10 Studies that Purport to Link Race and IQ
Despite the progress made towards civil rights and human equality in the United States, closet racism (and, well, not-so-closet racism) and bigotry continues to percolate through society as well as literature deemed “scientific”. One of the more recent and notable examples of race being used as a barometer for intelligence was the release of Jason Richwine’s dissertation for Harvard University, where Richwine cited that certain genetic predispositions to intelligence may be irreversible.
We’ll talk more on Richwine momentarily, but lets first discuss intelligent quotient (IQ) and the way that this is currently measured.
In a nutshell, IQ tests measure cognitive ability based on reasoning and problem-solving skills in areas such as vocabulary, reading comprehension, and other forms of practical knowledge that are upheld as essential by American society.
A report from CNN notes that what these tests lack is the ability to test things like creativity, emotional readiness and sensitivity. Moreover, an IQ test cannot assess environmental factors and other preexisting factors like stress, poverty and even anxiety levels experienced during the test to accurately predict intelligence.
American developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, was one person who attempted to combat the traditional views rendered from IQ tests by developing the idea of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner stated that these intelligences were specifically created to, “Challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well.”
This is not to say that IQ and IQ testing has not delivered empirical evidence that remains substantial in the scientific and psychological communities. However, the attempt to link IQ and race in various studies over time has been shown to contain an overwhelming amount of inaccurate statistics and data, as well as biased undertones.
Furthermore, a report from Brink Lindsay of The Atlantic noted that IQ tests that there is “no such thing” as a test that can accurately measure “general mental ability.”
Lindsay stated, “Any conclusions about general mental ability are inferences drawn from the test-taker’s relative mastery of those various skills.”
The following are ten scientific studies that purported a link between IQ and race, and the criticism and controversy that followed said research.
10. IQ and Immigration Policy by Jason Richwine
While pursuing his Doctor of Philosophy at Harvard University, Jason Richwine presented a study called IQ and Immigration Policy as his dissertation. In a nutshell, the study basically hid behind a smorgasbord of percentage symbols, articulate language and claims about intelligence that may or may not be fully backed up by “research” to state that Hispanics are not as intellectually on par with whites, nor will they even be due to a biological predisposition.
“So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests,” he wrote. “Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.
“Because a large number of recent immigrants are from Latin America, I reviewed the literature showing that Hispanic IQ scores fall between white and black scores in the United States. This fact isn’t controversial among experts, but citing it seems to have fueled much of the media backlash.”
The Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews made reference to this, and the fact that Richwine was “sugar coating” the views that were so prominent throughout his dissertation—views that might as well have been an advertisement for border control and the barring of immigrants to the United States.
Isn’t America’s history (and subsequent prosperity) rooted in immigration?
Matthews noted that Richwine makes statements throughout his dissertations (which are, strangely, left out of the summary) that blatantly claim Hispanics are biologically predisposed to lower IQs, and that this causes a pervading inferiority between Hispanics as compared to their white counterparts for generations to come.
9. IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen
IQ and the Wealth of Nations, written by Richard Lynn, a Professor of Psychology, and Tatu Vanhanen, a Professor of Political Science was published on February, 28, 2002. The book is outlined as Lynn and Vanhanen testing a hypothesis on the causal relationship between IQ and overall socioeconomic status in various different countries, rich and poor.
Through their research, Lynn and Vanahanen found that wealthier nations also had populations with higher overall IQs, while impoverished nations showed significantly lower scores for IQ.
In many ways, the authors seemed to take on a functionalist perspective, positing that richer nations had a responsibility to help poorer nations in order to close the gap in IQ scores.
Still, the work was met with an influx of criticism from professionals and scholars due to suspect data collection and numbers.
Thomas J. Nechyba is a Professor of Economics at Duke University, as well as a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research and a research fellow at the Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, Germany. In a review for the Journal of Economic Literature, Nechyba cited flaws in Lynn and Vanhanen’s research and data collection, writing, “IQ and the Wealth of Nations’] sweeping conclusions based on relatively weak statistical evidence and dubious presumptions seem misguided at best and quite dangerous if taken seriously. It is therefore difficult to find much to recommend in this book.
