A fellow who calls himself The Prussian, but who I will call “Mr. P” for short, recently posted a piece entitled The Anti-Racialist Q&A at a website called “Skeptic Ink.” As is to be expected from a blog published at a website with the word “skeptic” in its title, the piece is characterized by a snarky, undeservedly confident, and self-congratulatory tone, while pushing pseudo-scientific dogma unrestrained by even the slightest hint of actual skepticism. Mr. P calls out several “racialist” sites by name, among them The Right Stuff. As such, I am going to respond to Mr. P and explain why nearly everything he said was wrong. Mr. P’s piece consists of 3 sections: a preface, a section on science, and a section on politics. I am only going to respond to the section on science both because it is the section I am most interested in and because there isn’t any point in talking about the political ramifications of science if you don’t get said science right in the first place.
Before examining Mr P’s arguments, I’m going to clearly state the position I am defending. In my view, there are biologically real races and among them is the white race. These races are the result of tens of thousands of years that the races spent evolving in different environments. These divergent evolutionary histories have resulted in important genetic differences between the races. Because of this, racial differences in intelligence, criminality, and political beliefs, among other things, have a partly (but not wholly) genetic basis.
Mr. P’s article begins by denying the biological reality of the white race. Make no mistake, Mr. P is not pushing the standard leftist line that there is no genetic basis for dividing people into races. Rather, Mr. P is making the uniquely ridiculous argument that a Caucasian race, defined as including Europeans, Middle Easterners, and Northern Africans, exists biologically, but that a white race, defined as just Europeans, does not. This claim is truly bizarre. In the same way that you can look at someones genome and tell if they are Caucasian or Asian you can also tell if they are European or Middle Eastern. This is because there are genes that are much more, or less, frequent among whites than among non white Caucasians which can be used as “markers” to predict whether or not someone is white . One need not be well versed in genetics to see how this could work. For instance, it it hardly takes an in- depth education to realize that the genes that make white people’s skin white could be used as a marker that would distinguish whites from non-whites. Further, widely available services like 23andMe regularly look at genomes and tell people not only that they are from Europe, but also what country in Europe they are from. Clearly, then, there is a genetic basis to demarcate Europeans from non Europeans.
Mr. P also talks about the idea that evolution has occurred in Human populations over the last 50,000 years and produced some important results. Here Mr. P’s criticism of racialists is not that they are wrong. Rather, he doesn’t think that anyone actually denies this and that the racialists are therefore making a big stink about nothing. He states “I don’t think anybody really thinks that humans have stopped evolving.” Hopefully Mr. P will count Steven Jay Gould, one of the most prominent evolutionary biologists of the second half of the twentieth century, as somebody. Towards the end of Gould’s career as a lying propagandist for human equality, he said this in an interview“Evolution has become almost irrelevant in human evolution. There’s been no biological change in Humans in 40,000 to 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we’ve built with the same body and brain.” So yes, this idea, what is often called the standard social science model, really does exist.
Race and Intelligence
Mr. P also spends a good deal of time talking about Race and Intelligence. Around the world, blacks score lower on intelligence tests than whites. In America, for instance, the black mean IQ is 85 while the white mean IQ is 100. In Africa the black mean IQ is closer to 70. So called “racialists” think that this difference in intelligence is substantially, but not wholly, due to genetics. Mr. P does not. In fact, as if to go out of his way to remind the audience of his ignorance, Mr. P says that nothing that he has read about race and intelligence suggests that genes cause a substantial part of the B/W IQ gap. In other words, he didn’t bother reading anything by the people he is attacking prior to attacking them. But I am happy to alleviate Mr. P of his ignorance. To this end, I present Mr. P with a list of my 10 favorite reasons for thinking that genes have something to do with the B/W IQ gap:
- Attempts by programs like head start to give blacks highly enriched educational environments have failed to produce lasting changes in their IQ’s relative to whites.
- Children of black parents that make between $160K and $200K a year are less intelligent than white children from families that make less than $20K a year. Similarly, the IQ difference between rich black kids and rich white kids is even larger than the IQ difference between poor black kids and poor white kids.
- Our society has obviously become much less “racist” over the last hundred years. Yet, the black/white IQ gap is basically the same today as it was in 1918.
