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Reflections on the Harris/Klein argument

 
nonverbal
 
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09 April 2018 04:52
 
dhave - 08 April 2018 04:56 PM

. . .

It’s curious.  We have no problem talking about differences in skin color or eye shape or susceptibility to certain diseases or speech patterns or athletic differences, but mention IQ and everyone recoils.  Why is that?

. . .

I’d wonder as well, except that intelligence is commonly seen as that specific thing that causes apes to be people—no wonder it’s so controversial. Also, intelligence is an abstract social concept while colors and shapes are quickly amenable to accurate identification even by a young child. Abstractions need to be evaluated and analyzed differently from the way colors and shapes are analyzed, simply because we can correctly feel confident identifying colors and shapes but humanity has yet to settle on precisely what intelligence is, and in particular, what human intelligence is. Too many questions and subtle disagreements remain for intelligence to be considered a variable as coherent as shape/color, wouldn’t you agree?

 
 
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09 April 2018 14:37
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 09 April 2018 12:45 AM


I’m not even criticizing Murray for studying either phenomena (though both facts were known before The Bell Curve).  I’m just calling bullshit on the reasons he gave to Sam for doing so, where he makes it sound like scientific constraints more or less compelled him into the topic;

Now you digress into armchair psychology.  Paint an invidious picture of Murray and attack that.

Anyway, I was sorry to hear Ezra still throwing around the term “immutable” on Sam’s podcast this morning, and neither of them reminded listeners that heritability and immutability are ultimately orthogonal, that we may not be able to change an individual’s IQ in one generation, but we are far from helpless.

While your essay is not what “The Bell Curve” is about, it does let us easily dismiss Murray’s argument for being impotent, and it is interesting that, far from doing nothing, Murray apparently has written yet another book promoting Universal Basic Income, “In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State.”  I was surprised Ezra rejected UBI, I thought UBI was generally supported by liberal leaners.

Finally, AP, before I forget, one thing I’d like to see you add to your essay is its rebuttal.  If it is as you say, that this orthogonality is so well understood by geneticists and biologists that it bores them, then I would think we’d have seen plenty of healthy debates on this way back in 1995 when that compilation “The Bell Curve Debate” was published.  Let us know if you have a reference(s) to one of these, my guess is that Murray would have had to acknowledge his suggestion was plain wrong and moved on (as he seems to have done with UBI).

Regards,
Dave.

 
 
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09 April 2018 14:39
 
nonverbal - 09 April 2018 04:52 AM
dhave - 08 April 2018 04:56 PM

. . .

It’s curious.  We have no problem talking about differences in skin color or eye shape or susceptibility to certain diseases or speech patterns or athletic differences, but mention IQ and everyone recoils.  Why is that?

. . .

I’d wonder as well, except that intelligence is commonly seen as that specific thing that causes apes to be people—no wonder it’s so controversial. Also, intelligence is an abstract social concept while colors and shapes are quickly amenable to accurate identification even by a young child. Abstractions need to be evaluated and analyzed differently from the way colors and shapes are analyzed, simply because we can correctly feel confident identifying colors and shapes but humanity has yet to settle on precisely what intelligence is, and in particular, what human intelligence is. Too many questions and subtle disagreements remain for intelligence to be considered a variable as coherent as shape/color, wouldn’t you agree?

Yes, I put this out there rhetorically but thought about it afterwards and considered answers like yours.  There’s still something, I think, prior to saying “intelligence,” prior to feeling uneasy.  It is similar to Ezra’s difficulty separating our dark story of racial oppression from a dispassionate discussion of population differences.

I agree that the term “intelligence” is a fuzzier idea than eye color.  I don’t know if we can even have a fruitful discussion about it if we don’t first agree on meanings for the words we use.  What happens if we replace “intelligence” with “G,” the so-called g-factor?  G is often used synonymously with “IQ” or “intelligence” in these contexts but we don’t have to agree or even care about what it means yet, only with how to find it, and finding it is not ambiguous, we give someone the G-Test and get back a number, and that is G.

