Nature-Nurture News

Episode 6 of Norwegian film-maker Harald Eia's 2010 TV series "Brainwash" is getting another airing, apparently (according to Chuck at GLP) because Charles Murray has tweeted a link to it.

"Brainwash" is a surprisingly open-minded seven-part inquiry into the nature-nurture debate. This episode concerns race. Murray's in it; so is Greg Cochran. The video is 38 minutes long, but worth a look if you have the time.

In the meantime, as I predicted long ago, while we shriek and swoon at this stuff, the Chinese are just getting on with cold scientific inquiry into it. Note the rearguard action being fought by Left Creationists in the comment threads there.

At the next level up in our culture, the level where general-interest books on sociological topics are published, Left Creationists still hold the field. That's putting it mildly: If you want to get published, you had darn well better make clear your allegiance to the 100-percent-nurture view of human, er, nature.

Case in point: Sander and Taylor's recent book Mismatch , subtitled "How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It."

Brave stuff . . . until you get to Chapter 17, "Closing the Test Score Gap." From which (p. 262):

When the racial test score gap stopped narrowing, social scientists began to look more closely at what could explain the gap. A variety of studies that took advantage of "natural experiments" offered persuasive evidence that the racial gaps were not genetic. For example, black infants adopted by white parents grew up to have test scores that were largely indistinguishable from other whites. Cohorts of mixed-race children raised in Germany, whose fathers were black American servicemen stationed in Germany, tested at the same level as other German children. In 1997 Meredith Phillips and two coauthors used data on a large cross-section of children and showed that nearly two-thirds of the black-white gap on test scores disappeared when one adjusted for differences in socioeconomic status and a few parenting practices.

The first example there, from adoption studies, is as close to a bare-faced lie as you can commit in social science. Not surprisingly, it is not footnoted ? this, in a chapter that averages three footnotes per page. See the landmark 2005 Rushton-Jensen paper for a full discussion.

The second example, though also un-footnoted, plainly refers to the 1961 Eyferth study, a great favorite with the Left Creationists, who never pause to tell us why, if it is so all-fired definitive, nobody in the subsequent half century has been able to replicate it. (For methodological issues with the Eyferth study, see page 261 of the Rushton-Jensen paper linked above.)

The third example (again un-footnoted) seems to refer to the 1998 book by Jencks and Phillips, which I confess I have not read. Possibly it makes a waterproof case for two-thirds of Sander and Taylor's pure nurturism. The other third remains unsupported in their text and footnotes.

I repeat: authors of general-interest books on sociology have to make these asseverations, or they will not get published. Orthodoxy here is enforced with a rigor that would have drawn admiration from the Spanish Inquisition.