The Vice Tightens

I’d like to talk about two points that at first blush seem quite unrelated. One centers in hard biology and neuroanatomy; the other in the softest sort of social science. Yet both converge to undermine the scientific case for a primarily environmental explanation of the race gap in IQ. Together, they show how, over time, the ground that explanation has left to stand on shrinks inexorably.

The first topic is some relatively recent and ongoing work on the relation between features of  white matter in the brain and IQ. The second is the so-called Obama Effect, which some have claimed has allowed some blacks to overcome the disadvantages they had had with respect to whites in performance on tests of cognitive ability.

I end by describing the contrived sort of counterarguments one now sees from advocates of basic genetic equality across races.

White Matter and IQ

An article in most recent Technology Review depicts some work that researchers at UCLA and elsewhere have in recent years conducted on the relation between the features of white matter in the brain and intelligence. (A previous article had discussed in some more detail the apparent heritability of some of the relevant features of the brain.)

From this latest article:

If white matter plays a key role in intelligence, is there a way to enhance it? Does it give us ways to make ourselves smarter, or to help people with neurological and psychiatric disorders that affect cognitive skills?

It’s likely that the quality of white matter is at least partly genetically determined and, therefore, difficult to change. The size of the corpus callosum, the thick tracts of white matter connecting the two hemispheres of the brain, is about 95 percent genetic. And about 85 percent of the white-matter variation in the parietal lobes, which are involved in logic and visual-spatial skills, can be attributed to genetics, according to Thompson. But only about 45 percent of the variation in the temporal lobes, which play a central role in learning and memory, appears to be inherited.

Thompson is now trying to identify specific genes that are linked to the quality of white matter. The top candidate so far is a gene for a protein called BDNF, which promotes cell growth. People with one variation have better-organized fibers, he says.

But environmental factors also play a role. Rodents raised in a stimulating environment have more white matter. And research suggests that the apparent IQ difference between people who were breast-fed and bottle-fed as babies may arise because breast milk contains omega-3s, fatty acids involved in the production of myelin; as a result, some baby formula now includes these compounds.

Now this passage bows to the notion that environment, in the form of intellectual stimulation, might play a major, perhaps dominant, role in IQ. The reader may choose, in the interests of comfort, to interpret this as providing the hypothesis of essential equality-for-all with an “out”  — and no doubt that has much to do with why this verbiage was offered up. But it’s really hard to understand the facts described here as suggesting such equality is a likely outcome.

Consider an analogy. Most people seem to take it as pretty well established that races differ genetically in the quality of their muscle fibers, and other aspects of their musculature, so that, other things being equal, members of one race — blacks with sub-Saharan African ancestors — tend to be faster sprinters than others. Granted this, is it in any way implausible races might likewise differ in the size and quality of their white matter as it pertains to IQ?

Of course it is not unlikely that exercise of the brain, in the form of stimulation, alters the size and quality of white matter. Certainly learning must affect the brain in some physical way, otherwise how might it take place? Yet return to the analogy of sprinting. Dedicated practice will improve the muscle and sprinting performance of virtually anyone willing to engage in it. Yet no program, regardless of its intensity and design, has proved adequate to turn whites or Asians into world record sprinters against the inherent advantages of blacks, nor, one would expect, would any regimen of exercise much affect a gap between the average sprinting performance of blacks on the one hand and whites and Asians on the other.

Why believe, then, that brain stimulation will prove adequate to removing average differences between the races in terms of IQ, or the hypothesized physical substrate for IQ, the nature of the white matter?

Again, one can always find a way to salvage the thesis of basic equality between the races on this score. One can dismiss the study of white matter as simply off-base and wildly speculative. One can say that all relevant white matter differences might be entirely due to proper stimulation in the environment. One can say that while such differences might be highly genetic within a race, there’s no reason to believe that they are so between races. Most of these arguments can be advanced pretty much regardless of whatever science might find, now or for some significant time into the future.

