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I started this blog almost 5 years ago. Currently (excluding this one), there are 480 articles on this blog. Searching my blog name “notpoliticallycorrect.me” on Google Scholar leads to two citations—one on “IQ” and obesity and the other on inclusionism about race when it comes to medicine. These two cites pretty much perfectly show my views and their change in the past 5 years since the creation of this blog. I will discuss both papers that cited me in turn.
In the journal Social and Human Sciences. Domestic and Foreign Literature (a sociology journal), a 2016 article I published (back in my “HBD” days titled “Race, Obesity, Poverty, and IQ, writing:
income and education (which in the latter case presumably correlates with IQ levels). They have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes. In terms of ethnicity, overweight indicators are as follows: 67.3% for whites, 75.6% for African Americans and 77.9% for Latinos. Summing up all this, we obtain, in the words of the authors of the study, “politically incorrect conclusions”: African Americans and Hispanics are more at risk of living in poverty, have lower IQ, higher rates of obesity and a chance of developing diabetes; The main factor in these correlations is the IQ level (Race, obesity, poverty and IQ, 2016).
Almost four years later (after my views have undergone a significant change) I would draw different conclusions. Blacks are 51% more likely to be obese than whites (Lincoln, Abdou, and Lloyd, 2016) with the cause being a multitude of factors. Though it seems that black American men with more African ancestry may be protected against central adiposity (Klimentidis et al, 2016). Racial disparities in obesity are due to an interaction of a multitude of factors (Byrd, Toth, and Stanford, 2018). Interestingly, black kids with obesity don’t perceive themselves as obese (Lankarani and Assani, 2018), which, presumably, is due to higher rates of obesity in the black population. Black girls are more likely to have an earlier menarche than white giris (e.g., Freedman et al, 2000) and it is because black girls are more likely to be obese than white girls which is due to the effects of leptin being permissive for menarche, from the higher levels of body fat in black girls (Salsberry, Reagen, and Pajer, 2010).
We must look to social determinants of health to understand why certain non-white populations are more likely to be obese than others. Looking at “IQ” as causal for obesity—which I used to believe—obscures much more than it helps. We can look to epigenetic effects, for example, regarding biological explanations of obesity (Krueger and Reithner, 2016), for instance high BMI in black women being related to saliva-based DNA methylation, which is used as a marker for aging (Li et al, 2019). Even perceived racism (it does not have to be actual) can have physiologic effects on black women, heigtening cortisol levels, leading to a heigtened obesity risk (Mwendwa et al, 2016).
In any case, it’s cool that I got cited but uncool that it was something that I don’t believe anymore.
The second citation comes from Rossi (2020: 13) in the journal Social Science Information titled New avenues in epigenetic research about race: Online activism around reparations for slavery in the United States citing my article Race, Medicine, and Epigenetics: How the Social Becomes Biological:
Consequently, social scientists’ opinions about epigenetic research dealing with race and slavery have sometimes been scrutinized by blog authors. For example, the article untitled [sic] ‘Race, medicine, and epigenetics: How the social becomes biological’ published in 2019 on the blog Notpoliticallycorrect features a long discussion on whether race could be seen as a viable variable to discuss the epigenetics of trauma, especially relating to slavery in the US.14 After summarizing the views of legal scholar and sociologist Dorothy Roberts, who has argued repeatedly in her works against the use of the concept of race in biomedical sciences, the author sides with philosophers Michael Hardimon and Shannon Sullivan, who are both enthusiastic about the inclusion of race to discuss genetics and epigenetics:
Race and medicine is a tendentious topic. On one hand, you have people like sociologist Dorothy Roberts (2012) who argues against the use of race in a medical context, whereas philosopher of race Michael Hardimon thinks that we should not be exclusionists about race when it comes to medicine. If there are biological races, and there are salient genetic differences between them, then why should we disregard this when it comes to a medically relevant context? [. . .] So, we should not be exclusionists (like Roberts), we should be inclusionists (like Hardimon). [. . .] Furthermore, acknowledging the fact that the social dimensions of race can help us understand how racism manifests itself in biology (for a good intro to this see Sullivan’s (2015) book The Physiology of Racist and Sexist Oppression, for even if the ‘oppression’ is imagined, it can still have very real biological effects that could be passed onto the next generation – and it could particularly affect a developing fetus, too). It seems that there is a good argument that the effects of slavery could have been passed down through the generations manifesting itself in smaller bodies.
Relying also on Jasienska’s research, the author of this blog post therefore dismissed the idea that race should not be applied to the medical field, while using the words and legitimacy of humanities scholars such as Hardimon and Sullivan to back up their claims. These contributions show the way journalists and various blog authors write about epigenetics by mixing together scientific articles in various fields (the social sciences, philosophy, psychiatry, social work) in an effort to bring more legitimacy to the topic. This process highlights the ways in which lay circles produce new connections between various papers and texts dealing with epigenetics, no matter how different their fields of expertise may be.
This shows a very sharp contrast with my current views and my older views on race and obesity. Before, thinking that obesity was “determined” by IQ (e.g., Kanazawa, 2012; Kanazawa, 2014) was an error—people with low “IQs” are more likely to be in poverty and have less access to good foods, along with the abundance of fast food restaurants in areas with a higher concentration of blacks (James et al, 2014). Black women, for instance, have a lower RMR than white women (Gannon, DiPietro, and Poehlman, 2000)
These two articles of mine that were cited (on similar issues, no less) show the evolution of my views over the past four or so years in between the publication of the two articles on this blog. This is a good case study on how the one can view the aetiology of one thing completely different based on the types of views they previously held. The views of obesity and race I hold now are much more complex than the reductive “it’s genes/IQ” kind of guy that I used to be. A more holistic view of obesity disparities, factoring in access to food (food swamps/deserts), income, location etc is more informative than looking just to “IQ” or “genes for” obesity—because even if “genes for” obesity exist and even if “genes for” obesity are distributed unevenly across races, the predominant determinant of weight will be activity level/caloric consumption, which is based on SES and other factors—not “IQ” or “obesity genes.” The social does become biological, and it does have consequences for obesity disparities between and within races.
The other day on Twitter, Davide Piffer made the claim that North and South Italians are “two different races” and that the North is “governed by morons from the South.” What would make him say that North and South Italians “are two different races”? Well, a new study was just published which looked into the genetic divergence of North and South Italians. It seems that Piffer is saying that the fact that North and South Italians are genetically distinct means that they are races. But this is an error in reasoning—it is fallacious to believe that just because two groups are genetically distinct that they are therefore races.
Sazzini et al (2020) show evidence that North and South Italians genetically diverged after the last glacial maximum (LGM). They state that there was “adaptive evolution” at “insulin-related loci” from Italian regions with temperate climates. The state that climatic factors differentiated those from the North and those from the South. The “adaptations” that those in the North have protect them from:
… we proposed climate-related selective pressures as potential factors having influenced adaptive evolution at insulin-related genes especially in the ancestors of Northern Italians. By regulating glucose homeostasis, adiposity, and thermogenesis in response to high-calorie diets adopted to cope with energetically demanding environmental conditions, these adaptive events might have also contributed to make people from Northern Italy less prone to develop T2D and obesity despite the challenging nutritional context imposed by modern lifestyles. Conversely, possible adaptations against pathogens and modulation of melanogenesis in response to high UV radiation are supposed to have played a role in reduced susceptibility of people from Southern Italy respectively to immunoglobulin-A nephropathy and skin cancers. Finally, multiple adaptive processes evolved by the overall Italian population, but having resulted more pronounced in people from the southern regions of the peninsula, were found to have the potential to secondarily modulate the longevity phenotype. Therefore, by pinpointing genetic determinants underlying biological adaptation of Italian population clusters in response to locally diverging environmental contexts, the present study succeeded in disclosing also valuable biomedical implications of such evolutionary events.
What they did was select 39 unrelated genomes, representative of the known genetic differences in Italian the Italian population, and then compare the differences 35 populations from all over Europe. They found divergence between the two occurred between 12 and 19 kya—they presume that the so-called “adaptations” for North Italians, being “adapted” to lower temperatures and higher-kcal food, and the so-called “adaptations” for South Italians being adapted to warmer climes, so they have “genes to protect against” skin cancer and pathogens—while gene variants ‘related’ to longer life were also showed changes in those genes.
The press release, though, cautions against adaptive conclusions:
The authors caution that although correlations may be drawn between evolutionary adaptations and current disease prevalence among populations, they are unable to prove causation, or rule out the possibility that more recent gene flow from populations exposed to diverse environmental conditions outside of Italy may have also contributed to the different genetic signatures seen between northern and southern Italians today.
While this is an interesting study (and it does need to reign back its ‘adaptive conclusions’), it does not show that North and South Italians are different races. If they are different races, how does it go? Is there a single North Italian race and a single South Italian race? Or are North Italians Caucasian, while South Italians would be African? Are there 5, 6, or 7 races in Piffer’s racial schema?
Like all hereditarians, he just assumes the existence of race—if this and that population are genetically distinct, then they must be races. Wow, how compelling an argument to show that races exist. But if North and South Italians are a different race on the basis of genetic differentiation, then so are East and West Germans (Nelis et al, 2009), North and South Germans (Heath et al, 2008), Southeast and Northwest Dutch (Lao et al, 2013), North and South Dutch (Byrne et al, 2020), Northern and Southern Swedes (Humphreys et al, 2011), East and West Fins (Kerminen et al, 2017), etc. Using genetic differentiation as a basis to show which population is or is not a race logically leads one down this path. Why not 7 billion races? Each individual is unique? Oh, wait: He would say something about “breeding populations” probably—and that’d be good because he would then be stating conditions for racehood, not just assuming their existence on the basis of genetic differentiation. Though, the claim would still fail.
Piffer has let his mask slip before—back in March he called immigrants to Italy “gorillas”, then saying that “Gorillas are nobler” because they would not take beds from the sick, since this was when Corona was really heating up in Italy. This is similar to what the “World’s Smartest Man” Christopher Langan said about gorillas and immigration. There seems to be a relationship between idiotic sayings about gorillas and immigration and racism… hmm…
In any case, the fact that North and South Italians are genetically distinct populations in no way, shape, or form, is evidence that they are different races. For if it is, then there are many, many races—even in countries with the same group of people, if we are to understand race how Piffer seems to understand it (any type of genomic differentiation between populations makes them races). So is each family on earth a different race? This is the kind of conclusion that Piffer’s lazy thinking leads to. Piffer is just like Murray—if populations cluster in genomic analyses then those population clusters are races. Two hereditarians—two assumptions that fail, since if we take them to their logical conclusion, there are more races than is traditionally stated. Piffer, it seems, just sees a group he is clearly biased agains (South Italians), sees they are distinct genomically from the North, and then says “Aha! these morons from the South who are governing us are just a different race than we are!” Clinal differences in skin color, too, don’t ‘prove’ that North and South Italians are a different race.
Too bad for Piffer, reality is different than in his own biased world. Italy is over two thousand years old—and the people in the North and the South belong to the same race. Piffer’s ‘research’ into the “IQs” of North and South Italians (Lynn, 2010; Piffer and Lynn, 2014; see Cornoldi et al, 2010; D’Amico et al, 2011; Robinson, Saggino, and Tommasi, 2011; Danielle and Malanima, 2011; Cornoldi, Giofre, and Martini, 2013; in any case, is (and has been) suspect—but now we know that he has other motivations than just iScience!
(Note: The Italianthro blog has a ton of information on Italy, its peopling, “IQ”, and other things. Check the blog out.)
Bans against consanguinity have been around for thousands, of years, though they differ by degree and culture. The Greeks had no single name for it, a similar term not appearing until around the 9th century—for instance, classic Athenian law stated that children of the same father could marry—i.e., a half-brother and half-sister (Ager, 2005). But what were some of the original reasons why they were banned—eugenic considerations or cultural/closeness reasons? Why were people banned from having a partner that was too close to them? Throughout history, different cultures obviously had different practices. The Roman Catholic Church, Pharaonic and Ptolemic Egypt, ancient Iran, all had different practices, for different reasons, on close marriage to relatives. The ban on first-cousin marriage appeared in American law around the time of the Civil War—clearly, then, the cousin-marriage ban in America was not based on the eugenics movement, though it was eugenic in nature (Paul and Spencer, 2008). Though there was debate on the matter during the Progressive Era (Wilson).
