Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Black Brain, White Brain?

There came out recently a book called Black Brain, White Brain -- by  Gavin Evans.  It seems to have got some acclaim so I thought I might say a bit about it.  That task seems to be facilitated by an article by Evans under the same heading which appeared just over a month ago.  The article seems to summarize the main points of the book and thus spares me the time of reading the book.  But if there are things in the book which undermine any of the things I day below, I would be delighted to hear of it.

The main point of the book seems to be an accusation that it is racist to discuss the black/white IQ gap.  And like all other efforts in that direction that I know of it does a lot of huffing and puffing and declaring things obvious rather than providing proof of them.  The abusive and intemperate writing by Evans may be judged by his reference to "racist science that has been spewing out of the computers". Do computers spew? His use of abusive language like that is certainly a strong indication that he has a weak case that he is trying to cover up. "fester" and "dangerous" are other emotive words he uses.  Abuse in lieu of facts is a very familiar Leftist modus operandi.  And a few of Evans's  assertions do seem to be simply wrong.

And in the best Leftist style, his writing is almost entirely an appeal to authority.  Quite illogically, he thinks that because other people have declared something wrong then it must be wrong.  That many people have declared genetically-oriented treatments of the black/white IQ gap to be wrong and mistaken proves nothing at all.  It simply shows that most academics are Leftist.  For Evans to have written in any sort of scholarly way, he would have to list the main points where the genetic writers were found to be in error.  He does not do that.

He seems to think that he has made a great point by saying that no one gene for IQ  has been discovered.  So what?  IQ researchers have for decades accepted with perfect calm that  IQ is polygenetic.  Whether one gene or many is behind a difference may make research more or less difficult but it does not take away from the fact that the difference is genetic. And the genes that do contribute to IQ differences are being discovered all the time.  I must make a list of the studies concerned some time. I have noted quite a few on this blog.

He then goes on to claim that intelligence has not evolved for 100,000 years.  That completely ignores the work of Bruce Lahn, who showed a major evolutionary change in brain size about 5,000 years ago, a change which coincided with the birth of civilization and which is almost unknown in Africa. Pesky!

Another claim by Evans:  "Other studies have also shown that the IQs of children adopted into middle class homes rise significantly and that these increases can persist into adulthood".  He is right about the first part but wrong about the second part. Manipulations of the environment can improve IQ scores in childhood and even into the teens but by about age 30, all those improvements are lost.  By age 30 most environmental influences have washed out and the genetic endowment comes to the fore.

And then Evans gets on to the good ol' Flynn effect. So much has been written about that that I hesitate to write any more but in summary, the Flynn effect seems to be an artifact of increasing years of schooling and the test sophistication that engenders.  On important IQ subtests -- such as vocabulary -- where being test-wise does not help -- there has been very little movement in scores.  And in some advanced countries -- such as Nederland -- the rise has petered out, as one would expect if it was just a one-time artifact that had approached an asymptote (maximum value).

Finally, I am amazed by his assertion that "black American IQs are rising at a faster rate than those of white Americans".  I know of no evidence for that.  In fact, on some indices, the black/white gap is increasing.  So I guess I will have to "fester" away in my conclusion that there are real and inborn differences between the average IQs of blacks and whites.

And let's not have the old nonsense that IQ tests measure something limited and mysterious.  They measure general problem-solving ability, which is why researchers tend to use the term 'g' instead of 'IQ'.

And I may note that my view of IQ is no longer academically marginalized stuff at all. I don't quite know whether to be pleased or disappointed but it seems that mainstream psychology is catching up with what psychometricians such as myself have been saying for years: That IQ is highly general, highly central, highly hereditary and of overwhelming importance in determining people's life-chances. Not so long ago any claim to that effect would be very marginal within psychology and would expose anyone making it to all sorts of nasty accusations.

But you can now read it all not in some obscure academic journal or some Rightist source but in a 2004 issue (vol. 86 no. 1) of the American Psychological Association's most widely-circulated journal -- the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Article after article there sets out the importance of IQ. And for social psychologists to be taking an interest in such evidence is really amazing. Psychometricians have known all that stuff for years. It is the social psychologists who have been most resistant to such ideas.  I guess that even an organization as Leftist as the American Psychological Association has to come to terms with the evidence eventually.

And note that the APA conceded some time ago that "African American IQ scores have long averaged about 15 points below those of Whites".  15 points is one standard deviation, which is a huge difference -- accounting for 34% of the distribution.  So it looks like I've got a lot of company in my "festering", as Evans calls it. Evans is fighting a lost battle.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).


Doom said...

It's fine to try to get out in front of something, to head it off, perhaps call it out and lead the direction of reaction or action. But when you are just a fob, and what you have raced in front of is a tidal wave of truth, you don't really have a chance.

If I had to guess, this was a toady sent to name an already known truth as if to name it, then lead the way in how it is dealt with. That will only mean something to academics, who are about to be washed away by several other tsunamis of truth, not the least of which is the fact that academia has abrogated any claim to even be seeking the truth. Just weak economic cogs that have been corrupted, time and again, until nothing remains of the intent.

It's hilarious from the cliff, looking down. I'm not even angry about it all, at this time, too late. But I can enjoy the show. I've got LOTS of popcorn.

Real science not race science said...

You very clearly haven't read the book. It explains in great detail why the claims of racist science are, quite simply, unscientific - from the point of view of genetics and evolutionary theory, of IQ theory and of archeology. It also discusses in considerable detail the thoroughly discredited claims made by Bruce Lahn. Before criticising a book, you should at least read it cover-to-cover. And you also miss the point about the article in the New Internationalist. What that was about was the argument that claims about race science needed a vigorous academic and journalistic response. Any theory, whether social or scientific, needs to be tested and reviewed but recently race science has been getting a free ride, partly because serious scientists don't take this kind of nonsense seriously.


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