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Did Everybody Get The Latest Watsoning Backwards?
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April 30, 2010, 11:54 PM
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A reader writes regarding the Watsoning of Harvard Law student Stephanie Grace:
What's really strange is that, if you read Grace's email with a modicum of care, it seems like she is writing to people who firmly believe that racial differences in IQ have a genetic basis, and she is telling them she's still not convinced.  No one has pointed this out, as far as I can see.  So will the addressees get outed/Summersed etc.?
Here is what was leaked from the email:
… I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:)

Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don’t think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to “explain” away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Please don’t pull a Larry Summers on me,

Hard to say, but it's definitely worth considering. It would be nice to know what came before that initial ellipse.

Clearly, though, Harvard Law dean Martha Minow's mischaracterization of Grace's email is libelous:

"Dear members of the Harvard Law School community:
I am writing this morning to address an email message in which one of our students suggested that black people are genetically inferior to white people
Will Dean Minow apologize for her libel?

It would also be nice if the leaker came forward to justify herself [or himself, as the case may be]. Was the leak part of a catty attempt to ruin another student? What justification was there for leaking?

Of course, the real crime by Grace was being well-informed, intelligent, and open-minded. Dean Minow likes her Harvard law students ignorant, obtuse, and bigoted.

It's like how I'm always being furiously denounced for defending African-Americans during Hurricane Katrina by pointing out that the national average of behavior by African-Americans is better than that seen in New Orleans, that New Orleans's culture of "Let the good times roll" is particularly debilitating for blacks. But, that's not the point. The point is: After such knowledge, what forgiveness?