Thursday, December 06, 2007

Metcalf on Saletan and black IQ

Vitriolic and anti-conservative cultural commentator Stephen Metcalf has apparently put a bit of work into his recent article in Slate in which he attempts to rebut Saletan's article on IQ research. Metcalf actually appears to have read stuff on the subject! Predictably for a Leftist, though, most of what he says is ad hominem -- attempted character assassination of those with whom he disagrees. Vdare has however highlighted the shallowness of Metcalf's claims in that department rather well so I will just focus on a few of the substantive points that Metcalf raises.

I should perhaps point out initially, however, that I have never received one cent from the Pioneer Fund nor do I know anything about it. For all I know it is just a Leftist boogeyman. They certainly seem to treat it that way. They claim that any association with the Pioneer Fund renders anyone outside the pale of discourse. But putting those they disagree with outside the pale of discourse is a common Leftist strategy, of course. It sure beats having to deal with inconvenient facts and arguments! My interest in this debate springs from the fact that I am a psychometrician (specialist in the measurement of psychological variables) by trade. See here.

I think it is about time that I pointed out the obvious about the "seed" analogy to black/white IQ differences. Metcalf puts it as follows:
Imagine two wheat fields. Now imagine two genetically identical sets of seeds. (The analogy was first made famous by the Harvard evolutionary biologist and geneticist Richard Lewontin.) Now imagine each field is planted with these two identical seed stocks. Field No. 1 is given the best possible inputs: sunshine intensity, rain, soil nitrates, etc. Field No. 2 is given much less of all of the above. Within each field, inputs are kept uniform. Inevitably, the first field grows a healthier supply of grain than the second. But here is the rub: Within each field, the variation in outcomes is entirely hereditary. Between the two fields, the variation in outcomes in entirely environmental.

The argument simply assumes what it has to prove. It assumes that the two lots of seeds (genetic inheritance) are identical to start with. So the argument comes back immediately to the problem of sorting out whether black and white IQ is genetically different. And it is precisely that question which has been the subject of decades of research. Environmental differences do have SOME effect on IQ so it is perfectly possible that the UNDERLYING differences between blacks and whites are nil. But there is NOTHING that has ever been found which suggests that -- only a lot of wishful thinking. I am not for a minute going to try to summarize the research concerned but Gottfredson and Malloy are good starting points for those who want to delve further.

Much of the research, however, has focused on examining alternative explanations for the perennial black disadvantage. Is it due to poor nutrition or biased tests, for instance? But no matter what you allow for, a substantial gap remains.

One might also note that if the environment were the cause of racial differences in IQ then we would expect impoverished and poorly nourished Chinese living in hovels to score lower on IQ tests than blacks. The reverse is of course true. The Chinese score about the same as whites, in fact. Also: East Asian immigrants to America labour under much greater disadvantages than do blacks -- not speaking English well, for a start -- but they do well generally and their children fill the universities (over 40% of students at the University of California are Asian). Environment doesn't seem to hold Asians back. How come blacks do not make such a huge leap when given the opportunity? Simple answer: Blacks don't have the genetic endowment but the Chinese do. Even if we argue that America's Chinese immigrants have a better genetic endowment than other Chinese, the argument still is in terms of the genetic given rather than in terms of the environment.

And the "No child left behind" initiative has put huge pressure on schools to lift black educational attainment -- with effectively zero results. We read in fact, "The disparity between blacks' and whites' SAT scores is larger now than it was 10 years ago". NOTHING can bring average black scores up to average white scores. If Metcalf knows a way he will make a fortune. The Chinese advantage is sometimes attributed to a superior Chinese culture. Maybe Metcalf can tell us how to give blacks a Chinese-style culture! It's quite inconceivable, isn't it? Chinese culture reflects what Chinese are to begin with (See Kagan's research) and the same is true for black culture. Why else would blacks in all environments worldwide be the same high-violence, high-criminality, low achieving group that they are in America?

That leads me to two of Metcalf's assertions: "Since the late '60s-i.e., since the heyday of civil rights and the inception of such "compensatory education" programs as Head Start-blacks have made huge gains vis-.-vis whites on a wide range of standardized tests. Evidence? Metcalf gives none. I think that must be one bit that he did not look up. He is just winging it on the basis of what they say in his own little social bubble. Head Start has in fact made just about no discernible difference to anything. See also here. That Congress continues to fund Head Start rather proves what Ronald Reagan said -- that a government program is the nearest thing to everlasting life. It may be worth noting that a similar program in Britain has also failed to achieve anything.

