Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Race and IQ

     Jared Diamond expressed the view that uncivilised people are more intelligent than civilised ones, but didn't actually provide any evidence. Now, I am a zoologist, not a psychometrician, but two things are pretty obvious to me. The first is that intelligence is not a social construct; some people really are born smarter than others. The second is that race is real. We may be all brothers under the skin, but my blood line separated from that of the Aborigines about 2,000 generations ago, and from Africans nearly 3,000 generations ago. A lot can happen in that time. Therefore, I find it extremely unlikely that the various races can differ in (say) average height, but be exactly the same in average intelligence. On the other hand, some of the extremely low racial IQ I have seen quoted make my baloney meter light up.
     To give an example, white people - at least standard Europeans - have an average IQ of 100. That's by definition, as we shall see. The average IQ of East Asians is said to be 105. That is the sort of variation I would expect. It's not my own race, but I can live with it. However, one thing a scientific education gives you is a good baloney meter or, as I prefer to call it, a b***s**t detector. So when I am told that African Americans have an average IQ of 85 ie at the bottom sixth of the white IQ, that the same race in Africa itself has an IQ of 70 (the bottom fortieth), and the IQ of Australian Aborigines is only 64 ie that of an 11-year-old child, my BS detector flashes brightly.
     Let's start off by explaining what IQ tests are. They were originally devised for the study of school children, and essentially measure academic ability. More than one ability is measured, and an individual's score will be different for each ability, though probably not wildly different. It does not measure memory. Nor does it measure manual skills. In primary school I myself was normally top of the class. Then, one term, they introduced courses on woodwork and metalwork. Let's just say that I passed them, but only just. I am a disappointment to my wife in that, unlike her father, I have no handyman skills. The screws I insert are never really tight. I can put up a shelf, but it will always wobble a bit. You probably need a reasonable IQ to be an effective tradesman, but what you really need is something that never appears on IQ tests. And I shall say nothing about musical ability, because I have none whatsoever.
        IQ, like a number of other biological parameters, follows a bell curve, or normal distribution:  the three measures of "average" (mean, median, and mode) are the same, and the proportions on either side of the average are the same. In designing an IQ test, psychometricians try it on a large number of people, then grade it so that the mean is 100, and the standard deviation - a measure of how wide the distribution is - is 15. Thus, IQ is a measure of relative intelligence, not absolute intelligence. This should be obvious; otherwise we would need a recognized zero intelligence. If, for example, your IQ is 115, it does not mean that you are 15% smarter than the average. However, it does imply that, it is one standard deviation from the mean, and you are in the top sixth of the population.
      Psychometricians also automatically remove any items in which the sexes have markedly different scores. Men and women are defined as being equally intelligent. It would also be the easiest thing in the world to design a test which reveal either men or women to be more intelligent.
      You shouldn't try to become a doctor if, for example, your IQ is only 90. IQ is not a social construct. In the Western societies in which the tests were invented, they are very good predictors of the individual's progress in school, and in careers.  It also possesses a strong heritable component. Smart parents have smart children. The IQs of identical twins are very close (though not identical) - much closer than for fraternal twins and singletons. Even if identical twins are reared apart, although their IQs are more divergent, they do not diverge as much as singletons reared together.
     On the other hand, the IQ of the eldest child tends to be a few points above the younger ones, and this is hardly likely to be genetic. It is probably related to more parental attention in the earliest years. Also, siblings reared apart have more divergent IQs than those reared together. Poor children adopted by educated parents have higher IQs than those who remain in the slums. Then there is the Flynn effect. People's IQs appear to have been increasing throughout the twentieth century, with the result that IQ tests have to be constantly redesigned to ensure the mean is still 100 and the standard deviation still 15. Since it is unlikely that our grandparents and great-grandparents were all morons, something else is obviously at play. Suggestions are that we are becoming more used to tests, that we live in more complex environments or, essentially, that we are learning to think more like the people who design the tests. I might add that this process appears to have gone into reverse in the 1990s. We are now getting dumber.
     This raises the obvious question: Do some marginalised sub-groups achieve poorly on IQ tests because they are out of the mainstream, and haven't got aboard the Flynn effect?
     The IQ test I did was designed in England, and one answer I missed involved a four letter word, with the hint being "spring". The answer was "Lent". Living in the southern hemisphere, it never occurred to me to associate Lent with spring. Admittedly, this probably had very little effect on my overall score, but the point has been made: if intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn, and the ability to solve problems, then prior learning and prior experience with problems will confuse the measurement. Sensible psychometricians attempt to design tests to mask the effects of education and culture, but they can never be completely eliminated. After all, the individual must still understand the questions.