Yet their plausibility at some point surely dies even in the eyes of those who might most ardently wish to believe them. As science uncovers more and more precise physical correlates for IQ, as those are shown to be inherited, as those differences are shown to be reflected across races, and, finally, as the particular genes that effect those differences are in the future both identified and shown to be differentially distributed across races, then the vice of science gets the truth in an inescapable grip. And it is a truth in which genetics is the key to IQ.

Even at this stage, I believe, the hope for ultimate equality here is pretty much a hope for a miracle. The brain science recounted above is doing no more than converging on the only truth we might reasonable expect, given what we already should know if we have an inclination to objectivity, just as the identification of the genes involved will simply flesh out facts by now well confirmed in other ways.

The Obama Effect

In the course of President Obama’s recent election campaign, some researchers (David M. Marx, Sei Jin Kob and Ray A. Friedman) devised a study that purported to show that there was a major “Obama Effect” on the performance of blacks on IQ-like tests of cognitive ability. This study, at the time, got major play in a number of high visibility media venues.

Here’s the abstract of the original research article:

Barack Obama, the first Black-American president, has been widely heralded as a role model for Black-Americans because he inspires hope. The current study was conducted to assess whether, beyond simply inspiring hope, this “Obama Effect” has a concrete positive influence on Black-Americans’ academic performance. Over a three-month period we administered a verbal exam to four separate groups of Black- and White-American participants at four predetermined times. When Obama’s stereotype-defying accomplishments garnered national attention – just after his convention speech, and election to the presidency – they had a profound beneficial effect on Black-Americans’ exam performance, such that the negative effects of stereotype threat were dramatically reduced. This effect occurred even when concerns about racial stereotypes continued to exist. The fact that we found performance effects with a random sample of American participants, far removed from any direct contact with Obama, attests to the powerful impact of ingroup role models.

Now even a number of those who are more than sympathetic to the idea that “stereotype threat” is a real phenomenon were not happy with the methodology of the study, which was indeed quite sloppy. And in fact a least one such researcher, Joshua Aronson of NYU, conducted a study in which the Obama Effect was not replicated (though at least from its description in its own abstract, it may have had a methodological issue of its own: the study was conducted in the context of Obama’s Presidency, and, if there were an Obama Effect, it might already have been fully in force for both the experimental and control groups of black students in the study).

But in the end it’s important to see how any Obama Effect might come out in the larger statistical wash — and in such matters there’s no statistical wash better than SAT scores. They apply to broad, nationwide swathes of the relevant student population, and in numbers so large that even the smallest effects should be readily detectable.

What do SAT scores tell us?

Here’s the comparison between the 2007, 2008, and 2009 total SAT scores.

2007 2008 2009
Black 1287 1280 1276
White 1579 1583 1581
Asian 1605 1610 1623


Each year is for the graduating class of the specified year, and comprises scores from May of the previous year through March of the year of interest. (Thus 2009 results comprehend tests taken from May of 2008 through March of 2009). Obama’s campaign and Presidency clearly would have been most on people’s minds in the 2009 results, and rather little going back to 2008. I have also, however, included the 2007 results for comparison, if some might think that an Obama Effect might have already been working into the 2008 results. With regard to the 2009 results, it may be worth noting that at least some students took the test on Jan 24, 2009, merely days after Obama’s inauguration, when an effect against stereotype threat might have been especially powerful.

I think the truly remarkable thing about this data is the absolute dead on stability in the scores. Blacks may have lost a few points in 2009 (as well as in 2008 from 2007) — which is movement in the wrong direction, obviously — but that loss is quite trivial and perhaps explicable by a slightly larger number of black students taking the test. Yet if stereotype threat is a major factor in the always significantly depressed black scores, how can such an epochal event as the election of a black President — and one storied for his brilliance — fail to increase those scores in any measurable way? Bear in mind: these scores were for over 1.5 million students, 40% of which were minorities. At that scale, even the smallest real differences should be discernible. In contrast, the study Aronson conducted that failed to show an Obama Effect included only 119 students, who had to be distributed among experimental and control groups of both blacks and whites. In such a small study, even a real and important effect could easily be missed.