In Jordan Peterson’s world, G might live on the midline of yin-yang, the boundary between order and chaos.  On one side, finding it, everything is orderly, you answer some questions, you get a number.  On the other side, what it means, what it implies, what we should do about it, there is confusion and conflict and chaos.

There was this person I saw years ago, some kind of Gaza representative, being interviewed on TV.  Every time the interviewer asked a question like “How can we resolve this Middle East chaos?” or “Why does Gaza keep shooting rockets at Israel?” the representative would turn it around and reply with another question like “But what about all the rockets Israel fired at us?” and it just went back and forth like this going nowhere.  When the representative’s behavior and resulting lack of conversation was pointed out to him, he smiled and proudly said “That is my style.”

These Murray debates feel like that sometimes.  Maybe we’re not intelligent enough to discuss intelligence.  But methinks we should try because the alternative is just more chaos.

Regards,
Dave.

 

 
 
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09 April 2018 15:52
 

Armchair psychology?  Hardly.  I criticize the reasons Murray gives for analyzing the data in The Bell Curve the way he did, not speculate on his mental states.  Accusing him of scientific bias follows from his unscientific reasons, not psychology. 

As for posting the essay’s “rebuttal” and offering evidence of the views of geneticists, statisticians and biologists, I cited five articles a few paragraphs in by just those folks who criticized the “science” behind The Bell Curve before it was even published, including the opposing views from psychologists, and the rebuttal of that.  That should be evidence enough that the opposing view of geneticists, biologists and other scientists existed, for those papers together offer dozens more related papers.  I also offered a footnote with with four scientific responses to Murray consistent with the views expressed in those five citations. One was a book comprising 15 separates responses alone. Finally, I even discussed in one of those reviews both themes that geneticists and biologists criticized in the science of The Bell Curve before it was even published, specifically citing as support citations from Murray showing he makes these errors, and noting the failure of Murray to take those corrections to heart.  If you want more of a “rebuttal” than that, may I suggest that you write it yourself.

I don’t know what you mean by “heritability” and “immutability” being “orthogonal,” unless it’s to confirm that the former does not mean the latter.  For Murray, heritability does indicate immutability, and for him, whatever its genetic versus its environmental components, IQ is an immutable trait.  He devoted most of an entire chapter in The Bell Curve to the failed attempts to manipulate IQ through educational interventions, i.e. almost an entire chapter supporting his view that IQ is fixed—in other words, “immutable”.  As those five citations show, Murray’s use of “heritability” was “rebutted” before The Bell Curve was even written.  The Goldberger-Manski review also indicated that to their knowledge, no geneticist or biologist has ever proposed “heritability” means “immutability”.  I know none of the three quantitative genetics textbooks I have do.

[ Edited: 10 April 2018 07:31 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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09 April 2018 17:00
 
dhave - 09 April 2018 02:39 PM
nonverbal - 09 April 2018 04:52 AM
dhave - 08 April 2018 04:56 PM

. . .

It’s curious.  We have no problem talking about differences in skin color or eye shape or susceptibility to certain diseases or speech patterns or athletic differences, but mention IQ and everyone recoils.  Why is that?

. . .

I’d wonder as well, except that intelligence is commonly seen as that specific thing that causes apes to be people—no wonder it’s so controversial. Also, intelligence is an abstract social concept while colors and shapes are quickly amenable to accurate identification even by a young child. Abstractions need to be evaluated and analyzed differently from the way colors and shapes are analyzed, simply because we can correctly feel confident identifying colors and shapes but humanity has yet to settle on precisely what intelligence is, and in particular, what human intelligence is. Too many questions and subtle disagreements remain for intelligence to be considered a variable as coherent as shape/color, wouldn’t you agree?

Yes, I put this out there rhetorically but thought about it afterwards and considered answers like yours.  There’s still something, I think, prior to saying “intelligence,” prior to feeling uneasy.  It is similar to Ezra’s difficulty separating our dark story of racial oppression from a dispassionate discussion of population differences.

