Racism and group differences

At the end of my essay What good
is IQ?
, I suggested that taking IQ seriously might (among other
things) be an important step towards banishing racism. The behavioral
differences between two people who are far apart on the IQ scale are
far more significant than any we can associate with racial origin.
Stupidity isn’t a handicap only when solving logic problems; people
with low IQs tend to have poor impulse control because they’re not
good at thinking about the long-term consequences of their actions.

Somebody left a comment that, if what I was reporting about group
differences in average IQ is correct, the resulting behavior would be
indistinguishable from racism. In particular, American blacks (with
an average IQ of 85) would find themselves getting the shitty end of
the stick again, this time with allegedly scientific justification.

This is an ethically troubling point. It’s the main reason most
people who know the relevant statistical facts about IQ distribution
are either in elaborate denial or refusing to talk about what they know.
But is this concern really merited, or is it a form of tendermindedness
that does more harm than good?

Let’s start with a strict and careful definition: A racist is a
person who makes unjustified assumptions about the behavior or
character of individuals based on beliefs about group racial

I think racism, in this sense, is an unequivocally bad thing. I
think most decent human beings would agree with me. But if we’re
going to define racism as a bad thing, then it has to be a behavior
based on unjustified assumptions, because otherwise there
could be times when the fear of an accusation of racism could prevent
people from seeking or speaking the truth.

There are looser definitions abroad. Some people think it is
racist merely to believe there are significant differences
between racial groups. But that is an abuse of the term, because it
means that believing the objective truth, without any intent to use it
to prejudge individuals, can make you a racist.

It is, for example, a fact that black athletes tend to perform
better in hot weather, white ones in cool weather, and oriental asians
in cold weather. There is nothing mysterious about this; it has to do
with surface-area-to-volume ratios in the population’s typical
build. Tall, long-limbed people shed heat more rapidly than stocky and
short-limbed people. That’s an advantage in Africa, less of one in the
Caucasian homelands of Europe and Central Asia, and a disadvantage in
the north Asian homeland of oriental asians.

And that’s right, white men can’t jump; limb length matters there,
too. But whites can swim better than blacks, on average,
because their bones are less dense. I don’t have hard facts on
how asians fit that picture, but if you are making the same guess I am
(at the other extreme from blacks, that is better swimmers and worse
jumpers than white people) I would bet money we’re both correct. That
would be consistent with the pattern of many other observed racial

Sportswriter and ethicist Jon Entine has investigated the
statistics of racial differences in sports extensively. Blacks,
especially blacks of West African ancestry, dominate track-and-field
athletics thanks apparently to their more efficient lung structure and
abundance of fast-twitch muscle fiber. Whites, with proportionally
shorter legs and more powerful upper bodies, still rule in wrestling
and weightlifting. The bell curves overlap, but the means — and
the best performances at the high end of the curve — differ.

Even within these groups, there are racially-correlated
subdivisions. Within the runners, your top sprinters are likelier to
be black than your top long-distance runners. Blacks have more of an
advantage in burst exertion than they do in endurance. I don’t have
hard recent data on this as I do for the other factual claims I’m
making here, but it is my impression that whites cling to a thin lead
in sports that are long-haul endurance trials — marathons,
bicycle racing, triathlons, and the like.

It is not ‘racism’ to notice these things. Or, to put
it more precisely, if we define ‘racism’ to include
noticing these things, we broaden the word until we cannot justifiably
condemn ‘racism’ any more, because too much
‘racism’ is simply recognition of empirically verifiable
truths. It’s all there in the numbers.

Knowing about these racial-average differences in athletic
performance would not justify anyone in keeping a tall, long-limbed
white individual off the track team, or a stocky black person with
excellent upper-body strength off the wrestling team. But they do
make nonsense of the notion that every team should have a racial
composition mirroring the general population. If you care about
performance, your track team is going to be mostly black and your
wrestling team mostly white.

In fact, trying to achieve ‘equal‘ distribution is a
recipe for making disgruntled underperforming white runners and
basketball players, and digruntled underperforming black wrestlers and
swimmers. It’s no service to either group, you get neither efficiency
nor happiness out of that attempt.

Most people can follow the argument this far, but are frightened of
what happens when we apply the same kind of dispassionate analysis to
racial differences in various mental abilities. But the exact same
logic applies. Observing that blacks have an average IQ a standard
deviation below the average for whites is not in itself racist.
Jumping from that observation of group differences to denying an
individual black person a job because you think it means all black
people are stupid would be racist.

Let’s pick neurosurgery as an example. Here is a profession where
IQ matters in an obvious and powerful way. If you’re screening people
for a job as a neurosurgeon, it would nevertheless be wrong to use the
standard-deviation difference in average IQ as a reason to exclude an
individual black candidate, or black candidates as a class. This
would not be justified by the facts; it would be stupid and
immoral. Excluding the black neurosurgeon-candidate who is
sufficiently bright would be a disservice to a society that needs all
the brains and talent it can get in jobs like that, regardless of skin

On the other hand, anyone who expects the racial composition of the
entire population of neurosurgeons to be ‘balanced’ in
terms of the population at large is living in a delusion. The most
efficient and fair outcome would be for that population to be balanced
in terms of the distribution of IQ — at each level of IQ the
racial mix mirrors the frequency of that IQ
within different groups. Since that minimum IQ for
competency in neurosurgery is closer to the population means for
whites and asians than the mean for blacks, we can expect the
fair-outcome population of neurosurgeons to be predominantly white and

