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What IQ Doesn't Tell Us About Race, and Intelligence

Original post made by RWE, South of Midtown, on Dec 16, 2007

Web Link

Here's an informative piece that distills some of the latest research in IQ. I recommend it to all those who are concerned about the impacts of testing as a way to classify the *overall* cognitive capacity of any one person, or race.

Comments (50)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:35 am

Interesting reading. One thing that has struck me from this is that over time cultural and social innovations make a difference. When my parents were school age, they were living on basic war time rations and sleeping with the threat of air raids. Their school performance was definitely affected by this and their attitudes of career, home and family as adults. My schooling was done with the effects of believing that good food was the expensive high fat foods being the best and I had plenty of red meat, dairy and starches in my diet and although I was fairly active, walking or bicycling and the car was a weekend luxury, my pe and sports activity was low and the mental stimulation out of school was reading. I had plenty of rote learning at school and academically was taught to pass the grade rather than work it out for myself. However, I spent plenty of time playing outside with whichever neighborhood kids were also out playing and was never bored. My kids have had healthy low fat diets, plenty of stimulating toys and educational tv, extra curricular activities and organised sports. They are bright and do well at school, but are unable to use their common sense when making decisions and are not able to amuse themselves when nothing is organised for them unless they are entertained by a screen.

None of this may actually be measurable when it comes to iq, but it certainly affects the apparent intelligence of each generation when it comes to the decisions we make and the values we have.


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2007 at 12:27 pm

If we thought of other people and ourselves as individuals rather than as members of different racial tribes, questions like that posed by RWE would be interesting but not so threatening to our conception of ourselves and our society.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2007 at 12:58 pm

I think that we need to NOT be defensive about studies that reflect on a race or a gender. The point is not to say that a race or a gender ( or a geographical area) is inferior or superior genetically, but to ask ourselves what is it in the culture/expectations of any one group which is causing a difference?

One point would be, for example, the IQ versus performance difference in Science and Math fields of women vs. men. I have heard a lot of "there must be institutionalized sexism" since so many more male physicians than female physicians, or male mathemeticians than female, choose to move up the heirarchy in their fields.

But, the truth is that biology calls many of us women back home to have our kids, so we don't go into the fields ( as often) that are going to require 60-80 hours per week from us when we are pregnant and raising children. That is simply a choice that more women make than men.

I think the same thing happens when talking about different results between races. There are sub-culture norms and expectations that affect outcomes of the children in families, not a fault of the schools, but a function of the families. Kids can be born with the same IQ, but family expectations of behavior and achievement count big time.

Bill Cosby has it right on!


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Chuck,

I, too, would live to live in a color-blind world, but until we do (and someday we will, because "color" is working towards a long-term averaging out), it's important to have access to information that reveals the folly of attributing inferiority where none exists.

"Perspective" offers some good thoughts on the above. There are some good, recent, and accessible books (basically, good ethnography) that cover some of this. I would start with Jared Diamond's "Guns' Germs, and Steel". He has some interesting things to say about intelligence, in general - and blowing up some long-held preconceptions about why certain racial and demographic groups are where they currently are within the measurements that our too measurement-based culture places them.

Another good book is David Landis' "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations"



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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Why spend so much time trying to disprove or prove that IQ is intrinsically related to skin-color? Isn't that really an irrelevant question in a society where we're treated as individuals and not as members of groups. Do you really care whether African Americans are inherently faster runners "On Average" than Asian runners are "On Average"? What really matters is which individual runner is fastest, isn't it?

Wouldn't we be much better off spending our efforts on insuring that all kids grow up in environments that maximize their potential? Wouldn't we be better off if we judged all people by their performance, rather than trying to prejudge and handicap based on some unproven (and irrelevant even if proven) relationship between intelligence and skin color?

I guess I just disagree that it's "important to have access to information that reveals the folly" or the accuracy of attributing inferiority or superiority to skin color. It's simply an irrelevant question argued by people - of all stripes - who view everything through the prism of race. We ought to try to instead work on those minds that are so blinded by their monomaniacal focus on color that they judge everything about a person thereby.


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 17, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Well said, Chuck. Now can we get rid of state-sponsored racist programs like affimative action and quotas, as well as race classification on census forms?