Schneider addressed sexual and matrimonial prohibitions among the Yapese in an early article (1957), but he developed his approach in a volume devoted to the subject of incest (1976). It was in the latter that he presented his culturalist views on the topic, making the important point that ‘the most frequent confusion found in the literature in my experience is the confusion between the question of the origin of the prohibition on incest and the question of why it is maintained long after the conditions which may account for its origin have passed’(Schneider 1976: 156). He went on to argue that ‘the incest prohibition is not universal’, supporting this affirmation with the cases of brother–sister marriages of Pharaonic and Ptolemaic Egypt, the ‘apparent lack’ of an incest prohibition in ancient Iran, and the marriages between members of the royal family of Hawaii as analysed by Marshall Sahlins (Schneider 1976: 154). None of these relations would be considered as incestuous for the native people. He also insisted on the inclusion of kin other than nuclear kin in the different prohibitions that Europeans identify as incestuous, on the importance of elements such as food for determining who a person can and cannot have sexual relations with and on cases in which incest includes non-sexual behaviour. He then proposed equating incest with the idea of acting ‘ungrammatically’ in a given cultural code (Schneider 1976: 167). Thus, for Schneider, a priori deﬁnitions of incest based on a Western tendency to relate kinship to sexual intercourse and the birth of a child should be avoided. Rather, he argued, we should adopt a cultural and symbolic approach towards each case. [See also Scheidel, 1997 for more information on sibling and half-sibling marriage in Roman Egypt. They did this to keep the throne in the family; Galton, 1998]
But the Romans were the first to dissuade consanguineous marriages when Emperor Claudius married his niece Agrippina in the middle of the 1st century. Then, in the middle of the fifth century, which the Roman Catholic Church eventually picked up, with the Pope citing passages in Leviticus to justify the banning of marriages with close kin (Bittles, 2009). (I should bring up the ‘Hajnal line’ now, but I’ll save that for an article by itself. In the meantime, read Steinbach, Kuhnt, and Knull, 2016 where they show that by taking marriage rate, divorce rate, step-families, and single-parent prevalence into account, we cannot use the ‘Hajnal line’ to explain differences between East and West Europe”; see also who argue that Szolyysek and Ogorek, 2019 who show that when regional populations cluster on familial traits that they lie outside of the ‘line’, which calls into questions the conclusions of Hajnal and his acolytes.)
When it comes to these cases, the ban on close marriages was not to have healthy children—and therefore attempt to prevent the types of problems that arise through the marriage of a close relative if they conceive a child—the ban was to avoid relationships that lacked difference on a bio-social level. One example here would be in certain Muslim communities. Children who shared the same wet nurse—a nurse who breastfeeds for parents—were banned from having any kind of relations later in life as they were known as ‘milk-siblings’:
Children who have been regularly breastfed (three to five or more times) by the same woman are considered “milk-siblings” and are prohibited from marrying each other. It is forbidden for a man to marry his milk mother (wet nurse) or for a woman to marry her milk mother’s husband.
In Leviticus 18:6-18, Deuteronomy 22:30, and Deuteronomy 27:2-23 the authors spake against marriage with close (blood) relatives while in Leviticus 20:11-21 along with the prohibitions against relations with blood kin, even your uncle’s wife was out of the question (the unrelated wife). When it comes to the Roman Catholic Church banning cousin marriage, however, there is a debate as to what the impetus for the ban was: was it due to eugenic considerations or to ban the marriage of two close individuals, no matter their relatedness status? MacKellar and Bechtel (2014: 62) write:
It is likely, however, that the basis for this prohibition on consanguinity [in the Roman Catholic Church] was not a concern for eugenic considerations. The condemnation of affinity, such as marrying a step-daughter (cannon 1092) and marrying an adopted child or sibling (cannon 1094) implies that these codes were again drafted on the basis of avoiding sexual relationships between people who were considered too similar or who had something ‘overly in common.’
Parkes (2005) notes that even marriage between a godparent and godchild was banned in Christian communities. I grew up Roman Catholic and I, too, would not marry my Godmother (who is my fourth cousin). MacKellar and Bechtel (2014: 63) do note that the Christian Church even banned relationships between, say, student and teacher to prevent “sexual corruption and abuse. These sexual restrictions were not, therefore, drafted to protect progeny from inheritable disorders but were similar to those that prevent relationships between teachers and their pupils or doctors with their patients. These relationships were prohibited even though it may have been certain that no child would ever be born.
Chinese cousin marriage prohibitions are interesting. First cousins could marry eac other if they did not have the same surname but if they had the same surname they were barred from marriage, as Wong (2017) notes that “The old Chinese system is a patriarchal system, where children take the surname of the father. In this patriarchal system, first cousins of the same surname could not marry. First cousins, with different surnames, could marry.”
Many Asian ethnies have the same or similar surnames. So, on that basis, it is interesting to note that in Korea, for example, much cultural shame is brought on people who choose to marry and have the same last name. It is so taboo that family and friends question their loved ones who date a person with their same last name. The New York Times has an interesting story from the mid-90s about Koreans and dating/marrying an individual with the same last name:
It should be a time of celebration. K. H. Lee and his girlfriend have fallen in love and want to get married soon to start a new life together.
But Mr. Lee, a 31-year-old civil servant, and his fiancee face a battle against Korean history that threatens to bring their love to ruin: they have the same last name. Even his friends disapprove of his plans.
“I can feel them asking, ‘Do you really have to do this?'” said Mr. Lee, who, who would not disclose his full given name or his girlfriend’s because the issue is so delicate. “Even if it were allowed by law, if the relatives found out, the whole family would be shamed because we have a strong sense of face.” Not being able to marry a person with the same family name is a special burden in South Korea, where 22 percent of South Korea’s 44 million people are named Kim. The figure leaps to 55 percent after adding in Park, Lee, Choi, and Chong.
The NYT story also notes an interesting bit of Korean folklore about this ban:
According to folklore, the practice was brought over from China in the 14th century, after a Korean messenger, named Lee, visited China. His Chinese host asked him his wife’s name, and upon hearing that it was also Lee, the Chinese supposedly replied: “Ah! You’re not an aristocrat. You’re a commoner!” When the messenger returned, he relayed the story to the Korean emperor, who immediately declared a ban against same-clan marriages.
Dating people with the same last name in South Korea is such a taboo that some people even attempt to find out their perspective SO’s last name discretely. The practice, to them is cultural as of now since presumably, marriage and children with one with the same last name won’t lead to any birth defects.
We have been marrying/conceiving children with close relatives since time immemorial. Though, different peoples have different reasons for shunning consanguineous marriages—some cultural, some biological, some both. The Greeks banned it in some instances, but allowed it in others. In Islam, children who are “milk-siblings” cannot marry. Asians (who are likely to share names with their own ethny, and even sometimes another Asian of a different ethny) have some interesting considerations on cousin marriages—it being so engrained in their culture that some will not talk to someone if they share their last name. The considerations of banning consanguineous marriages by the Church, though, could go both ways—it could be due to banning marriages between people who are ‘related’ socially, and not genetically.
The history of cousin marriage—along with the banning/allowing it throughout history, along with how different peoples handle the situation shows exactly how humans individuate through culture.
The concept of “race” stretches back as long as human civilization. The concept of “racism” also stretches back just as far with it—they seem to be intertwined. There is a consensus, though, the term was constructed during the European Age of Exploration. This claim though, is false. The concept actually goes back at least 5,000 years. By looking at the art and reading the myths of these ancient civilizations, we can see that the social constructivist claim about race—that it is a recent creation—is false. They also described their physical features and also attempted to explain behavioral differences between races based on the limited knowledge they had in their day.
Sarich and Miele (2004) state that the PBS documentary on race—which is largely the main reason why they wrote their book Race: The Reality of Human Difference—claimed that race is a human invention and that since we create it we can then “unmake it.” We can look at art from ancient civilizations and see that they did sort people into groups based on their skin color and other physical characters. Each civilization, of course, thought itself and its racial features to be ‘superior’ to the others they encountered. The ancients used the set of observable features to describe what we now call “races.”
Our first trip on this long journey to understand the history of race is India. The earliest hints of what would become the caste system were written around 5kya. In the Rig Veda, a description of the Arya(n) invasion in the Indus valley where a dark-skinned people lived. The god of the Arya(n)s Indra “is described as “blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the black skin which Indra hates” (Gossett, 1997: 3-4). They also called these dark-skinned people “Anasahs” which meant “the noseless people.” They then describe Indra killing all of the dark-skinned people and conquering the Indus for the Arya.
Sarich and Miele (2004: 47-48) note that the peoples that Indra hated were called Dasas—broad-nosed worshippers of the phallus. Even when Alexander the Great’s army reached India and described the Indians in the south of the country as some of the darkest people they have seen, they still made the distinction between Indians and Africans—by their hair type—so this tells us that race is more than ‘skin deep’ to the Greeks. Race, then, was known for thousands of years BEFORE the Age of Exploration.
We can look to ancient China, too, to see instances of racial descriptions and then racism along with it. For instance, a Chinese writer described yellow-haired, blue-eyed people from a distant province, “who greatly resembeled monkeys from whom they are descended” (Gossett, 1997: 4). Another Chinese legend describes differences between themselves and a brabarian tribe. A Chinese emperor stated that he would give his daughter to whomever slayed the chieftan he was having problems with. Then, the palace dog comes back with the head of the chieftan. The emperor did not go back on his word; he gave the dog his daughter and the resulting children were “fond of living in high altitudes and averse to plains” (Gossett, 1997: 4).
Like other civilizations, the ancient Han Chinese regarded other groups they came into contact with as barbarians. They were especially taken aback by the odd appearance of one group, the Yuehzi, because of their hairy, white, ruddy skin and their prominent noses, which the Chinese likened to those of monkeys.
The Han Chinese applied the term “Hu” to barbarians like the Yuehzi who had “deep eye sockets, prominent noses, and beards.” But they did not apply it to the Qiang, another barbarian group, who had a Mongoloid appearance and among whom some of the Yuezhi lived. Both groups were denigrated as uncivilized and inferior to the Chinese, but the Qiang were deemed to belong to the same racial stock, whereas the Yuezhi were viewed as being part of a very different stock, not only barbarian but ugly and monkey-like to boot.
The Egyptians used a color-coding system—red (themselves), yellow (for their eastern enemies), black (Africans), and white (those from the north). The Eygptians also accurately depicted Africans as early as the third century BCE, describing them exactly how 19th-century European anthropologists would. Below is a picture of how the Egyptians depicted these groups.
There is, also, an interesting bit about colorism—discrimination based on skin color—here:
Color prejudice, says one writer, depended on which ethnic group held sway. When the lighter-skinned Egyptians were dominant they referred to the darker group as “the evil race of Ish.” On the other hand, when the darker-skinned Egyptians were in power, they resorted to calling the lighter-skinned people “the pale, degraded race of Arvad.” (Gossett, 1997: 4)
The Jews are some of the oldest peoples on earth, so they should then have some stories about their encounters with different races. One of the oldest, thought to be first, racist sayings was asked by the prophet Jeremiah who said “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” The Jews are said to have ‘invented’ anti-black racism (Gossett, 1997: 5; Sarich and Miele, 2004), but this has been contested (Goldenberg, 1998). Take the full text from Gossett on Ham:
The most famous example of racism among the Jews is found in the legends which greew up concerning Ham, the son of Noah. The account in Genesis tells us of Ham’s expressing contempt for his father because Noah had become drunk and was lying in a naked stupor. Noah’s other sons had covered their father’s nakedness, averting their eyes. Noah blessed the descendants of Shem and Japeth, his other sons, but cursed the descendants of Ham. There is some confusion in the account in Genesis because it is not clear whether the curse was to be visited upon Ham or upon Canaan, Ham being a later insertion. Nothng is said in Genesis about the descendants of either Ham or Canaan being Negroes. This idea is not found untl the oral traditions of the Jews were collected in the Babylonian Talmud from the second century to the sixth centry A.D. In this source, the descendants of Ham are said to be cursed by being black. In the Talmud, there are several contradictory legends concerning Ham—onoe that God forbade anyone to have sexual relations on the Ark and Ham disobeyed this command. Another story is that Ham was cursed with blackness because he resented the fact that his father desired to have a fourth son. To prevent the birth of a rival heir, Ham is said to have castrated his father. Elsewhere in the Talmud, Ham’s descendants are depicted as being led into captivity with their buttocks uncovered as a sign of degredation.