If you try to social-engineer a different outcome, you’ll simply
create a cohort of black neurosurgeons who aren’t really bright enough
for their jobs. This, too, would be a disservice to society (not to
mention the individual patients they might harm, and the competent
black neurosurgeons that would be discredited by association). It’s
an error far more serious than trying to social-engineer too many
black wrestlers or swimmers into existence. And yet, in pursuit of a
so-called equality, we make this sort of error over and over again,
injuring all involved and creating resentments for racists to feed

Categorized as Science


  1. BTW, my earlier comments are not a criticism of libertarianism per se. The issue is a scientific one and politically, in the short term of American history for example, I’m not certain any political or social group has reached correct conclusions. Massive social engineering programs have led to discredit, rightly so, the liberals. But does human nature in some way prevent the recognition of science in the long term? Simplistic: are there not enough of us of any color with higher IQs that we cannot determine what might be advantageious to all of us, using science, to improve the IQs of others and eliminate racial bias along with a good many other problems? A program like Head Start, for example, was the idea of Bob Dole, a conservative, and had broad based support and still does. What about “social engineering” projects which are purely scientific in nature which determine a cure for diseases which may impact a human while still in the womb and for the first few years of life? Who funds these? Who funds research in nanotechnology, the varied activies of NASA, DNA research, et al? If not the government is such long term research going to be conducted by private enterprise? Theoretical research? And therein often lies the benefits which can accrue to all genetic groups in some cases.

  2. ok you racist douche please do a service to humanity and blow your brains with one of them guns your always whining over.

    anyway i guess all jews are naturally sneaky right?

    and all orientals are good at math.

    look at the individual

    you are encouraging racism

    your only hope now is to kill yourself

  3. It’s a shame that it is politically incorrect to acknowledge the differences between different races, or even between males and females. Sure you shouldn’t exclude people because of their race or sex, but don’t try to artificially equalize things with crap like affirmative action. Let the best qualified person get the job. If blacks make up a third of a state’s population, don’t draw up district lines that allow the to elect half the legislature to make things “more equal”.

  4. I agree with your point and believe that “Affirmative Action” (in whatever way it is carried)(see footnote) is a disease and not a cure. But, I also believe that we need to look at the data over time. BTW, dead cell, read the whole of the blog and you contradict yourself and, yeah, not all orientals are good at math just as not all afro-americans are not good atheletes.

    In CA, affirmative action in admission to UC is not allowed, but a report in newspaper says it is being practised by backdoor.

  5. Steve: a chunk of your point sems to be that the IQ differences observed between the different racial groups are, to an indeterminate degree, environmental. Thing is, that seems to be irrelevant to ESR’s point. Regardless of why they exist, the IQ differences do exist. (No, I haven’t done primary-source research; I’m accepting ESR’s word on it.) Thus, for existing populations of human beings, we should expect to see those differences reflected in various ways. These differences may change in scale over time as the environmental factors change, but for right now, they are there and do signify.


  6. Also note that the blanket “black” for Africans isn’t helpful in this context; as you note, sprinting is dominated by west Africans, and a wildly disproportionate number of long distance runners are from east Africa (ie, Kenya).

  7. I agree with everything that ESR has said here. Over the aeons, humankind has evolved to better adapt to environmental factors, and the landscape of our species has been shaped to reflect this.

    No amount of “nutrition” of the white population will increase their abilities to compete with the black population on average in a sprinting contest, because their bodies are better adapted for the job (on average). I say this objectively and assume that ESR’s facts are correct.

    What have physical attributes got to do with IQ? Well both are innate attributes of humankind, both help us survive, and both are (correct me if i’m wrong) genetically influenced. Trying to engineer these attributes is wrong; see the “eugenics movement”.

    This is not racisms. Simply ‘dispassionate’ discussion of facts.

  8. David Hungerford: Your point is well taken and I have no problem in accepting Eric’s data from his research. I quite agree that such differences do exist. My point is that certain conclusions cannot necessarily be drawn from them as I think Eric is doing. We’ve shown that a good deal of the social engineering we’ve tried in the U.S., for example, has not only wasted funds, but even been harmful to those who were supposed to be helped. And the usefulness of the research done to establish these figures can be of immediate value. I’m not saying that there’s a need to suddenly rush out and pour billions into programs for blacks with low IQs and restrict funds for whites in similar socio-economic situations such as poverty. But if my suggestion of environmental influence is correct, then I think science needs to step forward and bring some meaning and possible action if needed. Eric himself, without calling it “environmental influences,” makes distinctions which make it clear he understands why certain African groups may have superiority in some areas over other groups and the same comments could likely be carried further by use of comparison with other African groups. So if we have this data we need to be aware of for the present, what do we do with it for the future? Do we allow political/social concerns to hamper science? What we’ve been doing is allowing polarization of virtually all topics. Gun control and abortion, which the TV news people seem to think are unique in this regard, haven’t looked around very much to see this is happening on too many issues. Eric is brave to take this subject on in the first place (not that he’s an especially timid fellow), but too often such lots have led in directions which are clearly racist. Maybe I should have waited for the next installment. ;)

  9. P.A. Wilson: the main issue here is IQ. There’s the clear fact that populations of the various races are no longer as stable as they once were. In essence I’m suggesting that, placed in the same environment, a white man can jump. Maybe. We don’t know that unless we do the science to find out where the difference is. Pure nutrition clearly can’t make whites better sprinters. But *why* is there an existing difference? Evolution. OK. But in today’s world we can accelerate, change, clone, and do any number of things to make a change in our species for the future. And basic nutrition for starving peoples is one of the most basic examples of using science because science already knows about the effects of nutrition on development of various sorts and at various ages based on fairly short term changes and within the same population groups. If we had more DNA information, we might well turn the whole white population into NBA all stars and drive blacks out of the game. “Nutrition” is taught as a science in our schools for good reason. Its effects long term if we tweak diets a bit with this or that, discontinue certain foods for the same reason… we’re still learning those things. Hell, we have at least 130,437 medical doctors selling diet books. ;) I think we have a few more things to learn and then do something with the data Eric poses. Its usefulness for the present is limited.

  10. What does all this have to do with the fact that my Glock makes me more armed and dangerous than Eric with his Browning U.S. Govt. .45? ;)

  11. It comes down to the old nature/nurture debate. Now there’s fodder for extended exchanges of wind-baggery if ever there was one!

    One more point; the position of afirmative action types is that in addition to concrete factors such as DNA and nutrition, softer factors such as culture and society will also influence IQ and sucess. Affirmative action programs are an attempt to correct those factors.

    Not sure if I agree totally, but it’s not as barking mad esr would make it seem.

  12. Accepting ESR’s data for the moment and my own observation that black america shoots itself in the foot with depressing regularity, I think that there are three important questions to answer. First, is there a way out for blacks to fix this? Second, are they, collectively taking any of the reasonably viable ways out but most outsiders don’t see it? Third, if they aren’t, whose fault is this and how can it be remedied?

  13. Mr. Raymond,

    Thanks for this essay. It is all clear to me now. You are right IQ matters. It should be a nation-wide imperative that everyone be tested ASAP, and things set in order so that those stupid black neurosurgeons (not the smart ones mind you) who don’t deserve their jobs should be stripped of their degree.

    You’re right, political correctness is doing a disservice to our society, not like you scientific fanatics cramming the notion of empirical evidence down the throats of everyone else, right? Because you technocratic guys are too smart to be dumb, and you have the empirical evidence to prove it! You guys… You’re so clever.

    Thanks again for your reactionary and well thought out views that will make the world better for everyone that inhabits it.

    To be fair I think I know what you are driving at. I just think you are being really clumsy about it. Maybe we should ‘measure’ wisdom and grace and then only those of a certain score should be allowed to have weblogs.

    The ideal that you seek is unobtainable but feel free to continue to publically flog yourself.

  14. TM Lutas:

    my own observation that black america shoots itself in the foot with depressing regularity

    Are black americans a part of this country or not? Serious question you may want to ask yourself, “Am I a seperatist?” That’s assuming you are openly (or secretly) oone already.

    Do have a nice day.

  15. Ok, this discussion’s way too fuzzy. Let’s ask some basic questions.
    Does it make sense for an individual’s opportunities to differ based
    on their strengths and weaknesses? Yes. Are there some
    non-performance attributes statistically correlated with performance
    attributes? Yes. Does it make sense to discriminate based on
    non-performance attributes? No. Does it make sense to discriminate
    based on performance attributes? Definitely. Should the state be
    allowed to discriminate (make distinctions) based on non-performance
    attributes? No.

    It comes down to this. We are all individuals, with specific
    strengths and weaknesses, and we should be treated that way. Race,
    or any other non-performance attribute is irrelevant on an individual
    basis. No arbitrary group should be targetted for help or hinderance
    by the government; it’s just not fair.

    If some group with a non-performance acceptance criterion (eg. goths)
    chooses to identify with one another, and develop a culture which on
    average harms the performance of individuals, the state should have
    nothing to say about it. Why? Because it’s not the state’s job to
    try to influence how individuals live their lives, beyond protection
    from one another. In the end, environment is about inherited or
    fresh-made individual choices. States should strive to give equal
    opportunity to individuals, regardless of their environment.
    However, every choice an individual makes, regardless of whether it’s
    environmentally-based or freshly made, needs to have the same
    consequence. ‘My papa beat my mama’ is no excuse to repeat the
    crime. You might as an individual be able to understand that some
    linkage exists, but the state should punish the individual who
    repeats the crimes of the father no less than the father himself.

    So, with all this talk about the individual, why gather performance
    statistics about groups defined by something other than performance?

    It’s not to help justify the actions of people who look first at
    color and second or not at all at the individual. Every fact can be
    twisted in one way or another by someone concerned more by their
    ideology than the truth. But racism is the purpose of IQ statistics
    no more than mass-slaughter of innocent children is the purpose of

    A perfectly valid reason is to be able to spot racism. Without
    racial statistics on IQ and other strengths/weaknesses, it’s silly at
    best to use other statistics to imply racism exists. Why? Because
    the cummulative effects of many decisions based on individual
    attributes (eg. the racial distribution of neurosurgeons) simply is
    not racism. Similarly, if the data points the other way, closer
    investigation might reveal some previously unseen racism.

    Just to repeat: It’s the individual, silly. ESR never implied
    that discrimination based on race is alright or OK. Just because
    something looks statistically like racism, doesn’t mean it is!

  16. Affirmative action programs are an attempt to correct those factors.

    Not sure if I agree totally, but it’s not as barking mad esr would make it seem.

    I would argue that AA programs are less about addressing the problems as they are about hiding them. AA programs do nothing to help “minorities” perform — if anything, they set them up for failure by putting people into positions they are unequiped to deal with.

    It’s all cosmetic. And yes, it is barking mad. :)

    I think a number of people are hung up on defining a set of people’s IQs by the colour of their skin; esr’s entire point is to get away from that kind of classification schema, and towards grouping people by objectified, measurable, quantifiable criteria. Judge people’s suitability for a position purely by their ability to perform, instead of giving waivers or bonus points for their ancestry. Spend more time addressing “root causes”, such as nutrition and early education.

    A certain set of people are, to be blunt, already lost causes. The compassionate action would be to expend any resources and exert any amount of effort to help this set of people. But given limited resources and time, I think both are better spent where they can do the most good, instead of salving people’s consciences.

