Re: Race, intelligence, and anti-racist prejudice (Was: Genetic Evolution)

Lane Singer (
30 Jan 1995 09:25:39 GMT

In <> (Tom Lathrop) writes:

>>>I pointed out that, while a 15 point black/white IQ difference would be
>>>quite significant in terms of human affairs, in terms of the difference
>>>in intelligence between humans and our nearest cousins, the Chimpanzee,
>>>such a difference is really rather small. 15 IQ points is around one
>>>standard deviation, and is well within the range of normal human
>>>variation. If we were talking about height one standard deviation
>>>would be a few inches.
>>>So how long would it take for a relatively minor difference such as
>>>this to arise between two populations? I don't know for sure, but it
>>>seems to me that any period of time measured in tens of thousands of
>>>years would be plenty. If you disagree, then you need to give me some
>>>estimate of how long *you* think it would take, and support it.
>>>Otherwise you are simply not justified in claiming that the new genetic
>>>studies show that there hasn't been enough time for such a difference
>>>to arise.

>>It's a bit silly to discuss how long it would take when we don't know
>>what environmental factors would act with selective influence. Not all
>>mutations are responsive to selection. In fact, the vast majority of
>>mutations are selectively neutral.
>In fact, evolution can take place with no mutations at all.
>But I must agree that "it's a bit silly... when we don't know". That
>*was* my point after all. And it's *your* argument that requires that
>such a judgement be made, not mine.
>>Also, we haven't defined what types of genes are involved in intelligence.
>>Would it be genes that code for the various neurotransmitters? Genes that
>>influence brain structure? Those that direct the different elements of
>>the endocrine system? All of them and more? Probably.
>Again, we don't know, do we?

If you have no idea, then why do you make the assertion that
one race is more intelligent than another for genetic reasons?
I have at least listed some traits that may have a bearing on
intelligence. What selective pressures would affect them? Do you
agree or disagree with my list? Do you have additions?

>>Now, unless there is some external force acting on these characteristics
>>that would impede the survival of the human (such as a mental illness)
>>most of the mutations are likely to be selective neutral. So, given a
>>moderately low selective coefficient, it would take about 115,000 years
>>for a new allele to replace an old one in a given population. This is
>>for just one gene. Of course, the other genes would be undergoing
>>random genetic drift as well, but with such an evolutionary force,
>>the title describes it well: random. Things change because they
>>cannot stay the same, but they may or may not change for the better,
>>and most likely the effect of the change will be neutral.
>Lane, this argument is so weak that it's barely worth answering. I
>asked you how long you thought would be necessary for the average IQ of
>two isolated populations to drift apart by 15 points. You mutter
>something about a assuming a "low selective coefficient"

I was not muttering.

>(but Lane,
>isn't that what we are arguing about?), and then wave your hands and
>come up with 115,000 years. For one gene? For 15 IQ points? What?!?

No. Not for 15 IQ points, or for any number of IQ points. My position
is that we don't know at this point. Some of what we don't know I
have stated above, so I won't bother repeating it.

Since this was part of our Cavalli-Sforza debate I took my estimate
from the pages of that book.

We, the varied colonists who populated the globe, have only lived
apart for anywhere from 90,000 to 15,000 years, in some cases.
Since the genetic sources for behaviors are very complex to begin
with, being polygenic and relying in large measure on the environment
for expression, to imagine that anyone could predict the time it
would take to evolve a new test score is absurd.

>If you meant 115,000 years for a 15 point difference, you are already
>in trouble. Would that mean 76,000 years for a 10 point difference
>(the possible value of the American black/white difference corrected
>for environment)? Already that's around the time of Cavalli-Sforza's
>African/non-African split. Throw in a factor of two and you've got the
>35,000 years that modern man has been in Europe. Are you really sure
>your calculation is accurate to a factor of two Lane. :-)

We're not discussing the same thing anymore. In my opinion, except for
the evolutionary forces of millions of years which may indeed
effect a change in our overall intellectual makeup, the only
way to improve your test score is through environment. Or are
you suggesting that we breed only intelligent people with one
another for a several hundered generations. If you are, I suggest
you try to catch up on the thread on this topic which covers
regression to the mean.

>But the real problem is much deeper than that; you've forgotten that
>evolution doesn't require mutation. There is a reason why a 15 point
>IQ difference between human populations must be considered "small",
>while the difference between humans and chimps is "large". The reason
>is that, since 15 IQ points is one standard deviation, well within the
>range of normal human variation, the genes necessary to make such a
>change ALREADY EXIST WITHIN THE POPULTION! No new mutations are

Hey. It wasn't my stupid question. Next time you ask me something
stupid I'll assume you don't want it addressed.

>It wouldn't take 115,000 years to raise a human population's IQ by 15
>points. If we were willing to breed humans like racehorses we could
>probably do it in a few generations, because the necessary genes are
>already there!

Again, refer to the discussion on regression to the mean. I believe
Steve La Bonne is a good person to address this issue with.