Greeks and Romans
The Greeks and the Romans are really interesting. Being near the intersection of the Medditerranean, they would have seen many different races of people—and this is reflected in their art and legends. The Greek myth of Phaethon, for example, shows that the Greeks knew that skin color was a function of climate.
In the story, Phaethon asked his father to drive the sun chariot, using it only for the day. He could not control the chariot so it came to close to the earth in some regions, burning the people there while for the people in the north he drove too far away from the earth, ligtening their skin. Greek and Roman myths, in fact, show exactly how things change and that if we had a different reference point—like the Greeks and Romans did—we would then create different theories of ‘intelligence’:
“The nations inhabiting the cold places and those of Europe are full of spirit but somewhat deficient in intelligence and skill, so that they continue comparatively free, but lacking in political organization and the capacity to rule their neighbors. The peoples of Asia on the other hand are intelligent and skillful in temperament, but lack spirit, so that they are in continuous subjection and slavery. But the Greek race participates in both characters, just as it occupies the middle position geographically, for it is both spirited and intelligent; hence it continues to be free and to have very good political institutions, and to be capable of ruling all mankind if it attains constitutional unity.” (Pol. 1327b23-33, my italics)
Views of direct environmental influence and the porosity of bodies to these effects also entered the military machines of ancient empires, like that of the Romans. Offices such as Vegetius (De re militari, I/2) suggested avoiding recruiting troops from cold climates as they had too much blood and, hence, inadequate intelligence. Instead, he argued, troops from temperate climates be recruited, as they possess the right amount of blood, ensuring their fitness for camp discipline (Irby, 2016). Delicate and effemenizing land was also to be abandoned as soon as possible, according Manilius and Caesar (ibid). Probably the most famous geopolitical dictum of antiquity reflects exactly this plastic power of laces: “soft lands breed soft men”, according to the claim that Herodotus attributed to Cyrus. (Meloni, 2017: 41-42)
The Roman historian Vitruvius “attributed the keen intelligence of his countrymen to the rarity of the atmosphere and to the heat. The less fortunate northern peoples, “being enveloped in a dense atmosphere, and chilled by moisture from the obstructing air … have but a sluggish intelligence”” (Gossett, 1997: 7). How convenient—people at the time thought they were ‘superior’ to others and then attempted to justify it on the basis of environmental—eventually evolutionary—differences. However, the Greek theory of humors. Such accounts, though, only speak to how the Greeks thought that the environment shaped individuals, not shared traits of the group. Such differences were thought to be almost immediately reversible. They believed that one could take a person who grew up in another environment who, therefore, had a different temperment which could be changed by switching his environment.
Thus if there were, say, a microregion of Germany where “Asiatic” environmental conditions prevailed, a person who settled in that microregion would end up with Asian attributes. Thus, humoral accounts of human diversity focused on the way environments shape individuals, rather than the way populations share traits. (Smith, 2016: 85)
The Greeks and the Romans, ironically, seemed to be really big on environmentalism—the thesis that environment drives the proliferation of traits and that changing the environment can change ones phenotypic traits. While this is not wholly true, there is a kernel of truth here.
Sarich and Miele (2004: 51) describe different ancient scholar’s writings on their observations of racial differences:
The most detailed surviving description of the racially denning characteristics of black Africans from the classical world appears in The Moretum, a poem attributed to Virgil (circa 1st century AD). A female character named Scybale. is described as “African in race—her hair tightly curled, lips thick, color dark, chest broad, breasts pendulous, belly somewhat pinched, legs thick, and feet broad and ample.” In his book Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience, Frank M. Snowden comared the description with portrayls by twentieth-century anthropologists E. A Hootn and M. J Herskovits. For example, Hootn described the “outstanding features of the ancient specialized Negro division of manking” as “narrow heads and wide noses, thick lips and thin legs, protruding jaws and receding chins, integument rich in pigment but poor in hairy growth, flat feet and round foreheads, tiny curls and big smiles.”
Snowden concluded: “While the author of The Moretum was writing poetry, not anthropology,” his description of the distinguishing racial characteristics of black Africans “is good anthropology; in fact, the ancient and modern phraseology is so similar that the modern might be considered a translation of the ancient” (emphasis added).
I’m sure most have heard the popular ‘myth’ that God burnt blacks by cooking them too long. Come to find out, there is a real basis for this myth. The Native Americans thought that white people weren’t baked enough, blacks were baked too much and they were—like Goldilocks—juuuuust right:
Earthmaker made the world with trees and fields, with rivers, lakes, and springs, and with hills and valleys. It was beautiful. However, there weren’t any humans, and so one day he decided to make some.
He scooped out a hole in a stream bank and lined the hole with stones to make a hearth, and he built a fire there. Then he took some clay and made a small figure that he put in the hearth. While it baked, he took some twigs and made tongs. When he pulled the figure out of the fire and had let it cool, he moved its limbs and breathed life into it, and it walked away. Earthmaker nonetheless realized that it was only half-baked. That figure became the white people.
Earthmaker decided to try again, and so he made another figure and put it on the hearth. This time he took a nap under a tree while the figure baked, and he slept longer than he intended. When he pulled the second figure out of the fire and had let it cool, he moved its limbs and breathed life into it, and it walked away. Earthmaker realized that this figure was overbaked, and it became the black people.
Earthmaker decided to try one more time. He cleaned the ashes out of the hearth and built a new fire. Then he scooped up some clay and cleaned it of any twigs or leaves, so that it was pure. He made a little figure and put it on the hearth, and this time he sat by the hearth and watched carefully as the figure baked. When this figure was done, he pulled it out of the fire and let it cool. Then he moved its limbs and breathed life into it, and it walked away. This figure was baked just right, and it became the red people. (A Potawatomi Story)
The first peoples to describe Africans in a racist manner was not Europeans, it was the Arabs—Islamics. They held slaves long before Europeans; they even castrated their slaves. Jahiz of Basra described Africans as “people of black color, flat noses, kinky hair.”…despite their dimness, their boundless stupidity, their crude prceptions and their evil dispositions” is how Jahiz of Basra described Africans. Ibn Khaldun stated “The only people who accept slavery are the Negroes, owing to their low degree of humanity and their proximity to the animal stage.” Nasir al-Din Tusi stated “Many have observed that the ape is more teachable than the Zanji [African].” (All quotes from Sarich and Miele, 2004: 60).
What this little tour of the concept of race throughout history tells us one thing: The concept ‘race’ is not a European invention—races were not socially constructed in 1492. They were constructed thousands of years in the past by many different peoples who had different explanations for the racial differences they had observed. While some of them, for their time, are great explanations for the observed differences, there was an element of racial prejudice, even all of those thousands of years ago. Yes, race is partly socially constructed (as evidenced here) but that social construction has a real, biological basis behind it.
It is obvious that the concept of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ went hand-in-hand all throughout antiquity. It is only today, it seems, that we can attempt to use the concept of race without having any ‘racist’ undertones. Though, the tour we went on proves one thing: race exists and was known to have existed for thousands of years.
Rachael Dolezal attracted media attention in 2015 since she, as a white women, presented and ‘acted’ what Americans would describe as (the socialrace) “black.” She was the former chapter president for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and former Africana studies instructor; when it was discovered that she had two white parents she resigned from the chapter. Her white parents then came out and said that she was “passing as black.” And, from looking at her appearance, one would be hardpressed to say that she did NOT look black and that she DID NOT attempt to make her appearance LOOK what the average American would describe as (the socialrace) “black.” In any case, though, the controversy is an interesting one: should she be able to self-identify as black, even though none of her (recent) ancestors derive from the African continent? I will discuss Quayshawn Spencer’s (2019) take on the Dolezal controversy then I will discuss my own thoughts on the matter.
The earliest use of the term “transracialism” I can find is from 2004, from Overall (2004) who states that transracialism is the “use of surgery to assist individuals to “cross” from being a member of one race to being a member of another” and that, if it is “morally acceptable” for one to have a surgery to have the sex they feel they should be, then it should be morally acceptable for one to have a surgery to change their race. (With this, I am reminded of the South Park episode where Kyle wanted to be black and play basketball so he went and got a “Negroscopy.”) Others, though, argue that transracialism does not exist (Botts, 2018). In any case, transracialism can be defined as the feeling of being a race other than what society has said your race is—even though, by attempting to “pass” as another race, society may see the individual in question as “black”, for example.
If one is black in America then, surely, there is a high chance that they have experienced what it is like TO BE, black in America, socially. In this specific case, has Dolezal ever experienced any sort of racial discrimination based on how she looks and presents herself, as a black woman? She claims to have been the victim of anti-black hate crimes by police, went to a HBCU (historically black college university) and, as stated, has changed her appearance in order to give off the “aura” that she is black, by tightly curling her and lightly tanning her skin—what black Americans would term a “high-yellow.” Her ex-husband is black. She ticks off the “black/African American” box on job applications. So, knowing all of this about Dolezal, and how she presents herself to the public, is she “black” socially?
“I was actually identified when I was doing human rights work in north Idaho as first transracial” Dolezal, 2015
When Dolezal filed anti-black hate crimes with the Spokane police, she was asked about her experience and then the reporter asked her if she was black. Dolezal responded by then ending the interview. Then, ABC found her birth parents who admitted that she was true of Caucasian (European) descent. Case closed? But wait: Dolezal eventually admitted that she was indeed born white, even though she used the terms “black” and “African American” to describe herself.
One debate was about whether Dolezal could accurately claim to be racially Black without posessing what was called Black ancestry in the conversation. 50 Furthermore, this debate was at least partially motivated by a genuine concern about whether Dolezal was taking away educational or employment opportunities that were intended for people with Black ancestry. For example, during Dolezal’s interview on The Real, co-host Loni Love said that she didn’t care about how Dolezal racially identified, but she did care about whether Dolezal marked ‘Black’ on her college applications because that act could have taken away scholarship money from a student with Black ancestry. 51 Interestingly, Dolezal said that Howard’s college application didn’t ask about race, but she did say that she marked ‘Black’ on her job application to Spokane’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission. Furthermore, Dolezal said she marked ‘Black’ because “we all have human origins in Africa.” (Spencer, 2019: 252)
However, even though Dolezal may be “black-passing”, under her carefully constructed persona, she does look like a typical white American woman—indeed, I have seen many white women with hair like hers (not all had their hair done to look that way, either). In a 2015 interview, her adopted brother said that what Dolezal was doing was “blackface.” He recalls:
“She told me not to blow her cover about the fact that she had this secret life or alternate identity,” Ezra Dolezal said Saturday. “She told me not to tell anybody about Montana or her family over there. She said she was starting a new life … and this one person over there was actually going to be her black father.”
Let’s say that Dolezal did do this; she ‘constructed’ herself a fake ‘family’ where she has a black mother, black father and black siblings. She then goes out with them and the public sees them together. Rachael, by extension of being with her family, is now treated as “black”—since being “black” in America is social—is she now “black”? BUT, Dolezal seemed to be using “white privilege” when she would attempt to “black-pass” when convenient while “white-pass” when convenient—for instance, when she sued Brown for discriminating against her because she is white! Did she mark “black” on this application and then sue for being discriminated against for being white?
An example of this debate can be found once again during Dolezal’s interview on The Real. In that interview, co-host Tamar Braxton expressed exactly [the concern that Dolezal is a ‘race-shifter’] when she asked whether Dolezal thought she had “walked the walk of a Black woman.” Interestingly, Dolezal responded, “Absolutely,” and followed that up with, “the police mark ‘Black’ on my traffic tickets.” (Spencer, 2019: 253)
But it is easy to show that Dolezal’s claim about us all having African ancestry so there is nothing wrong with her putting “black” on employment forms and whatnot—racial membership is about “genomic ancestry, not ancestry simpliciter” (Spencer, 2019: 277, note 52). All living humans have African ancestry but not all living humans have genomic African ancestry. While the social is involved in OMB race theory, other conditions need to hold for one to be a member of a race.
Those that appear and present themselves as white are still considered black (Ginsberg, 1996; Hobbs, 2016). One could, for example, imagine an extremely light-skinned black—say like Beyonce—and ALMOST say “Oh, she’s white”, but something is off about the appearance, she does not look what the average American would term WHITE and so, after more inspection, she is—rightly—deemed ‘black.’ Thus, just because one presents themselves as a certain race, this does not mean that they ARE or BECOME that race. Race is NOT like a costume that one can choose to dress in and take it off at the end of the day—and while RACE is, partly, about one’s lived experiences in a racialized society, it is also about how society treats the individual they have deemed to be a certain race as well. While people are torn on Dolezal, the fact remains that she has altered her appearance considerably enough to “pass for” black.
