Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn’t “the same as ours.” “Racist, vicious and unsupported by science,” said the Federation of American Scientists. “Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence,” declared the U.S. government’s supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied “that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn’t a scientific leg to stand on.”
I wish these assurances were true. They aren’t.
Gulp. Those are two powerful yet common words. And, man, Slate’s William Saletan has some chutzpah for being able to write such a politically uncomfortable, if not incorrect, article. But facts are facts. And Saletan has sort of been down this road before with ‘Jewgenics.’
More importantly, he isn’t using this as a platform to bash blacks.
Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there’s strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It’s time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true. If this suggestion makes you angryâif you find the idea of genetic racial advantages outrageous, socially corrosive, and unthinkableâyou’re not the first to feel that way.
He relates the mental-visceral struggle over racial genetics to the challenges Christians faced a century ago as Darwin’s theory of evolution became the scientific standard.
The article continues with more studies, more evidence and an explanation. It gets a bit boring at that point, especially because I couldn’t stop wondering whether God would actually not create all men equally. Maybe. The Bible states that we are made in God’s image, but we are all different—physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.—so clearly there is no standard. I just don’t know the answer to this. Today, Saletan offered his third article on this topic, a breakdown of what the evidence of intellectual inequality teaches us and what we can do to close the gap.
Evolution forced Christians to bend or break. They could insist on the Bible’s literal truth and deny the facts, as Bryan did. Or they could seek a subtler account of creation and human dignity. Today, the dilemma is yours. You can try to reconcile evidence of racial differences with a more sophisticated understanding of equality and opportunity. Or you can fight the evidence and hope it doesn’t break your faith. I’m for reconciliation. Later this week, I’ll make that case. But if you choose to fight the evidence, here’s what you’re up against. Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Around the world, studies find the same general pattern: whites 100, East Asians 106, sub-Sarahan Africans 70.
Don’t tell me those Nigerian babies aren’t cognitively disadvantaged. Don’t tell me it isn’t genetic. Don’t tell me it’s God’s will. And in the age of genetic modification, don’t tell me we can’t do anything about it.
No, we are not created equal. But we are endowed by our Creator with the ideal of equality, and the intelligence to finish the job.
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