The Unfortunately Innate Nature of Intelligence
An Invitation to a Lynching
February 18, 2014
Human races are subspecies of Homo sapiens (sic), just as basset hounds and Chihuahuas are subspecies of dog. The breeds of neither are precise genetic categories: In the words of the heroic John Derbyshire, genetically “what you see is a continuum with some pretty sharp clines.” Yet the genetic commonalities are sufficient to be obvious: At a glance one can distinguish between a Japanese and a Norwegian, or a Siberian wolf hound and a dachshund.
Anyone having experience with dogs knows that these admirable creatures differ in intelligence. Border Collies are simply smarter than pit bulls. Since there is no political penalty for noticing this, it is widely noticed and not disputed. Yet if subspecies of Bowser differ markedly in intelligence, it would seem to follow that subspecies of humans, who differ in color, hair, biochemistry, facial features, brain size and so on, might also differ in intelligence. That is, there is no prima facie biological reason for believing that they cannot. There are many political incentives.
In the case of Fido, the differences clearly are not cultural, but genetic. If genetic differences in intelligence can exist between subspecies of dogs, why may they not between subspecies of humans?
People who do not want to believe that such differences exist offer several curious arguments. One is to point out that humans and chimpanzees share 98.2% of their DNA. It then follows that different subspecies of humans share an even higher percentage of their DNA. This is intended to show that humans are therefore essentially identical and that no differences in intellect can exist.
The obvious reason for the similarity of DNA is that the two share their underlying design: digestive tracts, lungs, muscles, cells, and so on. On similar grounds one could note that a Lamborghini and a dump truck share underlying design and therefore are essentially identical. Wanna race?
But of course what the shared-DNA observation shows is the contrary of what it is said to show. It demonstrates that very small differences in DNA can produce profoundly different results. It means that a variation of 1.8% causes the difference between Wongobongo the Chimp and Marylyn Monroe. Your dating preferences are your own, but I am not sure the two are quite interchangeable.
For that matter, the genetic difference between men and women as a percentage is very small. Yet the observant reader will have noticed that this minute difference produces rather impressive differences of structure, thank God, as well as profound biochemical and functional differences. For example, men do not have uteruses, except perhaps in university faculty lounges.
The genetic differences between such geniuses as Newton, Einstein, Shakespeare, or Hawking, and the guy in the next cubicle are vanishingly small; the effects of these tiny differences are not. A difference of only one amino residue on the beta chain of hemoglobin causes sickle-cell anemia. The genetic difference is infinitesimal, the results catastrophic.
In short, the notion that small differences in DNA cannot have massive effects is observably wrong.
Here we should note the dual modes of viewing intelligence, specifically Normal Mode and Racial Mode.
In Normal Mode, we all know what we mean by intelligence, and we all recognize that people vary greatly in how much of it they have. If John could read classical Greek at age three and graduated in mathematics from CalTech at fifteen, we would all agree that he was bright. If I said at a cocktail party, “Whoa! That gal Therese is smarter than five whips wired in parallel. Anybody got her phone number?” no one would tell me that I was a bigot or that Therese had exactly the same intelligence as everyone else. Rather they would say that I Just knew a good thing when I saw it.
In Group Mode, everything changes according to the group being discussed. If I said that Jews were smart, and adduced all manner of achievements over the centuries, no one would deny it. Similarly for the Chinese. If I said however that Australian aborigines were inferior in IQ, I would be told as follows: Intelligence does not exist; it is a social construct; it is culturally determined; it can’t be measured; it has no genetic basis; the tests are biased; lack of achievement is caused by discrimination, or institutional racism running through Australian society, or geographic considerations. Whereas if I said that Italians were of low intelligence the response would be to produce counter evidence, in the case of the aborigines it would be to give all manner of reasons why there was no counter evidence.
It is remarkable how closely the observable behavior of races over the long haul tracks their measured intelligence. Arrange all the visibly distinct groups in descending order of measured IQ. Next to each put its contributions to the arts and sciences; its great civilizations present or past; its mean family income; its rate of criminality; its Nobel prizes and its scores on the GRE, and their representation in demanding universities without affirmative action. Each of the clear disparities can be explained away, yes. E.g., for many centureis Germans were primitive while Italians and Greeks flourished intellectually, and Brazil only recently started designing airliners. Yet the aborigines never did anything. This is not probative, but highly ssuspicious.
Political and social consequences flow from apparent or, more likely, real differences in intelligence. For example, the Chinese are hated in Indonesia and Malaya, as have been Jews in countless places, because of consistently greater success in things requiring brains (such as making money). (An excellent book on this is World on Fire by Amy Chua.)
If no such differences in IQ existed, those around the world who produce and pay taxes might reasonably tell their welfare classes to stop being parasites and do their part. If on the other hand some groups are genuinely dim, the problem changes. You cannot blame people for being what they were born, and you cannot expect them to do what they cannot. The social-Darwinist approach—“Scratch, dog, who can, and the devil take the rest”—is cruel. If some cannot function, or find work, in a rapidly automating economy with high endemic unemployment, what do you do? To make matters worse, those who cannot compete intellectually tend to develop a cultural aversion to the whole idea.
It is when when gradations of intelligence and hence of prosperity correlate closely with visible distinctions—for example, when north Asian students in California swamp Berkeley, greatly out-performing Caucasians—that anger arises. If dull-witted whites live in broken-down trailers in the pine barrens of the South, no one much cares. But if American Indians, racially distinct, live similarly on reservations, it is a political issue. And that is what we face, no matter how hard we pretend otherwise.