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2007 at 3:32 pm

"I guess I just disagree that it's "important to have access to information that reveals the folly" or the accuracy of attributing inferiority or superiority to skin color. It's simply an irrelevant question argued by people - of all stripes - who view everything through the prism of race. "

But we do have those who use measurements like IQ to magnify the bias they perceive through the prism of race, don't we? Thus, I don't see the logic to your claim of irrelevance.

Racism exists; it's evil - this is just another way to help stamp it out.

As for Jeremy's claim about affirmative action, there are always those who will use information like that presented above to exacerbate the real effects of current racism, or pretend that racism doesn't exist. We have to be more measured than the Jeremy's of the world, and look for ways to make sure that the evils of racism are addressed, including the creation of social programs that help those most impacted.


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 17, 2007 at 3:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 17, 2007 at 8:59 pm

RWE - thanks for the post.

Jeremy's response (the one I can still read), mixes a few items that ought to be understood separately. The Supreme Court long ago ruled against quotas and so I doubt you'll find many in place anyway. The debate over affirmative action often focuses on higher education, and often misses an important point, I think: do colleges exist to reward the individual or to serve the society? If it is to reward the individual, it's easier to argue against affirmative action - though I would point out that many students never receive anything near an equal opportunity to compete for that individual reward. However, if we consider, as I do, that the (public) college exists to serve society (why have public colleges, then?), then it is much more logical to argue that affirmative action makes sense. It is in the public interest to ensure that our institutions of higher learning are drawing from all segments of society, reflecting in some reasonable measure the society itself. Otherwise, we risk (and we are seeing) a level of disenfranchisement which poses a threat to our ideals and our social fabric. As a UC grad myself, I would say that I learned some essential lessons from my immersion in an environment exposed me to people much more diverse than my sheltered experience up to age 18. To simplify a bit, suppose the university were a baseball team. It would be unwise to recruit based on a narrow view of the very best players available, if there's a glut of right-handed pitchers and heavier sluggers who play catcher or first base. You need some lefties in the bullpen and some bunting and base-stealing, high-speed outfielders. Balance. Not a quota, but not simply focused on narrow measures of best available players.

As for the census question, I sympathize with friends and members of my family who feel insulted by the boxes because the answers essentially require misrepresentations of self-identity for many people. However, what we know about current and historic injustices - discrimination in law enforcement, business, real estate and banking, education, environmental regulations, etc. - comes largely from the ability to prove these things convincingly using census data, among other sources. To ignore racial information might have some symbolic appeal, but would present a boon to those whose interests are better served by obscuring or burying that data.


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:56 pm

SkepticAl, do you think that Asians should be denied entrance to top univiersities, becasue there are too many of them, relative to their demographics? That's the way I read your post.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2007 at 1:05 am

Chuck,

If you've read Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure at Man, you'd see that IQ tests from the get-go were used to justify racism.

I read Saletan's idiotic articles on Slate, it was nice to see how neatly Malcolm Gladwell vivisected him. Though not quite as gratifying as the news that James Watson's DNA is way more African than the average European American. Talk about divine justice.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 8:25 am

I heard a quote recently to do with school issues whereby it was deemed necessary to increase the numbers of ethnic minority teachers to reflect the overall teaching staff as being equally diverse as our demographics amongst the student body. What a waste. I would much rather the best teachers available being hired rather than rejecting a good teacher because they have the wrong ethnic background that is being looked for. This is reverse racism and should not be allowed.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 8:35 am

Many of you appear to have not read the article linked at the top of this thread. The article starts by talking about how intelligence is improving over the generations and also how it is linked to what the previous generations were doing, e.g. working hard for suvival or lounging about in the sun. The summing up included the thought that iq was not dependent on the race of the individual but where the mind was being developed.

When talking about something like IQ and scientific studies of race, it is not always about the color of skin, but the differences between say northern european or southern european, scandinavian or celtic. Races are not skin colors alone, they are much more diverse than that. There is a big difference between say the Irish and the Greek, even though some may say they have the same skin color and are therefore the same race.


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2007 at 10:36 am

Those of you who are so vehemently focused on the evidence purporting to show that studies linking IQ to skin color and/or race are faulty are in danger of inferentially adopting the very paradigm that racists use when analyzing the issue.

That is, your comments can be read to accept the execrable notion that if a person belongs (or is assigned)to a group that - on average - has IQ or other characteristics differing from other groups' averages, this group membership says something meaningful about that individual person. Your focus on groups, and not individuals, coupled with your admirable quest for equality, results in the feverish triumphalism about the cited article.

