A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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Racial Intelligence

28 November 2010. I received the following e-mail from "Dane."

I would suggest that anyone who even brought up the subject of IQ and race would automatically be determined to be a racist, especially by [members of a] race that did’t fare as well on the tests [rc: I assume Dane is referring to IQ tests]. Kinda sad that a discussion on the intelligence of races cannot be presented without the black race screaming racism.

Although I am white, it don’t upset me in the least if someone says that Eastern Asian people are more intelligent than white people. Probably true. Some people will never admit to the facts. If there is no difference in the intelligence of races, I would appreciate it if you would answer a few questions for me.

1. Why is it that about all the important and significant inventions in history were created by white people?

2. Why didn’t Africans sail to Europe and capture the white people?

3. Why were none of the great architectural achievements in history built in Africa?

4. Why do cities in America with the highest crime rate also consist of a high black population?

5. Why do communities with a high Eastern Asian population also have a low crime rate?

6. Why does every city in the US that has a large black population also have a large black gang problem?

7. Why is the gang mentality so prevalent in the black community?

I could go on but I’ll stop. If any of the above questions are not true, then I apologize for asking. [rtc: I think Dane means that if any of the questions are loaded questions, i.e., asking them implies the asker is assuming something questionable, then he'd like this pointed out.] Would certainly like to hear your answers.

Dane raises many questions that have been raised many times before.

The issue of IQ tests being used to measure the intelligence of races poses several obvious problems, not the least of which is how to identify the races: by physical features, by genetic makeup, by geographical location, or ?. What about people of "mixed race"? How do you classify them? Another problem for those who would use IQ tests to measure intelligence is the cultural bias inevitable in any such test. Would you let Africans, Indians, or the Chinese devise a test for white people in the US? I doubt it, and the reason you wouldn't is obvious. The test would be culturally biased. Giving the test to people of different races, however you decide to define "race," in the same nation poses the problem of how you tease out the part of the test score due to "race" and the part due to environmental factors. This has to be done because we know that in a multi-racial society there is usually a dominant race and several minority races. The classification of races can get messy, but that isn't the main problem. Just because you are an American and the laws guarantee you equal treatment, that does not mean that you will be treated equally either by the law or by your fellow citizens. Racism is still a very real problem in the US, despite the progress we've made over the past 50 years.

I'm not suggesting that racism is the only issue muddying these waters. Family and cultural values and traditions, poverty, education, the welfare system, and a host of other factors are involved.

Anyway, using IQ tests to distinguish races from each other is not a very scientific way to find out if there is such a thing as "racial intelligence," i.e., intelligence that is intrinsic to the nature of distinct races. For more on this issue, I suggest Dane consult my SD entry for IQ and race. Before moving on, I'll ask Dane a couple of questions: Did you know that northern blacks scored higher than southern whites on IQ tests given in the 1940s by the US military? Why do you think that was?

Now, to Dane's questions. Question number 1 is a loaded question. The fact is that the greatest invention of all, language, was invented by every race that ever existed. The Chinese invented a few important things, Dane, such as gunpowder, paper, the printing press, the magnetic compass, the first reed instrument, and pasta, just to name a few. Africans and Native Americans invented various tools for hunting, fishing, planting, etc. You've probably heard of George Washington Carver. And, who invented yoga? I don't know either, but he or she wasn't European or a north American.

But really, I'm sure Dane is capable of doing a Google search for inventions by nonwhites. Listing a few examples is not likely to impress the Danes of the world. So, let me get to the point: human history varies from geographical location to geographical location in large part because of the natural resources available to the people in the different regions of the world; the different flora, fauna, and climates in different regions; and the different technologies available to people at different times in different places. The technologies themselves are also in large part dependent on the natural resources and the climate, and are often driven by the need to deal with native soils, flora, and fauna. Obviously, we wouldn't expect the same kind of development from those living near the poles, those living in deserts, those living near the equator, and those living in temperate zones. Nor should we expect the same kind of development from people living on continents where there are no draft animals, limestone, or trees, or where the soils are inferior due to excessive salinity. The history of available building materials to a people would alone fill a book that attempted to explain different rates of social and cultural development. I'm not going to argue for environmental determinism, but surely it's obvious that some societies have had enormous environmental advantages. Jared Diamond makes a very persuasive case for these advantages explaining much of the Eurasian success many centuries ago compared to less blessed locations. See his book Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies. See also his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

There's also the issue of population growth. In places where resources are plentiful, population growth might equal that in another place where resources are scarce. Which society is more likely to have internal problems that lead to things like religious wars, tribal atrocities, or civil war?

