Blacks, Hispanics, and Health Outcomes

In the US, blacks score significantly worse than non-Hispanic whites* on many health metrics, such as life expectancy and infant mortality. In 1999, a black man could expect to live 6.4 years less than a white man, while a black woman could expect to live 5 years less than a white woman. And the infant mortality rate for black mothers is more than twice that for non-Hispanic white mothers.

One of the most popular hypotheses to explain this fact is that blacks don't have as much access to quality health care as whites. This is superficially plausible--see for example the chart on page 18 of this PDF, which shows that 10.6% of non-Hispanic whites lack medical insurance compared to 19.4% of blacks.

But let's take another look at those charts. We see that nearly a third (32.8%) of Hispanics lack health insurance. So their health outcomes must be even worse, right? Well...no. The infant mortality rate for Hispanics is marginally lower than that for non-Hispanic whites, and their life expectancy is 2.4/3.6 years (male/female) greater than the life expectancy of non-Hispanic whites.

This is probably due in part to the fact that about 40% of Hispanics in the US are foreign-born, since immigrants tend to outlive native Americans of the same race, but this can only explain why Hispanics live longer than whites--it doesn't explain why they live so much longer than blacks, who have greater access to health care. Nor can it explain the longevity and low infant mortality of Asians, who are also significantly more likely than whites to lack health insurance, yet manage to live 6.1/6.4 years longer.

It's times like this when I think that the world might make a bit more sense if I believed in human biodiversity.

*For some reason Latinos are considered to be whites of Hispanic origin in most US government statistics.

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I hate to get all statisticsy, but

Someone (not me) ought to have done a regression to analyze these things. It is helpful to compare averages when you first start analyzing things, but once someone suggests it is because "blacks don't have as much access to quality health care as whites," that is something that can be tested on an individual-by-individual basis. If that really is the answer, then we should see that blacks with health care live longer than those without, and the same should hold true for whites. Also, once including the "health care" variable in the regression, the effect of being black or white should disappear.

In other words, you shouldn't even be forced to go to Hispanics or anyone else.

In the real world

In the real world, the smart thing is not to talk about it. It doesn't matter how careful you are, whether you dot all your is and cross all your ts, if you happen to say something that offends political orthodoxy you run the risk of being labeled a racist and possibly having your life ruined. Best just to shut up and wait for the madness to pass, which, eventually, it will, though possibly not in your lifetime.

Sure, but if one day the US

Sure, but if one day the US moves to real free market health care insurance, people will notice different premiums and claim that insurers are racist. Regulation will follow, etc, etc. Political incorrectness is resistance, it should be preciously cultivated.

Yes, Don Imus is making

Yes, Don Imus is making great strides for truth and justice. Sophistry.

Don who?

Don Imus is just an entertainer. For a serious example, see Duke.

A review:

“The analysis of the notorious Duke rape case in this book is hard to accept. According to Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, this episode was not just a terrible injustice to three young men. It exposed a fever of political correctness that is more virulent than ever on American campuses and throughout society. . . . Unfortunately for doubts, the authors lay out the facts with scrupulous care. This is a thorough and absorbing history of a shameful episode. ”—Michael Kinsley, columnist for Time magazine

Another example of the effect of political correctness, this time respecting homosexuals:

Finally we have a high-level admission that there is no threat of a global Aids pandemic among heterosexuals. After 25 years of official scaremongering about western societies being ravaged by the disease – with salacious, tombstone-illustrated government propaganda warning people to wear a condom or "die of ignorance" – the head of the World Health Organisation's HIV/Aids department says there is no need for heterosexuals to fret.

One might argue that political correctness merely delayed recognition of the truth here, and did not prevent it. First, political correctness caused a rush to judgment in the Duke case. Second, that is an artifact of the constraint on evidence: pretty much by definition, I can't give widely accepted examples in which political orthodoxy continues to delay the recognition of the truth.

As far as individuals being destroyed by it, we could discuss the case of James Watson, but Gene Expression (major discussion) seems to have it pretty well covered (brief discussion) and I see little interest in rehashing. We could discuss the case of Larry Summers, but that also has been discussed to death elsewhere.

Arthur wrote, "Political

Arthur wrote, "Political incorrectness is resistance, it should be preciously cultivated." In response, note that I did not defend all forms of political correctness, but criticized embracing political incorrectness. Neither ideology is a safe guide to truth.

James Watson deserved what he got insofar as the accusations were true; if he was comfortable with what he was quoted as saying, he shouldn't have later denied saying it. Defending what he is quoted as saying is sort of like the Ron Paul-bots who defend the content of the newsletters. Paul himself rejected the content of the newsletters, just as Watson rejected the content of the newspaper quotes.

Political incorrectness

In response, note that I did not defend all forms of political correctness, but criticized embracing political incorrectness.

But apparently you read Arthur as embracing all forms of political incorrectness. I didn't.

James Watson deserved what he got

Not according to a couple of the folks at Gene Expression, and Jason Malloy makes a good case.

Defending what he is quoted as saying is sort of like the Ron Paul-bots who defend the content of the newsletters.

Yeah, whatever. If you want to argue that way, then kicking him out for what he's quoted as saying is like crucifying Jesus Christ for offending traditionalist sensibilities. Moreover it's not vicious, it's just politics, for a politician who says something impolitic to lose support. In contrast it's incredibly vicious to destroy a scientist's career for saying something impolitic, even if it is erroneous. It confirms my suspicion that humans are fantastically vicious, that we just wait for the slightest misstep on the part of someone else so that we have an excuse to destroy them. We're not really advanced over the Romans who enjoyed watching Christians disemboweled by lions.

