Fight racism with reason.

Ewald (
Sat, 21 Dec 1996 00:16:21 -0700

This article comes from the skeptic's dictionary: minus most of the author's
(Robert T. Carrol) irrelevant editorializing.

I am posting it for this reason: while battling racism with appeals
to human decency and respect are important, and I fully support them;
a rudimentary fammiliarity with the facts about the myth of race can
come in handy too.

BTW, if anyone is interested in distributing this, the author gives
permission to use his articles freely. Check the website for full

Shawn Ewald
IQ and Race

"The three great strategies for obscuring an issue are to introduce
irrelevancies, to arouse prejudice, and to excite ridicule...."
---Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense

"If you make statements about racial differences based on data that
doesn't exist, and right now there's nothing legitimate, then you are
no more than a terrorist."
--Jerome Kagan, professor of psychology, Harvard University

"IQ" stands for "intelligence quotient." A person's IQ is supposed to be
a measure of that person's "intelligence:" the higher the IQ number, the
greater the intelligence. Intelligence, or g as it is known among social
scientists, is supposed to be some sort of entity or property or set of
behaviors. However, g is as mythical as the unicorn. Not that there aren't
people who are intelligent. Obviously, there are. And some people are more
intelligent than others. But the myth is in thinking that only one
type or set of behaviors counts as "intelligence." Most people recognize
that there are some people with fantastic memories, some with mathematical
minds, some with musical genius, some with mechanical expertise, some with
good vocabularies, some good at seeing analogies, some good at synthesizing,
some at unifying, etc., etc. And, of course, some people excel at more than
one of these behaviors. In short, it may be appropriate to speak of human
intelligences, but not of "intelligence."

Thus, it might seem ludicrous for the Arthur Jensens and William Shockleys
of the world to find a correlation between race and this mythical beast
called intelligence. The Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray might seem
improbable in a rational world, but it is not only probable but a best-seller
in our world, albeit a controversial best-seller. What makes such works
improbable is that race is just as mythical as intelligence. Even the
fundamentalists with their original Adam and Eve must see that much: we all
come from the same stock. There is no such thing as a racial gene or set of
genes any more than there is such a thing as an intelligence gene or set of
genes. This does not mean, of course, that a person's biological makeup is
not a significant factor in individual intelligence in particular areas.
The obvious physical differences among groups of peoples known as Mongoloids,
Caucasians, Negroids, etc., have been determined by evolution over thousands
of years. The primary mechanisms for the development of these racial
differences have been natural selection and sexual selection. "There's about
a 15 percent genetic variation between any two individuals," according to
science writer Deborah Blum. "Less than half of that, about 6 percent, is
accounted for by known racial groupings....A randomly selected white person,
therefore, can easily be genetically closer to an African than another
white." ["Race: many biologists argue for discarding the whole concept,"
Deborah Blum, The Sacramento Bee, October 18, 1995, p. A12.]

Joseph Graves, an African American evolutionary biologist at Arizona State
University-West in Tempe, notes that most people and researchers who try
to establish correlations between various natural abilities and skin color
are not geneticists. "These people don't know evolutionary genetics. They
talk about interesting issues in race and biology. And since, I think, there
are no real races, I wonder what these issues are. It makes me angry that I
have to take time from my research (on the genetics of aging) to argue about
something that shouldn't even need to be discussed." [Blum] C. Loring Brace,
an anthropologist at the University of Michigan, claims that "race is a
four-letter word with no basis in biological reality." [Blum]

Of course, physical features such as skin color, shape of eyelid, color of
eyes, texture of hair, etc., are genetically determined. It is also true,
that an individual's capacity for any particular kind of intelligence is
largely dependent upon genetic factors. What isn't true is the notion that
whole races of people have sets of genes which make them as a group more
intelligent than other races. The genes which affect musical talent, the
power to visualize or to think abstractly, for example, are not
established as the same ones which affect those characteristics which are
associated with being caucasian, mongoloid or negroid. If you want to find
out why Asians are overrepresented in California's universities and blacks
and hispanics are underrepresented, you will search in vain for a genetic
answer. My suggestion to those who are interested in such things is that
they look to family structure, ethnic traditions, and social conditions.

Still, to correlate two mythical entities in the name of science and have
the world pay attention to you is no small feat. Could it be the numbers,
the statistics which impress some people? I don't think so. Even the most
sophisticated numerical analysis which showed a correspondence between
phlogiston and the ether wouldn't get a hearing today. So, why does the
race/IQ bit get a hearing? How can any rational person take seriously
notions such as the Aryans, racial superiority or g? For power, I suppose;
as a quick and simple way to establish not only one's superiority, but one's
right to superiority: as a rationalization to justify inequality. In a word,
racism. What else could explain intelligent people taking seriously the
psychological equivalent of Adam's naval or angels dancing on pinheads?

