There was a great Op-Ed piece in the NY Times yesterday, written by Dr. Richard Nisbett, that provides a nice set of studies challenging the notion of inherent intelligence differences between races. Dr. Nisbett communicates these findings to the reader in a very clear fashion, providing good information for those of you who followed the news and debate underlying the Watson scandal.
One telling excerpt that I especially appreciated, since it is based on the sheer weight of scientific logic:
That environment can markedly influence I.Q. is demonstrated by the so-called Flynn Effect. James Flynn, a philosopher and I.Q. researcher in New Zealand, has established that in the Western world as a whole, I.Q. increased markedly from 1947 to 2002. In the United States alone, it went up by 18 points. Our genes could not have changed enough over such a brief period to account for the shift; it must have been the result of powerful social factors. And if such factors could produce changes over time for the population as a whole, they could also produce big differences between subpopulations at any given time.
As stated, we know that it is impossible for our genes to change enough in 55 years to account for such vast differences in intelligence (as measured by the IQ test), simply because that time frame spans only 1-2 generations at most! Epic genomic changes do and can occur, but require many generations to take place, events only successfully studied and carried out in organisms with short lifespans and rapid reproductive cycles. But more importantly, doesn’t this simply reinforce the fact that the IQ test suffers from serious bias and unreliability issues? 18 points in 55 years??? Either Sesame Street and Baby Einstein are miracle workers, processed foods and high fructose corn syrup are unfairly ignored as “brain foods”, video games are better than reading, or the IQ test isn’t as accurate as we would like it to be. So let’s be a little cautious when comparing these numbers, especially when pointing out differences…
Why these concepts are so challenging for a significant portion of the population to grasp really boggles my mind. To those individuals, if you don’t have the time or motivation to read The Mismeasure of Man, I certainly hope that you will at least read the “lite” version (meaning this Op-Ed piece [ONLY 2 PAGES!!!]) to assist you in establishing your opinions on this matter. But perhaps even that is asking too much. Therefore, why don’t you wait for the “Op-Cast” to update this week, so you don’t even have to read.