Quick Roundup 259

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

But what if it were true?

Nobel laureate James Watson, although in a rather insulting manner, raises an interesting question:

Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true". [bold added]
Although I have no opinion one way or the other, on whether there is a racial disparity in average intelligence, it would not be a big shock to me to learn that intelligence, like other attributes of human beings, was affected by one's genetic makeup. That being the case, human populations that evolved in different areas (and with different evolutionary pressures) could very well end up differing slightly in average intelligence.

Having said that, it is quite one thing to say that one person is more or less intelligent than another and quite another to imply that they are not (or should not be) equal before the law. Why? For two reasons. First, and most important, equality before the law is premised on the notion of individual rights, which pertain to each man's ability to use his rational faculty in a social context.

Second, there is the fact (to which political thinkers today seem almost universally oblivious) that intelligence does not equal the faculty of reason or determine that one will behave rationally. To equivocate between differences in degree of intelligence and differences in kind (possessing reason or not) as Watson sounds like he could be doing is irrational and immoral. And this nicely brings up the point that one can be very intelligent, and yet possess irrational ideas because one fails to exercise his faculty of reason consistently or use his native intelligence fully.

Western policies towards Africa, as I have written before, do not fail because blacks are inherently irrational or unintelligent. They fail to help Africa because they discourage rational behavior that is well within the capabilities of all human beings.

The Onion nails it again!

Reader Hannes Hacker pointed me to the below Onion video that very aptly sums up the brilliant level of today's political discourse.

Just don't view this at work if your boss is easily offended by obscenities.

Gun-Lover's Paradise

Whether or not you're a gun hobbyist, you'll find this story about the world largest gun show interesting.
More than four decades ago, Wanenmacher was a petroleum consultant in Tulsa. His hobby was -- and still is -- guns.

As a young man, Wanenmacher was a hunter, target shooter and member of the Indian Territory Gun Collectors Association, which since 1955 had sponsored a gun show as a club project.

After being elected secretary-treasurer of the club, the duty to organize the gun show fell on Wanenmacher.

The first show had just 19 tables, but Wanenmacher traveled the world, recruiting gun exhibitors to Tulsa, increasing the number of tables to 400 in just a few years.

He was spending so much time working to improve the gun show, it kept him away from his real job.

So Wanenmacher bought the show, paying the club a fee each year for sponsoring it.
I love that bit about the man turning his hobby into a job. But notice that he treated it like a job long before it became one. (HT: Hannes Hacker)

-- CAV


Inspector said...

"Almost every kind of gun can be found at the Wanenmacher show, from modern to antique, except for fully-automatic weapons, which never have been included."


(and dang that Onion video is funny)

Gus Van Horn said...

Then go complain to them!

Hee hee!

johnnycwest said...

If there are any statistical differences in intelligence among the races, it is of no significance when dealing with individuals. And it is important to remember what IQ measures - it clearly measures what IQ measures. Success in life has everything to do with how one uses one's talents and particularly with respect to rational thoughts and actions.

That Dr. Watson displays the ignorance and nerve to suggest that some races are inherently inferior further speaks to the bankruptcy of the Nobel prize. It also shows how non-transferable intelligence can be.

To suggest that the problems in Africa are anything but philosophical and cultural, is a red herring. Dr. Watson cannot seriously think that a small difference in IQ among large groups of individuals, if it exists, can explain much, if anything. I am no champion of political correctness. Studying or discussing such phenomena is acceptable within a context and Dr. Watson is entitled to his opinions and to spout them wherever and whenever he likes. In this case, he comes across as an idiot.

These scientists who see themselves as high priests of truth are dangerous. Those who are intimidated by degrees and honors give them credit for being dispassionate arbiters of truth and knowledge. They can have the same prejudices and false opinions as anyone else. In Canada we have the dim bulb known as Dr. David Suzuki. His PhD in zoology and expertise in genetics has given him the license to warn us all that the sky is falling, especially with respect to global warning. And it is always DR David Suzuki - I am sure he uses the title when he books a table at The Olive Garden - big whoop. And his giant IQ is all for naught.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Dr. Watson cannot seriously think that a small difference in IQ among large groups of individuals, if it exists, can explain much, if anything. I am no champion of political correctness. Studying or discussing such phenomena is acceptable within a context and Dr. Watson is entitled to his opinions and to spout them wherever and whenever he likes. In this case, he comes across as an idiot."

