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

Warren Sarle (
Fri, 24 Feb 1995 23:05:19 GMT

In article <3ihngk$>, (David A. Johns) writes:
|> In article <> (Warren Sarle) writes:
|> # No, it's because Sowell actually read the book and responded to
|> # issues therein, unlike most other reviewers who responded not to
|> # the book but to their own hallucinations. If you think Sowell
|> # "discredited" TBC, read Sowell's review again. For example:
|> Hmmm. I guess it's worth reading all the way through Sowell's review
|> too. Do the following paragraphs, near the end, sound supportive?

[Numerous paragraphs deleted]

|> ... If race A differs from race B in IQ,
|> and two generations of race A differ from each other by the
|> same amount, where is the logic in suggesting that the IQ
|> differences are even partly racial?
|> ... When any factor differs as much from A1 to A2 as
|> it does from A2 to B2, why should one conclude that this
|> factor is due to the difference between A in gener- al and B
|> in general? That possibility is not precluded by the evidence,
|> but neither does the evidence point in that direction.[2]
|> [2 It is widely acknowledged that height is heavily influenced
|> by genes, and it is not controversial that races differ in
|> height because of these genetic differences. Yet predictions
|> of a decline in national height over time, because of a
|> greater fertility in groups of shorter stature, were likewise
|> confounded by an increase in the national height. Yet,
|> rightly, no one regards this as a refutation of the belief
|> that height is greatly influenced by genes and differs from
|> race to race for genetic reasons. Similarly, rising lQs over
|> time do not refute the belief that races differ in IQ for
|> genetic reasons, though it ought to at least raise a question
|> about that belief. The parallel breaks down when we realize
|> that height can be measured directly, as innate potential
|> cannot be, but is wholly dependent on inferences about what
|> would have happened in the absence of environmental
|> differences.]

It seems to me that Sowell refutes his main criticism of TBC in the
above footnote.

[More paragraphs deleted]

|> Perhaps the most intellectually troubling aspect of The Bell
|> Curve is the authors' uncritical approach to statistical
|> correlations. One of the first things taught in introductory
|> statistics is that correlation is not causation. It is also
|> one of the first things forgotten, and one of the most widely
|> ignored facts in public policy research. The statistical term
|> "multicollinearity," dealing with spurious correlations,
|> appears only once in this massive book.

It is clear what Sowell means here, but "multicollinearity" refers to
near linear-dependencies among predictors, not spurious correlations.

[More paragraphs deleted]

|> The Bell Curve is really three books in one. It is a study of
|> the general effects of IQ levels on the behavior and
|> performance of people in general in a wide range of endeavors.
|> Here it is on its most solid ground. It is also an attempt to
|> understand the causes and social implications of IQ
|> differences among ethnic groups. Here it is much more
|> successful in analyzing the social implications where, as the
|> authors say, "it matters little whether the genes are involved
|> at all." Finally, it is a statement of grave concerns for the
|> future of American society and a set of proposals as to how
|> public policy should proceed in matters of education and
|> social welfare programs. These concerns need voicing, even if
|> they are not always compelling. One chance in five of disaster
|> is not to be ignored. That is, after all greater than the
|> chance of disaster in playing Russian roulette.

Sowell is saying basically the same thing that I and Frank Fujita and
John McCarthy have been saying: most of the science in TBC is sound.
Sowell is clearly supporting the book except with regard to a few
details with which he disagrees. And his main disagreement is concerned
with the relative _weight_ that should be accorded to various arguments
for and against genetic racial differences in IQ, not with the accuracy
of data or correctness of analysis or validity of those arguments.

I think that Sowell considerably overstates the importance of the Flynn
effect as an argument against genetic racial differences in IQ--i.e.,
I go along with footnote 2. On the other hand, Sowell did not mention
Spearman's hypothesis; I would assign less weight to that argument
than do H&M. But the fact that Sowell or I disagree with H&M about the
importance of various arguments certainly does not mean that Sowell
or I "discredit" TBC, as an earlier poster claimed.


Warren S. Sarle SAS Institute Inc. The opinions expressed here SAS Campus Drive are mine and not necessarily
(919) 677-8000 Cary, NC 27513, USA those of SAS Institute.