     This raises another issue. Instead of asking whether blacks are as smart as whites, perhaps we should ask whether the English are as smart as the French. I doubt if there is much difference, but how do we know? I can read French, but I would be much slower taking the French IQ test, and so my score would be correspondingly lower. Presumably, a Frenchman would have the same problem with an English test. The French no doubt design their IQ tests in the same manner as the English, but how do we know they are comparable?
     What about immigration? My regular doctor comes from India, as does the after hours doctor who visited me. Obviously, if we continue importing Indian doctors, and rejecting Indian street sweepers, the average IQ of Indian Australians will end up higher than that of white Australians and Indians who stay at home. Not every country's immigration policy is as geared towards businessmen and those with special skills as Australia's, but they do tend to reject those who are uneducated or unemployable. Also, immigrants are more likely to be go-getting sorts of people who have managed to build up a certain amount of capital before they head for another country. In other words, immigration and immigration policies tend to at least cull out the lower end of the IQ bell curve. According to John Derbyshire, the average Indian IQ is 82 (we'll get back to that), while that of Indians in the US is 106. He makes the obvious point that they are importing an overclass. We are doing the same thing in Australia. Also, despite what I said about East Asians, I wonder if their high IQs is not simply a result of immigration selection. (See below.)
      Moving away from that, what can we make of the contention that the average Indian IQ is 82? A tenth of India's population enjoys the same lifestyle and education as Westerners, while those at the bottom are desperately poor and uneducated, struggling all day and every day to survive. All the factors which may explain the Flynn effect, like more complex environments and education, are lacking for a high proportion of the population. There are also as many languages as in Europe, bringing the French-English conundrum into play. A lot will have suffered malnutrition in childhood, which must take the fine edge off IQ. Also, there is the unacknowledged issue: motive. If you or I took an IQ test, we would try to do our best because (a) our self-esteem is at stake, and (b) so might our future careers. But will every member of a marginalised community have the same attitude?
     IQ tests originated in advance Western societies, and they are very good at predicting academic and career success in such societies. But I can't see how any similar reliance can be placed on them outside of that milieu.
     Just the same, are there any genetic racial differences in IQ? I would be surprised if there weren't, but how do you prove it? Many American soldiers stationed in Germany after the war took German wives or mistresses. There was no mean differences between the IQ scores of the children of white fathers and black fathers. Of course, members of the military are not a random sample of the population, nor are men with the ability to marry or seduce a woman. Indeed, if a man belongs to a despised race, he probably needs special advantages not present in other members of the race. On the other hand, in the Minnesota transracial adoption study, it was clear that (a) the bright parents' biological children were smarter than the adopted children, revealing the effects of genetics, (b) the IQs of the adopted black children were higher than the general black population, revealing that the positive effect of environment, and (c) the black children still had lower IQs than the white children.
     What about East Asians? The interesting thing is that tests performed in Asia reveal IQs of 105 or 110, while studies performed on Japanese and Chinese Americans in the 1960s and '70s failed to show any superiority to white Americans. However, their academic achievements were, and are, well in advance of what would be predicted by IQ. Something else appears to be at work - probably culture.
     I think, on the balance of probabilities, Africans do have a slightly lower average intelligence than whites. At the same time, I think it is pretty clear that Askenazi Jews possess an average higher IQ. This has been shown in multiple tests in many separate countries, so it is unlikely to be a simple immigrant selection. The question of East Asians I shall leave open. Just the same, as I said at the beginning, a difference of 5 points one way or another sounds reasonable. Vastly lower or higher scores I find very suspect.
     What are the implications? If certain minority groups really are genetically lower in IQ, then bringing them up to the level of the majority will be a lost cause. However, we are not at that stage yet. Most of the differences in IQ between groups is probably environmental, and can be improved. But, of course, the problem exists only for genuine multiracial societies. The US has a large black minority as the result of slavery, and will have to live with it. Britain never had a racial problem until the 1960s, when they foolishly imported one. Why is Australia following suit? We don't need a racial underclass, and we don't need a racial overclass. The way to avoid both is to stop importing other races.

      Here is a video by the inimitable Simon Webb, about the racial disparities found in spatial skills for those applying to join the RAF or the British police force. They are unlikely to be cultually conditioned.