I think this is misplaced. We need be so excessively concerned with group averages if we judge people as individuals, not as members - or worse, representatives - of racial or skin color groups.

If there were authoritative studies showing that people of Hispanic ancestry had better math and science aptitudes on average than people of Asian ancestry, would that cause you to pass over a genius Asian engineer? Would (or should) it make any difference in public policy?

It's likely demonstrable that Asians have a lower average height than African Americans. Should the Houston Rockets have paid any attention to this hard fact when they hired Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball player, as the the tallest player in the NBA?

I understand what you say about so called racial IQ differences being used to justify racism - and that is quite clearly true. But wouldn't a much more effective counter to that silly argumentation be one based on the principle that we should judge people on individual merit, not on group membership?

There are many differences in group averages, especially when "group" in this subjective area is largely an arbitrary construct - as the post by parent implies. This simply should not matter in our society, and by getting into factual disputes with those who say it should, you're only fostering their evil ideology.




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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:01 am

"I understand what you say about so called racial IQ differences being used to justify racism - and that is quite clearly true. But wouldn't a much more effective counter to that silly argumentation be one based on the principle that we should judge people on individual merit, not on group membership?"

Above, your first sentence doesn't quite mesh with your second, in terms of consistency. one the one hand you say the original claim re" IQ (stated above) is "true". Then you call it a "silly" argument. In this case, is there such a thing as a "true, silly" argument?

We're not talking about "individual merit", we're talking about redressing injustice, and attempting to achieve fairness. It's a messy business, with lots of variables. We have to keep open minds, and continue to revisit affirmative action for the tweaks that it will necessarily require as we begin to see results among certain demographics. That said, we have a lot of work to do before we achieve racial justice in America.

For instance, should a young African-American woman who has been reared in an upper-middle-class community, with professional, educated parents, and every social and economic advantage, be permitted to matriculate at Harvard, in place of a young white woman who was born in deprived conditions in a poor West Virginia coal-mining town, whose parents were uneducated and without resources?

Of course, situational scenarios are not always as clear cut as the one above, but one gets a real sense of ethical conflict when presented with examples as clear cut as the one presented above.

What IS clear, from good demographic data, is that that young African-American woman will be at *disadvantage* in future when competing for a position or promotion against a white person with similar background.

So, do you let her into Harvard, or not?

I don't have time to go into all the ethical variables - and besides, there is no "logical rule" when it comes to ethics in a situation like this.

All said, human beings are complex animals, who have the advantage of forethought and forward judgment. We all do our best, given environmental, personal, and other constraints.

Affirmative action is a judgment call. Some will agree with everything it aims for, damn the sometimes uncomfortable consequences. Others will oppose it entirely.

My sense is that affirmative action is a continual work in progress, and deserves to be closely monitored (as it appears to be, re: the continuing derivations from demographic statistics, as they apply to disadvantages groups), so that the *ideals* behind the affirmative action will continue to be the guiding principals, instead of some lockstep continuation of affirmative action as a program frozen in time.

We'll continue to wrestle with this, as we tend to be a nurturing culture - often conflicted with a fierce adherence to rewards based on individual (and not racial) merit.




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Posted by Pat
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:16 am

"I don't have time to go into all the ethical variables - and besides, there is no "logical rule" when it comes to ethics in a situation like this. "

" It's a messy business, with lots of variables. We have to keep open minds, and continue to revisit affirmative action for the tweaks that it will necessarily require as we begin to see results among certain demographics. "

What is the correct number of African Americans at Harvard? How many Asians should we have in the NBA? What makes RWE (or anyone else) think he/she has the answers to these "messy" questions. This kind of social engineering is born of a conceit beyond that of even the old Communist Block planners. There is simply no way any society as diverse as ours can weigh the "lots of factors" and come up with an answer that satisfies RWE's "fairness" criteria for most people.

Seems to me that someone who is so fiercely adhered to affirmative action has some obligation to find the time he/she says is lacking to go into all the ethical variables. Instead we seem to get mostly moralizing generalizations: which likely accounts for the discomfort most Americans feel toward a system that rewards racial, not individual, merit.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:23 am

Pat, your missive reinforces my point - completely.

