Absolutes vs Differences

There seems to be some confusion in the monster thread below about what the consequence is of something having a genetic etiology.

Lots of things appear to have a partly genetic cause - schizophrenia, alcoholism, and even propensity to divorce, to name a few. The evidence comes from twin studies which ideally control for environment by comparing identical twins with fraternal twins. There are criticisms of twin studies but the evidence they provide is strong (IMO).

IQ is one of those things that appears to have a partly genetic cause based on twin studies. This does not mean that the Black-White IQ gap is caused by genetics. It could very well be caused by environmental factors. I've tried to say this before but it came out clunky, so I'll just quote Constant.

Let genetics be the seed, let environment be the fertilizer, and let IQ be the size of the plant. The size of the plant has a strong basis in the seed, but if blacks have smaller plants than whites, this does not mean that blacks have genetically inferior seeds than whites. It may be, instead, that blacks' seeds receive less fertilizer than whites' seeds.

To summarize: If you're skeptical of a genetic etiology for the differences in IQ between blacks and whites, you can still believe that IQ is partly genetic in origin. You can still believe that within an ethnic group, IQ is partly genetic and predicts certain life outcomes to an impressive degree. You don't have to close your mind to the entire idea of IQ.

Update: I'm Brandon Berg, and I endorse this message.

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Oh no, not again

Once again, the familiar twinge of regret. Just for the record, I am aware that

this does not mean that blacks have genetically inferior seeds than whites

is ungrammatical.

IQ and Darwin

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."
Charles Darwin
Dave

If the environment changes,

If the environment changes, with is not necessarily true. A greater adaptation can be selected over a greater adaptability.

IQ is one of those things

IQ is one of those things that appears to have a partly genetic cause

Is there anyone that denies that intelligence has a "partly" genetic cause? How could genetics not have some influence? Who doesn't believe this?

What critics seem to deny is the relative influence of genetics compared to other, environmental factors, and whether IQ itself is a good measurement of intelligence, especially when it is used to assert group differences across time or vastly different social circumstances.

Also, what are we to make of proponents of genetic racial differences approvingly citing people like J. Philippe Rushton and Richard Lynn? Are we cool with the Pioneer Fund, the Mankind Quarterly, the Occidental Quarterly, and American Renaissance? Are these legitimate sources? Why is it that so many leaders in this field have such ugly associations?

Rushton and Lynn gather

Rushton and Lynn gather useful data. The fact that they happen to be idiots doesn't make it less useful -- fortunately you don't have to be that bright to administer tests and collate data.

How useful is their data

How useful is their data given their methodology?

fortunately you don't have to be that bright to administer tests and collate data.

Do you have to be trustworthy?

Oh please Micha, you don't

Oh please Micha, you don't know anything about their methodology -- you read a fucking wiki article. Bloviating does not become you. If you want to know about it, peer-reviewed psychology papers typically have these convenient sections, usually entitled "Methods", that helpfully explain it all.

Of course data needs interpreting, and I could explain to you exactly what's deficient (and what isn't) with a lot of their interpretations, but then would you really care other than for the sake of having a better cudgel?

Un-PC science needs un-PC patrons

Why is it that so many leaders in this field have such ugly associations?

It might be because that's where the money is. And the reason for this might be because politically correct sources of funding are reluctant to fund this research - reluctant not because it's bad science, but because it's deemed to be politically incorrect. It doesn't necessarily make the science illegitimate, any more than scientists working for the Nazis or the Communists necessarily did illegitimate work. In fact quite a lot of scientists working for evil paymasters did excellent work.

But these scientists aren't

But these scientists aren't just working for evil paymasters; they are them. Richard Lynn sits on the boards of the Pioneer Fund and the Mankind Quarterly. Rushton is the president of the Pioneer Fund. Why should we believe anything they have to say?

Wouldn't you treat with additional skepticism anything that came out of the Discovery Institute related to evolutionary theory and intelligent design? Why treat these racists any differently?

And it's not just a matter of funding. It's a matter of their motivations, in their own words:

“What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of "phasing out" of such peoples. If the world is to evolve more better humans, then obviously someone has to make way for them. ... To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.”