>Normal human intelligence is entirely outside the
>Chimpanzee "bell curve", so to get from there to here is a big project,
>requiring many new mutations. That's why the distance from them to us
>is "big". But the human population already contains all the genes
>required for Einsteins or Gumps, and moving a population's intelligence
>by one standard deviation one way or the other within that range only
>requires a change in the frequency of those genes. That's why such a
>change is "small" from an evolutionary perspective.
>In fact, if you were a little more flexible in your approach, you could
>probably attack me from the other direction and argue that human
>intelligence must be unrelated to race because its genetic basis is too
>malleable, too easily changed, for it to have any correlation with
>anything as ancient as the separation of human racial groups.

What would be the point of that? Given that we haven't the data
to determine even the genetic source for "intelligence", what on
earth is the point of attempting to make arguments based on nothing?
Is that the kind of "flexibility" you're referring to?

> But you
>want more than that; you want to use recent genetic studies to prove
>that "there is no such thing as race", and that therefore it is
>*impossible* for whites to be smarter than blacks.

You're assuming a lot here. Am I telling you what you want?

>I think it's
>interesting the way that your commitment to anti-racist thinking blinds
>you to any fact that doesn't lead where you want to go. For example,
>consider the final paragraph of my last post...
>>>But I'm getting tired of this, so I want to ask you one final thing.
>>>Do you remember how all this started? I said that recent genetic
>>>studies had shown that "the deepest genetic division in the human race
>>>lies between Africans and non-Africans", and you denied this. Will you
>>>have the integrity now to admit you were wrong, or at least that
>>>Cavalli-Sforza supports me on this point? Or are your politics too
>>>rigid to allow even that?

I never denied this division. Do I have to go and root around for
old posts (if I even have them anywhere) and pull up my response?
The following is from one of your responses this month.

>Back to African/non-African, this genetic disparity pointed
>to the fact that humans started there. Is this parsable? This
>also implies that the genetic info carried out of Africa was
>still present within sub-Saharan Africa, just as if one of my
>children emigrates to Japan, many of our family genes will still
>be manifest in the US through my other children.

I have repeated my position on this in other posts I've sent
today, so I'll assume that you will it there as well.

>I've made this challenge more than once, I've quoted Cavalli-Sforza
>repeatedly saying exactly this (e.g., my quotes from pages 83 and 154
>of The History and Geography of Human Genes, the book we've been
>discussing for so long) and yet you ignore me. You can't defend your
>position, but you just can't bring yourself to admit you were wrong
>either, not even on this one point. Which leads me to wonder why I'm
>even discussing this with you. If you're so emotionally bound to one
>point of view that you can't back off even when the source we are
>discussing directly contradicts you, how can I ever hope for any
>flexibility on your part when the facts are even the least bit

Tom! I don't have the position you think I have! I'm not
ignoring you. Calm down. I don't know how you got the idea that
I denied this aspect of human migration, but it couldn't be
further from the truth. In fact, it's fundamental to the single
source of origin theory. Why would I deny it?

>I have to say I think this is typical of anti-racist thinking. You are
>*very* quick to accuse your opponents of prejudice, and therefore
>intellectual dishonesty. Sometimes the accusations have merit. But
>you ignore how the intense emotional commitment that the typical
>anti-racist brings to his cause can *also* be a source of prejudice
>(pre-judgement). For many people, to accept that whites are smarter
>than blacks would *hurt*. It would seem to justify all the terrible
>things that have been done to blacks, all the abuse they've suffered
>over the years. For many people, this isn't a question of scientific
>fact, it is a question of good and evil, and for such a person to be
>truly objective would be as difficult as for a devout Christian to be
>truly objective on the existence of God.
>Of course being prejudiced doesn't automatically mean you are wrong.
>The devout Christian and the devout anti-racist could both turn out to
>be right in the end. And prejudice certainly does exist on both
>sides. That's why this sort of debate is so difficult. The person who
>is prejudiced will use good arguments if he has them, but the important
>thing is his unwavering commitment to his position, and if he has no
>good arguments then he will use bad arguments and *honestly* believe
>them to be good. I think its important to establish that racists are
>not the only people who can fall into this trap. We should acknowledge
>that the deep emotional involvement so many anti-racist liberals (and
>conservatives!) have with this issue leaves them equally vulnerable.
>More so in fact, because this sort of prejudice, when it is recognized
>at all, is usually treated not as a source of intellectual dishonesty
>but as a virtue and a sign of moral superiority (much the way
>Christians treat "faith"), and therefore goes largely unexamined. I
>think this sort of unexamined prejudice accounts for much of the
>hysteria and emotionalism of the whole anti-Bell Curve campaign, as
>well as the stubborn "no such thing as race" irrationality of the Left
>on any discussion touching on race and intelligence. Whether or not
>the anti-racists are right or wrong remains an open question. But it
>is perfectly clear that emotionally many of them could not bear to be
>wrong, and we should keep this in mind when considering the arguments
>of people like Stephen Gould or Leon Kamin, whose politics and
>sympathies I believe lean as far to the left as Charles Murray's do to
>the right. Prejudice is never a virtue, not even anti-racist

Well, do you feel better now? I have kept my side of the bargain in
dealing politely with you since I promised that I would. Often better,
I feel, than you have kept yours.

"men remain in ignorance as long as they hate, and they hate unjustly
as long as they remain in ignorance." Tertullian