The Risk of Science and Race

The New York Times has an article that lays out the risk very clearly, it is the EXPECTATION that more research in genetics will indeed prove innate differences in the races in physical and mental attributes. And if there is one thing we can know about the history of science, scientists will find what they look for. Consider this:

“Regardless of any such genetic variation, it is our moral duty to treat all as equal before God and before the law,” Perry Clark, 44, wrote on a New York Times blog. It is not necessary, argued Dr. Clark, a retired neonatologist in Leawood, Kan., who is white, to maintain the pretense that inborn racial differences do not exist.“When was the last time a nonblack sprinter won the Olympic 100 meters?” he asked. “To say that such differences aren’t real,” Dr. Clark later said in an interview, “is to stick your head in the sand and go blah blah blah blah blah until the band marches by.”

First, to answer the good doctor's question, Alan Welles of Scotland won the Olympic gold medal in 1980. Prior to that, Valery Borzov of the then-Soviet Union won the 100 meters in the 1972 Olympics. Prior to that, Armin Hary of Germany won the 100 meter dash in 1960. 1956? White American Bobby Joe Morrow. To wit, from 1956 to 1980, white men won 4 of 7 100 meter dash Olympic gold medals. Presumably, for the good doctor, all these genetic changes occurred since 1980. MORE.

A further point for the good doctor to consider, when was the last time an African runner won the Olympic 100 meter dash? Answer. Never has a African runner won the Olympic 100 hundred meter dash.

Another question to consider is why no Chinese or Indian man has ever even medalled in the 100 meter dash. We are talking about one third of the world's population. Even if genetic differences could explain some degree of superiority for blacks, how could it explain the complete lack of Chinese or Indian medalists?

The point here is that scientists fall in love with their "science." And ignore that which stands in the way of their pet theories.

Just as those who propose differences in intelligence ignore the fact that "innate intelligence" has never even been close to being defined in any serious way.

I am always wary of those who propose such theories because one has to wonder what lies behind their belief in their pet theories?

And in the end, the reality is the study of genetics and intelligence is all pseudo-science at this time anyway. Maybe someday it will be more, but right now the patina of objectivity that calling this "science" brings should be stripped of these efforts. This is akin to calling alchemy science.

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    "White Men Can't Jump" (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by RedHead on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:00:54 PM EST
    Whenever I hear that phrase, I CRINGE.

    I knew a Columbia English professor with enough sheep skins to paper her walls, and yet, she refused to the acknowledge the significance of Caucasians success in Pole Vaulting and the High Jump.

    And when was the last time a white guy (none / 0) (#23)
    by hhex65 on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 12:54:22 AM EST
    won the NBA MVP?! I mean, other than the last 3 years...

    When will these stupid claims go away? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by phat on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:46:20 PM EST
    They're based on an idea that isn't even backed up by the data. Race is a political construct, not a genetic construct.


    Let me clarify. (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by phat on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:51:40 PM EST
    An example would be this:

    The genetic diversity in Afica is much bigger that Europe. What then constitutes race? It's an idea based on outward appearances, cultural differences and ultimately power structure.



    Vitamin D (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by joejoejoe on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 07:44:42 PM EST
    'Race' is the amount of pigmentation in your skin determined by the latitude your ancestors lived in over hundreds of years. Darker skins block damaging rays near the equator. Lighter skins allow for more sunlight to penetrate to metabolize vitamin D in places where days were short and sunlight sometimes limited. As humans developed the technology and culture to move greater differences you had mixing of these once long stable genetic pools. Everything else related to 'race' is BS.

    I am 'caucasian', or so I'm told (none / 0) (#19)
    by Edger on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 07:52:13 PM EST
    Unfortunately there are some 'caucasians' that don't seem bright enough to grasp what you just said.

    I don't think it has much to do with them being 'caucasian'... I think it has more to do with a deficiency in their ability to understand that they are not 'separate' from the world.