If this isn't racism, what is?

Ad hominem

Why should we believe anything they have to say?

I believe Einstein even though he was a socialist. But I believe Einstein because it's not a question of believing him. I understand what he's saying, I see the evidence, and I agree. I don't need his authority.

Same with these guys. Though as things stand I neither believe them nor disbelieve them, because I have not examined their work.

If your strategy is to disbelieve scientists whenever they may want a certain result, then you're committed to disbelieve the science that promotes racial equality, because the vast majority of scientists want it.

Are you willing to apply the same thinking to the angels? For example, I suspect that all the prominent economist Friedmans (Milton, Rose, David) want freedom very much. But I am not going to reject the economic science that they produce.

Wouldn't you treat with additional skepticism anything that came out of the Discovery Institute related to evolutionary theory and intelligent design?

No. I would treat it with the same skepticism. In the case of Darwinism, a result challenging Darwinism itself automatically earns gobs of skepticism whatever the source. You might argue, "but you aren't a specialist, and so you need to rely at least a little on the authority of scientists, and so ad hominem is valid in this case." Well, yes, sometimes I need to rely on authority, but I can just as easily rely on the authority of scientific peers. I don't need to rely directly on the authority of an individual scientist. So I can still easily dispense with ad hominem reasoning.

If this isn't racism, what is?

In previous discussions you have created, and failed to deflate, the impression that you are ready to reject legitimate science as "racist" if it does not satisfy certain non-scientific criteria.

I believe Einstein even

I believe Einstein even though he was a socialist.

But economics was not his area of specialty, and you would not take him (nor would he have portrayed himself) as an authority on that subject.

You would be skeptical of an admitted Marxist economist presenting research, would you not? After all, this is one of the arguments commonly used to rebut the wondrous statistics that come out of communist countries: state propaganda tends to taint economics research.

I understand what he's saying, I see the evidence, and I agree. I don't need his authority.

Evidence is not necessarily neutral. Its validity often depends on how it is gathered and interpreted. Take, for example, this:

Zack Cernovsky, in the Journal of Black Studies, claims "some of Rushton's references to scientific literature with respects to racial differences in sexual characteristics turned out to be references to a nonscientific semipornographic book and to an article in the Penthouse Forum."[26]

---------

If your strategy is to disbelieve scientists whenever they may want a certain result, then you're committed to disbelieve the science that promotes racial equality, because the vast majority of scientists want it.

Correct, this is an argument frequently made over at Overcoming Bias; that we should treat with greater skepticism beliefs that appeal to these sorts of biases. But that isn't a defense of the scientific racists, who we have reason to treat with additional skepticism. It is, rather, an argument for extending our skepticism toward friendlier targets as well.

However, if I have good reason to believe that X is true, I also have good reason to believe that those who are publicly committed to proving not-X are more likely to engage in dishonesty. That's just part of what it means to have good reason to believe that X is true. So I have reason to treat with greater skepticism those who are committed to proving not-X than those who are committed to proving X.

Are you willing to apply the same thinking to the angels? For example, I suspect that all the prominent economist Friedmans (Milton, Rose, David) want freedom very much. But I am not going to reject the economic science that they produce.

Megan McArdle recently argued, convincingly, that we should do just that: treat with greater skepticism work that comes solely out of think tanks.

In previous discussions you have created, and failed to deflate, the impression that you are ready to reject legitimate science as "racist" if it does not satisfy certain non-scientific criteria.

What legitimate science? James Watson's off-the-cuff remarks regarding what "everybody knows" about black coworkers? Or the statement by Lynn to which you were responding? Let me ask you again, since you dodged the question the first time: Is the following statement racist? What legitimate scientific criteria recommend the "phasing out" of whole groups of people for their "inferiority"?

“What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of "phasing out" of such peoples. If the world is to evolve more better humans, then obviously someone has to make way for them. ... To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.”

Unsatisfactory answers

What legitimate science?

I am referring to the, in my eyes, unsatisfactory responses you gave to a couple of your co-bloggers.

You would be skeptical of an admitted Marxist economist presenting research, would you not?

