At the time of writing, there’s a group of people on Twitter calling me a racist for writing this blog post. This feels pretty awful. The violence of such a term is hard to quantify, but it’s left me feeling shaky and anxious. Some of the comments are so hateful that reading them feels a bit like being beaten up in my own home.
Trying to prove a negative is difficult and simply saying, “I’m not a racist,” hasn’t had much traction. So, for clarity, what follows is an attempt to set the record straight.
Here are three things I believe to be true:
- There are differences in the IQ scores of people who identify as belonging to different racial/ethnic groups. This is not an opinion, it’s a matter of public record.*
- The difference in the IQ scores of different racial/ethnic groups is not genetic in origin
- At the same time, differences between the IQ of individuals is highly genetic in origin.
I am aware that most scientists do not accept that ‘race’ is a valid biological concept – this is something I’m happy to accept. Why then have I used the term “racial ethnic groups”? Just as on job applications, IQ tests routinely ask test takers to provide various biographical information such as sex and racial/ethnic group. Researchers can them compare the IQ scores of a population to see whether there’s any variance between the scores of men and women and between those who identify as belonging to a different racial/ethnic groups. The finding for men and women is that the average IQ is pretty much the same for both sexes. The finding for those who identify as belonging to different racial/ethnic groups is not.
This is unpalatable and inconvenient. Only racists want it to be true in their efforts to argue that certain races are superior to others. This is something I find abhorrent and I categorically and unhesitatingly condemn anyone who holds such a view. So, should those us who condemn racists suppress this information, or should we try to find out why these differences occur to see what, if anything, we can do about it?
Naively, I thought that sharing these facts was better than not sharing them. Whilst the defamatory responses I’ve received have made me bitterly regret that decision, I still think it was the right thing to do. Here’s why: most researchers agree that the causes for these differences in IQ scores is environmental; that due to asymmetrical access to education and lack of opportunity, some groups are massively marginalised in society. This is, I hope, something everyone can agree is wrong. Instead of being outraged that this information exists, we should be outraged that it is true!
That the causes of the IQ gap are probably environmental is good news; it means there’s a chance we can do something about it. Just in case anyone is confused, this is the polar opposite of eugenics. Eugenics is about selective breeding to try to get rid of ‘inferior’ genes – what I propose is that we have the highest expectations of all children and teach them a knowledge rich curriculum in an effort to overcome some of the disadvantages that some children experience.
So, to conclude: I do not believe genetics should be applied to the classroom or that children should be tested for IQ. While the huge data set of IQ scores that exists can provide useful information, there is no absolutely no need to go trying to find out the IQ of the children we teach. If you want to find out how good a child is at maths, much better to give them a maths test so that we can find out what they actually know and can do.
I get that all this is very sensitive and that people’s feelings run understandably high. All I would ask is that you seek to understand a little more and hurl a little less abuse. I’m a human being and this stuff hurts.
* Some people have raised concerns about the funding for some of the research that supports this finding. This was not something of which I was aware and something I want to investigate further before commenting on. In the meantime, if you want to follow or contact academics who have drawn broadly similar conclusions to those I have set out above, then these people make a good starting point: