In the review below, I question Steven Pinker's commitment to empirical evidence with regards to differences in average intelligence between races. It seems Pinker has either changed his mind, which I doubt, or he has been purposefully deceptive over the last few years. His real attitude on the intelligence of races is attached to the end of this essay, as of December, 2005.
A critique of the book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker, Viking Press, 2002. Reviewed by Matt Nuenke, November, 2002.
Anyone interested in sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, or behavior genetics, and especially if you are interested in who is winning the debate, why it is such an emotional issue—the nature-nurture debate—this book is a must read. It is lengthy, thorough, and yet it moves along without getting bogged down in the details we have all read about before. There is just a brief mention of the prisoner's dilemma for example, not a lengthy discussion.
Pinker states, "The chapters in this part of the book (Part I) are about the ascendance of the Blank Slate in modern intellectual life, and about the new view of human nature and culture that is beginning to challenge it. In succeeding parts we will witness the anxiety evoked by this challenge (Part II) and see how the anxiety may be assuaged (Part III). Then I will show how a richer conception of human nature can provide insight into language, thought, social life, and morality (Part IV) and how it can clarify controversies on politics, violence, gender, childrearing, and the arts (Part V). Finally I will show how the passing of the Blank Slate is less disquieting, and in some ways less revolutionary, than it first appears (Part VI)."
As brilliant and as thorough as Pinker is however, he does lapse into some politically correct positions and statements that I found even more interesting than the main text—but that has always been my interest, finding what is not said or said deceptively. These lapses in scholarly books sometimes can say more about human behavior, and especially about irrational man, than the primary message being delivered. They are glimpses into motivation rather than pure empiricism.
For example, with regards to Left-Right antagonisms, Pinker seems to contradict his own position on genetics and personality traits. First he states that "Conservatives, for example, tend to be more authoritarian, conscientious, traditional, and rule-bound. But whatever its immediate source, the heritability of political attitudes can explain some of the sparks that fly when liberals and conservatives meet." The above pursuit to find the elusive "authoritarian personality" was addressed at length in my free book (available on my web site) Shattering the Myth of Racism: Volume I. It comes out of a Marxist tradition that Pinker seems to want to overturn. He also fails to list those traits that make up a liberal's stance. Odd, he seems to only focus on conservatives! Nevertheless, this has been true for over fifty years—trying to find the ugly authoritarian archetype.
Later on he states, "But behavioral traits that reflect the underlying talents and temperaments are heritable: how proficient with language you are, how religious, how liberal or conservative. General intelligence is heritable, and so are the five major ways in which personality can vary (summarized by the acronym OCEAN): openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion-introversion, antagonism-agreeableness, and neuroticism."
What I find odd is that to my knowledge no one has tried to fix the liberal-conservative dichotomy based on the five-factor model (OCEAN). That is, how do personality tests determine if someone is a liberal, a conservative, or something entirely different. To get a feel for how people would stack up, I used SPSS 10.1, a statistical analysis package to generate randomly five-factor personality traits for 1000 people, based on a mean of zero and a standard deviation of 15. The following graph shows the distribution for antagonism versus agreeableness, and the other four factors looked of course very similar.
Now consider your own personality: you may fall anywhere from a -45 for antagonism to a +45 for agreeableness. Let's presume then that one person out of the 1000 hypothetical people came up with this personality profile: openness to experience=-10; conscientiousness=15; extroversion-introversion=-0.05; antagonism-agreeableness=-6; and neuroticism=-20. As is apparent, every individual has his or her own unique personality. Some people will tend to be more alike or more different, but it is very difficult to place people in a simplistic Left-Right category.
I then took this randomly generated set and selected all of the cases where any two people both had two specific personality traits greater than zero (say conscientiousness and neuroticism, but any two of the five would work). 27.7% of the people fell into this category. I then looked at selecting three factors greater than zero and I got 14.5% of the people. Selecting four factors greater than zero produced 7.6%. Finally, selecting two factors greater than a score of ten on each trait produced 7.3% selected.
All these numbers mean is that if you were going to classify an authoritarian personality as say any person with a conscientiousness of less than 0, neuroticism greater than 0, extroversion greater than 0, antagonism-agreeableness less than 10, and any level of openness, you don't end up with very many people (about 9% of the population on this loose criteria). For this reason, Pinker has failed like so many before him, of dividing the nature-nurture debate into the simplistic camps of liberal-conservatism. There are too many different personality types around to lump individuals into one camp or the other.
Pinker notes that, "Most of the 18,000 adjectives for personality traits in an unabridged dictionary can be tied to one of these five dimensions, including such sins and flaws as being aimless, careless, conforming, impatient, narrow, rude, self-pitying, selfish, suspicious, uncooperative, and undependable. All five of the major personality dimensions are heritable, with perhaps 40 to 50 percent of the variation in a typical population tied to differences in their genes. The unfortunate wretch who is introverted, neurotic, narrow, selfish, and undependable is probably that way in part because of his genes, and so, most likely, are the rest of us who have tendencies in any of those directions as compared with our fellows."
I see a different type of divide than the liberal-conservative one. It is one of group evolutionary strategies: Jewish scientists leaning towards the blank slate camp and Euro scientists leaning towards genetic explanations underlying human behavior, but also for looking at differences between races with regards to behavioral traits, intelligence, etc.
Pinker, like Tooby and Cosmides—all three Jews by race—is desperately trying to be empirical in recognizing a universal human behavior based on evolutionary adaptiveness, while denying any racial differences. My critique of his book then will look at this denial of group differences, among other things.
Since deception or self-deception can be the underlying cause of scholarship that goes astray at times, I will assume that Pinker is either trying to be politically correct (deception) or he truly believes that there are no behavioral/intelligence differences between races (self-deception). In either case, to keep my critique short, I will discuss these rare lapses in empiricism as I found them in the book, rather than trying to collate major areas of interest into specific sections—read that as the easy way to get the job done.
