I minored in Anthropology in college, and during my senior year I wrote a term paper for Physical Anthropology about Professor Arthur Jensen and his work on race and intelligence. After examining his studies and those of other scientists, I concluded that there seemed to be an irreducible genetic component to IQ. However, there was not enough evidence to draw firm conclusions, and given the incendiary nature of the topic, I suggested that it would be unwise to force the issue.
My proto-PC attitude was typical of a high-minded long-haired college student in the early 1970s. Little did I know that further work on this subject — indeed, even the mere discussion of it — was about to be shut down. By the middle of the decade, the current reign of politically correct science had begun, and it was no longer possible to consider any linkage between genes and intelligence.
It just wasn’t done. It was the hypothesis that dared not speak its name.
In the intervening thirty-five years, the scientific evidence on the issue has continued to accumulate. Prof. Jensen’s widely reviled scholarship has never been refuted by the data, but his conclusions have been politically squashed. On race and intelligence — just as on global warming — “the science is settled”. The academic establishment has determined the truth by fiat, and any further discussion of the subject can only be evidence of “racism”.
James Watson, the renowned biologist and co-discoverer of the double helix in DNA, ventured an opinion last year on the subject. His statements put him on the wrong side of “science”, and the disapproval of the establishment came down on him like a ton of bricks.
Back in October, Honest Thinking posted a pair of articles about the whole affair. The first one focused on an article by Jason Malloy published in Medical Hypotheses, “Those who punish, those who lie, those who silence, those who condemn, those who intimidate… they have corrupted science”.
HT posted some excerpts from Malloy’s article:
Summary: Recent comments by the eminent biologist James Watson concerning intelligence test data from sub-Saharan Africa resulted in professional sanctions as well as numerous public condemnations from the media and the scientific community. They justified these sanctions to the public through an abuse of trust, by suggesting that intelligence testing is a meaningless and discredited science, that there is no data to support Dr. Watson’s comments, that genetic causes of group differences in intelligence are falsified logically and empirically, and that such differences are already accounted for by known environment factors. None of these arguments are correct, much less beyond legitimate scientific debate. Dr. Watson was correct on all accounts: (1) Intelligence tests do reveal large differences between European and sub-Saharan African nations, (2) the evidence does link these differences to universally valued outcomes, both within and between nations, and (3) there is data to suggest these differences are influenced by genetic factors. The media and the larger scientific community punished Dr. Watson for violating a social and political taboo, but fashioned their case to the public in terms of scientific ethics. This necessitated lying to the public about numerous scientific issues to make Watson appear negligent in his statements; a gross abuse of valuable and fragile public trust in scientific authority. Lies and a threatening, coercive atmosphere to free inquiry and exchange are damaging to science as an institution and to scientists as individuals, while voicing unfashionable hypotheses is not damaging to science. The ability to openly voice and argue ideas in good faith that are strange and frightening to some is, in fact, integral to science. Those that have participated in undermining this openness and fairness have therefore damaged science, even while claiming to protect it with the same behavior.
(c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The article goes on to quote Dr. Watson:
– – – – – – – – –
“A priori, there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.
This seems reasonable enough. No one who favors the objective evaluation of evidence could disagree with him, right?
Here are some of the responses. In Nature:
“Crass comments by Nobel laureates undermine our very ability to debate such issues, and thus damage science itself”.
In the Chicago Tribune:
“The damage to Watson’s legacy from his statements may be difficult to mend,” said Jerry Coyne, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Chicago. “He’s done tremendous damage to science, to himself and to social equality,” Coyne said. “It makes us all look bad”.
The author goes on to note the similarity between Dr. Watson’s case and what happened to former Harvard president Larry Summers, who dared to suggest that there might be inherent biological differences between men and women. The scandal!
What effect will this continuing intellectual mob violence have on future and current scientists and researchers who want to freely study human genetics, cross-cultural psychology, sociology, or any discipline that may reveal similar facts that have the potential to cause their professional or personal destruction by an intellectual community that resembles the medieval church?
Those who punish, those who lie, those who silence, those who condemn, those who intimidate… they have corrupted science.
They have injured the intellectual openness, freedom, and fairness of our society and our institutions, with untold costs to our collective human well-being.
Not James D. Watson.
Honest Thinking had this to add:
I find it particularly disappointing that Francis Collins, Watson’s successor in the Human Genome Project (HGP), released the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened by the events of the last week, and understand and agree with Dr. Watson’s undoubtedly painful decision to retire in the aftermath of a racist statement he made that was both profoundly offensive and utterly unsupported by scientific evidence“.
It is of course always disappointing when some scientific authority resorts to downright lies instead of facing up to some disturbing truth. But Collins is not just a high profile scientist, he also happens to be high profile Christian. This means he is bound by the biblical command not to lie, as well as the prescription to love the truth. Unfortunately, Collins has demonstrated that he prefers smooth lies over unpleasant truths. This is all the more ironic, since in his book he criticizes creationists for their unwillingness to face the truth about evolution.
However, even creationists understand (unless they are prepared to invoke miraculous intervention on the part of God to prevent natural developments from taking place) that one cannot have genetic separation of populations without also having genetic differences accumulating. This is just simple and obvious micro-evolution, which is accepted as a fact of life by virtually everyone (in particular by creationists, as it happens). Thus, it turns out that Collins is eager to convince people of the truth, beauty, and explanatory power of evolutionary theory, but he is unwilling to accept one of the most obvious consequences of that very theory.