I agree that the term “intelligence” is a fuzzier idea than eye color.  I don’t know if we can even have a fruitful discussion about it if we don’t first agree on meanings for the words we use.  What happens if we replace “intelligence” with “G,” the so-called g-factor?  G is often used synonymously with “IQ” or “intelligence” in these contexts but we don’t have to agree or even care about what it means yet, only with how to find it, and finding it is not ambiguous, we give someone the G-Test and get back a number, and that is G.

In Jordan Peterson’s world, G might live on the midline of yin-yang, the boundary between order and chaos.  On one side, finding it, everything is orderly, you answer some questions, you get a number.  On the other side, what it means, what it implies, what we should do about it, there is confusion and conflict and chaos.

There was this person I saw years ago, some kind of Gaza representative, being interviewed on TV.  Every time the interviewer asked a question like “How can we resolve this Middle East chaos?” or “Why does Gaza keep shooting rockets at Israel?” the representative would turn it around and reply with another question like “But what about all the rockets Israel fired at us?” and it just went back and forth like this going nowhere.  When the representative’s behavior and resulting lack of conversation was pointed out to him, he smiled and proudly said “That is my style.”

These Murray debates feel like that sometimes.  Maybe we’re not intelligent enough to discuss intelligence.  But methinks we should try because the alternative is just more chaos.

Regards,
Dave.

Yes—it’s frustrating that intelligence—or g-factor—is so obvious when we see it, but so difficult to define with terms that are precise.

 
 
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13 April 2018 08:49
 
dhave - 08 April 2018 04:56 PM

It’s curious.  We have no problem talking about differences in skin color or eye shape or susceptibility to certain diseases or speech patterns or athletic differences, but mention IQ and everyone recoils.  Why is that?

Seriously, what if we had access to the database HM used in 1994 and we computed mean IQ’s ourselves and they differed between racial populations.  Can we talk about that?

Or what if we took mean IQ’s by height and it turned out that tall people had a lower mean IQ than shorter people.  Can we talk about that?

Thanks for putting a fine point on this question. To me, this is the heart of Sam’s position in this whole debate, and I think it gets lost in discussing the details of Murray’s career and motivations, the science of heritability, etc. It was what Sam was trying to drive home with his Neanderthal example, which Ezra never addressed. I think it’s because Sam is very much a philosopher, and this question is very much one of principle, existing independently of any of the other elements in the conversation.

That question of principle is: In the case that valid science finds differences in certain traits between groups, how should we, as a society, handle such information? Sam appears to think that Murray presented valid data on this point, others disagree. But whoever is right or wrong on that point, this question remains, as Sam’s Neanderthal example showed. If such differences exist, science will find them. So if we want to continue to do science in this area, we need to find a way to talk constructively about such data and how it can best be used to inform the ‘engineering’ of a society where everyone can thrive.

The problem Sam runs into with Ezra and others is that he can’t seem to get to that last part, because as soon as he says ‘But suppose science DID find these differences’, it’s hard for him not to appear like he has motives or interests that are racist to some degree.

And Sam tried to put Ezra on the spot about this in another way, too, when he asked whether Ezra thought Sam inferior to John Von Neumann due to Sam’s lower IQ. As I recall (it’s been a couple days), Ezra refused to take the point Sam was trying to make: that we needn’t exclude valid data on IQ differences (if they exist!) due to a stigma of inferiority around IQ scores, since lower IQ simply does not, as a matter of fact, make a person inferior or less worthy of opportunities to thrive. I think Sam takes this last bit as a fact.

His PR problem, I think, is that he expects it to go without saying that he regards this as a fact. He doesn’t give due deference to the most basic background fact about all of this, which is that we STILL live in a thoroughly racist society where you cannot reasonably expect to wade into this area and not look like a racist if you don’t lean more heavily than he does on pointing out/countering institutionalized white supremacy than anything else.