‘White-passing blacks’, of course, have a ton of white (European) ancestry—which is how they can have light skin while still keep certain prominent ‘black’ features, such as the lips and nose. One story of a family that ‘white-passed’ is given in A Chosen Exile:
In California, the young woman passed as white. She married a white man, and they had children who never knew they had black blood. Then, one day, years later, her phone rang.
It was the woman’s mother with distressing news: Her father was dying, and she needed to return home immediately to tell him goodbye.
The cousin replied, “I can’t. I’m a white woman now.”
She missed her father’s funeral, and never saw her mother or siblings again.
Did this woman all of a sudden become white since she disavowed her family since she is “a white woman now?” If society treats her as ‘white’, is she white, disregarding her racial ancestry? Using Hardimon’s (2017) socialrace, yes, she would then be ‘white’ in America—but she, biologically, would still be ‘black.’
Asian eyes, white eyes?
Stories like this make me think back to a book I read in the seventh grade called Goodbye Vietnam (Whelan, 1993). From what I recall in the book all those years ago, the Vietnamese girl described Asians getting surgeries to change their eyelids (called a blepharoplasty) so they can ‘white-pass’, which would be ‘transracialism’ under Overall’s (2004) definition. Take this story from a plastic surgeon:
Millard first considered altering the human eye while reconstructing eyebrows for burn victims. He began to keenly study the eye, socket, and folds, musing how to change it from “Oriental to Occidental.”
Upon researching the operation, Millard found that surgeons in Japan, Hong Kong, and even Korea were already performing double-eyelid procedures for both medical and cosmetic reasons. Unable to find any publications about the surgery that were written in English, Millard devised his own operation. He decided to raise the nasal bridge and widen the eyes to reduce the “Asian-ness” of his patient’s visage. Millard first transplanted cartilage to the nose. He then tore the inner fold of the eyelid, removed fat resting above the eye, and sutured folds of skin together, creating a double eyelid. The interpreter was pleased with Millard’s work, and reported that after the operation, his ethnicity was often mistaken for Italian or Mexican.
For example, Kaw (1993: 75) writes that “the attempts by Asian American women to get the double-eyelid surgery “is an attempt to escape persisting racial prejudice that correlates their stereotyped genetic physical features (“small, slanty” eyes and a “flat” nose) with negative behavioral characteristics, such as passivity, dullness, and a lack of sociability.” The first writings of such a surgery in Asia, though, was in the 18th century, long before a strong European presence on the continent (Nguyen, Hsu, and Din, 2009) but I’m sure one can say that they saw Europeans over the ages and attempted to emulate what they saw. Nevertheless, this does seem to be a good case study into the Asian eyes, white eyes claim—they needed to attempt to ‘white-pass’ so they would not go to the concentration camps for the Japanese.
This is a good example of transracialism as stated by Overall; they attempted to ‘white-pass’ but it was for a reason—to live free. They would, presumably, then blend into society as their chosen race (or unchosen race), showing that one can, indeed, change their race by changing their outward appearance since race in America is partly (or fully depending on your view) based on one’s physical appearance—one’s phenotype, which they have some degree of control over.
Is Dolezal black? No, she is not. She can ‘black-pass’ all she wants, she can say that “We’re all African” all she wants, she can say that police mark her as black all she wants (and while she would be socially ‘black’, which is what she is going for, she is not ‘black’ in the OMB way), she can say that she ticks off the “black/African American’ box on applications, but this would only very weakly mean that she is ‘black.’ In virtue of having NO recent African ancestry, Dolezal is NOT black and is, therefore, running around in blackface. One cannot change their biological race, but it may be possible to change their socialrace—which race society says one is.
The many cases one can find on blacks that ‘white-pass’ and even those blacks that have NO IDEA that they ARE black speaks to the complex nature of ‘race’ in America. Yes, race is partially socially constructed and if we are going plainly off of how Americans in society state what ‘race’ is, just based on appearance, one would be hardpressed to say that Dolezal is not ‘black’—she ‘looks’ it, right? So Dolezal can be said to be ‘black-passing’ just as the woman mentioned above could be said to be ‘white-passing’—but this does not CHANGE THEIR RACE!
The case of blepharoplasties is interesting and further lends something to this discussion—certain Asian groups in America, and back home in their countries, attempted to have the double-eyelid surgery in order to change their appearance—some of them doing so to ‘white-pass’ so that they would not get sent to the concentration camps in America.
Lastly, there was a woman a few years back who had melanin injections in her skin and had botox and whatnot to change the appearance of her lips—her change is shocking, to say the least, and is an example of Overall’s definition of transracialism.
(1) We accept the following premises about trans people and the rights and dignity to which they are entitled; (2) we also accept the following premises about identities and identity change in general; (3) therefore, the common arguments against transracialism fail, and we should accept that there’s little apparent logically coherent reason to deny the possibility of genuine transracialism.
IQ-ists like to talk about the correlation between “IQ” tests and scholastic achievement tests like the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and how this is one piece of evidence for the ‘validity’ of IQ—the same kinds of score distributions noted on the SAT are also noted in the ‘standard IQ tests.’ However, a confusion rests with the IQ-ists. They, circularly, point to the fact that there is a high correlation between “IQ tests” and the SAT. But what they fail to realize—and what I rarely see discussed—is the process of item selection and removal has a strong impact on scores. Such score differences are, indeed, built-in to the SAT, just as they are for IQ.
The SAT was created in 1924 by eugenicist Carl Brigham—one of the psychologists who also worked on the Army Alpha tests. When he created the test, it was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Harvard then used the test as an admissions test and then other Ivy League schools used it as a scholarship test. The SAT was developed directly off of the first IQ tests—so they are intricately linked. First, I will talk about gender differences; second I will talk about race differences. Then I will discuss how and why these differences persist.
Gender differences in the SAT
Differences in IQ were built-out of the test (like with Terman’s Stanford-Binet test), but for the SAT, items and subtests were directly chosen BECAUSE they showed a gap in knowledge between the two groups. Men have always scored higher on the SAT than women since the test’s inception which was due to men’s higher math scores while this was partially off-set by women’s higher verbal scores. However, the ETS then changed the test in the late 80s, stating that there was then “a better balance for the scores between the sexes” (quoted in Rosser, 1989: 38)—which was an eleven-point score advantage for men. They had added more verbal items that favored men, but they did not add more math items which favored women. BUT, interestingly, girls have higher GPAs than boys.
For example, of all of the SAT math questions, the one that produced the largest gender gap was a question in which the win-loss record of a basketball team needed to be computed, which is noted by Rosser (1989: 40-41) in tables 2 and 3:
Interestingly, Rosser (1989: 19) reports that in one county in Maryland, where boys and girls took the same advanced math courses, girls outscored boys academically, but they had SAT-M scores 37-47 points lower than boys. The kinds of items that go onto a test are tried-out on a sample of children, and then the kinds of distributions the constructors want is what they get. For example, by adding/subtracting certain questions and subtests, they can get what they want to see. Rosser (1989) notes that “if the 10 most “pro-boy” items were replaced with items similar to the 10 most “pro-girl” items, boys nationally would outscore girls by about 29 points thus eliminating more than a third of the existing gender gap” (pg 23). Further, for the 1986 SAT, if the ten items that favored boys the most were removed and were replaced by items that favored girls more, then girls would outscore boys by 4 points. In virtue of what was the current test the ‘right’ one, and what justifies the assumptions of the ETS? But in Rosser’s (1989) analysis, “Hispanic” women showed the largest gap while African-American women had the lowest gap when compared with men of their own ‘race.’ See some examples from the Appendixes on some of the items which showed the most extreme sex differences (pg 156-161):
Looking at types of questions such as these—and understanding how the SAT has evolved regarding gender differences since its inception since the mid-1920s—will understand how and why boys and girls score differently. For, if different assumptions were had on the ‘nature’ of ‘cognitive’ differences between boys and girls, more questions favoring girls would be added and then, we would be having a whole different kind of conversation right now.
When it comes to math, though, Niederle and Vesterlund (2010: 140) conclude:
… that competitive pressure may cause gender differences in test scores that exaggerate the underlying gender differences in math skills.
Women are, furthermore, less likely to guess (that is, less likely to risk-take) compared to men. This then translates to the testing environment where a guess is penalized while leaving it blank is not.
The new SAT has disadvantaged female testers; the AEI has stated that such differences have persisted for 50 years. Yes, SAT-M score differences are there, but, as noted above, when children were taught in the same advanced maths classroom, girls outperformed boys but they ended up scoring lower on the SAT-M section than boys—and looking at the SAT-M questions points us to why this paradox occurs. And, to top it all off, the SAT “underpredicts first-year college performance for women and overpredicts for men — thus violating one of the testers’ own, specially designed standard of validity” (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 71).
Race and the SAT
Now, we turn to race and the SAT. Kidder and Rosner (2002) studied 100000 SAT test-takers in 1989 and also included another database of over 200000 people in New York. They examined around 580 SAT questions between the years 1988-89 and noted the percentage of questions that white, black, and Mexican students answered correctly. If 60 percent of whites answered a question correctly and only 20 percent of blacks did, then the racial impact was 40 percent for that question. For 78 verbal items, whites answered 59.8 percent correctly while blacks answered 46.4 percent correctly, for a racial impact of 13.4 (Kidder and Rosner, 2002: 148).
How are such differences explained? Of the six sections on the SAT, the ETS uses one of the sections for experimental test items. By using whites as a reference, if blacks or another group answers more questions correctly than whites, the item is discarded as invalid. Kidder and Rosner (2002) note that for an item with medium difficulty, whites scored 62 percent correctly while blacks answered 38 percent correctly. But, comparing a question with similar difficulty showed that blacks outscored whites by 8 percent, and 9 percent of women outscored men on the same question. Au (2008: 66) explains:
Test designers determined that this question, where African Americans scored higher than hites (and women higher than men), was psychometrically invalid and was not included in future SATs. The reason for this was that ETS bases its test question selection on statistics established by performance averages on previous tests: The students who statistically on average score higher on the SAT did not answer this question correctly enough of the time, while those who statistically on average score lower on the SAT answered this question correctly too often. By psychometric standards this means that this question was an anomaly and therefore was not considered a “valid” or “reliable” test question for a standardized test such as the SAT. White students outperform black students on the SAT. Higher-scoring students, who tend to be white, correctly answer SAT experiemental test questions at higher rates than typically lower scoring students, who tend to be non-White, ensuring that the test question selection process itself has a relf-reinforcing, racial bias.
Rosner, in his article On White Preferences, explains this well:
I don’t believe that ETS–the Educational Testing Service, the developer of the SAT and the source of this October 1998 test data–intended for the SAT to be a white preference test. However, the “scientific” test construction methods the company uses inexorably lead to this result. Each individual SAT question ETS chooses is required to parallel the outcomes of the test overall. So, if high-scoring test-takers–who are more likely to be white–tend to answer the question correctly in pretesting, it’s a worthy SAT question; if not, it’s thrown out. Race and ethnicity are not considered explicitly, but racially disparate scores drive question selection, which in turn reproduces racially disparate test results in an internally reinforcing cycle.
My considered hypothesis is that every question chosen to appear on every SAT in the past ten years has favored whites over blacks. The same pattern holds true on the LSAT and the other popular admissions tests, since they are developed similarly. The SAT question selection process has never, to my knowledge, been examined from this perspective. And the deeper one looks, the worse things get. For example, while all the questions on the October 1998 SAT favored whites over blacks, approximately one-fifth showed huge, 20 percent gaps favoring whites. Skewed question selection certainly contributes to the large test score disparities between blacks and whites.
So, in order to attempt to rectify this situation, the College Board wants to award out “adversity points”. Their SAT scores would be compared to their parental SES level and adjustments would then be made to their scores. Further, there was discussion on whether or not to give 230 “bonus points” to blacks, 130 to “Hispanics” and penalize Asians by 50 points.