Not only has Collins betrayed his HGP predecessor and scientific colleague, James Watson; not only has Collins betrayed the scientific community by failing to stand in firm defense of the truth; not only has Collins betrayed the general public by deceiving them and lulling them into a false sense of security (at a time when the West is about to commit demographic and civilizational suicide); on top of all of this, he has betrayed his own faith by joining ranks with the forces of darkness and ignorance. And instead of being a staunch friend in a time of need, he turned his back on Watson and washed his hands to cleanse himself of ‘racism’. If Collins takes his faith seriously (as I suspect he does) he needs to change his ways.
Many scientists owe Watson a public apology for their cowardly behavior during and after last year’s scandal. To my knowledge, not a single one of them has yet had the courage to come forward and admit that they attacked and criticized Watson on insufficient grounds. The longer they wait before doing so, the more embarrassing it will get. Sooner or later some of these people are going to start muttering about “more profound differences than previously thought” or something along those lines. Ok, that’s better than nothing. But I wonder who will be the first to simply cut the crap, skip all lame excuses, and unreservedly apologize to Watson (preferably while he is still alive). This is the kind of situation that separates the men from the boys.
Prof. Jensen is still studying this subject and writing about it. Thirty-five years of vilification have not stopped him.
Here are some excerpts from Rushton and Jensen’s article:
Summary: Recent editorials in this journal have defended the right of eminent biologist James Watson to raise the unpopular hypothesis that people of sub-Saharan African descent score lower, on average, than people of European or East Asian descent on tests of general intelligence. As those editorials imply, the scientific evidence is substantial in showing a genetic contribution to these differences. The unjustified ill treatment meted out to Watson therefore requires setting the record straight about the current state of the evidence on intelligence, race, and genetics. In this paper, we summarize our own previous reviews based on 10 categories of evidence: The worldwide distribution of test scores; the g factor of mental ability; heritability differences; brain size differences; trans-racial adoption studies; racial admixture studies; regression-to-the-mean effects; related life history traits; human origins research; and the poverty of predictions from culture-only explanations. The preponderance of evidence demonstrates that in intelligence, brain size, and other life-history variables, East Asians average a higher IQ and larger brain than Europeans who average a higher IQ and larger brain than Africans. Further, these group differences are 50—80% heritable. These are facts, not opinions and science must be governed by data. There is no place for the “moralistic fallacy” that reality must conform to our social, political, or ethical desires.
(c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
When one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, Nobel-Prize winner James Watson, noted that people of African descent average lower on intelligence tests than do Europeans and East Asians, he was excoriated by the mass media and elements of the scientific elite and forced to retire from his position as Chair of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory [9,34]. Watson’s treatment was especially egregious given that, in point of scientific fact, more than a century-and-a-half of evidence corroborates his statement. Moreover, supportive new data and analyses appear regularly in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals in the relevant scientific disciplines. Evidence to the contrary is exceedingly weak. Most of the opposition to the genetic hypothesis consists of mere moralizing and worse, the creation of a threatening and coercive atmosphere incompatible with academic freedom, free enquiry, and the civil liberties of a truly democratic society. An enormous gulf separates the politically correct gatekeepers and enforcers from true experts in the behavioral sciences.
Nor is Watson’s case unique. He is but the latest in a long line of academics that have been pilloried and defamed (detailed accounts given in Hunt ). The others include Nobel-Prize winner William Shockley, Hans Eysenck, Linda Gottfredson, Richard Lynn, Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, Christopher Brand, Glayde Whitney, Helmuth Nyborg, and Tatu Vanhanen. The present writers too have endured their share of attacks. The taboo on race will surely become a major topic of investigation by sociologists of knowledge. There is no parallel to it in the history of science. It is uniquely imposed, mainly through self-censorship, by members of the Western intelligentsia in their own academy — which prides itself on a tradition of academic freedom, open inquiry, and the unfettered discovery, systematization, and pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination to the general public.
Despite the chilling effect described, we (and the others) have persevered in part because of the great importance of the topic, the fascinating data it provides, and the theoretical issues it raises…
Because many consider the race-IQ hypothesis incendiary, it is essential to thoroughly examine all the relevant data. We did this in our 60-page review, “Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability,” which was published as the lead article in the June 2005 issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, a journal of the American Psychological Association . In the current article we summarize and update those findings (more complete statistical details and references can be found there). Again, the preponderance of evidence argues that it is more probable than not that the genetic contribution to racial group differences in intelligence, brain size and other life-history variables is between 50% and 80%. A good introduction to the issues involved is Bartholomew.
Notice the cautious and non-inflammatory nature of the authors’ conclusions: It is more probable than not that the genetic contribution to racial group differences in intelligence… is between 50% and 80%.
Yet this is simply not allowed. We must not consider the possibility. To do so is racist. The science is settled. These guys are making scientists look bad. Etc.
Once again: it’s the hypothesis that dare not speak its name.
Commenters are warned not to generate a race-based free-for-all on this post.
This post is about the anathematizing of scientists who dare to question the politically acceptable orthodoxy on the topic of race.
This post is about the enforced group consensus that reigns in the scientific establishment.
This post is about the way academic and fiscal pressure is used to marginalize anyone who goes outside that consensus.
This post is not about the characteristics of one race or another.
This post is not an invitation to list the positive or negative characteristics of any particular race.
This post concerns process. It does not concern content.
Racial diatribes are off-topic. There are plenty of other forums available where you can hold forth on such subjects to your hearts’ content.
If the thread gets out of hand, it will be closed to further comments.