According to the reasoning of the author, Gavin Evans, all science that shows biological differences between groups is by definition racist, and with the help of straw men, misinterpretations and straight up lies he tries to explain why. The result is political correctness in its purest form.
Evans is supposed to be a fairly well-respected author, and has several books in the field, in which he tries to explain why “scientific racism” is false and dangerous. In the article in The Guardian he succeeds pretty clearly in presenting those race realist arguments common in the Alt Right, but his counter-arguments to these are not quite so objective or truthful. I will explain why so-called “scientific racism” – or simply the science – is right.
One of the strangest ironies of our time is that a body of thoroughly debunked “science” is being revived by people who claim to be defending truth against a rising tide of ignorance. The idea that certain races are inherently more intelligent than others is being trumpeted by a small group of anthropologists, IQ researchers, psychologists and pundits who portray themselves as noble dissidents, standing up for inconvenient facts. Through a surprising mix of fringe and mainstream media sources, these ideas are reaching a new audience, which regards them as proof of the superiority of certain races.
Scientific racism is identical to race realism
The first straw man Evans brings up is that those who advocate for race realism use science as proof of “some races’ superiority.” Sure, there are probably many people who reason in that way, but most people in the Alt Right and in science believe that the inherent differences between the races don’t necessarily mean that the races can be ranked. The point is rather that White people are better fit to live in White countries because these countries are built both for and by White people. But on the other hand, the self-professed “good people” generally do believe that the recognition of differences between groups is identical to claiming that some groups are universally superior to others, because not everyone can be equally good at the same things. If this is the case – and it is – it undermines the whole multicultural dogma, since it shows why groups from the Third World generally never will do as well in the Western world as White people. Race realism must therefore be opposed in order to protect the multicultural and globalist project from scrutiny.
Although race science has been repeatedly debunked by scholarly research, in recent years it has made a comeback. Many of the keenest promoters of race science today are stars of the “alt-right”, who like to use pseudoscience to lend intellectual justification to ethno-nationalist politics. If you believe that poor people are poor because they are inherently less intelligent, then it is easy to leap to the conclusion that liberal remedies, such as affirmative action or foreign aid, are doomed to fail.
Here Evans claims that race science has been repeatedly debunked, but he gives neither examples nor sources for the claim. It’s true that scientists such as Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, J. Philippe Rushton etc. have been exposed to both massive criticism and personal attacks, but these have been almost exclusively of the political kind, against their character or personal ideas, and not unbiased criticism of their results. This isn’t very surprising, since the left has a massive advantage in academia, no matter the field (Klein and Stern, 2009; Solon, 2015). But it’s entirely uninteresting who makes a given claim; what matters is their data.
Intelligence and poverty
Poor people are poor mostly because they have lower intelligence than rich people – a point supported by a lot of research, and one which has never been debunked (Rushton and Jensen, 2010). Of course the political implications of this are that social intervention yields very modest results, if any. I have for example previously written (on altnorden.se) about how aid to Africa doesn’t lead to increased wealth, or to African countries becoming in the long run more independent, but rather the opposite, combined with a population boom that will bring about even more suffering in the future.
There is also the phenomenon of the fade out effect, which shows that the effect of interventions like Head Start in the lives of preschool kids with the purpose of raising intelligence only works temporarily, and that its effects disappear completely after a few years (Protzko, 2015). This implies that individuals, and also groups of individuals of the same ethnicity, have a biologically congenital limitation on their cognitive ability, one that can’t be overcome by intervention. Such interventions can help individuals reach their maximal congenital potential, but this maximum differs between both individuals and ethnic groups. We know how to lower an individual’s intelligence, but we don’t know how to raise it, or even if such is possible.
A Troublesome Inheritance
One of the people behind the revival of race science was, not long ago, a mainstream figure. In 2014, Nicholas Wade, a former New York Times science correspondent, wrote what must rank as the most toxic book on race science to appear in the last 20 years. In A Troublesome Inheritance, he repeated three race-science shibboleths: that the notion of “race” corresponds to profound biological differences among groups of humans; that human brains evolved differently from race to race; and that this is supported by different racial averages in IQ scores.
The next straw man in the article is the reference to Nicholas Wade’s book A Troublesome Inheritance as one of the “most toxic books on race science in the past 20 years” – an enormous exaggeration, since Richard Lynn published books during the same period with significantly more controversial research findings and conclusions. The reception of the book resulted in a total of 139 researchers in population genetics and evolution theorists signing a public letter which accused Wade of having “misrepresented their science.” This is a great exaggeration with strong undertones of political correctness, since Wade clearly describes in his book which parts of it are scientifically backed, and which parts are of a more speculative nature, where he draws conclusions from his own reasoning. This is obviously not mentioned in The Guardian’s article. It should also be borne in mind that researchers will rarely publicly state positions contrary to the politically correct narrative; their careers can end in a second if they say the wrong things, and their research and thus income depend on political decisions and public tax funding. In addition, people with left-leaning opinions are highly overrepresented in the academic world (Solon, 2015) and are therefore probably less inclined to acknowledge the biological foundation of human nature.