Pinker states, "My goal in this book is not to argue that genes are everything and culture is nothing—no one believes that—but to explore why the extreme position (that culture is everything) is so often seen as moderate, and the moderate position is seen as extreme." He does a very good job of addressing all of the issues that circle around the dogma of the blank slate, as well as the ghost in the machine and the noble savage. At his best is the thorough treatment of the issues, and his compelling compilation of scientific data that states clearly that humans do in fact have a human nature, that human nature is not always noble, and we can't replace the ghost with a pronoun, as the Marxist want to do.
"Humans behave flexibly because they are programmed: their minds are packed with combinatorial software that can generate an unlimited set of thoughts and behavior. Behavior may vary across cultures, but the design of the mental programs that generate it need not vary." Here, Pinker uses the standard evolutionary psychologist's model in noting that our human brain machinery is the same everywhere for normal people (well perhaps not—more on that later).
As to the blank slate he notes, "Connectionism and extreme plasticity are popular among cognitive scientists at the West Pole, who reject a completely blank slate but want to restrict innate organization to simple biases in attention and memory. Extreme plasticity also appeals to neuroscientists who wish to boost the importance of their field for education and social policy, and to entrepreneurs selling products to speed up infant development, cure learning disabilities, or slow down aging. Outside the sciences, all three developments have been welcomed by some scholars in the humanities who want to beat back the encroachments of biology. The lean genome, connectionism, and extreme plasticity are the Blank Slate's last stand." And of course we all hear and see this every day. New learning techniques, speed reading, new herbs to help you think, new ways of teaching to make you smart—there are just too many ways for people to make money off of simple "twelve step programs" to new educational research grants for the dogma of the blank slate to go away easily.
Of course, we all buy into some of these recipes for slowing down aging and getting smarter, but the ones that work are few and the effects minor. For most of us, nature has dealt us her hand and we can only play the game wisely with what we were dealt. Pinker then states what should be obvious to most of us but is often missed, "These companies tap into people's belief in a ghost in the machine by implying that any form of learning that affects the brain (as opposed, presumably, to the kinds of learning that don't affect the brain) is unexpectedly real or deep or powerful. But this is mistaken. All learning affects the brain. It is undeniably exciting when scientists make a discovery about how learning affects the brain, but that does not make the learning itself any more pervasive or profound."
Now back to the Ghost in the Machine to the Pronoun in the Machine. We no longer believe that we have a mind that is separate from our brains telling us what to do, but Pinker points out how the Marxists—primarily Rose, Kamin, Gould and Lewontin—have replaced the ghost with a we. He states, "We can call this doctrine the Pronoun in the Machine…. The doctrine of the Pronoun in the Machine is not a casual oversight in the radical scientists' world view. It is consistent with their desire for radical political change and their hostility to 'bourgeois' democracy. (Lewontin repeatedly uses 'bourgeois' as an epithet.) If the 'we' is truly unfettered by biology, then once 'we' see the light we can carry out the vision of radical change that we deem correct. But if the 'we' is an imperfect product of evolution—limited in knowledge and wisdom, tempted by status and power, and blinded by self-deception and delusions of moral superiority—then 'we' had better think twice before constructing all that history. As the chapter on politics will explain, constitutional democracy is based on a jaundiced theory of human nature in which 'we' are eternally vulnerable to arrogance and corruption. The checks and balances of democratic institutions were explicitly designed to stalemate the often dangerous ambitions of imperfect humans."
Pinker doesn't just attack the Left for their continued embracing of The Ghost in the Machine. He points out correctly that the Left has controlled the universities and the media, but that religious fundamentalists of all stripes are also opposed to evolution and therefore likewise oppose any notion of evolutionary psychology. The former is ideologically misled, the latter spiritually misled. (For additional text on the Left's stance, see my web site collection of articles on "Stephen J. Gould….")
When it comes to racial differences Pinker vacillates. He starts out by stating, "In some cases, an extreme environmentalist explanation is correct: which language you speak is an obvious example, and differences among races and ethnic groups in test scores may be another." Well, he at least doesn't deny the possibility of racial differences in intelligence and behavioral traits. Later he states, "The Blank Slate has also served as a sacred scripture for political and ethical beliefs. According to the doctrine, any differences we see among races, ethnic groups, sexes, and individuals come not from differences in their innate constitution but from differences in their experiences." By this, he admits that the blank slate has been a required dogma by egalitarians. Is he about to admit that there are racial differences? Not exactly.
Again later, he states, "We now know that people of both sexes and all races are capable of attaining any station in life…. What mattered to [Boas] was the idea that all ethnic groups are endowed with the same basic mental abilities. Boas was right about this, and today it is accepted by virtually all scholars and scientists." These statements are either blatantly false or meaningless. The assertion that anyone, regardless of race or sex, can attain any station in life is meaningless because it can't be verified or denied. What does "station in life mean?" Of course, it means nothing. It is a feel good statement that is meant to be misleading. Then more unabashedly, he declares that there is a universal scientific consensus that all humans have the same "basic mental abilities." This statement is terribly misleading, but it is one that I am seeing more all the time.
What Pinker has done is mixed up mental modules with differences in intelligence and behavioral traits, but they are not the same. Just as all (normal) humans have two eyes, one nose, two legs, and five fingers on each hand, that IS NOT the same as saying that all noses are alike. Likewise, evolutionary psychologists look for those ancient mental modules like: "a face recognition module, a spatial relations module, a rigid objects mechanics module, a tool-use module, a fear module, a social-exchange module, an emotion-perception module, a kin oriented motivation module, an effort allocation and recalibration module, a child care module, a social inference module, a friendship module, a semantic-inference module, a grammar acquisition module, a communication-pragmatics module, a theory of mind module, and so on!" (Mithen 1996) However, ancient modules are not the same as differences in intelligence and behavior.
Over the last few million years, many of these mental modules may have in fact evolved to be pretty much equivalent in all humans, but no one knows for sure if they differ between races. We are only now trying to list them all by finding that they exist in all races. So the question is still very much alive: do different races differ in their ability to run, their general intelligence, their level of introversion/extroversion, their levels of testosterone in males, or ethnocentrism and or xenophobia? These are all valid questions, and they need to answered.
