In response to Nicholas Kristof
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June 08, 2009, 08:41 PM
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UPDATE: Greg Cochran says he`s offered to make a Julian Simon-Paul Ehrlich-style bet with Nicholas Kristof over whether the ideas offered in Richard Nisbett`s book Intelligence and How to Get It will prove true or not. Greg would take the "Not" side.

Since a lot of people are visiting from Nicholas D. Kristof`s column in the New York Times, here`s an excerpt from my new column that is now posted:

For example, Kristof punditized today in the Times:
Rising Above I.Q.

In the mosaic of America, three groups that have been unusually successful are Asian-Americans, Jews and West Indian blacks — and in that there may be some lessons for the rest of us. … These three groups may help debunk the myth of success as a simple product of intrinsic intellect, for they represent three different races and histories.

Who actually advocates a "myth of success as a simple product of intrinsic intellect"?

I don’t even say that!

Everybody knows that a strong work ethic matters.

The controversial questions are about whether you should be allowed to even mention the existing cognitive differences between groups when discussing, say, the Ricci case. And if you are allowed to bring up the racial gaps in intelligence, must we then all assume for purposes of public policy that they can somehow be made to quickly vanish? Or will we get kicked to the curb like Nobel laureate James D. Watson for assuming that they will be around for at least a fairly long time?

Of course, Kristof’s emphasis upon the importance of hard work would logically suggest that Non-Asian Minorities (NAMs) are achieving less on average in school and the workplace because they aren`t working hard enough. But Kristof, who presumably likes his job at the NYT and wishes to keep it, won`t say that, so he ends up repeating by rote irrelevant talking points about spending more on education:

What’s the policy lesson from these three success stories?

It’s that the most decisive weapons in the war on poverty aren’t transfer payments but education, education, education. For at-risk households, that starts with social workers making visits to encourage such basic practices as talking to children.

Exactly how do these conclusions about policy follow from Kristof’s premises about Asians, West Indians, and Jews?

Did the Czar send social workers around to encourage Jewish mothers to talk to their children?

Much more in response to Kristof at

And, if newcomers are interested in what I have to say about these controversies, in 2007 I put together Frequently Asked Question lists about IQ and race.