Robert Todd Carroll
IQ and Race
"IQ" stands for "intelligence quotient." A person's IQ is supposed to be a measure of that person's "intelligence:" the higher the IQ number, the greater the intelligence. Intelligence is supposed to be some sort of entity or property or set of behaviors. However, "intelligence" is as mythical as the unicorn. Not that there aren't people who are intelligent. Obviously, there are. And some people are more intelligent than others. But the myth is in thinking that only one type or set of behaviors counts as "intelligence." Most people recognize that there are some people with fantastic memories, some with mathematical minds, some with musical genius, some with mechanical expertise, some with good vocabularies, some good at seeing analogies, some good at synthesizing, some at unifying, etc., etc. And, of course, some people excel at more than one of these behaviors. In short, it is more appropriate to speak of human intelligences than of "intelligence."
Thus, it might seem ludicrous for the Arthur Jensens and William Shockleys of the world to find a correlation between race and intelligence. And The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray must seem improbable since race is just as mythical as intelligence. Even the fundamentalists with their original Adam and Eve must see that much: we all come from the same stock. There is no such thing as a racial gene or set of genes any more than there is such a thing as an intelligence gene or set of genes. This does not mean, of course, that a person's biological makeup is not a significant factor in individual intelligence in particular areas. Nor does it mean that the obvious physical differences among groups of peoples known as Mongoloid, Caucasian, Negroid, etc., have not been determined by evolution over thousands of years. Of course they have. The primary mechanisms for the development of these racial differences have been natural selection and sexual selection, just like all other human traits that are the result of evolution.
"There's about a 15 percent genetic variation between any two individuals," according to science writer Deborah Blum. "Less than half of that, about 6 percent, is accounted for by known racial groupings....A randomly selected white person, therefore, can easily be genetically closer to an African than another white." ["Race: many biologists argue for discarding the whole concept," Deborah Blum, The Sacramento Bee, October 18, 1995, p. A12.]
Joseph Graves, an African American evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University-West in Tempe, notes that most people and researchers who try to establish correlations between various natural abilities and skin color are not geneticists.
C. Loring Brace, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan, claims that "race is a four-letter word with no basis in biological reality." [Blum]
Of course, physical features such as skin color, shape of eyelid, color of eyes, texture of hair, etc., are genetically determined. It is also true, that an individual's capacity for any particular kind of intelligence is largely dependent upon genetic factors. What isn't true is the notion that whole races of people have sets of genes which make them as a group more intelligent than other races. The genes which affect musical talent, the power to visualize or to think abstractly, for example, are not established as the same ones which affect those characteristics which are associated with being Caucasian, mongoloid or Negroid. If you want to find out why Asians are over-represented in California's universities while blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented, you will search in vain for a genetic answer. Those who are interested in such things would do better to look at family structure, ethnic traditions, and social conditions.
Still, to correlate two mythical entities in the name of science and have the world pay attention to you is no small feat. Could it be the numbers, the statistics which impress some people? Not likely. Even the most sophisticated numerical analysis which showed a correspondence between phlogiston and the ether wouldn't get a hearing today. So, why does the race/IQ bit get a hearing? How can any rational person take seriously notions such as the Aryans or racial superiority? Some probably assert these things as a matter of establishing power. Being a member of a race is a quick and simple way to establish one's superiority. Membership is easy. You're born into it. Being the right race gives one a right to superiority and justifies inequality. It also justifies racism, since if inferior people are succeeding they must be cheating the truly superior people out of their just inheritance. It also justifies believing things about oneself that have no objective validity. A truly inferior being can justify thinking of himself as superior because of his race membership. He can rationalize any failures or inadequacies and attrigute them to the unfair advantage given to those he considers inferior. He can even fool himself into thinking his brown skin is white and that he somehow deserves to share in the accomplishments of anyone in his race.
Are the studies, then, which show that African-Americans or other minorities, do more poorly or better than so-called "white" Americans, of no value? That is, is the work of people like Herrnstein and Murray worthless? No. It is valuable data, but it is also explosive data because of our racist political history. Such data will inevitably be exploited by white supremacists, twisted for their own political goals and used not to improve racial relations in America but to encourage further racial strife. Such data consists mainly of correlations. And while correlations should convince orthodox empirical scientists of nothing, to the racist researcher, correlations are the heart and soul of their work. The furor that The Bell Curve caused died down quickly because there occurred an ongoing saga which usurped its political and entertainment value: the O.J. Simpson trial. In fact, Herrnstein and Murray, in chapter after chapter, call for social reforms to improve the status of blacks in America. They may be disingenuous calls, but they are nevertheless inconsistent with the notion that the social condition of blacks in America is due to genetic factors. If genes led to the black underclass of young thugs who murder each other on a daily basis in almost every city in America, then there would be no point to call for educational or vocational programs, no point in urging a change of focus for black men and women in their families, as even the black supremacist, Louis Farrakhan has recommended with his million man march.
One can't deny that the majority of young men killing each other in gang wars are minorities. But one can deny that the reason they are so violent and immoral is because of their race. That is false and an insult to the majority of blacks and other minorities who are decent, law-abiding persons. One can't deny that minorities are undereducated as a group and underrepresented in our colleges and universities, and in the professions and skilled trades. But one can deny that the reason minorities are underrepresented is because their race makes them genetically inferior and incapable of competing with "white" America. It is true that many minorities are not in college or working as doctors or lawyers or teachers or auto mechanics, etc., because of their race. They have been discriminated against and deprived of educational and employment opportunities because of racial prejudice.
It is possible that someday we may be able to look at people of different races and see them as human beings without losing sight of what is special and unique about racial or ethnic membership. We do not need to be colorblind, nor should we strive to ignore racial differences. But they should be seen in a proper perspective, significant in molding us but irrelevant to our status as human beings capable of both the highest moral and intellectual behavior and of bestial depravity and moronic incompetence.
Robert Todd Carroll