Racial Difference In Intelligence Is there a racial difference in Intelligence? Is There a Racial Difference in Intelligence? Starting with birth, most Americans are consistently measured and their abilities consistently assessed. While no clear definition of intelligence has been adopted universally, in general, definitions stress either an ability to adapt to environment, the capacity to learn, or the ability to think abstractly. Like the word “love,” intelligence remains a term we all have a feel for but cannot quite pin down. Today, this undefined ability has become one of the most controversial topics in psychology. Psychological researchers have resisted racism by denying the existence of innate differences between races, such as intelligence. Many argue that this debate has dire consequences for both the scientific and psychological fields and needs to be based on objective empirical evidence versus political agendas.
“Blacks are born stupid, even dumber than Poles,” .. “Jews are smart,” .. “Country hicks are easily taken by city common,” “Women can’t handle mathematics well enough to be good scientists.” Sound familiar? They should. Society has shot through with tons of prejudices about the comparative intellectual capacities of different groups. And science” has tried hard to confirm or disprove many of these folk conclusions.
Why should group comparisons be made at all? What differences have been observed? Are the IQ differences observed best interpreted as being caused by genetic or environmental differences among groups? A strong promoter of the belief that there is undoubtedly a racial difference in intelligence is Phillippe Rushton. As a professor of psychology, he argues that there is irrefutable scientific evidence of differences in intelligence between races. He feels that these differences are genetically based, arguing that blacks consistently score lower on IQ tests (the mainstream basis for intelligence testing) than whites. Many surveys of experts who administer IQ tests, as well as behavioral geneticists, agree with Rushton that the IQ-Intelligence barrier is genetically based. To further reinforce his genetic basis theory, Rushton has proven that on average, blacks have smaller skulls than their white counterparts. Since brain size can, and has been, correlated with intelligence, Rushton feels that this proves blacks are genetically predetermined to have lower intelligence levels. This positive correlation between mental ability and brain size has been established in studies over the years using even the most high-tech instrumentation, such as magnetic resonance imaging.
Along with longitudinal studies following kids of different races, time and time again scientists and psychologists, such as Rushton, have been able to reinforce the idea of a brain size-IQ link. As I stated before, it has been recorded over time that Caucasians seem to consistently rank above their African-American counterparts in IQ test scores. Many contenders of Rushton’s ideas argue that these scores are merely the product of culturally biased testing materials. Rushton himself highly contends this, stating that the tests seem to show similar patterns of internal item consistency and predictive validity for all groups, and the same differences are found on relatively culture-free tests. On the other hand of this debate, there are many supporters who firmly disagree with Professor Rushton.
One such man, Zack Z. Cernovsky, a teacher and psychologist, argues that Rushton’s data is based not on contemporary scientific research, but on racial prejudice. He asserts that the genetic basis model for intelligence ignores the plasticity of human beings which in itself is highly supported by empirical data. Cernovsky also contends that Rushton uses nonscientific and methodologically inadequate sources to support his claims about racial differences and lacks quality in his empirical evidence. He blatantly compares Rushton’s evidence and theories to those of the Nazi’s in Germany ..
“The history of science teaches us that many ambitious racists attempted to manufacture scientific evidence for their beliefs. Sooner or later, their charlatan style methodology (e.g. the use of skull circumference measurement by Nazi ‘scientists’ during WWII) and logical inconsistencies resulted in their rejection by the scientific community (Slife, 184).” Cernovsky considers the research that links brain size and intelligence to be faulty. He contends that although Rushton implied that Blacks are consistently found to have smaller brains than Whites, some studies have actually shown opposite results. Rushton’s opponents have found that Blacks seems to be superior to Whites in brain weight, have excess number of neurons compared to Caucasoids and have been found to have cranial capacities that are favorably comparable. Cernovsky protests that Rushton repeatedly misrepresented findings of empirical evidence by Beals et.
al, trying to imply that the racial inferiority of the blacks was strongly correlated with cranial size, whereas Beals showed that cranial size varies with climatic zones, not race. Can we say confirmation bias Mr. Rushton? Cernovsky also argues that Rushton’s research has been censored not because of political incorrectness, but because of its poor scholarship. While Rushton’s research did find that the brain and cranial size of one’s head are correlated with intelligence, he failed to mention how small of a correlation he actually was able to prove. This misconstruing of empirical evidence drove Cernovsky to call Rushton’s writings “pseudoscientific” and state that he “perpetuates lay public’s misconceptions and promotes racism (Slife, 185).” The social implications of Rushton’s theories may seem to be doing more harm than good. To demonstrate that blacks are less intelligent and, perhaps, to allege that this is genetically given, with only environmental modifications, Rushton refers to his own biased review of brain size studies.