Sam is frankly naïve to think that he can talk about this stuff the way he’s doing, and with Charles Murray no less, and not get flack for it. And while I sympathize with him, I disagree with him that the flack is entirely unfair. We’ve done this dance of scientists trotting out proof that black people score lower on some metric and that it can’t be changed, it’s inherent, etc. for anyone to be expected to just swallow this whole the way Sam seems to want everyone to do.

Anyway, I do think your question about IQ is a good one, and I think the answer is that people want to stay away from IQ because, unlike eye color or height, IQ is closely entwined in our minds with inherent worth. Few people (to my knowledge) think, consciously or subconsciously, that shorter people are somehow less worthy or less deserving than taller people. Likewise with eye color (although…). But I think it is the default position to regard ‘smarter’ people as ‘better’ in a general, absolute sense than ‘dumber’ people. And this is a perception we need to be extremely careful about, because it is enormously consequential. For example, studies have shown that black teachers have higher expectations of black students than do white teachers, which leads them to challenge the black students more, which leads to the black students actually learning more from black teachers.

That said, I agree with Sam that this perception needs to be changed at a fundamental level. I do believe that there are differences in IQ between people, but like other differences, they can’t be allowed to stand in as differences in inherent worth or deserving-ness. Again, though, Sam’s blind spot here is to ask ‘social justice warriors’ to effectively chill out about this stuff, without recognizing that their alarm is perfectly legitimate, given the fact that their misuse of IQ data in this way is a politically and socially necessary response to the initial and more fundamental misuse of such data by racists. Sam can’t ask black people to stop treating this science politically without acknowledging that the only reason they do so is because history and our current political climate show that such results will undoubtedly be used politically against their interests.

I’ve heard Sam say a lot against the tribalism and identity politics of marginalized groups associated with the left. He doesn’t say a whole lot about the tribalism and identity politics of white supremacy. And I don’t mean KKK kids carrying tiki torches out of their mom’s basements. I mean our entire socio-economico-politico-crimino-jurisprudentio-psychologico-etc. way of living, which is still dramatically skewed to make it harder for black people to live well. I think it would go a long way if Sam indicated that he genuinely understands that black people are not politicizing or tribalizing this data. Whether they speak up or not, that data is already politicized and tribalized, simply by virtue of the racism still pervading our institutions, INCLUDING our social sciences. But if they stay silent because ‘Sam Harris said it would be better if we dropped the identity politics’, then it’s not the like the data will not be used politically! It will just be used politically to hurt them - as it always has been.

Again, I think Sam believes all this, but he wants people to understand it without him having to spell it out all the time. So when he’s challenged, he gets impatient and irritable, which makes him look dismissive and like he’s minimizing the plight of minorities.

 

 
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13 April 2018 09:26
 
ghostRepeater - 13 April 2018 08:49 AM

Thanks for putting a fine point on this question. To me, this is the heart of Sam’s position in this whole debate, and I think it gets lost in discussing the details of Murray’s career and motivations, the science of heritability, etc. It was what Sam was trying to drive home with his Neanderthal example, which Ezra never addressed. I think it’s because Sam is very much a philosopher, and this question is very much one of principle, existing independently of any of the other elements in the conversation.

That question of principle is: In the case that valid science finds differences in certain traits between groups, how should we, as a society, handle such information? Sam appears to think that Murray presented valid data on this point, others disagree. But whoever is right or wrong on that point, this question remains, as Sam’s Neanderthal example showed. If such differences exist, science will find them. So if we want to continue to do science in this area, we need to find a way to talk constructively about such data and how it can best be used to inform the ‘engineering’ of a society where everyone can thrive.

The problem Sam runs into with Ezra and others is that he can’t seem to get to that last part, because as soon as he says ‘But suppose science DID find these differences’, it’s hard for him not to appear like he has motives or interests that are racist to some degree.

