Dumb quote of the day: you need to go look up the word "nuance" edition

>> Monday, May 13, 2013

I am a much better writer than I am a speaker.  I probably would have written those things ["Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences, and they're not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates."] differently than I spoke them. What I emphasized was that ethnic group differences in IQ are scientifically uncontroversial. That being said, there is a nuance that goes along with that: the extent to which IQ scores actually reflect intelligence, the fact that it reflects averages and there is a lot of overlap in any population, and that IQ scores say absolutely nothing about the causes of the differences--environmental, genetic, or some combination of those things.
- Jason Richwine, as quoted by Byron York,
The Washington Examiner, May 13th, 2013.
 
You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.
- Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride, 1987.
 
Jason Richwine, late of the Heritage Foundation, is sad.  And misunderstood.  He would like you to know he absolutely isn't a racist, he just thinks that there are differences in group intelligence which correlate with race, and that this ought to be a factor in American immigration policy.  And this conviction may or may not have anything to do with his recent contribution to a Heritage Foundation report contending that allowing more immigrants into the country will cost the United States more than it benefits the country.  But to be perfectly clear about it, he doesn't hate anyone based on race; hasn't lynched anyone nor burned a cross in anyone's yard or attended any meetings wearing a hood, armband, or brownshirt--so he obviously isn't a racist.  He just thinks Hispanics and blacks are dumber than white people.  Oh, and East Asians and Jews, who we all know are very good at math and all, right?  (Whether Richwine subscribes to the view that East Asians and Jews have other undesirable congenital character traits in which the American WASP compensates for his relative lack of intellect through superior moral virtue is a question that apparently remains unasked and unanswered).

Also, please note that Mr. Richwine publishing an article about the lesser IQ scores of certain ethnic groups when compared to "the white native population" (I'm actually not sure what that is; I believe the Cherokee and Ogala Sioux et al. might like to have a word with Mr. Richwine about that terminology, tho' I can't speak for them) on a white nationalist website is something else that shouldn't lead anyone to infer anything negative about Mr. Richwine's views towards others.  True, someone once said something about being judged by the company you keep and I think there was something else muttered along the line about lying down with dogs and waking up with fleas or words to that effect--but Mr. Richwine would have you know that he only published something on a white nationalist website because it was the only outlet open to a Harvard PhD and his then-employers at the American Enterprise Institute wanted him to, quote, "publish widely" (it should also be observed that publishing on a white nationalist blog is preferable to setting up a blog of your own because some site like Blogger will require you to pick out a blog template and choose a password, things the racist crackers at a white nationalist website will have done for you).

But really, you know, we need to talk about "nuance".  Because what Mr. Richwine really wants you to know is that he's a better writer than speaker, and in getting ahead of himself in a public presentation, he really left out all the nuances that, you know, basically invalidate the entire premise that public policy should be governed by a supposed correlation that means absolutely nothing.

After all, even if we grant solely for the sake of argument that the rather controversial studies indicating correlations between IQ scores and membership in certain broad and rather controversial ethnic categories, the subtle distinctions that Mr. Richwine should have mentioned in his public comments are that the IQ score may not measure intelligence, that alleged differences in measured IQ scores may reflect an undetermined environmental component that may be alterable (or may even be altered by the simple fact that one has changed environments, i.e. that one has emigrated to a country where one can score better on IQ tests, or one's children can), that an average score may in fact represent a wide range of scores across a population, etc.  In short, that even if we grant a correlation for argument's sake, the nuance of the correlation is such that the correlation may be completely meaningless.
 
