Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Are All Brains the Same Color ?

Psychologist Richard Nisbett has an article in the NYT under the rather silly heading "All Brains Are the Same Color". It is the usual misleading account of the evidence about black IQ. I am a bit tired of demolishing these pieces of nonsense so I reproduce below a fisking of the article by Bob Williams. There is much more that could be said but Bob does a pretty good job nonetheless:

Nisbett says:

The first notable public airing of the scientific question came in a 1969 article in The Harvard Educational Review by Arthur Jensen, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Jensen maintained that a 15-point difference in I.Q. between blacks and whites was mostly due to a genetic difference between the races that could never be erased. But his argument gave a misleading account of the evidence.

This is not true. There was nothing misleading, nor incorrect. After 37 years, Jensen's observations have been clearly established as correct.

In fact, the evidence heavily favors the view that race differences in I.Q. are environmental in origin, not genetic.

False. Anyone who does not understand this may wish to read Rushton, J.P. and Jensen, A.R. (2005). Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 235-294 and this

The hereditarians begin with the assertion that 60 percent to 80 percent of variation in I.Q. is genetically determined. However, most estimates of heritability have been based almost exclusively on studies of middle-class groups.

The B-W IQ gap is larger at the highest level of SES than at the lowest. The above comment is inane. There have been literally hundreds of IQ studies of various racial groups from many different countries and they show the same outcome:

Highest IQ: Ashkenazi Jews
Next highest: East Asians (Mongoloids)
Next highest: Whites of European ancestry
Lower: American Indians and Latinos
Lower still: American and European Blacks
Very low: sub-Saharan Blacks
Lowest: Bushmen and Pygmies

For the poor, a group that includes a substantial proportion of minorities, heritability of I.Q. is very low, in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, according to recent research by Eric Turkheimer at the University of Virginia.

Turkheimer reached this conclusion by studying children who were age 7 and less. This is long before the shared environmental component vanishes. [See also here and here]

This means that for the poor, improvements in environment have great potential to bring about increases in I.Q.

For children only. The shared environmental component equals ZERO for adults.

Nearly all the evidence suggesting a genetic basis for the I.Q. differential is indirect.

Not true. You have to wonder why this person makes such obviously false assertions. Perhaps he thinks his readers are not familiar with the research. A good bit of the evidence is so specific that it cannot be associated with environmental causes by any means. See either of the two references I previously gave.

There is, for example, the evidence that brain size is correlated with intelligence, and that blacks have smaller brains than whites. But the brain size difference between men and women is substantially greater than that between blacks and whites, yet men and women score the same, on average, on I.Q. tests.

The brain size difference between the sexes is a virtually perfect predictor of the IQ difference between the sexes. The claim that the sexes have identical IQs is at odds with numerous independent findings, although the subject is still being debated.

Likewise, a group of people in a community in Ecuador have a genetic anomaly that produces extremely small head sizes - and hence brain sizes. Yet their intelligence is as high as that of their unaffected relatives.

This person does not understand correlations. Even large numbers of exceptions do not invalidate correlations. One or two points will have little significance, other than to move the correlation coefficient by a tiny amount.

About 25 percent of the genes in the American black population are European, meaning that the genes of any individual can range from 100 percent African to mostly European. If European intelligence genes are superior, then blacks who have relatively more European genes ought to have higher I.Q.'s than those who have more African genes. But it turns out that skin color and "negroidness" of features - both measures of the degree of a black person's European ancestry - are only weakly associated with I.Q. (even though we might well expect a moderately high association due to the social advantages of such features).

The Black admixture formula (from Lynn) is: IQ = 80 + (admixture % x 0.2) [see Lynn, Richard (2006). "Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis", Washington Summit Publishers, Georgia.] This formula predicts the regional and mean IQs of Blacks in the US and Europe.

During World War II, both black and white American soldiers fathered children with German women. Thus some of these children had 100 percent European heritage and some had substantial African heritage. Tested in later childhood, the German children of the white fathers were found to have an average I.Q. of 97, and those of the black fathers had an average of 96.5, a trivial difference.

This citation is known as the Eyferth study. Environmental proponents always cite it because they have not found any other evidence to cite. But their claim is incredibly lame:

* The "study" consisted of a very small N. Some citations claim 98 and some 69.

* Although the children's IQ was measured, the parents' IQ was not measured (neither was the rank of the US military father measured). So it is not known whether the children inherited the parental IQ.

* About 30 percent of US blacks failed pre-induction mental tests for the military, compared with 3 percent of white. So US black soldiers were a more IQ-selected and less-representative sample of their population than were white soldiers.

* Children were tested prior to the age at which the genotypic aspect of intelligence has become fully manifested. [See also here]

* 20% to 25% of the "Black" fathers were not African Americans but French North Africans (i.e., largely Caucasian or "Whites" as we have defined the terms here).

But it turns out that skin color and "negroidness" of features - both measures of the degree of a black person's European ancestry - are only weakly associated with I.Q. (even though we might well expect a moderately high association due to the social advantages of such features).

There is no presently available study (to the best of my knowledge) of within group IQ variation as a function of skin color. But there is a between group study, as cited in my previously referenced article:

Templer and Arikawa (2006):

skin color to winter high temperature r = .85 (p < 0.001)

IQ to skin color r = - .92 (p < 0.001 )

The correlation shown above is not even close to "weakly associated." It is very strong. Nisbett did not offer any numbers or references to support his assertion.

The closest thing to direct evidence that the hereditarians have is a study from the 1970s showing that black children who had been adopted by white parents had lower I.Q.'s than those of mixed-race children adopted by white parents. But, as the researchers acknowledged, the study had many flaws; for instance, the black children had been adopted at a substantially later age than the mixed-race children, and later age at adoption is associated with lower I.Q.

All adopted children reached adult IQs that were equal to their biological peers and which had no correlation with their adoptive families. Transracial studies were not limited to Blacks adopted by Whites but included Asians adopted by Whites. The Blacks ended up with lower IQs than their adoptive families and the Asians ended up with IQs higher than their adoptive families.

That environment can markedly influence I.Q. is demonstrated by the so-called Flynn Effect.

No, it is not.

James Flynn, a philosopher and I.Q. researcher in New Zealand, has established that in the Western world as a whole, I.Q. increased markedly from 1947 to 2002.

Not true. What he found was an increase in raw scores. At the same time scholastic-component raw scores (within the same tests) declined.

In the United States alone, it went up by 18 points. Our genes could not have changed enough over such a brief period to account for the shift;

He got one right.

it must have been the result of powerful social factors.

No. There is absolutely no evidence that any social factors were at work. It appears that most or all of the gains were specific and not g loaded and are apparently due to multiple factors such as nutrition, family size, and environmental conditions that exist in very early life, since the secular rise is observable in toddlers.

Most important, we know that interventions at every age from infancy to college can reduce racial gaps in both I.Q. and academic achievement, sometimes by substantial amounts in surprisingly little time.

The IQ boosts that have been reported were temporary (very short lived) and were believed to be largely the result of teaching to the test. That means that the gains were in s loading and not in g loading. No g loading gains have been demonstrated.

This mutability is further evidence that the I.Q. difference has environmental, not genetic, causes.

No, it is not. Nisbett needs to read (or read again) Rushton, J.P. and Jensen, A.R. (2005). Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 235-294.


Brookes News Update

The US economy: we've got the boom but what about the bust?: It is unlikely that we will see the US economy fall into recession before next June. In fact, if the current indicators remain as they are we might see the boom carry on into 2009. But sooner or later real factors will make an imminent recession unavoidable
Will the US economy suffer a downturn?: The likely economic downturn in the US economy in the months ahead is not going to be on account of sub-prime mortgages meltdown and the likely weakening in consumer outlays but on account of the boom-bust policies of the Fed
Why the union-sponsored Australia at Work study is worthless: The Buchanan and Woonay study is worthless union propaganda. It assumed as true that which it was supposed to prove. To do this it denied the very existence of economic laws. So much for economic reason and informed debate
Inflation: the pestilence that threatens prosperity, part 1: Golden Age of corporate profitability may be coming to a juddering end. Many already-booked 'profits' will prove to have been utterly insubstantial. If that happens, the Bull's mantra that the market is 'cheap' enough to support present prices might ring very hollow indeed
The Annapolis plan: How can Israel be so stupid?: Fatah demands a two-state solution while in Arabic it promise death to the Jews and the extermination of Israel. Given this fact why do so many in the West back a policy that amounts to the implementation of Hitler's Final Solution?
Brazil's leftist government is promoting race hatred: Race-baiting Marxists are doing the best to provoke a race war in Brazil. This is more evidence that Marxists are a bunch of political thugs motivated by hatred and a desire to do evil
The key question about the NIE's key judgment: Here's the key question about the Key Judgment of the National Intelligence Council's new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear intentions and capabilities: Is this judgment supported by the evidence?



Fred Thompson on the move: Beginning Monday, December 17, Thompson will launch a bus tour that will take him throughout the state. From the beginning of that trip through caucus night, Thompson will essentially live in Iowa, taking only a one-day trip out of the state to celebrate Christmas at his home in Virginia. ... Thompson has said publicly that he needs to finish in the top three in Iowa. Campaign officials say that a strong third place finish -- presumably behind new frontrunner Mike Huckabee and former frontrunner Mitt Romney -- would likely give them enough momentum to survive New Hampshire and compete in South Carolina and beyond. A second place finish would be a victory."

Chavez the crook: "Most of Latin America's leaders breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week, after Venezuelan voters rejected President Hugo Chavez's constitutional amendment referendum. In private they were undoubtedly relieved that Chavez lost, and in public they expressed delight that he accepted defeat and did not steal the election. But by midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chavez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d'etat if he insisted on doing so"


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