Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Race and IQ": a brain-eating memetic parasite



"Almost got me with a weaponised meme."
  - from The Quantum Thief

In nature, there are a number of brain parasites that control their hosts' behavior, turning them partially or fully into zombies. Many of these are fatal. Humans are mostly safe from these threats, but I believe that we face an analogous threat from memetic "brain worms" - ideas that crawl inside our heads, hull out a little portion of our brains, and begin steering our thoughts toward intellectual self-destruction. For example, there's "Austrianism," which convinces people that loose monetary policy is the source of all macroeconomic problems. But that is hardly the worst.

Perhaps the most potent and deadly memetic parasite I know of is called "Race and IQ". This is the belief that average differences in measured IQ across different consensus-defined racial groups are really, really important to society. 

That's the core belief, but there are some associated ones. 

The first is a persecution complex. "Race and IQ" people believe that they are oppressed rationalists/empiricists fighting the good fight against mainstream/liberal culture, which is engaged in a massive effort to deny or cover up The Truth. This can cause severe perceptual distortions, e.g. the notion that people who deny that race is an important or interesting correlate of IQ are denying the validity or existence of IQ itself, or the partial heredity of cognitive abilities. Like most persecution complexes, it also tends to cause aggressive, paranoid behavior.

The second is the certainty that the aforementioned average IQ gaps are due entirely to deep, fundamental (but always unspecified or hypothesized) genetic differences between broad racial ancestries, rather than to things like selective immigration.

The third is the belief that "Race and IQ" is responsible for many or even most of the economic phenomena in the world - the wealth and poverty of nations, growth rates, savings rates, bubbles, etc.

Furthermore, "Race and IQ" seems to act as a sort of gateway drug. Once people's brains have been infected with this parasite, they become more susceptible to stereotypes of all kinds. Soon, they will believe every stereotype about women, about gays, about Jews, about "Latin lovers," about Germany and Greece - about anything and anyone. The older the stereotype, and the more associated with right-wing politics it is, the more likely they are to believe it. They will start inventing new stereotypes about population genetics to explain almost any phenomenon they see - they become addicted to stereotyping. This may be a side effect of the persecution complex - once you think that the mainstream is engaged in a big cover-up effort against one stereotype, why not all of them? And not only do the "Race and IQ" zombies believe in stereotypes, they start trying to apply them in daily life. You know a meme is a brain-eater when it makes people incapable of distinguishing between statistical significance and goodness-of-fit!

In fact, this brain parasite has been around for a long time. In The Great Gatsby, a character suddenly starts spouting the "Race and IQ" canon:
“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?” 
“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone. 
“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.” 
“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we ——” 
“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”...
“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and ——” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “— And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization — oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?” 
There was something pathetic in his concentration, as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more...Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
If this describes someone you've interacted with, or read on the internet, well, now you know what it is.

If you read blogs, you've probably seen a few "Race and IQ" zombies infesting comment sections. But the scary thing about this memetic parasite is that it has shown an ability to (occasionally) infect even the most intelligent minds. It ate James Watson's brain. It might or might not have eaten William Shockley's brain. It has probably eaten the brains of one or two economists over the years. It's sad and scary to see a once powerful mind reduced from exploring the mysteries of the Universe to exploring this lazy, tired, mostly-irrational worldview.

Why is the human brain so vulnerable to this parasite? Here are a few conjectures:

* There is innate pleasure in being the iconoclast - the one guy who's right while all of society is wrong. "Race and IQ", with its persecution complex and its veneer of science-y-ness, lets you play at being Giordano Bruno.

* When smart guys get old they usually lose their edge. Being smart has been part of their self-image all their lives, and now that's being taken away from them by nature. Imagining oneself as part of a naturally intellectually superior race is a way of substituting group pride for individual pride.

* Tribalism and racism, of course, are deeply rooted. People want a reason to believe they have some giant gang out there that will back them up. "Race and IQ" feeds this desire.

In any case, "Race and IQ" is a worrying parasite because I don't know of a cure. Memetic parasites cannot be cleansed with logic and facts, but often there is a sort of anti-parasite agent available - a benign alternative belief system that the infected can be diverted towards. Austrianism, for example, can be cured with MMT. But I don't know of any equivalent "halfway house" belief system that is effective in getting people off of the "Race and IQ" train.

I think finding a cure for this brain parasite would yield substantial rewards for public health.

83 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:02 PM

    You describe it as an infectious worm because a part of you finds the argument persuasive and cannot discount the fact they may be right.

    And I'm not saying they are.

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    1. Anonymous9:53 AM

      This in an interesting hypothesis of course, and myself I find it very hard to believe that differences in IQ explain e.g. the different levels of economic and scientific development in different parts of the world.

      First, it's quite absurd that there should be a single X factor which explains very complex and dynamic systems.

      Second, we do already have a vast trove of knowledge and scholarship which tries to explain these differences, in economics, economic history, anthropology, military history and so on.

      Third, this does not however mean that IQ plays zero role. It might well be a partial explanation. Or it might mean nothing. The only way to find out is to study it. So let's hope we do just that, and that people who do study it are not demonized for political reasons.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous1:07 PM

      "I find it very hard to believe that differences in IQ explain e.g. the different levels of economic and scientific development in different parts of the world."

      Then, I suggest you read, read, read some evolutionary biology (no sarcasm intended).

      Most people, grad students included, do not understand more of evolution than "survival of the fittest," and when you press them on even that, it's clear they don't know what "fit" means in an evolutionary sense.

      Further, they don't understand the simplest notions of selection.

      I'd start there, if I were you.

      Delete
  2. As usual with his fantasized descriptions of "brain worms", Noah links to zero of his opponents' statements as they were intended to be presented by their authors. Thus, it is inevitable that, as with Noah's imagined version of Austrianism, what he is attacking here is only a product of his own mind, having only a coincidental correspondence with his opponents' actual views. Naturally, having shown no evidence of having read even a jot of his opponents' arguments in their original context, Noah engages in idle Bulverism instead of any (gasp!) refutation. Typical hack who wants to feel superior to the outgroup while not interacting with it in any serious way.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Anonymous11:21 PM

      It's almost as though he's not taking you seriously.

      Delete
    2. I could also write a thousand-word post talking about how Noah believes the economy is controlled by Dinosaurs from Mars and then explaining why he believes this. That would be a fine example of me not taking Noah seriously.

      Delete
    3. Spending a thousand words on someone, even if in jest, is taking them seriously. Otherwise you would just ignore them.

      Delete
  3. "Austrianism, for example, can be cured with MMT."
    -No, it cannot. They are almost polar opposites.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Anonymous5:31 AM

      If you aren't already, you should consider working as a socially marginalized software engineer.

      Delete
  4. Have you been arguing again with Steven Sailor and the Internet Fascist crowd?

    I think it just plays off of easy roots in American culture. Xenophobia, racism, and paranoia have a long history of going together in the US even if what they're xenophobic against is a moving target. The IQ debate just slaps a pseudo-rationalist patina on it, like prior attempts at doing so.

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  5. "cannot be cleansed with logic and facts"

    Noah, don't be so sure. I had a post in Mark Thoma's links recently on this. Here's a quote from the Columbia Journalism Review:

    So perhaps a single, credible refutation within a news article isn’t likely to convince people to change their views. But other research suggests that a constant flow of these kind of corrections could help combat misinformation. The theory is that the more frequently someone is exposed to information that goes against their incorrect beliefs, the more likely it is that they will change their views.

    "“It’s possible there is something to be said for persistence,” Reifler said. “At some point the cost of always being wrong or always getting information that runs counter to what you believe is likely to outweigh the cost of having to change your mind about something. We need to figure out what is the magic breaking or tipping point, or what leads people to get to that tipping point. I think we’re just scratching the surface.”

    He pointed to a 2010 paper in Political Psychology by David P. Redlawsk and others, “The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever ‘Get It’?”

    The researchers sought to determine if a tipping point exists that could cause voters to abandon motivated reasoning and view facts in a more rational way.

    “We show experimental evidence that such an affective tipping point does in fact exist,” they write. “… The existence of a tipping point suggests that voters are not immune to disconfirming information after all, even when initially acting as motivated reasoners.”

    This tipping point is far from being identified, but it’s encouraging to think that repeated efforts to debunk misinformation, or to simply to spread the truth, may have an effect."

    At: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/the_backfire_effect.php?page=all

    My post: http://richardhserlin.blogspot.com/2015/03/are-tribal-really-all-100-impervious-to.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous9:16 PM

    Noah, are the liberal HBDers zombies too?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Anonymous5:35 AM

      I had to look up what HBDers were, landing myself in a "cesspool of motivated reasoning". Apparently this is something that internet "scientific" racists have false equivalenced to the point that they need an abbreviation for it.

      I think this rather goes to Noah's point in fact.

      Delete
  7. Kolyaaylok9:16 PM

    You left off Francis Crick's mind -

    "Unlike you and your colleagues I have formed the opinion that there is much substance to Jensen's arguments. In brief I think it likely that more than half the difference between the average I.Q. of American whites and Negroes is due to genetic reasons, and will not be eliminated by any foreseeable change in the environment. Moreover I think the social consequences of this are likely to be rather serious unless steps are taken to recognize the situation. "

    http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/ResourceMetadata/SCBBNM

    PS He was 54 at the time.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes, you missed the other DNA discover Francis Crick but also Sir Francis Galton who invented factor analysis and even worse his cousin whats-his-name who wrote that book about the "Preservation of Favored Races" and "The Descent of Man".

      Of course these people merely discovered evolution, discovered DNA, invented the transistor (the basis for all modern electronics) and so on.

      Any extra weight we might assign to their interpretation of the data is easily counterbalanced by a snarky, PC blot post by someone with no notable scientific achievements but impeccable alignment with the intellectual fashions of his day.

      Mercy

      Delete
  8. Anonymous9:20 PM

    I don't believe there is a race/iq correlation and, in all honesty, I find the entire topic very dull. However, your approach to the topic has no validity on its own merits; you're really just name-calling.

    Surely if it's just a memetic parasite, it's very easy to discredit and discount with some data--so do that instead of making fun of people, accusing them of having a persecution complex, tirbalism, etc.

