had at it for a very long time, as with many other sciences. However, it was noticed a long time ago that there is a substantial positive correlation between tests of cognitive functioning - most are far from orthogonal measures. If you know how well somebody does on a few of them, you can substantially predict how they will do on others (as you say) - obviously not perfectly, but substantially as measured by statistics. The basic theory is that there is a more general component of cognitive ability underlying many of these tests, which can be measured (to useful degree, never perfectly). Modern IQ tests are therefore composed of several sub units.

Think of it like a suite of compiler or processor benchmarks. If you measure a few of them, you can get a pretty good idea of how fast a computer or compiler is in general, tho of course it may do better in one than in another. There is always a fuzziness, but it can be bracketed with error bars like other science.

NOBODY has ever said that g, or IQ tests, measure the only thing worthwhile. EVERY treatise I have read on intelligences makes this point, yet laymen tend to assume that professionals think IQ is the end all and be all - but zero professionals think like that. Nevertheless, what it does measure has been extraordinarily widely shown by science to correlate with many things which do matter. That is, it measures something in the psych with more validity than any other psychometric tests measures anything else, it's reasonably stable for most of life, and that something has substantial predictive value in terms of many other areas of life. People who score high in IQ tend to be people whom upon knowing them well, we consider quite smart - so g is a scientific abstraction, which corresponds to something real and salient in human behavior, which we intuitively recognize as relating to "being smart".

And no, it's not entirely logic based, or even language based - some IQ tests use no language at all (or any language). Properly administering a text involves adapting it such that it can be comprehended in the culture involved, so that not understanding the test is not inhibiting native intelligence from being measured. But that's about comprehension of the test itself; the test is not a test of knowledge, but of the ability to abstractly manipulate the knowledge that one has.

Basically, cross culturally, some people are observably better at figuring out real life scenarios, eg: involving hunting game. Others notice that. Pretty much every innovation in pottery or archery, everywhere in the world regardless of language, likely came from somebody with a high g factor. There will be rare anomalies which very high ability in a particular area and perhaps even sub-average cognitive ability in another - but they ARE anomalies, statistically. They are why there are error bars - IQ or g does not assert that it is all encompassing, there will always be fringe cases. But when tested scientifically and statistically, it's quite robust among all measures.

Again, your perspective might have been cutting edge a few generations ago, but the reasonable concerns you have, have indeed been thoroughly considered and debated over the decades.

Again, just read the Wikipedia summary of the g factor. If you distrust Wikipedia, follow some of the references, or pick up a modern psychometric textbook.

And just to head off misunderstandings (from anybody), I will say again that g (or it's best known approximate measurement, IQ) is just one characteristic in humans. It doesn't tell you who is a good storyteller or musician or friend. I very definitely do not choose mates or friends primarily much less exclusively on that basis; there are more important attributes. And it doesn't tell you everything even about cognition. But a massive amount of evidence shows that it does capture an important (not the only important) factor in human behavior.

And again - I realize that your message already noted some of the elements I am discussing, and elaborating upon.

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And all that presupposes that "intelligence" is measurable.

If you limit your definition of "intelligence" to "ability to do IQ tests" then yes, that's measurable.

But as you say - there are lots of different kinds of intelligence, and aspects of intelligence - and every time you think you've counted them all, you find you've missed one. So it's infinite-dimensional.

And then you realise that your intelligence varies from day to day - how much sleep you got, how much you've had to drink, what else you're worried about... So "intelligence" maps to an "infinite dimensional fuzzy space".

And they're not measurable. Check out the maths.

You cannot define the distance between any two points in one.

So however you try to measure "intelligence", you're wasting your time... Anything measurable is not "intelligence".

That's why people talk about "general intelligence" and "IQ". They're different, and while there may be a correlation between "IQ" and "success" in some fields, you can't correlate something measurable to something not measurable.

And (a bit of a sidetrack here) that kind of pulls the rug from under eugenics - anyone stupid enough to believe in it is too stupid to be allowed to breed, if you're trying to implement eugenic breeding programs. I do like a good paradox!

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You've said all this before including the smear about eugenics.

Measurement is not infinite-dimensional. Infinity has no meaning outside mathematics; in the sciences infinity always means there is something wrong with the theory.

"Too stupid to be allowed to breed" isn't the kind of discourse we use here.

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Infinity is a fact of life; hard to experiment with in a lab, or even on a digital computer, I agree, but that doesn't mean it's not real.

Intelligence is, after all, also something that only exists in your mind. Like mathematics, it doesn't need to conform to common sense Newtonian physical rules, any more than quantum phenomena do.

Neuroscience shows that what you see as "reality" is actually a model constructed in your mind using sensory input extended by calculations of probability and a lot of estimation - very like mathematics. That's good enough to keep you fed & breathing, usually, which is what it was designed for. External reality looks very different to creatures with different senses - who's to say who's right?

The concept of infinity does often come into play when linear reductionist logic reaches its limits and that is indeed when an apparently satisfactory theory sometimes fails.

"Too stupid to breed" is the kind of thing eugenicists (and racists) say in private, using polite circumlocutions in public. We need to bring that thinking out into the light of day to deal with it.

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I won't argue with you about infinity. I am as certain that you are dead wrong as I am about absolutely anything. Factors that can significantly affect the outcome of an intelligence test can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand (exhaustion, illness, head trauma, hypoglycemia ...) and all of them would likely lead to rescheduling the test. Factors that would affect the outcome by more than a point or two are probably in single digits. Your position on this is frankly absurd.

I asked you last time this came up what is your beef with intelligence testing and in a shocking turn of events, you didn't answer. Your position is so extreme as to deserve mockery but we don't do that here. Much, anyway.

But when you compare IQ testing to eugenics you cross a line. And no we don't need to bring that garbage out into the light of day; several of my great-grandparents died at Treblinka so I am not seeing the humor in your hyperbole.

Funny you should mention quantum mechanics, it was the infinity of what we call the Ultraviolet Catastrophe that led Planck to quantization and then to QM.

You don't know what you're talking about. Intelligence is reliably measurable.

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Chris, I want to warn you that you are treading on dangerous ground. Your writing here and elsewhere reveals a very capable and rational mind. You have a tendency to follow the evidence.

That can get you into trouble. This is a minefield. You have intellectual tools which allow you to evaluate your erstwhile colleague as factually wrong about his crime assertion and therefore likely swayed by racial bias or stereotypes. I will warn you that if you start taking a strictly scientific and apolitical approach to investigating this subject, you will likely come across some evidence which is discomforting. No, not silly KKK or neo-Nazi nonsense, I know you would sift that garbage out quickly. I mean scientific evidence which even viewed in context, is troublesome.

However, I will respond to your thought experiment.

Hypothetically, suppose that your researches were to convince you that there are significant differences in objectively and competently measured IQ between some population groups, which cannot be explained by test bias.

Then, as CAS says, that aggregated finding would still tell us nothing about individuals, because the differences within each population group are by the same objective measurements far greater than any group level differences between statistical means, medians or modes. It should have absolutely no effect on how you treat other individuals, period, end of story.

Also, as CAS and Steve indicate, differences between population groups do NOT inherently imply any significant genetic component. Differences in environment and culture would need to be considered - as you have observed in working with Asian ethnicity. The differences could be 100% due to environment and 0% due to genetics (hypothetically), so any such evidence might be just a snapshot in time, describing today's world but not the future.

The area where you might run into trouble is in partially questioning the currently politically attributed causes of other observed differences between population groups. If at the statistical level of aggregate analysis, there were differences in cognitive ability (from whatever causes), then some differences in outcome between groups (at that same statistical level) might not be entirely due to present day discrimination. Such group level differences in cognitive ability could lead to even a system which is absolutely fair to each individual (entirely based on individual merit, without any group prejudice whatsoever), yet which produces differences at the group statistical level because the groups do not have identical characteristics.

So for example, if some differences in cognitive ability exist at the population group level (again, for any reason), then the wildly disproportionate representation of Ashkenazi Jews in certain fields might be in some part related to their tendency to score very well on IQ tests at the statistical level, rather than being entirely due to pro-Jewish (or anti-Gentile) discrimination. Or you might compare Franco-Americans and Russo-Americans.

