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Wren

I don't wish to wade into the entire debate here, but I wish to point out two things which were a little imprecise. First, a few genes do express differently depending on whether they were inheireted maternally or paternally. I have no information about whether any of these genes affect IQ, simply pointing out that the parent of inheiritance is not necessarily always unimportant.

The other comment is that while race is inheirited and IQ is partially inheirited, there's no necessary linkage between the two. One would presumeably inheirit both the racial designation and the IQ potential of one's parents--but to say that inheiriting black racial identity must come along with a lower IQ is foolish--and I'm not aware of any data tht proves this point. In fact, the study which describes the IQs of the German/American GI kids shows us not that race and IQ have no heritiability. It shows us that once we sort fathers by a minimum IQ standard (ie, an IQ high enough to meet the qualifications of the armed forces), then the children of those fathers also meet a normalized IQ standard.

Rex

You write, "children with a white mother and a black father have an eight-point I.Q. advantage over those with a black mother and a white father. And it shouldn’t make much of a difference where a mixed-race child is born. But, again, it does: the children fathered by black American G.I.s in postwar Germany and brought up by their German mothers have the same I.Q.s as the children of white American G.I.s and German mothers." Is there also a statistical snippet to show that black mothers & white fathers can have smarter children...

Greg McGinnis

Kudos for writing this article. I hope that it will counter fatalistic assumptions about how well disadvantaged "racial" groups can adapt to the modern world.

It should give hope and inspiration to anyone who feels that, maybe, they are genetically "inferior", so why bother trying?

Best thing I have read in a long time.

Greg

thm

In the blogosphere, at least, the definitive refutation of Murray and Hernstein has been written by statistician Cosma Shalizi: g, a Statistical Myth.
http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/523.html
He shows how a you can generate a nonzero 'g', in exactly the same manner as is done for IQ data, from absolutely random data.

A companion piece is Yet More on Heritability:
http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/520.html
which is a rigorously mathematical exposition of what heritability means, using, in part, two brilliant examples: accent, which is not genetically determined but which would show high heritability, and number of hands, which is genetically determined, but for which variation is almost entirely environmental.

jl

Imagine that there were a hundred studies indicating that there is no IQ difference between whites and blacks (or half-blacks), and one single study made almost 50 years ago that showed that such an IQ gap exists.

Imagine still that when confronted with this research someone like Charles Murray would dismiss the one hundred studies as worthless, contending that the one and only study showing that there are indeed racial IQ gaps is the only correct one, and the differences are thus real.

Surely, in such a situation, you would think that Murray is a charlatan who is pushing a racist agenda despite the overwhelming evidence contradicting his claims? I certainly would.

Now, in this real world of ours, there exist more than a hundred studies that report differences in IQ between racial groups. The 1961 study of white and biracial German children is pretty much the only one where they didn't find differences. No one has been able to replicate the German study -- I wonder why?

In light of all this, which side of this debate do you think is pushing an agenda, and which side is simply reporting the scientific consensus?

Christopher Horn

jl-

Nice syllogism! For the record, no one is arguing that there are no observable IQ differences between members of various races; the question is what causes such differences.

Is it environment?

Is it genes?

Your post blithely ignores the subject at hand, perhaps motivated by a desire to bring racism in again through the back door?

Posts such as yours make me fear that society is doomed to go around and around and around and around...this issue.

Paul Massari

I wonder what Steve Levitt would say about all of this. I'm just wrapping up the section in Freakonomics, where Levitt holds that environment has little or no impact on school test scores. It's who your parents are--their socioeconomic status, whether or not the mother has a kid after age 30, their level of education, etc...--that matters according to him. He says the data clearly show that being in a better or worse school, having greater cultural oppoprtunities like going to a museum, having parents that read to you, living in a good neighborhood all have no impact on test scores. So how to make sense of the Flynn effect on IQ?

Steve Sailer

Dear Malcolm:

Don't they have fact checkers at The New Yorker anymore?