For someone who believes that stereotype threat accounts for a significant portion of gaps between groups on measures of cognitive ability, I don’t see how this SAT data might not shake their faith. The utter failure to find even the smallest effect in the SAT scores after a watershed moment such as the election of Obama could hardly be less in keeping with what they would seem to believe. If stereotype threat means anything, shouldn’t such a confidence booster and stereotype buster as the election and celebration of a black President of famous intelligence do something very real to affect a black student’s concentration and effort in a test of cognitive ability? Aren’t the very studies that seem to demonstrate such an effect so constructed that this sort of experimental manipulation is utilized, except in seemingly less consequential manner, in which the experimental subjects may be, for example, simply reminded of their race or gender? Shouldn’t so powerful a rebuttal of the stereotype under which a student labors improve his or her ability to think while taking a test, if it was that stereotype which exerted such a dramatic distracting and confusing effect to begin with? What’s left of stereotype threat if stereotype refutation is empty entirely of consequence?

While of course proponents of the theory of stereotype threat can always insist on making distinctions here to preserve their hypothesis, doesn’t continued assertion of that theory start to feel a trifle, well, desperate? (One is struck by how often such explanations as stereotype threat and “caste mentality” appear to take on the logical role of being a factor X that essentially saves the environmental thesis against any and all possible counterevidence; they appear to get asserted with greatest vehemence exactly when all other environmental accounts seem to fail, for all practical purposes rendering the environmental hypothesis unfalsifiable.)

Equality of the Gaps

The belief in inherent equality across races in IQ has been derided as “Liberal Creationism”. The jibe is certainly well deserved. But perhaps the analogy might be even more on point were it described as “Liberal Intelligent Design”. For the defense of equality posed by more sophisticated liberals tends to be far more elaborate than the mere invocation of dogma which constitutes Creationism. It is much more akin to the detailed, if utterly strained, arguments of Intelligent Design (ID) proponents.

To every scientific difficulty in their views, liberal advocates of equality have some answer: all physical correlates of IQ can be induced by environment; differences within groups tell us nothing about differences across groups; IQ tests are culturally biased; race is a construct; it’s the “caste mentality” or “stereotype threat” in blacks that depresses their IQ scores; etc.

The problem is, as science has progressed, the ability to maintain the relevance of these counterarguments becomes more of an act of deep faith in a contrary proposition than anything resembling rational inference.

ID proponents might be regarded as adopting a God-of-the-Gaps argument. ID mostly focuses on those biological or chemical facts lying behind evolution that scientists have not yet adequately explained, and trumpets that lack of resolution or understanding as “proof” that only an intelligent designer might have brought about such a phenomenon. Likewise, liberals who insist that there is no scientific evidence of genetic differences between races in IQ seek out aspects of the scientific case for such differences which are not fully understood, and insert their belief in equality in those gaps. Their view can, I think, aptly be named “Equality of the Gaps”. Under this approach, if studies show that black children adopted into families register IQs far more similar to the average of blacks in the larger population than to the IQs of white children adopted into the same families, then the explanation must lie elsewhere than genetics. It must be that black children suffer in all cases from a “caste mentality” brought about their very identification as black, or that they, as blacks, are punished by peers for “acting white” when they seek to excel at school. If white matter in the brain appears to play a crucial role in IQ, then either the relevant differences in size and quality are in all cases brought about entirely by environment, or the differences between races on this score are so engendered. And if science is not yet fully clear as to which sets of genes differentiates between races, and in what manner they do so, then race is a mere social construct, not a category grounded in biology.

Each individual response may possess some kind of plausibility (or not). In aggregate, however, it’s impossible not to notice the pattern. These moves are quite completely predictable. They appear to be driven by beliefs that have absolutely nothing to do with science or the truth, but rather spring from a fragile and ill-conceived moral system — one far too rigid to accommodate important facts of human nature.

Where does this leave the ongoing argument over IQ and race?

Over time, as science has closed in on the underlying truths, the gaps in explanation have narrowed dramatically; they continue to do so. Yet those gaps never entirely disappear. For the Equality-of-the-Gaps people, that is all they require: they live on to fight another day, and another day after that. For the rest of us, we can only wait it out until they dwindle into irrelevance.