In short - such group level differences would require no change of course for political philosophies based on treating all individuals fairly and with the same rights, like traditional liberalism. I see no implications for Martin Luther King's direction, for one example. At most, some interventions might be targeted towards enriching the environments (or other factors known or as yet unknown) which might statistically increase the average cognitive functioning of disadvantaged groups (as one prong of a larger effort). For two examples, substantially bad nutrition, and exposure to violent crime nearby, seem to have negative effects (at the statistical level) on cognitive development; improving those factors might improve outcomes, over time. (And of course to the degree that racial bias creates or sustains either factor, it can be appropriately confronted as needed). This kind of extra focus would just be a refinement of the civil rights concepts, not a change in course.

But this hypothetical group difference, if you were to conclude that it existed, might cause some loss of traction for certain more recent political narratives, such as that espoused by Ibram X Kendi. Kendi explicitly reasons that there are only two possible explanation for different outcomes for Blacks and other racial groups - genetic differences and discrimination. Since genetic differences HAVE to be taken off the table as too awful to consider, that prove in his mind that it any differences in outcomes today must be produced 100% by discrimination, QED. This kind of binary reasoning might be threatened by your hypothetical.

From what I've seen of your writing, I would hardly expect you to jump to any conclusions, but rather to evaluate evidence as honestly as possible. And I'm warning you that such an approach is not welcome in many progressive circles and their periphery; no matter how clear you describe your explorations, it will "sound similar to" things which are highly emotionally evocative for some others, and you will tend to be treated as if you are saying things you have tried to be clear that you are not saying. Other people will sometimes assume falsely that X must imply Y, even if you don't say or agree with that implication. Fair warning. If you do continue to research your questions, I'll be glad to hear your results tho.

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Everything you are saying here was in my little post. If I didn't call out the difference between median intelligence and individual intelligence it's because I am cognizant of my audience; I don't need to. If there are three not-fully-congruent normal distributions for the intelligence of the three major races, they are vastly overlapped.

Don't expect me to take very seriously the denial of any role of genetics in intelligence, and if you are implying that I recognize no environmental role in how well one does on intelligence tests then you are verging on insulting me. A child who grows up in a house full of books and other stimuli has an advantage over one who grows up with a TV set that is never off and checkout-counter newspapers the only reading material.

And frankly conforming to progressive ideology is not much of a priority for me. I would not post what I did in a WaPo blog or on Facebook because I would be called all kinds of names by sloppy readers and sloppier thinkers. Honestly, I am deeply disenchanted with the current state of progressivism with its "woke" horseshit and its virtue signaling. There is tyranny there and "trans" activists are doing enormous harm in their determination to swell their ranks.

I mentioned Asians. The high achievements of Asian-Americans are not reflected in my experience here, where hardly anyone has the brains to close a door he had to open to walk through.

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My father had read all of Shakespeare by the age of twelve. I have no memory of him, he died when I was three, but he left a library behind. I sought to know him by knowing his influences, his books and his writing. A sad substitute for growing up under his influence, but it was a gift.

My wife grew up where such things were not valued. A little girl with no shoes also has no books. But when she came to America she knew what her daughters must have. While I could accept that they might not accel in everything I made it clear that they had better not being a report card home with a comment that they were not performing to their capability, she just wanted to see "A"s. She became that Asian mom in America.

I didn't get to know Vietnamese people while I was in Vietnam, but I know quite a few in America. The name Nguyen was a common one in engineering departments and among super technicians. Principle design engineers who's journey to America began as boat people.

The less technically inclined are often astute business people. The large successful Asian markets here are owned by Vietnamese people. They do what the Chinese in Southeast Asia did. Sowell discussed it in his book "Black Rednecks and White Liberals". More about seeking opportunity where they find it than race.

Crap! I wandered as I wrote on my phone when I should be sleeping.

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Wow. Can we reset and reparse, Chris?

How would you respond if you assumed (correctly) that

(1) I have read a number of your writings and appreciated them, earning my respect FWIW. I was feeling happy to have a chance to explore some concepts with somebody I respect. I did not expect your reaction, tho.

(2) I was largely agreeing with you, not disagreeing. I may emphasize a different facet, or phrase something my own way, but that doesn't mean I'm an adversary.

(3) I was neither denying any role for genetics, nor imputing that you were denying environmental factors; just not thing existing in my mind (however clumsily conveyed)

(4) Having read other work by you, I already know you are not a modern neo-progressive, and that we share a disenchantment from what it has become. However, the issues of intelligence and population groups is an exceptionally explosive subject, and can cause problems even for non-progressives, so I wanted to note that.

Clearly, I have badly miscommunicated and apologize for that. I would appreciate if you could quote what I said that led you to believe (1) that I was denying any role for genetics, or (2) that I thought (almost insultingly) that you were denying any role for environment. I'd like to learn to avoid whatever I wrote that came across so far from my intent (I'm in what my spouse calls "debug mode"). Sometimes our words can be interpreted in ways we did not intend, so we need to learn how to avoid that when possible. That's my task.

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"The differences could be 100% due to environment and 0% due to genetics (hypothetically)"

The last word doesn't mitigate it.

OK, sorry if I sounded like I was bristling. I wasn't, but I see how it could read that way. Fair do's.

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OK, thanks. The last word was not meant to mitigate anything, but to explain that I was presenting a hypothetical rather than an assertion. Read it in the spirit of "EVEN IF the differences were 100% environmental... certain issues remain". I appreciate your explaining; I do not always anticipate all the ways something I write can be interpreted, so this is helpful.

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Oct 1, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

I love your articles but I'm too broke to afford a subscription - I'll follow you though! Thank you for what you write - it's freedom for me. as a writer also. https://ruthhartley.com/books/

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Sep 19, 2022·edited Sep 19, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

I only read this once... maybe I missed it. But I could not really see where you an CAS disagreed. He did not seem to believe IQ differences were likely genetic (and of course they are not). He didn't seem to be refuting your claim that many folks do assume this.

He equated IQ with intelligence, which you refuted. I personally don't know what to think about that. If intelligence is not IQ, then do we have any operational definition for what it is? I wouldn't know what it would be. I agree with @Jay Rollins... whatever intelligence is, it is just one part of being successful, happy etc.

I am not sure CAS was even trying to take a strong stand on equating the two. More likely, having no good alternate definition, he just equated the two.

But it seems to me, that you have a legitimate beef with society at large, which does tend to equate IQ differences with genetic differences. I just don't think you really have a beef with CAS as I saw little evidence of him/her trying to defend such a position (or deny the society does do this.)

.... but maybe I missed it ....

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"I only read this once... maybe I missed it. But I could not really see where you an CAS disagreed."

I'd say the two key points of disagreement we had were that:

1. Many people, including researchers like Charles Murray, don't make the claim that IQ differences are genetic and infer from that "black" genetics will lead to less intelligent people.

And 2. That one can define a meaningful population group, genetic or otherwise, based solely on skin colour.

Both of these are uncontroversially wrong.

I must admit that I was also finding it a bit tiresome to have him explaining things to me that I'd already explicitly written in the article, and the implication that I hadn't done my due diligence on people like Muray before writing an entire article about race and IQ, but that's a separate issue😅

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Dan, I agree.

Steve seems to believe that it has been scientifically proven that differences in average IQ between population groups cannot possibly be genetic, while CAS is asserting a more modest claim that it's a grave scientific mistake to assume that measured IQ differences are primarily due to genetic factors given the well known environmental factors.

**So both are quite critical of any elements of society which "equate IQ differences with genetic differences" (between population groups) in your words.**

It's hard to see any politically relevant differences between Steve and CAS. Neither of the two seems any more racist (or anti-racist) than the other. There might be some quibbling over scientific details, but not politically.

Seems like a tempest in a tea pot. We can pick on details of some phrasing if we enjoy that sort of thing, but the gist of both of their positions seems highly compatible.

(My own quibble: in Steve's excerpts CAS sometimes refers to the facet of cognition which IQ aims to measure correctly as "general intelligence", but is sloppy in just calling it "intelligence" at other times. "General intelligence" is a scientifically defined term, and IQ tests are scientifically accepted as a valid (though not perfect) measure of it. "Intelligence" however is an English word with no scientific meaning, any more than "smart" or "clever" and which in common language may or may not refer to aspects of cognition beyond general intelligence. So CAS should have been more consistent in terminology to avoid that confusion. Nevertheless, from the context, this appears to just be undisciplined writing, as CAS does correctly reference "general intelligence" when speaking carefully).