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    1. HAHAHAHAHA, like data and evidence ever killed one of these bullshit beliefs.

      Delete
    2. Maybe not killed, but severely weakened. A large percentage of people used to think smoking was not that harmful (and it was a tribal issue to many), and that the Earth was flat. Data, evidence, science, pretty much won over the long run. Did you read my quote above saying there's research showing logic and evidence may make a big difference, when applied repeatedly, and over the long run?

      Delete
  9. "I don't believe there is a race/iq correlation"
    -And what the heck do you mean by that? Either you're a denialist, or just someone who cares little about using lazy phrasing.
    "HAHAHAHAHA, like data and evidence ever killed one of these bullshit beliefs."
    -And doing what you're doing here, Noah, has never convinced even a single individual to change their mind about anything, other than about the strength of your credibility.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. derp de derp derp derp

      Delete
    2. Anonymous5:39 AM

      The best that Noah can effectively do, in my view, is to help you convince the rest of us that you guys are embarrassing.

      Delete
    3. I know, man. Denial really is much easier than refutation.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous8:38 AM

      Remember, when you are arguing with him - you might not convince him, but one of the bystanders who read your blog might be swayed one way or another.
      Pretending to be all about reason, manners and informed discussionis a great way to be convincing - and you are playing right into his hands.

      Delete
  10. Kolyaaylok10:11 PM

    "This can cause severe perceptual distortions, e.g. the notion that people who deny that race is an important or interesting correlate of IQ are denying the validity or existence of IQ itself, or the partial heredity of cognitive abilities."

    So if I'm parsing/guesstimating Noah's beliefs on this issue, they're something like this:

    "IQ is a valid measurement of cognitive abilities. An adult's IQ cannot be significantly raised by intervention and determines a (slightly squashy) ceiling on one's capacity for intellectually demanding employment, etc. African Americans score lower on IQ tests than white Americans and Asian Americans (and to a lesser extent, Hispanic Americans). This is because African Americans experience adverse environments that lower their IQs. However, science will soon discover interventions that will allow us to close the gap, or the gap will disappear gradually in the next generation of yet-to-be-born African Americans."

    Well, in the meantime, what implications does Noah think the gap have for e.g. affirmative action for college admissions, Head Start, the educational and economic prospects of recent immigrants to the US?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. IQ is a valid measurement of cognitive abilities. An adult's IQ cannot be significantly raised by intervention

      Yes.

      and determines a (slightly squashy) ceiling on one's capacity for intellectually demanding employment, etc.

      Yes, though I'm not sure how squashy.

      African Americans score lower on IQ tests than white Americans and Asian Americans (and to a lesser extent, Hispanic Americans).

      No. This is stated as a categorical difference, but it's actually just a difference in means. Statements like this confuse statistical significance with goodness-of-fit. "Race and IQ" people say stuff like this all the time, and it's just wrong.

      This is because African Americans experience adverse environments that lower their IQs.

      Somewhat, yes. Nutrition, childhood pathogen exposure, and childhood stimulation do matter substantially.

      But there is also selective immigration to consider. Even after accounting for developmental/environmental causes, you still have to think about selective immigration. It's hard to tell how big this is, but it's clear it can be big.

      However, science will soon discover interventions that will allow us to close the gap, or the gap will disappear gradually in the next generation of yet-to-be-born African Americans.

      Yes. Cognitive enhancement tech is being researched now. Also, selective immigration will help close the black-white average gap in the U.S.

      Well, in the meantime, what implications does Noah think the gap have for e.g. affirmative action for college admissions, Head Start, the educational and economic prospects of recent immigrants to the US?

      I think affirmative action for college admissions is fine, doesn't hurt anyone. Notice that even as it has been banned at public universities, private universities like Stanford have chosen to preserve it. That tells me it's not a problem.

      Head Start or similar programs seem good. I'll have to read the latest Heckman research to see how good.

      Immigrants will be fine. I believe in biasing immigration toward high-skilled immigration, but I don't think low-skilled immigrants are bad for us.

      Delete
    2. Also, I think race just isn't an interesting or important correlate of IQ. Who cares.

      Delete
    3. Wow. Your post was quite good, but this comment is heinous.

      You really honestly believe that adults can't improve their IQ scores? Of course they can, by studying and practicing IQ tests, silly. Like the brain-worm-infected people you criticize, you have taken on board the falsehood that there is an innate intelligence that can be measured. In fact what we call intelligence is largely learned, and the abilities tested by IQ tests even more so.

      And what are you trying to say about "selective immigration"? It sounds like you're making a claim that the slave trade brought stupider Africans to the Americas and that partly explains the lower average IQ scores of African Americans centuries later. I hope that's not what you mean, because if it is, you're an idiot, pretty much on par with the people you're criticizing.

      Delete
    4. You really honestly believe that adults can't improve their IQ scores? Of course they can, by studying and practicing IQ tests, silly.

      Sure, a bit.

      Like the brain-worm-infected people you criticize, you have taken on board the falsehood that there is an innate intelligence that can be measured. In fact what we call intelligence is largely learned, and the abilities tested by IQ tests even more so.

      It's both! It's not an either/or thing.