Are you going to issue an apology to Charles Murray for your possibly libelous claim, ""Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in “The Bell Curve,” notoriously proposed that Americans with the lowest I.Q.s be sequestered in a “high-tech” version of an Indian reservation""?

jl

Christopher, my point is that in discussions on this subject some people always trot out the same hoary, discredited "evidence", such as the old German study that Gladwell cites. Gladwell implies, based only on that one study, that racial IQ differences can be explained by environmental factors ("Germanness"), which is simply a grotesque misrepresentation of available evidence.

peter38a

Mr. Gladwell,

It is always good news to see one of your articles in the NY, as you usually present new views I hadn’t thought of and so I am never able to see those subjects in ’the same old way again.’ I might add that since you often have a different take on ’accepted truths’ it is ballsy of you have this forum, broadsides and all. Your forums, further more, are usually of a high level which is always appreciated.

I have some questions. Some years ago it was stated in the newspaper that the test for police lieutenant in Oakland, California was “culturally biased” shutting out many black test takers. No biased questions were provided by the article nor have I ever read any excerpted from any “culturally biased test“.

Questions:

1. Assuming the Oakland questions fell into two categories i.e. the law and, “What would you do if… and why.” How could the test be “culturally biased?” What could an ‘other race’ (because only one race fell short in significant numbers) know that black officers ‘could not know’ based on culture? Each applicant would have had to have spent a requisite number of years in the “culture” of the Oakland Police Department after all.

2. If such tests existed presumably there were culturally biased tests in other professions. Can anyone highlight the circumstances? Were the tests found to be ultimately biased by culture? In what manner?

3. Have there ever been any types of tests in this country that were criticized as being culturally biased again Orientals?


peter38a

Mr. Gladwell,

It is always good news to see one of your articles in the NY, as you usually present new views I hadn’t thought of and so I am never able to see those subjects in ’the same old way again.’ I might add that since you often have a different take on ’accepted truths’ it is ballsy of you have this forum, broadsides and all. Your forums, further more, are usually of a high level which is always appreciated.

I have some questions. Some years ago it was stated in the newspaper that the test for police lieutenant in Oakland, California was “culturally biased” shutting out many black test takers. No biased questions were provided by the article nor have I ever read any excerpted from any “culturally biased test“.

Questions:

1. Assuming the Oakland questions fell into two categories i.e. the law and, “What would you do if… and why.” How could the test be “culturally biased?” What could an ‘other race’ (because only one race fell short in significant numbers) know that black officers ‘could not know’ based on culture? Each applicant would have had to have spent a requisite number of years in the “culture” of the Oakland Police Department after all.

2. If such tests existed presumably there were culturally biased tests in other professions. Can anyone highlight the circumstances? Were the tests found to be ultimately biased by culture? In what manner?

3. Have there ever been any types of tests in this country that were criticized as being culturally biased again Orientals?


Steve Sailer

The New Yorker has now retracted and apologized for the false smear that Malcolm made up about Herrnstein and Murray:

"CORRECTION: In his December 17th piece, “None of the Above,” Malcolm Gladwell states that Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in their 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” proposed that Americans with low I.Q.s be “sequestered in a ‘high-tech’ version of an Indian reservation.” In fact, Herrnstein and Murray deplored the prospect of such “custodialism” and recommended that steps be taken to avert it. We regret the error."

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2007/12/17/071217crbo_books_gladwell#editorsnote

Doctor Jay

JL, you focus on the German study and its lack of repeatability. But what about the movement of IQ over time? In all groups. Sliced many different ways.

Even if researchers can eventually find the mechanisms for this sort of thing, and design training programs which will raise IQ of children reliably, others will probably resist these findings as being "stupid", reinforcing Malcolm's story about similarities in Africa. You know, "only a fool would think IQ isn't inherited."

I can't tell you how many times I've seen the superior solution to a problem be labeled "stupid".

jl

Doctor Jay, what causes the Flynn effect is an extremely interesting question, but the Flynn effect does not explain the IQ differences between racial groups; the mean scores of all races have increased, but the gaps between them remain.

You say, "Even if researchers can eventually find the mechanisms for this sort of thing, and design training programs which will raise IQ of children reliably, others will probably resist these findings as being 'stupid' [...]"