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Sep 19, 2022·edited Sep 19, 2022Author

"Steve seems to believe that it has been scientifically proven that differences in average IQ between population groups cannot possibly be genetic,"

No, I don't believe this. My issue is with the assignation of population groups based on skin colour. As I've said countless times, this makes as little sense as assigning population groups based on hair colour or head shape. I make this point, albeit in different words, in the conversation itself:

"I'm not genetically or culturally similar to a black person living in Kenya. Or Namibia. Or Zimbabwe. They aren't similar to each other. Using this superficial similarity to categorise billions of people is silly whether it's Asians or black people or white people."

My skin is the same colour as somebody from Kenya. But the distance between my ancestors (from Sierra Leone) and Kenya is greater than the distance between my ancestors and Sweden! So what is the value of categorising us both as "black" for the purposes of IQ? We are not particularly similar genetically or culturally.

I think the question of whether IQ differences are genetic is an interesting one, but there's not nearly enough consensus to say one way or another. The point I'm trying to make (I feel as if a significant portion of my writing career has been spent trying to make this point😅) is that a genetic factor in IQ or any other measure wouldn't mean that black people would all be similar in how they tested for this measure.

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Compare the number of misspelled words on signs at Trump rallies with signs in gatherings of the other side.

Also the mixing of uppercase and lowercase.

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We fundamentally agree on the key points.

A few notes tho. American descendants of slavery do not represent the genetic diversity of the continent of Africa. They came overwhelmingly from a few tribes in Western Africa. Likewise other "racial" or ethnic groups in the US are not statistically valid representations of Europe or China or anywhere else.

Today, about 10-12% of African-Americans did not descend from slaves (at least not slaves imported to the territories which became the US) - their families migrated more recently, and largely from different parts of Africa than the imported slave did. And their aggregate statistics differ as well. I have no objection to treating them as different population group, rather than lumping just by skin color and ignoring cultural differences, for example.

Most of the population group measurements of g in the United States cannot be extrapolated to conclude anything about whole continents which differ from US population groups, both genetically and culturally and socio-economically. But no scientist would pretend that they do so generalize; there's nobody here arguing that they do. So making points about the genetic diversity within Africa or Asia are entirely a distraction in a discussion of measurements of US population groups, as self identified.

The only value that such population group measurements may have, is in analyzing similar statistics in other areas, using the same self-identified population groups. Doing to in no way implies how much the population groups are genetically definable! Basically we are comparing, say, how people who check the "Asian-American" box differ from people who check the "Latino/Hispanic" box. Or Americans who self identify as "Catholic" versus "Protestant" or "Atheist". Let's not pretend that those categories of self identification are meaningless, and thus that any statistics gathered using those categories are completely meaningless, unless we can genetically distinguish every Catholic from every Protestant, or every Asian from every Latino. And invoking the world-wide genetic differences among Catholics does not inform such a discussion specifically limited to American Catholics and American Protestants (who are not being asserted to be indistinguishable from Catholics and Protestants in other parts of the world.

The frustrating part is making an carefully qualified and modest assertion specific to one context, and having people broaden it into some global assertion about the entire human race, which I would dispute myself, and then proceed to dispute that unqualified assertion as if that (accidental strawman) thereby invalidates my more modest one. I'm willing to defend, refine, or withdraw the assertions I actually make, based on new evidence and reasoning. But I cannot be held responsible for things I do not believe but which others imagine I might be saying.

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"American descendants of slavery do not represent the genetic diversity of the continent of Africa."

True. But now, in 2022, "black people" in America do represent a meaningful portion of the genetic diversity of Africa. And, of course, black people have also mixed with other ethnicities but are still considered "black" for the census purposes.

>>>"But no scientist would pretend that they do so generalize;"

Yes, they do! I pointed this out during the conversation. Here's a report about Nicholas Wade doing precisely that (https://www.science.org/content/article/geneticists-decry-book-race-and-evolution)! Charles Murray does too. Albeit less overtly. Nobody *here* is arguing it, I haven't claimed they are. But that's very different to saying that *nobody* is arguing it.

I don't need to talk about the genetic diversity in Asia or Africa to make my point. I do so just because it's easier for some people to grasp when I talk about the diversity of entire continents. But sticking with the U.S., many self-identified African Americans have less than 50% African ancestry. Some have less than 2% (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289685/bin/mmc1.pdf). The one drop rule was a trip. So even if we're talking exclusively about the U.S., I don't think talking about genetic diversity is a distraction.

But yes, I find the categories broadly meaningless. I'm a little lost on the point you're trying to make about Protestants and Atheists, but would you consider IQ research based on religion to be meaningful? What should we do if we found that Atheists had higher IQ, on average, than Protestants?

I'm generalising out the point Cas is making because doing so makes it easier to see the flaws in it. And because the people who make racist arguments based on these ideas about "race" and genetics certainly aren't being nuanced about population groups. But as I've hopefully demonstrated, those same flaws exist even if you're specific about America.

So I'm guess I'm just not clear about what qualified and modest assertion you're trying to make.

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"What should we do if we found that Atheists had higher IQ, on average, than Protestants?"

I would be very, very surprised to learn otherwise.

We grow up under intense pressure to accept religion and until very recently the same was true almost everywhere in the world. Faith is expected to be exempt from analysis and logic (especially logic) and many a child has been beaten for even making a joke about church, much less expressing actual skepticism. And we are led to believe that we are under continual divine surveillance, even of our thoughts, by a vengeful god with his hand on a trapdoor lever.

To tunnel one's way out of believing this nonsense requires extreme intellectual independence, one that is not even exhibited by all very intelligent people, much less by average people.

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Steve, let's examine this step by step to avoid accidental memory lapses. I said:

PGBR> "Most of the population group measurements of g in the United States cannot be extrapolated to conclude anything about whole continents which differ from US population groups, both genetically and culturally and socio-economically. But no scientist would pretend that they do so generalize"

SQ> "Yes, they do! I pointed this out during the conversation. Here's a report about Nicholas Wade doing precisely that (https://www.science.org/content/article/geneticists-decry-book-race-and-evolution)!"

I followed that link and read every word, and was not able to find where Nicolas Wade does "precisely that", ie: generalize American IQ measurements to characterize continental populations.

Could you quote where Wade generalized from US tests to global conclusions? If not, it would appear that your citation does not actually support the assertion you made, but perhaps you meant to cite something else.

What I did find, in Wade's own words, from your link, was:

NW> "They charge me with saying that "recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results." I say no such thing. What I do say (p. 193) is that "It may be hazardous to compare the IQ scores of different races if allowance is not made for differences in wealth, nutrition and other factors that influence IQ."

I am quite willing to change my assertion (quoted at the beginning above) if you can cite a scientist who does what I say no scientist does (generalize from US IQ data to global conclusions), but so far I've seen no example at all, much less one where a scientist "does precisely that".

PS: Wade is a journalist, not a scientist. But I'd still be interested in anything you can actually quote from him which does what I assert that no scientist does.

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"Could you quote where Wade generalized from US tests to global conclusions?"

I'm not sure what to make of this. Is the only thing that will satisfy you a direct quote from Wade saying, "I think differences in IQ in racial groups in America can be generalised out to population groups from other continents?" Is your point that no scientist is literally saying the exact thing you're saying, not by implication and context, but verbatim?

In that case, no, I can't provide a quote to support that. But given that Wade's central claim is that racial differences are based on evolutionary differences between the "races," that's inescapably a genetic argument as far as I can see. Which then means that the differences aren't specific to the US (indeed, Wade is British) but are about "population groups," "races" in this case, across the world.

Wade identifies 3-5 "races" by misinterpreting research from one of the scientists quoted in the article. Not only is this counter to common knowledge (and common sense) about genetics, it again suggests, if you take him seriously, that the fact that one of the "races" happens to be in America would have no bearing on anything else.

And lastly, from the quote that you shared, what Wade is arguing here is that it "may be dangerous to compare the IQ scores of different 'races'"(there's a specific critique of his ideas on race here - https://www.huffpost.com/entry/a-troublesome-response-ni_b_5419505) when you control for income, health etc. I'm curious, what do you think he's implying here?