Watson rejected the content of the newspaper quotes

Malloy persuasively argues that it was a non-apology apology.

British Government says racist babies don't like tabasco

You think that stuff's crazy then take a look at this. If you are a two year old and don't like your jalapeño salsa and lutefisk then you may be a racist.

Toddlers who say "yuck" when given flavorful foreign food may be exhibiting racist behavior, a British government-sponsored organization says.

The London-based National Children's Bureau released a 366-page guide counseling adults on recognizing racist behavior in young children, The Telegraph reported Monday.

The guide, titled Young Children and Racial Justice, warns adults that babies must also be included in the effort to eliminate racism because they have the ability to "recognize different people in their lives."

Political correctness tends to self-parody

Regarding these unmistakable excesses I think there are two general possibilities:

1) That the world is large and there will always be the occasional excess in anything.

2) That there is something special about the campaign against racism that tends to produce excess.

My own guess is that (2) is correct. We may notice that this is not merely some individual teacher or child care provider who has reported a racist baby, but:

The London-based National Children's Bureau released a 366-page guide counseling adults on recognizing racist behavior in young children

A significant-looking event. To some of us, this looks like a parody of the campaign against racism. To other folks, it is not a parody but a sign of success, because past successes mean new frontiers in the fight against racism are now being fought.

Another from Britain

Britain is producing a lot of really bizarre leftism/liberalism-gone-batshit-insane stories over the past few years. I don't know if it's just that Google News and the like gives us readier access to these stories, or what. Here's another. Via Instapundit.

Notice by the way that two supposed codewords for racism appear:

'The police say they want to reduce crime, yet they let evil little toe-rags like this off. Then they prosecute hard-working, upstanding residents like me.

The best and worst (because most tragic) line from the article:

The law is, quite simply, a colossal ass.'

Embracing Political Incorrectness

I can't speak for Arthur, but I would also say that we should embrace political incorrectness. What I mean by this is not that we should go around violating PC taboos just for the shock value, but simply that we should not respect the taboos or allow them to deter us from expressing ideas that violate them.

Furthermore, I think there's value in violating these taboos in an intelligent, non-malicious manner, because I believe that this helps to break down the taboos.

Regarding Watson, I don't recall that he was quoted as saying anything that was not defensible. On average, blacks score significantly lower than whites on IQ tests which have predictive validity for many important life outcomes, including job performance. There's not much room for legitimate debate on this point--the question is how much, if any, of that gap is due to genetics. As far as I can tell from the interview, Watson remains agnostic, refusing to rule out the possibility that the genetic component of the gap was nonzero. Which as I understand it is a perfectly reasonable response to the available data.

This is for both Constant

This is for both Constant and Brandon,

Which Watson are you agreeing with and defending? The pre-apology Watson or the post-apology Watson? Because the two different Watsons don't agree with each other.

“To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly,” he said.

“That is not what I meant. More importantly, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

“I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. I can certainly understand why people reading those words have reacted in the ways they have,” he added.

Galileo

I am not interested in his apology for two reasons. First, Malloy persuaded me that it is not much of an apology - as I mentioned. Second, it is consistent with my thesis that political correctness is a powerful force. I wrote:

if you happen to say something that offends political orthodoxy you run the risk of being labeled a racist and possibly having your life ruined

If this is correct, then political orthodoxy is powerful enough to make scientists behave like Galileo in front of the Inquisition. Galileo recanted his science.

Now, would you like to address the point that Brandon brought up, or not?

If this is correct, then

If this is correct, then political orthodoxy is powerful enough to make scientists behave like Galileo in front of the Inquisition. Galileo recanted his science.

Watson wasn't presenting "science". He was giving some off-the-cuff remarks. From the Razib post you linked to earlier: "There are sensitive topics that are best spoken of clinically, bandying about anecdotes about black employees really won't cut it."

Watson's remarks as quoted are the intellectual equivalent of Don Imus, not Galileo. Both deserved what they got, if for nothing else than shear stupidity.

Now, would you like to address the point that Brandon brought up, or not?

Which point?

He was presenting science

You are dealing exclusively with his weakest, probably anecdotal remark, and using it to represent his remarks in whole. Here the other two quotes for which he was attacked:

all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing(IQ and Standarized testing) says not really.

This seems a fair summary of the scientific evidence. See also Wikipedia, especially the first graph with its caption:

Cumulative IQ gaps by race or ethnicity based on 1981 U.S. distributions. According to these findings, WAIS IQs for Whites (mean = 101.4, SD = 14.7) were higher than those for Blacks (mean = 86.9, SD = 13.0); distributions for Hispanics (mean = 91), East Asians (mean = 106), and Ashkenazi Jews (mean = 112-115) are less precise because of overlap and small sample size. The modern debate focuses on what causes these disparities in average IQ.

That is for US - elsewhere in the article there is discussion of worldwide scores, and there is still a racial divide.

and (Watson's other remark)

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.

I don't have a problem with either statement and I absolutely agree with this last one. Frankly, I don't have a problem with his off the cuff remark about employees, because I don't agree with the special status of race. I don't agree with this remark as applied to race: There are sensitive topics that are best spoken of clinically. I agree with it as a realistic statement about the current climate of political correctness, but I don't agree with it as an endorsement of that climate. Of key interest here is the failure to even examine the statement for factual accuracy: the statement isn't rejected for being false, but rather for being taboo.

Both deserved what they got, if for nothing else than shear stupidity.

It was stupid in the sense of offending political orthodoxy. Stupid in the same sense as the guy who stopped the tanks in Tianenmen Square.