Metcalf also says: "Absent a national random sample for IQ data and race, researchers have looked at a range of tests that highly correlate with IQ, and extrapolated from them that the black-white IQ gap has likely been cut by a third." References? Metcalf gives none. Charles Murray, however, has noted that the black/white IQ score gap did close somewhat during the 20th century, but that the data show that the narrowing stalled sometime in the 1970s.

Finally Metcalf points to the big study of black/white IQ by the corporate body of America's psychologists, the American Psychological Association. The report of course acknowledges the 15 point IQ disadvadvantage usually found for blacks but goes on to say that the question is still not settled. In a way reminiscent of the way Greenies rely on the heavily politicised IPCC as authority for their belief in global warming, Metcalf uses the APA conclusion as authority for his belief that the question is not settled. But the APA is as politicized as the IPCC. It is heavily Left-leaning. So it is their evidence you have to look at, not their opinions, and the evidence is very consistent in showing a black white IQ gap no matter what.

And the APA report is not even a comprehensive survey of the literature. You will find no mention of him in the APA bibliography but Tanser (1939), for instance, found a large black/white IQ gap even though the children in his study had attended the same schools since 1890! It is particularly regrettable that the APA slighted older studies in its report as the great black cultural and family breakdown since the 60s does superficially look like a reasonable cause for black intellectual failure. Studies prior to the 60s, however, show much the same result as more recent studies. Whether the environment is permissive or vigilant, or anything else, that IQ gap never budges significantly. It is hard-wired.

The refusal of the APA to draw conclusions in their report on the grounds that the evidence is not yet good enough is a good example of what is called "intellectual dishonesty" -- judging a matter not on the balance of the evidence for and against it but rather on whether or not the conclusions suit the speaker. If the conclusions don't suit, NO evidence will ever be good enough, of course. I commented on that dishonesty in discussions about IQ long ago

I could go on and if no-one else takes up the cudgels maybe I will. There is, for a start, a lot more fun to be had from the Eyferth study. In his comments on both the Eyferth study and the Minnesota adoption study, Metcalf seems to assume what he is trying to disprove!

Eyferth, K. (1961). Leistungenverchiedener Gruppen von Besatzungskindern im Hamburg Wechsler Intelligenztest fuer Kinder (HAWIK). Archiv fuer die gesamte Psychologie, 1 13, 222 241.
Tanser, H. A. 1939. The Settlement of Negroes in Kent County, Ontario. Chatham, Ontario: Shephard Publishing Co.



The CIA's flip-flop on Iran is hardly reassuring: "In his press conference yesterday, President Bush went out of his way to praise the "good work" of the intelligence community, whose latest National Intelligence Estimate claims the mullahs of Iran abandoned their nuclear weapons program in 2003. "This is heartening news," Mr. Bush said. "To me, it's a way for us to rally our partners." We wish we could be as sanguine, both about the quality of U.S. intelligence and its implications for U.S. diplomacy. For years, senior Administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice, have stressed to us how little the government knows about what goes on inside Iran. In 2005, the bipartisan Robb-Silberman report underscored that "Across the board, the Intelligence Community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors." And as our liberal friends used to remind us, you can never trust the CIA. (Only later did they figure out the agency was usually on their side.)" [VDH also has an interesting comment on the alleged Iranian non-bomb]

Israel's defense minister disputes U.S. assessment on Iran: "Israeli intelligence believes Iran is still trying to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel's defense minister said Tuesday, disputing a U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran has halted its program. "It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio".

Expensive to get the BBC to stop lying: "Training to remind staff about the importance of telling viewers the truth will cost the BBC more than œ1 million in staff time and expenses. About 17,000 BBC staff have to attend a two-hour course, in which employees are invited to discuss where the line should be drawn between artifice and deception in the wake of a series of scandals. Vin Ray, the director of the BBC's college of journalism, said that the direct cost of the course would be "a maximum of 500,000 pounds", but the cost of taking each employee out for a half day more than doubled that figure."

Democrat candidates asked "Why do Muslims hate us?" "The Democrats debated on NPR today, and were asked "Why do Muslims hate us?" If there's a more tiresome question that has arisen from the ashes of 9-11, I'm not aware of it. "Where's my aircraft carrier?" was, essentially, the vast majority of Americans' reaction after 9-11, liberal and conservative alike, but the rubber band has snapped the 9-10 left back to its former, pacifist, blame-America-first self. That NPR question arises from that attitude that all the hate directed at us must somehow be all our fault, and not motivated by anything other than our own actions. The word you may be looking for to describe that attitude is "narcissism." Liberals corner the market on that stuff. And several of the Democrat candidates betrayed their worst, most liberal, knee-jerk blame America first instincts."


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"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".


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