One variable we do know about is the miserable lack of opportunity that was caused by the absolute stripping away of any sense of humanity in the Black slave population. We know what the social consequences of that time have been.

How would you suggest that America redresses the abomination of slavery, and the social conditions it created for its victims, and their distant forward ancestors? Or, do you believe that no redress is necessary?

If the latter, we can agree to disagree. If the former, perhaps a worthwhile discussion would ensue.


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:28 am

RWE, intentionally or not, misreads my argument.

I said that it is true that racists have used alleged differences in IQ among racial groups to justify racist policies or feelings. And I further said that the most effective counter argument to such debate is not to get into a mud throwing argument about whether IQ and race are related in any meaningful way. Rather, I said, the most effective counter to this is to say that in a society where we value individual merit, it simply doesn't matter what differences there are (or are not) between various racial or ethnic groups in our society.

What if it turns out that (just hypothetically for the sake of argumentation) - as some studies purport to show - Asian Americans on average have IQ's somewhat higher than the average of all Americans? Would/should that make any difference to us in terms of setting government or social policy? If you answer that question with counter-evidence showing why that conclusion is wrong or biased (that is, if you're avoiding answering the question by defining it out of existence), then you're really afraid of a debate on your "principles"....and probably providing proof of Saletan's Slate article in the process.


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Posted by Pat
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:33 am

By your comment, I would assume you would limit the reach of affirmative action to African Americans who are descended from slaves - and not any of the other groups now covered by various affirmative action policies.

If the former, we can have a debate on what the proper redress might be. If the latter, then I reassert my conclusion that you're primarily interested in social engineering that is antithetical to the animating spirit of this country.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 12:39 pm

Chuck: "Rather, I said, the most effective counter to this is to say that in a society where we value individual merit, it simply doesn't matter what differences there are (or are not) between various racial or ethnic groups in our society."

But some differences do matter, don't they, Chuck? And, those differences extend FAR beyond the boundaries of any argument about IQ-related bias. How can you deny the fact that there is discrimination based on race?

Pat: "By your comment, I would assume you would limit the reach of affirmative action to African Americans who are descended from slaves - and not any of the other groups now covered by various affirmative action policies.

"If the former, we can have a debate on what the proper redress might be. If the latter, then I reassert my conclusion that you're primarily interested in social engineering that is antithetical to the animating spirit of this country."

Your first assumption is wrong, because there are other groups that affirmative action can help to close the gap of opportunity.

I'm always amused by those who bring up the term "social engineering" as a pejorative - as if doing nothing isn't also a "way of engineering" that has consequences. In other words, we're all social engineers, like it or not. We just believe in different social engineering formulas.

Like I said, affirmative action is a messy affair; there is simply no way to be cut-and-dried re: all the variables involved.

I do think we need more effective means testing as one way into affirmative action programs. At the same time, included in those means we must consider the future, post-education environment into which an affirmative action recipient want to enter.

Another thing we need to do is find ways to reach children and parents at earlier stages of child development. We lose a lot of potential from sheer ignorance, and a lack of political will to push programs that will address that ignorance. This is hard to understand, because money spent on the front end will pay dividends that are positively disproportionate to the losses we endure as a society because of our neglect.

About races other than African-American, I go back to the means testing theme, mentioned above. Certainly, there is no reason why those individuals reared in privileged environments should be considered as recipients for affirmative action to the exclusion of non-minority persons who have come up in squalor. This is a major current problem with affirmative action programs, as they affect entry into educational institutions.





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Posted by Samuel
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2007 at 12:55 pm

"Like I said, affirmative action is a messy affair; there is simply no way to be cut-and-dried re: all the variables involved."

Sounds like RWE is saying there are no principles involved and it all depends on the subjective preferences of whomever we give the power to make up the rules of the moment on affirmative action. We don't have philosopher kings running our country. We have the rule of law. If RWE can't state clear principles for how affirmative action is to be applied, it becomes impossible to fit within our system. But maybe that's why so many people have trouble with it.


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2007 at 1:05 pm

"How can you deny the fact that there is discrimination based on race?"

Who denied this? Once again RWE mis-states my position. Explicitly contrary to what RWE says, I said there is discrimination based on race. I said the way to counter it is not to debate the various dubious claims on race and IQ. I said the best way to combat racists was to deny the validity of their central argument: that the group characteristics have anything to do with how we should judge individuals.