At the moment all social and educational policies in America are based on the belief that all races are of identical average intelligence. The fact that the racial achievement gaps remain despite the enormous resources poured into programs like Head Start is ascribed to empirically unsupported phantom factors like "white privilege" and "unconscious discrimination". Thus your contention that if we found an effective means to eliminate the racial achievement gaps, it would meet with considerable resistance, is not of this world.

Dean Chung

jl-- What the Flynn effect suggests is that the environmental effect, as ill-defined as that may be, plays a large role in the outcome of the measurement of a particular individual's IQ. It implies pretty directly that the impact of 2000's environment on test scores is a big difference compared to 1950's environment. It does not take much of a leap to suggest that within the 2000's, the impact of various local environments (rich suburbs, working-class suburbs, poor inner cities, rural exurbs, locations in the middle of Africa) can have a large difference to test scores which calls into question the magnitude of the *intrinsic* differences between individuals. Further, distilling what is it in those environments that are important with respect to IQ tests is a phenomenally hard problem-- for instance, measurements of economic difference may miss some differentiations between similar economic groups-- for instance the environment of poor school teachers from the environment of poor agricultural workers.

No one can doubt that, as one of the racial difference boosters keeps yelling, there is a "phenotypic" difference in IQs between blacks and whites. However, the key question is what does that mean. What Flynn and others (I find Cosma's articles very persuasive as well) suggest is that we just don't know enough to disentangle the relevant environmental factors from each other, let alone extract them from something like the "intrinsic" genetic effect.

Quite frankly, if you can't see what "white privilege" and "unconscious discrimination" is, then you have your head in the sand. I'll propose a few different terms that aren't as incendiary-- those who have more resources can help their kids get an extra boost. Those who live in a certain society tend to pass down similar values to their kids (let's call it the Graham Gladwell effect). That learned helplessness can reinforce societal common knowledge.

So, given the uncertainties in this issue, what about this modest proposal-- that as a policy we try to educate everyone as best as our muddled efforts allow? That instead of assuming that blacks can not be properly educated, we instead just try to educate people and then, if necessary (for instance currently with advanced tracks like AP in schools as well as university placements) adjusted for their *actual* intelligence?

reg-joe

Lets look at this from the opposite angle- there is no apriori reason that burden of proof should be on the Heritability side. So, what evidence is there for the opposite contention, that all the various races and populations of mankind all have the same statistical profile of genetic capacities?

We know that individuals within populations vary intellectually a good deal, and most believe this to be partly because some are born smarter than others.

We know that the evolutionary separations of the past resulted in a variety of average differances between populations, from skin color to height to shape to hairiness to lactose tolerance, all with some environmental input but also accepted as having significant inborn components. We know that modern mobility and intermarriage haven't blended away that genetic diversity. In fact, this variation between population averages of observable characteristics is where we got this race idea.

I'm no professional statistician, nor biologist or psychometrician, but it seems much more likely that there would be variation in genetically derived population IQ profiles than uniformity, just as we expect variation and diversity in all aspects of the natural world. Equality and uniformity are usually tells of artificial human constructs, not natural phenomena.

Maybe environment swamps genes as a cause of the very real racial differances which you concede. I don't know, but I'd like an explanation of why the possible, though seemingly highly less likely outcome of high individual variation but equality of racial statistical profiles of intelligence is in fact "a contingent fact of history".

Dean Chung

The reason that the burden of proof is on the heritability side is, in my opinion, simply because the heritability side has proposed a more aggressive hypothesis than the counter side.

The heritabiilty side is propounding not only that there are group differences in intelligences between their three chosen races, but that they are large (at least enough to be "actionable") and that they have a proposed hierarchy (currently Asian > Caucasian > African). The counter faction, by contrast, mostly argues that the scientific evidence is inconclusive. So, the burden of proof is by necessity on the heritability side of the argument.

