Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ignorance, Intellegence, and the Bell Curve

Check out FAIR on The Bell Curve.

JAMA can be forgiven for misunderstanding the point I was trying to make about the Bell Curve. He has probably listened to too many fools try to discredit SAT and standardized tests altogether. He probably assumed that when I said tests don’t measure innate intelligence that I meant that it doesn’t measure intelligence. So let’s go over this slowly so that if JAMA still doesn’t understand, we can be sure that it’s because he is dumb.

Standardized tests work. They are good at testing people’s intelligence. What they can’t do however, is measure how much of that intelligence is due to genetic factors, and how much is do to culture and upbringing. After all, if I took the world’s red-headed population and whacked them on the back of the head with a baseball bat, they might do more poorly on standardized tests than average, too.

Blacks in general do more poorly on standardized tests. But then, according to FAIR: “sociologist Jane Mercer has shown that supposed racial differences in IQ vanish if one controls for a variety of socio-economic variables”. (Have you read Jane Mercer’s work, JAMA? No?)

So let’s recap. If you take the average poor black person, and compare her to an average white person with the same income, they magically turn out to have the same IQ on average.

You are an intelligent person, JAMA. So you will point out like the authors of the book* that if you assume our society is perfectly fair than of course people of the same income will be equally intelligent. As a corollary, we can add that Black people are dumb and the proof is that they’re poor. QED. In return, I will point out that if your racial “logic” is based on that *assumption* there really isn’t much to separate you from a simple racist. And I’m not saying that to shut down the conversation. I’m saying that because I think it’s true and I look forward to hashing out this issue with you.

I have a personal connection to this old racist line because my great-grandfather, Gioacchino Sciortino, was a poor Italian immigrant and at the time Italian immigrants didn’t test so well on the standardized tests either. Neither were they rich. And the men who owned everything explained that since the standardized tests showed Italians were less intelligent, then it must be because Italians were genetically inferior. You should head down to the main stacks and check out the newspaper clipping of the time.

The punch-line is that as Italian-Americans got more opportunities (in part through things like turn of the century Affirmative Action in police hiring) and became more successful, their IQ’s went up. And it wasn’t because of some kind of amazing natural selection pressure - it was because good schooling, a stable home life, and good pre-natal care can do a lot to raise standardized test scores. I suspect that once Blacks get out of the poverty trap, you will find their test scores shoot up as well, just like the scores of those Blacks who have already succeeded. But there’s no hard proof one way or the other with the current information, so any book that claims to do so (unless they introduce some amazing new research) is clearly wrong.

I'm finishing up Harry Potter right now, but when I'm done I will be checking out The Bell Curve and I'll be going over it on my site. Many other sites have done so, but apparently, every one in the whole world will have to do it to satisfy JAMA.

* FAIR: “the authors [of the Bell Curve] reject her method because their theories assume that low IQ causes people to be poor, rather than poverty causing low IQs”


As I explained to Thinker in a previous post, I will have to wait until later to give this the response that is warranted. I invite Thinker to join in this thread, as I find him/her to be receptive and willing to evaluate arguments on their merit. Thus far, anyway. ;-)

Be ready, I've answered these questions already to others throughout my career.

At the risk of being accused of being your tool, lapdog or toadie, let me add that the Captain, first or second officer, or master of ships coming to Ellis Island with passengers from southern or eastern Europe around the turn of the 20th century were required to sign a certificate (available for viewing at the Ellis Island web site) verifying that each of the "aliens" he delivered was not "an idiot, or imbecile, or a feeble-minded person, or insane person, or a pauper, or is likely to become a public charge, or is afflicted with tuberculosis or with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, or is a person who has been convicted of, or who admits having committed a felony or other crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, or is a polygamist or one admitting belief in the practice of polygamy, or an anarchist or under promise or agreement, express or implied, to perform labor in the United States, or a prostitute, or a woman or girl coming to the United States for purpose of prostitution, or for any other immoral purpose, ...." One can only wonder what happened to those individuals who could not be so verified. I am not able to find any evidence that the officers of passenger ships from Great Britain or France had to sign similar forms.

Allow me to carry on the discussion we began on the earlier thread.

Since you seem to accept the effectiveness of BiDil in blacks but not whites (and I assume not in Hispanics, Asians or Native Americans either since it will apparently not be marketed to them), you must believe that there are subtle genetic differences between African-Americans and Americans of other racial heritage to account for its purported effectiveness in blacks only.