- Genetic theory predicts that the children and grand children of smart people will tend to be ever dumber until they reach the average IQ level of the population. The children and grand children of smart black parents “regress” in this way to a mean IQ of 85 while the children of smart white parents regress to a mean IQ of 100. The only obvious explanation for this comes from genetics.
- Whites have larger brains than blacks. This seems to be for genetic reasons since there are also many other muscular and skeletal differences between blacks and whites that are associated with evolving larger brains and because these brain size differences are present at birth. Larger brains are also associated with being more intelligent. Three lines of evidence suggest that this association is causal: first, genes that are associated with being more intelligent are also associated with larger brains. Second, a person’s brain size changes over time predict changes in their intelligence over time. And third, smarter siblings have larger brains their their less intelligent siblings who grew up in the same home as them (this suggests that the relationship can’t be explained by any possible confounding variable in the family environment such as nutrition). So it seems that whites have evolved to be more intelligent than blacks partly by evolving larger brains.
- Mulattos (people who have a black and a white parent) have higher IQ’s than blacks but lower IQ’s than whites. A genetic explanation would predict this because half of a mulatto’s genes are black and half are white. In fact, even with in black populations those who have lighter skin (because they have more white ancestors) have higher IQ’s.
- The Minnesota trans-racial adoption study, which is the best of its kind, found that at age 17 blacks adopted into upper middle class white homes averaged an IQ of 84, Mulattos averaged 93, and whites 102. Thus, being raised in an affluent white family didn’t boost black or Mulatto IQ just as a (mostly) genetic hypothesis would predict.
- Some IQ sub-tests are more heritable than others. (That is, twin studies show that differences between individuals on some tests are more due to genetic differences between people than others.) The race IQ gap is largest on those subtests with the highest levels of heritability and the only obvious explanation for this is that the B/W IQ difference is caused by genetics.
- Versions of genes associated with intelligence differ in frequency between the races in such a way that favors white people.
- Egalitarianism isn’t evolutionarily or genetically plausible. We know that the different environments the races evolved in produced differences in just about every physical trait from bone density to height to muscle size. And we know that the large differences in weather and food availability must have caused people to behave differently. The idea that these different environments selected for intelligence with exactly equal pressure seems incredibly unlikely. Similarly, studies have found that the races differ in the frequency of most (or all) genes and this includes genes that affect brain development. So the races possessing any random single gene in the same frequency is unlikely. In order for them to have to same genetic profile with regards to intelligence, which involves thousands of genes, this would have to happen thousands of times. If we assume that that the probability of the races having the same frequency for some gene is 40% (it’s actually much lower) and that intelligence involves 15 genes (it actually involves thousands) the probability that the races would have the identical frequencies for each of these genes is 0.0001%. Given this, the idea that they would have the exact same frequency for the thousands of genes that affect intelligence is basically impossible.
After he ignores all of the evidence in favor of a genetic explanation of the B/W IQ gap, Mr. P goes on to share his own theory about why blacks are dumber than whites. In his eyes there are three main culprits: malnutrition, exposure to pollution, and exposure to parasites. Each of these variables are associated with low IQ and each is much more common in Africa than in White nations. So far as African IQ goes, which is even 15 points lower than the African American IQ, this is all fine and dandy. I’ve never met anyone that denies that malnutrition explains part of why Africans have such low IQ’s. But in America a large IQ gap remains and it is this IQ gap that “racialists” are typically referring to when they say that the B/W IQ gap is mostly heritable. It is true that pollution, malnutrition, and parasites, exist to some degree even in America. And because blacks are more likely than whites to live in poverty they are more exposed to each of these variables than whites are. This is why it is important that the B/W IQ gap is larger among rich children than among poor children. Poverty, and things associated with poverty like pollution, disease, and malnutrition, cannot explain the gap. If they did then the gap would lessen substantially when only looking at rich kids. In reality, it widens. Mr. P also mentions “the Flynn effect.” The Flynn effect refers to the fact, discovered by Jim Flynn, that IQ’s around the world have been rising for the last century. This rise in IQ has been so large that African Americans today have higher IQ’s than White Americans did 100 years ago. This is true but irrelevant. If I took two species of plant, one of which was genetically predisposed to be taller than the other, and transplanted them from shitty soil to very good soil the genetically shorter plants might end up being taller than the genetically tall plants were in the shitty soil. This doesn’t tell us anything about why, within a given environment (soil), one plant is consistently taller than the other (genes).