As for Brandon's point, I'm not going to explain a comment as simple as straightforward as Brandon's. If you want to answer Brandon, you'll answer. You don't need me to explain Brandon for you.

Black employees

I wrote:

Of key interest here is the failure to even examine the statement for factual accuracy: the statement isn't rejected for being false, but rather for being taboo.

The reason may be that it's true. I plucked this from the original article that started the problem.

He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “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”.

That's the whole thing. I bolded the bit I'm going to discuss. While I don't have direct evidence in front of me, I do have this (I'm going to use Brandon's comment for convenience though I don't mean to lay the whole thing on him):

blacks score significantly lower than whites on IQ tests which have predictive validity for many important life outcomes, including job performance

If there is evidence rising above mere anecdote that

a) blacks score significantly lower in IQ

and

b) IQ score predicts job performance

then this is not proof but suggests that in all likelihood there actually is evidence rising above mere anecdote that blacks have poorer job performance than whites. And that's what Watson is saying. So how do we know that Watson is merely relaying an anecdote? How do we know that he's not talking about evidence that rises above anecdote? It doesn't, as a matter of fact, have the look of an anecdote. He's not saying, "Bob the employer told me the other day..."

You are dealing exclusively

You are dealing exclusively with his weakest, probably anecdotal remark, and using it to represent his remarks in whole.

Was the anecdote science or not? Is pointing to the intelligence of one's coworkers more like something Don Imus or Galileo would do? And speaking of intelligence, how intelligent is it to insult one's coworkers and then be surprised when you get fired for doing so?

As for Brandon's point, I'm not going to explain a comment as simple as straightforward as Brandon's. If you want to answer Brandon, you'll answer. You don't need me to explain Brandon for you.

I have no idea what "point" or "question" you are referring to here.

Huh?

Was the anecdote science or not? Is pointing to the intelligence of one's coworkers more like something Don Imus or Galileo would do? And speaking of intelligence, how intelligent is it to insult one's coworkers and then be surprised when you get fired for doing so?

There is no indication that he was speaking anecdotally about his own experience with his own coworkers. Or perhaps you are privy to special information about this subject which I have not come across? But if you are, then even so, the complaint against him was unjustified, because the vast majority of those complaining were (I am pretty sure) unaware of this special information you have regarding whether he was talking about his own personal experiences with his coworkers.

I have no idea what "point" or "question" you are referring to here.

Brandon made a comment. Read it yourself.

There is no indication that

There is no indication that he was speaking anecdotally about his own experience with his own coworkers.

And if you were a black coworker of his, how would you have taken that statement? As a statement of respect for your work, or as an insult?

Brandon made a comment. Read it yourself.

Yes, Brandon made many comments. This is his thread. I still have no idea what you are talking about.

Hurt feelings

And if you were a black coworker of his, how would you have taken that statement? As a statement of respect for your work, or as an insult?

So your current argument is that black coworkers of his might feel insulted by the statement. So now we're not even discussing whether it is true, or whether it is defensible on the basis of the available data. These are not relevant to your argument as it currently stands.

Yes, Brandon made many comments. This is his thread. I still have no idea what you are talking about.

He only made one comment on Watson.

Regarding Watson, I don't recall that he was quoted as saying anything that was not defensible. On average, blacks score significantly lower than whites on IQ tests which have predictive validity for many important life outcomes, including job performance. There's not much room for legitimate debate on this point--the question is how much, if any, of that gap is due to genetics. As far as I can tell from the interview, Watson remains agnostic, refusing to rule out the possibility that the genetic component of the gap was nonzero. Which as I understand it is a perfectly reasonable response to the available data.

You immediately followed up that comment without addressing his points, and your comment wasn't even specifically aimed at him:

This is for both Constant and Brandon, [...]

I immediately followed up that comment, writing:

Now, would you like to address the point that Brandon brought up, or not?

So your current argument is

So your current argument is that black coworkers of his might feel insulted by the statement. So now we're not even discussing whether it is true, or whether it is defensible on the basis of the available data. These are not relevant to your argument as it currently stands.

Do you think the appropriate response, when one of your male employees makes a statement to the media along the lines of, "My hope is that everyone is equal, but people who have to deal with female employees find this not true," is to test the women? You've already hired the female employees. If they were not doing a good enough job, you already have independent evidence to fire them. The only thing this statement adds is the speaker's dislike of women. If one of my employees ever insulted another large group of employees like that in an off-the-cuff remark to the media, my response would be immediate dismissal, not a test to be administered to the insulted.

As for my response to Brandon, I asked him if he agreed with Watson pre-apology or post-apology. I can't ask him any further questions until I know which Watson he is defending. He never answered my question. Brandon never asked me a direct question, so I have no idea why you feel I have a duty to answer him; I'm still confused as to what you think I need to address that I have not addressed already.

Huh?

Do you think the appropriate response, when one of your male employees makes a statement to the media along the lines of, "My hope is that everyone is equal, but people who have to deal with female employees find this not true," is to test the women? You've already hired the female employees. If they were not doing a good enough job, you already have independent evidence to fire them. The only thing this statement adds is the speaker's dislike of women. If one of my employees ever insulted another large group of employees like that in an off-the-cuff remark to the media, my response would be immediate dismissal, not a test to be administered to the insulted.

That is a bizarre misreading of Watson's remark, and of my argument.

Brandon never asked me a direct question, so I have no idea why you feel I have a duty to answer him

What I wrote was:

Now, would you like to address the point that Brandon brought up, or not?

That does not claim that you have any duty to answer him. The fact remains, though, that he makes an argument in favor of Watson which, if not flawed, is compelling. His argument may be flawed in some way and therefore not compelling, but so far no one has pointed out any flaw. And no, you do not have any duty to point out a flaw. I merely asked if you would like to.

