briefly mentioned last week, blogger
Tacitus has been working himself up into a
fine lather lately over the always-fascinating question
of Steve Sailer: Evil or Vile?
tend to enjoy advantages in "real time"
responsiveness—hence black strengths in running with
the football, playing
basketball, and in jazz, rap, dance, trash talking,
preaching, and oratory. As Thomas Sowell has pointed
out: `To be an outstanding basketball player means to
out-think opponents consistently in these split-second
decisions under stress.`"
To which, Tacitus said:
please, that blacks have a biological advantage in
Some of my scientifically-informed
readers have endeavored to educate Tacitus out of his
ignorance in the comments sections of his blog. One
observation was that the ensuing debate was like a scene
out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with
Tacitus playing the Black Knight who gets all four limbs
sliced off, but still refuses to give in, scoffing,
"Just a flesh wound!"
Rather than rehash their arguments,
however, I want to review this as an example of how
ideological debate in American so often goes so wrong.
What strikes me as most
characteristic, and disheartening, about this exchange
is that I did not say in my article that blacks
necessarily have a biological advantage in
improvisational skill. Tacitus suffers from the typical
weakness of the ideologue. When confronted with a
scientific assertion, he thinks too many steps ahead,
wondering, "Is it good for the ideology?" rather
than "Is it true?" Reasoning backward from the
conclusion you want to avoid is no way to think
a coincidence that the fields dominated by black
Americans—basketball, jazz, running backs in
football—all have this improvisational decision-making,
with numerous factors being decided in an instant under
emotional pressure? Perhaps—and perhaps not. Whether it
is genetic or a cultural style is even more
From the point of view of Sowell
and myself, our observations that there are areas where
blacks are particularly strong are either true or not
true. If true, then they are an addition to knowledge.
The secondary question is whether it`s all a
Whether the cause is nature or
nurture is tertiary.
But you can almost hear the gears
grinding within the
you call attention to this common denominator underlying
various black mental strengths, then you raise the
possibility that the cause is that blacks are
genetically superior on average at some forms of
thinking. Well, that sounds
oh no! I just realized that if you raise the possibility
that they are genetically superior at some kinds
of thought, that could also raise the possibility that
they are genetically inferior on
average at some other form of thinking … Horrors!
So, to prevent people from ever starting down this path, we
must backtrack and DEMONIZE ANYBODY WHO CALLS
ATTENTION TO BLACK IMPROVISATIONAL SKILLS IN THE FIRST
The big issue of course is that
African-Americans score about one standard deviation
lower than American whites on an IQ tests. That means
that about 5/6th of blacks score
below the white median.
says, "I am predisposed to do so [balk
at the notion of systematic "differences in
character and intellect"] on an ideological
basis: I`m unhappy with anything denying the fundamental
equality of man as an individual."
It`s easy to imagine his thought
processes: how can he disprove genetic factors affect
huge average difference between blacks in whites on
IQ tests? Well, if he can trash IQ tests, then he`s home
paragraph from Tacitus:
consistent, meaningful SAT, it is, alas,
orders of magnitude more difficult to devise an
objective assessment of innate intelligence. The state
of the art in this field of endeavor is nothing close to
perfection, and the results it yields are predictors of
almost nothing. (For example, I tested with a
ridiculously high IQ as a child, and I was pretty proud
of that till I got to the Army and found it didn`t count
for anything: character, not intellect, is the
measure of a man. And that`s not quantifiable either.)
This is not to say that the effort should not be made,
nor that standardized tests of any type are useless. But
they are generalizing tools, not substitutes for human
judgment. We can use them as such; we should not pretend
they are an objective basis for science."
Well, it would sure come as a huge
the U.S. Army that IQ "didn`t count for anything"
and IQ tests are "predictors of almost nothing"
and "we should not pretend they are an objective
basis for science."
here for details.)
It`s simply foolish to say of
standardized tests: "we should not pretend they are
an objective basis for science." Thousands, if not
tens of thousands, of studies over the years have
established what standardized tests are good for and
what they are not good for. (Here`s a brief summary by
American Psychological Association.)
nihilism is that the politically-correct work
backward from the conclusion they wish to avoid.
In contrast, here`s what we really
- IQ tests, while hardly perfect,
useful predictorsin a number of ways.
- The tests are not
statistically-biased predictors—i.e., blacks don`t
"overachieve" in the
real world relative to their test scores. In
colleges, in fact, they tend to underachieve on their
grades relative to their SATs. (I have, however,
argued at length,
here, that because standardized tests can`t
measure improvisational ability, they miss an area
where blacks tend to be strong.)
- Over the last 85 years or so,
blacks in America have averaged about one standard
deviation lower on IQ tests than whites.
These are important facts, and thus
We may not like these facts and
thus choose to make policies based on
ideological assumptions about what reality ought to
be. But that seldom changes reality.
Here`s what we don`t know at this
- What causes this white-black IQ
gap? Nurture? Nature? A combination or interaction?
We certainly will know within, say,
a couple of decades (assuming anybody
funds the needed genetic research). I would suggest
to anybody worried that their ideology could be
falsified by this research that they probably ought to
start looking for an improved ideology right now.
argues for cultural causes. Personally, I would bet
on genes playing some sort of role, but I wouldn`t give
you 100 to 1 odds in favor, either.
But in many ways, this nature vs.
nurture isn`t as important as the facts that we already
know. As Sowell has pointed out, this nature-nurture
dispute that gets everybody so excited is academic
except for the longer-term future:
many practical purposes, however, it makes no real
difference whether poor performances in abstract
thinking are due to neglect or to lack of capacity. In
either case it has serious ramifications in a scientific
and technological society."—Sowell, Race and
Culture, p. 165.
No matter what, over the next
several decades at the least, the average black will
have a lower IQ than the average white.
We have only the vaguest ideas at
present at how to narrow the gap. In fact, almost no
research is being done on this important subject because
the politically-correct have made IQ verboten.
suggested in VDARE.COM that there is reason to think
a simple PR campaign promoting breastfeeding among black
mothers might narrow the white-black IQ gap by 10% in
the next generation.
But because no one can
talk about IQ and race without being demonized, you
won`t see this discussed outside VDARE.COM.
Least of all on fashionable but
foolish blogs like Tacitus.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and