But why do Asians score slightly higher than whites? Simple: they, too, would be in the group of higher-scoring students and, therefore, the test items would—indirectly—be shaped to them. The same holds for ‘Hispanics’ and blacks, as Kidder and Rosner note (regarding test questions), and so, the same would hold for Asians and whites. I think such discussions of “bonus points” and penalization on such tests, while a start, does not get to the assumptions so baked-in to these kinds of tests. Such tests are biased in virtue of the content on them—that is, the item content.
Kidder and Rosner (2002: 210) conclude:
… by reminding readers that, based on our empirical findings and review of the educational measurement literature, the process currently used to construct the SAT, LSAT, GRE, and similar tests unintentionally operates to select questions with larger racial and ethnic disparities (favoring Whites).
While, of course, test-prep can be identified as a factor that causes X group to score higher than Y group, other, more valid hypotheses can be—and have been—considered. Analyzing the items on these tests, we see that they are far from ‘objective’ ‘measures’ of ‘ability.’ The IQ-ist will cry that there is some’thing’ being measured in virtue of the correlation between the SAT and IQ—but, no ‘thing’ is being measured by any of these tests (Nash, 1990); they were created for the sole purpose of justifying and reproducing our current social hierarchies (Mensh and Mensh, 1991; Au, 2009; Garisson, 2009).
One needs only to know how such items are selected for inclusion on these tests. Andrew Strenio writes in his book The Testing Trap (1981: 95):
We look at individual questions and see how many people get them right, and which people get them right. We consciously and deliberately select questions so that the kind of people who scored low on the pretest will score low on subsequent tests. We do the same for the middle or high scorers. We are imposing our will on the outcome.
Only one way, though, exists for test constructors to do so—and this is to presuppose, a priori, who the high, middle and low scorers are and construct the test accordingly.
Take a thought experiment in a world in which our society was reversed. Blacks outscored whites and had better life prospects and the same holds for men and women. The hereditarians in this imagined world would then see that the scores on these tests correlated with smaller brain sizes, a lower amount of neurons, and whatnot. What, then, could the test constructors say justify how women and blacks scored higher than men and whites?
Though these are 35-year-old questions, I fail to see why there would be any changes in 2020—test construction has not changed. Such assumptions are, as argued at-length, built into the test. The outcome of these tests, of course, is determined by the nature of the content of the test—the test’s questions. IQ-ists, then, point to the score differentials between groups (men/women, blacks/whites, etc) and then say “See! There are differences so we are not all-the-same-blank-slates!” But statements like this fail to appreciate how tests are constructed—they believe that these tests are ‘objective “measures”‘ and that it, in a way, shows one’s ‘genetic potential’—and this claim is false.
If the nature of the test’s questions—which items are chosen for inclusion on the test—are determined by test constructors and the experimental questions on the SAT—of which whites are more likely to score higher—then it will indeed follow (and empirical evidence shows this) that what drives such large score disparities between whites and blacks on the SAT is, in fact, biased test questions. The same, too, holds for the differences between men and women. Change the assumptions, change the nature and the outcome of the test, then change what you study to ‘find’ the differences ‘causing’ such test score differences between groups. Hopefully, putting it in this way will show the absurdity of using biased tests to show that ‘biology’ is somehow responsible for score differences between groups.
Such inequalities in standardized test scores like the SAT—just like IQ—then, is structured into the test itself—so, tests like this only reproduce the differences between groups that they claim to ‘measure’—which is a circular claim. Studies like this show the folly of thinking that one group is ‘genetically smarter’ than another—which is what the hereditarians set out to prove. Too bad they have no meausuring unit, object of measurment or measured object.
The East Asian race has been held up as what a high “IQ” population can do and, along with the correlation between IQ and standardized testing, “HBDers” claim that this is proof that East Asians are more “intelligent” than Europeans and Africans. Lynn (2006: 114) states that the average IQ of China is 103. There are many problems with such a claim, though. Not least because of the many reports of Chinese cheating on standardized tests. East Asians are claimed to be “genetically superior” to other races as regards IQ, but this claim fails.
Chinese IQ and cheating
Differences in IQ scores have been noted all over China (Lynn and Cheng, 2013), but generally, the consensus is, as a country, that Chinese IQ is 105 while in Singapore and Hong Kong it is 103 and 107 respectively (Lynn, 2006: 118). To explain the patterns of racial IQ scores, Lynn has proposed the Cold Winters theory (of which a considerable response has been mounted against it) which proposes that the harshness of the environment in the ice age selected-for higher ‘general intelligence’ in East Asian and European populations; such a hypothesis is valid to hereditarians since East Asian (“Mongoloids” as Lynn and Rushton call them) consistently score higher on IQ tests than Europeans (eg Lynn and Dzobion, 1979; Lynn, 1991; Herrnstein and Murray, 1994). In a recent editorial in Psych, Lynn (2019) criticizes this claim from Flynn (2019):
While northern Chinese may have been north of the Himalayas during the last Ice Age, the southern Chinese took a coastal route from Africa to China. They went along the Southern coast of the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia before they arrived at the Yangzi. They never were subject to extreme cold.
In response, Lynn cites Frost’s (2019) article where he claims that “mean intelligence seems to have risen during recorded history at temperate latitudes in Europe and East Asia.” Just-so storytelling about how and why such “abilities” were “selected-for”, the Chinese score higher on standardized tests than whites and blacks, and this deserves an explanation (the Cold Winters Theory fails; it’s a just-so story).
Before continuing, something must be noted about Lynn and his Chinese IQ data. Lynn ignores numerous studies on Chinese IQ—Lynn would presumably say that he wants to test those in good conditions and so disregards those parts of China with bad environmental conditions (as he did with African IQs). Here is a collection of forty studies that Lynn did not refer to—some showing that, even in regions in China with optimum living conditions, IQs below 90 are found (Qian et al, 2005). How could Lynn miss so many of these studies if he has been reading into the matter and, presumably, keeping up with the latest findings in the field? The only answer to the question is that Richard Lynn is dishonest. (I can see PumpkinPerson claiming that “Lynn is old! It’s hard to search through and read every study!” to defend this.)
Although the Chinese are currently trying to stop cheating on standardized testing (even a possible seven-year prison sentence, if caught cheating, does not deter cheating), cheating on standardized tests in China and by the Chinese in America is rampant. The following is but a sample of what could be found doing a cursory search on the matter.
One of the most popular ways of cheating on standardized tests is to have another person take the exam for you—which is rampant in China. In one story, as reported by The Atlantic, students can hire “gunmen” to sit-in on tests for them, though measures are being taken to fight back against that such as voice recognition and finger-printing. It is well-known that much of the cheating on such tests are being done by international students.
Even on the PISA—which is used as an “IQ” proxy since they correlate highly (.89) (Lynn and Mikk, 2009)—though, there is cheating. For the PISA, each country is to select, at random, 5,000 of their 15-year-old children around the country and administer the PISA—they chose their biggest provinces which are packed with universities. Further, score flucuations attract attention which indicates dishonesty. In 2000, more than 2000 people protested outside of a university to protest a new law which banned cheating on tests.
The rift amounted to this: Metal detectors had been installed in schools to route out students carrying hearing or transmitting devices. More invigilators were hired to monitor the college entrance exam and patrol campus for people transmitting answers to students. Female students were patted down. In response, angry parents and students championed their right to cheat. Not cheating, they said, would put them at a disadvantage in a country where student cheating has become standard practice. “We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat,” they chanted. (Chinese students and their parents fight for the right to cheat)
Surely, with rampant cheating on standardized tests in China (and for Chinese Americans), we can trust the Chinese IQ numbers in light of the news that there is a culture of cheating on tests in China and in America.
“Genetic superiority” and immigrant hyper-selectivity
Strangely, some proponents of the concept of “genetic superiority” and “progressive evolution” still exist. PumpkinPerson is one of those proponents, writing articles with titles like “Genetically superior: Are East Asians more socially intelligent too?, More evidence that East Asians are genetically superior, Oriental populations: Genetically superior, even referring to a fictional character on a TV show as a “genetic superior.” Such fantastical delusions come from Rushton’s ridiculous claim that evolution may be progressive and that some populations are, therefore, “more evolved” than others:
One theoretical possibility is that evolution is progressive and that some populations are more “advanced” than others. Rushton, 1992
Such notions of “evolutionary progress” and “superiority“—even back in my “HBD” days—never passed the smell test to me. In any case, how can East Asians be said to be “genetically superior”? What do “superior genes” or a “superior genome” look like? This has been outright stated by, for example, Lynn (1977) who prolcaims—for the Japanese—that his “findings indicate a genuine superiority of the Japanese in general intelligence.” This claim, though, is refuted by the empirical data—what explains East Asian educational achievement is not “superior genes”, but the belief that education is paramount for upward social mobility, and so, to preempt discrimination, this would then be why East Asians overperform in school (Sue and Okazaki, 1990).
Furthermore, the academic achievement of Asian cannot be reduced to Asian culture—the fact that they are hyper-selected is why social class matters less for Asian Americans (Lee and Zhou, 2017).
These counterfactuals illustrate that there is nothing essential about Chinese or Asian culture that promotes exceptional educational outcomes, but, rather, is the result of a circular process unique to Asian immigrants in the United States. Asian immigrants to the United States are hyper-selected, which results in the transmission and recreation of middle-class specific cultural frames, institutions, and practices, including a strict success frame as well as an ethnic system of supplementary education to support the success frame for the second generation. Moreover, because of the hyper-selectivity of East Asian immigrants and the racialisation of Asians in the United States, stereotypes of Asian-American students are positive, leading to ‘stereotype promise’, which also boosts academic outcomes
Inequalities reproduce at both ends of the educational spectrum. Some students are assumed to be low-achievers and undeserving, tracked into remedial classes, and then ‘prove’ their low achievement. On the other hand, others are assumed to be high-achievers and deserving of meeting their potential (regardless of actual performance); they are tracked into high-level classes, offered help with their coursework, encouraged to set their sights on the most competitive four-year universities, and then rise to the occasion, thus ‘proving’ the initial presumption of their ability. These are the spill-over effects and social psychological consequences of the hyper-selectivity of contemporary Asian immigration to the United States. Combined with the direct effects, these explain why class matters less for Asian-Americans and help to produce exceptional academic outcomes. (Lee and Zhou, 2017)
The success of second-generation Chinese Americans has, too, been held up as more evidence that the Chinese are ‘superior’ in their mental abilities—being deemed ‘model minorities’ in America. However, in Spain, the story is different. First- and second-generation Chinese immigrants score lower than the native Spanish population on standardized tests. The ‘types’ of immigrants that have emigrated has been forwarded as an explanation for why there are differences in attainments of Asian populations. For example, Yiu (2013: 574) writes:
Yet, on the other side of the Atlantic, a strikingly different story about Chinese immigrants and their offspring – a vastly understudied group – emerges. Findings from this study show that Chinese youth in Spain have substantially lower educational ambitions and attainment than youth from every other nationality. This is corroborated by recently published statistics which show that only 20 percent of Chinese youth are enrolled in post-compulsory secondary education, the prerequisite level of schooling for university education, compared to 40 percent of the entire adolescent population and 30 percent of the immigrant youth population in Catalonia, a major immigrant destination in Spain (Generalitat de Catalunyan, 2010).
… but results from this study show that compositional differences across immigrant groups by class origins and education backgrounds, while substantial, do not fully account for why some groups have higher ambitions than others. Moreover, existing studies have pointed out that even among Chinese American youth from humble, working-class origins, their drive for academic success is still strong, most likely due to their parents’ and even co-ethnic communities’ high expectations for them (e.g., Kao, 1995; Louie, 2004; Kasinitz et al., 2008).