And I did respond to

And I did respond to Brandon, by asking which of Watson's comments he was willing to defend, the pre-apology or post-apology comments.

Incidentally, Brandon is in error here:

There's not much room for legitimate debate on this point--the question is how much, if any, of that gap is due to genetics. As far as I can tell from the interview, Watson remains agnostic, refusing to rule out the possibility that the genetic component of the gap was nonzero.

Watson is not an agnostic on the nature/nurture debate.

"If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease," says Watson, now president of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, New York. "The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what's the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, 'Well, poverty, things like that.' It probably isn't. So I'd like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent."

This statement by Watson also contradicts his claim that "This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers." It is obvious that Watson views discussions about intelligence precisely as discussions about superiority or inferiority.

For those of you who are interested in the promotion of "science" and exploring the genetic foundations of intelligence, I have no idea why you would want to defend Watson. He is a horrible spokesperson for that view, clearly trying to express himself in the most inflammatory way possible, which is not very conducive to changing skeptic's minds.

superiority vs inferiority

(Edit: Some responses based on misread statements taken out.)

Note that this interview was in 2003, and Watson's more recent remarks may have said something different.

For those of you who are interested in the promotion of "science" and exploring the genetic foundations of intelligence, I have no idea why you would want to defend Watson. He is a horrible spokesperson for that view, clearly trying to express himself in the most inflammatory way possible, which is not very conducive to changing skeptic's minds.

I don't see anyone here claiming that Watson should be the spokesperson for the view that intelligence is partly genetic. He made some comments to a reporter that caused a firestorm; that doesn't make him a spokesperson. What I personally have a problem with is the environment surrounding discussions about the nature of intelligence. Watson's remarks could be criticized depending on how one interprets them. But other people who responded to his remarks were similarly vilified even though they said things that were perfectly reasonable. The very idea is too difficult to even discuss. Science should be an open milieu, no hypothesis too delicate to explore. When things get too delicate, we are no longer in the realm of science, but rather politics and sociology.

It's an oppressive religious environment. You can't speak the heresies lest your life/career be ruined. Even in this country, if someone speaks out in favor of evolution, he won't lose his job. Yet, speak about men having longer tails in the IQ distribution compared to women as a potential cause of there being more men in science, you lose your job and become a target for feminists. This is not what a free society should aspire to.

Why did you put "science" is scare quotes?

You speak for me

Thanks, Jonathan. That's what I've been trying to argue. Watson is relevant as an example of the environment (on account of his fate), not as somebody I am trying to promote.

Note that this interview was

Note that this interview was in 2003, and Watson's more recent remarks may have said something different.

I realized right after I posted that I didn't even need to point to the previous article to demonstrate Watson's dishonest "neutrality." His comment about "gloomy prospects" is already value-laden enough in terms of superiority vs. inferiority.

What I personally have a problem with is the environment surrounding discussions about the nature of intelligence.

Jonathan, it's not like this environment came out of nowhere. Racists have a long and shameful history of dressing up science to couch their bigotry. There is a reason why this is a touchy subject, and skeptics are justified in being extra-skeptical when it comes to this issue

Here's my point about Watson as spokesperson. If you think that there are important scientific developments that are being wrongly ignored/shunned because of false association with historic racism, then all the more reason to disassociate yourself from sloppy attention mongers like Watson. If you are trying to get people to take your views seriously, don't use racist anecdotes to make your point. And don't defend those who do.

Science should be an open milieu, no hypothesis too delicate to explore. When things get too delicate, we are no longer in the realm of science, but rather politics and sociology.

Really? This sounds like the plot line to Ben Stein's new movie. And at least Stein was addressing creationists trying to publish in academic journals. Watson wasn't "exploring a hypothesis" like some neutral labcoat observer. He was shooting the shit with an ex-colleague who he perhaps didn't realize is now a reporter. This was already in the realm of politics and sociology, not science. Look at the context.

It's an oppressive religious environment. You can't speak the heresies lest your life/career be ruined.

More accurately, you can't speak sloppily about genetic determinism and get away with it. And that is as it should be. My advice to those proposing genetic determinism as a hypothesis: be more careful.

Why did you put "science" is scare quotes?

Because it is not at all clear to me that the "science" behind race/IQ differences is at all settled or even agreed upon as being science by the scientists in related fields, given the disputes over the validity of race as a category or IQ as a measurement technique. What may be a useful categorization/measurement in one context may not be meaningful in a different context.

Spokesperson

His comment about "gloomy prospects" is already value-laden enough in terms of superiority vs. inferiority.

He's (a) talking about the effect on the economy, which in itself is merely prediction and is not evaluation. He is, beyond this, (b) evaluating economic outcomes, as follows: he thinks it would be a good thing for Africa to become much wealthier than it is now.

I doubt many people would disagree with such an evaluation. Just to be clear, I agree with that evaluation, though it doesn't matter to the issue whether I personally do or not. Recall what was mentioned earlier in this thread:

On average, blacks score significantly lower than whites on IQ tests which have predictive validity for many important life outcomes, including job performance.

That is "value-laden" in the sense that it states that job performance is an "important life outcome". Just to be clear, I agree with that evaluation, though it doesn't matter to the issue whether I personally do or not.

Here's my point about Watson as spokesperson. If you think that there are important scientific developments that are being wrongly ignored/shunned because of false association with historic racism, then all the more reason to disassociate yourself from sloppy attention mongers like Watson.