      And what are you trying to say about "selective immigration"? It sounds like you're making a claim that the slave trade brought stupider Africans to the Americas and that partly explains the lower average IQ scores of African Americans centuries later. I hope that's not what you mean, because if it is, you're an idiot, pretty much on par with the people you're criticizing.

      It's hard to say what selection effects the slave trade had. I don't know of any good research on the topic. But it's pretty clear that selective immigration is in large part responsible for the outperformance of elite minorities in various countries. So it's pretty clear that selective immigration can have a very big effect.

      Delete
    5. Kolyaaylok2:37 AM

      Statements like this confuse statistical significance with goodness-of-fit. "Race and IQ" people say stuff like this all the time, and it's just wrong.


      Technically correct, though I can't remember the last time I saw someone take this sort of abus de langage, literally.

      Somewhat, yes. Nutrition, childhood pathogen exposure, and childhood stimulation do matter substantially.

      But there is also selective immigration to consider. Even after accounting for developmental/environmental causes, you still have to think about selective immigration. It's hard to tell how big this is, but it's clear it can be big.


      Definitely there's a selection effect going on in e.g. Chinese migration to Australia. I don't think it particularly likely that the slave trade had much of a selection effect - so that's 1 \sigma of difference between African Americans and say European white people living in Europe that you're attributing to selection effects.

      Speaking as someone who works at a university that sanctioned a tenured professor for *mentioning* the word "wetback" in class, I'd advise you not to make this the topic of your next Bloomberg View column.


      Yes. Cognitive enhancement tech is being researched now. Also, selective immigration will help close the black-white average gap in the U.S.


      Cognitive enhancement tech won't work like that - it won't raise the mean black IQ to 100 while leaving the mean of other races the same, it's more likely to boost everybody's IQs a bit closer to Terry Tao's while leaving the gaps as they were - health enhancement tech (i.e. medicine) hasn't led to everyone dying at precisely 95.

      That's an innovative approach to the problem - allow enough Nigerian doctors to immigrate to Manhattan and the gap *will* go away. Not sure what the ghost of MLK would think.





      Delete
    6. Technically correct, though I can't remember the last time I saw someone take this sort of abus de langage, literally.

      Ohh, all the time. Constantly.

      Definitely there's a selection effect going on in e.g. Chinese migration to Australia. I don't think it particularly likely that the slave trade had much of a selection effect - so that's 1 \sigma of difference between African Americans and say European white people living in Europe that you're attributing to selection effects.

      Oh, that wouldn't be hard at all. You see selective immigration effects that big all the time for other things, like income.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

      Speaking as someone who works at a university that sanctioned a tenured professor for *mentioning* the word "wetback" in class, I'd advise you not to make this the topic of your next Bloomberg View column.

      There's that persecution complex. You're saying all the same old stuff I described in the post. Your brain has been eaten by worms, man! Wish I could help.

      Cognitive enhancement tech won't work like that - it won't raise the mean black IQ to 100 while leaving the mean of other races the same, it's more likely to boost everybody's IQs a bit closer to Terry Tao's while leaving the gaps as they were - health enhancement tech (i.e. medicine) hasn't led to everyone dying at precisely 95.

      Actually I predict it will make IQ a less relevant measure of cognitive ability, because it will selectively boost certain abilities, like memory, first.

      That's an innovative approach to the problem - allow enough Nigerian doctors to immigrate to Manhattan and the gap *will* go away.

      Correct. This is already happening. At UMich it seemed like every star software engineer I met was from West Africa.

      A few decades of selective immigration, and those racial average IQ gaps will narrow and narrow, and suddenly all the "Race and IQ" dorks will start making up new hypotheses about Africa. "Oh, we found some smart subgroup of Africans!" "Oh, Africa's genetics are actually really complicated!" And so on. And they'll all go on believing the "Race and IQ" B.S.!

      There's just no killing the brain worm.

      Delete
    7. Noah:
      Always look at the second generation. Vietnamese v. Nigerians would be a good comparison. :-)

      Delete
    8. Petar6:52 AM

      "A few decades of selective immigration"

      Chain of stuppid assumptions:
      Selective immigration -> representative of African population -> kill valid thesis I do not like

      You are dumb as a rock. If anybody has a virus in their brain, it is people like you.

      Delete
    9. Kolyaaylok10:22 AM

      There's that persecution complex. You're saying all the same old stuff I described in the post. Your brain has been eaten by worms, man! Wish I could help.

      OK man, the paranoid worms living in my brain dare you, we f*cking dare you, in your next Bloomberg View column about the wonderful effects of immigration or stupid people on the internet confusing goodness-of-fit with p-values or whatever, to shoehorn in a reference to how a possible hypothesis to explain why African Americans lag behind recently immigrated Nigerian Americans in economic and educational attainment is that there was a selection effect in obtaining visas compared to slavetraders choosing Africans with smaller crania to save or freight weight. Insert a sh*ttonne of caveats explain how this is all hypothesis and you would far prefer to believe something else, because it would surely be easier to address what is a serious social problem if something else were true.

      We dare you. Me and the worms dare you.

      Delete
    10. Why do you dare me? I've written a bunch of pieces about how high-skilled immigration is great.

