wading into race realism


Never in 1,000 years did I imagine that I would end up the person that I am today: a black race realist—someone who believes IQ is normally distributed and that averages may differ among races the same way other genetic variables do. Over the years, I noticed that people are fired up about this or that aspect of evolution, but that the question of genetic differences in race and IQ were off limits. (Amren.com)

Race realism is a subject best avoided for many reasons, not least that foul views don’t deserve attention. It is not different from any other form of racism, it just comes with accompanying statistics that allegedly make it ‘real’.

The article linked to above annoyed me so much that I feel the need to post a rant on the matter.

1. We are all the product of immigration and blending of different groups of people. Humans have been roaming over this planet for millions of years, crossing borders and oceans, and having sex. There are loose groups of people we often label as if they are distinct or pure races – they aren’t.

The very idea of “race” was (and to an extent is) a European or Western preoccupation, not endemic to all societies or civilizations—not only as a method to classify peoples but also to explain behavioral differences in terms of physical differences. … Race was often even something of a synonym for society or nation, as in the “British race” or the “French race.” Accordingly, in Rwanda and Burundi the Hutu and Tutsi were construed by administrators as two races, with distinct physical attributes; in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese, with much less physical justification, have employed the race concept. Not only that, but by definition (at least by Western definition) races—unlike societies—are hierarchically related. Race labels communicate the message not only that “we are different from you” but that “we are better than you.” (Ethnicity, Culture, and “The Past”)

2. Race realists are obsessed with IQ statistics. If you do IQ tests over loosely homogeneous race groups across economic divides, you find that IQ is primarily a result of socio-economic conditions. You give people poor input, a poor diet, a stigmatised background riddled with discrimination, and they are obviously more likely to have problems reaching the intellectual level of those born into situations devoid of disadvantage. Nothing surprising there, yet race realists believe the statistics they flaunt have nothing to do with environmental factors.

When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly “heritable”—that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES (socio-economic status) twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. (WSJ)

3. I’m pleased some people have high IQs, and use their greater processing powers to progress key areas of knowledge for the human race. But I’m also pleased some people can dance beautifully, some people can draw wonderful things, some people are brilliant communicators, some grow perfect strawberries. This obsession with a human-developed scale to measure one aspect of potential achievement infuriates me.


As to “genetic differences in race and IQ” being off limits – it’s not off limits, it’s simply irrelevant. Race realists apply wonky labels to poorly interpreted statistics, while placing eminent value on characteristics that are of fluctuating and often debatable use. They encourage others to imagine that improvement within society can’t be found by providing opportunity, eliminating discrimination and raising living standards for those trapped at the bottom. They encourage others to discriminate against whole groups of people, and wonder why no-one wants to discuss their wonky statistics with them.