The Race-IQ 'Blackout'

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Andrew asserts that "pc egalitarianism" is strangling research into IQ. To buttress this observation he points to a piece in Alternet that basically asserts the same. The piece contains no numbers to back up the claim, and quotes only one scientist to evidence this scourge of manners. I've received a few inquiries asking for my response to this in particular, and to Andrew's obsession with race and IQ in general.


My response is that I know very little about the field, and would struggle to even define a phrase like "standard deviation." I don't avoid race and IQ out of politeness to Andrew; I avoid it because I have a bias toward knowing what I'm talking about. 

With that said, Andrew's ahistorical approach to race and intelligence has always amazed. The contention, for instance, that "research is not about helping people; it's about finding out stuff," may well be true in some limited sense. But it's never been true, in any sense, of race and intelligence. In the 19th century helping out white people (however that is defined) was very much the point of intelligence research. Into the early 20th century, the rise of eugenics was equally linked the field to the advancement of "people." Even the intelligence theorists whom Andrew, himself, has advanced over the years are motivated by a desire to presumably help people, if only in the form of deciding how a society should expend its limited resources. 

Advocates of the "p.c. egalitarianism" theory, such as Andrew, evidently believe that the notion that black people are dumber than whites is a cutting edge theory, as opposed to a long-held tenet of slave-holders and white supremacists. They present themselves as bold-truth tellers who will not bow to "liberal creationists." In fact they are espousing firmly established views that date back to the very founding of this country. These views did not emerge after decades of failure of social policy. Indeed they picked up right where their old advocates left off; within five years of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Arthur Jensen was convinced that black people were intellectually addled.

Perhaps all of that is irrelevant. Perhaps there really is a genetic relationship between the darkness of skin and the potency of neurons. (Only for "Africans," mind you.) Maybe the sterilizers and the slave-traders were wise beyond their years. And perhaps James Watson really was at his scientific best when he countered the claims of Andrew's p.c. egalitarians by asserting that  
"people who have to deal with black employees find this not true." It's certainly possible that the tendency of those who advance this theory to appear in proximity to modern racists is a coincidence, and that its invokers really are modern Galileos persecuted merely for "trying to find out stuff."

But I think if Andrew is going to advance a theory of conspiratorial political correctness he owes it to us to sketch its outlines and effects in some actual detail. He clearly believes the subject to be important. He should treat it with more care.

More dissent here.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/the-race-iq-blackout/249105/