      Delete
    11. I'm replying to what you wrote about selective immigration, already a ways up in this comment thread. If all you're saying is that selective immigration is partly responsible for high average IQs of certain immigrant groups, that I agree with, but I think it's a small factor. It's good you clarified that because it really did sound like you were saying something else entirely.

      Also good that you admit that IQ is partly learned. Since you're an educator I would think you would be calling for the most obvious way to improve relative performance of African Americans vs European Americans on IQ tests: better public education in African American neighborhoods! I understand that's very far from easily done, but it is THE task and if left-liberals give up the cause in America is lost.

      Delete
    12. I think you're wrong about "better public education". I'm a teacher, and I think school is great, but the way to make poor kids do better in school and become smarter is not to improve the schools, it is to make the kids less poor. I have taught in high po erty urban schools and now teach in a rich suburban district, and my students are learning way, way more now. It's not because I'm a better teacher than I was when I taught in Harlem; it's because my students are better.

      Delete
  11. Anonymous11:16 PM

    How did you manage to write this entire post with no mention of your new pal Charles Murray? There's a pretty big elephant in this here room.

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    1. No kidding. That's two posts in a row that don't jibe at all with the Charles Murray post.

      Otherwise I totally agree with the sentiment in this post. But to not mention Murray was just plain bizarre.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, Murray probably has been devoured by the brain worm too, but since the Bell Curve he has been careful not to talk about it in public...

      Delete
    3. That was almost my exact thought!

      Delete
  12. George Frederickson's, "Black Image in the White Mind" is a tour of the thinking that developed from Colonial America through Jim Crow to justify slavery and race prejudice. It details the development of this particular worm, almost laughable at what passed for serious thought until you realize that much of today's discussion is a continuation of the same bullshit - pseudoscience as self-justification for racism.

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  13. Anonymous5:45 AM

    Love it how liberals squirm whenever HBD is brought up.

    They (pretend to) love science, so they can't (openly) deny heredity and natural selection.

    The logical conclusion is that different environments will favour (slightly) different brains. In other words, different races have different cognitive abilities.

    But that can't be right, because the obvious implication is that their globalist project will never work.

    And so the mental contortions begin.

    Try harder, Noah. Your motivated reasoning is showing.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Anonymous12:18 PM

      "The logical conclusion is that different environments will favour (slightly) different brains. In other words, different races have different cognitive abilities."

      That you equate these two statements demonstrates a severe lack of imagination on your part.

      Delete
  14. Here you go (will have more mockery of your mockery later). Readers note that I am Black:

    JayMan’s Race, Inheritance, and IQ F.A.Q. (F.R.B.) | JayMan's Blog

    HBD Fundamentals | JayMan's Blog

    ReplyDelete
  15. Like Ricky Raw before you, this entire post is one giant ad hominem. Please take some time reading Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. You don't address the validity of the claims you mock, you only attack the people who ascribe to them – as if that's an argument in itself.

    Here you go:

    http://twitter.com/JayMan471/status/564892725754216448


    "Humans are mostly safe from these threats, but I believe that we face an analogous threat from memetic 'brain worms' - ideas that crawl inside our heads, hull out a little portion of our brains, and begin steering our thoughts toward intellectual self-destruction."

    Of course, if you knew anything about evolutionary theory, you'd know right off the bat why this idea is silly. But then, if you did, you wouldn't have wrote this post.

    "Perhaps the most potent and deadly memetic parasite I know of is called 'Race and IQ'. This is the belief that average differences in measured IQ across different consensus-defined racial groups are really, really important to society."

    You see, there are beliefs – ideas held with a lack – or despite – of the evidence. And then there's knowledge, which is understanding based on a grasp of the facts. You are confusing the two.

    "The second is the certainty that the aforementioned average IQ gaps are due entirely to deep, fundamental (but always unspecified or hypothesized) genetic differences between broad racial ancestries, rather than to things like selective immigration."

    No, the source of those differences is pretty clear. The source is once again the thing you seem to lack an understanding of: evolution by natural selection.

    "They will start inventing new stereotypes about population genetics to explain almost any phenomenon they see - they become addicted to stereotyping."

    You do understand what a "stereotype" really is, right? An empirical generalization. It is not a stereotype to say women are shorter than men, because, statistically, they are.

    But as one once said, most people are binary thinkers.

    "In nature, there are a number of brain parasites that control their hosts' behavior, turning them partially or fully into zombies."

    Yes, and oddly enough, one appears to be responsible for male homosexuality in humans:

    Greg Cochran’s “Gay Germ” Hypothesis – An Exercise in the Power of Germs | JayMan's Blog

    Please see my other comment for a long compilation of the corroborating evidence for HBD – which is a given thanks to geographic and temporal variation in selective pressures on divergent human populations. This follows from facts such as evolutionary theory and behavioral genetics. To pretend this is not so is to merely bury one's head in the sand. Not that I expect that to stop you from doing it.

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  16. Anonymous9:21 AM

    All of this is interesting because a given tendency of a population to be overrepresented in any given activity or measured stat can be driven by both genetics and nature/evolution and nature can change genetics both indirectly through natural selection and through more direct means.