If that is so, how can you accept the logic of attempting to apply an apparent lesson drawn from research done in male hamsters (presumably of the same race) to perceived differences in behavior among male humans of different races? That is way too big a leap for me to make.
By the way, doesn't the certificate that was required from ships officers about the state of their impoverished passengers from southern and eastern Europe stand in stark contrast to the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty"

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

For those who may not know, those words were penned by Emma Lazarus as part of her poem, The New Colossus.
May I point out that from what I see BiDil is a good example of racial differences with a good backing in science. You have a test and controll group and you *control* for variables. I have no doubt that there are general physical differences between races, but the evidence for behavior or intellegence differences just can't be picked apart from the data.

Freakanomics has a discussion about this issue and it finds that intellegence has a high inheritabilty quotient, but then this says nothing about genetics or whether the children of dumb poor people are just prone to be dumb and poor regardless of what their genes say.

Another economist has an interesting discussion about why even a little interracial marriage will widley spread desirable traits throughout the population. Though his example is simple (he assumes people marry random partners as opposed to people within your own economic group) the broad pattern is strong.
So I've responded, but found it increasingly difficult to do so within the confines of a comment box. I've created a temporary blog for my responses:

Hope you check it out.
Income level doesn't affect IQ. It's more likely that IQ affects income level, or at least income reflects IQ in a correlative sense.
Anonymous wrote, "Income level doesn't affect IQ. It's more likely that IQ affects income level, or at least income reflects IQ in a correlative sense."

And your evidence for that assertion is ...?

I've looked at your Mustapha Mond blog site, but for the moment I prefer to continue our discussion here. If you prefer to answer there, so be it.

So far, you seem to have avoided a question I've posed to you at least once, what constitutes race? If a young man has an African paternal grandfather, an English paternal grandmother, a Vietnamese maternal grandfather, and an Italian maternal grandmother; what race is he? And, how would you determine that scientifically?

Also, let's assume for the moment that your assertions about the validity of the Bell Curve, Jensen's work, and the conclusions you've drawn from the Hamster research you cited are all correct; what public policy changes would you dictate based on them if you could? How would education, criminal law, etc. change?
Sorry Thinker, I will try to change the options for my comments if it is preventing you from commenting there. Also, I apologize for not addressing your questions yet. I will do so on my new blogsite as well since I will need the space. Once again, though, I will have to do so later tonight when I am afforded more time.
In response to Anonymous: Are you telling me that a child who grows up poor, who attends poorly funded schools, who is cared for by poor working parents without proper healthcare or even nutrition during the formative years, who grows up without intellectual role models or even a person who knows big word - are you telling me that child is going to score the same on standardized tests as that same child who attended a good school raised by attentive parents in a house with lots of books and people who could teach them a lot? Hell, according to that logic we might as well not spend money on education at all. Apparently nothing can lower standardized tests scores. (And if you are going to complain that standardized test scores aren’t the same as IQ then I suggest you reread my original post: this is how IQ has been defined in this debate).

I'm not saying that low intelligence doesn't cause poverty. Obviously it does in extreme cases (mental retardation) and I assume it does on a smaller level as well. The point is it is impossible to unravel the exact connection between poverty and intelligence through the methods presented because poverty causes low IQ and vice versa. And so it is difficult to tell the difference between a population who is poor because they are dumb (like people who suffer from down syndrome) and a population that was made poor - say through enslavement followed, by economic and political discrimination that only started letting up about 50 years ago – and who subsequently became uneducated.

And that is the point. A lot of people pretend that Blacks have had plenty of time to pick themselves up by their bootstraps but let’s get real, up until 50 years ago they were a bonafide oppressed minority. To expect that undeserved poverty to fix itself in one/two generations is absurd. I mean, look, let’s say that a high IQ person child born to poor parents has a 50/50 chance of rising to their proper station: that is, they successfully avoid the obstacles of poverty (obstacles that rich kids don’t have to face) to raise their income. After two generations you still have 25% of the population stuck in undeserved poverty. And I think the 50/50 chance is quite optimistic.
Oh, also I believe I provided you a non-hampster study to shows links between testosterone and aggression.
JAMA wrote, "Oh, also I believe I provided you a non-hampster study to shows links between testosterone and aggression."

So you did, but you also wrote (I believe) that testosterone injections were preferred in research because it was too difficult to control within groups for normally occurring testosterone levels. Since the non-Hamster paper you cited appeared to rely on normally occurring levels, isn't that a problem with it by your reasoning?

Regardless, for purposes of argument with regard to the questions I asked you, I'll let you assume the validity of that study too. It doesn't change anything with regard to the questions I asked. Will you answer them?
JAMA wrote, "I apologize for not addressing your questions yet. I will do so on my new blogsite as well since I will need the space. Once again, though, I will have to do so later tonight when I am afforded more time."

Fair enough, JAMA.
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