A true paradigm shift is probably never a pretty thing seen up close.


17 responses to “The Vice Tightens

  1. Great stuff so far! Looking forward to reading more.

  2. I always thought the Obama effect theory was far fetched although interesting to see it clearly debunked here. I a more realistic hope would be that students would apply themselves more even if results are modest.

  3. You know, LB, this is wonderful writing – in fact, I’m about to forward it to one of my more recalcitrant relatives. Some people just cannot seem to get their heads out of the 20th century.

    In practice, though, there is just one little problem with the premise of your blog, which is that there was a previous historical period in which “biorealism” was the conventional wisdom.

    You are not doing what a liberal does, which is to criticize a long-held traditional idea and urge its replacement with a modern innovation. You are doing what a reactionary does, which is to criticize an modern innovation and suggest that the long-held traditional idea was actually right.

    Ever looked at the standard 1926 OED, for example? Such as the Compact Edition, which you see everywhere? Look for the word “racism.” You will have to look in the supplement. Was that because everyone in 1926 was an egalitarian? No – it’s because (almost) everyone in 1926 was a racist. Excuse me, a “biorealist.” There were liberal creationists in 1926, for sure, and in 1826 too (see under: Exeter Hall); they had just not advanced to the point where they could excommunicate their enemies as a dirty word.

    As now, of course, they have. You’ll note that “racist” means “heretic.” Are you not one of these creatures? Try denying it to a court. Try blogging without a pseudonym. “No, your honor, I’m not a racist. I just happen to believe that, according to the scientific evidence we have, white people are probably smarter than black people.” Prepare to spend the rest of your life unemployable, like James Watson.

    The problem is that you haven’t really asked the question: why, between the ’30s and now, did America and the entire planet adopt the completely unsubstantiated, and blatantly false, assertion of human cognitive uniformity? Why, despite all the evidence you cite, does this error persist? And where did it come from in the first place? I mean, we’re talking about the corruption of science itself here. Not exactly a peccadillo, n’est ce pas? So what made the Boasians so successful?

    Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of the curate’s egg. Basically, what you’re telling us is: parts of liberalism are excellent. Just not this part.

    Well, it could be so! But before you are so confident in asserting it, you might want to try tasting the rest of the egg. For yourself.

    After all, you once believed in cognitive uniformity; then you applied your excellent skeptical skills. If you’re not confident that these skills can be of use in other departments, I am!

  4. Oh, and also – there is a very practical problem with the premise of your blog, which is that it will be very hard if not impossible to get liberals to read it. Certainly any such traffic will be occasional rather than systematic, which hopefully is not a problem for you. As another blogger whose posts are always too long, I can assure you that a quality audience is much more desirable than a large one.

    You are not blogging to defend liberalism to an audience of biorealists; you are blogging to defend biorealism to an audience of liberals. What you will find, however, is that nine out of ten of your readers will be biorealists attracted by the fascinating, if utterly insolvable, problem of carving out a niche for liberal racism.

    You will actually find liberal racists, or more precisely Progressive racists, in history as well. Woodrow Wilson, for instance, was one. He brought peace to the world and segregated water fountains to Washington, DC. But my guess is that his “biorealism” appeals to you no more than that of Gobineau, Belloc or Madison Grant.

    Did you know that Hume and Kant were biorealists, too? You can amuse yourself by searching for the quotes, which would get them expelled from any American university today. They are not the only ones, either.

  5. “In the course of President Obama’s recent election campaign, some researchers (David M. Marx, Sei Jin Kob and Ray A. Friedman) devised a study that purported to show that there was a major “Obama Effect” on the performance of blacks on IQ-like tests of cognitive ability.”

    It doesn’t get much better than that (see bolded above if you didn’t notice it).

  6. Darwin too was a liberal biorealist.

    “Discovering evolution and the roots of human nature left Darwin alone as the “villain” whose revolutionary ideas disrupted Christianity and now liberal egalitarian ideology.”