  17. My sister-in-law is “white” and is married a “black” man. They have a child together. Is this child “black” or “white”?

    Most people without seeing either of the parents, would probably guess that the child is a product of a “mixed marriage.” And many would say that the child is “black.”

    I used to know a guy in college who’s father was a product of a mixed marriage and married a “white” woman. My friend’s skin tone was nearly as “white” as mine. What race was he?

    For the past decade or so, I have felt that race is fairly arbitrary. I believe the cultural constraints (one’s upbringing, family life, etc.) have more to do with a person’s behavior than any so-called physical characteristic like the color of one’s skin.

  18. Your comment ‘people with low IQs tend to have poor impulse control because they’re not good at thinking about the long-term consequences of their actions’ is so broad that implementation without understanding the neuropsychology of individuals that it is useless.

    People with Aspergers’ Syndrome (part of the Autism continuum) have extremely limited ability to think long-term. That is an executive functioning skill they do not possess. They can have IQs that are in the genius range (my son is proof).

    Interesting concept, tho. You need to flesh it out a bit.

  19. Whether ESR’s analysis is accurate or not, there is a problem with our society that runs deeper than political correctness. That problem is our collective inability to comprehend statistics. This thread already has several comments from people who can’t tell the difference between statistics and stereotypes. If that data were widely believed, there would be a lot of pointy-headed hiring managers who’d never enlist a black neurosurgeon.

    I think our society needs to become better educated about statistics, before our culture can absorb this sort of information without taking it the wrong way.

  20. VEry interesting how people (drx comes to mind primarily, as I suspect dead cell was simply and purely trolling) read things that ESR never said into what he actualyl did say.

    Please, drx, go back over the post and tell us where Mr. Raymond suggested mandatory IQ testing (I can’t be absolutely sure, but I suspect he would be utterly against such a scheme), nor did he suggest that only people who pass some sort of test be “allowed” to do certain things.

    I imagine ESR thinks (as I do) that in the absence of programs designed to produce a desired ethnic mix in programs such as neuroscience, the unqualified of all races will not make the cut, or will make the cut at rates that don’t favour any race over another by proportion. This is very far indeed from your implication that he seeks to (in paraphrase) “strip people who don’t meet a given IQ score of their degrees”. (If you phrased it as stripping people who were genuinely unqualified of their degrees, that would be another matter, and who could disagree with it?)

    What, exactly, is “reactionary” about the post? And why is it, as implied, a bad thing to be so?

    If you think the ideal he seeks is unobtainable, I suspect you’re misunderstanding the ideal, which appears to be merely… treating people according to their abilities rather than trying to enforce a given racial distribution in various fields. Is this actually unobtainable? Is there anything wrong with this goal?

    You appear to be confusing Mr. Raymond’s argument with some other argument someone else is making, and putting their words in his mouth, so to speak.

  21. Sigivald:
    That was sarcasm, btw. To me this is one of those “solve world hunger” issues, a lot more complex than any one solution can vouch for. Especially oversimplified “let them eat cake” solutions.

    Since you seem to have a grasp of where Mr. Raymond is going with this, let me ask you, “What should be done, if anything, with this information and who should do it?”

    Do you really think that this will solve any ‘real world’ problems?

    Also do you really think you guys are smart enough to do anything smart with this data? Or would we find ourselves installing yet another ‘self-perpetuating’ system on which we rely with no really good reason as to why?

    You see I think AA and political correctness are just as silly, nor do I give a rat’s arse if someone is a bigot, that’s their perogative. The main issue I am having is that Mr. Raymond isn’t _saying_ anything. This is his right and he has afforded me the opportunity to disparage his remarks, and so I am.

    The, hmm, this is a difficult word choice here. Let’s just say the “friction” appears to be due ti my disgust at blind faith in science. That which amounts to religious zealotry, as to what will and will not ‘help’ humanity without question, especially since the self-questioning is suppose to be inherent in the system.

    I am not assuming that this is the case here, I in fact inquired about the overall ‘goal’ (not the point of the essay, mind you) the last time the subject was raised, and I received no response. Again context was not addressed in my opinion and so I voiced what may have been my (admittedly) somewhat too abstract objection to his carelessnes and clumsiness. The reason I chose that route is because I am doubtful that anyone of you that are singing his praises can come up with one course of action that can be _actually_ implemented in the real world that doesn’t involve the government and is actually useful. It was an aesthetic choice (humor), nothing more nothing less, as it seems many people do and somehow assume other do as well, take themselves far too seriously.

    Reactionary because he never says what can be accomplished and how. End racism? Surely you must be joking, if not see paragraph # 6. Reactionary because he leaves so much out. The devil is in the details.

    Forgive me for I am sick of hand waving and wouldn’t that be coolness.

    That is all.

  22. Well, given your data, it would be equally valid to say that the IQ test itself is racially biased. Since IQ is inherently a subjective measure, it’s actually quite impossible to deliniate a truly accurate objective measure of intelligence. Indeed, your assertion that folks with lower IQs have poor impulse control is debunked by almost every serial killer on record, as well as studies on developmentally disabled youth. Actual scientific research on impulse control does not draw a statistically significant correlation with intelligence.

    This has nothing to do with PC or non-PC. It has to do with good science, something you should really examine someday. Of course, real science can be difficult to understand, but I’m sure you could do it if you tried.

  23. > But what about programs such as Head Start, for example, which provide earlier education and a nutritional program?

    If they work, middle- and upper-income parents will demand to be included.