    Race Is Always (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by squeaky on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 09:23:02 PM EST
    A fascination of the dominant culture. It is a fiction used by the dominant culture to justify their superiority.

    Nothing more, nothing less.

    You got that right n/t (none / 0) (#24)
    by dutchfox on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 04:39:55 AM EST
    Even if differences are proved one day (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by lilybart on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 08:40:18 AM EST
    (beyond BTD's doubt that you can ever prove intelligence since he doesn't think there is way to measure it or even define it accurately)

    differences should not be the basis for bestowing value on some and lesser value on others

    most women can't carry another person down a ladder, so they cannot be firefighters, but that doesn't mean men are worth more than women

    The school for gifted kids in NYC is heavily Asian. It just is. So there are differences in how the kids do on the tests. The tests may be flawed but there is no disputing that Asian kids do better.

    science may prove differences are genetic, but it is Society that places value on these differences

    "Differences are genetic" (none / 0) (#29)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 08:57:07 AM EST
    Which ones? You cite "tests." "Tests" for what? What cause superior performance on those "tests."

    I understand your good intentions in that comment, but frankly, I think you buy into a fallacy.


    I spent 9 years in the 80's selling textbooks (none / 0) (#30)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 09:04:56 AM EST
    and reference books, specifically Britannica.

    The majority of inquiries produced by marketing and advertising that produced home sales were from Asian families. As an ethnic group they place much higher value on educating their children than almost anyone else. And they push their children to learn, to achieve, and to excel, to get ahead in the world.



    IQ tests (1.00 / 1) (#16)
    by diogenes on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 06:41:52 PM EST
    If IQ tests are "biased" in favor of whites, then why do Asians do better than whites on them?
    Numerous twin studies show that personality is about fifty percent inherited.  
    About forty years ago, scientists were overwhelmingly looking for evidence to support the idea that personality and intelligence were entirely determined by upbringing and environment.  They have not found that evidence despite their best efforts.  Now you see a paradigm shift.

    Um (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 06:51:02 PM EST
    Are you talking to someone here?

    I don't recall discussing what you say.

    But I will say this - what evidence do you have that IQ has any relation to "innate intelligence?"


    public policy and the bell curve (1.00 / 1) (#34)
    by diogenes on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 01:40:28 PM EST
    Do you see the point?  If differences in math ability are inherited and slightly different across races, for example, then we won't impose "Asian quotas" to keep Asians out of MIT or affirmative action programs to allow Japanese-Americans into the NBA.  An average IQ difference of 5 points means little to most people in their lives but will make a big difference at the end of the bell curve.
    If it's really true that Asian kids do better because of some sort of " cultural family values", then please define them and inculcate them into white and black families instead of preaching the dogmas of victimization, affirmative action, and multiculturality.  

    Please define them? (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 02:07:23 PM EST
    It's been done. Please read the comments instead of trying to twist them to pretend that anyone here is "preaching the dogmas".

    Dumb White Guy (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by squeaky on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 02:33:03 PM EST
    Would be my guess.  

    Well... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 02:38:44 PM EST
    I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I try.



    Er (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by squeaky on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 02:47:32 PM EST
    I wasn't refering to you, although a little sharpening is never a bad thing for all of us.

    Heh! I know that! (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 02:49:56 PM EST
    I just though I'd try this "trolling" and "meaning twisting" thing to see what it felt like.

    It felt rather stupid, truthfully.... :-)


    Empathy (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by squeaky on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 03:17:33 PM EST
    Can be humiliating sometimes, especially when you put yourself in the shoes of a racially superior idiot.

    Ahhhh... hahahahahahahaha!!! (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Edger on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 03:20:28 PM EST
    Hah! There's coffee all over the friggin' monitor now! Jeeze! Thanks a lot!



    Agreed (none / 0) (#2)
    by Lora on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:06:37 PM EST
    Nearly a century ago, scientists knew that women weren't intelligent enough to master a machine as complicated as a typewriter.

