Intelligent Design

Let’s Calm Down

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Dr. Dembski’s and Ms. O’Leary’s earlier posts today have produced some, shall we say, “intemperate” rhetoric from the commenters.  I suggest we calm down and look at this issue dispassionately, starting with the raw data. 

The raw data is unambiguous.  There is in fact a difference between racial groups when it comes to standard measures of intelligence.  This report of a task force ofthe American Psychological Association (which certainly cannot be accused of conservative bias) makes this clear.  As the report says, Asians do best on IQ tests.  Whites are in the middle.  Blacks score somewhat lower. 

The controversy is not over the raw data.  The heat comes when the cause of these differences is discussed.  It is the classic “nature or nurture” debate.  Are intelligence differences among races inherent (i.e., genetic) or are they caused by environmental factors?  The APA report states there is currently no adequate explanation for the difference between the average IQ’s of blacks and whites, and I will not step into that debate here. 

 I will say, however, that average test scores among races mean nothing when it comes to the only important judgment — the judgment at the level of the individual.  DaveScott put this very nicely in a comment to Dr. Dembski’s post: 

I think what needs to be kept in mind here is there’s more than enough variance within same-race or same-gender groups to make it unreasonable to render judgements about individuals via statistical characteristics of the large group.  The kerfluffle about which race has the highest average IQ is ridiculous.

The raw data is what it is.  It is true that blacks tend to score lower than whites on IQ tests.  So what?  So nothing.   The raw data does not justify racism.  A person should not be judged by his membership in a racial group.  He should be judged by his own abilities.  As DaveScott points out, there is more than enough variance to make it unreasonable to pre-judge a person’s intelligence based on his race.  There are black geniuses; there are dim-witted whites. 

The second point of this post is to bring to account those commenters who seem to be suggesting that Dr. Watson be condemned (one even wants him put in jail) for making true (even uncontroversial) statements about the difference in mean IQ scores among the races.  This is absurd.  Do you really mean to suggest that there are certain facts from which we must avert our eyes?  What is the difference between your desire to censor Dr. Watson and Darwinists’ desire to censor ID proponents? 

This is not to say that Dr. Watson should not be roundly condemned for his support of eugenics, which I take to be the point of Dr. Dembski’s and Ms. O’Leary’s posts.   He should indeed be roundly condemned for that.  The problem is that it appears that many of the commenters are condemning Dr. Watson for making true statements about the average intelligence of the races.  That’s wrong.  It is where Dr. Watson goes with that data — not the data itself — that is reprehensible. 

23 Replies to “Let’s Calm Down

  1. 1
    O'Leary says:

    Barry, the thing to see is that materialism locates a human being simply as a physical package (meat puppet, robot programmed by selfish genes, bunch of chemicals running around in a bag).

    IF that is so, then a person is simply a function of what he can do. And when it comes to what he can do, cool rules. So inequality is inevitable. AND it is decisive.

    EXCEPT, of course, that the inevitable results of materialism are delayed by a zillion idiotic political correctness traps, like the one that sank Larry Summers.

    So different from a world in which humans are first and foremost spiritual beings – which happens to be the world we live in, like it or not.

  2. 2

    Actually, I’m starting to see some real courage from everyone around here. Accepting these facts, no matter what disclaimers you put around it, will make you a racist in some people’s books. Even if, as Barry suggests, you approach each human as an individual, or even, as Denyse suggests, as a spiritual being who is not defined by the physical in the ways that count, the accusation can be made. Still, these things had to come to the surface eventually. Truth never needs oppression to enforce itself, only lies do. Any time you see an issue where people are persecuted by institutions, or especially by governments, for denying the “truth”, you should be very, very suspicious.

  3. 3
    Collin says:

    There is good evidence that the differences in IQ tests is a sociological/psychological thing. Some studies have shown that if you have a room with only black people taking an IQ test they will do better than if you have one white person in the room. Same goes with a room full of white people and a single asian in the room. I’m not saying there is no evidence of biological influence though.

  4. 4
    Jason Rennie says:

    “The raw data is what it is. It is true that blacks tend to score lower than whites on IQ tests. So what? So nothing. The raw data does not justify racism.”

    Hi Barry. Leaving aside the questionable nature of IQ tests, which can be argued about back and forwards, on the assumption they are accurate and do actually tell us something, I suspect the differences in a group are greater than the difference between them.