  24. The “one standard deviation” in IQ shows up elsewhere besides population differences. When I was a student at UCLA back in 1974 I had a class in which the professor pointed out that the One Standard gap shows up as the difference between the IQ of a family’s eldest child and his or her younger siblings. To illustrate the point the prof asked how many in the class were eldest or only children. In a class of just over 100 about 85 percent raised their hand, including the professor.
    He made the telling point that this applies when all of the children in a family are adopted, so it’s presumably not a biological effect.
    No, I do not pretend to understand what’s going on, just that this is a significant datum to consider in this debate.
    Charles Fuller

  25. Dave Hull: good comment about so-called mixed marriage because a substantial of the blacks and whites and yellows and browns and reds in this country are descendants of “mixed” union. Alex Haley in “Roots” traces his family which includes a white master in the line. But a statistically valid point (and survey of a population) can be made in areas of the world, say China, where such “mixture” does not exist as it does in America. It was not my intention at all to question the valid of the points made nor their source. And while the great god Science has shown itself to have clay feet at times, that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and revert to supersititions of times past (and not all that distant). So what do we do with the numbers other than recognize some present day worth? And the population in the U.S. is a poor choice to sample. The real issue has to do with populations which in some way can be studied to see what needs be done, if anything. There are poor, starving children in India. There are poor hungry children in the U.S. Both of these facts impact their “performance” in terms of IQ, athletic abilities, et al. So what do we do, if anything. Science can’t play a role? I think it can. I don’t think these stats should be considered then left on the table leaving us only with a realization of what today’s world seems to be. I believe the point was well made that those with a lower IQ are more likely to be racist. But are there not other factors, especially environmental ones?

  26. You worship the god of “intelligence”. There is a certain wisdom called “common sense” that people of intelligence frequently lack. Also, it is harder to learn “common sense”, but as the Army has proven, you can teach facts to people of average intelligence with enough repetition and motivation.

  27. Andy Freeman writes
    > But what about programs such as Head Start, for example, which provide earlier >education and a nutritional program?

    >If they work, middle- and upper-income parents will demand to be included.

    Middle- and upper-income parents already do have a Head Start program. They read to their children, and have their kids spend time with a large array of “educational toys” designed to increase the experience of the child before entering school. Poorer parents have not typically provided the “stimulus rich” environment that college educated parents tend to provide for their children. Head Start is merely a program to help remedy the “I don’t know what I don’t know” problem for poorer parents attempting to help their kids get ready for school.

  28. Sorry I did not catch the meaning of “auto-BR” sooner.

    Andy Freeman writes
    > But what about programs such as Head Start, for example, which provide earlier >education and a nutritional program?

    >If they work, middle- and upper-income parents will demand to be included.

    Middle- and upper-income parents already do have a Head Start program.

  29. “Somebody left a comment that, if what I was reporting about group differences in average IQ is correct, the resulting behavior would be indistinguishable from racism… This is an ethically troubling point.”

    So the response to this point is that’s too bad but the alternatives are worse? Hmmm, seems easy for white ESR to say. If anybody can find even one black person who agrees with that, I’d be amazed. I think that the majority position prefers the alternatives to potentially racist-like behavior. This is a subjective, perhaps inefficient approach. It may be based upon ignorance (of the relevant IQ distributions) or with overly ample “tendermindedness”. Nonetheless, I foresee the majority elected government resisting the widespread use of IQ data, or even openly verifying the IQ distributions by race. In other words, I think the status quo will continue regarding this subject and I’m not unhappy with that.

  30. “Let’s start with a strict and careful definition: A racist is a person who makes unjustified assumptions about the behavior or character of individuals based on beliefs about group racial differences.”

    Whose strict and careful definition is that? The possible definitions according to dictionary.com:

    American Heritage Dictionary:
    1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

    2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    1: the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races

    2: discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race.

    I don’t see where the “unjustified assumptions” clause in ESR’s definition comes in.

  31. First of all, I agree with Eric’s comments, in that merit-based positions should be filled in a completely color-blind manner, regardless if that results in racial distributions other than that of the society as a whole.

    Secondly, in response to BretW, I think Eric may have been postulating a more sensible definition of “racism” than is given in your average dictionary. The definitions you cite include two aspects–belief that racial differences are present and belief that one race is superior…which is not what Eric’s saying, mostly. He’s saying that every race is superior at different things, and that is looked upon as racism by a lot of folks.

    Finally, a lot of the disparaging remarks need to go back and check their reading comprehension before they knee-jerk. =)

  32. “Indeed, your assertion that folks with lower IQs have poor impulse control is debunked by almost every serial killer on record, as well as studies on developmentally disabled youth.”

    Serial killers are mostly psychopats. They’re a special case and there is no relation to IQ here.

    Where I disagree with Eric is that impulse control may depend more on empathy than intelligence. People with poor capability to empathize (ie psychopats, borderline or full-blown) generally see nothing wrong with having their way over others, and a high IQ only means they’re less likely to get caught.

  33. Addison’s comment comes to mind: “One scarce knows how to be serious in the confutation of an absurdity that shows itself at the first sight.”

    Your arrogant dismissal of Dr. Gould (calling him a Marxist, of all ignorant things), alongside your acceptance of the discredited “The Bell Curve” says more than enough about your IQ and preconceptions. I’m sure you do well on IQ tests, but your rantings prove beyond question the frequently low correlation between IQ test results and ability to make sense or think critically.

    Is there some point to this race-baiting or do you just enjoy the attention? Were all these articles just a trick so you can post your IQ and use the word nigger on your blog?

    Ad hominem? You bet!

  34. Lumping all Africans or blacks together as a single ethnic or racial group displays a profound ignorance. The many peoples of Africa display more genetic diversity than all humans on the planet. Dumb right-wing American rednecks are genetically more similar to Mongolians than a Hutu is to a Zulu.

    There’s no such thing as a meaningful “average” of African or black intelligence. You won’t find the most recent genetics work in the John Birch newsletters, though.

  35. I find it interesting that observations of the various advantages of different ethnic body types ARE politically correct PROVIDED that the ethnic group in question is sufficiently exotic.

    For example, you can still read in mainstream magazines like National Geographic observations that the “barrel-shaped” bodies of Inuits (aka Eskimos) are well adapted to Arctic climates, or that the lungs of Sherpas are especially good for breathing in high altitudes, and nobody bats an eye.


    Anyway, look, people. There is NO ethnic group in existence who has inherited bodies especially adapted for the artificial environments that humanity is moving into. The advantages gifted to one or another ethnic group become more and more irrelevant to everyday life for the vast majority of people and situations, even if they are true. (Professional sports is a tiny world.) Also, all of these differences have involved TRADE-OFFS, meaning that we all excel at a wide variety of things.

  36. What about statistical discrimination? That is, what if there are situations in which you must choose someone for some kind of job, but it’s too expensive or complicated to measure their ability ahead of time? We do it all the time: You hire someone hoping they will be the right person. It’s relatively easy to tell if someone is white or black, vs to actually make them take IQ tests and then score them. So what do you do if you know little about two candidates other than their race, which is correlated with IQ, which is correlated with job performance? Do you just hire the white guy, or the asian guy?

  37. “So what do you do if you know little about two candidates other than their race, “

    Does that ever really happen? Nobody gets a list of job applicants with just their name and race.

    Past work history seems a great way to predict future performance.

  38. So, once again we see that the best choice is to rate an individual based on merit and capability rather than extraneous factors such as race or ethnic origin. You can wax on all day about the reasons and contributors to “why” certain facts are true or apparent, but it doesn’t alter that they are true.

  39. IQ is important, but perhaps not the end-all-be-all. Our culture focuses on intelligence; a more primitive culture WOULD focus on something like sprinting ability (probably at the expense of those with high IQ). If the Chinese bell curve peaks at a higher point, why is China behind the USA in many metrics? Individuals get ahead via IQ; but for nations, culture, philosophy, and other factors have nearly as much influence. This is an example of where small group thinking breaks down. It is dangerous to assume that (for example) IQ is more important (int the long run) than mental health, genes which resist malaria, or ability to resist the effects of an ice age, monsoon, etc. The only GOOD test of survival-fitness is survival itself, measured over millenia.

    ESR, I see nothing wrong with your analysis. But IMHO, IQ testing is not as beneficial as (for example) SAT, which measures not just intelligence but willingness and ability to learn, which are also passed down, albeit not genetically. Create a big system to focus on genetics, and culture and philosophy will go to seed.

    If you want good surgeons, try to test ALL the abilities that surgeons actually use. IQ is only a part of the equation, although surgery is a field with fairly focused requirements. In psychology or pediatrics, emotional qualities such as empathy may be as important.

    Job qualification should test required abilities only (for some jobs this might be IQ). In a fair system, with minimal interference, the survival questions will sort themselves out. If you want more smart people, go forth and muliply.

  40. As a neuroscientist and behavioral neurologist, I read this excellent post and these many comments with interest.

    First; I agree with almost all of WillC2’s conclusions. Most notably, IQ does not predict performance. Is the IQ then sensitive or specific for anything else? Here there is much debate and I will leave it at that.

    My overall take is that is true that those who falsely claim themselves “liberal” (who are in fact illiberal, see melaniephillips.com for a take on this in her essay, “Right, not right-wing”) wrongly conflate the identification of racial, religious, gender, and ethnic differences with racism.

    Remarkably WillC2’s points out the reverse circumstance, where an attempt to identify differences and not discriminate because of them, does at times (and in this case) smack of racism.

    The answer, as always, lies somewhere in-between. Kudos to the author and those who have made comments for creating such a thoughtful discussion.

    One last thought. As a neurologist I have known and worked with many neurosurgeons. One thing is for sure, IQ does not much matter. Hubris, courage, excellent eye-hand coordination, bravado, conceit, are what’s most important IMHO when the neurosurgeon is clipping that aneurysm. These are types of physical and emotional intelligence that aren’t well represented in testing like the IQ.

  41. I can empathize with your points, A&D. We can argue about the relative strengths of nature vs nurture, and I think it may be damned near impossible to decisively separate the two wrt human beings.

    What kills me is that the whole area of investigation of possible group statistically significant differences (regardless of the particular findings or methods) is treated as somehow inherently scientifically invalid in principle.

    This utterly PC hogwash , an unwillingness to even explore the facts, is what is unscientific.

  42. ESR has mapped average IQ of blacks onto the population of blacks. The problem is that this is a prima facia argument that race of blacks owe their IQ to their genetic heritage. Research the data in new and inventive ways and you can find other datum averages that can be high or low. One can then find that the grouping mechanism (via the new datum) is the CAUSE of the low IQ.

    I think you’d have to do a bit more substantive research to pin causality down to genetics. Finding a group whose average is lower than another group is brain-dead easy. But following the given arguments assumes that we have already plumbed the depths of genetics and now know the answers. I just don’t believe it. I also haven’t been convinced that IQ is the end-all and be-all measurement for potential success. Why not Emotional Intelligence?

    I could make arguments that poor people are incapable of being productive. But then I’m ignoring the individual’s potential by saying she must be as defective as her group (the poor). To ignore an individual black woman’s potential can very easily happen as soon as we choose to label her with the black/IQ-deficiency label simply because we’ve placed her in a group.