And Sam tried to put Ezra on the spot about this in another way, too, when he asked whether Ezra thought Sam inferior to John Von Neumann due to Sam’s lower IQ. As I recall (it’s been a couple days), Ezra refused to take the point Sam was trying to make: that we needn’t exclude valid data on IQ differences (if they exist!) due to a stigma of inferiority around IQ scores, since lower IQ simply does not, as a matter of fact, make a person inferior or less worthy of opportunities to thrive. I think Sam takes this last bit as a fact.

His PR problem, I think, is that he expects it to go without saying that he regards this as a fact. He doesn’t give due deference to the most basic background fact about all of this, which is that we STILL live in a thoroughly racist society where you cannot reasonably expect to wade into this area and not look like a racist if you don’t lean more heavily than he does on pointing out/countering institutionalized white supremacy than anything else.

Sam is frankly naïve to think that he can talk about this stuff the way he’s doing, and with Charles Murray no less, and not get flack for it. And while I sympathize with him, I disagree with him that the flack is entirely unfair. We’ve done this dance of scientists trotting out proof that black people score lower on some metric and that it can’t be changed, it’s inherent, etc. for anyone to be expected to just swallow this whole the way Sam seems to want everyone to do.

Anyway, I do think your question about IQ is a good one, and I think the answer is that people want to stay away from IQ because, unlike eye color or height, IQ is closely entwined in our minds with inherent worth. Few people (to my knowledge) think, consciously or subconsciously, that shorter people are somehow less worthy or less deserving than taller people. Likewise with eye color (although…). But I think it is the default position to regard ‘smarter’ people as ‘better’ in a general, absolute sense than ‘dumber’ people. And this is a perception we need to be extremely careful about, because it is enormously consequential. For example, studies have shown that black teachers have higher expectations of black students than do white teachers, which leads them to challenge the black students more, which leads to the black students actually learning more from black teachers.

That said, I agree with Sam that this perception needs to be changed at a fundamental level. I do believe that there are differences in IQ between people, but like other differences, they can’t be allowed to stand in as differences in inherent worth or deserving-ness. Again, though, Sam’s blind spot here is to ask ‘social justice warriors’ to effectively chill out about this stuff, without recognizing that their alarm is perfectly legitimate, given the fact that their misuse of IQ data in this way is a politically and socially necessary response to the initial and more fundamental misuse of such data by racists. Sam can’t ask black people to stop treating this science politically without acknowledging that the only reason they do so is because history and our current political climate show that such results will undoubtedly be used politically against their interests.

I’ve heard Sam say a lot against the tribalism and identity politics of marginalized groups associated with the left. He doesn’t say a whole lot about the tribalism and identity politics of white supremacy. And I don’t mean KKK kids carrying tiki torches out of their mom’s basements. I mean our entire socio-economico-politico-crimino-jurisprudentio-psychologico-etc. way of living, which is still dramatically skewed to make it harder for black people to live well. I think it would go a long way if Sam indicated that he genuinely understands that black people are not politicizing or tribalizing this data. Whether they speak up or not, that data is already politicized and tribalized, simply by virtue of the racism still pervading our institutions, INCLUDING our social sciences. But if they stay silent because ‘Sam Harris said it would be better if we dropped the identity politics’, then it’s not the like the data will not be used politically! It will just be used politically to hurt them - as it always has been.

Again, I think Sam believes all this, but he wants people to understand it without him having to spell it out all the time. So when he’s challenged, he gets impatient and irritable, which makes him look dismissive and like he’s minimizing the plight of minorities.

I agree.

ghostRepeater, I appreciate your posts on this topic (on both threads), which basically express my views as well.

Also appreciated is the information provided by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher.

[ Edited: 13 April 2018 09:39 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
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13 April 2018 09:36
 
ghostRepeater - 13 April 2018 08:49 AM

Again, I think Sam believes all this, but he wants people to understand it without him having to spell it out all the time. So when he’s challenged, he gets impatient and irritable, which makes him look dismissive and like he’s minimizing the plight of minorities.