To be clear, I'm not calling Wade a racist or a white supremacist or anything of the sort. I'm saying that people do so generalise. Fair point about Wade being a writer and not a scientist, but he's presenting his ideas as if they're supported by scientific research. Again, Murray does the same thing. And while I'm confident that you are personally intelligent enough to nuance the specifics of these points, people like Peyton Gendron aren't. That's why these inaccuracies matter.

Also, just a quick aside: I'm sure this isn't intentional, but phrases like "to avoid any accidental memory lapses" sound incredibly condescending. Similarly, repeatedly talking about the inability of "some readers" to talk about racial issues objectively (while assuring me that you aren't referring to me necessarily) still feels very much directed at me.

After all, I don't see how it's helpful to inform me what other readers might do. And I talk about race and racism quite reguarly without getting emotional. So unless I start sobbing and calling you a white supremacist, can we assume that no further caveats about the potential emotionality of racial topics are required?

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> "What should we do if we found that Atheists had higher IQ, on average, than Protestants?"

Same as any other population group:

(1) Assess each individual as an individual without pre-judgement based on group membership; remember that individuals may be typical or atypical of every population group of which they are a member

(2) Use group level statistics ONLY for context with other group level statistics using the same categories (comparing like with like). So if there were also population group level statistics about Protestants and Atheists differing in some social or material trait which might influence, or be influenced by, IQ, then examining for correlations or even cautious causations would be on the table. Such awareness could lead to alternative hypotheses which can be examined with evidence and reasoning. This "like with like" statistical group level analysis MUST be kept separate from assessing individuals!

(3) Take general intelligence (as measured by IQ) as only one of many factors which affect people's success and satisfaction in life; a significant one which should not be ignored or unduly discounted, but also not dominant in itself. True at both the individual and group levels.

I use such an example because some population groupings have such emotional charge that many readers may have trouble looking at them objectively - in part because they don't read what one is writing, but instead "hear echos" of some past thing that other people have written and are unable to emotionally separate the two. (Not saying you personally, just some humans in general).

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Sep 19, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Thanks PGBR:

The only thing I would be quick to add to your statements (which I think I have heard Steve say in the past):

-1- The genetic make up of those with dark skin is incredible diverse, often having much more common genetic material with a non-black than with another black. Thus even if IQ has an inherited aspect to it. We DO have scientific evidence that this would be very unlikely to coorelate with skin color, since GENES themselves don't coorelate with skin color.

-2- Whatever intelligence is, it seems to have a very very complex relationship with our genes. we have looked hard for any connections between brain function and genes and we mostly have come up empty handed. There are connections between many brain disfunctions and specific genes, but when it comes to brain function, there seem to not be strong connections (not considering race, just genes in general.) So we have a second piece of scientific evidence that IQ very unlikely to connect to race.

Still I agree with you. I don't think CAS as trying to make any claim on this.

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A beautiful summary of two of my main points about race, genetics and IQ. Thanks Dan.

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There's some new stuff out by behavioral geneticist Paige Harden exploring the links and limits to genetic explanations for intelligence. Freddie DeBoer's book, The Cult of Smart, also delves into this quite a bit (and argues persuasively that race is irrelevant). My sense is that the unsatisfying reality is that we just simply don't have this all figured out yet -- the field is in its infancy and, like everything, is politicized. Whatever the truth is, I believe strongly in disentangling people's quality of life from any measure (valid or invalid) of intelligence, talent or ability. https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/disentangling-race-from-intelligence-and-genetics

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To be honest, I was looking forward to Freddie's essay, and I came away quite disappointed. It has logical problem after problem, and is largely a muddled mess semantically.

He shoots down strawmen rather than trying to honestly address the hard issues. He mixes scientific assertions with morality assertions in ways that do not serve clear thinking.

Example. He makes two statements at the beginning. One is pretty scientific and falsifiable:

FdB> "Genetics play a substantial role in essentially all human outcomes, including what we define as "intelligence" or academic ability."

The other is a mess.

FdB> "Bigoted ideas about fundamental intellectual inequalities between demographic groups are wrong."

Is that an assertion about morality or about factual science? Which ideas on the subject fall under "bigoted" and which do not? What does "fundamental" mean in this context?

I sometimes like to "steelman" an argument - rather than rephrase it to an easily dismissed misimputation (strawmanning), rephrase it to make the best case. I cannot even steelman the above assertion, because I honestly don't know what he's trying to say.

FdB> "Black people aren't less intelligent than white, women aren't bad at science, Asian people do not have natural facility for math, etc."

This sounds like a profession of faith, not an attempt at clear meaningful statements. Let's try to state something more precise tho.

Here would be some actual falsifiable hypotheses which *might* underlie his assertion:

(1) "self-identified Americans of all racial and ethnic groups show the same average IQ at the group level when properly tested"

(2) "statistics about trained scientists show that women and men are equally successful in all fields of science"

(3) "as a population group, Asian-Americans have the same mathematics scores as any other racial or ethnic group"

I don't think that's what he's driving it. I think he may be trying to imply something about genetics, while trying to avoid using the word. Perhaps more like:

(1) "differing IQ results between American population groups have 0% genetic influence"

(2) "human females have genetically equal interest and ability to do science, so they would be equally represented in all sciences absent the effects of culture"

(3) "Asian-Americans' higher average math scores are completely due to cultural factors, with no genetic contribution."

But maybe not. Maybe he means:

(1) IQ varies within each racial/ethnic group, and the ranges highly overlap

(2) There are many good female scientists so it's a good option for interested young women

(3) If we all studied as hard as Asian students do, every group would achieve the same results

Overall, again I ask, is this meant to be a scientifically testable assertion, or a statement of political orthodoxy? The framing is much more suitable for the latter.

Alas, this kind of ambiguous and misleading framing just keeps occurring in Freddy's essay. I don't find much intellectual coherence to it; it's not as much that I dispute something so much as it's stated so clumsily that one often cannot even know whether they agree or disagree. Some of the above possible interpretations I would agree with, some I would not - based on my assessment of the cumulative evidence. But which did he mean?

My overall impression is that he's trying (1) to use science based arguments to defend genetics as very important to human traits (including intelligence) and also (2) to use morality based arguments and emotional terminology to distance himself from any population level issues. Thus the uneven tone. In discussing science based propositions, one can dispute their truth using evidence; one does not use labels like "bigoted" as scientific evidence for or against a hypothesis - that's injecting overt emotional and subjective biases which are the bane of real science. If one can prove a scientific hypothesis wrong, there is no need to impute evil motives to the hypothesizer - evidence over emotional manipulation.

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Good questions that, alas, only Freddie can answer. He goes into more detail in his book if you're interested in digging deeper but his substack is paywalled (and he's not as inclined to engage with readers as our friend Steve QJ though sometimes he does).

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I wish we could all just set the genetic aspect aside as not very relevant. I suspect that nobody frequenting Steve's substack has ever made, and will not be making, any argument which depends on IQ being substantially dependent on genetics.

I think the real discussions we need to have would be just as valid whether general intelligence was 0% genetic and 100% environmental, or vice versa, or something in between. That might be a valid science question for specialists to explore (even within the same race, or example using twin studies), but for our discussions, it's a distracting side track, yielding more heat than illumination.

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How often does a pair of average-intelligence parents give birth to a very intelligent child?

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Roughly about as often as they give birth to an equivalently less intelligent than average child? Assuming that "average intelligence" means somewhere close to the center of a reasonably normal distribution ("bell curve").

Could you say more about where you are going with that, what point you are exploring?

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There are inarguably "smart" people, and they often score well on IQ tests, but the idea that an idiot savant who can tell you if a ten-digit number is prime in seconds but cannot reliably drive to a supermarket to buy groceries a genius based upon the results of a test for mathematic ability? The truth of that is a turd in the IQ measures all punchbowl.

Asians are good at math (they say), yet my Asian wife routinely asks me questions that require the ability to do mental math (not at the savant level). Why? because my carrier required a certain math proficiency used daily that was never required of her. Race clearly has nothing to do with that.