So how do we know that there are differences between races? Pinker states, "The computational theory of mind does more than explain the existence of knowing, thinking, and trying without invoking a ghost in the machine (though that would be enough of a feat). It also explains how those processes can be intelligent—how rationality can emerge from a mindless physical process. If a sequence of transformations of information stored in a hunk of matter (such as brain tissue or silicon) mirrors a sequence of deductions that obey the laws of logic, probability, or cause and effect in the world, they will generate correct predictions about the world. And making correct predictions in pursuit of a goal is a pretty good definition of 'intelligence.'" And I would add that this is precisely why Jews are so successful, Whites have not done too badly, and Blacks fail miserably.
Pinker does go on to discuss how brains differ: gray matter in the frontal lobes are correlated with intelligence, Albert Einstein's brain was large in those areas he excelled at, gay men have brain differences, and criminals have a smaller and less active prefrontal cortex. But Pinker does not want to consider that maybe racial differences account for Jews' astronomical overrepresentation in Nobel winners or that the high crime rate of Blacks is due to their low intelligence. Is he that blind to the obvious or just afraid to go all the way—not stopping at evolutionary psychology but also taking up the issues of behavior genetics.
Pinker notes that, "Thomas Sowell and Jared Diamond have made an authoritative case that the fates of human societies come neither from chance nor from race but from the human drive to adopt the innovations of others, combined with the vicissitudes of geography and ecology." Their positions are not authoritative, they are speculative at best and absurd when we consider all of the evidence. (I discuss Diamond's assertions in Shattering the Myth of Racism Volume II.) Note what Pinker is stating, that the differences between nation-states is luck and the urge to copy others! The luck is the ecology people find themselves in. Well, if ecologies have an influence on different races social structures (whatever that means) they also have an impact on selective pressures as well. This is the feed-back loop that Pinker rejects—genes have an impact on human nature, and evolution and different human ecologies have an impact on the selection of genes. More on this later.
Pinker states, "A person's temperament and personality emerge early in life and remain fairly constant throughout the lifespan. And both personality and intelligence show few or no effects of children's particular home environments within their culture: children reared in the same family are similar mainly because of their shared genes." Good, he establishes over and over that our intelligence and behavioral traits are primarily genetic. But then he states, "Natural selection works to homogenize a species into a standard overall design by concentrating the effective genes—the ones that build well-functioning organs—and winnowing out the ineffective ones. When it comes to an explanation of what makes us tick, we are thus birds of a feather." Pinker couldn't be more absurd here. First, humans, as hunter-gatherers, evolved over thousands of years in very different ecologies. The high intelligence of Whites and East Asians occurred during extremes of glaciations about 50,000 to 15,000 years ago. Europeans especially suffered repeated reductions in population sizes, causing extreme bottlenecks and altering gene frequencies required to survive in such an environment.
But even after humans started the agricultural revolution and starting forming large societies about 12,000 years ago, there is still no reason to believe that we would become "birds of a feather." As societies grew in size, humans also started to specialize and gene frequencies can change from "niche building," adopting different religions, etc. Evolution never stops, as Pinker seems to state above. We are constantly sharing genes between races as new races are being formed through assortative mating. We are one species, but many races with differing personalities, average intelligences, genetic diseases, as well as morphological differences like stature and skin color. Differing ecologies does more than just make a race darker or lighter in skin color, it impacts every part of the organism to help it survive in its unique niche.
Pinker attributes the difference in intelligence between Blacks and Whites as being due to slavery, segregation and opportunity as argued by Thomas Sowell. Actually, this is the same argument used by John Ogbu in his "caste system" hypothesis. It simply states that oppressed peoples are less intelligent because they are being held down. I discuss this position in my book Shattering the Myth of Racism Volume II. Basically, it is a just-so story and does not consider those patterns of intelligence differences that cannot be attributed to a caste system. For example, why is the average intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews in the United States 115, and Whites only 100? This is the same difference as that between Blacks and Whites, but it is generally NEVER discussed by evolutionary psychologists. It is simply ignored.
Pinker does think that intelligence is important, and he makes the observation, "I find it truly surreal to read academics denying the existence of intelligence. Academics are obsessed with intelligence. They discuss it endlessly in considering student admissions, in hiring faculty and staff, and especially in their gossip about one another. Nor can citizens or policymakers ignore the concept, regardless of their politics. People who say that IQ is meaningless will quickly invoke it when the discussion turns to executing a murderer with an IQ of 64, removing lead paint that lowers a child's IQ by five points, or the presidential qualifications of George W. Bush. In any case, there is now ample evidence that intelligence is a stable property of an individual, that it can be linked to features of the brain (including overall size, amount of gray matter in the frontal lobes, speed of neural conduction, and metabolism of cerebral glucose), that it is partly heritable among individuals, and that it predicts some of the variation in life outcomes such as income and social status." But then he ignores the strong correlations between brain features and the differences between races. (Boas's claim that head shapes can change under different environments has recently been overturned—the data was fabricated.)
Pinker at times seems to slip firmly into Jensenism, "With some important exceptions, stereotypes are in fact not inaccurate when assessed against objective benchmarks such as census figures or the reports of the stereotyped people themselves. People who believe that African Americans are more likely to be on welfare than whites, that Jews have higher average incomes than WASPs, that business students are more conservative than students in the arts, that women are more likely than men to want to lose weight, and that men are more likely than women to swat a fly with their bare hands, are not being irrational or bigoted. Those beliefs are correct. People's stereotypes are generally consistent with the statistics, and in many cases their bias is to underestimate the real differences between sexes or ethnic groups. This does not mean that the stereotyped traits are unchangeable, of course, or that people think they are unchangeable, only that people perceive the traits fairly accurately at the time." So again I ask the question, how does he dismiss the obvious question: Whites are to Blacks in income and intelligence as Ashkenazi Jews are to Whites in income and intelligence. He dismisses the first as due to oppression. Does he think Jews are then oppressing Whites in the same way?