Marxism is a theory which has been discredited theoretically and empirically in my eyes. I would therefore object to Marxism and to any new result which relied on Marxism, but this would be an objection to the theory itself. Not to the man. Nor would it be because I find Marxists ugly. It would be because I find Marxism to be invalidated, incorrect, obsolete.

Similarly, I have already decided that Darwinism is correct - not merely arbitrarily decided, but accepted as settled science - so I am going to be highly skeptical of a challenge to it. More than skeptical - I'm going to treat it as probably crackpot. (On the other hand, I enjoy crackpot ideas, hollow Earth and all that, so I might hear it out for the hell of it.)

In contrast, the scientific study of racial differences does not seem to me to be settled on the conclusion that there are none. So a scientists who claims that there are differences is not contradicting anything that I have decided is true.

But that isn't a defense of the scientific racists, who we have reason to treat with additional skepticism. It is, rather, an argument for extending our skepticism toward friendlier targets as well.

But then the first skepticism isn't additional skepticism. It's just standard run of the mill skepticism. Your statement was:

Why should we believe anything they have to say?

You are not, I presume, willing to apply that extreme of skepticism to the Friedmans. "Why should I believe anything Milton Friedman says" is far too extreme. It goes beyond skepticism, to outright preemptive rejection.

Anyway, your original question was why the association. The reason is obvious: racists are going to be attracted to the science of race, and they're going to be attracted to anybody who finds a difference, and some racists are going to become scientists, which doesn't mean they're going to become bad scientists. Being a racist doesn't make someone automatically a bad scientist any more than being an anti-racist automatically makes someone a bad scientist. So, in short, the question you raised is answered. The answer is, racists are going to be drawn to the subject and to the scientists who find the results they want to see, and of course non-racist scientists are going to, as usual, look around for support, and they're going to find (among others) racist scientists. Who are not necessarily bad scientists. And the answer doesn't discredit the science, because it is exactly what we would have expected if the science were absolutely correct. Nor does finding nits to pick discredit the science. That's the Chomsky approach: carefully comb through the books or articles of your opponent, find some errors (there are always errors), dwell on them, magnify them, and conclude that the books are trash and the people who wrote them are liars or incompetents. For example:

some of Rushton's references to scientific literature with respects to racial differences in sexual characteristics turned out to be references to a nonscientific semipornographic book and to an article in the Penthouse Forum

"Some"? How many? All? The vast majority? And was this really passed off as anything other than what it was? This is digging through the footnotes of somebody cited by somebody else, and using the existence of some questionable references to discredit, not even the guy whose footnote it is, but a guy who referred to that guy (the point of bringing up Rushton was to attack the guy who wrote the Gene Expression article, who cited Rushton approvingly). Weak, weak, weak.

Marxism is a theory which

Marxism is a theory which has been discredited theoretically and empirically in my eyes.

How is this any different than me saying, "Scientific Racism is a theory which has been discredited theoretically and empirically in my eyes"?

Nor would it be because I find Marxists ugly. It would be because I find Marxism to be invalidated, incorrect, obsolete.

But isn't part of what invalidates it as a theory is the ugly results it inevitably leads to?

No. I would treat it with

No. I would treat it with the same skepticism

Hum well you shouldn't. It is more likely that a scientific conclusion is true if the scientist does not wish it were true. See our discussion about profiling terrorists in airport, it's exactly the same thing.

Look at the question

Arthur, he asked about the Discovery Institute. He's talking about a result that challenges Darwinism. I would treat such a result as being either false or not truly challenging Darwinism with a probability higher than 99.9% - regardless of who produced the result. There really isn't any room left for additional skepticism on account of its being from the Discovery Institute. I wrote that the content itself would raise alarm bells:

In the case of Darwinism, a result challenging Darwinism itself automatically earns gobs of skepticism whatever the source.