You are failing to distinguish between arguing that scientists should be unafraid to freely discuss various hypothesis, and advocacy of particular hypotheses. While I happen to agree with Watson as I understand him, that is not the issue. The distinction is parallel (I say parallel since Watson was not arrested but merely fired) to this:

Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

You continue:

If you are trying to get people to take your views seriously, don't use racist anecdotes to make your point. And don't defend those who do.

Again, the issue isn't whether Watson was right, but what the environment was. You talk about supposed sloppiness, claiming that only supposed sloppiness is proscribed. But near as I can tell what you're really saying is that a scientist is only allowed to advance and defend hypotheses which have been completely settled and are already consensus opinion and furthermore he must keep his discussion narrowly on the science and must avoid talking about, e.g., the wider social implications of a hypothesis and must avoid, e.g., evaluating wealth as preferable to poverty. And I disagree: scientists should feel unafraid to advance even hypotheses which are highly controversial, or, furthermore, scientifically dubious.

Watson wasn't "exploring a hypothesis" like some neutral labcoat observer. He was shooting the shit with an ex-colleague who he perhaps didn't realize is now a reporter.

You have a curious - and erroneous - view of how science is conducted. You imagine that scientists do, and should, behave like Vulcans.

This was already in the realm of politics and sociology, not science. Look at the context.

Scientists should be - and normally are - free to talk about the social implications of their hypotheses.

That is "value-laden" in the

That is "value-laden" in the sense that it states that job performance is an "important life outcome".

So (genetically determined) low IQ scores lead to a negative effect on the economy, and this is a bad thing. If Africa were populated by white people, with higher IQ scores, this would be a good thing. How is this not a statement of genetic inferiority?

In his apology, Watson said "This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers."

But if it's just a value-neutral discussion of genetic differences, why is he "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa"? Why would someone be inherently gloomy about there being more great musicians or less engineers, unless one valued engineers over musicians?

You are failing to distinguish between arguing that scientists should be unafraid to freely discuss various hypothesis, and advocacy of particular hypotheses.

You're right; I fail to see the distinction. No one should be unafraid to freely discuss various hypothesis without social consequence.

The distinction is parallel (I say parallel since Watson was not arrested but merely fired) to this:

Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

But this is all the distinction in the world! Sure, I think it's important that it be possible for people to say or write whatever they please, if by possible we mean free from coercive interference. But that doesn't mean free from social opprobrium, which includes losing one's job.

But near as I can tell what you're really saying is that a scientist is only allowed to advance and defend hypotheses which have been completely settled and are already consensus opinion and furthermore he must keep his discussion narrowly on the science

No, that is not what I am saying. If Watson wants to publish his theories with some data to back them up, there are places for that. But here he wasn't "advancing" or "defending" hypotheses; he was shooting the shit with a reporter, trying to promote his book, and doing a piss poor job of it. He doesn't get a free pass at racism just because "science" is his day job. His remarks were not even related to his day job, other than being "sciency":

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor study plant and animal genetics, cancer and other diseases. Dr. Stillman said they did not “engage in any research that could even form the basis of the statements attributed to Dr. Watson.”

Value-laden

So are you saying that if:

1) A group of people, say the lower end of the bell curve of any population regardless of its racial makeup, has a lower IQ than the rest of the people in that population

and

2)In addition to environment, IQ is also determined by genetics. Thus, some differences in IQ will not be able to be closed by environmental manipulation/normalization

and

3) As a consequence of their lower IQ, this group of people will have different life outcomes such as higher rates of crime, divorce, poverty, and out-of-wedlock births

that this is "value-laden"?

Because nobody respectable denies this is the case. I'm talking lefties, righties, in the middle, anyone who studies IQ.

To me "value-laden" would be more like, "People with lower IQs shouldn't have the same rights as those with higher IQs".

I don't see Watson saying the latter. He's saying the former. If that's what you have a problem with, then you have a problem with things most respectable social scientists, no matter what their political affiliation, agree on. There's a mountain of data that supports the idea that IQ is partially genetic in origin and that low IQ people have poorer life outcomes.

IQ Automatically Value Laden

3) As a consequence of their lower IQ, this group of people will have different life outcomes such as higher rates of crime, divorce, poverty, and out-of-wedlock births.

This is value laden. Statement 3 proves it. Do white people who have a lower than averages IQ have a higher divorce rate or crime rate? If not how can low IQ, which you are saying may be characteristic of black people is not value laden. Actually divorce and out of wedlock birth have increased in all races but crime rates have been dropping. You seem to be using low IQ to explain things that are known to vary independently of IQ, a value laden process. But everyone does this and this making discussing racial variation in IQ inherently explosive.
Dave

Then "value-laden" is meaningless

Anything quantifiable, anything with a property that is a number, is then "automatically value laden" which makes the label "value laden" valueless.

Humans possess many properties that can be scaled as numbers. You can measure how fast we run 40 yards, how high we can jump off the ground, how long it takes us to run a mile, and our height and weight.

In fact, you could've done this to me many years ago, and made some precise predictions about me. I turned out to be a decent athlete in high school, but I was never gonna be much more than that. You could've taken my 40 time, mile time, vertical leap, height and weight, and predicted at a young age that I would never play sports at the college level. Sure, there are exceptions, but exceptions only constrain predictability, not destroy it. Is vertical leap value-laden?

Height predicts life outcomes to a stunning degree, hence the "height tax" proposed by some economists. Is height value-laden?

IQ is a fact, a statement of what is, a property of nature. It is not a judgment of moral worth or ethical obligations.

Epistimological Modesty and IQ, Hi Scott!

I do not deny that certain metrics have predictive value. There are differences between your example of being only a fair athlete and the example of IQ differences among races. You are comparing yourself as an individual to numerous other individuals and finding parameters that are determinative.