    Bio-ethicist Peter Singer has made some contributions to how society can deal with the implications of Darwinian knowledge.

    “A Darwinian left would not:

    • Deny the existence of a human nature, nor insist that human nature is inherently good, nor that it is infinitely malleable;

    • Expect to end all conflict and strife between human beings, whether by political revolution, social change, or better education;

    • Assume that all inequalities are due to discrimination, prejudice, oppression or social conditioning. Some will be, but this cannot be assumed in every case;

    A Darwinian left would:

    • Accept that there is such a thing as human nature, and seek to find out more about it, so that policies can be grounded on the best available evidence of what human beings are like;

    • Reject any inference from what is ‘natural’ to what is ‘right’;

    • Expect that, under different social and economic systems, many people will act competitively in order to enhance their own status, gain a position of power, and/or advance their interests and those of their kin;

    • Expect that, regardless of the social and economic system in which they live, most people will respond positively to genuine opportunities to enter into mutually beneficial forms of cooperation;

    • Promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition, and attempt to channel competition into socially desirable ends;

    • Recognise that the way in which we exploit nonhuman animals is a legacy of a pre-Darwinian past that exaggerated the gulf between humans and other animals, and therefore work towards a higher moral status for nonhuman animals, and a less anthropocentric view of our dominance over nature;

    • Stand by the traditional values of the left by being on the side of the weak, poor and oppressed, but think very carefully about what social and economic changes will really work to benefit them.

    In some ways, this is a sharply deflated vision of the left, its Utopian ideas replaced by a coolly realistic view of what can be achieved. That is, I think, the best we can do today — and it is still a much more positive view than that which many on the left have assumed to be implied in a Darwinian understanding of human nature.”—-02.htm

    Also, on the James Watson controversy.

    Steven Pinker on Dangerous Ideas.

    “Even if it turns out, for instance, that groups of people are different in their averages, the overlap is certainly so great that it would be irrational and unfair to discriminate against individuals on that basis. ”

  7. “why, between the ’30s and now, did America and the entire planet adopt the completely unsubstantiated, and blatantly false, assertion of human cognitive uniformity? Why, despite all the evidence you cite, does this error persist? ”

    Armand Marie Leroi, in discussing the nature of normal human variety, addresses that question:

    “But there’s one aspect of human inheritance that people are resolutely ignoring. And that is normal human variety. Or, to put it more crisply: race. If we look around the world we find that people look very different from each other. These differences are manifestly genetic. They must be. That’s why people’s kids look like them. Yet we know nothing about that variety. We don’t know what the differences are between white skin and black skin, European skin versus African skin. What I mean is we don’t know what the genetic basis of that is. This is actually amazing. I mean, here’s a trait, trivial as it may be, about which wars have been fought, which is one of the great fault lines in society, around which people construct their identities as nothing else. And yet we haven’t the foggiest idea what the genetic basis of this is. It’s amazing. Why is that?


    But of course the fundamental reason why people don’t do it is because it’s race genetics. It’s because of the long and sorry history of genetics and racial differences. And indeed, more than that, the whole thrust of genetics since the war has been to argue that races don’t exist and that they are just social constructs. This is very much the Harvard School — Dick Lewontin for example has been one of the big proponents of this point of view. The late Stephen Jay Gould was another.

    After the Second World War, when the enormities of Nazi science really hit home — which were in turn the consequence of a much larger racial science, not just in Germany, but everywhere—all right-thinking scientists made a resolute effort to ensure that science would not be bent to such evil purposes again. They were determined that science would never again be used to make invidious discriminations among people. The immediate result of this was the UNESCO Declaration on Race in 1950, fronted by Ashley Montagu and backed up by geneticists such as Theodosius Dobzhansky which affirmed the equality of races. Then, in the 1960s, Dick Lewontin and others discovered that gel electrophoresis could be used to survey genetic variation among proteins. These studies showed that humans have a huge amount of concealed genetic variation. What is more, most of that genetic variation existed within continents or even countries rather than among them. UNESCO said races were equal; the new genetics said they didn’t exist. Finally, moving a few decades on, the Out-of-Africa hypothesis of the origin of Homo sapiens comes to the fore, and multi-regionalism falls from fashion as it becomes clear that humans are not only a single species — something which we’ve known since Linnaeus’ day—but a single species that has only diverged into sub-populations very recently.

