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Williams Professors to Discuss Racial Differences in IQ

Harvard genetics professor David Reiche‘s op-ed and interview in the New York Times is making waves.

Williams professor Phoebe Cohen tweets:

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EphBlog is here to help! The key issue with Reich is that he believes that there are important genetic differences between human population groups.

It is likely that a few stereotypes will be validated by findings from genetics — even if it is also certain that a great majority will be disproved. … So how should we handle the eventuality that for a few traits, average differences among populations arising from genetics will be discovered? I do not think that the right approach is to pretend that scientific research has shown there can be no meaningful average genetic differences among human populations, because that message is contradicted by scientific facts. … Given that all genetically determined traits differ somewhat among populations, we should expect that there will be differences in the average effects, including in traits like behavior.

I suspect that this is not a point of view that Cohen has come across that often among her Ph.D. peer group. But she should get out more! Indeed, there are professors now at Williams who have published along these lines. Start with economics professor Quamrul Ashraf. Consider his paper, “The “Out of Africa” Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development”:

This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a persistent hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reflecting the trade-off between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of diversity on productivity.

Key message is that one of the reasons Peru is poor and Japan is rich is that the genetics of Peruvians differs from the genetics of Japanese in ways that influence economic growth. This is not a popular opinion in the academy and I am occasionally surprised by the lack of controversy at Williams about Ashraf’s extensive (and impressive!) research effort along these lines.

Psychology professor Nate Kornell is almost certainly a alt-right fellow traveler when it comes to the topic of the reality of IQ and its genetic component. His puckish side comes out when he likes tweets like this which highlight the almost religious nature of the opposition to Reich.

Modest Proposal: Professors Cohen, Ashraf and Kornell should organize a panel at Williams to discuss Reich’s views about the genetics of racial differences. (EphBlog has covered this topic before.) Williams is an college, not a madrassa, so an open-minded professor like Cohen has nothing to fear from a discussion about the views of a scholar from Harvard . . . right?

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#1 Comment By JCD 📌 On April 1, 2018 @ 7:09 pm

As I see it, Reiche is raising the visibility of his genetic research and its implications right now largely to protect his own position and funding. He is desperately looking for public support outside of Harvard to maintain himself.

In this perspective, his comments are a detailed, intricate, role-model example of what a contemporary scholar needs to be saying, in public, if they want to maintain research efforts which will, in the end, demonstrate conclusively that it is dishonest to deny a genetic basis for average differences between races.

I’m particularly impressed by the political spin contained in one of the “six truths” he recommends we should all keep in mind:

To insist that no meaningful average differences among human populations are possible is harmful. It is perceived as misleading, even patronizing, by the general public. And it encourages people not to trust the honesty of scholars and instead to embrace theories that are not scientifically grounded and often racist.

In other words, he must be allowed to continue the work his leftist colleagues fear empowers racists because stopping him will have the impact of empowering racists.

What continues to disgust me, however, is the willingness of the vast majority of leftist academics to demean and demonize young white children and their parents by insisting that white racism is the cause of relative black dysfunction when, as Reiche’s research implies, there are other, much more plausible and elegant alternative explanations.

#2 Comment By Dick Swart On April 1, 2018 @ 11:23 pm

While I may not agree with some points that he makes, I am enheartened to see that JCD is writing in a more current mode regarding the handling of racial differences and causes rather than continuing his long-ago differences with the political science department. He is also not referencing materials and quotes that he has made.

It is my hope that if JCD will continue in this vein, he will become in addition to a very frequent contributor. a valued and respected one as well.

#3 Comment By JCD 📌 On April 1, 2018 @ 11:25 pm

Here is the link to the BuzzFeed article that Phoebe Cohen is apparently eager to read.

How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics

The article is actually an open letter produced by a group of 67 scientists and researchers, many of whom are simply sociologists and law professors with an interest in identity politics. The gist of their argument is that Reiche doesn’t have the intellectual chops needed to speak knowledgeably about the genetic origins of average racial differences.

As scholars who engage with social and scientific research, we urge scientists to speak out when science is used inappropriately to make claims about human differences. The public should not cede the power to define race to scientists who themselves are not trained to understand the social contexts that shape the formation of this fraught category. Instead, we encourage geneticists to collaborate with their colleagues in the social sciences, humanities, and public health to consider more carefully how best to use racial categories in scientific research.

In other words, all power should go to a handful of leftist extremists who define race as a social construct to legitimize oppressive social engineering to enforce equality of outcomes.

Great. Not only do we non-scientists need to shut up, but now scientists in genetics, like Reiche, need to shut up too.

#4 Comment By myrddin emrys On April 2, 2018 @ 9:24 am

One of the signees is Joseph Graves, who spoke at Williams when Charles Murray came. Perhaps Williams should bring him back to debate Reiche.

#5 Comment By sigh On April 2, 2018 @ 3:50 pm

it would be worlds better if ephblog were to not keep searching for excuses to raise the race/iq debate over and over again.

at minimum, i’d wish it’d read the critiques better:

This misrepresents the many scientists and scholars who have demonstrated the scientific flaws of considering “race” a biological category. Their robust body of scholarship recognizes the existence of geographically based genetic variation in our species, but shows that such variation is not consistent with biological definitions of race. Nor does that variation map precisely onto ever changing socially defined racial groups.

Reich critically misunderstands and misrepresents concerns that are central to recent critiques of how biomedical researchers — including Reich — use categories of “race” and “population.”

in short, human population groups in genetics aren’t the same as races and it’s foolhardy and wrong to conflate the two very, very different sets of categories. it’s actually quite simple and it’s bizarre (well, not really…) that so many can’t quite follow that simple truth.

As for that econ paper (economists…sigh…but that’s another rant for another time), I like Gelman’s critique (here: http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/published/ChanceEthics7.pdf) to an extent–the causal claims in the paper are pretty clearly inappropriate (there are other critiques out there of the paper as well. Like I said…economists…). But regardless of one’s views on that paper and it’s statistical claims, this does kinda screw up that whole “liberal indoctrination” argument, no? Here’s a prof at williams who got tenure with that piece as probably his highest placed and most famous research article pre-tenure.

trying to have your cake and eat it is a mess.

#6 Comment By JCD 📌 On April 2, 2018 @ 7:13 pm

I don’t think it is too difficult to explain why Quamrul Ashraf’s work manages to escape howls of protest from Williams College leftists.

First, he is not white.

Second, his research is highly quantitative.

Third, his work can be read as a celebration of the economic benefits of diversity.

The irony, of course, is that he pulls this off by choosing a genetic definition of diversity which sees the Japanese as more diverse than Peruvians.

Clearly, sociologists like sigh need to spend more time wrestling with the cognitive dissonance caused by the fact that now diversity can be perceived to be just as much of a social construct as race.