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.