The Bell Curve
The next book that Evans criticizes, of course without arguments, is The Bell Curve. Its co-author, Charles Murray, is accused – at least between the lines – of using the book as a basis for participating in a senatorial committee for welfare reform. This, however, relates not to The Bell Curve, but to another work called Losing Ground, which Murray wrote to show how welfare has hurt American society for decades. In The Bell Curve, there is no strict mention of the proportion of inheritance versus the environment as causes of poverty; it is only observed that there is a connection between intelligence and economic status and that intelligence is in part inherited, how much is subject to debate. Also, The Bell Curve tries to find a viable remedy to much of modern America’s societal problems but tries to do so in a humanitarian manner. To accuse the book of “scientific racism” is to set up therefore yet another straw man.
Intelligence researcher Arthur Jensen is also mentioned for having published a paper already in 1969 in which he reported that intelligence is 80% genetic and that the differences between Blacks and Whites are largely due to biological differences. This is then linked to apartheid in South Africa, and it is noted that Jensen met massive resistance (or maybe hate would be a better word) from both academics and students. To this day, nobody has disproved his claim on the heredity of intelligence, although the estimation of the effect of heredity varies between 60-80% in different studies. The Guardian’s article also does not provide any evidence against these figures, but refers only to the criticisms they received.
The Intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews
In the following paragraphs, Gavin Evans also takes up the intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews and criticizes, for example, Steven Pinker, Nicholas Wade, Charles Murray, Richard Lynn, and now Jordan Peterson, for using this as an argument for group differences (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994; Lynn, 2011). Here a problem arises, as is evident to anyone who is sufficiently well-read: if the Jews are not a specific group with high average intelligence, how do you explain their massive overrepresentation in Hollywood, the media, banks, the number of Nobel prizes, etc.? The only remaining explanation for this overrepresentation is ethnic nepotism, something I do not suspect at all was the intention of Evans when he wrote the article, even though the Jews’ high IQ does not rule out ethnic nepotism in itself. Ashkenazi Jews are also a distinct ethnic group, which can be distinguished in population genetics (Behar, Yunusbayev, Metspalu, Metspalu, Rosset et al., 2010), and they also have a number of serious hereditary diseases as a result of their historically strong group cohesion, in a frequency that far exceeds other ethnic groups (Cochran, Hardy and Harpending, 2006). The vast majority of Jews in America and the remainder of the West belong to the Ashkenazim Jewish subgroup.
IQ and race realism
A common theme in the rhetoric of race science is that its opponents are guilty of wishful thinking about the nature of human equality. “The IQ literature reveals that which no one would want to be the case,” Peterson told Molyneux on his YouTube show recently. Even the prominent social scientist Jonathan Haidt has criticised liberals as “IQ deniers”, who reject the truth of inherited IQ difference between groups because of a misguided commitment to the idea that social outcomes depend entirely on nurture, and are therefore mutable.
The above statement clearly describes the view of intelligence which holds among those who believe that human beings are born as a clean slate, despite the fact that we have proven innate talents which we inherit from our parents, as well as basic instincts and abilities that characterize the entire human species. The cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has discussed this in detail in his book The Blank Slate. Race realists rarely take the extreme position that intelligence or any other trait is 100% genetic, whereas the opposite extreme, that it is 100% environment, seems to be the dominant perception in the politically correct sphere. In reality, all psychological attributes are influenced by both inheritance and the environment, as emphasized by Plomin, DeFries, Knopik and Neiderhiser (2016). These attributes have underlying genes whose frequencies varies between different races. More about this later.
The history of mankind
Up to this point in The Guardian’s article, the author has put forward the argument of racial realism in a fairly objective way, even if arguments to the contrary are lacking. Then it starts to stray:
There is ample scientific evidence of modern intelligence in prehistoric sub-Saharan Africa. In the past 15 years, cave finds along the South African Indian Ocean coastline have shown that, between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago, biologically modern humans were carefully blending paint by mixing ochre with bone marrow fat and charcoal, fashioning beads for self-adornment, and making fish hooks, arrows and other sophisticated tools, sometimes by heating them to 315C (600F).
Here, Gavin Evans really considers cave paintings, arrows and fishing hooks as proof of “modern intelligence.” Yep. The archaeological findings on which this reasoning relies can of course be regarded as interesting in their own context, but claiming that they are evidence of an intelligence similar to that of modern man is absurd. But it gets even better:
The problem here is that race scientists are not comparing like with like. Most of these physical changes involve single gene mutations, which can spread throughout a population in a relatively short span of evolutionary time. By contrast, intelligence – even the rather specific version measured by IQ – involves a network of potentially thousands of genes, which probably takes at least 100 millennia to evolve appreciably.