Further, there is a "history of science" observation concerning what I am interpreting as the "contignent fact of history" that you mention. Historically, the arguments supporting the differences in IQs between racial groups have always followed along lines that reinforce the belief that the current group of societal winners are also the IQ leaders. Thus, in the late 19th century, the argument went that Anglos were smarter than Souther Europeans, who were smarter than Asians, who were smarter than Africans. Later, the difference between various Europeans was dropped as non-Anglo Europeans did well. Now that Asians are doing well, the heritability faction is now moving Asians above Europeans. It strikes me at least that their research seems contingent on outside societal trends, which casts doubt on their project.

jhg

1) IQ testing is of limited value. The best definition of IQ is that it is what an IQ test measures. Yes this is circular, but so is the definition of verticle leap testing. The important question is whether the test correlates with any other real world measures. IQ testing seems to correlated well with other measures we as a society think of as important such as income and educational success. So statistically it seems to be a valid test. As a medical clinician I am familar with tests which yield statistically valid results but have limited real world use. IQ testing has insuffient usefulness to make any decisions about any individual as a sole piece of data.
2) Heritability is being abused as a statistical concept. It is only used to describe variablity within a group. It is not used to compare groups. For example the height of corn is highly heritable, perhaps in the .90 range. If you were to compare two different fields of corn and find substancial differnces between the two, it would be incorrect to conclude the difference is genetic using a heritability argument. It may be fertilizer.
3)The entire argument about race, genetics and IQ misses the point. Blacks do score lower, and IQ is predictive enough of life success as a research tool that this represents a problem. To blame the test is not helpful. Addressing the problems of education and parenting is helpful.

reg-joe

more evidence that the normative conter-heritablitiy claim is "inconclusive": Gladwell's own referance to this being a 'never ending' debate (as in wish it was over, should be over) and other commenter's saying his article should wrap things up. If your position is "inconclusive" the logical corollary is "lets debate, study, research this more", not "shut up already, aren't we done here". The hereditarians seem to be the ones involved in research.

rappoporr

Christopher Horn-
"For the record, no one is arguing that there are no observable IQ differences between members of various races"
Go back and read the posts. THere are several that do just this.

For example,
* "momentarily getting away from potential, or lack thereof, racial differences in IQ" Posted by: patrick | December 10, 2007 at 09:02 PM
* "However, I am not convinced (as the article seems to imply) that the evidence necessarily DISPROVES a correlation between race and IQ." - wahawa | December 11, 2007 at 02:45 AM --- NOTE: there IS a high correlation between IQ and race as evidenced by just about every study (except for German one) that looks at race and IQ.

rappoporr

I think the real question regards the nature of IQ. In the IQ discussion, I think there are a few things we can take for granted:
* There is a strong correlation between race and IQ
* Studies have shown a high correlation between many indicators of success (salary, education, marriage, etc.) so a high IQ is "good".
* Everyone should be able to agree that certain people are more cognitively gifted (smart) than other.
* Also, I would think we could make a case that IQ is heritable. Studies seem to support this. Even if they don't, I think most people would agree that many of an individuals traits are inhereited (i.e., looks, athletic ability, personality). Why wouldn't IQ be like this?

I think we should be focusing on the IQ using the spectrum that people seems to encompass that various views on IQ (with the two extreme views being IQ as being: 1)a hard-coded, innate trait on one end and 2) purely a product of education, wealth, environment, etc.). Like most extreme views, I think both of these are incorrect and personally think IQ is an imperfect measure of intelligence that has a genetic basis but can be improved similar to other traits (i.e., athletic ability).

Anyway, for those who see IQ as an immutable, precise measure of intelligence, i suggest you try taking an IQ test. I tried a couple of the on-line ones and you can definitly improve your scores if take time to analyze what you got wrong and why. Also, there is an assumed level of knowledge in these tests (for example, the Pythagorean Theorem) that someone who did not have rigorous schooling would not be able to just "know".

dennisw

Dean Chung should differentiate between North East Asians (Japan, Korea, North/Mid China) and Southern Asians. Charles Murray in "Bell Curve" does. My own anecdotal experience is North Asians are smarter. The trick here of course is that lots of Chinese made their way to Vietnam and points south and West and excelled in those places. Most of the Vietnamese boat people that came here and excelled were ethnic Chinese

I bring this up because Dean differentiated between North Europeans and Southern. Just look at Italy were the Northern League want to jettison the South and its southern ways

Dean Chung

Dennisw-- I think you fundamentally misunderstand my argument.