The Chinese in Spain believe that education is a closed opportunity and so, they allocate their energy elsewhere—into entrepreneurship (Yiu, 2013). So, instead of Asian parents pushing for education, they push for entrepreneurship. What this shows is that what the Chinese do is based on context and how they perceive how they will be looked at in the society that they emigrate to. US-born Chinese immigrants are shuttled toward higher education whereas in the Netherlands, the second-generation Chinese have lower educational attainment and the differences come down to national context (Noam, 2014). The Chinese in the U.S. are hyper-selected whereas the Chinese in Spain are not and this shows—the Chinese in the US have a high educational attainment whereas they have a low educational attainment in Spain and the Netherlands—in fact, the Chinese in Spain show lower educational attainment than other ethnic groups (Central Americans, Dominicans, Morrocans; Lee and Zhou, 2017: 2236) which, to Americans would be seen as a surprise
Second-generation Chinese parents match their intergenerational transmission of their ethnocultural emphasis on education to the needs of their national surroundings, which, naturally, affects their third-generation children differently. In the U.S., adaptation implies that parents accept the part of their ethnoculture that stresses educational achievement. (Noam, 2014: 53)
So what explains the higher educational attainment of Asians? A mixture of culture and immigrant (hyper-) selectivity along with the belief that education is paramount for upward mobility (Sue and Okazaki, 1990; Hsin and Xie, 2014; Lee and Zhou, 2017) and the fact that what a Chinese immigrant chooses to do is based on national context (Noam, 2014; Lee and Zhou, 2017). Poor Asians do indeed perform better on scholastic achievement tests than poor whites and poor ‘Hispanics’ (Hsin and Xie, 2014; Liu and Xie, 2016). Teachers even favor Asian American students, perceiving them to be brighter than other students. But what are assumed to be cultural values are actually class values which is due to the hyper-selectivity of Asian immigrants to America (Hsin, 2016).
The fact that the term “Mongoloid idiot” was coined for those with Down syndrome because they looked Asian is very telling (see Hilliard, 2012 for discussion). But, the IQ-ists switched from talking about Caucasian superiority to Asian superiority right as the East began their economic boom (Liberman, 2001). The fact that there were disparate “estimates” of skulls in these centuries points to the fact such “scientific observations” are painted with a cultural brush. See eg table 1 from Lieberman (2001):
This tells us, again, that our “scientific objectivity” is clouded by political and economic prejudices of the time. This allows Rushton to proclaim “If my work was motivated by racism, why would I want Asians to have bigger brains than whites?” Indeed, what a good question. The answer is that the whole point of “HBD race realism” is to denigrate blacks, so as long as whites are above blacks in their little self-made “hierarchy” no such problem exists for them (Hilliard, 2012).
Note how Rushton’s long debunked- r/K selection theory (Anderson, 1991; Graves, 2002) used the current hierarchy and placed dozens of traits on a hierarchy where it was M > C > N (Mongoloids, Caucasoids, and Negroids respectively, to use Rushton’s outdated terminology). It is a political statement to put the ‘Mongoloids’ at the top of the racial hierarchy; the goal of ‘HBD’ is to denigrate blacks. But, do note that in the late 19th to early 20th century that East Asians were deemed to have small brains, large penises, and that Japanese men, for instance, would “debauch their [white] female classmates” (quoted in Hilliard, 2012: 91).
The “IQ” of China (along with scores on other standardized tests such as TIMMS and PISA), in light of the scandals occurring regarding standardized testing should be suspect. Richard Lynn has failed to report dozens of studies that show low IQ scores for China, thusly inflating their scores. This is, yet again, another nail in the coffin for the ‘Cold Winter Theory’, since the story is formulated on the basis of cherry-picked IQ scores of children. I have noted that if we have different assumptions that we would have different evolutionary stories. Thus, if the other data were provided and, say, Chinese IQ were found to be lower, we would just create a story to justify the score. This is illustrated wonderfully by Flynn (2019):
I will only say that I am suspicious of these because none of us can go back and really evaluate environment and mating patterns. Given free reign, I can supply an evolutionary scenario for almost any pattern of current IQ scores. If blacks had a mean IQ above other races I could posit something like this: they benefitted from exposure to the most rigorous environmental conditions possible, namely, competition from other people. Thanks to greater population pressures on resources, blacks would have benefitted more from this than any of those who left at least for a long time. Those who left eventually became Europeans and East Asians.
The hereditarians point to the academic success of East Asians in America as proof that IQ tests ‘measure’ intelligence, but East Asians in America are a hyper-selected sample. As the references I have provided show, second-generation Chinese immigrants show lower educational attainments than other ethnies (the opposite is true in America) and this is explained by the context that the immigrant family finds themselves in—where do you allocate your energy? Education or entrepreneurship? Such choices seem to be class-based due to the fact education is championed by the Chinese in America and not in Spain and the Netherlands—then dictate, and they also refute any claims of ‘genetic superiority’—they also refute, for that matter, the claim that genes matter for educational attainment (and therefore IQ)—although we did not need to know this to know that IQ is a bunk ‘measure’.
So if Chinese cheat on standardized tests, then we should not accept their IQ scores; the fact that they, for example, provide non-random children from large provinces speaks to their dishonesty. They are like Lynn, in a way, avoiding the evidence that IQ scores are not what they seem—both Lynn and the Chinese government are dishonest cherry-pickers. The ‘fact’ that East Asian educational attainment can be attributed to genes is false; it is attributed to hyper-selectivity and notions of class and what constitutes ‘success’ in the country they emigrate to—so what they attempt is based on (environmental) context.
In its essence the traditional notion of general intelligence may be a secularised version of the Puritan idea of the soul. … perhaps Galtonian intelligence had its roots in a far older kind of religious thinking. (John White, Personal space: The religious origins of intelligence testing)
In chapter 1 of Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology, Dorothy Nelkin identifies the link between the founder of sociobiology E.O. Wilson’s religious beliefs and the epiphany he described when he learned of evolution. A Christian author then used Sociobiology to explain and understand the origins of our own sinfulness (Williams, 2000). But there is another hereditarian-type research program that has these kinds of assumptions baked-in—IQ.
Philosopher of education John White has looked into the origins of IQ testing and the Puritan religion. The main link between Puritanism and IQ was that of predestination. The first IQ-ists conceptualized IQ—‘g’ or general intelligence—to be innate, predetermined and hereditary. The predetermination line between both IQ and Puritanism is easy to see: To the Puritans, it was predestined whether or not one went to Hell before they even existed as human beings whereas to the IQ-ists, IQ was predestined, due to genes.
John White (2006: 39) in Intelligence, Destiny, and Education notes the parallel between “salvation and success, damnation and failure”:
Can we usefully compare the saved/damned dichotomy with the perceived contribtion of intelligence or the lack of it to success and failure in life, as conventionally understood? One thing telling against this is that intelligence testers claim to identify via IQ scores a continuous gamut of ability from lowest to highest. On the other hand, most of the pioneers in the field were … especially interested in the far ends of this range — in Galton’s phrase ‘the extreme classes, the best and the worst.’ On the other hand there were the ‘gifted’, ‘the eminent’, ‘those who have honourably succeeded in life’, presumably … the most valuable portion of our human stock. On the other, the ‘feeble-minded’, the ‘cretins’, the ‘refuse’ those seeking to avoid ‘the monotony of daily labor’, democracy’s ballast, not always useless but always a potential liability’.
A Puritan-type parallel can be drawn here—the ‘cretins and ‘feeble-minded’ are ‘the damned’ whereas ‘the extreme classes, the best and worst’ were ‘the saved.’ This kind of parallel can still be seen in modern conceptualizations of the debate and current GWASs—certain people have a certain surfeit of genes that influence intellectual attainment. Contrast with the Puritan “Certain people are chosen before they exist to either be damned or saved.” Certain people are chosen, by random mix-ups of genes during conception, to either be successful or not, and this is predetermined by the genes. So, genetic determinism when speaking of IQ is, in a way, just like Puritan predestination—according to Galton, Burt and other IQ-ists in the 1910s-1920s (ever since Goddard brought back the Binet-Simon Scales from France in 1910).
Some Puritans banned the poor from their communities seeing them as “disruptors to Puritan communities.” Stone (2018: 3-4) in An Invitation to Satan: Puritan Culture and the Salem Witch Trials writes:
The range of Puritan belief in salvation usually extended merely to members of their own communities and other Puritans. They viewed outsiders as suspicious, and people who held different beliefs, creeds, or did things differently were considered dangerous or evil. Because Puritans believed the community shared the consequences of right and wrong, often community actions were taken to atone for the misdeed. As such, they did not hesitate to punish or assault people who they deemed to be transgressors against them and against God’s will. The people who found themselves punished were the poor, and women who stood low on the social ladder. These punishments would range from beatings to public humiliation. Certain crimes, however, were viewed as far worse than others and were considered capital crimes, punishable by death.
Could the Puritan treatment of the poor be due to their beliefs of predestination? Puritan John Winthrop stated in his book A Model of Christian Charity that “some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.” This, too, is still around today: IQ sets “upper limits” on one’s “ability ceiling” to achieve X. The poor are those who do not have the ‘right genes’. This is, also, a reason why IQ tests were first introduced in America—to turn away the poor (Gould, 1996; Dolmage, 2018). That one’s ability is predetermined in their genes—that each person has their own ‘ceiling of ability’ that they can reach that is then constrained by their genes is just like the Puritan predestination thesis. But, it is unverifiable and unfalsifiable, so it is not a scientific theory.
To White (2006), the claim that we have this ‘innate capacity’ that is ‘general’ this ‘intelligence’ is wanting. He takes this further, though. In discussing Galton’s and Burt’s claim that there are ‘ability ceilings’—and in discussing a letter he wrote to Burn—White (2006: 16) imagines that we give instruction to all of the twin pairs and that, their scores increase by 15 points. This, then, would have a large effect on the correlation “So it must be an assumption made by the theorist — i.e. Burt — in claiming a correlation of 0.87, that coaching could not successfully improve IQ scores. Burt replied ‘I doubt whether, had we returned a second time, the coaching would have affected our correlations” (White, 2006: 16). Burt seems to be implying that a “ceiling of ability” exists, which he got from his mentor, Galton. White continues:
It would appear that Galton nor Burt have any evidence for their key claim [that ability ceilings exist]. The proposition that, for all of us, there are individually differing ceilings of ability seems to be an assumption behind their position, rather than a conclusion based on telling grounds.
I have discussed elsewhere (White, 1974; 2002a: ch. 5) what could count as evidence for this proposition, and concluded that it is neither verifiable nor falsifiable. The mere fact that a child appears not able to get beyond, say, elementary algebra is not evidence of a ceiling. The failure of this or that variation in teaching approach fares no better, since it is always possible for a tracher to try some different approach to help the learner get over the hurdle. (With some children, so neurologically damaged that they seem incapable of language, it may seem that the point where options run out for the teacher is easier to establish than it is for other children. But the proposition in question is supposed to applu to all of us: we are all said to have our own mental ceiling; and for non-brain-damaged people the existence of a ceiling sems impossible to demonstrate.) It is not falsifiable, since for even the cleverest person in the world, for whom no ceiling has been discovered, it is always possible that it exists somewhere. As an untestable — unverifiable and unfalsifiable — proposition, the claim that we each have a mental ceiling has, if we follow Karl Popper (1963: ch. 1), no role in science. It is like the proposition that God exists or that all historical events are predetermined, both of which are equally untestable. As such, it may play a foundational role, as these two propositions have played, in some ideological belief system of belief, but has no place in empirical science. (White, 2006: 16)
Burt believed that we should use IQ tests to shoe-horn people into what they would be ‘best for’ on the basis of IQ. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why Binet constructed what would then become the modern IQ test. Binet, influenced by Galton’s (1869) Hereditary Genius, believed that we could identify and help lower-‘ability’ children. Binet envisioned an ‘ideal city’ in which people were pushed to vocations that were based on their ‘IQs.’ Mensh and Mensh (1991: 23) quote Binet on the “universal applications” of his test:
Of what use is a measure of intelligence? Without doubt, one could conceive many possible applications of the process in dreaming of a future where the social sphere would be better organized than ours; where everyone would work according to his known apptitudes in such a way that non particle of psychic force should be lost for society. That would be the ideal city.
So, it seems, Binet wanted to use his test as an early aptitude-type test (like the ones we did in grammar school which ‘showed us’ which vocations we would be ‘good at’ based on a questionnaire). Having people in Binet’s ‘ideal city’ work based on their ‘known aptitudes’ would increase, not decrease, inequality so Binet’s envisioned city is exactly the same as today’s world. Mensh and Mensh (1991: 24) continue:
When Binet asserted that everyone would work to “known” aptitudes, he was saying that the individuals comprising a particular group would work according to the aptitudes that group was “known” to have. When he suggested, for example, that children of lower socioeconomic status are perfectly suited for manual labor, he was simply expressing what elite groups “know,” that is, that they themselves have mental aptitudes, and others have manual ones. It was this elitist belief, this universal rationale for the social status quo, that would be upheld by the universal testing Binet proposed.