Perhaps it behooves communicators to spell these things out in specific detail whenever possible, to ensure through repetition that it is clearly understood.  Especially given the drop-in-drop-out nature of podcast audiences.

 
 
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14 April 2018 07:02
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 March 2018 12:32 PM

Although this essay is merely a fraction of the ink spilt in Harris and Klein’s argument, it is still too long to post here.  It offers an outsider’s view of the argument, ultimately siding—if it sides with anyone—with Klein et. al. and their attempt at least to engage in open discussion on the merits of the underlying issue, something Harris appears unwilling to do, apparently because for him there are no merits to discuss; he is so just incontrovertibly right on this matter that all he’ll discuss is the ethics of bad publishing and the moral panic behind it, of which he is a victim.  If anyone else is amused by this posture because they too are familiar with the race, genes and IQ debate, then read on.  But even if you are not, read on as well because I’d value your feedback on whether I was clear or not to the “un-initiated” reader, my intended audience for this piece.  As it happens, the failure of Murray’s position and Harris’ endorsement is, for all its technical backing, fairly easily to illustrate—or so I hope to have shown here.  In any case, this is one point of view that while probably not common among psychologists is more or less a matter of course among geneticists and biologists (and others who have reviewed The Bell Curve in the peer-review process).  That, at least, is its underlying assertion, as debatable as that might be.  Enjoy!

AP, I was wondering if you could comment on whether the fact that the commonsense understanding of the ‘races’ doesn’t map onto anything biologically real comes to bear on the data Murray uses to support his claim? My understanding is that these classifications are cultural, political, and arbitrary, from a purely biological standpoint. 

What might this mean for ‘race science’? How can you do science on something that doesn’t actually exist?

After all, to say that there are these differences between groups is not very meaningful, scientifically, if the groups themselves are a specious construction. Right?

Thanks for all your work here.

 
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14 April 2018 07:44
 

You’re welcome.  Thank you.

This gets at how I think about biology and race better than I could say.  To be honest, it’s not something I’ve thought much about. I usually go just with the context in which “race” is discussed, and in Murray’s case it was self-identifying as African-American.  I do think there is a useful biological meaning to race in terms of identifiable genetic lineages that tend to in-breed, and depending on where you go back, I think that lineage maps reasonably well onto the social-cultural “races” we put on the census, for instance—the classifications Lewontin made, referred to in the article.  That, at least, is the notion I work with, when I think about it at all.  Sorry I can’t be more helpful than that.

[ Edited: 14 April 2018 07:52 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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14 April 2018 13:32
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 14 April 2018 07:44 AM

You’re welcome.  Thank you.

This gets at how I think about biology and race better than I could say.  To be honest, it’s not something I’ve thought much about. I usually go just with the context in which “race” is discussed, and in Murray’s case it was self-identifying as African-American.  I do think there is a useful biological meaning to race in terms of identifiable genetic lineages that tend to in-breed, and depending on where you go back, I think that lineage maps reasonably well onto the social-cultural “races” we put on the census, for instance—the classifications Lewontin made, referred to in the article.  That, at least, is the notion I work with, when I think about it at all.  Sorry I can’t be more helpful than that.

Thanks immensely for pointing the way to the article. It seems to at least show the way to a place of clarity and sanity on the subject. It was my understanding that biologists regarded race as a spurious concept, scientifically. But it seems this is not the consensus.

It has always seemed unlikely to me, prima facie, that the way we humans classify each other into groups would reflect an underlying ‘joint’ in the natural order that would be useful to a biologist. Even after reading this, I still doubt that.

I’ll use an analogy. (I may only be parading my ignorance, but I’m fine with that if you can set me straight.) What if we took some (seemingly) arbitrary trait, say, whether you like pickles or not. Or whether you can twist your tongue into a tube or not. And suppose we created a society where people who were in and out of this group were treated radically differently. Wouldn’t it be surprising if, once our biological knowledge advanced enough, it turned out to actually be the case that these people differed in some fundamental respect? And even if they are different in some ways, are these differences any more salient than the differences we’d find between populations defined according to any other arbitrarily chosen surface trait?