    The result of this history — which has been partly driven by data, and partly by ideology — is that these days anthropologists and geneticists overwhelmingly emphasise the similarities among people from different parts of the world at the expense of the differences. From a political point of view I have no doubt that’s a fine thing. But I suggest that it’s time that we grew up. I would like to suggest that actually by emphasizing the similarities but ignoring the differences, we are turning away from one of the most beautiful problems that modern biology has left: namely, what is the genetic basis of the normal variety of differences between us?”

    Bruce Lahn & Lanny Ebenstein also make that point in their recent Nature article suggesting we need to learn to ‘Celebrate Human Genetic Diversity’.

  8. LB,

    Do you think there are potential lines of evidence that would effectively refute the plausibility of “equality in the gaps” rejoinders, or is the situation literally analogous to whack-a-mole variety ID, which spirals on endlessly?

    Also, I think it’s likely that you have liberal readers. Don’t be misled by the commentariate.

  9. “why, between the ’30s and now, did America and the entire planet adopt the completely unsubstantiated, and blatantly false, assertion of human cognitive uniformity? Why, despite all the evidence you cite, does this error persist? ”

    Just wanted to add this series of bleak comments from the gnxp commentator Godless Capitalist from a couple of years ago:

    “I’ve basically come to the same conclusion. I went into blogging with hope that truth and science could turn the West around. I stopped when I realized that the West is well and truly screwed. The contradictions run too deep, the center cannot hold.

    The taboos that govern the West will increasingly come head up against science — and the taboos will win, just as they have won in the Islamic world. Genetic engineering will happen, but not in the West. There will be no deus ex machina. The West will wane in importance as the East waxes. We have already seen it happening to outposts. Zimbabwe is gone, South Africa is on the way, the Southwest US is toast, and Muslims control entire cities in Europe. The cancer might be arrested, but it won’t be reversed.

    In the second half of the 20th century, the taboo could uneasily coexist with engineering progress, which was primarily focused on computers and communications technology. Today, though, the taboo on frank discussions of human biology simply cannot coexist with progress in genomics. We are going to see a high profile cut in funding to “racist” science. Watson and Summers are only the beginning. If necessary there will be a purge; more likely, as the fraction of the economically dependent increases in the US to 40% and beyond from its current 35% level, we will see ever more agitation for wealth redistribution.

    The result: funding cuts as demagogues ask why white (and Asian) scientists should get money when so many blacks and browns are poor.

    I mean, there are too many people who make their livelihood from the promotion of holy lies to give up now. Just think about it — from the EEOC to Live Aid, from MTV to Harvard, every institution of importance has been irrevocably compromised. That was underlined when all those multinationals submitted briefs in *favor* of affirmative action in the 2003 Supreme Court case. The inmates — or in this case, the Chief Diversity Officers — have well and truly taken over the asylum.

    The only possible out for the West is if someone who knew the score on h-bd — and knew its relevance to every issue from subprime mortgages to mass immigration — came to power and began using the powers of the state against the taboo manufacturers. That would mean not only an effective campaign of deportation of illegals, but overt and covert actions to reverse the trends in ethnic composition and socialism. The closest analogy would be Kemal Ataturk’s battle for secularism.

    This would be an incredibly difficult fight to wage given the entrenchment of these fallacies at all levels of society. Such a Prez would basically have to have iSteve/GNXP levels of knowledge/fanaticism about the issue, yet manage to keep silent about everything up to the point that he had ultimate power. It would be even more difficult to wage such a battle without the nervous system — namely the media — inducing paralysis and taking out the Prez like they took out Nixon.

    Anyway, that’s a highly unlikely scenario but the only thing I can think of at this late juncture. It would need to be someone highly placed, immensely powerful, and incredibly zealous, who had no qualms about using the state as a billy club in much the same way the left has used it against the people. ..