I must admit that the multiple regressions in "The Bell Curve" led me to give them more credit than was due as pointed out in S.J. Gould's "The Mismeasure of Man". Ideas can be presented in a compelling way and be wrong.

As you wrote, Cas seems bright enough, but also seemed a bit like a new x-smoker, vegan or cross-fitter. Influenced by a successful assault on his cherished worldview and getting a new one in the process.

The bottom line is that people can normally find a statistic or study to support their belief and be wrong in the conclusion they draw, even if the statistic or study is not fraudulent.

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The prime number guy was my example, I saw him on a video. He was given a large integer and asked if it was prime, he closed his eyes, tilted back his head, and after a few seconds said, "yes."

It appeared to be an enjoyable experience.

I've spent a total of weeks of my life factoring six or more digit numbers in my head. Stuck in traffic with a license plate in front of me, it was almost involuntary, but I was doing trial division. Divide by two, divide by three, divide by five (two and five are easy to bypass in base ten), usually ending up with one large factor that I knew to be prime because I had already passed its square root. The pleasure was in being able to hold the factors I had already identified while I did the next trial division.

But this took me a long time, and the guy in the video was obviously doing something much more advanced than trial division.

Then there are the people who can tell you everything they did on a day thirty years ago, any day of their lives, in as much detail as you could want.

Yes these are savant abilities but not all savants are idiots. They have one anomalous skill and it cannot be used as a general measure of intelligence.

But god dayum I would sure like to know how that guy recognizes primes.

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I used "idiot" savant to magnify the issue of smart about something while not generally smart. I do understand that savant ability is not always paired with an idiot extreme.

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It's just that "idiot savant" is a pairing as common as "economic freedom." The prime number guy was well-spoken.

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There's an old song about rushing in where angels fear to tread. I considered that when I wrote it, and then I wrote it. ;0)

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> "the idea that an idiot savant who can tell you if a ten-digit number is prime in seconds but cannot reliably drive to a supermarket to buy groceries a genius based upon the results of a test for mathematic ability? The truth of that is a turd in the IQ measures all punchbowl."

Alas, I think that may be a strawman (perhaps accidentally, in good faith). I've read a lot about IQ, and I have never come across a single source which asserts that "IQ measures all". There are virtually zero people arguing that position. A fair presentation would be that IQ, properly administered, presents a surprisingly good estimate of g, or general intelligence. "General intelligence" or skill at abstract thinking, is never, ever presented as the only kind of intelligence or smarts. It appears, from hundreds of experiments, to be one kind of intelligence which pays off in many domains, and thus has a substantial effect on outcomes. Never the only effect, and perhaps not even 50%, but nevertheless it's one of the more well researched and validated component traits.

In other words, you, me and every psychometrician in the business are agreeing that IQ tests provide a good but not perfect measure of *just one form* of intelligence, albeit an important one. We all know there are other kinds of intelligence not measured by IQ tests, and that there are other character traits which can be as important at those intelligences in influencing outcomes. IQ tests have never pretended to measure all forms of intelligence.


You give an example of your Asian wife not being as good at mental arithmetic as you are. That would refute one of the following two hypotheses. However, the actual assertion that psychologists make is the other one:

(1) All Asians are better at math than all non-Asians, without exception

(2) The aggregate mean measured mathematical ability of Asian-Americans is higher today than that of other commonly used American Racial/Ethnic groups, but there is a great deal of overlap in the distributions, and the variation between individuals is much greater than the difference in group averages.

Of course, statistics about "Asian-Americans" mash up a great variety of cultures from Pakistan to Siberia to the Philippines. It would be more meaningful to compare based on national origins. Some of the stats are even stronger regarding Chinese-Americans or Japanese-Americans, but Hmong-Americans tend to be behind the average. (There are also differences between Americans from different European countries, or different African countries; it's not just Asians). The big categories can only reflect trends broad enough to still show a signal after aggregating many "Asian" subpopulations - in proportion to their prevalence in the US. In the US, the stats are dominated by the proportion of East Asians (CJK) and South Asians (India and nearby) in the pool being sampled, both of whom tend to score highly in some areas.

(Side note: as a math major, albeit long ago, I will note that performing simple arithmetic calculations is a quite different cognitively from actual mathematics, which involves deriving or applying some very advanced theorems. From the inside of mathematics, this is like suggesting that being good at pounding nails is equivalent to being a skilled architect, or uses the same skillset. Or considering good penmanship (or typing) to reflect the same skills as being a good novelist or tech writer. Many people can be brilliant at math and bad at manual arithmetic, or vice versa. (I'm one of these; I've generally found math easy to learn, but I'm middling at performing arithmetic without mistakes; I'd rather use a calculator) The tests which Asian-Americans have a statistical tendency to do well at are not tests of manually adding, multiplying and dividing numbers but are instead about understanding and being able to manipulate and apply mathematical abstractions. I would have no expectation as to whether Asian-Americans are better or worse at doing manual arithmetic. Also: I use "Asian-American" because I have only seen statistics for them; I make zero projections from that onto non-Americans living in Asia. I have no experience or knowledge about that, I'm at most rather mildly interested so I've never investigated math tests in Japan, for example. Sorry pet peeve, we will return you to your regularly scheduled program).

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I am well aware that the idea that IQ measures all is not an explicitly expressed idea, but it seems implicit in the emotion around an association of race and intelligence.

There is, as you note, a difference in being able to do basic math in your head and understanding higher math. At peer reviews of new electronic circuitry design, I worked with an engineer who liked to work thru circuits looking at component values and mentally (and announce results) calculate gains, filter roll-offs, etc. While useful for discussion, it always seemed a bit like showing off. A room full of people with at least a knowledge of calculus, linear algebra, etc. but rapid mental math calculations were not the norm. The design calculations were performed with Spice, and spreadsheet formulas where mental math was not relied upon. A different skill, as you note.

As for big categories, tiny groups tend toward expanding their size to gain relevance while at the same time clinging to a degree of exclusiveness. My wife shrinks Asian to Oriental (eyes: epicanthal folds) or even Thai, Chinese, etc. depending on the underlying reason for even mentioning a distinction.

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Another fascinating conversation, thank you. I loved reading your thoughts on Charles Murray. I haven't read him, only of him. And I've listened to an Andrew Sullivan interview with him. I do want to read one of his recent books (I think it is called Human Diversity), but my biggest challenges with him - and which is why I've put off reading him - appear to be yours as well: he seems to have an answer (America not racist) that he is working his way backwards to prove, which I never love, and most of all that basic presumption that something like skin color has truly meaningful weight, while ignoring actual metrics of difference (genetic differences, cultural differences, language differences, etc. et al) across the incredibly diverse range of people in the world whose skin color apparently puts them all in the box labeled Black. Almost have to LOL at how nonsensical that last phrase - "all in the box labeled Black" - even is! This just seems like such a giant blind spot, which is surprising when he comes across as a humane and thoughtful person. But it's blind spots such as his that can reveal a supposedly reasonable argument as a house of cards. And which put him in the position of apparently denying the realities of inequal opportunities and systemic racism.

What do you think of Coleman Hughes? I'm a fan. He's to the right of me, but I always appreciate his insights. I love his refusal to accept anything at face value, no matter how easy the assumption might be.

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I like Coleman Hughes. I don't always agree, but I find many gems from him and his guests.

I have read only The Bell Curve, co-authored by Murray, but I'd like to get around to some of his more recent work (alas, I have several times as many books on my to-read list as I have any chance of getting around to in this incarnation).

I do recommend reading Murray's actual words. I do not know about his more recent work, but it appears that his detractors are not reliable sources regarding what Murray actually writes, in context. I'm not endorsing his conclusions, just endorsing honest evaluation of them.

In terms of having a pre-set conclusion that somebody is suspected of seeking rationales to support, that is always something to keep an eye on. In that case, I don't expect a balanced presentation, and give less weight to a person's personal or professional opinions that I would to a neutral analyst. However, even a biased source can cite facts and make good arguments, so I just treat them cautiously rather than avoiding them, and I am more likely to follow references for important assertions before accepting them. So for example, a biased source may cite a Pew research result accurately (and can be objectively verified), but an opinion which requires us to trust their subjective assessments is less reliable (like "most respectable researchers agree that...", which requires that we trust his selection and summary of the field).

