James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, is in a lot of hot water after claiming that black people are less intelligent.
I was dismayed to see how many commenters on websites like Digg were saying things like ‘at least someone has the guts to say it’. It was equally worrying that there was a patronizing undercurrent of ‘perhaps this is true and we should censure science’.
Science may indeed create moral dilemmas – it has already with Darwinism. (Many apologists ignore the fact that Darwinism does in fact create an absolute moral dilemma for the religious. Darwinian creation is cruel, each perfected element being the result of the suffering of others, therefore, you cannot believe in a truly benign creator and the fact of Darwinism). It could have been true that some people are more stupid genetically. This would have been a moral dilemma, had it not been for the fact that the premise is wrong making it not worth examining the conclusion.
The statement ‘black people are more stupid genetically’ is meaningless, for the following reasons:
1. Black does not mean much genetically. Humans migrated out of Africa more than once. In other words, Non Africans are closer related to some Africans than those Africans are to other Africans. Even diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia are not black diseases, per se, just diseases that were inherited with a cultural grouping, having been predominant in malarial regions (thanks Tom).
2. It hasn’t always been black people that were looked down upon. The Romans, for example, had an African emperor and viewed Northern Europeans as being an inferior race.
3. Statistics that correlated lower intelligence with color, had that correlation removed if class were taken into account. I.e. being poor makes you less likely to do well in an IQ test. People who are looked down upon tend to be poorer, like Germans in the Roman Empire.
If accusation of lower intelligence just happens to correspond exactly to prejudice which is due to an irrational grouping of people, then its probably the grouping that is wrong and therefore it not worth looking into whether black people are less intelligent – no dilemma, stupid and biased premise.
Here Steve Jones, a sensible person, talks about genetics, the day after the author of the infamous ‘Bell Curve’ appeared on Charlie Rose.
Charlie Rose Inc. 57 min 47 sec Feb 20, 2007
tags: interviews politics science society