Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Intelligence, Race and Genetics

There has been, of late, more discussion surrounding the role that genetics plays in the intelligence of racial groups. It seems that scientists are coming closer to unlocking some of the keys that determine just how intelligence is derived. Now I am all for scientific inquiry, but I have to admit that I worry that some people are simply chomping at the bit to have proof that some people are just genetically predisposed to be dumb. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, that potential gun will be aimed at those of us of African descent.

Thankfully, there has been some tempering of the growing tempest. I think that it is worthwhile to remember that we are all individuals. Genetics and environment have affected us in unique ways. But, I don't think that it is unfair to state that all men are not created equal in nature. But in trying to embrace that sense, we will find people willing to ignore the individual variations that exist among us. They will be happy to casitgate groups wholesale.

All we can do is wait to see where the research leads. I just find it unnerving that there remain people who are excited about the prospect of saying "see, I told you that black people are inferior." We have no idea what will unfold, but I know that regardless of the results, I know that I am one of the smarter beings on this planet. What?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed reading your blog....keep up the great work!!
Anthony
(Raunch & Circumstance)

hscfree said...

Thanks! I am a blogging (and commenting) neophyte, but I am getting better.

TC said...

I'll admit that I'm not familiar with the latest stirrings over the role of genetics in intelligence, I don't think we should be too quick to dismiss it.

Genetics effects almost everything else that makes us -- skin color, disease susceptibility/resistance, facial features, etc. Genetics may affect our athletic and physical abilities. Based on this, I think it's possible that genetics may affect our cognitive abilities.

Of course, if true, that wouldn't mean that any individual had to have greater or lesser intelligence, just that there may be some correlation amongst populations with certain cognitive skills.

Larry Summers got in trouble at Harvard because he suggested something that there is empirical data to support -- there are more men than women at the extreme ability ranges in the science and math fields, which may explain why there are many more men than women at the top of those fields. Of course, the flip-side is that there are more men than women who are complete dunces in those fields.

I do agree with you that there are probably some out there who would want to use any evidence of racial differences in cognitive abilities as evidence of one race being better than another. Unfortunately, as in the Larry Summers case, there is also a danger that the shrillness of a certain group may also drown out or discourage legitimate discourse and research.

hscfree said...

I think that Larry Summers was treated unfairly, and I agree with you that the shrill of the opponents of his words helped to collapse his regime at Harvard. Interestingly, he was extremely popular with the students. He was re-invigorating the academic experience at Harvard, much to the chagrin of some of the faculty, who left much of the work to graduate students.