    Take African Americans overrepresentation in American football. This likely has nothing to do with having African ancestry per se. Being African on this planet doesn't make you more likely to become an NFL player. But being an African American might very well mean your odds are slightly higher because your relatively ancestors were likely selected for their physical tools in the slave trade. They had to survive the boat trip over and then if they did that survive the harsh physical life that was a slave's. Surviving period AND experiencing the nature of the new world likely shaped African American genetics somewhat.

    The runners in Kenya are a different example. It's been theorized that the reason they are almost always at the top of races is not due to being African or even running every day starting as young children. But rather they have a built in tolerance for pain due to thousands of years of painful "becoming a man and woman" rituals. The ones who fail can't reproduce. Again it has little to do with race but more to do with the experiences of the population. These experiences shape genetics.

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  17. The scientific racists set off my crank bell because the people who espouse those beliefs are generally climate change deniers and Austrian/goldbugs/economic know-nothings. There are some exceptions, of course, but e.g., Steve Sailer, is not exactly a bastion of rational thought.

    Also, I've wasted too much time reading through the scientific papers and lengthy blog posts, and it is not impressive imho. Small sample sizes, selective citations, papers whose conclusions rest on a statistical significance of p > .05 (??!!) etc., and the response to pointing out flaws in [whatever fact] leads to scientific racism boosters to point to yet another paper or blog post, of which there are legion.

    You will get charts that show a modest correlation between IQ and income and people take it as definitive proof. It is not even close to that of smoking and lung cancer, and the scientific racists write like it's as well-proved as general relativity.

    A large chunk of the research is done by an epistemically closed group of researchers who just aren't very talented (Rushton, Jensen, Gottfredson(?), etc.) Instead of writing papers that test interesting and novel assumptions about IQ, you get paper after paper building on shoddy assumptions.

    Finally, I think it's nuts that people turn to a statistical contrivance when the history and impact of racism is real and pervasive. It would be like taking the GINI coefficient of a country and believing that the number contains all of the information about said country that you need to know. The low mean IQ of African Americans justifies every terrible thing that has or will happen to them, from slavery to segregation to lynching to red-lining, etc. And conveniently, there's nothing rich, well-educated people can do about it.

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    1. Dude, LewRockwell.com fled from the scientific racist bandwagon c. 2003 and never dared go back. I have not met a single present-day HBD proponent (or even sympathizer, other than Moldbug and Hoppe) who is a present-day Austrian/gold-standard supporter. Rothbard is dead; his disciples have fled. Sailer has Austrian sympathies, but he's also a protectionist of some sort. I don't think Unz is an Austrian, though, again, he has some sympathies.
      "It would be like taking the GINI coefficient of a country and believing that the number contains all of the information about said country that you need to know"
      -Not GINI; RGDP (PPP) per capita. Or some measure of manufacturing output. Or economic complexity.
      "The low mean IQ of African Americans justifies every terrible thing that has or will happen to them, from slavery to segregation to lynching to red-lining, etc."
      -Sailer, Unz, the Human Varieties guys, etc., would beg to point out you're making a hasty generalization. There are certainly some HBD proponents who believe this; there are many others who do not.

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    2. Anonymous3:09 AM

      Arthur Jensen was not talented? He is one of the most influential and cited psychologists of the XXth century,for God's sake!

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    3. Oh yes, the highly rigorous and scientific field of psychology. Although you're correct though, I meant innumerate, not necessarily untalented. They are talented polemicists, certainly.

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  18. It would be pretty unscientific to *completely* discount any differences in cognitive ability from genetics found in racial groups, even if it's true that any evidence of such will likely bring out the worst impulses of so-called racial supremacists / eugenics, etc. It's surely not beyond a shadow of a doubt that the differences in systemic/holistic thinking between (North-)East Asians, and the rest of humanity has a genetic component, even if we prefer to focus on differences in education systems and methods of learning to explain the differences in cognitive ability (i.e. Japanese becoming engineers, and Europeans/Africans/Middle Easterners being liberal arts professors).

    Of course, IQ is a poor measure of intelligence itself that is most likely derived from differences in nutrition, environmental and educational upbrining, but even there's some heritability factors. Who knows what the 1-4% Neanderthal DNA has done to our brains - has it made us more stupid than we otherwise would be? No one really knows, and that's why scientists should continue to study it.

    After all, there's a strong genetic component to your political affiliation, sexuality, and even your tolerance of sexuality. There's even a genetic component towards curiosity and disgust. It's simply too unscientific to rule out that some of these differences in genes has no effect on cognitive ability, and whether or not certain so-called racial groups have larger or smaller amounts of these genes in their populations compared to others. Not that it's very important whatsoever, and it's likely that even if true it's very minute, but for the pursuit of truth it may be possible.

    (even if there is found to be a difference, our white supremacist amigos may rejoice or cringe)

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    1. Tchaf8:44 AM

      How do you define "racial group"?

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  19. Principle of Charity1:03 PM

    A good analogy would be anti-drug education in middle and high school. After being repeatedly bullied with the message that trying pot will immediately destroy your life and plunge you into a life of despair, you eventually discover as a teen or adult through your own experience and observation that pot is actually pretty benign and even useful in certain circumstances.