Race and Crime
As everyone knows, blacks commit a lot more crime than whites do. “Racialists” claim that genetics explain a lot of this B/W crime gap. Reasons for thinking this include the fact that racial difference in misbehavior can be seen as early as preschool and is global. And, as with the B/W IQ gap, the B/W crime gap has been around for a long time. US census reports show that there were more blacks in jail than whites as early as 1910. Like intelligence, the idea that the different environments the races evolved in selected for the exact same levels of aggressiveness or impulse control doesn’t seem plausible.
The typical explanations of black crime offered by liberals simply don’t work. Blacks really do commit more crime. It isn’t just the racist legal system. We know this because huge surveys that ask thousands of people if they have been the victim of a crime in the last year and, if so, what the race of the perpetrator was, show that blacks commit far more than their fair share of crime. And yes, blacks say that they take drugs at the same rate that whites do. But studies that test, via urine or hair samples, what drugs someone has taken in the last month and compare those results with whether or not people voluntarily admit to using the drugs they have been using show that blacks lie about using drugs far more often than whites do. Oh, and if you control for intelligence and past history of violence blacks and whites are equally likely to go to jail. So a racist legal system as an explanation won’t work. Nor can poverty or lack of education explain the B/W crime difference. The number of blacks and Hispanics that live in an area is a better predictor (and therefore, statistically, explains more variance) of an areas crime level than either poverty or education are. In fact, unlike in White and Asian nations, violent crime is actually positively associated with wealth in Black nations. Richer blacks just buy bigger guns. (This also suggests that things associated with poverty that Mr. P brings up, such as lead exposure, don’t account for the gap.) And the typical conservative story about the breakdown of the black family starting in the 1960’s can’t explain a good deal of the gap either since, as already noted, the gap existed long before 1960.
Mr. P doesn’t mention any of this data. Instead, he obsesses over what racialists have said about a singe gene that codes for a single enzyme. This enzyme, called “MAOA,” breaks down certain kinds of neurotransmitters in the brain. People with a disease called “Brunner’s Syndrome” have very low levels of MAOA and are extremely impulsive and violent and mice with their MAOA genes changed such that they produce very low levels of MAOA are highly aggressive. These are extreme cases, but within the general population there are two versions of the MAOA gene which cause people to have significantly lower than average levels of MAOA. Having either of these gene versions increases your chance of being a criminal. In fact, having the more severe of these two gene versions doubles a persons rate of violence. Consistent with the impulsiveness of those who have Brunner’s Syndrome, having these genes is also associated with taking on more debt. And lots of studies have shown that black people are more likely to have both of these dangerous gene types than white people are. Thus, a wealth of evidence suggests that this genetic difference between blacks and whites is part of why blacks commit more crime than whites.
Mr. P offers two responses to this line of reasoning, both of which are inane. First, he says that he doesn’t think this single difference could cause a large difference in criminality between blacks and whites. I’m sorry, Mr. P, but but genetics frankly doesn’t give a damn about what you think. Secondly, he notes that a large part of the B/W crime gap has to do with non-violent drug crime. Mr. P mistakenly believes that MAOA levels are only associated with violence and so doesn’t think that they can contribute to drug crime. But, as we have seen, MAOA levels are also associated with being impulsive and that certainly could contribute to drug crime. (There are also good theoretical reasons to suspect a link between MAOA and impulsiveness because lower levels of MAOA will likely lead to more activity in those parts of the brain that generate impulses.) From these objections Mr. P concludes that the causes of the B/W crime gap must be cultural. But even if we granted Mr. P’s faulty premises, this would not follow. MAOA is a single gene. There are thousands of others that could also cause the B/W crime gap. For instance, there is also evidence that the hormones that cause blacks to have dark skin also causes them to be more aggressive. And as I reviewed previously, there is a lot of background information that Mr. P ignored which suggests that genes have a lot to do with the B/W crime gap.