RWE wants to grant racists the validity of this argument and then combat them on the nature of group characteristics. RWE apparently sees the world as composed of contesting groups, not as individuals whose individual value overshadows completely any racial characteristics.

I wonder why RWE ignored the gist of my previous post and failed to answer the hypothetical question posed therein.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 18, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Samuel "We have the rule of law"

Are you implying that the creation of laws isn't a subjective matter? Looks like your argument just went "poof". :)


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Chuck: " I said the best way to combat racists was to deny the validity of their central argument: that the group characteristics have anything to do with how we should judge individuals."

Might I suggest a trip to Santa Fe, with a visit to some of the folks on this map
Web Link

After you've done that, put your theory to work - the one that says you can effectively deny the validity of a racist's central argument, and effect a notable transformation in their thinking about their respective biases.

Any reasonable person could accurately predict the outcome to your hypothetical quest, above.

Where your hypothetical falls down is that it's based on _hypothetical reality_, not the reality where racism does exist, and impacts real (not hypothetical) lives, every day - for many irrational reasons.

Societies that consider themselves places of equal opportunity, and nurturing of the values of democracy, do their very best (in an admittedly fuzzy, ever-changing environment) to make as equal a landscape as possible, for everyone.

To throw out that admittedly subjective impulse, and follow the tenets of the purely individual meritocracy that you suggest, would be to deny that racism really does exist, and to put forward the false claim that appeals to pure reason will change the mind of racists. Not so.



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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Jeremy asks, "SkepticAl, do you think that Asians should be denied entrance to top univiersities, becasue there are too many of them, relative to their demographics? That's the way I read your post."

Jeremy - the way you state it sounds like a quota, which I think is a bad idea, and the Supreme Court has already barred that practice. But yes, affirmative action ultimately does mean that you either expand admissions or shift the rejections to other groups. As RWE has stated, it's messy, it's not ideal... but I think race-conscious policies are necessary. I totally understand the other side of the argument, respect it, and respect those who hold that view. There has been some mention above of other factors that should be considered, and I agree with some of those. An African American student growing up in poverty coming from a family with no prior college graduates deserves a boost - not an automatic admission, but an adjustment - in considerations relative to anyone coming from privilege. I would also suggest that there ought to be a boost for a white student coming from the same socio-economic-educational background.

Like I said above, it's a debate between individual merit and social engineering. (Thank you RWE for pointing out that critics of "social engineering" are usually advocating the already engineered status quo). If you think universities exist to deliver a prize to the highest rated students, affirmative action makes little sense. If you think public universities exist to serve the broader society by advancing the knowledge, skills, and opportunities of the citizenry, then it's more logical to look for policies that ensure that all groups in society are represented in more than a token way. (Private universities have their own affirmative action to bring in more of the groups they value - children of faculty, and legacies). As I said before, think of the baseball team: if we're loaded with pitchers and outfielders, we need not apologize for passing up an exceptional outfielder to draft an excellent shortstop.

Someone mentioned a comparison of African-American students descended from slaves, as opposed to recent immigrants, which should also be considered. It has been noted in some reports/studies that high-profile universities are pumping up their diversity numbers with students from Africa, which wouldn't actually reflect improvement in our ability to educate and prepare African-American students.

So, overall on affirmative action, I do not apologize for admiring the principle, and freely admit that any given policy or program may pose challenges and require modifications.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:38 pm

The is nothing on this planet that is less meaningful and more abused than IQ scores, except possibly the other religions.


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Posted by Pearl
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 19, 2007 at 11:21 am

This thread started with a post linking to an article purporting to debunk studies showing a link between IQ and race.

Now it seems to have morphed into a discussion of affirmative action

Are these two subjects related. Would those of you who support affirmative action be less likely to support it if it turned out there is a link between race and IQ? How about if it were definitely proven there is no link? Would those of you who are against affirmative action be willing to support it if it were shown there is no link between IQ and race? What if it was proven there is a link?

Seems to me we're arguing about two things in the same thread that aren't necessarily related. But maybe I'm missing the subtleties in some of the arguments here.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2007 at 12:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Just follow the money trail. The argument goes like this: Money spent on people unintelligent enough to need affirmative action is wasted, because these unsmart people will never succeed and pay back society's investment. Since very few of the anti-aa types have the courage to speak their minds so frankly, they couch their arguments in the pseudoscience of IQ. At least for now.