    Bottom line is that the perpetrators of holy lies always do their utmost to cast dissidents as heretics — as *bad people* — and it is foolish to accept their labels or their frame on the world. It will get you ostracized and (in Europe) clapped in irons for “hate speech”. ..

    As for the latter class, the media, are they decent people? The only way to maintain a holy lie is by persecuting the truth tellers. Such persecutors are not interested in the long term fate of Western Civilization, but only in short term stability. They are like people who “protect” a dying patient from the bitter medicine that will cause momentary discomfort but lasting remission…

    But here’s the thing. You’ve seen hundreds or thousands of hours of footage of events in which rightist ideas of one stripe or another are causing harm to minorities. The Holocaust, My Lai, Bull Connor, the Japanese internment, Operation Wetback, Columbus, Guantanamo, etc. Literally trillions of dollars in capital investment has resulted in a reflexive, emotional association of rightist action by whites with mass murder in your mind. I know it has because I have the same association. ..

    But bear with me for a second and imagine what would happen if the polarities had been reversed, if the footage on TV was of the people manning the White Sea Labor Camps, of the Killing Fields and the laogai, of South African crime and Saudi Arabian fanaticism, of Mexican illiteracy and pre-Columbian savagery.

    In short, imagine if the Blank Slate Asymmetry were inverted — if the footage were intended to spur the immune system of Western Civilization to action (and overaction) rather than to disable it. No doubt such a world would be blinkered and biased in many aspects…but it would in major respects be closer to reality.

    It’s a vertiginous thing to even contemplate, because it makes you realize the extent of the unreality you’ve internalized…

    The whole point is that h-bd is the one determining aspect which is not publicly discussed. Of course marginal tax rates affect tax receipts. But so does IQ. Of course bilingual policy affects immigrant assimilation. But so does IQ. Of course the educational curriculum affects achievement. But so does IQ.

    Yet IQ is the factor that cannot be publicly mooted, let alone debated. And as for the reason that it cannot be debated — that reason is even more doubleplusungood.

    Anyway, by now it’s a moot point. These taboos are not going to change anytime soon. Civilizations *do* die. The West had a 500 year run in which it was characterized by being the most willing to jettison holy lies in favor of truth. ..

    And like a man with a damaged nervous system, the West’s internal perceptions are out of sync with the external reality. Consider a hand on a hot stove. It does not matter if the lowly epithelial cells are burned by the million if the nerve cells refuse to communicate this truth to the seat of conscious action.

    Similarly, the media is the nervous system of a civilization. The signals it chooses to amplify, dampen, or interpret control the response of the body. If paralyzed, it matters not if the body is hale and hearty and theoretically capable of action. A malfunctioning nervous system will leave an otherwise healthy body jerking around in response to phantasms of racism — or directing its efforts against its own cells…

    Witness the reaction to Katrina: the fact that whites had to defend themselves against black looters somehow became an indictment of white racism. The obvious facts on the ground, the facts sensed by those lowly epithelial cells, were simply inverted by a compromised nervous system.

    By selective signal amplification or damping one can make overlaps appear to be equalities. The signals exist — they need not be made up out of whole cloth. One need only turn up the volume on (say) poor migrant workers stranded in the desert and turn down the volume on (say) anchor babies to achieve the desired effect without obvious fingerprints.

    …anyway, I’ve gone on long enough. The West’s time in the limelight is fast coming to an end; the West will be known for fractious infighting in the years to come, with the taboo looming above like a solar eclipse, with “decent people” tasked with blotting out truth for as far as the eye can see. Hate speech legislation will come to the US. Sensitivity demands it. ”

  10. Have any of the originators of the “Stereotype” threat hypothesis actually made a direct case that it is the “Factor X”? Ignoring the STUVA problems (e.g., the experimental unit in their studies is the class room not the subject so the studies are poorly analyzed) and taking the replicated findings at face value the chance that ST is factor X is implausible. First, it is well known that minorities tend to do worse than their test scores would predict on other measures of academic achievement, so it is surprising that they are under performing on their test scores. If anything, they seem to be over performing. Secondly, the intervention given to the control groups in the study, those not subject to stereotype threat, appears to be the more realistic of the interventions. So, don’t they have to prove that in the real world stereotype threat is a constant menace?

