Intelligence, Race and Genetics – Interesting Book


Arthur Jensen is a controversial figure since 1969, when he took part in a magazine interview with HER magazine and was soon after the focus of extreme controversy. He has received death threats, been accused of being a racist and vilified by many. Yet he has also been lionised by an almost equal number, many of them scientists. So what is the truth about this man, his work, and the science behind it? He was probably the first to look at difference in intelligence based on genetics, heredity and thus race, as well as environmental factors.

Frank Miele’s book is basically an exchange of e-mails with Jensen, so a direct correspondence with explanations concerning the science behind Jensen’s work. The issues are interesting from both a scientific as well as a moral and ethical perspective and it is easy to be swayed by one emotional point to another. Presented with only partial information regarding this work, it is really interesting to see how easily one’s perspective can change drastically. You would tend to go from thinking:

Racist, semi-Nazi thinking hiding under the pretense of “research” one minute to, Oh my God, but how do we use this information in a way that is useful and positive instead of damaging?

Miele worked for Skeptic magazine and he notes in the introduction that concerning Miele’s work, the devil is in the details of the scientific research, which is why he decided it would take a book to satisfactorily look at this issue honestly, rather than a magazine article, which so often is the literary equivalent of a television sound-byte.

So, without spoiling the book for you, what do I think. And even more interesting from a social experiment point of view, what do you think? And are you really willing to admit it in public? I have found that people tend to self-censor considerably when discussing these types of topics, rarely admitting the full extent of their views in a public setting. This is unfortunate. As a scientist, the only course in life is honesty in your work. If you make mistakes this is acceptable (though they need to be rectified and admitted to as soon as you become aware of them), but trying to make the facts fit a theory is not.

It should be possible for people to air their views in any kind of argument as long as they follow the simple rules of arguing. Arguing, as opposed to “fighting” is a respectable process in logic. One presents first of all the premises (facts and/or axioms) and these are scrutinised by the opposing party. Any objections are raised at this early stage and countered with more supporting evidence, or discarded on presentation of sound alternative facts. Once the parties have agreed on these premises, it is then possible to construct a logical argument on the basis of these facts and thus formulate a theory or conclusion. The process is not difficult from a mathematical, scientific or rational point of view. Unfortunately, as I have been recently reminded by a recent little e-mail spat with a critic, it is sometimes nearly impossible for a person who has little or no understanding of formal logic, or control of their subjective emotions and points of view (opinions are not facts) to do formal logic.

My view has always been that anyone’s opinion, about pretty much anything, is usually completely irrelevant to reality, other than in perhaps predicting how they will act, or rather, re-act, to certain situations. Furthermore, I take no special subjective privilege, when measuring the “worthiness” of my opinion as opposed to anyone else’s. You know the saying about opinions…everyone has one, and like the other thing we all have one of, they are often “deep” but mostly full of shit.

If you would like to read a book that will challenge your ability to retain a rational and scientific outlook, I strongly recommend Intelligence, Race and Genetics. You can get it at Amazon or many other places, and just so you know, no, I have no financial or any other kind of interest or association with any of the people or companies involved. I just think it’s a good book and though it might be “uncomfortable” for some people, I do not believe in Unmentionable Subjects, any more than I believe in burning witches at the stake.

In keeping with intellectual honesty, I feel it necessary to give my position. I read Jensen’s work with interest and I have to say I basically agree with his overall position, which tends to be that there is on average a 15 point IQ difference between blacks and whites and similarly touches upon the idea that Asians tend to score higher than Caucasians. I would also add that I do not think Jensen is a racist by any means, as is quite clear from his answers on page 143 in particular but elsewhere too. And generally I have to say I agree with his position. The science, uncomfortable though it may be, seems to add up to me. From a purely anecdotal (and thus irrelevant opinion) point of view, I would also add that my 25 years in Africa and 15 years in Europe have also convinced me that in general, the average g factor (intelligence factor as described in the book) of generally African people compared to generally Caucasian people does seem to me to be somewhat in favour of the Caucasoids.