Well, he may be looking for a way out of the above logical dilemmas when it comes to different races. He states, "The politics of gender is a major reason that the application of evolution, genetics, and neuroscience to the human mind is bitterly resisted in modern intellectual life. But unlike other human divisions such as race and ethnicity, where any biological differences are minor at most and scientifically uninteresting, gender cannot possibly be ignored in the science of human beings." Interesting, he just flat out states that differences between races are minor, and then states that it is also scientifically uninteresting. But how can that be, the whole issue of social democracy, egalitarianism, justice, and the politics of race hinges on this very fact. Racial differences are THE most interesting aspect of evolutionary psychology, sociobiology and behavior genetics because RACE is the reason it has been suppressed. For over 100 years, the Left has tried to dismiss innate racial differences. That is what the whole debate has really been all about—how can it now be uninteresting? Did he say above that academics are obsessed with discussions of intelligence? Are they any less obsessed with race?
Pinker states, "With some other traits the differences are small on average but can be large at the extremes. That happens for two reasons. When two bell curves partly overlap, the farther out along the tail you go, the larger the discrepancies between the groups. For example, men on average are taller than women, and the discrepancy is greater for more extreme values. At a height of five foot ten, men outnumber women by a ratio of thirty to one; at a height of six feet, men outnumber women by a ratio of two thousand to one."
This also explains the large differences that intelligence makes when it comes to averages. This shifting in the bell curves explains why virtually no Blacks (with primarily Black genes) are found in the hard sciences. It also explains why anywhere there are Ashkenazi Jews (the only Jews with the exceptionally high intelligence) in a country, they dominate politics, academia and wealth. At only one or two percent for example in the United States, they have ten times the average wealth, they dominate academics, and they control the media. This is not some sinister plot, it is because at the very high end of the intelligence "bell curve" it is dominated by Jews, just as Pinker explains it does for differences in height. Now, are racial differences still uninteresting?
After providing so much ammunition for Jensenists, Pinker tries to show that racial differences can only be skin deep. He notes that studies show that humans have very little genetic diversity due to our species having passed through a population bottleneck about 200,000 years ago. That is, there may have only been several thousand of us, interbreeding. He then claims that any differences between races that developed later were just superficial differences due to climate like skin color or stature. He states, "Taking all these processes into account, we get the following picture. People are qualitatively the same but may differ quantitatively. The quantitative differences are small in biological terms, and they are found to a far greater extent among the individual members of an ethnic group or race than between ethnic groups or races. These are reassuring findings. Any racist ideology that holds that the members of an ethnic group are all alike, or that one ethnic group differs fundamentally from another, is based on false assumptions about our biology." Well, not even Hitler believed in a pure race, so I'm not sure who these racists are. Then he vacillates again, "Because oceans, deserts, and mountain ranges have prevented people from choosing mates at random in the past, the large inbred families we call races are still discernible, each with a somewhat different distribution of gene frequencies. In theory, some of the varying genes could affect personality or intelligence (though any such differences would at most apply to averages, with vast overlap between the group members). This is not to say that such genetic differences are expected or that we have evidence for them, only that they are biologically possible." No evidence for genetic differences?
The assertion that humans vary genetically far more within races than between races is an assertion being made increasingly as a way to dismiss the possibility of real racial differences. To get a handle on this issue, I picked up a copy of Genetics and the Search for Modern Human Origins by John H. Relethford, 2001. This book deals at length with genetic differences and what it means with regards to our origins, but it does not deal with racial differences like intelligence or behavioral traits.
First, if racial differences are uninteresting to Pinker, they are fundamental to biological anthropologists. Relethford states that, "Biological anthropology has several concerns. One is the study of biological differences and similarities among living human populations. How are human groups the same biologically? How are they different? Why are they similar or different? Biological anthropologists look at variation within and between living groups for clues to what happened in the past—the evolutionary history of our species. Some biological anthropologists focus on this question in a larger perspective by looking at similarities and differences between our species and other primates. Central to the study of comparative primatology is the question of the nature of humanity. How different are we from our closest relatives? This question concerns genetic, anatomic, and behavioral comparisons." He goes on to state that we can investigate genetic diversity in several ways, and one way is phenotypic. That is, we can test and observe how races differ in intelligence, ethnocentrism or conscientiousness for example. In fact, discussions about overall genetic diversity as it turns out are meaningless when it comes to genetic differences in intelligence and behavioral traits between races.
Relethford explains the four processes contributing to genetic diversity, "Microevolution is thus defined as a change in allele frequencies over time. Population geneticists have worked out the different ways in which microevolution can occur. There are four evolutionary forces that cause changes in allele frequencies over time: 1. mutation, 2. natural selection, 3. genetic drift, and 4. gene flow." Note that only natural selection is not a random process. Mutations just happen by chance, genetic drift means a certain type of gene is no better or worse than its allelic form, and gene flow is just someone from one race having sex with another. Only natural selection is involved in selecting those genetic alleles for intelligence, dark or light skin, aggression, etc.
So what can we learn about genetic diversity from natural selection? Relethford states, "Natural selection could increase or decrease genetic differences between populations depending on the type of selection and whether the populations are in different environments with different optimal adaptations." That's right, the next time someone tells you that there is more genetic variation within races than between races, you can state succinctly that it is irrelevant with regards to selected traits like intelligence. These statements are a ruse to try and disregard racial differences, but they have no basis in scientific facts. When population geneticists look at genetic markers between races, they are using differing alleles that are neutral with regards to selection. They are looking at a few dozen gene loci that they are able to test for, not those genes that contribute to intelligence or behavioral traits. In fact, in reading the above book, of the four causes mentioned above for changing allele frequencies between races, selection is ignored in the mathematical models used. Only mutation rates, gene drift and gene flow are used in the models. So much for genetic diversity studies having anything to do with racial differences. For now, we must rely on psychometric testing to determine phenotypic differences, and wait for the specific genes be found as we unravel the human genome.