Dane's next question is: Why didn’t Africans sail to Europe and capture the white people? Ever hear of the Barbary coast?

Why were none of the great architectural achievements in history built in Africa? I take it you don't consider Egypt to be part of Africa or you'd admit the pyramids were rather great architectural achievements. You might also take a look at Nubian architecture. or Ethiopian architecture.

Why do cities in America with the highest crime rate also consist of a high black population? I can't say that I keep up with crime statistics, so I can't say whether blacks are committing crimes disproportionately to their numbers. I have read in several places that blacks are arrested and convicted disproportionately to their numbers, but it would be questionable to assume that this is due to the fact that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes. The truth is, the question is above my pay grade, as they say, as is Dane's next question..

Why do communities with a high Eastern Asian population also have a low crime rate? I live near Sacramento and taught at a community college there for 30 years. Sacramento has a very high Eastern Asian and Southeast Asian population (China, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Mongolia). I don't keep track, but I rather doubt from what is reported in the Sacramento Bee that Eastern and Southeast Asians have a low crime rate in this area.

Dane's last two questions are about blacks and gangs, again issues I'm not too well versed in. Why does every city in the US that has a large black population also have a large black gang problem? and Why is the gang mentality so prevalent in the black community? Most of the gang activity I read about in my area of the country (northern California) has to do with prison gangs (blacks and Mexican Americans), Mexican American gangs, or Southeast Asian gangs. I think we all know that blacks aren't the only ones who form gangs in the US. Why don't we call the KKK a gang? Or the Mafia? Anyway, Wikipedia has a brief article on gangs that claims there were at least 30,000 gangs and 800,000 gang members active across the US in 2007. They weren't all black. Still, black gangs are a major social problem. The Danes of the world seem to think blacks join gangs because of some sort of deficit in intelligence. I don't know that anyone's measured the IQ scores of black gang members and compared them to gang members of other races, but I doubt if such data would provide us with anything that might be useful in turning young blacks away from gangs. There are probably many reasons that so many young blacks join gangs, but I doubt that low IQ is the main factor. Even if it is, that fact would have no bearing on the issue of racial intelligence. Every racial group has some members who are two standard deviations below the mean IQ.

The assumption that racial intelligence alone or primarily accounts for inventions, social or cultural development, and anti-social behavior doesn't seem warranted if we consider all the evidence. If we ignore a good deal of the relevant evidence from cultural bias and oppression, we could make a similar, and equally unwarranted, case for sexual intelligence accounting for the differences between men and women in cultures around the world. If you consider all the evidence, I think it's obvious that racial intelligence is on par with skull size for explaining the kinds of things Dane asks about. Does anyone really think it's intelligence (or skull size!) that distinguishes the Taliban from the women they abuse in the name of religion? There are many differences among peoples (and sexes) in different regions of the world, and trying to explain how those differences came about might occupy many a good mind, but focusing on differences in racial or sexual intelligence hasn't proved fruitful in the past except as a weapon to elevate the status of light-skinned males by demeaning the status of dark-skinned males and females of any tint.

What the Danes of the world believe is that since blacks have accomplished very little in science, art, architecture, technology, and the like compared to other races over the past 5,000 or 10,000 years, it is obvious that blacks are less intelligent than other races. If blacks had as much intelligence as whites or Asians, then, they believe, we would have seen as much accomplished in Africa, aboriginal Australia, South America, and other places where the predominant color of skin was, for millennia, dark. Furthermore, if blacks were as intelligent as whites and Asians, then there wouldn't be such a large percentage of blacks incarcerated, in gangs, addicted to drugs, being poor and on welfare, and the like.