This is as opposed to comparing multiple individuals who differ in many unknown genetic and environmental ways. One group is assigned to a culturally determined group called black, and the other to a group culturally assigned as white. The resulting overlapping bell shaped curves are used to show that the groups differ statistically in a characteristic, their score on a test. This characteristic is called IQ, also culturally stereotyped as how smart you are as opposed to how stupid you are.

When you have children you hope they will be handsome, strong and smart. IQ is a more culturally loaded term than how fast you can run. It is also less precise. When you described the effects of differences in IQ you could have used more modest terms as to just what it all meant.

You could have said it might help explain the relative absence of black Nobel Prize winners in math and physics and the relative lack of black chess champions. You might have also said most blacks are like you and me because they will never get a Nobel Prize in math or physics or win a chess championship. Instead people use IQ to promote gratuitous cultural stereotypes that don’t necessarily follow from the data.

I am frustrated that these issues are continually fought over on the same battle ground. Why are there not more refined studies that probe deeper? For example, what are the success rates of the blacks with superior IQ? If this is not superior to the rates of the lower scoring blacks, then how is IQ determinative? Do whites with lower IQ have higher rates of criminality, divorce and out of wedlock birth?

Dave

I think you have a false impression of what IQ is

My original questions about value-laden were about a population regardless of race. For example, take a group of white people from Seattle, and they'll have a bell curve of IQ distribution. Some will do worse than others. Some will be at the very high end. Some will be at the very low end. There's nothing culturally loaded about the # that results from the score of the test.

The whites who do worse on the test will generally have many poorer life outcomes than the whites who do better on the test.

My question to Micha was: is this "value laden"? Is this positive finding despicable? I become very skeptical of people who find facts scary. Facts aren't scary; what we do with those facts might be. If the fact that short men have much less income and are less attractive to women isn't scary, then IQ shouldn't be scary.

IQ research has been going on for a hundred years. It's very reproducible for individuals (i.e., you won't have someone score a 90 one time he takes the test and 110 the next time he takes the test). It's reproducible to a very large degree in populations (very very few groups have had average IQ scores change significantly over time (there are slow changes of Flynn effect)). What variation that exists with age shows a tendency for greater heritability with increasing age. IQ is strikingly constant over populations from a single ethnicity but different sociopolitical environments (Chinese do about the same in China vs Hong Kong vs Singapore, and what difference there exists is predictably higher in capitalist countries). What differences there exist from economic development are predictable to a large degree (taking someone from a communist country and putting them in a private school in the US at a young age isn't going to raise his IQ by 30 points above that of his native population). The data is far richer than you seem to imagine.

Still Culturally loaded

I am not an expert on IQ studies but I see you are still using culturally loaded words, which is my only objection.
People with lower scores tend to have “poorer” outcomes. Sure if they have brain damage that inhibits them from handling higher math they may have behavior problems also. If they have an IQ of 95 and do well as a clerk in a shoe store, is this a poorer outcome than being a slick high IQ type like Ted Bundy or Al Capone. Admittedly a shoe clerk might not have high social status but if you exclude persons from success this way there seems to be a certain elitism that is not scientific.
Dave

I become very skeptical of

I become very skeptical of people who find facts scary.

In this context, being "scared" of something is the same as being very skeptical of it. So, to me, this sentence reads as self-contradictory: "I become very scared of people who find facts scary," or "I become very skeptical of people who become very skeptical of facts."

IQ is a fact, a statement of

IQ is a fact, a statement of what is, a property of nature. It is not a judgment of moral worth or ethical obligations.

Except it has a long and shameful history of being just that. From the Wikipedia article on Scientific Racism:

Much of the science in early physical-anthropological studies on race is now discredited as methodologically flawed. Early IQ tests of soldiers during World War I, for example, were found later to measure acculturation to the USA more than latent intelligence.[citation needed] They included highly context-based questions, such as: "Crisco is a: patent medicine, disinfectant, toothpaste, food product" and "Christy Mathewson is famous as a: writer, artist, baseball player, comedian." Recent immigrants did poorly on such questions, and scores correlated most with the time spent immersed in American culture. Modern studies on race and intelligence overcome many of these concerns, and remain subjects of intense interest because they continue to show differences between races.

Dorothy Roberts writes that the early eugenics movement in the US was strongly tied to older scientific racism used to justify slavery. Roberts writes that the development of eugenic theory paralleled the acceptance of intelligence as the primary indicator of human value. Eugenicists claimed IQ tests could quantify innate human ability in a single measurement, despite the objections of the tests' creator, Alfred Binet.[35]

Until the 1920s such work was regarded as science and faced little criticism. But soon, cultural anthropologist Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict began to note methodological errors and claim politics and ideology biased the work's conclusions.

Even if IQ research has improved over time, it would help if IQ proponents would acknowledge this history instead of pretending that IQ is as objective as things come, and only oversensitive PC idiots would think otherwise. Whether you like it or not, people tend to associate intelligence with human worth. Denying the value-laden history of IQ research is a result of either ignorance or willful malice. I hope in this case its a result of mere ignorance.

You can have the last word

My thread in this comment section began with the question of whether the number scale itself is value-laden. When someone says that IQ is partly genetic and predicts life outcomes with regularity, are that person or his statements morally repugnant? I still haven't seen you answer that question.