Given that so many genes, operating in different parts of the brain, contribute in some way to intelligence, it is hardly surprising that there is scant evidence of cognitive advance, at least over the last 100,000 years.
Here, Evans tries to deconstruct the argument that the human brain has developed evolutionarily in different directions for different groups. For some reason, he argues that it takes “at least 100 millennia,” that is, 100,000 years for intelligence to evolve, due to its genetic complexity. On the contrary, the human brain has increased in size during this period up to the present moment, which has contributed to an increased intelligence (Gibson, 2002). Evans is trying to claim that 100,000 years ago people had exactly the same cognitive level as today’s people, despite the fact that the development of civilizations has been enormous in the last 200-300 years and especially in the 20th century. All of this outside of Africa, for some undecipherable reason. Human intelligence can either be regarded as consisting of several domain-specific talents or as a general intelligence, the g-factor. The latter is extremely complex and its evolutionary past isn’t scientific clear yet, since different theories are in conflict (Burkart, J.M., Schubiger, M.N., van Schaik, C.P., 2017). If you accuse race realists of subscribing to biological determinism, I do not know what to call the author’s statement. That human intelligence has been fixed for the last 100,000 years is a deterministic statement if ever there was one.
The next thing dealt with is the genetic similarity of human groups. Apparently, such exist, but on the other hand, races do not according to the author, despite the fact that a race is a grouping. This may seem paradoxical, given the starting point from the author’s view. This is probably a case of the continuum fallacy: the claim that categorization is impossible due to overlapping between categories or groups. Also mentioned is the origin of humanity in the form of “mitochondrial Eve” who is said to have lived in Africa 200,000 years ago – a statement that cannot be proven (yet) and should be considered a hypothesis rather than a fact.
It is absurd to claim that the brain would be the exception to evolutionary selection processes; the brain is what affects our behaviors, and behaviors are rewarded or punished evolutionarily through selection. If skin color and muscle strength et cetera have been influenced by evolution, how and why would the brain be excluded? This is a political statement that goes against the theory of evolution, logical thinking, and also scientific findings.
The genetic ground for intelligence
No one has successfully isolated any genes “for” intelligence at all, and claims in this direction have turned to dust when subjected to peer review. As the Edinburgh University cognitive ageing specialist Prof Ian Deary put it, “It is difficult to name even one gene that is reliably associated with normal intelligence in young, healthy adults.” Intelligence doesn’t come neatly packaged and labelled on any single strand of DNA.
The above is an attempt to shift the focus by demanding that researchers “find the gene” before they claim that intelligence differs between groups. But this is unnecessary: intelligence and other phenotypes can be measured separately without any clue as to which genes cause them. In addition, at least fifty genes associated with intelligence have already been found (Sniekers, Stringer, Watanabe, Jansen, Coleman et al., 2017), and in view of the rapid development of genetics, more are certain to be identified. Genes have also been identified in the function of the brain’s synapses and in the regulation of the functioning of the nervous system, all of which is linked to intelligence (Hill, Marioni, Maghzian, Ritchie, Hagenaars, et al., 2018). These findings suggest a strong biological basis for human intelligence.
Evans also uses the classic argument of “greater genetic variation within the group than between them,” arguing against the idea that there might exist differences in intelligence between groups. But it’s not the variation or spread that’s interesting – it’s the difference between the averages of the groups. For example, if you compare White Europeans to Black Africans in intelligence tests, the spread will be fairly similar within each group and normal distributed, shown as a famous bell curve. On the other hand, the means will differ greatly and the number of highly intelligent people will be significantly higher in the White than in the Black group (Rushton and Jensen, 2010).
The genetic basis for racial differences
In order to claim racial differences in the case of intelligence, one must be able to demonstrate a genetic basis for them. This has been thoroughly investigated through many twin studies with many thousands of participants, which has shown a heredity of 60-80%, as mentioned at the beginning of this article. Evans, however, dishonestly mentions only two studies that are already several decades old, and which, moreover, were dubiously implemented, as if these were the only twin studies that have been conducted since. An enormous metastudy of over fourteen million pairs of twins during fifty years of research showed, for example, that genetic influence (heredity) on intelligence is 71% (Polderman, Benyamin, de Leeuw, Sullivan, van Bochoven et al., 2015).
In addition to racial differences in intelligence, predictable (through J Phillippe Rushton’s life history theory) differences between Asians, Whites and Blacks also exist, including in the development of infants’ motor skills, sexual maturity, first sexual experience and first pregnancy. Rushton and Jensen (2010) mention that Blacks are number one in these areas, East Asians last, and Whites in between, a pattern that is seen in a variety of areas.