Furthermore, I already assume that the result is probably what the scientist wanted to see. Sometimes it's clear that it's what the scientist wanted to see. Other times it's not so clear but I still I would rate the probability at somewhere north of 90% that this is what the scientist was hoping to see. Even a scientist who has no ideological axe to grind still feels a great deal of pressure to get some interesting, publishable result. It's a publish or perish world. Speaking of which, there's also publication bias to deal with. So even when the scientist was expecting or hoping for the opposite result, there's yet another source of bias, the publication filter, to contend with. If there truly is no relationship between A and B, still, if enough experiments are conducted testing the relationship between A and B, some of these experiments will find a positive relationship regardless of what the scientists want. In a sense, the process of publication "wants" to find a relationship between A and B, so really I need to treat results as if they were wanted - not by a person, but by a process.

I reject the idea that only the Discover Institute's results need to be treated with skepticism. Therefore I wrote:

No. I would treat it with the same skepticism.

I didn't say no skepticism. I said the same skepticism.

Maybe in principle I should add a little bit more skepticism but really, I'm not a computer, I don't have precise amounts of skepticism recorded in my brain, so if I already am very skeptical, I'm not sure that my brain is so precise that I can add more skepticism to a challenge to Darwin to the heaps of skepticism I already have, merely because it came from the Discovery Institute.

What Micha was arguing anyway wasn't that I treat things with a bit more skepticism but that I should reject them outright, not even bothering to look once we know the result comes from racists:

Why should we believe anything they have to say?

I think that is absurd. As I wrote:

If your strategy is to disbelieve scientists whenever they may want a certain result, then you're committed to disbelieve the science that promotes racial equality, because the vast majority of scientists want it.

That we are, and should be, inclined to wonder about the biases of the scientist is a principle reason that science takes the form it does. The scientist doesn't say "because I said so". This would indeed force us to rely on him, and this would indeed make ad hominem arguments important. Science is shaped by the distrust of the scientist and the need for others to be able to set aside that distrust. Therefore science already allows us, to a high degree, to set aside ad hominem reasoning.

He's talking about a result

He's talking about a result that challenges Darwinism. I would treat such a result as being either false or not truly challenging Darwinism with a probability higher than 99.9% - regardless of who produced the result.

If Dawkins published a long, peer-reviewed paper challenging Darwinism, would you treat it with the same skepticism as you would if it were from the Discovery institute?

The amount of inquiry you can put in statements is a limited resource, discarding who is making the statement is suboptimal, no matter how you look at it. I don't care how tiny the adjustment is, it's not 0.

Moving the goalposts again

You're moving the goalposts again. Now you're talking about a "long, peer-reviewed paper" - as opposed to, presumably, a short, non-peer-reviewed paper. This is not a difference in source, but in content and in peer review. I already pointed out the importance of content and peer review (I wrote, "Well, yes, sometimes I need to rely on authority, but I can just as easily rely on the authority of scientific peers. I don't need to rely directly on the authority of an individual scientist"), and here you are using them to build an example. Thanks for agreeing with me about the importance of content and peer review, but you seemed to think we were disagreeing about something.

The goalposts were already moved once. Micha's argument, to which I was objecting, was:

But these scientists aren't just working for evil paymasters; they are them. Richard Lynn sits on the boards of the Pioneer Fund and the Mankind Quarterly. Rushton is the president of the Pioneer Fund. Why should we believe anything they have to say?

To which my response was:

If your strategy is to disbelieve scientists whenever they may want a certain result, then you're committed to disbelieve the science that promotes racial equality, because the vast majority of scientists want it.

Micha then wrote:

Wouldn't you treat with additional skepticism anything that came out of the Discovery Institute related to evolutionary theory and intelligent design? Why treat these racists any differently?

An ambiguous statement because it doesn't say anything about the quantity of additional skepticism. Since it comes right after "why should we believe anything they have to say" the obvious interpretation is, "extreme skepticism to the point of immediate rejection," but if you selectively cut and paste then you can move the goalposts, turning it into an issue of whether it being from the Discovery Institute warrants any additional skepticism whatsoever.

Sure, source carries some weight. But a lot less than you might imagine. For example, Roger Penrose had and has about as much authority as anyone in his field, but I rejected his quantum theory of the brain because of problems with his argument - e.g., his interpretation of Godel's result, upon which he relied heavily, was questionable and there was simply no direct evidence that the brain was using the quantum mechanism he was describing. So where did his authority go? Evidently, authority does not carry all that much weight, when an argument is presented.

