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I am still settling in at unz.com so please forgive me if I forget my lines and bump into the furniture, because the stage is much larger than my former small theatre. Not only that, but the cast is enormous, and the commentating audience ten times larger than usual, and rowdier. No country for an old man.
I have compared my blogging role to being a filter paper between a sack of coffee beans and a small cup of espresso. I am supposed to read a whole lot of stuff, and then distill it into a quickly consumed essence, a mere gulp of information. Whether this provokes a high in the reader remains to be seen.
Reading academic papers is a tedious business. The prose style has been refined so as to banish both excitement and understanding. Ditch-water is entertaining by comparison. No wonder the modal readership for an academic publication is said to be 6 readers, a figure which probably includes the co-authors, close family, and the more diligent or gullible of their lovers.
To turgidity we have to add the downer of time-delay. Years ago colleagues consulted me about a questionnaire they were intending to send to intelligence researchers. I suggested they make it shorter, if I recall rightly, because that is what I always say. A long time after that the questionnaire came out, and eventually in December 2013 the preliminary results were presented at an International Society for Intelligence Research conference in Australia.
The first publication on the work came out in March of this year. Why was there two year’s delay? Peer review is intended to be a guarantee of quality, subjecting the proffered paper to the scrutiny of other scholars before it is allowed into the academic canon. A presentation deemed perfectly adequate for presenting to a conference full of scholars has to go through a tedious procedure of vetting. Authors, quite understandably, intend to write it up immediately, but by the time they get back, jet-lagged, from the conference, a whole lot of tedious but pressing matters have accumulated back at the office. Getting the paper into the constrained form required by academic convention takes months, and then the problems begin. The paper is sent out to two or three referees who have also been away at other conferences, and have come back to piles of work, and refereeing another scholar’s work is not a priority. The whole process takes ages, until a battered, hacked and much altered version of the work is eventually, grudgingly, accepted for publication. Then there is a year’s delay while the production team find a place for it among papers which have been waiting even longer.
So, what do intelligence researchers think about racial differences in intelligence?
Invitations were emailed to 1237 persons and at the end only 228 (18 %) participants completed the process (70 fully and 158 partially). As far as the authors could make it out, “lefties” and “righties” turned down the offer in equal numbers, complaining that the questions were not good enough, the selection of experts would not be good or that they did not want to participate in a process which suggested that the truth could be found by majority decisions. In fact, the authors just wanted to find out what expert opinion was, in all its variety, and were not intending to come to any conclusions of a majority sort. (Perhaps climate research has poisoned the academic atmosphere, and no-one wants to be involved with anything which smacks of consensus science). As many pointed out, one good study can smash down an old consensus.
Asked: What are the sources of U.S. black-white differences in IQ?
0% of differences due to genes: (17% of our experts)
0-40% of differences due to genes: 42% of our experts
50% of differences due to genes: 18% of our experts
60-100% of differences due to genes: 39% of our experts
100% of differences due to genes: (5% of our experts)
M=47% of differences due to genes (SD=31%)
As far as I can see, there are two extreme positions, the 17% who think that the difference is none of it due to genes, and the 5% who think it is all due to genes. The rest are in the middle, and the “consensus” is that 47% of the difference is due to genes. (See above why one should not get too excited about consensus results). All this is obviously very different from the public narrative, which is that 0% of the difference is due to genes. Such a view is rejected by the majority of experts, but there is still a sizable minority of experts who hold that view. In sum, there are a variety of opinions.
So, we can now write the headlines. For popular newspapers the headline might be: IQ experts split.
For more refined publications it could be: Intelligence experts almost normally distributed.
Establishing the truth of a matter by consulting all the experts is a useful heuristic, but no more than that. It is useful when you are in a hurry. The experts will differ in the quality of their arguments. Academia gives them scope to differ, and tests their quality only very slowly. They are protected from the consequences of being wrong, unlike in the business world. It might be better to rate the experts in some way, by publication numbers, impact indices and so on. Indeed, one could send them a questionnaire to ask them who the real experts are. (In 2013 experts rated Die Zeit, Steve Sailer and Anatoly Karlin very highly as media sources on intelligence)
Or, one could dig deeper and search for a balance sheet of the most compelling evidence: the meta-analytic overview of the relevant literature, as Jensen and Rushton attempted, by way of challenging their critics.
It is rare for one paper to change everyone’s opinion, but one day a single publication on the genetic comparison of very large samples of different racial groups might do so. A null result would certainly have an impact.
That’s the coffee. A little more detail about the beans here: