Looking at both the political left and the political right, we see the rejection of actual truth in favor of alternative facts. Our generation thought our parents were just wrong about a lot of things they knew as facts of race and sex . We are older now and it seems to be our turn. Maybe the enlightenment has finally played itself out .

Expand full comment

The latest MeToo outrage: Ian Buruma, editor of the New York Review of Books, was fired or forced to resign after he published a article by someone who had been accused by women of sexual abuse, although he was acquitted of four criminal charges.

Expand full comment

Correlations between class and race aren't unusual, even high correlations. This confounding sometimes promotes confusion between class issues and race issues but, for that reason, it makes distinguishing between them more important. [At least for me, since I have a very different attitude toward class struggle and racial strife.]

Expand full comment

" I'm not the one who brought up Charles Murray, nor am I the one who pushed for details -- that was you, but you have rejected them out of hand and now say you don't even care."

I looked at the details provided, as well as others that I could find (though I still haven't read his books), and everything I have seen is consistent with the hypothesis that Charles Murray thinks that genetics explains some large part, but by no means all, of the variance in economic outcomes of all racial groups, not just black Americans. In particular, if I understand correctly, The Bell Curve devotes a single chapter to the black-white IQ gap, while his more recent book Coming Apart focuses on the divergence between well-to-do and poor white Americans. I do grant however that there very well may be a racist elephant in his brain hiding behind the bigger elephant named IQ.

My own concern is closer to what I assume is discussed in Coming Apart, since I haven't lived in the US for a long time, and instead have lived in various racially homogeneous parts of Europe.

"Only by ignoring the massive amount of evidence that socioeconomic disadvantage results in poverty, crime, cognitive deficits etc. can one think that the belief that it does is "a priori", and go dumpster diving for a genetic basis when there is no evidence or theoretical basis for it"

I've never denied that there are socioeconomic causes of economic outcomes. Rather I claim it is a reasonable hypothesis that intelligence is also a cause. And I object to the a priori rejection of a genetic component of intelligence.The theoretical basis for the hypothesis that genetics has an influence on intelligence is quite simple: genetics has an influence on everything. It would be an extraordinary biological discovery if the one trait that didn't have a genetic component was intelligence. As for the evidential basis for the hypothesis, the results of decades of research in heredity are consistent with the hypothesis, and even if you find twin studies uncompelling, the recent work on polygenetic prediction of intelligence and years of education might interest you. Here's an example:

"Here, we report the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) on childhood intelligence (age range 6–18 years) from 17 989 individuals in six discovery and three replication samples... we show that the aggregate effects of common SNPs explain 22–46% of phenotypic variation in childhood intelligence in the three largest cohorts (P = 3.9 × 10−15, 0.014 and 0.028)."

The original paper can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go....

Of course this study, and others like it, might fail to replicate, but I think it not unreasonable at this point to bet on a genetic component of intelligence as defined by standardized tests, and correlation between this kind of intelligence and economic success is not, I think, controversial.

"there's no motivation for doing such research other than racial bias"

So you think the long list of people who did the above study are all motivated by racial bias?

"there's nothing good to do with the results"

Ideally, reality influences the calculus of incentive structures. If for example we become convinced that the kind of intelligence predicted by a certain polygenetic score is useful for a flourishing society, and we notice that people with a high score experience disincentives for fertility relative to people with a low score, then we might want to restructure incentives.

"there's a great deal that can be done about socioeconomic disadvantage"

Yes, gains have been made, and I hope that they continue to be made. For many years I was a math and science after-school and summer tutor for poor American high school students (there were roughly three demographic groups: black, South East Asian immigrant, and rural white). I'd very much like to think it made a difference in their lives.

"you have now enlisted David Reich to your cause. Yeah, I'm sure that he is preparing science and society for the possible discovery that blacks have a genetic cognitive superiority to whites."

I was quoting David Reich in the context of Lewontin's fallacy, and your claim that the vast majority of scientists reject a genetic basis for race, which is exactly the issue that David Reich discusses in that chapter, carefully and empathetically.

I don't have a cause, just concerns, which are naturally different from people who live in the US.

"Some of the children that were separated from their parents by the Trump administration are already showing signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder"

Indeed, I am certain that this is traumatic. Even with a very secure and happy life, I have had nightmares of being separated from my children.

"As an Ashkenazi (sic) Jew with an IQ 4 SD above the norm"

Congratulations. You outperformed Feynman on an IQ test.

Expand full comment

Sorry. "It" meant the group of highly educated people living in North America (similarly in Western Europe). My point is that class bias might be as relevant as race bias, and that if in the long run the highly educated class becomes well-mixed, then it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish the two forms of bias.

Expand full comment

But it seems to be slowly forming a single endogamous group, at which point we might have a conflation of racism with class warfare.

What's the referent of "it"?

Expand full comment

"How does this relate to our disagreement on the definition of "racism"?"

I see that I haven't made myself clear, for which I apologize, so I'll try again.

Here are two independent claims

1) White people (however defined) can be and sometimes are biased against various racial groups (however defined), not only against blacks.

2) One should be careful of inferring racial bias from someone "promoting the interests of their racial group", since they might simply be promoting the interests of their in-group.

Those were my objections to your definition as stated, but I don't think that in reality our disagreement is so acute.

A third claim, that I think we can agree on:

3) If someone is excluded from membership in the in-group because of their race, then yes, it is reasonable to call that racist.

Where we seem to disagree, however, is on the way in which this kind of racism is a problem. It depends I think on the context and on the severity of the exclusion. I'm comfortable with the current Korean and Japanese attitude to outsiders, for example, and you are not.

Among highly-educated people living in North America or Western Europe, some common culture and social norms allow for a well-functioning society consisting of people from many parts of the world. But it seems to be slowly forming a single endogamous group, at which point we might have a conflation of racism with class warfare. I admit that I'd be rather more comfortable with my children marrying Nigerians educated in Oxbridge than Packers fans from Milwaukee, for example. At some point it becomes hard to say whether this is just incompatibility of social norms or racism, where race is defined by endogamy rather than skin color.

In the lower classes, however, this form of racism seems to be a fairly universal phenomenon, and I am skeptical further integration is possible there.

One final claim:

4) If you think it likely that genetics explains some non-trivial amount of variance in economic outcomes, then you might reasonably be concerned about fertility differentials, and think that it is worthwhile studying the problem carefully and thinking through incentives.

Such concern can be completely independent of any racial bias. Indeed, David Reich discusses in his recent book selection against "genes for educational attainment" over the last hundred years in Iceland (a highly homogeneous country, as far as I understand). The original paper in question is here:


The most charitable interpretation of Charles Murray's position is, I think, 4).

Anyhow, I agree with you that a number of intelligence researchers are too ready to jump to conclusions based on shallow evidence, and I take that as a sign that more and more careful research needs to be done.

Expand full comment

Murray infers from this that there are differences between *individuals* by virtue of their being of one race or another

I don't think this is an accurate criticism.

Expand full comment

My only point here was that if, say, I promote my own interests as a hard scientist, or as a resident of my particular suburb, then I effectively promote the interests of some portion of my own ethnic group.

Again, so what? How does this relate to our disagreement on the definition of "racism"? One is tempted to conclude that you are arguing that because racism, which is necessarily motivated, is hard to distinguish from incidental benefits to one's ethnic group (regardless of whether one has a tribal identification with it).

There are a number of well-functioning countries in which national identity is more or less explicitly based on race, among them Japan and Korea.

American widely condemn the xenophobia of these societies. This is hypocritical, because American national identity was itself forged on a racial basis by four centuries of war against the American natives. I'm not about to prettify xenophobia because some societies practice it and are able to "function" tolerably well. [Japanese xenophobia facilitated its participation in WWII; Kim is in part the product of Korean xenophobia.]

Expand full comment

For what it's worth, I think type C "racism" is a reasonable hypothesis given what we know about biology and that it should be studied as dispassionately as possible, like anything else. If the only foundation providing major funding for studies along these lines has a shady history, then that just means it's time for more foundations to begin funding this research.

As you say, it doesn't really parallel the other varieties. Why even call it "racism?" It's simply a reasonable scientific position, isn't it?

The reason that those holding this position are (sometimes unjustly) called "racist," I would maintain, is that often those who believe there are important differences in intelligence have racist (defined my way) motives.

Why are those who think there are important differences in IQ between the "races" - and that they know what they are - often racist? Why don't ordinary well-intentioned scientists take this position? One answer is that they're afraid to, or that they self-censor for ideological reasons. I don't think that's the whole story - the stereotype of the racist IQ researcher, like stereotypes generally, contains a core of truth.

Usually (not invariably) scholars interested in human intelligence avoid conclusions about "racial" differences because we simply lack a sufficiently strong foundational understanding of intelligence differences. [I've published on intelligence, although in the distant past: https://www.tandfonline.com... ("Cognitive Abilities as Expressions of Three Ways of Knowing")]

No theory of the structure of the intellect enjoys an academic consensus. There isn't even agreement on so basic a question as whether there's a g factor (usually assumed by "scientific racists").

Expand full comment

Having read the links you have suggested, I think we are talking past each other. You seem particularly concerned with the causes of the black-white IQ gap (but not the white-Ashkenazy IQ gap?), whereas I am more generally interested in all kinds of variation between various semi-endogamous groups, and how much of the variance is explained by genes. But ultimately this an empirical question which can only be answered by careful analysis. So I reject the claim that all type C "racists" are type D racists.

I recommend reading Chapter 11, The Genomics of Race and Identity, of David Reich's Who We Are and How We Got Here, which begins by describing the criticism he received for studying risk factors for prostate cancer in people with West African versus European ancestry. In the same chapter, he also discusses Lewontin's paper, and seems to have a more favorable opinion of it than some. Nonetheless, he writes

"The argument would be that even if there are average differences across human populations in genetically determined traits affecting cognition or behavior... the quantitative differences across populations are likely to be trivially small, harkening back to Lewontin's argument... But this argument doesn't hold up either... If selection on height and head circumference can occur within a couple of thousand years, it seems a bad bet to argue that there cannot be similar average differences in cognitive or behavioral traits. Even if we do not yet know what the differences are, we should prepare our science and our society to be able to deal with the reality of differences instead of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that differences cannot be discovered... If as scientists we wilfully abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing human differences, we will leave a vacuum that will be filled by pseudosience..."

You might find David Reich to be less of a jackass than I, so give him a try.

Expand full comment

"So what?"

My only point here was that if, say, I promote my own interests as a hard scientist, or as a resident of my particular suburb, then I effectively promote the interests of some portion of my own ethnic group. As part of being a good citizen, however, I do try to be mindful of the interests of other groups as well.

As for migration, a number of economists (among them Bryan Caplan) have argued on utilitarian grounds that we would all be better off with open borders. I haven't dug into the original literature, but the popularizations of these arguments that I have seen (including from Caplan) raised more questions than they answered. Currently, I am in favor of "highly skilled migrants", the more the better, but I might be biased here, since I myself have spent most of my adult life as such. As a possible alternative to open borders, I think it is worth doing a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it wouldn't be more effective to take whatever funds you would spend educating and caring for low-skilled immigrants and investing it in their home countries.

"I take this as a reason to oppose nationalism rather than to indulge racism."

There are a number of well-functioning countries in which national identity is more or less explicitly based on race, among them Japan and Korea. It's their country and they can do what they want with it. The US has never been as racially homogeneous as Japan or Korea, it has benefited greatly from talented immigrants, and so it naturally has to cultivate a more complex identity.

As for US Presidents, there's been a long streak of war-mongers, and the world might actually be a happier place if the US were more nationalistic and less imperialistic. Trump himself, to whom I don't pay much attention since I haven't lived in the US for many years, is I would guess somewhere on the spectrum of type B racists, and certainly some of his supporters are unashamed type B racists.

"Browning" as such doesn't concern me personally, but as you point out it does bother many people, and I am very skeptical that such people can be reasoned out of this attitude. Moreover, I suspect it might be rather arrogant to try do so, insofar as my own experience of in-coming brown people consists mostly of those with Ph.D.s who adhere to social norms compatible with my own.

Expand full comment

that in-group is almost always *correlated* with ethnic identity.

So what? The usual strictures about correlation apply. The test of a causal relationship, it would seem, is reaction to demographic change. This is why Trumpian racism is centered on migration. [There are non-racist (using my definition) reasons for opposing demographic change, but any true white racist is certain to resent the American browning.]

However, I do agree that nationalism is generally built around a kernel of soft racism. I take this as a reason to oppose nationalism rather than to indulge racism.

By the way--in which your categories of racism, if any, would you place the U.S. president?

Expand full comment

"If that's all you have as a response, then of course not, asshole."

Well, given such a warm invitation to continue, I can clarify my current hypotheses, which I'm glad to update given further information.

First, some terminology. By type A racist, I'll mean the Nazi-like extremist, who wants to exterminate the Gypsies, the Jews, and half the Slavs, while driving the other half over the Urals. (Gypsies, Jews, and Slavs should be understood as variables taking different values in different contexts.) By type B racist, I'll mean someone who thinks that some races are fundamentally incompatible with each other and should be segregated. By type C racist, I'll mean someone who thinks that population mean and variance of some behavioral trait does often differ between different population clusters (whether ethnic or socio-economic), and that this difference is at least partly caused by genetic differences between these population clusters. By type D racist, I'll mean someone who harbors at least some implicit or unconscious bias against members of various ethnic groups. One can also talk about type X crypto-racists for each of the above types.

Notice that one of these four types of racism is not like the others. Namely, type C racism is an empirical, falsifiable position, which is moreover concerned with the difference between populations and the extent to which these differences can be explained genetically. In fact, it is not primarily concerned with race as commonly understood, but with any semi-endogamous group.

It's clear that Murray is a type C "racist", and that he makes no bones about it. And one strongly suspects that a number of other well-known researchers are type C "crypto-racists". (It seems unfair to name names, but I have in mind a few who write popular books, give TED talks, and work at Harvard.) However, I have yet to see any evidence that Murray is also a type B crypto-racist, and I think it's absurd that the SPLC website to which truth_machine links puts Murray in the same list as various KKK and neo-Nazi clowns, which one might suspect are type A crypto-racists.

For what it's worth, I think type C "racism" is a reasonable hypothesis given what we know about biology and that it should be studied as dispassionately as possible, like anything else. If the only foundation providing major funding for studies along these lines has a shady history, then that just means it's time for more foundations to begin funding this research. As to finding what public policies best address society's ills (which seems to be Murray's concern), I can't see how the a priori exclusion of a genetic component to differences between populations can possibly do any good.

Treating individuals as individuals and judging them by their merits is an admirable and ancient moral principle quite independent of any empirical hypotheses, and one can consistently oppose type B racism while being a type C "racist".

As for the other link, to Lewontin's Fallacy, if you read the link through, you'll see that a number of scientists think the name is apt.

Expand full comment

Far from establishing that no one ever has anything to fear from false charges. I'm tempted to call the equation of the first with the second dishonest (and not just intellectually). But most of us are aware enough to forgo the instinctive rejection of opposed opinions as dishonest. [Such is truly the recourse mainly of folks whose IQ are, as you say, room temperature. As is, when you look at the larger numbers, "strategic voting," mostly another name for gross political opportunism.)

Expand full comment

Every white male has been called racist and sexist. Some of us choose to understand where such charges come from, to introspect to see how they might apply to ourselves. We ally ourselves with those who have been oppressed by racism and sexism, rather than going to war with them, dismiss them as a "mob", etc. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...

Expand full comment