Yet, it has been shown that the theories favoring hereditarian over environmentalists explanations tend to be based on poor methodology. In summary, although Rushton’s writings and teachings instill the vision of Blacks as a smaller-brained, less intelligent species, his views, in Cernovsky’s mind (as well as mine), are based on neither bonafide scientific evidence or contemporary scientific methodology. His belief of the evolutionary inferiority of Blacks seems to be supported by no “real” strong empirical evidence. Cenovsky conclusively states, “Further empirical data in this field is necessary: Authoritarian statements ‘about the reality of racial differences,’ based on conveniently selected trends in the data, do not qualify as a scientific contribution (Slife, 185).” I do feel that Cernovsky’s article lacked a clear style as well as evidence and reasoning. He seemed to contest Rushton’s composition the entire time and never really appeared to present any evidence of his own. There were hardly any statistics backing his claims, making his argument, in my eyes, much weaker than Rushton’s. In addition, since his article was mostly rebuttal to Rushton’s, Cernovsky lacked style and organization within his own.
This also cheapened the credentials of both him and his argument, to me. Although, in Cernovsky’s defense, I do praise him for his realization that much more evidence is needed and that nit-picking of facts to prove one’s point is highly unethical. From reading the two articles above I could not yet take a stand on this issue. I felt that both authors were very bias, highly emotional and that the empirical evidence presented seemed to be manipulated on both ends. In order to make a final ruling on my response to the question originally posed, is there a racial difference in intelligence, I decided to do some further research.
These outside sources seemed to put a lot of the previous statements into perspective and give a clearer all-around presentation of the material. These readings included: The Race Bomb: Skin Color, Prejudice and Intelligence by Ehrlich & Feldman (1969), The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence and the Future of America by Fraser (1995), The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication and Explanation by Horgan (1999), The Fallacy of I.Q. by Senna (1973) and Race, Intelligence, and the Brain: The Errors and Omissions of the Revised Edition of S. J. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man (1996) Personality and Individual Differences by Rushton (1997).
While our focus surrounds fact not faith, when all is said and done, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that some of the research on group differences in intelligence could possibly be motivated by a desire to affirm the superiority of one group over another. Factually however, as stated in The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence and the Future of America by Fraser, while Blacks on average do score lower on IQ tests than Whites (the average IQ for whites is 100, the average for Blacks is somewhat lower, ranging from 80 to 90) and despite the consistency in these basic findings, it is nonetheless clear that the variation within groups is much greater than the differences between them. In The Race Bomb: Skin Color, Prejudice and Intelligence by Ehrlich and Feldman, they state that they believe Blacks may be caught in a self-fulfilling prophecy – by us convincing black children, their parents and their teachers that they are innately, immutably inferior. Maybe society has “programmed” Blacks to perform in the way that they do? Additionally, these researchers stated that at least some of the differences in intelligence that exist between urban and rural children or Blacks and Whites are due not to genuine differences in ability, but in their abilities to profit from their environments. Many different empirical studies on this issue, while come together on their end result, have correlation and causation statistics, which vary quite largely. Additional findings suggest that cultural values influence the salience of objects in the environment, and therefore tests are never assessing underlying intelligence per se, for performance is always influenced by the content of the item.
While this may not be empirical evidence, which has been statistically recorded, formulated and hypothesized, I do feel that this argument does present an alternative reason for the known difference in IQ scores between races. As seen, IQ tests seem to measure rather than account for differences these differences. If certain groups of people score poorly on tests because of inadequate environments, it is not the test that is unfair, but the social order that permits individuals to develop under these inferior conditions. Each individual should be considered on a case by case basis – society as a whole should judging and dealing with individuals on their own merits instead of on their membership in any “racial,” ethnic, religious, sexual, or other group. At the present time, biological intellectual capacity cannot be measured directly. Such a measure would require assessment of the genetic component of performance, the genot …