For example, recently, I watched a television program on white supremacists.
One fellow seemed to me to be typical of these characters. He was basically
a thug who had been in prison several times for violent crimes, some of them
hate crimes. He was not a stupid man, but no one would call him brilliant.
But he was clearly a moral moron. He had no character, no sense of integrity
or personal responsibility. He was basically a lazy dolt who had accomplished
nothing in his life and blamed others for his lack of abilities and
accomplishments. He saw himself as intelligent because he is white, but
unable to flourish because blacks were either getting all the good jobs from
a give-away government or they were stealing everything decent white folks
earned the hard way. Now, again, there are no such things as "white" genes.
There is no "white" race, no connection between his skin color and the kind
of intelligences this man has or lacks. But he was convinced not only that
by being "white" (he was actually kind of brown) he shared in some kind of
group intelligence, but that those who are black are, by virtue of their
skin color, "destroyers of civilizations." The ignorance or disingenuous
portrayal of history displayed by white supremacists is greater even than
that of the Afro-centrists who claim the ancient Greeks (and therefore all
of western civilization) stole everything they ever knew or did from the
Egyptians who were black Africans. All those barbarians that nearly
eliminated western civilization in the 4th century and returned Europe to
an age of darkness for half a millennium were "white." The barbarians of
the Third Reich were "white." I would be the first to look proudly upon
all the accomplishments of Greeks, Romans, Germans, Italians, Norsemen,
Celts, etc. But it would be absurd to ignore that all of these peoples
were great destroyers of civilizations as well as creators.

This same white supremacist "historian" referred to Asians as "preservers
of civilization." I am sure these words were not his and that he got them
from one of his "leaders;" but what ignorance of Chinese, Japanese, Korean,
etc. history does such a notion display. I can only suppose that our
white supremacist feels he is somehow more powerful by identifying
himself with a group he declares is superior to all other groups. But
what a moronic idea! I am mainly Irish and Italian, but I hardly think
I deserve to be proud of the accomplishments of Michaelangelo or W.B. Yeats.
I might as well identify with Mussolini and Ronald Reagan! What non-sense!
What any so-called "white" person accomplishes, or even what any so-called
"white" race accomplishes, is irrelevant to who I am. I do not become
"intelligent" because many "white" people are "intelligent." Intelligences
always belong to individuals. They are measured by individual
accomplishments, not by group affiliation.

Are the studies, then, which show that African-Americans or other minorities,
do more poorly or better than, so-called "white" Americans, of no value?
That is, is the work of people like Herrnstein and Murray worthless? No.
It is valuable data, but it is also explosive data because of our racist
political history. Such data will inevitably be exploited by white
supremacists, twisted for their own political goals and used not to improve
racial relations in America but to encourage further racial strife. Such
data consists mainly of correlations. And while correlations should convince
orthodox empirical scientists of nothing, to the racist researcher,
correlations are the heart and soul of their work. The furor that The
Bell Curve caused has died down because there has been an ongoing saga
which has usurped its political and entertainment value: the O.J. Simpson
trial. However, Herrnstein and Murray, in chapter after chapter, call for
social reforms to improve the status of blacks in America. They may be
disingenuous calls, but they are nevertheless inconsistent with the
notion that the social condition of blacks in America is due to genetic
factors. If genes led to the black underclass of young thugs who murder
each other on a daily basis in almost every city in America, then there
would be no point to call for educational or vocational programs, no point
in urging a change of focus for black men and women in their families, as
even the black supremacist, Louis Farrakhan has recommended with his
million man march.

I am willing to accept Herrnstein and Murray's data as accurate. It is
incomplete, however. When similar tests were done before World War II on
black soldiers from the north and white soldiers from the south, the
blacks scored higher on intelligence tests. [See Bergen Evans, The Natural
History of Nonsense (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), ch. 14,
"The Skin Game."]
Further Reading:

Augstein, Hannah. ed., Race: The Origins of an Idea, 1760-1850
(Bristol, UK: Thoemmen Press, 1996).

Evans, Bergen. The Natural History of Nonsense
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), ch. 14, "The Skin Game."

Gould, Stephen J. The Mismeasure of Man (New York, Norton: 1981).

Higgins, A.C. Review of William Tucker's
The Science and Politics of Racial Research

Marks, Jonathan. "Black, White, Other" in Natural History, 12/94.

Montagu, Ashley. Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race,
5th ed. revised and enlarged (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974).

The Skeptic's Dictionary
Robert Todd Carroll
"Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are rather forced
upon them from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long
time been no guarantee of thier security. They do not exist because they
have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have
become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them
will meet with the violent resistance of the populace."

--Rudolf Rocker (Anarcho-Syndicalism, 1938)
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