Racists get their hands on anything they can to bolster their worldview (so does everyone including libertarians). It doesn't mean the science is wrong. Quoting Wikipedia does not prove a significant racist influence on the science anymore than a creationist quoting the Wikipedia article on the Theory of Evolution proves a significant racist influence on the research of evolution. From the article:

Evolution has been used to support philosophical positions that promote discrimination and racism. For example, the eugenic ideas of Francis Galton were developed to argue that the human gene pool should be improved by selective breeding policies, including incentives for those considered "good stock" to reproduce, and the compulsory sterilization, prenatal testing, birth control, and even killing, of those considered "bad stock."[188] Another example of an extension of evolutionary theory that is now widely regarded as unwarranted is "Social Darwinism," a term given to the 19th century Whig Malthusian theory developed by Herbert Spencer into ideas about "survival of the fittest" in commerce and human societies as a whole, and by others into claims that social inequality, racism, and imperialism were justified.[189] However, contemporary scientists and philosophers consider these ideas to have been neither mandated by evolutionary theory nor supported by data.[190][191]

Now if in response to someone bringing up evolution, I said, "You can't rely on evolution. Evolution has a long and shameful history of racist influence. Denying the value-laden history of evolutionary research is a result of either ignorance or willful malice. I hope in this case it's a result of mere ignorance" you would probably not think this was a good argument against the theory of evolution itself, and that you'd tell me that I should actually look at the data, the studies, the logic that puts together the observations, and see how rigorous it is for myself.

Similarly, I get the feeling, and I admit I could be wrong, that you think it's just a bunch of racists making up numbers that make certain races look bad. My impression is that you're not familiar with just how dense the research behind IQ is. It doesn't appear that you know what the broader consensus conclusions within the field (across all ideologies; James Flynn the socialist and Charles Murray the right-libertarian agree with each other probably 90% of the time on IQ related topics) are, nor what broad disagreements are. I think the finding that IQ predicts life outcomes goes against the leftist idea that people with poor outcomes are victims of society and the left-libertarian idea that people with poor outcomes are victims of govt and makes you uncomfortable.

Now since that probably came across pretty harsh, let me end by saying that your IQ is a lot bigger than mine, and you'll eventually come around to my point of view. ;)

My thread in this comment

My thread in this comment section began with the question of whether the number scale itself is value-laden. When someone says that IQ is partly genetic and predicts life outcomes with regularity, are that person or his statements morally repugnant? I still haven't seen you answer that question.

I'm not sure, so I didn't answer the question. I don't know enough about IQ and how the tests are constructed to know how value-laden it is. Regardless, I found the question off-topic, because it's not what I criticized Watson for saying. The comments he did make were certainly value-laden. And he wasn't talking about the tails of bell curves; he was talking about entire populations - nay, entire continents.

Similarly, I get the feeling, and I admit I could be wrong, that you think it's just a bunch of racists making up numbers that make certain races look bad.

No, but there are clearly many explicit racists involved in the research, and this can taint the research by non-racists. I recall this was one of the major complaints about Murray and Herrnstein - who they cited. This also happened to William Saletan when he tried to give a summary of the current state of race-related IQ research. He inadvertently cited J. Philippe Rushton without knowing what Rushton represents:

For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to "the scientific study of heredity and human differences." During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime ("Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous") and heresy ("Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people"). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.

The problem is that this stuff is still going on, Rushton is still cited by the genetic determinism crowd, as are other researchers within the Pioneer Fund circle. Creationist critics of evolution have to go back a century to make their connections; critics of race-related IQ research don't.

It doesn't appear that you know what the broader consensus conclusions within the field (across all ideologies; James Flynn the socialist and Charles Murray the right-libertarian agree with each other probably 90% of the time on IQ related topics) are, nor what broad disagreements are.

Was this Cato Unbound discussion representative? I read through most of the entries. I'm a fan of Flynn, precisely because the Flynn effect points to confounding social factors and should make us skeptical of static uses of IQ as a basis for comparison between large, poorly defined social groups over time. This was essentially Thomas Sowell's critique of The Bell Curve.

I think the finding that IQ predicts life outcomes goes against the leftist idea that people with poor outcomes are victims of society and the left-libertarian idea that people with poor outcomes are victims of govt and makes you uncomfortable.

I don't see how one contradicts the other. Both can be true. What those on the left have a problem with is that the claims currently being made are exactly the same as classic racial stereotypes, and these racial stereotypes have been historically justified by the science of the day, which later turned out to not be science at all. This gives us reason to be skeptical. And when proponents of these views are sloppy with their language, as Watson was (who, it should be emphasized again and again, did not even work in this field), and then defended in their sloppiness, we have even more reason to be skeptical.

Micha: You seem to be making

Micha:
You seem to be making two contradictory assumptions here:

then all the more reason to disassociate yourself from sloppy attention mongers like Watson.

[...]

He was shooting the shit with an ex-colleague who he perhaps didn't realize is now a reporter.

Which is it? Was he whoring for attention, or was he speaking in what he believed to be a private conversation?

Because it is not at all clear to me that the "science" behind race/IQ differences is at all settled or even agreed upon as being science by the scientists in related fields, given the disputes over the validity of race as a category or IQ as a measurement technique.

The disputes over the validity of race as a category and IQ as a measurement technique are like the disputes over the validity of the theory of evolution. It's not that the science is still out--it's just that there are a lot of people who simply won't accept it for ideological reasons.

Now, there are still valid questions over the specifics. We still don't know much about how the brain works at a physiological level. But we do know that IQ tests measure some aspect of cognitive ability that predicts important life outcomes, and that it's more than just a proxy for parental SES.

Of course, race is a fuzzy classification, but so are lots of classifications whose validity no one questions. The fact remains that the pairwise genetic differences between a black person and a white person selected at random are likely to be greater than those between a pair of black people or a pair of white people selected at random.