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 19, 2007 at 2:23 pm

SkepticAl,

A rose, by any ohter name, is still a rose. So is a quota. You have just provided a rational argument for quotas. It is about as strong an argument that can be provided. However, I reject it, becasue it causes great damage to those individuals who strive hard to achieve, then are denied...becasue of the color of their skin.

Jews were the victims of educational quotas, and Asians are currently victims, as are some whites. Drinking the poison of quotas will not make us a healthier society, just a sicker one.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2007 at 2:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Paul: "Money spent on people unintelligent enough to need affirmative action is wasted"

Somehow, just because of the way you put your remark, it makes me almost giddy to consider that "some" of that "wasted" money - as you put it - is YOUR money, and that you will keep paying it for a long, long, time - until we begin to see the positive long-term results of affirmative action.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Ah, yes, the inevitable carefully edited quote stripped of its context.

Apparently I hit some nerves. RWE and ES, go back and read my posts again or have someone read them to you again, someone other than your first readers. They got it all backward.

For the record, I don't believe any of my money is wasted on affirmative action. Quite the opposite. But I'll be glad to pick up anybody's share, if any, in exchange for what I'm taxed for the immoral war in Iraq. Deal?

Gee, wasn't someone discussing IQ somewhere in this forum?


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 19, 2007 at 4:01 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

BTW, if IQ tests do not measure native intelligence, does that mean that we are all of the the same intelligence, no matter what the IQ test says? Just from reading the original article, it seems that IQ scores tend to go up, becasue the questions asked are related to complexities of "scientific" everyday experience. If the questions were related to a different set of experiences, our current high IQ scores would drop (probably by a lot). However, the RELATIVE scores would probably tell us about how mentally sharp the test-takers were.

Example: Picture with a gun, a bear, a coonskin hat and the Alamo. Question: What is wrong with this picture? A smart kid in the 1950s might say, "It's missing Davy Crockett". A smart kid in 2007 might say, "Nothing, there is no association, except that the shadows don't seem to be at the exactly correct angles". Both kids are smart, and they both gave reasonable answers, according to their experience. However, less smart kids might say, "Bears eat raccoons, if they catch 'em, so what is that old fort doing in there? (1950s version); or, " Guns hurt people, and raccoons look like small bears, I think" (2007 version). If I was hiring someone, at either time period, I would take the first two, over the second two test-takers.

IQ tests, for all their faults are a pretty good predictor of future outcomes in a given time and place. Not perfect, just good.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm

"Example: Picture with a gun, a bear, a coonskin hat and the Alamo. Question: What is wrong with this picture? A smart kid in the 1950s might say, "It's missing Davy Crockett". A smart kid in 2007 might say, "Nothing, there is no association, except that the shadows don't seem to be at the exactly correct angles". Both kids are smart, and they both gave reasonable answers, according to their experience. However, less smart kids might say, "Bears eat raccoons, if they catch 'em, so what is that old fort doing in there? (1950s version); or, " Guns hurt people, and raccoons look like small bears, I think" (2007 version). If I was hiring someone, at either time period, I would take the first two, over the second two test-takers."

Why? They all gave insightful answers, based on experience. You completely missed the point of the article.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2007 at 6:26 pm

"BTW, if IQ tests do not measure native intelligence, does that mean that we are all of the the same intelligence, no matter what the IQ test says?"

Who cares?

Once upon a time someone asked Marilyn Vos Savant, alleged holder of the highest IQ ever recorded, whether she thought people of exceptional intelligence, such as the questioner, should associate only with one another on their "higher intellectual planes." Ms Savant replied that she avoided such planes because they tended to be full of hot air.

Smart person, IQ or no.


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Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 19, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Jeremy,

Sorry - a quota is a set aside number. Affirmative action is a strategy might use numbers as a starting point in the implementation of a strategy that will yield a range of possibilities. You don't get to change the definition to win you argument.