White (2006: 42) writes:
Children born with low IQs have been held to have no hope of a professional, well-paid job. If they are capable of joining the workforce at all, they must find their niche as the unskilled workers.
Thus, the similarities between IQ-ist and religious (Puritan) belief comes clear. The parallels between the Puritan concern for salvation and the IQ-ist belief that one’s ‘innate intelligence’ dictated whether or not they would succeed or fail in life (based on their genes); both had thoughts of those lower on the social ladder, their work ethic and morals associated with the reprobate on the one hand and the low IQ people on the other; both groups believed that the family is the ‘mechanism’ by which individuals are ‘saved’ or ‘damned’—presuming salvation is transmitted based one’s family for the Puritans and for the IQ-ists that those with ‘high intelligence’ have children with the same; they both believed that their favored group should be at the top with the best jobs, and best education, while those lower on the social ladder should also get what they accordingly deserve. Galton, Binet, Goddard, Terman, Yerkes, Burt, and others believed that one was endowed with ‘innate general intelligence’ due to genes, according to the current-day IQ-ists who take the same concept.
White drew his parallel between IQ and Puritanism without being aware that one of the first anti-IQ-ists—and American Journalist named Walter Lippman—who also been made in the mid-1920s. (See Mensh and Mensh, 1991 for a discussion of Lippman’s grievances with the IQ-ists). Such a parralel between Puritanism and Galton’s concept of ‘intelligence’ and that of the IQ-ists today. White (2005: 440) notes “that virtually all the major players in the story had Puritan connexions may prove, after all, to be no more than coincidence.” Though, the evidence that White has marshaled in favor of the claim is interesting, as noted many parallels exist. It would be some huge coincidence for there to be all of these parallels without them being causal (from Puritanistic beliefs to hereditarian IQ dogma).
This is similar to what Oyama (1985: 53) notes:
Just as traditonal though placed biological forms in the mind of God, so modern thought finds many ways of endowing the genes with ultimate formative power, a power bestowed by Nature over countless milennia.
But this parallel between Puritanism and hereditarianism doesn’t just go back to the early 20th century—it can still be seen today. The assumption that genes contain a type of ‘information’ before activated by the physiological system for its uses still pervades our thought today, even though many others have been at the forefront to change that kind of thinking (Oyama, 1985, 2000; Jablonka and Lamb, 1995, 2005; Moore, 2002, 2016; Noble, 2006, 2011, 2016).
The links between hereditarianism and religion are compelling; eugenic and Puritan beliefs are similar (Durst, 2017). IQ tests have now been identified as having their origins in eugenic beliefs, along with Puritan-like beliefs have being saved/damned based on something that is predetermined, out of your control just like your genetics. The conception of ‘ability ceilings’—using IQ tests—is not verifiable nor is it falsifiable. Hereditarians believe in ‘ability ceilings’ and claim that genes contain a kind of “blueprint” (which is still held today) which predestines one toward certain dispositions/behaviors/actions. Early IQ-ists believed that one is destined for certain types of jobs based on what is ‘known’ about their group. When Binet wrote that, the gene was yet to be conceptualized, but it has stayed with us ever since.
So not only did the concept of “IQ” emerge due to the ‘need’ to ‘identify’ individuals for their certain ‘aptitudes’ that they would be well-suited for in, for instance, Binet’s ideal city, it also arose from eugenic beliefs and religious (Puritan) thinking. This may be why IQ-ists seem so hysterical—so religious—when talking about IQ and the ‘predictions’ it ‘makes’ (see Nash, 1990).
Charles Murray published his Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class on 1/28/2020. I have an ongoing thread on Twitter discussing it.
Murray talks of an “orthodoxy” that denies the biology of gender, race, and class. This orthodoxy, Murray says, are social constructivists. Murray is here to set the record straight. I will discuss some of Murray’s other arguments in his book, but for now I will focus on the section on race.
Murray, it seems, has no philosophical grounding for his belief that the clusters identified in these genomic runs are races—and this is clear with his assumptions that groups that appear in these analyses are races. But this assumption is unfounded and Murray’s assumption that the clusters are races without any sound justification for his belief actually undermines his claim that races exist. That is one thing that really jumped out at me as I was reading this section of the book. Murray discusses what geneticists say, but he does not discuss what any philosophers of race say. And that is to his downfall.
Murray discusses the program STRUCTURE, in which geneticists input the number of clusters they want and, when DNA is analyzed (see also Hardimon, 2017: chapter 4). Rosenberg et al (2002) sampled 1056 individuals from 52 different populations using 377 microsatellites. They defined the populations by culture, geography, and language, not skin color or race. When K was set to 5, the clusters represented folk concepts of race, corresponding to the Americas, Europe, East Asia, Oceania, and Africa. (See Minimalist Races Exist and are Biologically Real.) Yes, the number of clusters that come out of STRUCTURE are predetermined by the researchers, but the clusters “are genetically structured … which is to say, meaningfully demarcated solely on the basis of genetic markers” (Hardimon, 2017: 88).
Races as clusters
Murray then discusses Li et al, who set K to 7 and North Africa and the Middle East were new clusters. Murray then provides a graph from Li et al:
So, Murray’s argument seems to be “(1) If clusters that correspond to concepts of race setting K to 5-7 appear in STRUCTURE and cluster analyses, then (2) race exists. (1). Therefore (2).” Murray is missing a few things here, namely conditions (see below) that would place the clusters into the racial categories. His assumption that the clusters are races—although (partly) true—is not bound by any sound reasoning, as can be seen by his partitioning Middle Easterners and North Africans as separate races. Rosenberg et al (2002) showed the Kalash in K=6, are they a race too?
No, they are not. Just because STRUCTURE identifies a population as genetically distinct, it does not entail that the population in question is a race because they do not fit the criteria for racehood. The fact that the clusters correspond to major areas means that the clusters represent continental-level minimalist races so races, therefore, exist (Hardimon, 2017: 85-86). But to be counted as a continental-level minimalist race, the group must fit the following conditions (Hardimon, 2017: 31):
(C1) … a group is distinguished from other groups of human beings by patterns of visible physical features
(C2) [the] members are linked by a common ancestry peculiar to members of that group, and
(C3) [they] originate from a distinctive geographic location
…what it is for a group to be a race is not defined in terms of what it is for an individual to be a member of a race. What it means to be an individual member of a minimalist race is defined in terms of what it is for a group to be a race.
Murray (paraphrased): “Cluster analyses/STRUCTURE spit out these continental microsatellite divisions which correspond to commonsense notions of race.” What is Murray’s logic for assuming that clusters are races? It seems that there is no logic behind it—just “commonsense.” (See also Fish, below.) Due to not finding any arguments for accepting X number of clusters as the races Murray wants, I can only assume that Murray just chose which one agreed with his notions and use for his book. (If I am in error, then if there is an argument in the book then maybe someone can quote it.) What kind of justification is that?
Compared to Hardimon’s argument and definition. Homo sapiens is:
… a subdivision of Homo sapiens—a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the group’s geographic ancestry and belongs to a biological line of descent initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population. (Hardimon, 2017: 99)
Step 1. Recognize that there are differences in patterns of visible physical features of human beings that correspond to their differences in geographic ancestry.
Step 2. Observe that these patterns are exhibited by groups (that is, real existing groups).
Step 3. Note that the groups that exhibit these patterns of visible physical features correspond to differences in geographical ancestry satisfy the conditions of the minimalist concept of race.
Step 4. Infer that minimalist race exists. (Hardimon, 2017: 69)
While Murray is right that the clusters that correspond to the folk races appear in K = 5, you can clearly see that Murray assumes that ALL clusters would then be races and this is where the philosophical emptiness of Murray’s account comes in. Murray has no criteria for his belief that the clusters are races, commonsense is not good enough.
Murray then lambasts the orthodoxy for claiming that race is a social construct.
Advocates of “race is a social construct” have raised a host of methodological and philosophical issues with the cluster analyses. None of the critical articles has published a cluster analysis that does not show the kind of results I’ve shown.
Murray does not, however, discuss a more critical article of Rosenberg et al (2002)—Mills (2017) – Are Clusters Races? A Discussion of the Rhetorical Appropriation of Rosenberg et al’s “Genetic Structure of Human Populations.” Mills (2017) discusses the views of Neven Sesardic (2010)—philosopher—and Nicholas Wade—science journalist and author of A Troublesome Inheritance (Wade, 2014). Both Wade and Seasardic are what Kaplan and Winther (2014) term “biological racial realists” whereas Rosenberg et al (2002), Spencer (2014), and Hardimon (2017) are bio-genomic/cluster realists. Mills (2017) discusses the “misappropriation” of the bio-genomic cluster concept due to the “structuring of figures [and] particular phrasings” found in Rosenberg et al (2002). Wade and Seasardic shifted from bio-genomic cluster realism to their own hereditarian stance (biological racial realism, Kaplan and Winther, 2014). While this is not a blow to the positions of Hardimon and Spencer, this is a blow to Murray et al’s conception of “race.”
Murray (2020: 144)—rightly—disavows the concept of folk races but wrongly accepting the claim that we dispense with the term “race”:
The orthodoxy is also right in wanting to discard the word race. It’s not just the politically correct who believe that. For example, I have found nothing in the genetics technical literature during the last few decades that uses race except within quotation marks. The reasons are legitimate, not political, and they are both historical and scientific.
Historically, it is incontestably true that the word race has been freighted with cultural baggage that has nothing to do with biological differences. The word carries with it the legacy of nineteenth-century scientific racism combined with Europe’s colonialism and America’s history of slavery and its aftermath.
The combination of historical and scientific reasons makes a compelling case that the word race has outlived its usefulness when discussing genetics. That’s why I adopt contemporary practice in the technical literature, which uses ancestral population or simply population instead of race or ethnicity …
[Murray also writes on pg 166]
The material here does not support the existence of the classically defined races.
(Nevermind the fact that Murray’s and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve was highly responsible for bringing “scientific racism” into the 21st century—despite protestations to the contrary that his work isn’t “scientifically racist.”)
In any case, we do not need to dispense with the term race. We only need to deflate the term (Hardimon, 2017; see also Spencer, 2014). Rejecting claims from those termed biological racial realists by Kaplan and Winther (2014), both Hardimon (2017) and Spencer (2014; 2019) deflate the concept of race—that is, their concepts only discuss what we can see, not what we can’t. Their concepts are deflationist in that they take the physical differences from the racialist concept (and reject the psychological assumptions). Murray, in fact, is giving into this “orthodoxy” when he says that we should stop using the term “race.” It’s funny, Murray cites Lewontin (an eliminativist about race) but advocates eliminativism of the word but still keeping the underlying “guts” of the concept, if you will.
We should only take the concept of “race” out of our vocabulary if, and only if, our concept does not refer. So for us to take “race” out of our vocabulary it would have to not refer to any thing. But “race” does refer—to proper names for a set of human population groups and to social groups, too. So why should we get rid of the term? There is absolutely no reason to do so. But we should be eliminativist about the racialist concept of race—which needs to exist if Murray’s concept of race holds.
There is, contra Murray, material that corresponds to the “classically defined races.” This can be seen with Murra’s admission that he read the “genetics technical literature”. He didn’t say that he read any philosophy of race on the matter, and it clearly shows.
To quote Hardimon (2017: 97):
Deflationary realism provides a worked-out alternative to racialism—it is a theory that represents race as a genetically grounded, relatively superficial biological reality that is not normatively important in itself. Deflationary realism makes it possible to rethink race. It offers the promise of freeing ourselves, if only imperfectly, from the racialist background conception of race.
Spencer (2014) states that the population clusters found by Rosenberg et al’s (2002) K = 5 run are referents of racial terms used by the US Census. “Race terms” to Spencer (2014: 1025) are “a rigidly designating proper name for a biologically real entity …” Spencer’s (2019b) position is now “radically pluralist.” Spencer (2019a) states that the set of races in OMB race talk (Office of Management and Budget) is one of many forms “race” can take when talking about race in the US; the set of races in OMB race talk is the set of continental human populations; and the continental set of human populations is biologically real. So “race” should be understood as proper names—we should only care if our terms refer or not.