There are also average differences in the weight and volume of the brain between these three races which follow the same pattern, East Asians have the largest, Whites second-largest and Blacks the smallest brains. An explanation of why development takes place more slowly in bigger brains is that the brain is the body’s most complex organ and takes the longest time to develop. The less “complex” the brain, the faster the development. A study by Piffer (2015) examined various studies of nine different alleles (gene variants) that have been found to be associated with intelligence, and concluded that their distribution varies between races and ethnicities. Not surprisingly, the frequency was highest among East Asians, in the middle among Europeans, and lowest among Africans. This reflects the intelligence differences for these three races which ranks in the same order.
The Flynn effect
The Flynn effect is treated as evidence that increases in IQ test results must be a consequence of environmental factors (higher living standards, better nutrition, etc.), since intelligence has increased by approximately 3 IQ points per decade. This effect has indeed been measurable, but according to Rushton and Jensen (2010), the effect has only been on tests that lacked a high load onto the g-factor, the factor believed to be behind human intelligence, regardless of the ability tested. Different types of tests (verbal, spatial, quantitative, reasoning, etc.) load differently onto the g-factor, and the tests that don’t have a high loading have been shown to increase over time according to the Flynn effect (Rushton and Jensen, 2010). James Flynn has himself, since presenting his theory, changed his view that these changes are 100% caused by environmental factors – but this is not mentioned in The Guardian’s article.
Ashkenazi Jews’ intelligence again
Ashkenazi Jews are the ethnicity with the single highest measured average intelligence, about 113 IQ. Evans tries to explain this by arguing that the Jews are less genetically isolated than previously claimed, although DNA studies show that Ashkenazi stand genetically between Europeans and Semites in the Middle East (Behar, Yunusbayev, Metspalu, Metspalu, Rosset et al., 2010). This study clearly show that the Ashkenazi are a quite separate ethnic group. Evans also claims that the Jewish genetic diseases do not have any link with higher or lower intelligence, but doesn’t mention any studies that disprove this link. It is meanwhile confirmed by, for example, Cochran, Hardy and Harpending (2006).
He also claims that the Jews had lower intelligence during their immigration to the United States than Nordics, although these studies proved to be highly dubious, and the one who performed them searched specifically for individuals with low intelligence (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994). These tests are claimed to have provided the basis for North American immigration policy from 1924 onwards – another unfounded claim according to Snyderman and Herrnstein (1983).
Skin color and intelligence
Ten years ago, our grasp of the actual science was firm enough for Craig Venter, the American biologist who led the private effort to decode the human genome, to respond to claims of a link between race and intelligence by declaring: “There is no basis in scientific fact or in the human genetic code for the notion that skin colour will be predictive of intelligence.
Evans’ next mistake is his claim that skin color is not predictive of intelligence. Although skin color is only a superficial attribute, it has strong connections with intelligence, and the darker the skin color, the lower the intelligence (Rushton and Jensen, 2010; Templer and Arikawa, 2005). This can be explained by the fact that further from the equator, the climate grows colder and more strategies are required for survival (which selects for higher intelligence), just as skin color is light to enable the absorption of sunlight where the sun is weaker, which, in turn, effectively boosts vitamin D synthesis.
Gavin Evans’ article in The Guardian, which is aimed at painting all science pointing to racial differences as pseudoscience, utterly fails. Through a mixture of straw men and cherry picking (deliberate selection of sources supporting his conclusions while ignoring contrary findings) and blending criticism with facts, the result is an article which surely convinces those who are already converted, but which is not in line with current research.
Race science isn’t going away any time soon. Its claims can only be countered by the slow, deliberate work of science and education. And they need to be – not only because of their potentially horrible human consequences, but because they are factually wrong. The problem is not, as the right would have it, that these ideas are under threat of censorship or stigmatization because they are politically inconvenient. Race science is bad science. Or rather, it is not science at all.
Articles and statements like the above need to be addressed in order to challenge the left-liberal narrative, which is based more on wishful thinking than on facts about human nature, whether these be based on theoretical views or on scientific sources. Reality is usually more logical than many would like to believe, and without being familiar with the science presented, it is difficult or impossible for a layman to determine what is true or false. I therefore hope that my answers to The Guardian’s article are sufficiently clear to show that the so-called “good side” uses a series of rhetorical tricks to convey the message that human nature is entirely created by environmental factors.
Intelligence, which tends to be at the heart of the race debate, has been studied more than any other human attribute, and for a longer time (over 100 years of research). These studies have been replicated hundreds – if not thousands – of times by independent researchers all over the world. Should you deny that differences in intelligence exist, or that they have a genetic basis – well, you have to expend a little more effort than Gavin Evans at The Guardian.
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