I used the North vs. Southern European distinction as a way of showing the faddish, non-rigorous way in which race IQ science seems to *follow* popular perception, in a way such that each dated version seems more and more ridiculous. That distinction between Anglos and Irish/Italians/Eastern Europeans have nearly completely dissipated in the US, in such a way that we just don't here about the IQ differences between those groups and Anglos now.

Your illustration between North East Asians and South Asians shows the exact same "fad science" behavior. Do you know what sorts of "obvious" IQ differences were believed about the Chinese in early 20th century in the US? Let's just say that my putative ancestors were not in the same part of hierarchy as guys like Rushton would have now. More relevantly about the distinction between East Asians and South Asians, perhaps there are other reasons that those Chinese merchants are successful besides the fact that they are so damned smart. Perhaps it is the culture inherited from the imperial bureaucracy and Confusianism. Perhaps it is the network effect with a whole gaggle of ex-pat Chinese all over the world. Perhaps it is how, in countries nurtured and protected by the US (Japan, Taiwan, South Korea), the types of knowledge transfers necessary to become successful merchants occurred. Perhaps a butterfly flapped in Hong Kong creating a chaos theory-like effect that echoes to this very day.

Btw-- I imagine that the majority of ex-pat Chinese running around these days are Southern Chinese, from the Taiwanese springboard.

你个傻大木

Well,maybe you could just say LOOK,I'm black, but I'm also very smart,amn't I? So I guess I just rest the case here,black haters!

You can quote me on this,free,gladwell.

Brady Bellis

I enjoyed “None Of The Above,” and have admired much of your work over the years. I fear some of the substance of the article will be overshadowed by debate and attacks regarding your error, and perhaps this in not entirely without cause. Nevertheless, I found a great deal worth comment in the piece.

For me the debate between Murray and Flynn was evocative of the Scopes Trial. It’s not the obvious way in which more conservative ideas clash against new, liberal ideas that interests me, though. Rather it’s the profoundly different intellectual methodologies between the two sides that make this particular debate feel like a moment with broader implications.

There seems to be a nexus where a number of disciplines are converging on a similar approach to understanding and interpreting the world: law has the Situationists; there’s Freakonomics; in philosophy the experimental philosophers mine similar ground; neuroscientists like Damasio and others belong in this group as well. The commonalities between the people working in these various fields hinge on an approach that seeks first to remove all preconceptions from observation. These people seem deeply aware of the difficulty in bringing light to the hidden places where those preconceptions lurk and of avoiding their undo influence on our interpretation of cause and effect. I think you speak to this indirectly when you say that Flynn “resists grand philosophizing.” Flynn has no agenda for placing his analysis into a larger context. He’s really just trying to understand a specific and particularly puzzling data set. This would not appear to the case for Murray, nor does it appear to be so for Watson.

Flynn, as he’s characterized in your piece, embodies a number of traits that seem to reappear over and over amongst the “new thinkers” I mentioned above. He seems comfortable with complexity and uncertainty. He searches relentlessly for invisible or difficult to see forces that exert influence on the data. There’s also a meticulous, forensic quality to the way in which data is scrutinized. Flynn, for example, takes in as much information from as many sources as possible and attempts to synthesize, rather than paring away data that doesn’t seem immediately relevant to a particular line of inquiry. As you say, when faced with puzzling data, Flynn went in search of even more data, collecting “intelligence-test results from Europe, from North America, from Asia, and from the developing world, until he had data for almost thirty countries.”

One of the things that I think makes your work so good is your eye for spotting people working if various fields who share these common traits I’ve mentioned. I’ve heard you criticized for simplifying, but I think part of your job as a journalist is to bring narrative clarity and Populist appeal to some of the underlying intellectual themes out there right now.

Thanks,
bb

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