    Sorry to be repetitive but (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:31:10 PM EST
    what is intelligence?

    Intelligence is just (none / 0) (#14)
    by Lora on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 06:19:11 PM EST
    Performance on an IQ test.  The more biased and limited the test, the more biased and limited the definition of intelligence will be.

    And consider...just how intelligent are those folks who make up the intelligence tests in the first place??  You have to wonder, how can someone make up a test to accurately measure intelligence of someone who is more intelligent than the person making up the test?

    You can come up with several imperfect models of intelligence that probably have little basis in reality but some practical basis for measuring how adequately someone fits into the majority culture.


    A "value" judgment. (none / 0) (#15)
    by Edger on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 06:37:39 PM EST
    I am totally with you on this (none / 0) (#3)
    by andgarden on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:09:39 PM EST
    100 years ago, scientists were convinced that "intelligence" was determined by "race." Today. . .Sully still thinks that.

    What is intelligence? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:30:36 PM EST
    Exactly. (none / 0) (#12)
    by andgarden on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:52:07 PM EST
    NYT had a lot of coverage of Paula Rasmussen, (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:13:12 PM EST
    who is a Caucasian Brit, before the recent NYC Marathan.  The question was whether she could still win the marathon after she had her child.  She did.  

    So what if research (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:25:13 PM EST
    shows innate differences in the races in physical and mental attributes. There are many innate differences in people within as well as between races.

    None of which imply less value as human beings.

    You make assumptions (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:30:03 PM EST
    that are not supported by the evidence.

    Forget your so what.

    Start with whether it is even true.


    No assumptions about what research might find. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Edger on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:40:45 PM EST
    I'm sure it will find that lighter skinned people have lighter skin than darker skinned people, and might even find other differences.

    Maybe it will find that there is a gene that produces big noses.

    So? That won't mean that smaller nosed people are more human or more "valuable" as humans.

    I don't get your point.


    Some people will use whatever (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 05:56:11 PM EST
    differences they can find, whether with their eyes, or with scientific research, to justify racism.

    Some researchers will slant and bias their research and methodology produce data supporting preconceived prejudices.

    None of that means that genetic research is inherently "bad" or "good", or that conclusions drawn from corrupted research are true conclusions.

    It's a tool for inquiry and learning, and like any other tool can and will be used for evil or good.


    Nature-nurture (none / 0) (#20)
    by Alien Abductee on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 08:14:15 PM EST
    "...the economic and social and educational differences have so much more influence than genes. People just somehow fixate on genetics, even if the influence is very small."

    First separate out and quantify the impact that economic, social, and educational differences have on whatever it is you want to measure - IQ, performance on 100 meter dash, whatever - then we can talk about the impact that genetics has on the rest.

    The problem ... (none / 0) (#22)
    by chemoelectric on Sat Nov 10, 2007 at 09:27:36 PM EST
    The problem isn't scientists; the problem is that scientists can, like every other kind of person, be boobs. Believe me, scientists aren't as smart as people think they are; those stupid errors we make in math class, theoretical physicists make them, too, and then the mistake goes undetected by the other scientists for years or even decades. So basically whatever sort of boobery you saw around you in high school is what also goes on in the scientific community.

    Or in the hollow recesses of a retired pediatrician's head, which is a slightly different matter.

    That's an interesting claim (none / 0) (#32)
    by Al on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 11:50:40 AM EST
    those stupid errors we make in math class, theoretical physicists make them, too, and then the mistake goes undetected by the other scientists for years or even decades.

    Do you have an example of this?


    Here's one. One of the space exploration (none / 0) (#33)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 01:05:55 PM EST
    programs designed by JPL went awry because one of the measurements was done in the wrong scale.  Big embarrassment to JPL.