    But leaving all of that aisde, I disagree with your statement above. If as Watson no doubt does (along with other Darwinists like Dennett and Singer to name two more) you take a functionalist approach to the value of human beings, that some function determines what makes someone human and how valuable they are, then these sorts of results are actually significant and important and they would justify exactly this sort of racism as something that is perfectly reasonable and even a good thing.

    If a functionalist approach to human value is adopted them Watson’s claims are reasonable, rationals and sensible.

    Of course I would suggest that the problem is with the approach, but it really is the only one that makes sense in a Darwinist paradigm.

  5. 5
    GilDodgen says:

    Who cares about IQ anyway? A person’s values are what matter. The deification of IQ (as is apparently the case for “The Brights”) is odious.

  6. 6
    Jason Rennie says:

    Agree with you on that point Gil.

    The weird thing about IQ tests is that IIRC people get about the same result on them before and after a lobotomy.

    Whatever an IQ test is measuring does not seem to be drastically affected by a lobotomy.

    Maybe that explains why the “brights” like it so much.

  7. 7
    jstanley01 says:

    Back in 2002, when The Bell Curve was making waves on this issue, economist Thomas Sowell, who happens to be black, cited some useful research along with some historical perspective in his series “Race and IQ.” (Part I, Part II, Part III)

    I agree with Dr. Sowell, the differences are due to nurture not nature.

  8. 8
    BarryA says:

    Jason, I don’t understand why you say you disagree with me. I do not accept a functionalist approach to human value. Each human is endowed with implicit and profound value merely on account of the fact that they are human.

    jstanley, I don’t intend for this post to delve into the causal factors for the gap in scores. It may well be that Dr. Sowell is correct. I’m not qualified to evaluate his arguments.

    My point is that we should never condemn someone for pointing out a “fact on the ground” merely becuase we are uncomfortable with its possible ramifications. If we do that, we are no better than the Darwinists who want to shut us up because of the implications of ID.

    On the other hand, it is not only our right, but, in my view, our duty to condemn the sociological policy prescriptions Watson says he makes on account of this “fact on the ground.”

  9. 9
    Jason Rennie says:

    “Jason, I don’t understand why you say you disagree with me. I do not accept a functionalist approach to human value. Each human is endowed with implicit and profound value merely on account of the fact that they are human.”

    Sorry I think there is a typo in my post. I think Watson’s position is perfectly reasonable if you assume the truth of an a-telic Darwinist account of life.

  10. 10
  11. 11

    Well, obviously that wasn’t well said. I should have said “Well said,” rather than “Well, said,”

    Well, enough said.

  12. 12
    russ says:

    Some studies have shown that if you have a room with only black people taking an IQ test they will do better than if you have one white person in the room. Same goes with a room full of white people and a single asian in the room.

    Actually, research has shown that if you sit in a room full of guys with pocket protectors, thick glasses, and unstylish clothing, you’ll get really, really high test scores, regardless of your race, but your eyes have to wander a great deal to take full advantage of this effect.

  13. 13
    lotf says:


    Can I ask you how you define ‘races’?

  14. 14
    Rowan says:

    “The Science Museum has cancelled a talk by American DNA pioneer Dr James Watson after he claimed black people were less intelligent than white people.

    Dr Watson, who won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, was due to speak at the venue on Friday.”

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:


    Just a thought. I looked back a the original James Watson racist comment thread, and noticed a core part of his argument:

    “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically . . .

    Now, let us introduce as Exhibit B, a remark by his co-prizewinner of 1962, [the late, I believe] Sir Francis Crick, in his The Astonishing Hypothesis:

    ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

    Ironically, neither of these brilliant men recognise the self-referential absurdity that lurks in their evolutionary materialism once they try to account for the arrival and functionality of the mind!

    In short, all of this absurdity is directly traceable to the basic problem of Evolutionary Materialism on accounting for Big Bang no 4 — it cannot account in its own terms for the credibility of the mind [and morals as a function of minds making decisions].As I have summed it up in the Aug 20 thread that started out on a humorous Quote mine from Darwin on ID (e.g. no 193]:

    [a] materialism . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, [b] all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But [c] human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, [d] what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical [i.e. Physicalist reductionism], but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. Socio-cultural relativism in thought].)

