Here’s my problem with this

Watson apologised for his remarks, but later appeared to reassert them when he told a 2019 PBS documentary that differences in IQ scores between blacks and whites were driven by genetics. When asked to comment on the furore, Francis Collins, a leading geneticist and director of the US National Institutes of Health, said he was unaware of any credible research that backed up Watson’s view. He expressed his dismay that a prominent scientist was perpetuating “such scientifically unsupported and hurtful beliefs”.

It’s that use of the word “credible”.

I don’t know what is true either way here. The idea that populations have different average IQs doesn’t worry me, whether true or not. That variation within the population is greater than across them is all we need to know that each individual should be treated as an individual – pretty much the basis of any reasonable form of civil liberty anyway.

I’m also not entirely sure about the value of IQ tests, whether that point that they are culturally specific is true or not. We know that from within economics such things can be true – the results of the ultimatum game vary wildly dependent upon the culture of the players.

So, in terms of nailing down who is right here I’m all at sea and perfectly happy to stay there.

It’s just that use of the word “credible”. It is used, in my experience, to mean “everyone who disagrees is politically unacceptable.” Which isn’t how science works at all. And the thing is, when I see people using it in that meaning – as above – then I simply don’t believe the proposition they are advancing.

17 thoughts on “Here’s my problem with this”

  1. These thick.racist.pricks can be easily disproved by simply looking at the list of African Nobel Prize winning scientists.

  2. The real problem is that nobody knows what IQ tests are actually testing. It can’t be innate intelligence because practise makes you better at them, and there’s the Flynn Effect which appears to show average IQ increasing by ~3 points per decade. If you extrapolate that backwards you come to the conclusion that when James Watt massively improved the steam engine he did so in spite of having an IQ of around 30, or maybe 50 if he was a genius for the time.

  3. Race cockrot is THE mainstay of the scum of socialism. They have spent 80 odd years building the shite up, trying to create a head of emotional steam so that just saying the word “racism” has people screaming and looking around for a bucket to collapse into.

    Bypass their bullshit by going after socialism itself and the 150 million murders it has committed. The Hitlerian socialist heresy is already actually taboo and the aim needs to be to put ALL socialism in the same category.

    Destroy them at the route.

  4. What is fascinating about this row is the mind-set it portrays.
    I have no idea about the whole race-IQ issue, and I’m deeply suspicious of a single test being subject to bias – cultural for example. The drift of measured IQ upwards over generations is a sign of something up, although other arguments can be made (e.g child nutrition).

    But whatever the truth of the matter is, it is an objective fact, one way or t’other.

    But the row seems to be based more on a group of people’s inability to accept that the universe may not comply with their mindset: because they find the concept of inherited IQ abhorrent, therefore the universe simply cannot be built that way. The idea that the universe is whatever it is, and whether you like it ior not changes nothing seems absent.
    Cognitive dissonance?

    The use of words like “credible” is frequently used in such cases to dismiss any claims or facts which do not support the argument: “the universe is wrong and reality will fit my delusions”.

    Religion not science. Science measures and challenges evidence, and tries to model the why. Religion just shrieks dogma.

    We are seeing this more and more recently: The Green Madness is one, Brexit was another. I guess the whole point of socialism is to find economics – indeed basic arithmetic – “not credible”.

    Maybe this is the solution to Drake’s equation. No seriously technological civilisation can emerge for more than a brief time before the irrational triumphs over reason. And humans are already in extra time.

  5. scientifically unsupported and hurtful beliefs

    I agree about the subjective use of ‘credible’ but the word ‘hurtful’ also jars – science has no duty to tiptoe around or ignore things that might be hurtful.

  6. There’s no need to worry away at this point Tim: the chap was just lying. Maybe he wanted to stay director of the NIH. Or just wanted a quiet life.

    It can’t be fun to be on the receiving end of a Kill the Cathars crusade. So why risk it?

  7. The use of “credible” here is very much akin to “peer-reviewed” in defense of Catastrophic Manmade Global Warming”. The “right people” were in charge of what got to be christened “peer-reviewed”, and voila, every “peer-reviewed” article agreed with CMGW!

  8. It has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of all reputable scientists that eye colour, hair colour, cleft chins, huntingdon’s disease … are all inherited characteristics (Regression Analysis started with the relationship of father’s height to son’s height). But still the Guardianistas claim that intelligence and IQ (not quite the same thing) are not.
    I inherited an ability to do maths (and an independent streak that was inclined to say that the Emperor has no clothes) so I *know* that the Guardianistas are talking bullshit.
    One of the things that we need to emphasise is that there is NO correlation between intelligence/IQ and moral worth – being clever is an example of good fortune, not an achievement.

  9. @ Arthur the cat
    IQ measures the ability to do IQ tests. Naturally it improves with practice – but, like the ability to do crosswords, the improvement is mostly due to sussing out what the test/crossword compiler means and a change in setter/compiler will put one completely off. The secular increase in *reported* performance is partly due to increased familiarisation and partly to grade inflation with a smaller part due to improved nutrition in early years and a decrease in pollution.
    There is a linkage between innate intelligence and IQ, but they aren’t quite the same thing.

  10. “The real problem is that nobody knows what IQ tests are actually testing.”

    OK, so all temperature readings should have been discarded in the era before people really knew what temperature was.

  11. Do you think that anyone would have complained if he had pointed out that Asians have, statistically, higher IQs than Western European Caucasians?

  12. @TtC, john77

    Spot on


    Aus Unis have banned “hurtful facts” in Science depts eg NewSpeak: Abos no longer emigrated to Aus, they originated in Aus


    IQ test results improves with education/practice/training – but, like all skills one reaches a ceiling beyond which one can’t improve.

    Most obvious ceiling to me was Maths. On IQ tests, I did them from 10 to 30, score when 11 never, improved, always +/-2

  13. Dearieme : “OK, so all temperature readings should have been discarded in the era before people really knew what temperature was.”

    No, but, like alchemy, those readings should be treated with Caution, because the measurements were made with different standards of accuracy, even though they measured the same thing, possibly even to the same scale.

    Watson is actually right.
    The descendants of Africans who never left that continent are less intelligent than those that did.
    Because they have evolved within that particular environment, the need for “general problem solving” has become less important than specific adaptations to “get better” at living there.
    It’s a universal rule in biology, but people , especially “humanities” students seem to have a bit of a problem accepting that they too fall under that general principle: Greater adaptation = Higher specialisation = More “Stupid”.
    The reverse is, of course, that we suck at living in the particular places those people stayed in, while they wonder why we have any problems at all.

    Although honestly, even the very best of them have only got about 30-50k years on us “average apes” in the divergence department, so the difference is so minor it only shows up in statistics.

  14. By the way: Watson most likely was insincere about his “apology”.

    The same way Science in general has been the death of Priesthood ( have you ever encoutered a particle of “God”? ), biology as a science holds some real anwers that are pretty uncomfortable for Believers. Comes with the territory.

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