As Eliezer writes (in an article where he makes the same point):

There is an ineradicable legitimacy to assigning slightly
higher probability to what E. T. Jaynes tells you about Bayesian
probability, than you assign to Eliezer Yudkowsky making the exact same
statement.  Fifty additional years of experience should not count for literally zero influence.

But this slight strength of authority is only ceteris paribus,
and can easily be overwhelmed by stronger arguments. I have a minor
erratum in one of Jaynes's books - because algebra trumps authority.

Close to zero - which can be rounded off, informally, to zero.

You're not getting away with

You're not getting away with this one.

You draw a distinction between content and source which is purely arbitrary. In the example I set, the source was a peer reviewed magazine. Conversely, you could claim that the author is part of the content since his name appear on top of the article.

I am not moving any goalpost, in fact I am not even placing myself in the context of your discussion with Micha. You claim that you look only at the content, I claim that's suboptimal and proceed to give examples where, based on authorship, you would most certainly be more or less skeptic of the result.

Close to zero ? Maybe, but you're the one who put the emphasis on same.

You are quibbling

I am not even placing myself in the context of your discussion with Micha

You are raising an objection irrelevant to the argument. I thought you were trying to join the argument. Micha was trying to discredit the guy from Gene Expression. He's pushing the view that the source matters a whole lot, so much that it swamps the argument. You're saying that the source matters at least a teeny tiny little nonzero bit. Not the same thing. I agree that my response wasn't excruciatingly correct, but until you stated explicitly that you were not placing yourself in that context, I thought you were trying to join the argument I was having.

Here's what I wrote a couple of comments ago, which already takes into account the point you're trying to make:

That we are, and should be, inclined to wonder about the biases of the scientist is a principle reason that science takes the form it does. The scientist doesn't say "because I said so". This would indeed force us to rely on him, and this would indeed make ad hominem arguments important. Science is shaped by the distrust of the scientist and the need for others to be able to set aside that distrust. Therefore science already allows us, to a high degree, to set aside ad hominem reasoning.

Notice that I said "to a high degree". Notice that I did not say "to an absolute degree". You could have declared victory a couple of comments ago, since you got me to restate my point in a way that avoided absolutes. (BTW, erratum: it's "principal reason," not "principle reason.")

I reject the idea that only

I reject the idea that only the Discover Institute's results need to be treated with skepticism.

Nobody claimed this.

What Micha was arguing anyway wasn't that I treat things with a bit more skepticism but that I should reject them outright, not even bothering to look once we know the result comes from racists:

Why should we believe anything they have to say?

I can see why you misread me, but this was not my argument. I don't believe anything that comes out of the Discovery Institute; I treat them with a great deal of skepticism. But that doesn't mean 100% skepticism. You should grant me some interpretive charity here; granting me the same 99.9% probability that you grant your own disbeliefs.

Science is shaped by the distrust of the scientist and the need for others to be able to set aside that distrust. Therefore science already allows us, to a high degree, to set aside ad hominem reasoning.

This is not true in practice, nor should it be true in practice. Academics need to assume to a significant degree that their colleagues are working in good faith, not distorting evidence to fit their ideological preconceptions. When they have reason to believe that research is ideologically biased, they treat that research with greater scrutiny, garnering more journal responses and attention. All research is not created equal.

"Why should we believe

"Why should we believe anything they have to say?"

It's called peer review. Or barring that, using your wits to evaluate rather than jumping straight to well-poisoning.

Peer review hasn't been all

Peer review hasn't been all that kind to the likes of Rushton, either. (There is a reason he has to mail out pamphlets unsolicited; respected journals have little interest in catering to his obsession with "Negroid" penis size.)

Do you think evaluating his motives given his value-laden statements and associations is irrelevant for layman deciding how much credibility to give him?

Believe me, I know -- I

Believe me, I know -- I could give you several examples of how Rushton just makes stuff up. But he's not all that special in this regard, it just happens that his interests lie in a zone where he's automatically under intense scrutiny. The reason he has trouble getting published has about as much to do with what he researches as how he goes about it.

