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What the intelligence experts really think about race and IQ

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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13 January 2019 14:46
 

The New York Times recently published a story about how the aging co-discover of DNA Dr. James Watson doubled down on his racism. As part of their story the journalist interviewed another famous geneticist Dr. Francis Collins. The journalist reported that “Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said that most experts on intelligence ‘consider any black-white differences in I.Q. testing to arise primarily from environmental, not genetic, differences.’”

Notice that Collins wasn’t speaking of his own opinion of the black-white IQ gap but instead the opinions of “most experts on intelligence.” It is an argument from authority that serves as an analytical shortcut. Most people have neither the time to investigate nor the brains to accurately analyze what the data would tell us about the cause of the black-white IQ gap. If most relevant experts out there believe it is primarily environmental and not genetic, then we can quickly conclude that James Watson is wrong, and we move on with our lives. The majority of experts have been wrong plenty of times in the past, and the majority is bound to be wrong about at least a few things today, but it is the best magic 8-ball we have.

Problem: this claim of Dr. Collins is directly at odds with the facts. As of 2013, only 42% of experts on intelligence attribute 0-40% of the U.S. black-white differences in IQ to genes. The remainder are either split down the middle (18% of experts attribute 50% of differences to genes) or they are in the majority-gene camp (39% of experts attribute 60-100% of differences to genes).

As a side note, this survey stands most strongly at odds with popular opinion about what it takes to be a non-racist: you would need to attribute 0% of black-white IQ differences to genes. Only 17% of experts on intelligence attribute 0% of such differences to genes. This would make 83% of intelligence researchers racist like Dr. James Watson.

Most of us have no choice but to accept arguments from authority. Are you going to crawl through and analyze the data to decide whether or not HIV really causes AIDS? That smoking causes lung cancer? That a pint of pure mercury every day is bad for your diet? No. You take a shortcut and trust the majority of relevant academics. The downside is that, sometimes, we have false myths about what the majority of relevant academics really believe, and we have liars to reinforce those myths (I use such strong language because in the past I have observed Francis Collins tell falsehoods to the public about many other ideologically-loaded topics, as though what he says is a function of politics). When you need to take a shortcut and when ideology is involved, then believing either the myths or the lies about the experts is no shortcut. You need to go to the expert surveys. Don’t take James Watson’s word for it, don’t take Francis Collins word for it, and don’t take my word for it (I could be a sucker for myths or a liar for all you know). Concerning race and IQ, this is it:

Rindermann, Coyle & Becker, “2013 survey of expert opinion on intelligence: Sources of US black-white differences in IQ,” presented at the International Society for Intelligence Research 14th Annual Conference, hosted at http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/2013-survey-of-expert-opinion-on-intelligence.pdf.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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15 January 2019 07:59
 

You seem to be forwarding several different arguments here. Can you disentangle them and summarize them?

One thing I think I can respond to is your “argument from authority” concern. Science is based on evidence and peer review. We all stand on the shoulders of the scientists who have come before. Scientist A will frequently rely on the findings of Scientist B, if B’s experiments and evidence have survived peer review. So using B’s results is NOT an argument from authority, correct?

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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15 January 2019 20:40
 
icehorse - 15 January 2019 07:59 AM

You seem to be forwarding several different arguments here. Can you disentangle them and summarize them?

One thing I think I can respond to is your “argument from authority” concern. Science is based on evidence and peer review. We all stand on the shoulders of the scientists who have come before. Scientist A will frequently rely on the findings of Scientist B, if B’s experiments and evidence have survived peer review. So using B’s results is NOT an argument from authority, correct?

Your conclusion does not follow from your argument. The conclusion that should follow is that even scientists rely on arguments from authority, in which the authorities are either various teams of “peers” or reputable journals. Their reputation is a metric of their authority. When I was a teenager, I was a fan of Carl Sagan, who claimed, “In science, there are no authorities.” Yeah, turns out that is bullshit. Science is inevitably filled with authorities. But, that is all kind of a different issue.

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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15 January 2019 20:45
 

My central claim is that intelligence researchers tend to side with Dr. Watson on the matter of race and IQ, whether believing such a thing is racist or not. I took another look at the survey and I should have given Collins more credit. The mean genetic component that intelligence researchers attribute to the black-white IQ gap is 47%, which makes Collins barely correct; not lying, though misleading, in my opinion.

 
Garret
 
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Garret
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16 January 2019 02:14
 

Is there biological evidence that race even exists on a genetic level?  Everything I’ve read that’s come out the past 10 years or so seems to indicate that biologists who study genetics are firmly coming down on the side that “race” as we understand it culturally has no basis in our DNA.

If race doesn’t exist on a genetic level, it would seem that any claim about racial intelligence (based on genetics) is probably fictional.

Since there does not exist a scientific definition of race on a genetic level, any survey about the opinions of scientists on the influence of genetics on racial intelligence seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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16 January 2019 07:32
 
Abel Dean - 15 January 2019 08:40 PM
icehorse - 15 January 2019 07:59 AM

You seem to be forwarding several different arguments here. Can you disentangle them and summarize them?

One thing I think I can respond to is your “argument from authority” concern. Science is based on evidence and peer review. We all stand on the shoulders of the scientists who have come before. Scientist A will frequently rely on the findings of Scientist B, if B’s experiments and evidence have survived peer review. So using B’s results is NOT an argument from authority, correct?

Your conclusion does not follow from your argument. The conclusion that should follow is that even scientists rely on arguments from authority, in which the authorities are either various teams of “peers” or reputable journals. Their reputation is a metric of their authority. When I was a teenager, I was a fan of Carl Sagan, who claimed, “In science, there are no authorities.” Yeah, turns out that is bullshit. Science is inevitably filled with authorities. But, that is all kind of a different issue.

I think that you’re conflating the two ideas. Or perhaps it’s just semantics. For instance, when today’s scientists rely on Einstein’s work, I don’t think we would say they are making arguments from authority.

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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16 January 2019 08:09
 

Also, psychology is, at best, a soft science.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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16 January 2019 10:43
 
icehorse - 16 January 2019 07:32 AM
Abel Dean - 15 January 2019 08:40 PM
icehorse - 15 January 2019 07:59 AM

You seem to be forwarding several different arguments here. Can you disentangle them and summarize them?

One thing I think I can respond to is your “argument from authority” concern. Science is based on evidence and peer review. We all stand on the shoulders of the scientists who have come before. Scientist A will frequently rely on the findings of Scientist B, if B’s experiments and evidence have survived peer review. So using B’s results is NOT an argument from authority, correct?

Your conclusion does not follow from your argument. The conclusion that should follow is that even scientists rely on arguments from authority, in which the authorities are either various teams of “peers” or reputable journals. Their reputation is a metric of their authority. When I was a teenager, I was a fan of Carl Sagan, who claimed, “In science, there are no authorities.” Yeah, turns out that is bullshit. Science is inevitably filled with authorities. But, that is all kind of a different issue.

I think that you’re conflating the two ideas. Or perhaps it’s just semantics. For instance, when today’s scientists rely on Einstein’s work, I don’t think we would say they are making arguments from authority.

Relying on relativity theory is not a matter of authority for experts in the field or related fields that use the work because they are able to understand the theory, do the math themselves, and so have direct experience that the theory works. Not the same in psychology, they have trouble even replicating results.

 
lynmc
 
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lynmc
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27 January 2019 17:57
 
Abel Dean - 13 January 2019 02:46 PM

The New York Times recently published a story about how the aging co-discover of DNA Dr. James Watson doubled down on his racism. As part of their story the journalist interviewed another famous geneticist Dr. Francis Collins. The journalist reported that “Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said that most experts on intelligence ‘consider any black-white differences in I.Q. testing to arise primarily from environmental, not genetic, differences.’”

Notice that Collins wasn’t speaking of his own opinion of the black-white IQ gap but instead the opinions of “most experts on intelligence.” It is an argument from authority that serves as an analytical shortcut. Most people have neither the time to investigate nor the brains to accurately analyze what the data would tell us about the cause of the black-white IQ gap. If most relevant experts out there believe it is primarily environmental and not genetic, then we can quickly conclude that James Watson is wrong, and we move on with our lives. The majority of experts have been wrong plenty of times in the past, and the majority is bound to be wrong about at least a few things today, but it is the best magic 8-ball we have.

Problem: this claim of Dr. Collins is directly at odds with the facts. As of 2013, only 42% of experts on intelligence attribute 0-40% of the U.S. black-white differences in IQ to genes. The remainder are either split down the middle (18% of experts attribute 50% of differences to genes) or they are in the majority-gene camp (39% of experts attribute 60-100% of differences to genes).

As a side note, this survey stands most strongly at odds with popular opinion about what it takes to be a non-racist: you would need to attribute 0% of black-white IQ differences to genes. Only 17% of experts on intelligence attribute 0% of such differences to genes. This would make 83% of intelligence researchers racist like Dr. James Watson.

Most of us have no choice but to accept arguments from authority. Are you going to crawl through and analyze the data to decide whether or not HIV really causes AIDS? That smoking causes lung cancer? That a pint of pure mercury every day is bad for your diet? No. You take a shortcut and trust the majority of relevant academics. The downside is that, sometimes, we have false myths about what the majority of relevant academics really believe, and we have liars to reinforce those myths (I use such strong language because in the past I have observed Francis Collins tell falsehoods to the public about many other ideologically-loaded topics, as though what he says is a function of politics). When you need to take a shortcut and when ideology is involved, then believing either the myths or the lies about the experts is no shortcut. You need to go to the expert surveys. Don’t take James Watson’s word for it, don’t take Francis Collins word for it, and don’t take my word for it (I could be a sucker for myths or a liar for all you know). Concerning race and IQ, this is it:

Rindermann, Coyle & Becker, “2013 survey of expert opinion on intelligence: Sources of US black-white differences in IQ,” presented at the International Society for Intelligence Research 14th Annual Conference, hosted at http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/2013-survey-of-expert-opinion-on-intelligence.pdf.

If I read your survey right, you’re mischaracterizing it.  The “experts” don’t appear to have been asked in 2013 whether the black-white gap was due to genes.  The given results are from 1984.  Also, there wasn’t a single geneticist identified as such asked in either survey, calling into question whether one should reference these particular “experts” as a shortcut for attributing any part of the cause to genes.

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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27 January 2019 18:17
 
lynmc - 27 January 2019 05:57 PM
Abel Dean - 13 January 2019 02:46 PM

The New York Times recently published a story about how the aging co-discover of DNA Dr. James Watson doubled down on his racism. As part of their story the journalist interviewed another famous geneticist Dr. Francis Collins. The journalist reported that “Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said that most experts on intelligence ‘consider any black-white differences in I.Q. testing to arise primarily from environmental, not genetic, differences.’”

Notice that Collins wasn’t speaking of his own opinion of the black-white IQ gap but instead the opinions of “most experts on intelligence.” It is an argument from authority that serves as an analytical shortcut. Most people have neither the time to investigate nor the brains to accurately analyze what the data would tell us about the cause of the black-white IQ gap. If most relevant experts out there believe it is primarily environmental and not genetic, then we can quickly conclude that James Watson is wrong, and we move on with our lives. The majority of experts have been wrong plenty of times in the past, and the majority is bound to be wrong about at least a few things today, but it is the best magic 8-ball we have.

Problem: this claim of Dr. Collins is directly at odds with the facts. As of 2013, only 42% of experts on intelligence attribute 0-40% of the U.S. black-white differences in IQ to genes. The remainder are either split down the middle (18% of experts attribute 50% of differences to genes) or they are in the majority-gene camp (39% of experts attribute 60-100% of differences to genes).

As a side note, this survey stands most strongly at odds with popular opinion about what it takes to be a non-racist: you would need to attribute 0% of black-white IQ differences to genes. Only 17% of experts on intelligence attribute 0% of such differences to genes. This would make 83% of intelligence researchers racist like Dr. James Watson.

Most of us have no choice but to accept arguments from authority. Are you going to crawl through and analyze the data to decide whether or not HIV really causes AIDS? That smoking causes lung cancer? That a pint of pure mercury every day is bad for your diet? No. You take a shortcut and trust the majority of relevant academics. The downside is that, sometimes, we have false myths about what the majority of relevant academics really believe, and we have liars to reinforce those myths (I use such strong language because in the past I have observed Francis Collins tell falsehoods to the public about many other ideologically-loaded topics, as though what he says is a function of politics). When you need to take a shortcut and when ideology is involved, then believing either the myths or the lies about the experts is no shortcut. You need to go to the expert surveys. Don’t take James Watson’s word for it, don’t take Francis Collins word for it, and don’t take my word for it (I could be a sucker for myths or a liar for all you know). Concerning race and IQ, this is it:

Rindermann, Coyle & Becker, “2013 survey of expert opinion on intelligence: Sources of US black-white differences in IQ,” presented at the International Society for Intelligence Research 14th Annual Conference, hosted at http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/2013-survey-of-expert-opinion-on-intelligence.pdf.

If I read your survey right, you’re mischaracterizing it.  The “experts” don’t appear to have been asked in 2013 whether the black-white gap was due to genes.  The given results are from 1984.  Also, there wasn’t a single geneticist identified as such asked in either survey, calling into question whether one should reference these particular “experts” as a shortcut for attributing any part of the cause to genes.

The slide is confusing, and I had difficulty at first making sense of it. It combines the results of two surveys (one of 1984 and one of 2013) for comparison.

Francis Collins is a geneticist, and yet he deferred to “experts on intelligence.” For good reason, in my opinion. The experts with the title of “geneticist” are not experts on everything related to genetics. Their scope of work tends to be narrower: molecular genetics.

 
Garret
 
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Garret
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27 January 2019 21:21
 

On the flip side, experts on intelligence then are not experts on genetics.  A survey of scientists only tells us what those people think might be true at that moment in time.  If we had a similar study on Aether from 1780, your argument would have us act as if Aether is actually a thing.  It doesn’t matter what scientists “think” is right, what matters is what they can “show” is right.

In addition, if non-geneticists are working with faulty definitions of race that have nothing to do with genetics, then we have to call into question their methodology in how they sort subjects.  If they haven’t accurately sorted their subjects, then any findings are automatically flawed.

I’ve been waiting for over a week for your methodology of accurately defining race by genetics.  The definition you tried to give allows for people with different alleles to be sorted into the same category, so I need to see work that says these alleles have the same effect on intelligence, or you need a better sorting method.

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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27 January 2019 22:11
 
Garret - 27 January 2019 09:21 PM

On the flip side, experts on intelligence then are not experts on genetics.  A survey of scientists only tells us what those people think might be true at that moment in time.  If we had a similar study on Aether from 1780, your argument would have us act as if Aether is actually a thing.  It doesn’t matter what scientists “think” is right, what matters is what they can “show” is right.

In addition, if non-geneticists are working with faulty definitions of race that have nothing to do with genetics, then we have to call into question their methodology in how they sort subjects.  If they haven’t accurately sorted their subjects, then any findings are automatically flawed.

I’ve been waiting for over a week for your methodology of accurately defining race by genetics.  The definition you tried to give allows for people with different alleles to be sorted into the same category, so I need to see work that says these alleles have the same effect on intelligence, or you need a better sorting method.

The consensus of experts is demonstrably fallible. On the topics of human races, I give credit to only some of the consensuses, because they conflict with each other depending on the field of study and depending on the geographic region. Unfortunately, it is the best we have. I suggest trusting expert consensus (preferably the world expert consensus) even against one’s own intelligent well-informed judgment, because one’s own judgment is even more demonstrably fallible. I make a key exception: when the rhetoric of the experts is explicitly influenced by dogmas or loaded with ideological appeals. I once investigated a claim that a particular herb was a miracle cure for almost any disease. A long list of citations to medical researchers was given. The authors and their universities all had Arabic names. The herb was favored by the Prophet Muhammad according to the Quran.

I would advise against trying to impose discrete categories on evolutionary continua. Biological races within any species are internally diverse and mutually overlapping, such that we can, theoretically or actually, sometimes have one individual that can belong to two different races, or sometimes have two completely different people who belong to the same race. The racial differences are no less genetically real, and I think we had best make sense of them. A bunch of researchers have solved the headache of the persisting bad arguments merely by changing the words; not “race,” but i.e. “ancestry,” “population,” or “ethnic group.” The bad arguments disappear, though the same bad logic could apply with equal strength to those new words. The consequence is that the intellectual authorities at large have failed to make unified explanatory sense of our own species.

[ Edited: 27 January 2019 22:17 by Abel Dean]
 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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27 January 2019 23:34
 

Assuming there is a merit to this discussion (I’m not convinced there is), it is way too early to have it: once we have collected a significant fraction of the DNA sequence of all humans, together with sufficiently unbiased means of differentiating between phenotype, me might very well be able to quantitatively talk about genotype and IQ - but not yet.

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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27 January 2019 23:48
 
Twissel - 27 January 2019 11:34 PM

Assuming there is a merit to this discussion (I’m not convinced there is), it is way too early to have it: once we have collected a significant fraction of the DNA sequence of all humans, together with sufficiently unbiased means of differentiating between phenotype, me might very well be able to quantitatively talk about genotype and IQ - but not yet.

I am all for making intermediate judgments given our incomplete and indirect data and theory. If our train needs to go in the other direction, then let’s gently apply the brakes and slow down. As it stands now, the scientific zeitgeist outside the study of intelligence seems to be blasting in the wrong direction at full speed, and when the molecular genetic data rolls in then we will fly off the rails.

 
Garret
 
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Garret
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28 January 2019 07:56
 
Abel Dean - 27 January 2019 10:11 PM
Garret - 27 January 2019 09:21 PM

On the flip side, experts on intelligence then are not experts on genetics.  A survey of scientists only tells us what those people think might be true at that moment in time.  If we had a similar study on Aether from 1780, your argument would have us act as if Aether is actually a thing.  It doesn’t matter what scientists “think” is right, what matters is what they can “show” is right.

In addition, if non-geneticists are working with faulty definitions of race that have nothing to do with genetics, then we have to call into question their methodology in how they sort subjects.  If they haven’t accurately sorted their subjects, then any findings are automatically flawed.

I’ve been waiting for over a week for your methodology of accurately defining race by genetics.  The definition you tried to give allows for people with different alleles to be sorted into the same category, so I need to see work that says these alleles have the same effect on intelligence, or you need a better sorting method.

The consensus of experts is demonstrably fallible. On the topics of human races, I give credit to only some of the consensuses, because they conflict with each other depending on the field of study and depending on the geographic region. Unfortunately, it is the best we have. I suggest trusting expert consensus (preferably the world expert consensus) even against one’s own intelligent well-informed judgment, because one’s own judgment is even more demonstrably fallible. I make a key exception: when the rhetoric of the experts is explicitly influenced by dogmas or loaded with ideological appeals. I once investigated a claim that a particular herb was a miracle cure for almost any disease. A long list of citations to medical researchers was given. The authors and their universities all had Arabic names. The herb was favored by the Prophet Muhammad according to the Quran.

I would advise against trying to impose discrete categories on evolutionary continua. Biological races within any species are internally diverse and mutually overlapping, such that we can, theoretically or actually, sometimes have one individual that can belong to two different races, or sometimes have two completely different people who belong to the same race. The racial differences are no less genetically real, and I think we had best make sense of them. A bunch of researchers have solved the headache of the persisting bad arguments merely by changing the words; not “race,” but i.e. “ancestry,” “population,” or “ethnic group.” The bad arguments disappear, though the same bad logic could apply with equal strength to those new words. The consequence is that the intellectual authorities at large have failed to make unified explanatory sense of our own species.

I’m not suggesting relying on my own judgement.  I am asking for evidence, which you have routinely failed to provide.

If the races are genetically real, then you should be able to show evidence that this is true.  Either you have evidence for your claim, or you don’t.  As you just admitted, “expert consensus” is not a valid form of evidence.  It can be suggestive, but it is not in itself actual evidence.  It is both an appeal to authority and an appeal to popularity.

I’m waiting for you to show me that race is genetically real.

There’s a really simple problem with your grouping: not everyone in each race shares the same alleles.

Let’s say that allele A and B are both common in “black” people.  Allele A has a net effect of +5 IQ, while allele B has a net effect of -6 IQ.  If both alleles are equally distributed in the race, the net effect combined is a -1 IQ.  Would you agree that assuming a general -1 IQ would be a valid assumption for those with allele A?

Follow up: how do you that this isn’t happening?  And by “know”, I mean “can show evidence to support the claim”.  I don’t give two shits about your “judgement”.  I want to see evidence.

[ Edited: 28 January 2019 08:09 by Garret]
 
Garret
 
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Garret
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28 January 2019 08:00
 
Abel Dean - 27 January 2019 11:48 PM
Twissel - 27 January 2019 11:34 PM

Assuming there is a merit to this discussion (I’m not convinced there is), it is way too early to have it: once we have collected a significant fraction of the DNA sequence of all humans, together with sufficiently unbiased means of differentiating between phenotype, me might very well be able to quantitatively talk about genotype and IQ - but not yet.

I am all for making intermediate judgments given our incomplete and indirect data and theory. If our train needs to go in the other direction, then let’s gently apply the brakes and slow down. As it stands now, the scientific zeitgeist outside the study of intelligence seems to be blasting in the wrong direction at full speed, and when the molecular genetic data rolls in then we will fly off the rails.

But this is your judgement.  For all I know, you’re as bad as you imply the Muslim scholars are with that herb.

If you can’t present evidence, your claim is as valid as theirs.

 
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