Race and Civilization
“Racialists” often argue that genetic differences between the races have caused racial differences with regards to the kinds of civilizations different races are likely to set up. In part, this is for reasons already discussed. For genetic reasons, black nations will have a lot more crime in them. They will also tend to be poorer because intelligence is a powerful predictor of national income. It also seems reasonable to think that dumber people might have different ideas about politics than smarter people. There is also the fact that twin studies show that genetic differences account for a lot of the political differences between individuals and there are genes associated with individualism and collectivism which differ in frequency between the races. This is not to say that the environment doesn’t matter. It obviously does. But genetics likely plays a substantial role in why Southern Africans didn’t develop civilization and Asian civilizations tend to be more collectivist and less innovative then white ones. Mr. P doubts this story and offers a hodgepodge of bad arguments against it. Many of Mr. P’s arguments focus on outliers. For instance: there are some nations, like North and South Korea, that are extremely different politically but more or less the same genetically. So the environment is clearly more important in determining a societies culture than genes are. As referenced before, the problem with this argument is that it relies on an extreme outlier. It is as convincing as saying that the B/W IQ gap can’t be mostly due to genetics because white people raised by dogs are even less intelligent, relative to other whites, than blacks are. Similarly, Mr. P points out that some black nations are less corrupt than some European ones but ignores that, on the whole, white nations are clearly the least corrupt nations in the world.
Mr. P also brings up the fact that modern Africa is, in some respects, more civilized than Europe was hundreds of years ago. This is basically the Flynn effect again. And it’s irrelevant for the same reasons. Moreover, what modern Africa is doing, or at least attempting to do, is copying the west. This doesn’t in any way challenge the idea that evolution explains part of why the West developed such civilizations on their own and Blacks didn’t.
Mr. P also argues that the fact that Asians have made significant contributions to science shows that they have the same genetic potential for doing science as white people do. Of course, this argument is ridiculous. No one, including “racialists,” denies that Asians have done some good science. But, again, we need to concentrate on aggregate group performance. And as Charles Murray has documented in his intellectual history Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. To 1950, the vast majority of scientific innovations throughout history have in fact been done by Europeans (6). This pictures meshes well with racialism: whites have done the most for science, followed by Asians (who are much closer, genetically, to whites than either Asians or Whites are to blacks), followed by Africans.
Mr. P offers a special excuse for why the native Americans didn’t do anything worth putting in a history book. I call it the theory of time traveling diseases. You see, starting around 1600, Europeans brought over some nasty diseases that killed off a lot of Indians. That’s why the Europeans and Asians surpassed native Americans in every important respect thousands of years ago. That is, the reason Native Americans didn’t have a Socrates in 440 B.C is that we gave them small pox in 1650 A. D. Mr. P also argues that some of the extreme problems found in cities like Detroit cannot be blamed on genetics because Christian Black nations don’t exhibit the same problems. His example of this is that Detroit has a lower literacy rate than Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, and Lesotho. The problem with this example is two fold: first, the definition of “literate” being used in Detroit isn’t the same as the one being used in Kenya so the comparison is meaningless. Secondly, it once again misses the bigger picture: on the whole Black nations are far less literate than white nations are. The fact that some environments can make blacks even more illiterate than others doesn’t tell us anything about the causes of this B/W literacy gap.
In sum then, Mr. P ignores most of the evidence that “racialists” have to offer concerning the topics he addressed. The arguments he offered were poor and suggested a lack of familiarity with a lot of the relevant research. This fact is made especially annoying because Mr. P’s article contains talk of how “racialists” ignore data, suffer from extreme bias, and ignore the “richness” of biology. Reading Mr. P’s comment section, I see that he claims that he spent several months reading “racialist” material prior to making his Q&A. If that is true then his ignorance may just be the result of picking the wrong reading material. But it is hard to believe that he put much effort into his reading. Many of the facts that he was unaware concerning racial differences in intelligence, for example, can be found on Wikipedia. Regardless, I’ve spent a lot of time reading a lot of research making sure that those very things Mr. P accuses “racialists” of are not true of me. Unfortunately, Mr. P does not seem to have done the same.