Does that make me a racist Nazi to you? Maybe only a little bit racist at least? I’d like you to honestly answer this question before you read further. Is my admission making you uncomfortable? Does it make you think differently about me than you did before?

Now let me share that I also spent some 3 weeks in Japan about 15 years ago, and despite the much shorter exposure to the Japanese than I ever had to Africans, Europeans, Blacks or Whites I nevertheless also concluded something about them and their difference from white people, of which I am one. My general conclusion was that the Japanese are basically “better” than us Caucasians. I say this from an intelligence as well as an overall general social point of view, and because I am white, I feel more comfortable too about calling it bluntly as I see it. It is never accurate to say that one race is “superior” to another, primarily because the concept of race itself is fuzzy around the edges as well as because individuals do not necessarily fit into the “expected” average, and so to assume they do a priori is itself an error of logic. Something I learnt also first-hand in Africa where I met people who seemed only semi-literate in English at least, but who clearly were demonstrably superior to me in their mathematical ability, as our studying together proved quite clearly to me.

A fundamental problem that a lot of people seem to miss is simply the concept that generalisations can still be facts this seems to upset a lot of people apparently, and I really can’t say why, though I speculate it’s due to their inability to do basic math and understand the simple concept of sets.

Take Olympic sports for example and then tell me there aren’t some general trends when it comes to running or even boxing, and no, sorry, I do not think they are all due to environmental factors. Your genetics DO affect a lot of your abilities. That said, I do not think any “race” is really superior to any other in overall terms. For some reason the average person seems to be shocked at my admission that I think overall “blacks are dumber than whites” to put it in their crude terms, but they say nothing of my equal view concerning how “whites are dumber than Asians”.

Does any of this affect how I treat people personally? Of course not, I do not see the two things as being related at all. My interpersonal relationships are not based on how specifically intelligent a person is any more than they are based on how good a runner they are. And for those still skeptical about my “racist” ideologies, you would then have to explain is I were some semi-Nazi, how or why it is that I have had relationships with women of every different shade of skin colouration except Red Indians,* but that’s just because I’ve never even met a hot Cherokee girl, face-to-face, I assure you.

Do let me know your thoughts in the comments if you dare.

* Yes I know it’s “politically incorrect” to call them Red Indians, according to most Americans anyway, but the only Red Indian I discussed this with told me she too preferred that term to Native Americans, which is in fact, to my mind, and hers, more of a faux-pas, considering America was not called America by them in the first place. I too would prefer to be referred to as a say: “White Chinese” by some screwed up explorers that ethnically destroyed my people and had a poor understanding of geography rather than a “Native Palestinian” say, when my country of origin is not related to this new term (Palestine) the invaders give the land they usurp. There…I feel this post and this note, should do a nice job of offending everyone equally.

9 Responses to “Intelligence, Race and Genetics – Interesting Book”

  1. fenderbirds says:

    nice article, keep the posts coming

  2. Vicola says:

    If you make any comment now that doesn’t fully fit in with the diversity agenda you’re accused of being racist, regardless of whether you have data to back it up or not. Our family has owned a nursing home for 35 years and has employed various ethinic groups of low paid staff over the years and I can say that in my experience, on average (and of course there would be some exceptions) the African employees were the least inclined to do any work (the women did work harder than the men), the Asian girls were the best grafters and never moaned about anything. They also always turned up on time and were very well groomed. Somalians were to be avoided at all costs because the women were beautiful but invariably trouble, either bloody odd or with some psychotic ex in tow who would turn up armed looking for them. Diveristy policies and stating everyone is the same is all very well but anyone who works for any length of time with diverse groups will tell it’s bullshit. In theory people shouldn’t really be different according to their ethnic grouping but then in theory bumblebees can’t fly….