Murray’s philosophy of race is philosophically empty—Murray just uses “commensense” to claim that the clusters found are races, which is clear with his claim that ME/NA people constitute two more races. This is almost better than Rushton’s three-race model but not by much. In fact, Murray’s defense of race seems to be almost just like Jensen’s (1998: 425) definition, which Fish (2002: 6) critiqued:
This is an example of the kind of ethnocentric operational definition described earlier. A fair translation is, “As an American, I know that blacks and whites are races, so even though I can’t find any way of making sense of the biological facts, I’ll assign people to my cultural categories, do my statistical tests, and explain the differences in biological terms.” In essence, the process involves a kind of reasoning by converse. Instead of arguing, “If races exist there are genetic differences between them,” the argument is “Genetic differences between groups exist, therefore the groups are races.”
So, even two decades later, hereditarians are STILL just assuming that race exists WITHOUT arguments and definitions/theories of race. Rushton (1997) did not define “race”, and also just assumed the existence of his three races—Caucasians, Mongoloids, and Negroids; Levin (1997), too, just assumes their existence (Fish, 2002: 5). Lynn (2006: 11) also uses a similar argument to Jensen (1998: 425). Since the concept of race is so important to the hereditarian research paradigm, why have they not operationalized a definition and rely on just assuming that race exists without argument? Murray can now join the list of his colleagues who also assume the existence of race sans definition/theory.
Hardimon’s and Spencer’s concepts get around Fish’s (2002: 6) objection—but Murray’s doesn’t. Murray simply claims that the clusters are races without really thinking about it and providing justification for his claim. On the other hand, philosophers of race (Hardimon, 2017; Spencer, 2014; 2019a, b) have provided sound justification for the belief in race. Murray is not fair to the social constructivist position (great accounts can be found in Zack (2002), Hardimon (2017), Haslanger (2000)). Murray seems to be one of those “Social constructivists say race doesn’t exist!” people, but this is false: Social constructs are real and the social can does have potent biological effects. Social constructivists are realists about race (Spencer, 2012; Kaplan and Winther, 2014; Hardimon, 2017), contra Helmuth Nyborg.
Murray (2020: 17) asks “Why me? I am neither a geneticist nor a neuroscientist. What business do I have writing this book?” If you are reading this book for a fair—philosophical—treatment for race, look to actual philosophers of race and don’t look to Murray et al who do not, as shown, have a definition of race and just assume its existence. Spencer’s Blumenbachian Partitions/Hardimon’s minimalist races are how we should understand race in American society, not philosophically empty accounts.
Murray is right—race exists. Murray is also wrong—his kinds of races do not exist. Murray is right, but he doesn’t give an argument for his belief. His “orthodoxy” is also right about race—since we should accept pluralism about race then there are many different ways of looking at race, what it is, and its influence on society and how society influences it. I would rather be wrong and have an argument for my belief then be right and appeal to “commonsense” without an argument.
Mass shootings occur about every 12.5 days (Meindl and Ivy, 2017) and so, figuring out why this is the case is of utmost importance. There are, of course, complex and multi-factorial reasons why people turn to mass killing, with popular fixes being to change the environment and attempt to identify at-risk individuals before they carry out such heinous acts.
Just-so stories take many forms—why men have beards, human fear of snakes and spiders, why men have bald heads, why humans have big brains, why certain genes are in different populations in different frequencies, etc. The trait/genes that influence the trait are said to be fitness-enhancing and therefore selected-for—they become “naturally selected” (see Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, 2010, 2011) and fixated in that species. Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and deadlier in America; is there any evolutionary rationale behind this? Don’t worry, the just-so storytellers are here to tell us why these sorts of actions are and have been prevalent in society.
The end result is a highly provocative interpretation of combining theories of human nature and evolutionary psychology. Additionally, community development and connectedness are described as evolved behaviors that help provide opportunities for individuals to engage and support each other in a conflicted society. In sum, this manuscript helps piece together centuries old [sic] theories describing human nature with current views addressing natural selection and adaptive behaviors that helped shape the good that we know in each person as well as the potential destruction that we seem to tragically be witnessing with increasing frequency. At the time of this manuscript publication yet another mass campus shooting had occurred at Umpqua Community College (near Roseburg, Orgeon). (Hoffman, 2015: 3-4, Philosophical Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology)
It seems that Hoffman (a psychology professor at Metropolitan State University) is implying that such actions like “mass campus shootings” are a part of “the potential destruction that we seem to tragically be witnessing with increasing frequency.” Hoffman (2015: 175) speaks of “genetic skills” and that just “because an individual has the genetic skills to be an athlete, artist, or auto-mechanic does not mean that ipso facto it will happen—what actually defines the outcomes of a specific human behavior is a very complex social and environmental process.” So, at least, Hoffman seems to understand (and endorse) the GxE/DST view.
There are more formal presentations that such actions are “based on an evolutionary compulsion to take action against a perceived threat to their status as males, which may pose a serious threat to their viability as mates and to their ultimate survival” (Muscoreil, 2015). (Let’s hope they stayed an undergrad.)
Muscoreil (2015) claims that such are due to status-seeking—to take action against other males that they perceive to be a threat to their social status and reproductive success. Of course, killing off the competition would have that individual’s genes spread through the population more, therefore increasing the frequency of those traits in the population if they happen to have more children (so the just-so story goes). Though, the storytellers are hopeful: Muscoreil (2015) proposes to be ready to work toward “peace and healing” whereas Hoffman (2015: 176) proposes that we should work on cooperation, which was evolutionarily adaptive, and so “communities not only have the capacity but also more importantly an obligation to create specific environments that stimulates and nurture cooperative relationships, such as the development of community service activities and civic engagement opportunities.” So it seems that these authors aren’t so doom-and-gloom—through community outreach, we can come together and attempt to decrease these kinds of crimes that have been on the rise since 1999.
There is a paraphilia called “hybristophilia” in which a woman gets sexually aroused at the thought of being cheated on, or even the thought of her partner committing heinous crimes such as rape and murder. Some women are even attracted to serial killers, and they tend to be in their 40s and 50s—through the killer, it is said, the woman gains a sense of status in her head. Two kinds of women who fall for serial killers exist: those who think they can “change” the killer and those who are attracted through news headlines on the killer’s actions. While others say lonely women who want attention will write serial killers since they are more likely to write back. This is, clearly, pointing to an innate evolutionary drive for women to be attracted to the killer, so they can feel more protected—even if they are not physically with them.
Of course, if there were no guns there would still (theoretically) be mass killings, as anything and everything can be used as a weapon to cause harm to another (which is why this is about mass killings and not mass murders). So, evolutionary psychologists note that a certain action is still prevalent (the fact that autogenic massacre exists) and attempt to explain it in a way only they can—through the tried and tested just-so story method.
Klinesmith et al (2006) showed that men who interacted with a gun showed subsequent increases in testosterone levels compared to those who tinkered with the board game Mouse Trap. Those who had access to the gun showed greater increases in testosterone and thus added more hot sauce to the water. They conclude that “exposure to guns may increase later interpersonal aggression, but further demonstrates that, at least for males, it does so in part by increasing testosterone levels” (Klinesmith et al, 2006: 570). And so, due to this, guns may increase aggressive behavior due to an increase in testosterone. This study has the usual pitfalls—small sample (n=30), college-age (younger means more aggressive, on average) and so cannot be generalized. But the idea is out there: Holding a gun has a man feel more powerful and dominant, and so, their testosterone levels increase BUT! the testosterone increase would not be driving the cause. It has even been said that mass shooters are “low dominance losers”. Lack of attention would lead to decreased social status which means fewer women would be willing to talk with the guy which makes the guy think that his access to women is decreasing due to his lack of social status and, when he gets access to a weapon, his testosterone increases as he can then give in to his evolutionary compulsions and therefore increase his virality and access to mates.
Elliot Rodger is one of these types. Killing six people because he was shunned and had no social life—he wanted to punish the women who rejected him and the men who he envied. Being inter-racial himself, he described his hatred for inter-racial couples and couples in general (he himself was half white and half Asian), the fact that he could never get a girlfriend, and the conflicts that occurred in his family. Of course, all of his life experiences coalesced into the actions he decided to undertake that day—and to the evolutionary psychologist, it is all understandable through an evolutionary lens. He could not get women and was jealous of the men who could get women, so why not attempt to take some of them out and get his “retributive justice” he so yearned for? Evolutionary psychology explains his and similar actions. (VanGeem, 2009 espouses similar ideas.)
These ideas on evolutionary psychology and mass killings can even be extended to terrorism and mass killings—as I myself (stupidly) have written on (see Rushton, 2005). He uses his (refuted) genetic similarity theory (GST; an extension of kin selection and Dawkins’ selfish gene theory) to show why suicide bombers are motivated to kill.
These political factors play an indispensable role but from an evolutionary perspective aspiring to universality, people have evolved a ‘cognitive module’ for altruistic self-sacrifice that benefits their gene pool. In an ultimate rather than proximate sense, suicide bombing can be viewed as a strategy to increase inclusive fitness. (Rushton, 2005: 502)
“Genes … typically only whisper their wishes rather than shout” (Rushton, 2005: 502). Note the Dawkins-like wording. Rushton, wisely, cautions in his conclusion that his genetic similarity theory is only one of many reasons why things like this occur and that causation is complex and multi-factorial—right, nice cover. To Rushton, the suicide bomber is taking an action in order to ensure that those more closely relate to them (their family and their ethnic group as a whole) survive and propagate more of their genes, increasing the selfishness and ethnocentrism of that ethnic group. Note how Rushton, despite his protestations to the contrary, is trying to ‘rationalize’ racism and ethnocentric behavior as being ‘in the genes’ with the selfish genes having the ‘vehicle’ behave more selfishly in order to increase the frequencies of the copies of itself that are found in co-ethnics. (See Noble, 2011 for a refutation of Dawkins’ theory.) Ethnic nationalism, genocide, and genocide are the “dark side to altruism”, states Rushton (2005: 504), and this altruistic behavior, in principle, could show why Arabs commit their suicide bombings and similar attacks.
Jetter and Walker (2018) show that “news coverage is suggested to cause approximately three mass shootings in the following week, which would explain 58 percent of all mass shootings in our sample” looking at ABC News Tonight coverage between the time period of Januray 1, 2013 to June 23, 2016. Others have also suggested that such a “media contagion” effect exists in regard to mass shootings (Towers et al, 2015; Johnston and Joy, 2016; Meindl and Ivy, 2017; Lee, 2018; Pescara-Kovach et al, 2019). The idea of such a “media contagion” makes sense: If one is already harboring ideas of attempting a mass killing, seeing them occur in their own country by people around their own ages may have them think “I can do that, too.” And so, this could be one of the reasons for the increase in such attacks—the sensationalist media constantly covering the events and blasting the name of the perpetrator all over the airwaves.
Though, contrary to popular belief, the race of a mass shooter is not more likely to be white—he is more likely to be Asian. Between 1982 and 2013, out of the last 20 mass killings of the time period, 45 percent (9) were comitted by non-whites. Asians, being 6 percent of the US population, were 15 percent of the killers within the last 31 years. So, regarding population size, Asians commit the most mass shootings, not whites. (See also Mass Shootings by Race; they have up-to-date numbers.) Chen et al (2015) showed that:
being exposed to a Korean American rampage shooter in the media and perceiving race as a cause for this violence was positively associated with negative beliefs and social distance toward Korean American men. Whereas prompting White-respondents to subtype the Korean-exemplar helped White-respondents adjust their negative beliefs about Korean American men according to their attribution of the shooting to mental illness, it did not eliminate the effect of racial attribution on negative beliefs and social distance
Mass shooters who were Asian or another non-white minority got a lot more attention and receieved longer stories than those of white shooters. “While the two most covered shootings are perpetrated by whites (Sandy Hook and the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona), both an Asian and Middle Eastern shooter garnered considerable attention in The Times” (Schildkraut, Elsass, and Meredith, 2016).
Although Hoffman (2015) and Muscoreil (2015) state that we should look to the community to ensure that individuals are not socially isolated so that these kinds of things may be prevented, there is still no way to predict who a mass shooter would be. Others propose that, due to the high increase of school shootings, steps should be taken to evaluate the mental health of at-risk students (Paoloni, 2015; see alsoKnoll and Annas, 2016.) and attempt to stop these kinds of things before they happen. Mental illness cannot predict mass shootings (Leshner, 2019), but “evolutionary psychologists” cannot either. We did not need the just-so storytelling of Rushton, Hoffman, and Muscoreil to explain why mass killers still exist—the solutions to such killings put forth by Hoffman and Muscoreil are fine, but we did not need just-so story ‘reasoning’ to come to that conclusion.