Furthermore, Astrid Oline Ervick, PhD, published an article in The Economic Journal that dismantled credibility of IQ and the Wealth of Nations. Ervick cited the fact that the authors rely exclusively on bivariate correlations, that they do not utilize controls or other hypotheses for comparison and accuracy, and that correlation is confused with causation.
“The arguments put forward in the book to justify such [international IQ] comparisons seem at best vague and unconvincing. At worst, passages in the book appear to be biased and unscientific,” Ervick writes. “…the authors fail to present convincing evidence and appear to jump to conclusions.”
8. How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Achievement? By Arthur R. Jensen
How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Achievement? was a 1969 article published in The Harvard Review and written by late educational psychologist, Arthur R. Jensen. The controversial piece posited that IQ—which Jensen believed to be a near immaculate form of measurement when it came to intelligence—was largely based on genes and heritage rather than environmental factors. The piece received a tidal wave of criticism due to its intimations that African Americans were genetically inferior to their White and Asian counterparts in regard to intelligence, and Jensen also made claims the educational programs geared toward populations with low socio-economic status, such as Head Start, were pointless due to the fact the intervention would be unable to reverse the genetic predispositions of certain races and nationalities.
Other than the blatant disregard to factors like environment and upbringing in Jensen’s piece, a 1994 article by Robert Todd Carroll, PhD, notes that IQ tests only measure one type of intelligence, making the test flawed and subjective.
“A person’s IQ is supposed to be a measure of that person’s intelligence: the higher the IQ number, the greater the intelligence. This is inaccurate, however, since it assumes that there is only one kind of intelligence,” he wrote. “It would be more accurate to speak of human intelligences than of intelligence. An IQ test, therefore, should be considered a measure of some kinds of intelligence, but not all. The most accurate claim one can make about an IQ test is that it measures IQ.”
7. The Bell Curve by Richard J. Hermstein and Charles Murray
The Bell Curve is a 1994 book written by later American psychologist Richard J. Hermstein and American political scientist Charles Murray. The book sought to analyze various genetic and environmental factors that predisposed individuals to things like cognitive abilities, financial success, giving birth outside of wedlock and more. The book also speaks to the “cognitive elite,” which they describe as those who have higher intelligence quotients and, as such, are better able to climb the proverbial rungs of society and success, and become separated from those of average and below-average intelligence.
The book gained popularity for several reasons, including the fact that Hermstein passed away suddenly before its release, and for its provocative undertones, much of which had to do with allegations that race and IQ were influenced by genetics, and so implications existed for those of certain races.
A report in The Slate by Nicholas Lemann blasted the work as a piece that became well-known more for its sensationalism and subsequent publicity rather than any credible research or analyses.
“…The larger premise–that intelligent people used to be scattered throughout the class structure, and are now concentrated at the top–is almost impossible to prove, simply because the mass administration of mental tests is such a recent phenomenon,” he wrote. “Proving The Bell Curve’s thesis would require proving that success increasingly correlates with IQ in areas of life where mental tests are not the explicit gatekeepers.”
6. Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis by Richard Lynn
Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis was a controversial book written by Richard Lynn and published in 2006. In the book, Lynn selects various literature on IQ dating, a confection of “data” and other statistics to argue his case that genetics related to race are at least partially responsible for certain intelligence quotients. He goes on to detail the consequences of this, and his insights—alongside his flimsy, often unreliable use of statistics and cross examination—led to several reviewers discrediting the work as unreliable and one that was pervaded by racially insensitive undertones.
One particularly scathing review of the book was written by Leon Kamin and published in Scientific American. He wrote:
“I will not mince words. Lynn’s distortions and misrepresentations of the data constitute a truly venomous racism, combined with scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity. But to anybody familiar with Lynn’s work and background this comes as no surprise . . . It is a matter of shame and disgrace that two eminent social scientists . . . [would cite the work of] Richard Lynn . . .”
5. Tableau elementaire de l’histoire naturelle des animaux by Georges Cuvier
Unlike many of the other scientists, researchers and educators on this list, Georges Cuvier was one that didn’t even try to hide his blatant racism. As in, he actually seemed pretty gung-ho about it.
Georges Cuvier was a French naturalist and zoologist in the early 19th century, who spent much of his time studying fossils and evolution alongside touting how awesome white people are.
In his 1789 publication, Tableau élémentaire de l’histoire naturelle des animaux, Cuvier spoke of how skull shapes differed between races, and decided that caucasians had the most beautiful skulls, which made them instantly superior to every other race.
