JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: IS INTELLIGENCE HERITABLE?   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN

 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

There is a lot of confused thinking around this subject. In the U.S., I.Q. tests in the public schools were done away with years ago. The reason: the tests consistently showed below average performance for black children.

I do think the word “race” is so contaminated from history that it must to be avoided, but we can accurately speak of groups in so far as the members of a group share a bundle of characteristics from thousands of years of common history and adaptation to various places and conditions.

The I.Q. test is an imperfect concept, of course, but we know to a certainty that the test has a certain degree of predictive ability for certain types of success. The very term “intelligence” itself is imperfect, leading to many vaguely defined concepts including the hazy idea of multiple intelligences coming from an educator at Harvard

Of course, all statements about various groups’ performance in these tests are statistical in nature. They do not necessarily apply to any given individual.

No one of good sense prejudges anyone’s abilities from color or ethnicity, but we know the groupings inaccurately called race include many general characteristics other than skin color. For example, Caucasians, Blacks, and Asians are all known to suffer in different statistical patterns from various diseases and conditions. Patterns in the incidence of everything from heart disease to diabetes are quite different. Why would we expect it be any different with characteristics of the body’s most complex organ, the brain? Is such knowledge to be cast aside in the name of political correctness?

Millions of IQ tests in the U.S. – from public schools and armed forces enlistment – do show fairly dramatically that there are differences between groups. When you have millions of observations for any phenomenon, you know you are dealing with something real.

These millions of tests show ‘Caucasians’ with a mean IQ of about 100, ‘Blacks’ with a mean IQ of 85, and ‘Asians’ (and Ashkenazi Jews) with a mean score in the range of 107-115.

IQ tests only certain skills, skills around problem-solving and mathematical reasoning. There are many other human skills not captured by the scores.

But life experience in many countries does tend to confirm that the specific skills measured by IQ are important in a number of careers. Business, finance, and science are notable for high numbers of Jews and Asians and low numbers of Blacks. We find this pattern in country after country. It is not prejudice to observe it.

The abilities measured by IQ – the abilities to solve certain kinds of problems and math skills – surely contribute directly to these easily observable results.

We see a much smaller presence of black people in these fields, and it cannot be sensibly argued that this is owing to prejudice. Opportunities to go to any school are today wonderfully open in all qualified in advanced countries.

Now, look at the sports field. American football, baseball, basketball are virtually dominated by blacks (who constitute 13% of the population) owing to their innate athletic skills and strength. The same for professional boxing.

Why should these observations cause vituperation?

These are not arguments for prejudice or racism. They are arguments for better dealing with many social problems.

There is an unfortunate syndrome of black behaviors we see consistently demonstrated in country after country – Britain, United States, Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, and many others.

These include having children early, absentee fathers, dropping out of school in large numbers, attraction to gangs and violence, and lack of economic success on average.

At the other extreme of human experience, what do we see in the behavior of Asians and Jews? Putting off having children, almost always finishing school, strong bonds from fathers for children, much less violent activity, and remarkable economic success in free countries.

You can’t deal properly with any problem when you pretend it doesn’t exist.

We test for a multitude of things against which people do not argue.

We test everything from pulse and blood pressure to agility and speed. We test the efficient working of various internal organs. We test artistic ability. We test acquired knowledge. We test driving skills. We test sight.

Why does this one test, whose meaning really is limited to certain kinds of problem solving, raise so much heat?

We know that there are vast differences in results just within any one group. Are these differences imaginary or culturally induced? There is no basis for saying that.

So why, when a comparison between groups is made, does the test become worthless, biased, culturally contaminated, and a host of other pejorative adjectives?

We all see regularly, with our own eyes, people who are clever at what they do and people who are barely able to function. These are the extremes, but everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum.

What is the least odd or prejudiced in saying there are differences between groups if the empirical results warrant the statement?

Prisoners are routinely tested for IQ as one component of understanding their actions and for their rehabilitation. Criminals do tend to have lower intelligence, as well as many mental illnesses. Labs regularly test for IQ in studies to determine the effects of chemicals or new drugs. Scientists typically put study results of, say, the impact of certain chemicals on children in terms of how many I.Q. points are lost.

This is a topic society is going to have to deal with eventually.

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