And as I do so, my trust in the source's balance or accuracy of presentation can go up or down.

I actually found The Bell Curve to be better at presenting evidence in multiple directions (eg: citing experiments both supporting larger and smaller roles for inheritance in intelligence) than, say Stephen J Gould's one-sided take down, which was more of a polemic utilizing science than a balanced presentation. Of course, I was more comfortable with Gould's position, as in I'd prefer that it be true. However, my deeper goal is to get as close as I can to the actual truth, rather than create a comfortable nest of half truths which conforms my pre-existing preferences.

In terms of distorting things, Stephen J Gould's "Mis-measure of man" is an interesting case in point. I don't have all the names and specifics at hand, but one thing he did was remeasure some skull volumes taken by a 19th century scientist who believed that Caucasians had superior intelligence. Gould claimed that the scientist had made errors in his measurements, due to unconscious bias while trying to prove his point (it was widely thought in that day that brain size was a primary component of intelligence). Anyway, since then more precise measurements were done via MRI and computer, and it turns out the 19th century scientist was remarkably accurate - he was carefully following the scientific method despite having a philosophical agenda. The contrast which Stephen J Gould noted came from his own errors; and reading his book it becomes obvious that SJG had an agenda. So he wound up ironically illustrating his point that political bias has the potential to distort results if a scientist is not sufficiently careful - but with himself as the non-objective measurer with an agenda, rather than the 19th century scientist.

The flaw of the old scientist's research was not in his objectivity in measuring, but inferring too much from the small sample size of skulls, and the - then widely held - assumption that relatively small differences implied a difference in intelligence between humans. Subsequent research on volume versus folding as correlates of intelligence, and a better understanding of statistics, have deepened our understanding and appropriately overturned his research - but he was doing proper science by the methods and procedures of his day. That correction process is part of evolving science.

(How did a 19th century scientist achieve brain cavity measurements comparable to 21st century technology? He carefully filled the cavities with tiny seeds and then counted them, comparing the number of seeds in a more easily measured volume.)

Part of what I'm saying is that people like Murray are not the only commenters in the space who may have ideological blinders guiding their conclusions, and seeking rationales to support those pre-determined conclusions. We also have to be wary of biases among people whose conclusions and politics we agree with. I can easily sympathize with those who want to find reasons to summarily dismiss Murray (or what they fear Murray implies), but my sympathies and preferences do not change what is objectively true.

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I read the Bell curve many years ago, and cited it in an article I wrote. It definitely had a particular agenda which was arguably racist. He wanted to claim that affirmative action programs had to recognize that genetic differences in IQs would always ensure that Black people on the average would not do as well as white people on the average, even though there were plenty of blacks who were smarter than most whites. There's lots of other scientific and reasonable looking stuff in the rest of the book, mostly provided by his co-author. But all that is just window dressing to give respectability to his anti-affirmative action agenda. Even the scientific stuff relies heavily on outdated science. Most Modern cognitive scientists deny the existence of so-called general intelligence, which IQ tests are supposedly measuring. Murray's co-author was an old man fighting to preserve an outdated idea, and he died shortly after the book came out. An example of what Thomas Kuhn called scientific progress occurring funeral by funeral. Murphy was trying to apply that outdated idea to justify an attack on affirmative action.

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"He wanted to claim that affirmative action programs had to recognize that genetic differences in IQs would always ensure that Black people on the average would not do as well as white people on the average, even though there were plenty of blacks who were smarter than most whites."

Yeah, Murray still has a bee in his bonnet about affirmative action. He talks about it again in the conversation with Coleman Hughes I linked during the conversation. I'm genuinely surprised (and gently amused) he doesn't know that affirmative action has benefited white women more than any other demographic.

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> "I'm genuinely surprised (and gently amused) he doesn't know that affirmative action has benefited white women more than any other demographic."

Steve, have you actually looked at a solid scientific analysis which supports that, or are you repeating something we have all heard as common knowledge? (A scientific analysis attempts to identify and control for confounding factors and uses solid statistics rather than just citing a few naive percentages, as a journalist or polemicist might, and qualifies its conclusions so as not to hyperbolically over-reach the data).

Background. It's not easy to tell who has benefitted from AA. Just think about it - there are no records kept about who got a job or promotion due to AA and who got one due to pure merit. This makes it hard to accurately discern the relative benefits - nobody should sound very confident, because even the best estimates are uncertain.

So what is often done instead is just to measure all relative employment "gains" by different groups - which includes people being employed due to AA, along with people whose employment did not so involve AA, without disentangling the two.

So for example, one could say that women went from X% of employees to Y% in some field, during a time period in which Blacks went from Z% to W% - and assume that 100% of that change was due to affirmative action, and that there was 0% hiring of women due to pure merit. That's an extremely questionable assumption, as I'll try to explain.

During the typical timespans used, the society underwent a major shift in regard to women's roles and expectations. There was a major influx of women into the job market - and in particular of women with good educations. During the typical time periods, women came to outnumber men in college (now about 3:2), acquiring many skills in demand. Few can rationally doubt that women's portion of many job markets would have dramatically increased even absent any AA programs; we simply cannot attribute every woman hired during that period as "a diversity hire", but many comparisons do exactly that. (We should also not attribute every Black hired as due to AA, obviously, but according to the stats, women were on average better qualified to get jobs without needing affirmative action, so they benefitted less from the existence of AA).

In some analyses, the most predictive factor in the number of women hired, is the number of women who applied; and the number of women who applied for many jobs and admissions went way up for external reasons, with or without AA.

Some example quotes to illustrate these points:

> "The effects of affirmative action on white women’s success in the job market are difficult to assess because the period of implementation of affirmative action in the 1970s and 1980s coincided with the rapid increase of women in the labor force (Reskin, 1998). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, white women’s progress in the labor market and increased earnings seemed to be due to better education and more work experience, factors unrelated to affirmative action (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2000)."

> "The results [of this study] indicate that affirmative action was not significantly related to any level of white female employment when controlling for other variables. Similarly, even simple bivariate correlations between the measure of affirmative action and white female employment range from −.03 to −.13, very low and statistically insignificant correlations. Clearly affirmative action has no impact on women’s employment."

> "So why haven’t white women been helped by affirmative action? The success of white

female workers suggests they need no help. White women, compared with most blacks and

Latinos, have greater education credentials and higher levels of required job skills, both of which make them more qualified in today’s job market. Moreover, the emphasis of affirmative action historically has been on blacks more so than white women. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the primary federal enforcement agency for affirmative action, has not perceived that sex discrimination is its primary mission, especially in the South"

By contrast, AA did help Blacks, as it was expected to:

> "Affirmative action is one factor that has assisted African Americans in job competition

with women. A previous study supports this finding in that employer support for affirmative

action had a positive, significant relationship with black employment, particularly at higher

job levels (Button & Rienzo, 2003)."



In short - we must not conflate these two:

* White women got more new jobs than Blacks during the study period

* White women got more new jobs than Blacks *due to AA* during the study period

But many polemical arguments do exactly that.

This is just one study, which I cite to give some perspective on the variables which must be controlled for in a serious study. I do not present this study as definitive, just one example. But any article in, say, VOX, about this topic which uses raw statistics without this kind of nuance is going to be very scientifically weak, aiming to support a pre-determined conclusion by cherry picking numbers intended to support the journalists preferred narrative.

If you have a more definitive study, which compares the number of women or white women who have materially benefitted from Affirmative Action compared to the number of Blacks, while controlling for the confounding variables, I would be genuinely interested. I don't have any vested interest in either answer, I have no position to defend on this one. I'll be glad to agree that AA benefits white women more than Blacks or Latinos - if there is solid evidence. Or to follow evidence in the other direction.

I'm just asking if you have examined the evidence on all sides for yourself about the relative benefits, or just assumed - as I used to - that it must be true because so many people keep telling us that. And if your assertion is evidence based, I would be very interested in some links to the sources you found best analyzed and most persuasive.

To be clear, I am not asserting either way, yet. In my own mind, I put the assertion that white women are the biggest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action into my mental category "widely asserted by activists but academically disputed; and I have not yet seen enough evidence to definitively support or refute". Neither proven nor disproven (within my limited investigation to date), but untrustworthy so I will not repeat that assertion until I have better evidence. Just like I try not to repeat something which strikes me as a likely urban legend, until I have better evidence. But I'd be glad to have more evidence in either direction if you or anyone else has some to offer.

