Sunday, March 26, 2006

Race Differences in Intelligence - what follows?

Professor Richard Lynn argues in his recent book, “Racial Differences in Intelligence” that the races differ markedly in IQ. This was reviewed in the previous post. Assuming his summary of the extensive research literature is correct, what, if any, are the implications?

A number of contributors, grouped around the website, seem to draw almost racist conclusions - from a Caucasian viewpoint. Contributors have seemed to suggest that higher-IQ peoples, East Asians and some Jews, should be differentially taxed to create a level playing field. And migration into the US from countries with lower mean IQs seems to worry many of the contributors.

The science, however, is neutral and does not at all force these unpleasant conclusions.

The current human race is the only one we have, and the one which has evolutionarily worked so far. The only strong case for altering it is to remove obvious bugs (genetic diseases), and even that forecloses the possibility that bugs can evolutionarily become features later .

Where do we draw the circle of empathy? Do we restrict it to our genetic kin group, so that everyone else is a rival who needs to be dealt with? Or do we draw it across the whole human race, as the great religions suggest? Marginal analysis suggests we attempt the latter - if we meet a stranger, we can either attempt to make them our friend or count them as an enemy. The former increases our sociality, delivering scale, division of labour and greater economic opportunities; the latter delivers impoverishment. Trying to make friends doesn’t always work, but it should be the default option. Stopping at contingent national boundaries is just plain silly from an ethical point of view (obviously not from the point of view of national interest groups, of course).

People have argued that races with low IQ cannot make democracy function, or can’t support a modern technological civilisation. But mean IQ is just an average - IQ within a population is normally distributed. Suppose we have a population of one million with mean IQ = 80 (Sub-Saharan Africans, according to Lynn). Then 500,000 will in fact have an IQ above 80, around 23,000 will have an IQ above 110 and more than 1,000 will have an IQ above 125. The statistics of the bell curve.

All societies show a grading of IQ with social status. To make democracy work, you need enough people to lead the institutions: mass competence is not necessary, otherwise democracy would work nowhere. Even with a base IQ of 80, there are enough smart people to make it work.

Another fact the IQ obsessives forget. What is so great about intellectuals? Would you depend on them for fighting wars, or caring for the sick, or for day-to-day running any large enterprise? In running complex human societies, as any recruiter knows, the personality dimensions of, say, the five factor model are as important as IQ, and high IQ correlates strongly with only the conceptual personality type (Myers-Briggs NT/NF, or ‘openness and conscientiousness’). So let’s have less about eugenically changing everyone into an intellectual - nothing would ever get done!

People worry too much about immigration. In the long-run it is determined by economics. People come for jobs and flow in or out depending on economic, social and legal conditions. These are everywhere subject to governmental policy, and most of these policies are skill and wealth-based, both proxies for IQ in the large.

It needs to be stated that today, we do not have a problem. In advanced countries we produce enough people with the right skills for all niches in our society and with more investment in education we could produce more skilled individuals if we wished. If different races are differentially stratified across job types, so what? Everyone is an individual and should find the jobs and mode of living which suit them. If in some remote future, the lowest IQ members of society could not economically function (they will be of all races, but not in equal proportions) we should leave that to the policy makers of the time - and it will be a people problem, not a race problem.