He adds, "Wolpoff and colleagues developed the model of multiregional evolution to explain this seeming paradox. The essence of their argument is that there is a balance between evolutionary forces that simultaneously maintain species integrity while also allowing for the maintenance of regional characteristics. They further note that natural selection also affects this balance in the case of adaptive traits." I will use an analogy that is now being looked at for Jews. From genetic studies, we know that Jewish males migrated into Northern Europe, bred with Indo-European females for a short period, and then put up racial barriers and prevented any further mixing between Jews and gentiles. This had at least two effects, the new Jewish community looked more like Europeans than other Semites, but they also continued to select for higher intelligence and high levels of xenophobia among other traits (MacDonald 1994, 2002). In short, under selection pressures, races can share some genes while maintaining racial differences.
Other researchers are now putting together how the races differentiated genetically by region. For example, as noted by Relethford, the bottleneck effect that occurred in Africa about 200,000 years ago was not the only one—Eurasia went through many severe contractions of population groups as the ice ages came and went. The size of the population in Africa however remained large. Under these conditions, we would expect the Eurasian populations to change faster under selection pressures, and especially intelligence because it was needed for survival. By the way, Relethford also claims that genetic studies make the concept of relatively homogeneous biological races improbable because of large genetic differences within groups. It seems almost every book needs to make these absurd statements, even when the bulk of his book shows just the opposite. No doubt, these authors find it necessary to add a disclaimer somewhere, no matter how absurd, to fend of the thought police.
Retuning to Pinker, and his moral stance, he makes some interesting observations: "The very idea that the members of an ethnic group should be persecuted because of their biology fills us with revulsion. These changes were cemented by the bitter lessons of lynchings, world wars, forced sterilizations, and the Holocaust, which showcased the grave implications of denigrating an ethnic group." This statement sounds like he is advocating that humans are noble savages. He argues earlier in the book that humans have always engaged in tribal warfare, and it has only been recently that we have been able to control these conflicts. But they are really just beneath the surface and if anything, Pinker should understand that to just condemn these actions without understanding them is pointless. In fact, he makes the same mistake that so many others make in using the Holocaust as a moral guide: "The Nazis' ideology of inferior races was later used to justify the murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals." But that is absurd, Hitler killed the Jews because he felt they were too successful, intelligent, and dominated the German culture. The Jews were hated because they were successful and dominate, the Gypsies because they were bottom feeders, and the homosexuals because they were felt to be repulsive. What can I say, value systems change.
In fact, later, he stumbles upon why Hitler killed the Jews: "Unequal treatment in the name of equality can take many forms. Some forms have both defenders and detractors, such as soak-the-rich taxation, heavy estate taxes, streaming by age rather than ability in schools, quotas and preferences that favor certain races or regions, and prohibitions against private medical care or other voluntary transactions. But some can be downright dangerous. If people are assumed to start out identical but some end up wealthier than others, observers may conclude that the wealthier ones must be more rapacious. And as the diagnosis slides from talent to sin, the remedy can shift from redistribution to vengeance. Many atrocities of the twentieth century were committed in the name of egalitarianism, targeting people whose success was taken as evidence of their criminality." That's right, the Jews were killed by Hitler not because they were felt to be inferior, but because they "must be more rapacious." Understanding racial differences can help to explain different group's successes, and if handled correctly, may reduce ethnic hostilities. Pinker seems to almost understand this, but does not take it to its logical conclusion. He goes on, "Educated and entrepreneurial minorities who have prospered in their adopted regions, such as the Indians in East Africa and Oceania, the Ibos in Nigeria, the Armenians in Turkey, the Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia, and the Jews almost everywhere, have been expelled from their homes or killed in pogroms because their visibly successful members were seen as parasites and exploiters." I rest my case: these groups are more intelligent than their host country's natives (Lynn and Vanhanen 2002).
When it comes to morality and religion, Pinker is again insightful but also goes further in having a solution than human nature would indicate. He states, "The difference between a defensible moral position and an atavistic gut feeling is that with the former we can give reasons why our conviction is valid. We can explain why torture and murder and rape are wrong, or why we should oppose discrimination and injustice. On the other hand, no good reasons can be produced to show why homosexuality should be suppressed or why the races should be segregated. And the good reasons for a moral position are not pulled out of thin air: they always have to do with what makes people better off or worse off, and are grounded in the logic that we have to treat other people in the way that we demand they treat us."
Whenever anyone says that we can all agree on a moral position, they have leaped into the romantic position from an empirical one. Alan M. Dershowitz, that paragon of justice and equality, is now calling for using torture when his own Jewish tribe is threatened by terrorists. In 1989, George H. Bush and the rest of the industrialized world preferred to allow 50 to 100 thousand Chinese be slaughtered at Tiananmen Square and elsewhere, rather than lose lucrative trade deals with China (Thomas 2001). Even Pinker observes that, "According to independent surveys in several countries by the psychologists Douglas Kenrick and David Buss, more than 80 percent of women and 90 percent of men fantasize about killing people they don't like, especially romantic rivals, stepparents, and people who have humiliated them in public."
Likewise, is it really a universal that the races should not be separated? The Balkans are a good example of why they probably should be separated, and history has shown that tribalism and ethnic genocide are the norm, not the exception. We see little peace between competing races where they live under a democratic form of government. On the other hand, where a nation is made up of a homogenous race along with democracy, hostilities are greatly reduced between classes of people.
Pinker declares, "But if people's sense of well-being comes from an assessment of their social status, and social status is relative, then extreme inequality can make people on the lower rungs feel defeated even if they are better off than most of humanity. It is not just a matter of hurt feelings: people with lower status are less healthy and die younger, and communities with greater inequality have poorer health and shorter life expectancies. The medical researcher Richard Wilkinson, who documented these patterns, argues that low status triggers an ancient stress reaction that sacrifices tissue repair and immune function for an immediate fight-or-flight response. Wilkinson, together with Martin Daly and Margo Wilson, have pointed to another measurable cost of economic inequality. Crime rates are much higher in regions with greater disparities of wealth (even after controlling for absolute levels of wealth), partly because chronic low status leads men to become obsessed with rank and to kill one another over trivial insults. Wilkinson argues that reducing economic inequality would make millions of lives happier, safer, and longer."
