If New York is America’s finance capital, with Los Angeles filling the same role for entertainment and Silicon Valley for technology, then surely the Boston area constitutes our center of academic and intellectual life, being home to a host of top universities such as Harvard, MIT, BU, Tufts, and many others. Partly for this reason, most estimates of average educational levels and “intelligence” have placed the Bay State at or near the very top of the rankings.
Thus, with Boston making much of its living from the intellect-processing industry, it is hardly surprising that the first major media discussion of my article Race, IQ, and Wealth should appear in the Boston Globe, these days owned by the New York Times Company. The piece provided an excellent (and quite favorable) summary of my major points, and featured a large photo of Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, the grandfather of modern intelligence testing, with a version of the piece also running in the print edition of the Sunday Globe. I very much hope this is an early indication that coverage of my analysis will gradually begin extending beyond the hostile racialist websites which have so far represented its primary audience.
- What Do IQ Differences Really Mean?, Josh Rothman, The Boston Globe
Meanwhile, Steven Pinker, one of Harvard’s own leading luminaries and a very prominent evolutionary psychologist, has commended me for the IQ analysis presented in my article, but wonders if I’m not simply “tilting at a straw man.” He finds it difficult to believe that Richard Lynn or indeed anyone other than “an idiot or a fanatic ideologue” could possibly deny that socio-economic, cultural, and educational factors might often have a very substantial impact on tested IQ scores. His point seems a reasonable one, but I just do not think it is correct.
As I have previously mentioned, Google indicates that the IQ theories of Lynn and Vanhanen have been discussed on some 100,000 web pages, and virtually all of these have interpreted them as proposing a very strict genetic-determinist model of IQ, with the vast majority of the commentary being quite laudatory. I have recently read through some 800 pages of Lynn’s various books and am not sure I have encountered a single major mention of socio-economic or cultural factors as playing a sizable role in determining tested IQ. Even nutrition, an environmental factor whose importance Lynn readily acknowledges, received just a brief mention in the 300 pages of his primary work. I think it likely that Lynn is actually saying what everyone seems to believe he is saying, and that he rejects the possibility that “cultural factors” could rapidly shift population IQs by the 5, 10, or perhaps even 15 points, a result which I seem to find directly in his own data.
Consider that my article has provoked a vast outpouring of Internet debate, with perhaps 700 or more comments across several websites, the vast majority of them quite hostile. My analysis has been attacked on every possible basis, often in mutually contradictory terms. There has even been some scattered criticism of Lynn himself, with suggestions that he sometimes published weak data. Yet I think not a single individual has claimed that I had misinterpreted or mischaracterized Lynn’s scientific position, so if I have misunderstood Lynn’s theories, I seem not to have been alone.
Academic and ideological communities are often quite narrowly circumscribed, and what is believed to be fully established scientific truth within certain intellectual circles may be viewed as absurd nonsense in others. For example, several prominent academics who accepted without question my arguments regarding the considerable malleability of IQ were meanwhile quite surprised and skeptical about the charges of serious scientific misconduct which I levied against the late Stephen Jay Gould, although those charges had received widespread mainstream coverage in recent years. Meanwhile, quite a number of other academics regarded my criticism of Gould as representing about the only correct portion of my entire article. It wouldn’t surprise me if in sheer numerical terms, nearly all of today’s bitter IQ debates are actually fought between Lynnists and Gouldians, with those denouncing Gould almost invariably hailing Lynn and vice-versa. Factual reality runs second to ideological tribalism.
Perhaps this will gradually change over time. One encouraging development has been that sentiment on my Race/IQ analysis seems to be slowly shifting even within racialist circles, as the overwhelming weight of the evidence I have presented gradually begins to make itself felt. For example, the highly-quantitative Occidentalist blogger had initially characterized me as someone “egregiously dishonest” who had produced “laughable commentary,” but then rechecked his calculations of GSS Mexican-American IQ and admitted that I had been entirely correct. He had similarly belittled my claims that this rapid rise was separately supported by the NLSY-97 data, but has now published an entire blogpost confirming the numbers I quoted:
- Hispanics, the NLSY 97, Occidentalist
Likewise, Peter Frost’s first sharply critical column on my article sparked a vast outpouring of commentary, overwhelmingly hostile and dismissive. But when he then published his second, equally critical column—quoting a lengthy private exchange we had had—some of his commenters seem to think I had actually made some pretty good points.
- More on Race, IQ, and Wealth, Peter Frost’s Evo and Proud
And although the last few days have seen a continued flood of racialist blog commentary on my article, the tone has also seemed to slightly shift away from absolute denial and total hostility. Perhaps this demonstrates that a polite and respectful approach, backed by copious solid evidence, may sometimes sway even strong ideological opposition.
- Did Ron Unz Score An Own Goal Too?, Anatoly Karlin
- More from Ron Unz on IQ, HBDChick
- Mexican-American IQ, HBDChick
- Rural White Americans, HBDChick
- Ron Unz’s Rural/Urban Data, HBDChick
- IQ Estimates from Wordsum Scores by Ancestry, Audacious Epigone
- Ron Unz Dismantles Racial Explanations of IQ, Victor Ganata
- Intelligence, Again, Alexandria
Finally, one of the main points in my original article had been that although there was very strong evidence of a powerful socio-economic influence upon the IQ scores of European peoples, this influence seem almost totally absent in the case of East Asians, and that Lynn’s failure to notice this stark racial difference had probably led him to underestimate the general role of such environmental influences. In effect, East Asian IQ appears very “robust” against environmental deprivation, and Lynn therefore assumed that all ethnic IQs were equally robust.
Interestingly enough, a suggestion very similar to mine was made on purely empirical grounds just a couple of months ago with regards to the PISA international academic tests. Shanghai, the world’s largest city with a population of 18 million, had widely outscored every nation in results, but many reasonably suggested that a city attracting China’s best and brightest was hardly indicative of the country as a whole, let alone its vast and impoverished rural population.
However, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD official responsible for the PISA, claimed that the unpublished results from rural China were also surprisingly strong: “Even in rural areas and in disadvantaged environments, you see a remarkable performance…Shanghai is an exceptional case…But what surprised me more were the results from poor provinces that came out really well. The levels of resilience are just incredible…The results for disadvantaged pupils would be the envy of any Western country.”
- China: The world’s cleverest country?, Sean Coughlan, BBC
Once the full PISA results for China are eventually released, I suspect that the evidence for my suggested “East Asian Socio-Economic Exception” will become much stronger.