Motivation matters because it shapes how you approach something and think about it. A person like Rushton ends up being wrong sometimes because his motivations aren't pure, and I have no problem with people calibrating their standards of credibility accordingly. But he'll also be right sometimes, and his motivations have nothing to do with that. If you really care about knowing what's true on this or any subject, the fact that someone has impure motives doesn't excuse you from the burden of evaluating their claims on their merits. Of course, if you don't actually place a high value on believing true things, you are fully excused.

Art Jensen, on the other hand, is pretty impeccable on this subject, and he thinks genetics has a lot to do with the B-W gap. Trying to make this about Rushton (or Lynn) ignores the work done by people who don't fall under such criticisms.

The problem with this

The problem with this position is that in order to say that a persistent between-group gap is largely non-genetic, you need to posit some variable that (1) lowers the average IQ of one group, and (2) doesn't contribute to IQ variation *within* either group. If we're making international comparisons this holds water, but does not leave a whole lot of possibilities if we're talking within-national comparisons: stereotype threat has been tried and found wanting (not that it ever made sense to begin with, c.f. Ashkenazi Jews), and nobody else has anything plausible on the table. At what point does parsimony kick in?

I actually have come to

I actually have come to loathe this issue because even though the vectors tend to converge on genetic causation, for someone who doesn't want to believe it there's always just enough wiggle room to get out. If IQ variation both between and within groups is the product of several hundred of loci of small effect, as it's generally believed to be, then large mean differences could be accompanied by only minuscule allele frequency differences at any given locus. The gap could be 100% genetic and you'd never be able to prove it conclusively short of nailing down every single locus that contributes, and to do that we'd need a database of . . . um, a million people should suffice. Frankly I think we just might have better things to do. (As it happens I'm not sure I believe this model, but I'm not prepared to argue the point.)

The best estimates I've seen

The best estimates I've seen using structural equation modeling peg the genetically-mediated differences at about 66% for verbal score and 36% for nonverbal performance. And anyone who doesn't at least have a good idea of what SEM is without googling it should consider remaining silent on the matter.

(No subject)

I agree

I agree

I see your wit has sharpened

I see your wit has sharpened since we last met.

From the abstract: In this

From the abstract:

In this sample, genes accounted for 66% to 74% of the observed group difference in verbal achievement and 36% of the difference in mathematics achievement. Shared environment accounted for the remainder, 34% to 26% of the difference in verbal achievement and 64% of that in mathematics achievement.

Isn't there usually a third component, non-shared environment, which explains why identical twins don't always have identical performance?

There are two ways to

There are two ways to interpret that abstract. You could believe that a guy who published behavior genetics papers and who wrote a book called The Limits of Family Influence forgot to consider nonshared environment and just lazily chalked nongenetic factors up to shared environment. Or you could just interpret it straightforwardly as implying that the nonshared component was found to be insignificant. As it happens the latter would be true.

There is, of course, another

There is, of course, another way of testing this that would be close to dispositive: repeat exactly what this study did, except using "mild mental retardation" instead of hypertension as the pathological phenotype. If people were really confident that Jensen et al are wrong, they'd run this. But good luck getting funding for it.

Whatever IQ measures

IQ appears to predictive of social/economic success in the post WW2 western world - comparing bell curve with bell curve.

Second, when IQ tests were first applied to large groups, we lived in a segregated world. These days the classification African American or black is self designated and many people who claim to be of this minority classification can not be visually identified.

Third, since 1964, in the US the existing black culture has melded with the white trash culture and most professional black people have adopted a majority life style and culture.

Oh, really?

"... the existing black culture has melded with the white trash culture ..."

How do you measure that?

The white trash I'm familiar with likes Nascar, Pro Wrestling, square dancing (Electric Slide), country music, hunting, auto parts on the lawn, creationism, and using the word nigger to degrade black people.

Is that popular in the ghetto? Well except for the last item?

As far as I know white trash isn't into Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright, and Otis Moss. That seems quite popular with blacks. So popular that a guy running for office who's been associated with some of these racists is capturing a super-majority of black votes.

Seems to me based on the metrics I'm exposed to that there isn't much "melding" going on.