If nobody has any evidence to back up that assertion, then we should not be surprised and gently amused that "he" (Coleman or Murray?) doesn't know something which may not even be true; if it's not true, their not "knowing" it is a good thing. I used to think that I too "knew" that white women were the largest beneficiaries, but it later turned out that all I really *knew* was only that I had often heard it asserted and so provisionally assumed it must be true. Over time, I gradually check out some of those assumptions and sometimes reverse, or at least question, my former beliefs.

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A collision of statistics and causation vs correlation that brings ruin to social justice efforts.

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I get it.

I might rephrase it to "causes some well intended strategies for social justice to be ineffective or counterproductive".

"Social justice" could be a good thing(depending on how it's defined), but many of the current strategies nominally aimed at creating more of it, have become dogmatic sacred cows, and have become detached from reality feedback through ideological justification rather than rational merit - and as such may move society into dysfuntionality rather than producing the supposed outcome. Conformity with the groupthink "lest ye be cast out" become more important than real world effectiveness. And you have nailed two of the mechanisms involved in the unanticipated and undesired result.

An example: DEI trainings that have no effect when studied, or which actually increase tensions and decrease trust and cooperation. But they do conform to the latest ideological "shoulds" and framings, and continuing to keep up with the shifting political fads is more important to the purveyors of such trainings, than producing measurable positive results in the real world. So the trainers focus more on things like "go through our materials and change every instance of 'preferred pronouns' to just 'pronouns', because the former has been criticized and is no longer kosher among activists", than on "are we producing more effective and collaborative teams which incorporate diverse viewpoints?"

You said it in fewer words, tho.

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I'm old enough to bear witness to the good that affirmative action has done. It did have a down side in that even people who were trying to be non-racist often wondered, is this person really competent or an incompetent affirmative action token? People will generally call that racism, but for the years between initial programs and black professionals proving their worth their were such questions? We now call those doubts micro aggressions. That is not trivial. Just as prescription medicine has a long page of possible adverse side effects, good programs also have adverse side effects that cannot be completely ignored.

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Actually, the Bell Curve used multiple regression (the appropriate method) and data from the National Longitudinal Survey of z Youth (the best available data). They included all of their data results. That looked good and fished me in. While I have done more number crunching than the average person, I am not a statistician.

What did I miss, they actually told us but I failed to notice the significance. They wrote, "In the text, we do not refer to the usual measure of goodness of fit for multiple regression, R2 (R squared), but they are presented here (an appendix) for the cross sectional analysis." As Stephen Gould points out in "The Mismeasure of Man", putting it in an appendix that most readers won't study obfuscates the weakness of the associations. Squaring a number less than one makes it smaller, in this case so small that even non-statisticians would notice.

They did not lie and they were transparent in their methods. But this was a disingenuous way of making a mountain out of a mole hill case for the premises stated.

I find Gould's critique to be a proper one, better than just calling Murray a racist as a case against his book. I'm not a fan of name calling, one of the things that Steve talks about in this commentary.

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deletedSep 19, 2022·edited Sep 19, 2022Liked by Steve QJ
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The same is true for academic achievement. Intelligent people have an advantage in their ability to do well academically but that advantage can very easily be swamped by boredom, especially in pre-university education where the pace is geared to the slowest students.

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There are many skeptics of any trend to equate IQ and worth. (And far, far fewer people who would equate the two). For example:

> "We agree emphatically with Howard Gardner, however, that the concept of intelligence has taken on a much higher place in the pantheon of human virtues than it deserves."

> "Many people conclude that if they see someone who is sensitive, humorous, and talks fluently, the person must surely have an above-average IQ. This identification of IQ with attractive human qualities in general is unfortunate and wrong"

> "All of this is another way of making a point so important that we will italicize it now and repeat elsewhere: _Measures of intelligence have reliable statistical relationships with important social phenomena, but they are a limited tool for deciding what to make of any given individual._ Repeat it we must, for one of the problems of writing about intelligence is how to remind readers often enough how little an IQ score tells about whether the human being next to you is someone whom you will admire or cherish. This thing we know as IQ is important but not a synonym for human excellence." - The Bell Curve, p21

By contrast, it will be hard to find a quote from any widely read author which defends equating IQ with human worth, but I'd be glad to have a reference if you can find one. Pending some of those, I'm questioning whether "society equates IQ with human worth" is a strawman, being a concept widely rejected by society and rarely supported.

Now, saying that being cognitively skilled and able is a useful talent in today's society would generally not be controversial, because being honest or kind or reliable or intuitive or nurturing or fast or strong are also useful talents. To say that cognitive ability is valued is true, to say that IQ is equated with worth would not be, any more than being a skilled carpenter or outrageously funny is equated with human worth.

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Hmm. Reflecting, I cannot think of a single time when I have experienced society equating IQ with my value as a person, nor observing that happening to others around me. I have never gotten or been refused a job or membership on the basis of IQ tests (perhaps luckily I never applied to Mensa). Nobody has been romantically attracted or repelled by my IQ tests. I haven't been given or refused any services on the basis of IQ scores.

In fact, I have never in my life been even asked what my IQ is, and I don't know it.

I'm having trouble picturing that society is defining my worth by an unknown IQ *at all* (since I don't know mine and have thus never disclosed it anybody), much less relying on it "to the exclusion of every other factor" in your words.

But that's my life experience. Could you give some personal examples of times when society has equated your worth as a human being with your IQ tests, to the exclusion of every other factor?

So maybe there isn't any "fight to keep having"? With virtually nobody asserting the other side.

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"Hmm. Reflecting, I cannot think of a single time when I have experienced society equating IQ with my value as a person"

I think this is an extremely important point. As I said in a reply to Chris above, even if we had categorical proof of "racial" IQ differences, what difference would it actually make to the way we run society? I struggle to think of any.

I think the only reason that some persist on this point is that they want to justify, for example in Murray's case, the idea that racial disparities exist not because of racism but because of black people's "faultiness." Murray hasn't been coy about admitting that this is his motivation. Peyton Gendron used the same idea to justify his mass shooting of African Americans in Buffalo. So yes, some people are asserting the other side. Some of them extremely dangerous.

But I can also say from my life experience that I've had numerous people assume I wasn't intelligent until I "proved" that I was. I studied a specialised maths and physics course at university, and my lecturer was visibly surprised when I walked in the door for the first time. Without even asking my name, he told me I must be in the wrong class. I'm pretty confident he wouldn't have said that to a white student.

Many black people I know have had similar experineces of being assumed to be unintelligent. I know anecdotes aren't data, but I strongly believe it's stuff like the idea of racialised IQ and the widespread conflation of IQ and intelligence, that keeps the idea swirling in the public subconscious.

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Mostly agreeing. Some fine tuning follows however.

> "As I said in a reply to Chris above, even if we had categorical proof of "racial" IQ differences, what difference would it actually make to the way we run society?"

Let's take the problematic concept of "race" out of it, and say more carefully:

> Even if we have objective measurements of statistical differences in IQ scores between population groups, what difference would it make to the way we run society?

That's asking one of the right questions!

And I have two answers. One is that it should make zero difference to our understanding of an individual person. Their ability to do something (or not) is specific to them, and even a fact which is statistically correlated with one of the population groups to which they belong, has no relevance to the individual, who may be typical or atypical (this assertion if much broader than cognitive abillity). Men may on average be taller than women, but that doesn't say anything about a particular man. Einstein may have been German and Jewish, but his brilliance says nothing about all Germans or all Jews. I think we are all agreed on that here, so it's not controversial.

However, one facet of society is it's self analysis, which brings up a second point. If somebody asserts that in the US, Blacks have a statistically lower average income than Asians (again: that says nothing about any individual person who is Black or Asian), we can be pretty sure they did not do a genetic assessment of every Black or Asian person included in those statistics, and so trying to invalidate that assertion based on an argument like "race is not a discrete variable (ie: with countable distinct states and no gradients)" would be rightly dismissed as sophistry. The categories for income stats are not based on genetic tests, but upon self-identification. If somebody else noted that Asians as a group also score higher than Blacks (and other "races") on IQ tests, this should be evaluated in the same way - it says nothing about any individual, but is an assertion based measurements of self-identified population groups. And so a rational society could neutrally consider evidence for and against causative factors linking sets of statistics, within population groups which are defined the same way for the different statistics.

