Thursday, July 31, 2008
I have been known to make statements about race and intelligence that have earned me both praise and vilification. A large part of the vilifying is my own fault, for not heeding the taboo restriction on the subject. I am also to blame that my perspective has undergone a shift that makes a big difference in how my words are formed and perceived, and I have not made that shift clear.
This post will begin the task. I do not believe that race or genetics drives the disparity in intelligence between blacks and non-blacks. However, the disparity is real, by modeling and empirical observation, and most visible by race. This visibility, through the convenient lens of race, leads us to focus on superficial physiology differences as evidence of the drivers of difference, even though they drive nothing.
I do believe that intelligence is inadvertently responsible for the different ethnicities, or races (if we must continue to use that word). With a few possible exceptions, there is only one distribution of inherited intelligence for humankind and it cares nothing about race. It established itself in Africa long before the events that precipitated the races. That same distribution of intelligence exist to this day, beyond the contorted optics of race. It is the distribution of intelligence that allowed certain Africans to walk off that continent and around the globe over 7,000 years ago.
The fact that those exiting Africans would change skin color, hair and eye color, and other superficial features during their two thousand year journey explains why our dissected brains show no difference that can explain the disparity in intelligence we experience. The Ashkenazi Jews of Northern Europe and the Aborigines of Australia are the only candidates (I know of) for enhanced brain physiology that could lead us to believe that they are more intelligent by virtue of their genetics. The Ashkenazi’s have mean IQ’s well above all other groups as the possible result of the same disorders that cause Tay Sachs. The Aborigines have phenomenal memories, a vital factor of intelligence, as the result of, or caused by, the lack of a written language.
While the lens of race distorts our understanding of intelligence, it (measured intelligence) nonetheless accurately captures outcomes of performance for groups relative to each other, and for this reason should not be dismissed. However, inherited intelligence is only one factor influencing the level to which a person can be educated and contribute to themselves and society. Once we are past the distortion of race views, perhaps we can better go about the effort of supporting development of all people, and away from the notion that one size of education fits all.
James C. Collier
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