Ugly questions

Best post by far on the IQ/Race debate.

I am clearly not qualified to deliver a final opinion on the actual merits of the race/IQ debate. But I think that our social reaction to it is disturbing. And I do mean "our". I'm as creeped out as any latte-sipping liberal when people start arguing that blacks have genetically lower IQs than whites do. But hysterical revulsion is not the correct response to what is basically an empirical question.

In part, this is a justified reaction to the fact that so many of the people advancing these theories in public are clearly racists who have seized on a theory that validates their priors. But only in part. After all, the fact that any discussion of the possibility is greeted with hysterical revulsion guarantees that only two types of people will take the "pro" side in public: fearless iconoclasts who do not care what anyone thinks of them; and racists.

If there is a difference, and that difference is genetic, I assume, in my classical liberal way, that we are better off knowing than not knowing. But my sense is that it is currently not possible to examine the question in any rigorous way right now, because almost no one will touch the subject with a ten foot pole.

And yet, the question matters. We gauge the success of our social policy by looking at macro results under the assumption that everyone (in aggregate) starts off with the same basic genetic endowment. If this is not in fact true, that would alter how we should look at that data.

To be sure, I am not clear on how one entirely overcomes the deep entwinement of society, environment, and genes in this case. I was recently talking to a friend who was mourning the way he watched the girls get dumber as they hit puberty, lose their interest in math and science, in a way that seemed much less likely to be the result of estrogen on their math receptors than the result of social conditioning about what men should find attractive in women.

Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure we could be doing better than we are now, except that people on all sides are terrified of finding any answer that doesn't confirm what they already believe.