    My grief is not with the attempt to help blacks or any other group. It’s that no black person exists anywhere in the world. To say otherwise means you have fallen for the classical classification blunder. If you classify someone you have reduced their potential (in your eyes) as individuals by your (likely faulty) classification scheme. Sidney Poitier is Sidney Poitier, not a black person. I am Drew Mills, not a white person, not the son of a hillbilly, not a voter, not a programmer, not even a father. Those are just attributes that I may express. Some of these attributes I may share with others (let’s use hillbilly for a moment). But you cannot average some other attribute I have with other hillbillys and assume that the *average* must then apply to me solely because I am a hillbily.

    Every time you hammer someone into a pigeon-hole, you take a wretched chance at dehumanizing him. It is only a short distance to then devalue, and then deprive him. I understand that maybe ESR does not intend deprivation, but my experience with emotions leads me to fear dehumanization as too easy an out. By accepting the faulty mapping of an attribute onto a population grouped by another attribute, it is all too easy to drop to dehumanization.

  43. p.s. For the sticklers: Yes I realize that ‘Drew Mills’ is also an attribute that I may share with others, but I use name(anIndividual) because I didn’t want to come up with a textual algorithm for GUID(anIndividual). I recognize the squishy detail beg forbearance.

  44. Hello,
    I came across this discussion by accident.
    I would like to point out that I am proof that IQ isn’t an indication of how one turns out.
    Depending on the version of the test my IQ is between 138 and 152. My academics however were less than stellar. IQ represents a potential, what you do with it is up to you.
    Having a higher IQ is like having good genes, you have the possibility of greatness but it won’t guarantee it.

  45. You’re working under the assumption that IQ tests are wholly objective, accurate, and do not suffer from any sort of socio-cultural bias. This assumption is incorrect.

  46. “Quit saying that people who look like me are dumber than people who look like you. It makes you look like a bigot. Even if you make qualifications like “on average”.”

    i do not know whether blacks are less or more intelligent than whites, but i must take offense at your statement. why should we not take notice of differences in groups of people? distance yourself, think of a black man and a white man as a lion and a cheetah. the cheetah is graced with a light frame and a solitary nature so that they can run down gazelle, which is only enough to feed one cheetah and perhaps a kitten or two. lions are granted with a larger frame and a preference for family groups, so that they can hunt together and take down large prey such as zebra or wildebeast. is it racist to point out these differences?

    why not do the same with humans? why can’t we examine ourselves?

  47. Samkit– Because a lion and a cheetah are different species and cannot interbreed. A human being is a human being; “race” doesn’t biologically exist.

  48. Left out of the discussion is the 20 point rise in average American IQ over the last century. A Moron today would have been near average in 1900.

    The cause is not clear. Probably nutrition has something to do with it.

  49. Here esr peddles late-model eugenics.

    As seen in the national security and gun-control essays, emotion/fear crowd out reason even as he sees himself as a supra-rational hero.

    P.S. Correlation != Causation.

  50. As one of the African Americans that outscored the Europeans on the now Infamous ISTAT Test, I have this question: Whose IQ Test should we trust?
    Whites insist on the ACT and the SAT1
    Black Social Engineers focus on the ISTAT test that most whites call the “ebonics or “Niggar” Test.
    Strangely when Sam Donaldson Confronted Mr. Bell Curve writer with these results and the African American woman who wrote the test and book, he refused to allow the writer or Horowitz to dismiss her work as psuedo science…..

  51. The entire article sounds very much like the book called “Bell Curve”, written by Richard J. Herrnstein, Charles Murray. I read through the first four chapters and put it down. I found it to be filled with alot of circurmstantial evidence, but not much else. ESR makes an analogy to neurosurgery and avg IQ of African-Americans. Well, I am happy to note that a premier Neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, is known for being the first to separate Siamese twins, who were joined at the cranium without killing one of the infants. He happens to be African-American and grew up in a very meager surroundings. So, I suppose he would be the anti-thesis to ESR’s argument. http://www.carolina.com/carson/carson.asp

  52. Comment on the physical side that ESR mentions:
    West Africans certainly do have a big advantage in sprinting, and other lower-body fast-twitch sports. As far as I know, there still isn’t a white guy that’s broken 10.00 for the 100m (unless Costas Kenteris did it recently) – but the world record is 9.78, for a West African (by descent).
    But endurance running is totally dominated by East African highlanders – Ethiopians and Kenyans.
    And other sports are mixtures. Not to mention that a majority of African black people are probably Bantu.
    It’s a well-known stat that there is more genetic diversity in Africa than in the rest of the world put together. Bundling all Africans together is a complete category mistake. It seems reasonable that West Africans – the group that are most studied as the vast majority of slaves were from West Africa; which means that the vast majority of modern blacks outside Africa are West African.
    All I’m really headed to is suggesting that splitting things a few more ways than the conventional black/white/oriental is probably a good move.

    Oh, and hand-eye co-ordination sports like baseball and cricket: great West African black players, great South Asian players, great white players, great Bantu players, great Native American players (Nap Lajoie). So not every characteristic is race-linked

  53. You know, this has been postulated already. The problem is that IQ is not objective, not in any sense of the word. IQ is based on cultural assumptions. Heck, it even has idioms in the test!

    Not to mention the Bell Curve itself has been soundly refuted.

    Jewish soldiers during World War I scored badly on army tests, which led officials to believe Jews were dumb. Imagine that.

    Standardized tests were designed specifically to stop Jews from entering into higher education until people like Stanley Kaplan showed that there was no test that people could not break by studying and working hard.

    When Irish people were first in America, they had high rates of alcoholism, incarceration, and out of wedlock births, as well as low intelligence scores, but later this changed over time.

    During segregated schooling, many good black high schools had standardized test scores that were higher than that of whites.

    In an environment where you are valued, respected, and encouraged, test scors go up.