    Any reasonable person would properly be suspicious, as a minimum, about everything else these "educators" had told them about drugs. Alternatively you could just write off the entirety of what they presented you as pure bullshit and improvise your own opinion about cocaine, heroin etc.

    Likewise when a person, who has been subjected to repeated promotion and reinforcement of equality doctrines from age 0-whenever they leave academia, comes across something like William Saletan's articles in Slate which completely eviscerate the regular media/undergrad "no-such-thing-as-but-also-all-explained-by-racism-and poverty" dogma, the obvious question becomes "if that is bullshit what else is bullshit"?

    Following this people are vulnerable to garbage positions such as climate denial-ism precisely because the people they should be trusting about these things, they cant, because these same people have been lying to them about something else, ie race and IQ.

    As an aside Noah, it's fairly facile and fully patronizing to state that these are pleasurable positions to hold and appeal to superiority or some sort of drive to be an outsider with cool forbidden knowledge. It has actually been medium horrible for me personally to try to work this stuff out, and being somewhat aligned in thought with historical losers and villains is a shitty feeling to the point I usually mentally avoid the subject, this anon comment aside.

    Unless you have something concrete to support this psychology maybe you could refrain from the extended ad hominem ? You''ll have to take my word on this but I don't feel like a bad or mean spirited person and I try to approach arguments in good faith. I would be far happier if you could redirect the resources you devoted into "mocking" to actually laying out the statistical case and an explanation of the "goodness of fit" you imply has satisfied you. I'm not trolling here-- I would be thrilled to be disavowed of a set of thoroughly unpleasant and pessimistic beliefs. I would wager I am not alone in this.

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    1. Anonymous2:05 PM

      Me too...when I started to read this post I was practically ecstatic. I thought that I might be cured of all of my horrible racist opinions. Yet now I am more convinced of them than ever. They are a source of little but mental torture to me, and cut my soul in the same way as thinking about the inevitability of ageing and then death.

      I am not generally an unhappy person and am sociable and normally gregarious, but I do believe in 'Race and IQ' and it does hurt me. No thank you Noah for solidifying my position with your entirely empty argument.

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  20. I might suggest that "IQ" allow is sufficient infection. As a concept, it's fine.

    As a thing that can be accurately measured and once measured, used to explain the real world, is delusion.

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  21. Is there some particular piece of writing that you think demonstrates why the hereditarian view point on racial difference in intelligence is flawed? I would like to know what arguments back up your belief the that "race and IQ" isn't a rational view.

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  22. I am not an expert on IQ tests but what I think I remember is that the tests assume knowledge that white people have that African Americans would not be exposed to. Of course African Americans could buy the books on how to ace IQ tests or get tutoring to get high scores if they had the money. But I am sure Noah Smith knows all the economic reasons (and some socio-cultural reasons) why most do not have the money. Noah Smith assumes like all people making the IQ race argument that high IQ whites don't have a black ancestor in the closet, or that low IQ African Americans don't have a low IQ white ancestor in the background. Noah Smith also ignores the real function of the race IQ argument. If you claim or believe that African-Americans or local non-whites are inferior that justifies university presidents ignoring the people in the neighborhood and going abroad to UCL or Oxford or Cambridge or other low diversity universities to hire "the best" who might just happen to be distant relatives or future relatives - in any case "the right sort" of people to have as tenured faculty.

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    1. This is an argument about the cultural bias of IQ tests. Jensen addressed this in "Bias in Mental Testing," available here:

      http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Bias-in-Mental-Testing-Arthur-R.-Jensen.pdf

      Short answer: no.

      "My exhaustive review of the empirical research bearing on this issue leads me to the conclusion that the currently most widely used standardized tests of mental ability -IQ , scholastic aptitude, and achievement tests—are, by and large, not biased against any of the native-born English-speaking minority groups on which the amount of research evidence is sufficient for an objective determination of bias, if the tests were in fact biased. For most nonverbal standardized tests, this generalization is not limited to English speaking minorities"

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  23. Quite apart whether IQ obssesion is a reasonable position explaining something or useless rationalization of hate, at the very least it's mainly preserve of some pretty marginal enthusiasts.

    There is, however, a much bigger worm, which is eating brains of a substantial percentage of liberal crowd: "Racism".

    Forget confusion between goodness-of-fit and significance, that crowd has trouble understanding even what disproportional means.

    The worm is very virulent and might eat the republic, the way things are going.

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  24. If values differ by race due to history would it be OK for whites to try change the values of blacks. If for example more blacks think it is a waste to spend your youth studying boring stuff in order to get a boring though high paying job would it be good to attempt to change that?

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  25. Noah, I agree with you, but with caveats. The race-iq is mostly a red-herring. It is often lazy and is largely irrelevant. However, ther are circumstances when the debate is relevant and consequential. The race-iq phenomenon is an important part to understanding trade-offs inherent in policies like race-based affirmative action. They also are relevant when discussing the narrow topic of disparities in economic outcomes by race. So when the debate is race-education outcomes or race-economic outcomes narrowly, which frequently happens in popular political discussion, this iq-race relationship becomes relevant and consequential.

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    1. But even then, the disparities are probably - I would guess - mostly due to selective immigration, not some deep continent-wide ancestral lineages. Disparate impact is a bad criterion for fairness, but you don't need "race and IQ" to figure that out!