It seems pretty obvious then that one way to have equality is to have racial homogeneity in each country, rather than disparate races with unequal abilities to accumulate wealth living together. Pinker himself said that Jews are far more wealthy than any other race. So aren't Jews, by his own observation, causing racial disharmony? Rather than strive for equality between races who are innately unequal, it would make far more sense to allow races with different talents to live amongst themselves rather than suffer humiliation. Is this not why Hitler really killed the Jews and now other Semitic terrorists are attacking the West: over the bitterness of failing to be able to compete with wealthier races?
Pinker notes that, "A story entitled 'The Deniable Darwin' appeared, astonishingly, on the cover of Commentary, which means that a magazine that was once a leading forum for secular Jewish intellectuals is now more skeptical of evolution than is the Pope! It is not clear whether these worldly thinkers are really convinced that Darwinism is false or whether they think it is important for other people to believe it is false….That is not far from the attitude of the neocons. Kristol has written: 'If there is one indisputable fact about the human condition it is that no community can survive if it is persuaded—or even if it suspects—that its members are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe.' He spells out the moral corollary: 'There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.'"
Well, I agree that it may not work in a democratic society where the level of innate intelligence varies so greatly that some people have to be treated like Santa Claus exists to the academic elite who tend to be atheists. One reality can be held by the majority of a nation's people if the people in that nation are both intelligent and free of state sponsored dogmas. I did a quick search on the Internet on "religiosity." As I suspected, some countries like Japan, Sweden, even Italy, have extremely low levels of religious participation, or even a belief in an afterlife. It is just plain false that one cannot believe that they are "leading a meaningless life in a meaningless universe." If it is a fact, nothing changes. Human nature doesn't change. The desire to own a Porsche, or have a lot of sex, or to be a great scholar, or to raise a healthy family doesn't change. The same motivations are still there, but they are just rationalized differently. This brings me finally to eugenics.
Pinker claims, "If people differ genetically in intelligence and character, could we selectively breed for smarter and nicer people? Possibly, though the intricacies of genetics and development would make it far harder than the fans of eugenics imagined. Selective breeding is straightforward for genes with additive effects—that is, genes that have the same impact regardless of the other genes in the genome. But some traits, such as scientific genius, athletic virtuosity, and musical giftedness, are what behavioral geneticists call emergenic: they materialize only with certain combinations of genes and therefore don't 'breed true.' Moreover, a given gene can lead to different behavior in different environments. When the biochemist (and radical scientist) George Wald was solicited for a semen sample by William Shockley's sperm bank for Nobel Prize-winning scientists, he replied, 'If you want sperm that produces Nobel Prize winners you should be contacting people like my father, a poor immigrant tailor. What have my sperm given the world? Two guitarists!'"
I find it hard to believe that Pinker could not be aware that humans have been successfully breeding plants and animals for 10,000 years and yet he denies that humans are governed by the same rules of genetics as other organisms. Again, he is probably just telling a little fib for the less than astute reader. First, an "emergenic" giftedness is no different than an "emergenic" idiot. Offspring, in animals as well as humans, will at times get very lucky or very unlucky, and inherit just the right genes from mom and dad, or stallion and mare, that they overachieve or underachieve far outside of what one would expect from their parents. This observation is simplistic, and it has nothing to do with genetics. And besides, the fact that George Wald ended up with two "guitarists" may say more about who he married than anything about his own genes. It takes two to tangle.
The short version of eugenics is that it is no different for humans than breeding is for dogs, pigs or horses. You breed, you keep the best, you cull the rest, and you breed again. Or at least that has been the tried and true method used for 10,000 years. Can humans do the same thing with intelligence? They already have. The Ashkenazi Jews, using Talmudic studies as their method of selection, selectively bred male scholars to wealthy men's daughters (MacDonald 1994). They also weren't much worried about the less intelligent Jews defecting to Christianity (the culling part of the program). So for several thousand years, this process has continued and today, the average verbal intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jew is an astounding 127, with an average overall IQ of 115. That is a phenomenal skewing of the average intelligence quotient of any race of people ever recorded. There are usually only slight differences between say verbal and performance intelligences. Only the Ashkenazi Jews have this asymmetry due to breeding selectively for the narrow trait of verbal scholarship.
Pinker asks, "Whether or not we can breed for certain traits, should we do it? It would require a government wise enough to know which traits to select, knowledgeable enough to know how to implement the breeding, and intrusive enough to encourage or coerce people's most intimate decisions. Few people in a democracy would grant their government that kind of power even if it did promise a better society in the future. The costs in freedom to individuals and in possible abuse by authorities are unacceptable."
Wrong again on all counts. First, Pinker already admitted how important intelligence is, and most eugenicists agree that aside from reducing genetic disease, intelligence would be the primary trait selected for, at least until we have unraveled the entire genetic code. Second, as stated above, we do already know how to breed for say intelligence, which by the way may very well be an additive trait—we don't know yet. Finally, any eugenics program could be implemented by individual couples, eugenic religious groups already in existence, and even by governments—Singapore, Sweden and China just for starters have eugenic programs in place.
So not only is eugenics possible, it has been with us for thousands of years and is now just about to start accelerating as we crack the genetic code. Pinker states, "What stands in the way of most utopias is not pestilence and drought but human behavior. So utopians have to think of ways to control behavior, and when propaganda doesn't do the trick, more emphatic techniques are tried." And this is the beautiful part of eugenics, it is so very natural for parents to want to have intelligent, attractive, and healthy children just for starters. It is perfectly natural. Primate females have been selecting for males that will give them reproductively successful offspring for millions of years—so nothing could be more natural than a rational selection for successful offspring—eugenics. It is simply the purposefully directed application of evolution.
Another reason for eugenics is to promote not just democracy, but direct democracy. Democracy is inherently flawed and difficult to sustain (Hoppe 2001; Somit & Peterson 1997). It eventually slides into socialism in homogenous states and socialism with ethnic conflict in multiculturalist states. However, in a nation-state with similarly intelligent people (low standard deviation), there is no reason that a form of direct democracy, especially with computer access to powers of decision-making, could not be easily implemented. Better yet, just like the military draft, people could be selected by lottery (those say with an IQ above 120) to spend two years in the House of Representatives. All voting would be secret ballots so representatives could not be easily bribed or bought off by special interest groups. And how is that better than representative democracy? Because it gets rid of not only corruption, but solves several other dysgenics problems.