    There's a difference, you know, (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by Al on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 06:44:56 PM EST
    between a theoretical physicist and an engineer. The mistake in question was made by team of engineers from Lockheed Martin (not JPL), who insisted on using medieval British units. As a result, the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost. NASA uses SI units, as is the norm in science in general.

    I know, but Ed Stone, who was head (none / 0) (#43)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 11:25:44 PM EST
    of JPL at the time, seemed to believe the buck stops here.  

    That's a different issue (none / 0) (#44)
    by Al on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 02:10:27 AM EST
    Administrative responsibility for the spacecraft is a different matter. You were saying that theoretical physicists are just as likely to make elementary math mistakes as anyone else, and that they would go undiscovered for years. Your example is in fact no such thing.

    I think you have me confused with (none / 0) (#48)
    by oculus on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:53:20 AM EST
    a different commentor.  

    nowadays (none / 0) (#46)
    by Jen M on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 08:22:07 AM EST
    I think they make the mistakes in Excel functions, LabView parameters and similar MathLab etc etc

    Thats what peer review is for. It happens at many levels within and outside an institution.

    At least thats how it works in our institute.


    definitions of intelligence (none / 0) (#25)
    by diogenes on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 07:55:08 AM EST
    Here are two definitions from Wikipedia.  If a study found "no racial differences in intelligence" then I doubt that the study authors would be grilled so strongly on what they defined intelligence to be.  

    At least two major "consensus" definitions of intelligence have been proposed. First, from Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns, a report of a task force convened by the American Psychological Association in 1995:

        Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person's intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different definitions.[1]

    A second definition of intelligence comes from "Mainstream Science on Intelligence", which was signed by 52 intelligence researchers in 1994:

        a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings--"catching on", "making sense" of things, or "figuring out" what to do.[2]

    And how do you measure INNATE intelligence (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 08:20:07 AM EST
    Funny how the innate part was forgotten by you.

    I guess we should be glad the (none / 0) (#47)
    by JSN on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 09:17:14 AM EST
    two dozen experts did not give 48 slightly differing definitions.

    The first sentence of the second definition is what one would expect to find in a help wanted ad.

    One of the things we have learned from experience is that the scientists who study innate intelligence keep finding evidence that shows their current definition of innate intelligence is false. Which means that the moment we do not have a not-false definition of innate intelligence. For a definition to be accepted there has to be a long period where the definition survives rigorous testing.


    different sports (none / 0) (#26)
    by diogenes on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 08:00:54 AM EST
    Pole vaulting is not a jumping sport.  Speed/jumping differences between races are well known.  Baseball sabermetricians long ago described the fact that black players retained their speed much longer into their careers than white players, AS A GROUP.  If intelligence is equally distributed among the races, then whites would have a better shot at sport positions where intelligence and technique count rather than speed-point guards, quarterbacks, possession receivers in football, pitchers, hitters, baseball as a whole.  This is what you see.    

    What do you mean? (none / 0) (#31)
    by Al on Sun Nov 11, 2007 at 11:45:47 AM EST
    And if there is one thing we can know about the history of science, scientists will find what they look for.


    'Race' is an artificial societal construct (none / 0) (#45)
    by Nowonmai on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 03:25:34 AM EST
    A long while back, people became obsessed with bloodlines, and lineage, and went out of their way to define who was what in an effort to make themselves feel superior.

    There is only one race, the human race. We are the same species. What purblind people are calling race is nothing more than adaptations to environment. Harping on the difference in an attempt of insecure people to feel better about themselves.

    intelligence (none / 0) (#49)
    by Kaviraj on Sun Dec 02, 2007 at 10:20:36 AM EST
    is the most democratic of all human traits - everybody thinks they have more than plenty.

    BTD: what is intelligence? (none / 0) (#50)
    by Kaviraj on Sun Dec 02, 2007 at 10:34:18 AM EST
    Intelligence is the power to discriminate between the real and the illusory.
    since many here are dealing with the illusory - such as connections between race and intelligence - and take it to be real, they are not so intelligent, no?