Indeed. Frankly, if anyone should know better than that, it would be Dr. Watson.

Anonymous said...

Actually, IQ differences between races are anything but small. As Lynn and Vanhanen show in the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations, sub-saharan blacks have an IQ considerably lower than whites. US blacks have an IQ of around 85. Standard of living correlates rather closely to IQ.

Certainly part of Africa's problems are cultural, but why hasn't black Africa developed a culture that approaches that of whites?

Gus Van Horn said...

"As Lynn and Vanhanen show..."

Have they?

As for your question about the cultural development of sub-Saharan Africa, I am afraid I am having difficulty answering it since there are too many examples of "the" culture of "whites" for me to make sense of it. Do you mean ancient Greece -- or medieval Europe? Nineteenth-century America -- or Nazi Germany?

I will give you a huge benefit of the doubt and plough on with what I take to be the most generous interpretation of your question.

It is undeniable that sub-Saharan Africa has not, on a whole, produced cultural advances comparable to Europe or Asia, but I think your question grossly underestimates what an astonishing accomplishment Western civilization really is.

I have seen speculation that Africa's geography, by making trade more difficult than on the other continents, might have worked against the development of civilization there, but such explanations seem almost pointless when one looks at the big picture..

The human species has existed in its modern form for well over 100,000 years, and has been civilized for only the last 10,000 years of that.

One could much more reasonably wonder how man managed to become civilized at all.

As for sub-Saharan Africa, I would consider all the intelligent individuals of African ancestry I have known over the years and then answer merely that someone had to be last.

johnnycwest said...

Again it is unclear exactly what IQ measures. The bigger question remains: is IQ a predictor of success or a a result of success - cause or effect. I suspect both. I understand there is mounting evidence that IQ's appear to be increasing in the youth of the western world. If IQ is due to largely a genetic and a pre-determined factor, this should not be happening.

Maybe our brains are being stimulated by the modern world and growing stronger in the process. There is good evidence of the tremendous plasticity of our brains so it would not be surprising that our IQ's may increase. And what about the effect of nutrition and health on IQ's?

I am no expert, but I bet that environment and education play a much bigger part in one's IQ and success in life than the pigmentation of one's skin.

I remember reading many years ago in Time Magazine, I believe, a study into football quarterbacks and receivers. The study found most quarterbacks were blue eyed and most receivers brown eyed. It was theorized that this was not due to prejudice, but rather blue eyed people had greater skills in areas that help a quarterback - unstated, but implied, that quarterbacks were the superior managers and "thinkers". It is interesting to see how many black quarterbacks there are now compared to 30 years ago. I bet those blue and brown eyed statistics no longer hold true.

The geography angle is also very interesting Gus - I understand that some consider that the rugged geography of Europe, which breaks it up into many natural regions, helped to encourage competing kingdoms. This allowed for more experimentation in social structure leading to a more successful civilization. It makes sense to me.

Gus Van Horn said...


Your comments as to the various environmental factors that could affect IQ, as well as the fact that we aren't completely sure what it measures are all very sound.

The evidence pertaining to the role of a more stimulating environment on IQ is in line with results from several lines of research on neuronal plasticity. For one very simple example: In rat experiments where some rats were raised in "stimulus-rich" environments as opposed to bare cages, adult brain mass was greater, sugesting more brain development. Such evidence suggests that the brain does indeed function somewhat like a muscle in that it will develop more if used more. (Of course, brain mass alone does not predict cognitive ability -- or even IQ in man.)

To elaborate more on the geography of Africa, I understand that the interior of the continent basically occupies a plateau, which renders the rivers of the continent essentially useless for trade as they all hit cataracts before meeting the sea. When you also consider that the continent is surrounded by oceans rather than having, as Europe basically did, a convenient, centrally-located ocean, and that before railways and modern highways, navigable rivers WERE the highways, the theory makes a good deal of sense.