Which is it? Was he whoring

Which is it? Was he whoring for attention, or was he speaking in what he believed to be a private conversation?

I don't know; there is evidence for both theories.

The disputes over the validity of race as a category and IQ as a measurement technique are like the disputes over the validity of the theory of evolution.

Except the people disputing the validity in this case are cognitive scientists themselves.

And it's not just a question of specifics. It's a question of applicability. Even if IQ tests can predict life outcomes, there are questions regarding how valid it is to compare IQ tests across time or across vastly different population samples.

Except the people disputing

Except the people disputing the validity in this case are cognitive scientists themselves.

The mainstream view, according to the report issued by the American Psychological Association in response to The Bell Curve, is what I've described. Can you point me to a persuasive argument against this by a cognitive scientist?

Even if IQ tests can predict life outcomes, there are questions regarding how valid it is to compare IQ tests across time or across vastly different population samples.

I agree with some interpretations of that sentence, but not all. Could you elaborate?

I should point out, by the

I should point out, by the way, that the mere fact that someone is a cognitive scientist doesn't prove a lack of ideological bias, so while I'm sure you'll find something, I reserve the right to call BS if it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

If they were not doing a

If they were not doing a good enough job, you already have independent evidence to fire them.

Every morning in the subway, I see this ad for a "progressive law firm" fighting against gender discrimination (hiring, wage, etc) in companies. As an employer I wouldn't want to risk facing legal trouble so maybe I'd keep the some employees regardless?

Or replace them with

Or replace them with employees of the same gender with better job performance?

As for my response to

As for my response to Brandon, I asked him if he agreed with Watson pre-apology or post-apology.

Both. I thought he had been quoted in the original article as expressing agnosticism explicitly, but, looking again, it was actually only implicit: "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." These sound to me like the words of someone who isn't yet convinced one way or another, though the case isn't as strong as I thought it was.

In any case, nowhere in the original article was Watson quoted as asserting a genetic basis for the black-white IQ gap. Which is basically what he said in his clarification.

Please. Not convinced one

Please. Not convinced one way or another? Nowhere in the article did he assert a genetic basis for alleged gaps? Did you actually read the article in question?

Back in 1990, the journal Science commented: “To many in the scientific community, Watson has long been something of a wild man, and his colleagues tend to hold their collective breath whenever he veers from the script.” When, in 2000, he left an audience reeling by suggesting a link between skin colour and sex drive – hypothesising that dark-skinned people have stronger libidos – some journalists suggested he had “opened a transatlantic rift”. American scientists accused him of “trading on past successes to promote opinions that have little scientific basis”. British academics countered that subjects should not be off limits because they are politically incorrect. Susan Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution, said that “nothing should stop you ascertaining the scientific truth; science must be free of concerns about gender and race”.

He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “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”.

When asked how long it might take for the key genes in affecting differences in human intelligence to be found, his “back-of-the-envelope answer” is 15 years. However, he wonders if even 10 years will pass. In his mission to make children more DNA-literate, the geneticist explains that he has opened a DNA learning centre on the borders of Harlem in New York. He is also recruiting minorities at the lab and, he tells me, has just accepted a black girl “but,” he comments, “there’s no one to recruit.”

Watson will no doubt enthusiastically counter the inevitable criticisms that will arise. He once commented to a fellow scientist – perhaps optimistically – that “the time was surely not far off when academia would have no choice but to hand political correctness back to the politicians”. Even after a year at the lab, I am still unnerved by his devil-may-care compulsion to say what he believes. Critics may see his acceptance of “softer-science” studies – that attempt to link IQ with specific genes, but remove society and other factors from the equation – as a dangerously flippant approach to a complex issue. His comments, however, although seemingly unguarded, are always calculated. Not maliciously, but with the mischievous air of a great mind hoping to be challenged. I ask him how he placates those he offends. “I try to use humour or whatever I can to indicate that I understand other people having other views,” he explains.

  • suggesting a link between skin colour and sex drive – hypothesising that dark-skinned people have stronger libidos
  • how long it might take for the key genes in affecting differences in human intelligence to be found
  • that attempt to link IQ with specific genes, but remove society and other factors from the equation

Which of these statements indicates agnosticism? Do these statements not assert a genetic basis for alleged racial differences?

Didn't Watson say something

Didn't Watson say something like "We should allow abortions up to the age of three" or some such. I wonder why he wasn't fired then.

I don't find his statements regarding Africa to be scientifically compelling in the least. Why is it bad science? Because there are plenty of economic hell holes in areas dominated by groups that score high on IQ. China until recently was an example and for the most part still is an example. There are also groups like the West Indians in the U.S. who come from supposed low IQ racial groups that have far higher incomes than the average american even excluding minorities. West Indians have far less "white blood" than your average slave decendant.

His statement just sound like off the cuff bigotry. The problem is that he works in genetics and therefore he's crossing a line that he shouldn't. I could find justification as a employer for firing him here. His job is to do good science in at least this one particular area. I is a spokesman for genetics and Woods Hole and if he's speaking publicly he needs to be careful what he claims about genetics.

Then again there is a double standard here. In the meantime we have things like "Whiteness Studies", which is clearly racism, being taught by others and they get a pass. Anti-white racism is clearly acceptable by some.

Jeez

Didn't Watson say something like "We should allow abortions up to the age of three" or some such.

Really? I didn't realize he agreed with me about that.

Might have been Crick

I tried to find the quote but I couldn't get it's exact wording. I found a different quote that leads me to believe it might have been Crick.

No newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment and that if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live.

Nobel laureate Dr. Francis Crick, Pacific News Service, January 1978.

I see... No one has a right

I see...

No one has a right to live anyway.