My other question is about ‘self-identification’, which shows up in a lot of this work. To see if there are differences between these groups, are scientists literally asking people if they belong to these groups? But if the fundamental question is whether these groups are real or not, isn’t this a form of begging the question? I think I am just missing some of the conceptual tools of the field. I am a physicist by training. Biology confuses the shit out of me, especially genetics, population, etc.

 
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16 April 2018 05:54
 

Using the typical approaches, would “which language(s) a person speaks”be highly heritable?

My assumption is that if you tell me what languages a person’s parent(s) speak, then I can make a much more accurate (in the statistical sense) prediction of which languages they speak.

 
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16 April 2018 18:22
 

On the cover of the April 2018 issue of National Geographic (see link below) is a photograph of 11-year-old fraternal twin girls, daughters of the same two parents, the mother English and the father Jamaican.

The cover caption reads “Black and White:  These twin sisters make us rethink everything we know about race”.

I think this illustrates simply but nicely the arbitrary nature of racial distinctions.


National Geographic Magazine (April 2018)
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-twins-black-white-biggs/

From the article:

Historically, when humans have drawn lines of identity—separating Us from Them—they’ve often relied on skin color as a proxy for race. But the 21st-century understanding of human genetics tells us that the whole idea of race is a human invention.

Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

 

 
 
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17 April 2018 14:04
 
nonverbal - 09 April 2018 04:52 AM
dhave - 08 April 2018 04:56 PM

. . .

It’s curious.  We have no problem talking about differences in skin color or eye shape or susceptibility to certain diseases or speech patterns or athletic differences, but mention IQ and everyone recoils.  Why is that?

. . .

I’d wonder as well, except that intelligence is commonly seen as that specific thing that causes apes to be people—no wonder it’s so controversial. Also, intelligence is an abstract social concept while colors and shapes are quickly amenable to accurate identification even by a young child. Abstractions need to be evaluated and analyzed differently from the way colors and shapes are analyzed, simply because we can correctly feel confident identifying colors and shapes but humanity has yet to settle on precisely what intelligence is, and in particular, what human intelligence is. Too many questions and subtle disagreements remain for intelligence to be considered a variable as coherent as shape/color, wouldn’t you agree?

You raise a good point that intelligence is less concrete than eye color, skin color, bone structure.  It is also infinitely more significant of a difference when it comes to one’s life, so it’s unfortunate that society in general is taking the approach you’re alluding to here (I realize you’re not advocating that).

 
 
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27 April 2018 16:00
 
Jan_CAN - 16 April 2018 06:22 PM

On the cover of the April 2018 issue of National Geographic (see link below) is a photograph of 11-year-old fraternal twin girls, daughters of the same two parents, the mother English and the father Jamaican.

The cover caption reads “Black and White:  These twin sisters make us rethink everything we know about race”.

I think this illustrates simply but nicely the arbitrary nature of racial distinctions.

National Geographic Magazine (April 2018)
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-twins-black-white-biggs/

From the article:

Historically, when humans have drawn lines of identity—separating Us from Them—they’ve often relied on skin color as a proxy for race. But the 21st-century understanding of human genetics tells us that the whole idea of race is a human invention.

Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

A few posts back, AP linked to an OP-Ed in the NYT by David Reich. Reich reviews some of the history of research into human races including the idea that somewhere along the line the claim that “race is a social construct” took hold. This seems to be similar to the sentence of yours that I bolded and put in blue.

Jan, is this the claim you’re making, that “race is a social construct”? If so, I would ask you to read the Reich Op-Ed. And then I’d like to ask you to define the phrase “social construct”. On the one hand, “social construct” could be construed as a categorization scheme created by good science. On the other hand, “social construct” could be construed as a categorization scheme cooked up by society’s various oppressors. Which of these definitions were you thinking of, or were you thinking of a different definition?

 

 
 
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