Pinker states that, "In the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth, self-contained communes based on a philosophy of communal sharing sprang up throughout the United States. All of them collapsed from internal tensions, the ones guided by socialist ideology after a median of two years, the ones guided by religious ideology after a median of twenty years. The Israeli kibbutzim, originally galvanized by socialism and Zionism, steadily dismantled their collectivist philosophy over the decades. It was undermined by their members' desire to live with their families, to own their own clothing, and to keep small luxuries or sums of money acquired outside the kibbutz. And the kibbutzim were dragged down by inefficiencies because of the free-rider problem—they were, in the words of one kibbutznik, a 'paradise for parasites.'"
The above is also true of socialistic societies everywhere. I am convinced that politicians by nature tend to be of the sort of people that feel no shame or guilt. They can lie to their constituencies, they will turn on their friends when it serves their goals, etc. As Pinker states, "At the other extreme, people also commit acts of outright treachery, including larceny, fraud, extortion, murder, and other ways of taking a benefit at someone else's expense. Psychopaths, who lack all traces of a conscience, are the most extreme example, but social psychologists have documented what they call Machiavellian traits in many individuals who fall short of outright psychopathy. Most people, of course, are in the middle of the range, displaying mixtures of reciprocity, pure generosity, and greed." And again, "Several biologists have adduced evidence that psychopathy is a cheating strategy that evolved by frequency-dependent selection. Statistical analyses show that a psychopath, rather than merely falling at the end of a continuum for one or two traits, has a distinct cluster of traits (superficial charm, impulsivity, irresponsibility, callousness, guiltlessness, mendacity, and exploitiveness) that sets him off from the rest of the population. And many psychopaths show none of the subtle physical abnormalities produced by biological noise, suggesting that psychopathy is not always a biological mistake."
What this means is, even in a society that has a homogenous population, under representative democracy and socialism, the psychopaths, free-riders, and other anti-social genetic traits will multiply. In hunter-gatherer societies, free-rider problems were solved by assassination or banishment. When someone had these intolerable traits, they were eliminated and a natural form of egalitarianism was maintained. Everyone knew each other and tribal cohesiveness was maintained.
Now, from the capitalist elite to those that can exist only by being on welfare, there is no way to keep free-rider genes from becoming more numerous. There is good evidence for example that psychopaths have more children than non-psychopaths (Lynn 2001). So if socialistic democracy continues, so will the spread of genes that we probably do not want to see return in large numbers back into the gene pool.
Evolution never ceases, and yet that is what many evolutionists—from the Marxist Left to the conservative Right—seem to believe when it comes to humans. Their visions are flawed by an increasingly hostile world, in conflict because there are innate differences between races. Pinker says, "The mind also has components for which it is hard to tell where cognition leaves off and emotion begins. These include a system for assessing danger, coupled with the emotion called fear, a system for assessing contamination, coupled with the emotion called disgust, and a moral sense, which is complex enough to deserve a chapter of its own." And yet he also states above that he believes there is a common morality that we modern humans can all agree to—nonsense! Some people are morally outraged by homosexuals, others by pedophiles, others by miscegenation, others by Arabs, others by drug users, etc. These are all viewpoints that can easily be considered as being controlled by the innate mechanisms contamination and disgust. If Pinker wants a universal morality, he will have to accept that a changing human nature will be required—through eugenics. Otherwise, as a species, we will slide into a dysgenic abyss. We have altered Mother Nature in drastic ways in just the last few decades, and we had better be careful to fully understand consequences.
A final note on racial harmony, and why I believe that a peaceful world is dependent on the establishment of homogenous nation-states. Pinker says, "As technology accumulates and people in more parts of the planet become interdependent, the hatred between them tends to decrease, for the simple reason that you can't kill someone and trade with him too." But of course we are observing just the opposite. BECAUSE we now live in a technological world, many people have little to contribute in terms of products versus raw materials. One of the main reasons for the rise of Islamic terrorism, aside from the hatred they have for America's support of Israel, is because they can't compete economically or militarily against the West. The average intelligence in the Middle East and South Asia hovers around 90. That is not sufficient to compete with the West—and we are therefore a real threat to their safety and to the future of their culture. All they have is oil for now to sustain them—and the West wants the oil, not trade with the Arabs. It is even worse for sub-Saharan Africa. With an average intelligence of 70, an IQ so low that they can't even understand the spread of the AIDS virus, there is no place for that continent in the modern world except for a few precious natural resources.
At the other extreme, because of those countries we do trade with in terms of technology, we are again entering into a dangerous situation. The spread of extremely sophisticated industrial spying networks, the development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, even the development of a genetic killer program by Israel to find an organism that will only kill Arabs, does not indicate to me that racial harmony will continue (Thomas 2001). As borders have opened up, and as multiculturalism has been shoved down the throats Western nations, so have the capitalist elites of those countries abandoned any moral stance for money and power. Using cheap offshore labor, promoting open immigration to bust unions and to provide ever cheaper labor at home, a small sliver of humanity, those who control democratic and totalitarian nations alike, are playing a high stakes game of winner takes all. The rest of us will be put to the sword to clean up the mess the managerial state leaves behind.
And that is why it is terribly important to some of us that we fully understand all of human nature: racial differences, morality, ethnocentrism, dominance, greed, and the inability of an insufficient mind to comprehend the world around them. By all indications, a new world war is just around the corner, and this time every available weapon will probably be used because for many, the dirty weapons are all they have.
Matt Nuenke, November 2002.
Steve Pinker gives talk on
the genetic intelligence of Jews.
Jews on Jews: Jews are Great
Steven Pinker Discusses "Jews, Genes, & Intelligence" at the Center for
by MAGGIE WITTLIN * Posted December 9, 2005 12:16 PM
Of the twelve billion people who have graced this earth, fewer than one hundred have earned the title of "Gentile Adored by My Jewish Grandmother."