But as I said before, I respect the opposition here. I'm just not convinced that individuals are significantly harmed by AA. I'm pretty sure I lost out on two jobs within the university at least in part because of AA. But I had skills, connections, determination... so I found other jobs. But many of my connections came through avenues less open to people of different backgrounds. See, that's the point the AA opponents miss. You don't have to call it affirmative action, but there is a ton of unofficial affirmative action that disproportionately benefits those already the furthest ahead in society. I grew up in nice white upper-middle class neighborhood in L.A., counting among my parents' friends and the parents of my friends any number of doctors, lawyers, business executives, professors, writers, actors/directors/producers, insurance reps, artists, and various other professionals. I had offers of internships and summer jobs based on my school, my name, my family. If I'd applied to private schools, what advantages would I have received from legacy ties?

So, we're not really going to get rid of all that stuff that makes life unfair. There are huge built in advantages for all the people who need them least. Affirmative action, done correctly, ought to recognize that society isn't fair to various subgroups, and society would benefit from making small adjustments to lead to an educational system that brings more people access to opportunities that are disproportionately handed to certain people due to accidents of birth.


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Posted by jil
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2007 at 8:13 pm


They have a very lively discussion on this topic on another forum. the issue is race and school performance but more importantly what we need to DO about it from a practical point of view. see Web Link

I must say i have never seen such a forthright discussion of issues most people want to avoid and deny

There is also a interesting discussion of the new English approach to helping kids reach their potentials



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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2007 at 8:51 am

The bear, gun, etc. example is more to do with culture than anything else. Back in the 50s only Americans or those watching american tv would know about Davy Crockett and that does not show much intelligence. Today, the assumption would be just that it needed a US flag to complete the picture. The assumption that intelligence tests have to account for american culture is one of the biggest faults by us employers.


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Maybe I read the original article incorrectly, but I thought it said that cultural factors WERE the reason for increased IQ scores.

Today, on NPR, there was a discussion about lead in paint, and exposure to kids. One statement, by an advocate for reduced permissilbe lead exposure, was that IQ was reduced by about 7 points, indicating that intelleigence was proportinately reduced (due to brain damage). Now, if IQ has nothing to do with intelligence, why is it being used to push an agenda that correlates intelligence with lead exposure?

I think the bottom-line question is: Does IQ measure intelligence, even if only in relative way?


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:27 pm

"Intelligence" is a multi-faceted entity, which is, even today, not fully defined. Thus, the danger of basing to much policy on a fuzzy metric.

For instance, some would say that true intelligence has more to do with adaptation to environment than one's ability to score high on a test.


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:32 pm

""Intelligence" is a multi-faceted entity, which is, even today, not fully defined. Thus, the danger of basing to much policy on a fuzzy metric.

For instance, some would say that true intelligence has more to do with adaptation to environment than one's ability to score high on a test."

This is exactly right RWE. Given that you feel that way, one can wonder why you spent so much time at the beginning of this thread trying to prove to us all that there is no link between race and intelligence. WOuld you not have been better off to argue that the measurement of intelligent is so fraught with inherent error and fuzzily defined by nature, that any attempt to prove - or disprove - such a link is meaningless, and certainly not something on which "intelligent" policy can be based?


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:43 pm



Jeremy-- so this is a conspiracy by the Chinese CIA to dumb us down by putting lead in our toys-- devious little %%%

In fact it is impossible to have a discussion about IQ, Race,Aptitude and Gender in any combination. The PC Gestapo have seen to that , look what happened to the head of Harvard, Fired and he is not allowed to speak any where not even Chico State

So the wise discus these things on the golf course away from the thought police.

2 points

1/ the best predictor of future achievemnt is the ability to delay gratifiction at age age 2 yrs, a great study at Stanford by Bandura I believe

2/ When I was at Harvard Biz they published a study about what best predicted the future income of HBS students. It was not IQ, it was not academic performance it was Height! over 6 feet and you live happily ever after.

Same thing applies to presidential races

So wise people avoid public discussion of race, gender,IQ and aptitude. They make their decision on what works, after all its their money.
My advice is join a club or get a boat and do not put anything in writing that you do not want to see in court.




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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:44 pm

"one can wonder why you spent so much time at the beginning of this thread trying to prove to us all that there is no link between race and intelligence."

Why? Because so many people want to use results that are largely derivative of environment (which is different among various subgroups) to make policy, AND that since IQ HAS been used as a measuring tool to exclude certain persons (because of their cultural difference), that IQ as we understand it should not be used to make policy that excludes, or defines "with certainty" the various inherent qualities of any one racial subgroup.

Back to the bottom line (re: your argument, specifically). You are in favor of a theoretical meritocracy, in a world that is fraught with subjective, non-meritocratic "measurements".