I mean, even Richwine is conceding that any correlation "reflects averages" and the whole primary thrust of his dissertation was apparently to the effect that IQ scores ought to be considered in immigration policy by admitting higher-IQ applicants to the country--which presumably means that he'd have no problem letting in hordes of high-IQ-testing Hispanic immigrants, unless there's some other issue he has with Hispanic immigrants.  In any case, even if we assume that "Hispanic" is a meaningful label, and even if we assume for argument's sake that Hispanics as a group have a lower average IQ, that tells you absolutely nothing about any specific Hispanic individual you might point out.  So what's the point, then, in considering population IQ in setting immigration policy?  At best, Richwine perhaps is making a case that we ought to give all prospective immigrants an IQ test.

But then even Richwine admits that IQ may not "actually reflect intelligence" (another nuance).  So what, then, is the point?

I think this is as good a time as any to be candid and say that I not only am skeptical of the assertion that IQ measures anything more than one's ability to take certain kinds of tests designed to measure IQ, but also that I'm skeptical of "race" as a scientific concept at all.  I'm not sure, for instance, when Richwine talks about "blacks", whether he's talking about "African Americans" living in the United States, many of whom are partly descended from Caucasian Europeans, or whether he's talking about people from South America, Central America, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Southwest Asia, Australia, Micronesia, Polynesia or Melanesia.  Or somewhere else.  And all of whom represent ethnographically distinct populations who may or may not have any particular genetic overlap after our collective departure from Africa to scatter across the globe.  For that matter, when Richwine talks about "whites", who's he talking about?

This isn't to say that race and racism aren't vital, essential issues: they are, but they're social issues, not scientific ones.  In America, "race" is a matter of class and culture, how one is discriminated against or for on the basis of literally-skin-deep distinctions, how one speaks and moves, how one has been educated and what opportunities are denied or offered.  What's amazing when one contemplates how essential race is to American culture as a whole is how arbitrary the entire scheme is; for instance, we talk about Barack Obama as a "black" President because this is a noticeable quality of his complexion, when one could just as capriciously look to his mother and the maternal grandparents who raised him and call him yet another white President.  The point here isn't really how the President self-identifies himself, though--he's merely a convenient and well-known example; the point is that this could be said of almost any American whose family goes back several generations--we are nearly all carrying the blood of West Africans, Native Americans, Northern Europeans, et al.--but we nevertheless insist as a society that the expression of melanin upon our surface layers is somehow reflective of an essential or inner quality because it's such a long and wicked historical tradition to do so that this superficial quality has become determinative in how likely you are to have the same opportunities as someone with different superficial qualities, or how likely you are to be absurdly punished for possessing different qualities.  It's a sadly undeniable fact that in America you might well be pulled over by a police officer largely because your skin is darker than that of someone else; it's also undeniable that all our blood is the same color and our bones largely the same shapes in the same places, and that the color of one's skin (here's the truly ridiculous joke of it) isn't even necessarily a good indicator of one's ancestry.

If so, how on Earth is it much of an indicator of one's intelligence?  Or one's ability to contribute to a society one wants to come and join, or visit, or work in, or whatever.

It seems fitting to close by observing that we've been here before: the kinds of issues and concerns that Richwine raises were raised by eugenicists in the early part of the 20th Century.  Eugenicists, (ab)using data collected from Army IQ testing during WWI were instrumental in getting the Immigration Act Of 1924 passed, which created national quotas intended to lessen the number of "undesirables" admitted to the United States.  Of course, in those days the "intellectually inferior" immigrants weren't Hispanics, but were largely Southern and Eastern Europeans, including quite a lot of folks of Jewish descent we shipped back to Europe just in time for Hitler's rise to power.  There's some obvious irony here: Mr. (Not A Racist) Richwine is making much the same arguments as his intellectual predecessors based on the same kinds of data, but oddly enough he's reached rather different conclusions about who the problem people might be; where his forebears were in a twist over mentally handicapped Polish Jews, Mr. Richwine seems to believe that Jews rank somewhere over Asians (also largely blocked from entry by the Immigration Act Of 1924 for similar reasons) on the intellectual scale.  It leads one to wonder who Mr. Richwine's intellectual descendants will be calling stupid when their time comes around.



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