Getting Voxed: Charles Murray, Ideology, and the Science of IQ

Getting Voxed: Charles Murray, Ideology, and the Science of IQ, by B Winegard.

Recently, the popular online political outlet Vox published an article in response to Charles Murray’s interview on Sam Harris’s “Waking Up” podcast that illustrates the insidious effect ideology can exert on science. …

Turkheimer et al … accepted that intelligence is real, that it can be measured, that it predicts important life outcomes, that it is heritable (i.e., individual differences in intelligence can be explained, in part, by differences in genes), and that it varies among racial groups.

What they did dispute, however, is the assertion that some of the IQ gap between Blacks and Whites in the United States (Blacks score about 15 points lower than Whites on IQ tests) is likely accounted for by differences in genes. …

Although there is some evidence that the Black-White IQ gap did narrow in the 20th century, the claim that the IQ gap is now 10 points is based largely on the results of a single, heavily criticized paper, and is not consistent with the vast majority of the evidence. …

Consider the following example: Men are taller than women (there is a height gap between men and women). Both men and women have increased in height since the 1700s. So, there is a secular increase in height (“Flynn effect” [the increase in IQ across the 20th century] for height). But the gap between men and women in height has remained relatively stable (in the US, it has increased slightly in the past 100 years). The cause of the secular increase (probably nutrition) is different from the cause of the disparity between men and women (almost certainly genes); therefore, one (increase in height) has little to do with the other (gap between men and women). The same appears to be true for the Black-White IQ gap and the Flynn effect. The increase in IQ across the 20th century has little to do with the IQ disparity between Blacks and Whites. …

Hereditarians hypothesize that population groups that evolved for 50,000 years in different environments developed not just superficial physical differences, but also cognitive differences. …

Hereditarians point to a broader, global pattern of intelligence differences that is often ignored by environmentalists. Researchers have found that many different ethnic groups score differently on standardized IQ tests. Among the most consistent are that Sub-Saharan Africans score about 75; Blacks (African Americans) score about 85; Whites score about 100; East Asians score about 105; and Ashkenazi Jews score about 110. Of these scores, perhaps the most compelling for the hereditarian is the high intelligence of Ashkenazi Jewish people. It seems likely that when many first encounter the Black-White IQ gap, they think it environmental in origin because Blacks have faced horrific oppression and discrimination. The high Jewish IQ, however, immediately casts doubt on this intuition (as do copious data, which we have and will discuss) because Jewish people have also faced appalling discrimination throughout much of 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries (and well before, of course).