Mark Twain successfully infiltrated the order when he penned Concerning the Jews, an article discussing the intellectual prowess and survival skills of the Jewish people. The membership otherwise consists largely of Europeans who helped Jews during the Holocaust and political leaders who have gone out of their way to make peace with Israel.
Three University of Utah anthropologists have done their darndest to reach that rarified group close to my grandmother's heart: Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending collaborated on "The Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence," a paper recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Biosocial Sciences. In the article, they unveil a theory for why Jews have an average IQ that's one standard deviation above the European norm.
If there's one thing that Jews love more than gentiles raving about Jews, it's Jews raving about Jews, which is probably why a lecture I attended last week was completely packed with Jewish blue-hairs. Steven Pinker, rock star cognitive scientist, best-selling author, and Yid-to-the-core, was to give his take on the paper, and the exiles from Egypt flocked to the Center for Jewish History on 16th Street for the occasion. Never one to miss a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society, I flocked, too.
Upon entrance, we had to pass through metal detectors. On the same day the Transportation Security Administration lifted the ban on small scissors in airplanes, the woman in front of me was told she had to remove her tiny shears from her bag before she could go any further. Perhaps she was planning to crop the speaker's luxuriant, flowing hair and thereby deprive him of his superhuman intellectual strength. More than likely, she probably wanted to clip her nails.
It's possible that the center has these metal detectors up every day, but the message for this lecture was clear: We must acknowledge that others will be jealous of our brilliance and seek to destroy us for it. Forget the subways, a concentration of New York Jewish intellectuals is too good a target for anyone to pass up.
I sat down next to a sophomore anthropology major from NYU and scanned the audience: Jews all the way down with maybe the occasional goy hoping to catch a glimpse through the chosen peephole. Not many. And a black guy. Just one.
Steven Pinker climbed onto the stage and immediately laid out his most convincing credential: a fully-stocked reservoir of Jewish linguistic humor. He defined such words as "jewbilation"-pride in finding out that one's favorite celebrity is Jewish and "meinstein"—slang for, "my son, the genius."
The crowd was hooked; the man could do no wrong. And so the substance of the lecture began.
Apparently, Ashkenazi Jews—the Eastern European ones—really do have an average IQ that's eight to 15 points higher than the northern European average. The Cochran/Hardy/Harpending paper says about four out of every thousand northern Europeans have an IQ of 140 or above. So, if Ashkenazi Jews have an average IQ of 110, that means 23 out of every thousand Askenazi Jews have above a 140 IQ. Sephardic Jews, those descended from Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century, have the same IQ distribution as the rest of Europe.
So, how did Ashkenazi Jews get to be the blindingly brilliant people we are today? Long ago, before the Diaspora, Ashkenazi Jews were unusually literate, but otherwise nothing special. As Christians were forbidden from lending money, the Jews grew to dominate the usury industry and other areas of finance, mercantilism and management. In medieval Europe financial success correlated well with reproductive success, and therefore the Jews underwent rapid natural selection for the mathematical and verbal traits that supported those occupations.
The second part of the story concerns how these genes get passed along. While Jews tend to have the smarts, we also frequently have mutated genes that put us at risk for a host of debilitating and life-threatening disorders including Tay-Sachs and breast cancer. At first glance these genes would appear to be poor candidates for natural selection; however, they're all recessive. When a person receives a recessive gene from only one parent, it doesn't cause the disorder and may even give the person some sort of "heterozygous advantage." (For instance, people who carry just one recessive gene for sickle-cell anemia are immune to malaria rather than anemic.) The Cochran/Hardy/Harpending paper posits that, in the case of Ashkenazi Jews, deleterious recessive genes likely have the heterozygous advantage of above-average intelligence.
The exact mechanism by which these genes raise intelligence is still a little shaky, but, as Pinker pointed out, the theory is extremely testable: "Take several sets of Jewish siblings. Test their IQs. Test their blood for these genes. Is there a strong correlation between gene presence and high IQ? Yes? Babe, you've just got yourself a validated hypothesis."
Pinker acknowledged the current academic trend of denying the existence of intelligence and then proceeded to tear it apart. Studies have uniformly indicated that IQ is highly heritable and not affected by family environment. He framed his argument by emphasizing that the disparity of intelligence between ethnicities should not influence us on a moral level: He said "we must "prohibit discrimination of individuals based on averages of groups, "and we have to keep helping people in discriminated-against groups to live up to their potential."
At this point, as with my reading of Larry Summers' remarks on women in science, I could see no flaw in Pinker's position. His point on the heritability of IQ was supported by years of research. His in-depth knowledge of linguistics helped him frame his arguments so as not to come off as offensive or demeaning to anyone. While the anthropology major to my left looked at Pinker with polite disagreement—maybe she liked her nurture better than her nature—I was wrapped around his little finger.
Unfortunately, all of that ended when moderator Noah Feldman, a handsome thirty-something NYU law professor, Rhodes Scholar and former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter—who probably received 40 marriage proposals on behalf of daughters of audience members—opened up the floor to questions.
I'll paraphrase a comment from one elderly female attendee: As a sociology professor at CUNY (City University of New York), I teach mostly minorities, and every single time I have a Jewish student, that student is invariably at the top of the class.
I'll paraphrase another: We should realize there are differences. The Jews are different. The Jews became money lenders because they could.
Pinker may have spent half of his speech time emphasizing that the Ashkenazi IQ disparity doesn't have moral implications. He may have called for better evidence before he's willing to commit to any individual conclusion. He may have indicated that there are plenty of Jews with IQs below the European average. He may have clearly implied that had more Jews reproduced successfully back in the day, there would presently be no difference in average IQ. But, people will hear what they want to hear.
And many in attendance were there to hear that Jews are naturally smarter than everyone else.
So now they'll head out into the world, and spread the twisted word in their homes, at parties, in op-ed columns. And a paper that proposed an intriguing and plausible theory, and the man who eloquently analyzed it, will cause an impassioned backlash. Would that people were like genes and the deleterious ones weren't so darn dominant.