Monday, February 19, 2007

Why We Disagree With Charles Murray

Though we're fans of evolutionary psychology, there's one pretty big region where we part company with the likes of Steve Sailer and Charles Murray. That's on the issue of race.

Race is a completely arbitrary biological concept when it comes to the human species. There are certain differences in the genetic code, depending on where you look (varying susceptibility to anemia, for instance), but nothing that prevents any two humans from producing viable offspring.

Charles Murray (in The Bell Curve) made a lot of noise about differences in IQ distribution among various races. Steve Sailer seems to have taken up that trumpet after him. One of the subjects that frequently comes up is how blacks tend to (tend to, Sailer always stresses) have lower IQs than whites.

Even if the history of IQ tests weren't already fraught with questionable academic standards (independent of the racial controversy) - and even if the scary "yeah, so?" implications were lingering unanswered behind every such assertion - and even if testing of this sort hadn't historically been used to deny black people access to liberties that white people take for granted (i.e., voting), there'd be one obvious test that this theory fails. Ockham's Razor.

Is there a simpler explanation for why black people might score lower on IQ tests than white people? Well, if you asked us to name the ten worst U.S. institutions of the last two centuries, slavery, public schools, housing projects and the War on Drugs would be among them.

War on Drugs: More than ten percent of all black men in their twenties are in prison - most of them for drug-related crimes.

Housing projects: Do we really need to go into the failure of welfare in the U.S.?

Public Schools: Education spending per pupil has doubled in the last thirty years, but graduation rates have not changed. Massive federal mandates to save schools turn into graft and cushy contracts to corporate cronies. Public schools put your child's mind in the hands of bureaucrats accountable to no one. And public schools are overwhelmingly filled by ethnic minorities - particularly black children.

Slavery: A net loss for black people, we can safely say.

Of course, none of these problems can be solved by more spending, more regulation or more state control. The answer to all of these save the lattermost is for the government to back off (whether quickly or slowly we can debate later).

But if forced to choose which sounds more plausible - the idea that black people are inherently less smart than white people, or that maybe the U.S. gave them a bad rap for their first three and a half centuries on the continent - we have to side with the second explanation. The one that we know is true.

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