The focus of the Danes of the world is so narrow, however, that it would be futile to attempt to broaden their perspective without being accused of having an agenda. To the Danes of the world, people like me are liberals who are more concerned about political correctness and not offending blacks than we are in the truth. Still, there may be some "borderline Danes" who might be willing to consider an alternative to that notion and will see that Dane's questions are asked because he has an agenda. Maybe, just maybe, some of us who don't see racial intelligence as a key to understanding history are, in fact, trying to get at the truth.

If you start with the present, it is obvious that black people in the US, given the opportunity, can accomplish as much as whites who are given the same opportunities. Of course, not every black person has what it takes to become a Barack Obama, an Oprah, a Condoleezza Rice, or a Neil deGrasse Tyson, but then neither does every white person have what it takes to accomplish what these or any of a large number of other successful individuals of color have accomplished.

If you go back in time just a few centuries, Galileo or Newton would have produced far different fruits had they been born in Nigeria or to an aboriginal family in Australia. The question that seems most pertinent in this discussion is "why didn't Africa develop as Europe did given the fact that the Africans had a head start, you might say, by being the first humans?" Two things come to mind: 1) being the first, rather than say, the 10,000th, generation of humans would be a disadvantage rather than an advantage for cultural development; 2) geographical places often have quite different terrains, soil, minerals, and flora and fauna; various neighboring tribes or nations have distinct languages, customs, histories, superstitions, etc. These important differences affect not only development within tribes and nations, but also the interactions they might have amongst themselves. Trade is important to the development of any country. Barriers to trade, such as geographical features, distance, isolation, lack of surpluses to trade for needed food, building materials, etc., affect different nations in different ways.

Given what we know about human history, we know that it would have been impossible for some tribes or nations to have developed large scale agriculture or transport using animals and carts with wheels. There weren't any draft animals available to them, their terrain was too mountainous for wheels on carts to do them any good; and the grains that evolved naturally in their areas lacked the nutritious wallop that naturally evolved grains in other parts of the world possessed. Thus, the different rates of cultural development of nations isn't solely dependent on the intelligence of the people. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that once some developments have taken place, other important discoveries are then possible. If one is truly interested in why some societies developed agriculture, metallurgy, etc., I recommend Jared Diamond'sThe World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (While you're at it, you should also read his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. You might want to remind yourself that our history is not yet finished. One or two thousand years from now there will still be many Danes. What will they be saying then?)

If one is interested in the truth, one will not dismiss the Africans who built ships and enslaved Europeans as irrelevant when compared to the number of blacks enslaved by whites. Perhaps Dane doesn't know how close southern Spain is to northern Africa. Or perhaps Dane doesn't consider Algeria, Tunisia, or Libya to be "real" Africa. I don't know. Maybe he thinks Africans didn't have the smarts needed to build ships or boats. The fact is that Muslim Africans captured and enslaved white Christians for about two hundred years. Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, argues that the number enslaved was not in the thousands, but between 1 and 1.5 million. In any case, Dane seems to assume that Africans would have demonstrated their equal intelligence to Europeans if Africans had built ships and found Europeans willing to sell other Europeans to them cheaply and had the Africans bought Europeans to sell to Africans. Africa is an extremely large continent, and the necessity to build ships for exploration or trade may not have been as urgent as it was for Europeans.

In short, there are many reasons why Africa didn't have an identical history to Europe, or why many blacks in America today are gang members, criminals, and drug abusers. The Danes of the world choose to ignore the fact that most blacks in America are not criminals, gang members, or drug abusers. Why there aren't as many black as there are white golfers or tennis players, or senators or chemists, I leave to others to study. But I'd bet the house that racial intelligence isn't a factor. If I were to investigate these questions, I'd begin by looking at such things as poverty, education, family histories, social mores, and the like.

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