“A King among Men: Arthur Jensen”
In this era of 900 page doorstop
biographies, Frank Miele`s highly readable new book
Intelligence, Race, and Genetics: Conversations with
Arthur R. Jensen features one of the niftiest
format concepts of recent years. Miele—who over his
Skeptic Magazine has emerged as the leading
interviewer of the
top names in the human sciences—e-conversed at
length with Jensen, the UC Berkeley emeritus professor
of psychology, author of 435 articles in refereed
scientific journals and undisputed heavyweight champion
of IQ research, frequently about the
controversial topics mentioned in the title.
Intelligence, Race, and Genetics
merges biography, autobiography, popular science, and
polemical debate, most of it in easy-to-digest Question
& Answer style. The self-effacing Jensen will probably
never write a full-length autobiography, so this may be
as close as we come. Miele includes interesting details
that I hadn`t known, such as that Jensen`s father was
Danish and his mother Polish Jewish. "Early on,"
Miele notes, "Jensen noted how the dour demeanor of
his Danish relatives contrasted with the fun-loving
atmosphere of his mother`s side of the family."
Contrary to immigration enthusiast wishful thinking,
intermarriage makes people not
less but more aware of human differences.
Chris Brand, the noted IQ researcher and historian
of psychology, says that he hadn`t known Jensen`s ethnic
background before. Brand has pointed out to me that
Jensen could have cited it to counter the scurrilous
libel that only a raving Hitlerite could be interested
in race and IQ. Yet Jensen never has – presumably
because he thinks (correctly) that it is irrelevant to
the truth or falsehood of his scientific theories.
Intelligence, Race, and Genetics
may be the best easy-to-read introduction to IQ since
Dan Seligman`s 1992
A Question of Intelligence. [Click
here for Peter
Brimelow`s article on Seligman.] It`s certainly less
forbidding than Jensen`s own monumental 1998
The g Factor,
although that remains the gold standard. (Here`s my
Finally, because Miele knows the
research so well, he is able to muster a long list of
Infrequently Asked Questions and give Jensen as tough a
grilling as he`s ever received.
Jensen became notorious in 1969 for
proposing in a long Harvard Education Review
- Compensatory education wasn`t terribly effective.
- That, in Miele`s words, "genetic differences
were more important than cultural or socioeconomic
differences in explaining individual differences in IQ
within the white population."
- And that, when it came to explaining the 15 point
IQ gap between whites and blacks, in Jensen`s words, "The
preponderance of the evidence is, in my opinion, less
consistent with a strictly environmental hypothesis than
with a genetic hypothesis, which, of course, does not
exclude the influence of environment or its interaction
with genetic factors."
This didn`t make Jensen terribly popular in 1969. And
he remains a pariah to the intellectual establishment. The g Factor
was rejected by ten publishers and ended up at a mail
order house – and this after the enormous commercial
success of Murray and Herrnstein`s
The Bell Curve. The publisher`s negligible
distribution muscle explains why Amazon took six months
to get it in stock and today has only one copy on hand.
Likewise, the basic facts that
Jensen laid out 33 years ago continue to be ignored.
Consider the recent (November 30) New York Times
Are Black Students Lagging?” by Felicia R. Lee. In
it, we find that the proponents of various 100%
environmental explanations can`t even agree with each
other – but that no representative of the obvious
alternative theory is fit to be quoted in the newspaper
Among specialists, fortunately,
Jensen`s reputation is different. A 1998 edition of the
Intelligence was devoted to a tribute to Jensen
from 13 leading experts. It was issued under the title
"A King among Men: Arthur Jensen." Editor
Daniel Detterman of Case Western Reserve University
"When I first met him
personally, I wondered what his biases and prejudices
really were and tried to identify them for many years.
My effort was wasted. I finally came to the conclusion
that he just doesn`t have any. I think this may be a
point that is impossible for his critics to understand.
On the other hand, it is the very reason he has stood up
so well against his critics. He has invested himself in
pursuit of the truth, not any particular set of ideas. …
He would gladly know the truth even if it proved him
Whether Jensen will ultimately be
proved right or wrong, he is a role model for scientists
A lifelong student of Mahatma
Gandhi, Jensen told Miele:
"One of the tenets of my own
philosophy is to be as open as possible and to strive
for a perfect consistency between my thoughts, both
spoken and published, in their private and public
expression. This is essentially a Gandhian principle,
one that I have long considered worth striving to live
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
December 01, 2002