That is, when an analysis being evaluated uses statistics categorized by self-identified population group, it is fair and reasonable to bring into the discussion other salient statistics which use *that same self-identification* - apples to apples. If self-identification defines the first statistics, it's equally valid for comparison with the second statistics. If the stats being added to the discussion are not based on genetically defined populations, it's unreasonable to discount them on a basis which they never claimed to have (genetic categories).

Does self-identification corelate with genetic background, or with culture, or both? At the moment, who cares? That's a different question with complex answers. As long as the population groups in two sets of statistics are both defined by self-identification, genetic factors are at best irrelevant and a distraction, whether due to good faith confusion, or a bad faith attempt to derail the discussion. (Rule of thumb: try to assume good faith as long as possible, and then sometimes beyond that).

In short, the second effect on running society (the first being *no effect* on assessing individuals), would be to allow a less ideologically constrained analysis of the dynamics within the society, when scientifically valid, with the goal of finding interventions which are effective in the real world, for implementing the (hopefully liberal) values we have. It's hard to fix real things if we are not allowed to understand their true dynamics but must instead hew to an ideology which disparages objective reality.


PS: I too have the experience of being assumed not to belong in an advanced class, based on first impressions. In my case it probably had go do with SEC or undiagnosed ADD or related quirks. Yes it sucks when it happens. And yes I'm glad that I later demonstrated by performance that I had been properly placed, as I imagine you did - and I'm glad that my teacher was reality based rather than ideology based and so accepted the real world feedback rather than clinging to a false narrative based on superficial impressions.

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"In short, the second effect on running society (the first being *no effect* on assessing individuals), would be to allow a less ideologically constrained analysis of the dynamics within the society, when scientifically valid, with the goal of finding interventions which are effective in the real world, for implementing the (hopefully liberal) values we have."

I think what you're very, very cautiously trying to say here is that if black people turned out to be inherently less intelligent than Asians, we shouldn't be surprised if they end up having lower incomes and shouldn't ascribe the difference to racism. This is essentially Charles Murray's argument too.

In principle it's perfectly reasonable. For example, we do have population groups in society whose disparities we blame on genetic issues. People with Down's syndrome, for example, have notable cognitive deficits and we're therefore not surprised when they don't dominate high income fields.

The thing is, this issue affects all people with Down's synrome, whereas even the most avowed racist would have to admit that at least some black people are as capable as their white peers. And even if we make the mistake of assuming that IQ is a meaningful measure of overall intelligence and ability, no study has found that the racial IQ gap is significant enough to lead to disparities of the size that we see.

So then, what else could be causing the disparities?

A history of racial oppression? In some cases, certainly. Racial wealth (as opposed to income) disparities in America are around 10:1. White Americans obviously had significant advantage when it comes to wealth acquisition. And wealth is a strong predictor of all kinds of poisitve academic and life outcomes.

Cultural differences? In some cases, certainly. Studies have found that some black children spend less than a third the time doing homework as their Asian peers. Higher single-parenthood rates and lower average incomes are also strong predictors of all kinds of negative academic and life outcomes.

Racial bias? In some cases, certainly. Unconscious bias has been found in several studies on employment and job application. Perhaps most famously the study that found a white felon received job callbacks at a slightly higher rate than a black man of similar age and skill wiith no criminal record.

All of these and more need to be considered carefully in any serious analysis of racial disparities in America. But until the issues affecting the black community from without are addressed, there will always be those who refuse to admit the possibility that there are also problems from within.

What we see from people like Murray is the opposite problem; somebody who refuses to see that there are problems that affect the black community from without, and so twists the data to support the pre-determined conclusion that racial disparity is due to some inherent flaw of "blackness".

Maybe I'm reading you wrong, but it sometimes feels as if you think I don't take cultural issues seriously when it comes to racial disparities, and that I blame disparities entirely on past or present racism in America. I'm sure you'll have spoken to some black people who do this. I do not.

I agree with you completely that an honest understanding of the dynamics between and within population groups is essential for addressing any problems/disparities between them. I dont think I've ever written anything that suggests otherwise. I may not spell it out in every repky, but I assume the readers here know my views well enough to take it for granted.

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> "I agree with you completely that an honest understanding of the dynamics between and within population groups is essential for addressing any problems/disparities between them. "

And I agree with you. I agree about the many possibilities that need to be considered as hypotheses when trying to understand the observed dynamics. It was certainly never in my mind to narrow the hypotheses to be considered (like assuming that any one factor must explain all differences!).

One thing which I think might get missed, is that my primary interest in the IQ gap is in using it as one (of many) metrics to see if we are achieving our goals of underlying equality. When the gap is shrinking, then we may be doing something right. One value of this is that waiting for the downstream effects could take decades to generations, so it's hard to close the loop and use the feedback to improve current programs.

Imagine a magical intervention which entirely closed any gap for anybody coming to adulthood in or after 2023. Whatever influence that intervention has on income, say, will gradually increase

over the following 50+ years, as the post-intervention cohort gradually becomes a larger portion of the population, perhaps reading 50% by the 2060's. There is no magical intervention so stark, so the signal of a successful set of policies may be delayed even longer. But a decrease in the IQ gap (or lack thereof) might give us some much quicker feedback about successful interventions to change the environmental factors behind much of any such gap. (I have far less interest in any genetic factors, because they offer us no handles for improvement of society).

My bottom line is that I want to mitigate the disparities of power and money and status, but I'm convinced that we need to evaluate proposed strategies from a very rational viewpoint, rather than getting caught up in ideology and belief system which dogmatize certain strategies as sacred cows - including ineffective or counter-productive strategies.

> "I'm sure you'll have spoken to some black people who do this. I do not."

I see you as an independent and thoughtful individual, Steve. Your care about trying to be clear in your thinking and writing sets you apart from the average. I don't know what position you will take on things, because it's not cookie-cutter conformance to any party line, and I value that. So let me assure you that I am not assuming that you share sentiments with other people, of any race; to the best of my ability, I perceive you based on what YOU say. I do not assume that you will agree with other Black people I've interacted with, nor any other population group. This is how I prefer to be treated, and I strive to do the same for others.

Are we clear now?

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"One thing which I think might get missed, is that my primary interest in the IQ gap is in using it as one (of many) metrics to see if we are achieving our goals of underlying equality. When the gap is shrinking, then we may be doing something right."

I read your entire comment but kept getting stuck on my uncertainty about which gap you're referring to here. When you say, "when the gap is shrinking..." do you mean the IQ gap? Or do you mean other gaps or disparities (income, wealth, representation, etc.)?

If we could magically close the IQ gap, I don't think much would change. Or rather, I don't think the *rate* of change would alter significantly. We'd still see the same cultural, historical and prejudicial issues that affect black people today. I don't believe that the IQ gap is a key factor in racial disparities. Not least because the IQ gap isn't large enough that you could detect it in a conversation, for example. For most jobs, a few points gap in IQ is meaningless.

If you mean the test score gap, this would be huge. But I think less because of any intelligence gains it would imply, and more because it would imply that the cultural issues that affected black outcomes had largely been fixed. It would mean black kids were studying more, were less likely to see education as "white" and that their home environments had improved. If gaps in employment and income persisted, it would be pretty definitive evidence of racial discrimination.

If we could magically close the gap in all other disparities, reaching Kendi's dream of equity, I think we'd fall somewhere between the two other possibilities. The boost in wealth, employment security, etc, would almost certainly improve outcomes for black children. But the cultural issues would remain, meaning that those children still wouldn't maximise the potential granted by those boosts.

Again, I agree with you about the need to be rational rather than getting caught up in ideology. And thanks for the clarification about perceiving me based specifically on what I say. But then, it begs the question, have I said something irrational or ideological in your opinion? If not why do you keep reminding me that we need to be rational and not ideological?

If I repeatedly pointed out in our discussions that it was important not to assume that black people are genetically inferior, even though you've never claimed that they are, or that some people can't talk about race without falling back on racist tropes, even though you hadn't, wouldn't you wonder why I felt the need to do so?

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