“The white race, with oval face, straight hair and nose, to which the civilised people of Europe belong and which appear to us the most beautiful of all, is also superior to others by its genius, courage, and activity.”
That went from blatantly racist to blatantly racist and creepy really fast.
4. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin
Most who hear the name “Charles Darwin” will think of his groundbreaking work that was The Origin of Species, a book which has been credited as laying the groundwork for studies in evolution and for providing a turning point in the field of science and biology as a whole by offering alternative hypotheses to the earth’s beginnings and mankind that did not rely exclusively on the theory of creationism.
No one can negate the monumental influence Darwin has had on science and subsequent noteworthy pieces of literature. However, when Darwin addressed the topics of race and sex in his lesser known publication, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, he seemed to expound upon his original theories with a confection of racist and sexist remarks that, in 2015, can both be seen as archaic and offensive.
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”
If we were to translate this using today’s lingo, Darwin was basically saying, “So anyway, white people rule! Are you guys as stoked as I am to see all the other races eventually go AWOL so it’s only us left? Caucasians FTW, am-I-right?”
In regard to differences between women and men, Darwin wrote that, “[t]he chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands…. [T]he average of mental power in man must be above that of woman…. [M]an has ultimately become superior to woman.”
Apparently Darwin didn’t think too highly of the ladies either.
3. A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Races and Human History
A science reporter from the New York Times, Nicholas Wade, authored A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, which was published in 2014. The work attempts to expound upon ideas first conjured through Darwinism by asserting that differences in intelligence and other factors between races are a product of evolutionary changes that have taken place over the past 10,000 years.
The book spurred controversy amongst several scientists and researchers. The uproar resulted in a letter—which was subsequently published by The New York Times—that included the signatures of 144 faculty members teaching subjects within the realm of population genetics and evolutionary biology.
One of the signatures belonged to Professor Mark Jobling, who shared his criticism of Wade’s book in detail in an opinion piece published by the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Genetics.
“Wade castigates those who claim that race is just a social construct, stating that these deluded folks are leftists and Marxists, and that their views are politically motivated, and not scientific. And he is partly right. Some of the influential writers on this question have indeed been leftists and Marxists,” Jobbing wrote. “And he is partly right. Some of the influential writers on this question have indeed been leftists and Marxists. It is difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to entirely divorce their background and political views from their professional life…By contrast, the heterodox crew who work on the biological reality of race are characterised as ‘courageous’ seekers after truth. But I’d hazard a guess they all have their own social and political baggage, too.”
2. Preface to The Origin of Species by Clemence Rover
In some ways Clemence Royer was a revolutionary, as she was both a fierce feminist in a time when widespread beliefs about the differences between women and men relegated women to an oppressive attitude of inferiority. In spite of this, she held true to her beliefs that men and women were of equal intelligence, but she did not extend this opinion to the subject of race.
Charles Darwin called on Royer to translate his iconic work, The Origin of Species, into French, and in her Preface, she wrote of what she believed was a link between natural selection and race, stating “Superior races are destined to supplant inferior ones…One needs to think carefully before claiming political and civic equality among people composed of an Indo-European minority and a Mongolian or Negro majority.”
In a May 2014 article by Annalee Newitz, Newitz pointed out the irony is Royer’s words: “Amusingly, her detractors claimed that Royer’s racist ideas couldn’t be taken seriously because as a woman she didn’t understand the big picture.”
1. Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race by Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright
You can probably tell by the title alone that this gonna be bad. What’s even worse is that this work by full-time physician and part-time bigot, Samuel A. Cartwright, was actually given to slave owners as a pamphlet, outlining ways they could prepare for supposed biological predispositions that caused behaviors amongst slaves.
Cartwright described one condition as “Drapetomania,” (which, side note, as I write that word my spellcheck has automatically underlined it in red, because there’s no such thing as Drapetomania), where slaves would experience an urge to “run away” from the places they were being held as slaves. He described the alleged “condition” as such:
“The cause [of Drapetomania] in the most of cases, that induces the negro to run away from service, is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable, as a general rule. With the advantages of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away, can be almost entirely prevented, although the slaves be located on the borders of a free state, within a stone’s throw of the abolitionists.”