    Jane Elliot in her famous blue eye/brown eye experiment noted that wwhen students were on the bottom in the class they did worse than usual on their phonics drills. When they were in the upper group, they did better than usual. (she taught all dyslexics) She told me when I met her, “children work down to your expectations.”

    Is it any wonder that low expectations fo blacks coupled with years of racism and maltreatment and false assumptions, some of which are quite subtle, would have a tangible effect on average scores?

    I am so tired of armchair geek philosophy.

  54. Please Mr. Linux Guru could you whip of some script to clean up your spammed comments?

    Then another script to prevent it from happening again.

    If only to show your superior IQ in action.

    Love, willc2 the fast twitch muscle guy

  55. I am currently a student (black) studying to become a neurosurgeon in the near future. I can put your mind at rest when I say no unqualified person regardless of race has what it takes to become a neurosurgeon, there is just to much of a filtering process. I can say with certainty all neurosurgeons deserve there job title if they graduate from medical school and complete a neurosurgical residency. Also, where did you get you data from for your “average african american IQ”?

  56. This is mostly correct, but it’s incomplete. You haven’t addressed the issue of whether our means of assessing a person’s IQ are racially skewed or not. I think that we will find that the average IQ’s of whites and blacks are not so far apart as current tests indicate.

    As far as affirmative action is concerned — your essay doesn’t mention it, but it relates very closely — I have found that having a mix of people from different backgrounds enhanced my college experience a great deal. There’s more than one reason why this system is in place.

  57. Louis, I don’t honestly think anyone is worried about having underqualified neurosurgeons, it was just picked as an extreme example of high IQ to show the falacies of affirmative action, that if you were to set percentage requirements based on race you would have to have underqualified black neurosurgeons or lose qualified white/asian neurosurgeons in order to force the racial make up of neurosurgeons against the distribution of IQ across races.

    Thankfully graduation from med school is an IQ test and a half to get through so I would completely agree that no one can say that anyone doing the job is not fit to.

  58. There are always counterbalancing factors in life. The study did not say that because someone does not have a large IQ doesn’t mean that they can not be important or valuable. The article simply stated that in matters where IQ should be considered statistical averages should be followed more to the norm instead of forcing unqualified individuals into positions because of race. That said, this article also states that you can not have a predisposition due to race when considering positions which require by thier nature individuals that far exceed normal IQ levels such as neurosurgeons. Falsly asigning individuals to such positions more closely resembles socialism and may be a marked reason for some of its failures.

  59. There are some key missing factors to understanding human behavior. Socialization and sub-cultural habits are learned behaviors that are not predicated by IQ. Environmental tendencies dictate human behavior starting at the time of birth, continuing until about pre-teens or late teen years. Once these behaviors are firmly established from constant, perpetual environment of posion, these behaviors are extremely difficult to change, without a pervasive intervention of changing of one’s environment and learning new behaviors. These posion behaviors are passed from generation to generation, causing a whirl wind effect that has grown astronomically over the 12% black population. Social scientist and those alike have been unable to effectively resolve these complex issues. A critical analysis from a social scientific perspective has to be done open and honest, with realistic resolutions. Forget about the race factor, just emotional hog-wash.

  60. This is just the same pathetically naive line of thinking that tries to recognize observable reality with dogmatic PC fantasy. Just as one example,

    “Excluding the black neurosurgeon-candidate who is sufficiently bright would be a disservice to a society that needs all the brains and talent it can get in jobs like that, regardless of skin color.”

    While true in some abstract sense, this does not comport with reality. It assumes perfect information. If I’m trying to pick a world championship basketball team, should I not exclude women?

    Is there a woman sufficiently skilled to contribute to a world championship basketball team? Maybe. The best player in the WNBA might be better than the 11th bench-warming last case backup player on the Mavericks or whoever. But in practice it is not worth looking in this population for basketball talent. And if I was forming a team, and you presented me with a slate of potential players about whom I knew nothing but their sex, I would pick only men. And if you didn’t, your team would almost certainly lose to mine.

    1. >It assumes perfect information.

      No, just good enough information. Like, say, a degree in medicine with a surgical specialty.

      Your case isn’t parallel. You can look at a roomful of women and see that they’re not tall enough to be competitive at basketball. You can’t look at a black neurosurgeon-candidate and see that he’s not skilled enough for the position.

  61. “No, just good enough information. Like, say, a degree in medicine with a surgical specialty.”

    But that doesn’t work and the criticism stands.

    1) People don’t test into being neurosurgeons – they test into medical school and are then selected for residencies.
    2) Black people who test highly enough on the MCATs to make it into medical school are likely less intelligent on average than whites or Asians with exactly the same score.

    Why? Bayes theorem. Scoring well enough on the MCATs to get into med school increases the probability that the person who did so is intelligent enough to be a competent doctor but they could have gotten quite lucky on the exam – all the guesses they took on the exam were correct. the question pool happened to overlap with the areas they studied most intently, they made mistakes which ended up at the correct answer through faulty reasoning, etc. If you take all people who had one given score on the exam and plotted their “true” score / ability it would be a normal distribution and that’s where the problem comes in. The black candidates would be much more likely to be on the right side of the “true ability” bell curve because the prior information you had was that population had lower average ability.

    Or to be shorter – what mike said.

  62. we can expect the fair-outcome population of neurosurgeons to be predominantly white and asian.

    How many Jews are asian? :-)

    Well it’s a complex and contested area but many ‘jews’ in modern America are ethnically related to Turkic peoples from what used to be called Asia Minor. That is, the Mediterranean lands east of Greece, the ethnic make up of many eastern European jews who migrated to the USA has DNA linkage to ethnicity of this geographic area.

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