    • G says:

      Indeed. I also think that all of this could be a lot easier to deal with if people looked at the factual information. At least then you know the reality of the situation better. Besides, it seems idiotic to me to assume that just because someone has a different “race” ethnicity etc that means I would automatically treat them worse all by default. It’s like saying that all short men are assholes. A lot of them are indeed loud pains in the ass, but I don’t automatically judge the lot of them, I have some very cool friends that are also short men after all. In a sense this is the same as many other problems: Pandering to the lowest common denominator (i.e. the stupid morons who can’t do basic logic or reason their way out of a parking lot) instead of making that lowest common denominator wake up and stop being a racist dumb-ass that is too lazy to do the simple reasoning required to be a basic human that does not fall into the oxygen thief category.

  3. Tony Hoffart says:

    I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how the studies were blinded and the data extrapolated so I can’t comment on that. What I do have a bit of understanding of is how personality influences intelligence and how environmental factors influence personality and that I think accounts for a lot of your experiences.

    It has been my experience that barring external derailments (family tragedy, addictions etc…) people generally achieve what is expected of them, sometimes not on the first try, but eventually they seem to become what it was their peers and family expected them to be. The cases of people who rise beyond what is expected of them are very exceptional in my eyes and I’ve never encountered one personally. (Even if I did, I would expect to find a lone mentor hidden away who was offering potent encouragement.) This, I think accounts for the racial divide you saw in Africa, as Whites for the past few hundred years have been culturally leading the blacks and are thus expected to be superior.

    As for the Japanese, my understanding of Japanese tradition and culture has it that in Japan 2 important things are emphasized: perfection and face. (Obviously the two are heavily related.)

    This means that within the Big Five Personality Traits ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits ) Conscientiousness is heavily emphasized by the Japanese culture. This does not make people more intelligent per-se (IQ has correlations to the Openness Trait) but it does mean that the Japanese as a people are expected to achieve mastery of their chosen field and act in a way that won’t embarrass themselves and those who associate with them. I hypothesize if you could immerse a Black African, a White Westerner, to the Japanese cultural expectations you would see performance on-par with the Japanese, however Japanese cultural bias against outsiders makes it impossible to properly blind this test as it stands.

    • G says:

      When I first heard of this research i had exactly the same thoughts. The fact is that Jensen actually looked at this too. I am familiar with the “Big Five” and so is Jensen. You really need to read the book to appreciate the kind of testing they did over a period of decades. From a personal point of view, I have certainly met more than a few of the type of people you refer to, Japanese brought up as Americans, Zimbabweans brought up as English and a variety of other iterations. I definitely agree with you that this goes a long way towards changing perceptions, and is actually a good way to ensure real racism in its vile form takes a knock on the head. It’s just harder to be racist (I think?) if a person different from you is honestly better than you at something you thought you “should” be “superior” at.
      The fact is that at an objective level the human brain works by noticing differences and classifying things, so in a sense as long as you’re alive, we’re ALL “racist”.
      But knocking down this type of “racism” is useful and good and a nice way for humans to evolve and get to know about different cultures ways etc. While I have known people from the most primitive origins (Kalahari San) to the supposedly most “evolved” (privately educated multi-millionaires from birth, I have always been able to see each group on its own merits and if truth be told, I often prefer the more “primitive” elements of human society precisely because they tend to be more honest in general terms. It’s true they may kill you for your shoes at times…but man…they NEED them shoes! So it’s kind of OK with me. I always had faster reflexes than good manners anyway.
      But with respect to Jensen, it is not as if these points were glossed over. He looked at them. In some depth. One of his pivotal arguments is that the g factor (a single measure of intelligence), according to the work done over many years by more than a few researchers, is a better indicator of many things than even the big five.
      It really is a fascinating book. If you do read it, let me know what you think. I realise how easy it is for such material to be “used” by dumb-ass racists of the worst sort, but I’m not too worried, those cousinfuckers can’t read anyway.

  4. Tony Hoffart says:

    I think I might give it a read just based on curiosity of how G factor is measured. My interest in the Big Five was sparked by my desire to write an RPG system that emulated the intelligence of a character in a way that wasn’t eclipsed by the intellect and personality of the player. (A tricky balancing act) so this research might add a new dimension to some of my work.

  5. Tony Hoffart says:

    I agree. Which is why in a lot of cases I measured the chance of success by just how persistent the character was (among other things).

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