Sorry, but we're going to keep muddling along, and do what we can to provide equal opportunity. Like I said, it's messy. Regarding "messiness", another quality that some attribute to "true" IQ is the ability to manage ambivalence. Does that ring a bell?


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 6:49 pm

"In fact it is impossible to have a discussion about IQ, Race,Aptitude and Gender in any combination. The PC Gestapo have seen to that , look what happened to the head of Harvard, Fired and he is not allowed to speak any where not even Chico State"

A good example of environmental "selecting out". Whether it's a good thing, or not, is another point. One could argue that the larger human good is served by a strict adherence to social mores that strive for equality among the sexes, no matter the propensity, or aptitude. One could also argue that diversity of opinion protects from breeding policy in a theoretical "monoculture".

The truth probably lies somewhere in between.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 20, 2007 at 7:03 pm



RWE "The truth probably lies somewhere in between"

Well no, the truth is that economic decision makers make their decision based on what will create value, not some PC psychobabble.

They have their discussion in private and in code and they get the HR people to run the interference. That what I do

This applies particularly to the beneficiaries of affirmative action if the guy really does not have what it takes to perform in the real world.

This is what Clarence Thomas understood when he said his Yale Law degree was not worth 5 cents

Sorry if this is an inconvenient truth for you, but Darwin rules in nature and in commerce.

Happy Christmas


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Posted by Chuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm

RWE can't have it both ways. He's saying simultaneously that 1.it's disproven that there is a link between race and intelligence and 2, intelligence is too ill-defined and fuzzy to be used as a variablwe in any such link.

It's perhaps instructive that for some in this discussion, science and logic are driven by desired policy goals. A little like our creationist Republican friends. Pity to see it here in Palo Alto.


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Posted by mary
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 20, 2007 at 7:24 pm


Here is a good example of affirmative action and IQ in action!

Senator Ted Kennedy earned C grades at the private Milton Academy, but was admitted to Harvard as a "legacy"--his father and older brothers had attended there, so the younger and dimmer Kennedy's admission was virtually assured. While attending, he was expelled twice, once for cheating on a test, and once for paying a classmate to cheat for him. While expelled, Kennedy enlisted in the Army, but mistakenly signed up for four years instead of two. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to England, pulled the necessary strings to have his enlistment shortened to two years, and to ensure that he served in Europe, not Korea, where a war was raging. Kennedy was assigned to Paris, never advanced beyond the rank of Private, and returned to Harvard upon being discharged.






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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2007 at 12:06 am

Paul: "Well no, the truth is that economic decision makers make their decision based on what will create value,"

Poof! Your argument just blew up. :) Economists know the truth? LOL!! And, how many different economic paradigms have come and gone in the last six decades? You need to look at the history of economics, and economic policy; then get back to us.

Start with the fact that the Nobel Committee was paid off by officials of the Swedish Banking system in 1939, to establish a Nobel Prize for Economics, thus giving the latter the status of science. What a joke!

Clarence Thomas? You mean the guy who projects his own fortunate experience (read his biography) onto the rest of his black brothers and sisters, forgetting that some suffer without the benefit of what he enjoyed. Thomas is a very sincere guy who is very wrong about almost everything that has to do with race. Ironic.


Chuck, you can continue to argue that racism doesn't exist, but it does - no matter how you try to slice your argument. YOu can also try to show that we live in a pure meritocracy, but that's a fantasy, too. Perhaps you can write a novel about this subject; then you can fictionalize all you want, in a world that you create - just like you're doing here.

While you're at it, re-read the link at the top, and do try to understand its point. For the life of me, I don't understand why you haven't gotten it yet.


Mary, Ted Kennedy was a pure beneficiary of "privilege", which is quite a bit different than "affirmative action". It's important to know the difference.


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Posted by .5%
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2007 at 8:20 am

"RWE can't have it both ways."

Sure he can: no contradiction. Recently, several pundits have written tracts purporting to show that race is linked to IQ, which is supposed to stand in for intelligence. There are quite good reasons to discount these arguments ("1.it's disproven that there is a link between race and intelligence"). And any casual reading will reveal that everyone in the field agrees intelligence is ill-defined and fuzzy ("2, intelligence is too ill-defined and fuzzy to be used as a variablwe in any such link").


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