This reads like a classic case of motivated cognition.

Did you stop to make distinction between me being influenced by motivated cognition and alternate explanations like:

  1. Me seeing significant flaws in data that would otherwise support your conclusion. Part of this may be that I've spent a significant amount of time reading about IQ and giftedness and I have learned that there are a lot of pitfalls to doing IQ related research.

  2. Me simply being unaware of relevant data. (This might be the case in the event that the people who supplied my data were influenced by motivated cognition or confirmation bias.)

  3. You seeing motivated cognition in my words because of being influenced by motivated cognition yourself?

The reason I believe the connection between race and intelligence is not just because of the tests but because more or less every relevant aspect of reality (e.g., the statistic on race and crime, the nearly complete lack of blacks in intelligence intensive fields, e.g., math, programing, the state of majority black countries) looks the way one would expect it to look if the connection existed.

There is an alternate explanation for those which does not have the same issues that IQ tests and studies have: The effects of slavery and prejudice. We are certain that slavery and prejudice has influenced them, and that it has existed for a long time. To know this, one must only look at the KKK or investigate the history of black enslavement. Imagine a third world country. Imagine that an equal proportion of those inhabitants are removed and used as slaves. Imagine an equal proportion of them dying. Imagine that they're freed, but all of them - not some but all - are freed into a situation of extreme poverty where they don't even own a home or have the ability to read. Many still aren't being taught to read. Consider also that even though there have been advances in medicine, poverty means you can't afford health insurance or medical treatments. Don't think that disability and chronic illness are uncommon - they're not. Not even in America. They're probably especially common for the poor. Don't think that severe worker abuse ended with slavery, either - do some research on sweatshops in America sometime. Now take into account the effects of stress, and the human element - how those effects can compound into things like mental illnesses and drug addictions. Would you predict that the majority of these people who started out with literally nothing and without even the education to read would manage to avoid pitfalls like disability, mental illness, drug addiction and sweatshops and carve an opportunity to excel out of poverty and ignorance over the course of 150 years? I would not expect that. I would expect most of them to have fared poorly.

I don't see a good way to tell the difference between a low IQ score due to actually being less intelligent versus a low IQ score due to nurture-related reasons such as the following:

  1. Improper nutrition due to poverty.
  2. Lack of education.
  3. The effects of extreme stress (How are you supposed to focus on an IQ test when you've just been threatened by a gang?)
  4. Suffering from medical conditions (these can cause memory symptoms, brain fog, and fatigue), mental conditions or drug addictions.
  5. Having been parented by people that were mentally or physically ill, severely stressed, or addicted.
  6. Cultural differences that cause arbitrary communication issues during testing.
  7. The psychological effects of prejudice (may influence things like self-esteem and locus of control or result in learned helplessness, etc.)

If you want to attribute the IQ scores to race, not poverty or circumstances, then there needs to be a good way to distinguish between nurture and nature as a cause for low IQ scores. Do you have one?

Yes there is. You just don't want to believe it exists.

If it's true I want to believe it. However, it's hard to believe it exists without a citation. Do you have one?

Actually the chance of this particular black being above the African average is 50% (more if I condition on the fact that he is in the USA).

I respect you more for being able to say something that supports my view better than it does yours. +1 karma for that. I still think the number is 25%, however I do not view this as a key point in our disagreement, so I will leave it at that.

This is a general argument against using evidence of any kind.

You appear to have taken that statement as an argument regarding what to believe. It was not. I deliberately put that part after the section where I was discussing deciding what to believe, and put it under "if one wants to behave rationally".

I don't see a good way to tell the difference between a low IQ score due to actually being less intelligent versus a low IQ score due to nurture-related reasons such as the following:

As the saying goes, "Life is an IQ test." The predictive ability of IQ on income (and most other statistics of interest) is very similar for each race, which suggests that differences in measured IQ scores map onto differences in life outcomes. To the extent that a medical condition makes someone test poorly, it generally also makes them live poorly. (There are a ... (read more)

-1Eugine_Nier7yIf your point is that it's not clear to what extent the difference in intelligence is due to nature or nurture, I agree but would like to point out that for many applications it doesn't matter.
2Lumifer7yIn Africa? It so happens that the world is much bigger than the USA and the people in sub-Saharan Africa test for IQ pretty much the same as African-Americans. Sure, you can control for wealth/economic status. Or you can go and test poor peasants in China and poor peasants in Africa. You seem to think that this is a white-vs-black US problem. It's not. The highest-average-IQ large group of people is East Asians, like Han Chinese -- not Caucasian whites. I am curious -- how do you figure out that in a distribution close to normal only 25% are higher than the mean?

Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK?

by Eliezer Yudkowsky 2 min read26th Oct 2007527 comments


Idang Alibi of Abuja, Nigeria writes on the James Watson affair:

A few days ago, the Nobel Laureate, Dr. James Watson, made a remark that is now generating worldwide uproar, especially among blacks.  He said what to me looks like a self-evident truth.  He told The Sunday Times of London in an interview that in his humble opinion, black people are less intelligent than the White people...

An intriguing opening.  Is Idang Alibi about to take a position on the real heart of the uproar?

I do not know what constitutes intelligence.  I leave that to our so-called scholars.  But I do know that in terms of organising society for the benefit of the people living in it, we blacks have not shown any intelligence in that direction at all.  I am so ashamed of this and sometimes feel that I ought to have belonged to another race...

Darn, it's just a lecture on personal and national responsibility.  Of course, for African nationals, taking responsibility for their country's problems is the most productive attitude regardless.  But it doesn't engage with the controversies that got Watson fired.

Later in the article came this:

As I write this, I do so with great pains in my heart because I know that God has given intelligence in equal measure to all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin.

This intrigued me for two reasons:  First, I'm always on the lookout for yet another case of theology making a falsifiable experimental prediction.  And second, the prediction follows obviously if God is just, but what does skin colour have to do with it at all?

A great deal has already been said about the Watson affair, and I suspect that in most respects I have little to contribute that has not been said before.

But why is it that the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay, whereas racial genetic differences in intelligence are not?  Am I the only one who's every bit as horrified by the proposition that there's any way whatsoever to be screwed before you even start, whether it's genes or lead-based paint or Down's Syndrome?  What difference does skin colour make?  At all?

This is only half a rhetorical question.  Race adds extra controversy to anything; in that sense, it's obvious what difference skin colour makes politically.  However, just because this attitude is common, should not cause us to overlook its insanity.  Some kind of different psychological processing is taking place around individually-unfair intelligence distributions, and group-unfair intelligence distributions.

So, in defiance of this psychological difference, and in defiance of politics, let me point out that a group injustice has no existence apart from injustice to individuals.  It's individuals who have brains to experience suffering.  It's individuals who deserve, and often don't get, a fair chance at life.  If God has not given intelligence in equal measure to all his children, God stands convicted of a crime against humanity, period.  Skin colour has nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

And I don't think there's any serious scholar of intelligence who disputes that God has been definitively shown to be most terribly unfair.  Never mind the airtight case that intelligence has a hereditary genetic component among individuals; if you think that being born with Down's Syndrome doesn't impact life outcomes, then you are on crack.  What about lead-based paint?  Does it not count, because parents theoretically could have prevented it but didn't?  In the beginning no one knew that it was damaging.  How is it just for such a tiny mistake to have such huge, irrevocable consequences?  And regardless, would not a just God damn us for only our own choices?  Kids don't choose to live in apartments with lead-based paint.

So much for God being "just", unless you count the people whom God has just screwed over.  Maybe that's part of the fuel in the burning controversy - that people do realize, on some level, the implications for religion.  They can rationalize away the implications of a child born with no legs, but not a child born with no possibility of ever understanding calculus.  But then this doesn't help explain the original observation, which is that people, for some odd reason, think that adding race makes it worse somehow.

And why is my own perspective, apparently, unusual?  Perhaps because I also think that intelligence deficits will be fixable given sufficiently advanced technology, biotech or nanotech.  When truly huge horrors are believed unfixable, the mind's eye tends to just skip over the hideous unfairness - for much the same reason you don't deliberately rest your hand on a hot stoveburner; it hurts.