  11. “One can say that while such differences might be highly genetic within a race, there’s no reason to believe that they are so between races.”

    Actually, no, you can’t. If differences within a race are genetic, then differences between races must also be.

    Thinking that differences within a race are genetic, and that differences between races are environment merely requires an extra contortion. One that liberal creationists are eminently capable of.

  12. > If differences within a race are genetic, then differences between races must also be.

    In principle you’re wrong. Suppose black americans all live near stagnant water, and white americans live in the mountains. All the black people have malaria as children, lowering their IQ.

    In practice, it’s hard to find differences in environment for blacks and whites — especially those who make $80,000 per household. Yet when you sample people who all have that income, their black-white gap is the same as the gap for the whole population.

  13. Pingback: My Grandfather’s America vs. Mine « Beta Revolution

  14. On the issue of the Obama effect and the SAT scores: I would have thought that SAT scores, which measure attainment during schooling, would not be signficiantly altered by a change in circumstance during only the last year of that schooling. Surely SAT scores could not be used for any sort of analysis of the potential effect of that change you mention, until we able to compare the SAT scores of those who were educated before the change with those whose education took place at least significantly, if not wholly, after the change.

  15. “Why believe, then, that brain stimulation will prove adequate to removing average differences between the races in terms of IQ, or the hypothesized physical substrate for IQ, the nature of the white matter?”

    No more reason than to believe that it will NOT
    prove adequate to same. We don’t know. We
    also do not know what the effects might be of
    brain stimulation combined with various
    nutritional or hormonal alterations. There’s
    a LOT we don’t know. And we might find out,
    eventually, that there is indeed some modest
    fixed genetic (as opposed to malleable genetic,
    i.e. epigenetic) difference in brains and I.Q.
    between the races. That’s OK too. But for now,
    we just don’t know. There is vast evidence
    for a long laundry-list of environmental
    influences on I.Q., some of them quite profound.
    Unless these factors are fully identified and
    controlled, there is no way to come to a
    conclusion about the relative contributions
    of environment and genes. For now, the genetic
    thesis is a very long way from being verified
    with any certainty. And that is doubly true
    given the lackluster, wholly unconvincing
    nature of research on genetic influence on
    I.Q. (And I am being charitable.)

  16. PS: I would not be too quick to swallow the
    idea that white matter has a special relation
    to I.Q. I mean any more-special than gray
    matter. Curiously, gray matter can be
    enhanced by many things, such as omega-3
    fatty acids, meditation, lithium, and more.

    Intelligence based on the volume of gray matter in certain brain
    regions — Confirming earlier suggestions, the most comprehensive
    structural brain-scan study of intelligence to date supports an
    association between general intelligence and the volume of gray
    matter tissue in certain regions of the brain.
    International Society for Intelligence Research — 2005
    Correlated Vectors, g, and Gray Matter: A Frontal-
    Parietal Network and the Einstein Hypothesis
    Roberto Colom, Richard Haier 1 (presenter), and Rex Jung 1
    University of California, Irvine
    We have reported that regional gray and white matter volumes
    are correlated with Full Scale IQ. Here we report that WAIS
    subtests with high g-loadings show more brain areas correlated
    to gray matter volume than subtests with low g-loadings
    (Colom, Jung et al. submitted). We also use Jensen’s Method of
    Correlated vectors to show which FSIQ correlations with
    regional gray matter are due mostly to the g factor (Colom,
    Jung et al. submitted). The results support the view that
    intelligence is built on brain structures distributed across
    the brain and this distribution is modulated by age and
    sex.(Haier, White et al. 2003; Haier, Jung et al. 2004; Haier,
    Jung et al. 2005)

  17. Thanks for your interesting blog, just the same!
    I’ll be in touch more later.

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