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    2. Anonymous3:19 AM

      Selective immigration doesn't explain why some genetically distinguished groups outperform (ou underperform) wherever they go: the Chinese on the Pacific rim, the ashkenazi Jews, the West European immigrants). Also, race and ethnicity are relevant in discerning the cause of the relative performance of these groups. If it isn't genetically mediated, then it can be attributed to institutional racism. How does this theory work for some persecuted minorities like the Jews in most of the world and east Asians in the southeast Asia? Not very well: they thrive nonetheless, at least until the next progrom or racially motivated riot. Try harder, Noah.

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    3. Selective immigration doesn't explain why some genetically distinguished groups outperform (ou underperform) wherever they go: the Chinese on the Pacific rim, the ashkenazi Jews, the West European immigrants).

      Sure it does.

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    4. Anonymous5:26 AM

      Your hypothesis is that there is no difference between the average phenotypic traits of the ethnic groups from which these immigrants come, or that these different averages have no impact in the phenotypic traits from their diasporas? Do you really think that ashkenazi Jews didn't overperform in old Europe? Or that the average coastal Chinese isn't better at IQ tests and shorter than the average European? Are you trolling? Or are you just (costly, as it makes your reasoning seem less cogent) adherence to the Blue tribe?

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    5. Nope. Though it does explain overperformance of Indians in the U.S. relative to their counterparts in India and overperformance of Nigerians in the U.S. relative to their counterparts in Nigeria.

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    6. Tchaf8:47 AM

      I'm french, and we have had an extensive history of internal migrations (from far away places, and generally to Paris).

      There's an expression used at my place to describe those who have never moved (from their country place) to the city: "culs de plomb" (asses of lead).
      It is not a sympathetic expression...

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    7. See here for my thoughts on the case of Jews: http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.jp/2013/08/how-successful-are-jews-really.html

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  29. If the racial differences in average income are due to racism, poorer environments or poorer nutrition rather than values differences (I do not think IQ is very important) how did black Americans come to dominate the most desirable jobs in the USA? Those being NCAA and Professional Basketball and football players?

    Blacks do great in the USA. They just seem to value things differently. they seem to succeed where they want to.

    Black Americans invented blues, rock & roll, jazz, hip hop and rap. They add great grace to our sports and entertainment. Most are not poor and most black crime is perpetrated against blacks. They join he military, police and do nursing. They are a great contributors to the USA overall. So lets just let each individual live as they like.

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    1. Anonymous3:06 PM

      You don't think white, asian, and hispanic kids fantasize about being pro athletes or rock stars?

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    2. I think they do. I think they are the most desired jobs in the USA.

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    3. Anonymous2:33 PM

      Inventing rap and hip hop does not count as success -- those things are a blight on humanity.

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  30. Robert Evans12:21 PM

    The funny thing is, people who promote this idea about R&IQ usually do it as part of a right-wing political philosophy. But I think that *IF* R&IQ were true, most people would reach the opposite conclusion - if our IQ is limited by our genetics, then we don't live in any semblance of a meritocracy - power and money are flowing towards the winners of the genetic lottery, and therefore it makes sense to have big social safety nets and redistribution of wealth downward - because you're not actually taking money from the Hard-Working Individualists who Earned It, you're taking it from the winners of the genetic lottery.

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    1. Anonymous2:13 PM

      You can't have a winning ticket in the genetic lottery. You are a winning ticket. That is merit.

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  31. Anonymous3:25 PM

    Of course the Race and IQ guys think that Noah's brain has been eaten by a brain eating memetic parasite.

    What self diagnostic tests could you run to check this?

    The really successful parasites will of course stop people running the diagnostics.

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  32. Anonymous10:19 AM

    National Geographic Magazine September 2001 "Changing America", By Joel L. Swerdlow

    American High School Class:
    "I don't want to be white," says a white student from Poland. I'm in the
    library with a cross section of students who volunteered to speak with me.
    Others agree with the Polish-born youth, but I'm confused.
    They explain. To call someone "white" is an insult, as are synonymous
    terms like Wonder bread. "I don't consider myself white," says a young
    woman from Russia. She has white skin. "Whites act white and do white stuff."
    "What's 'white stuff?'" I ask.
    "White kids act different. They hang out differently. Whites are privileged. They're
    smart, do homework on time, run the student government, participate in
    plays and musicals, sell stuff, have parents who are involved in the
    school."

    "When you go to apply for a job," says one boy, "you have to act white."

    Most white students remain silent during these discussions. "I won't apologize for being white," says one.

    If achievement—or at least too much achievement—is
    unfashionable and achievement, as they have defined it, is "white," then
    "white" is not cool."

    Very sad. You can read the whole article if you Google the title.

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  33. Good piece on discovering the first SNP's associated with cognitive ability. It has now been established that cognitive ability is partly heritable. Steve Hsu is an Obama voter, so people here should be able to trust him.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2013/05/first-gwas-hits-for-cognitive-ability.html

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  34. How many of your friends have been lost to this brain-eating memetic parasite? If the government doesn't outlaw spreading it soon, it's going to start affecting your way of life in even more ways!

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