    Therefore, [e] if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, [f] the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence; but [g] we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them [i.e. Certitude is a perception not a reality] . . . . In the end, [l] materialism is based on self-defeating logic, and only survives because people often fail (or, sometimes, refuse) to think through just what their beliefs really mean.

    As a further consequence, [m] materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead.

    So, the misreading of that dubious [Read Sowell, starting with JS’s link Part I at 7 above!] statistic, IQ, as weighing up the ultimate quality of the minds of “races” and then in effect inferring to [or simply implying] claims on the relative worth or lack thereof of the individuals so grouped, is all a function of the logical incoherence of evolutionary materialist thought.

    Just, when the absurdities suit one’s prejudices, one too often fails to see the real root-problem!

    What a telling insight do we find in the 2nd paragraph of the US DOI of 1776:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness . . .

    Yet again, we see a case of the dangerous and destructive absurdities that flow from the rejection of the underlying premises therein stated! (Hint, cf. Rom 1 – 3.)

    GEM of TKI

  16. 16
    lotf says:


    Regarding the defintion of race which you supplied on the other page (apologies to others it was a link to an online dictionary) can I ask how you see that being practically applied in IQ testing? Who decides the race of someone when they take an IQ test?

  17. 17
    Borne says:

    Personally, I don’t believe IQ test results of the kind Watson and cie. would reference are worth anything real.

    IQ tests are notoriously inadequate for determining real intelligence.

    They almost always include some form of tests that determine mere knowledge or a person’s ability to reason logically.

    There are hundreds of factors – many unknowns – that effect apparent intelligence, and logical reasoning abilities in populations including diet and health issues, social climate, traumatic events (think Darfur etc.). We don’t even know all the factors involved!

    Obviously education and experience play a major role in those areas.

    We cannot attribute real, innate intelligence levels of populations by using IQ tests on selected groups without including all factors affecting mental health.

    And certainly, given these factors, it is ridiculous, spurious and even wicked to attribute these IQ level differences to some evolutionary polyphyletic mechanisms.

    Polyphyletic Darwinism is an inescapable road to racism and all the horrors that go with it – as the brief history since Darwinism has proven.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: LOTF is no longer with us, but it is worth noting that racial identity is a commonly recognised characteristic of individuals in relevant situations.

    It tends to be tied to national/ ethnic/ people-group origin, and often reflects itself in “family resemblance.”

    Typically, there is a common ancestry component, AND a family/upbringing/ achievement orientation cultural component. These may reflect diverse impacts, e.g. compare the disproportionate achievement patterns of Caribbean blacks in the US [e.g. my distant cousin Mr Powell]. Afrocaribbeans come from a culture where [despite race and colour prejudice] we hold majority status, and often have a history of achievement in our homelands which is of course selected for in emigrants.

    So, while racial identity can be correlated reasonably well with IQ numbers, the true causal roots of such correlation are often obscure or disputable. And that is before we get to the question of what is “intelligence” and how well typical IQ tests measure it!

    (Indeed, note that across time the base scores have been raised as they are current-generation normed. So plainly there is a major cultural and general education level component!)

    Having noted all of this, it comes back to BarryA’s Cool it advice. We deal with individuals, and should respect them as such.

    Equally, though as Watson’s unfortunate remarks highlight, and as recent history underscores, Evo Mat is not unconnected to racism and its deleterious impacts. [By contrast while indeed some Judaeo- Christian thinkers have been racist, this is in the teeth of the explicit counsel of the core texts, even on the specific matter of race: we are all “of one blood” as Ac 17 puts it.]

    Sadly, Borne is right.

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    In regards to the differences in Intelligence tests of Blacks and Whites:

    Of particular interest:
    “To one set of Black and White sophomores, he indicated that the test was an unimportant research tool, to other groups that the test was an accurate measure of their verbal and reasoning ability. Blacks who believed the test was merely a research tool did the same as Whites. But Blacks who believed the test measured their abilities did half as well. Steele calls the effect “stereotype threat.” (From “Secrets of the SAT,” written by M. Chandler, broadcast 10/4/99, Boston: WGBH.)

    Thus gentlemen, we have hard proof that the intelligence gap is an illusion and that the basis of the “perceived” intelligence gap is actually based on the “spiritual” beliefs of the test taker. (The blacks who did poorly, either did not believe they would do well or thought that it was less important than white test takers did. Since consciousness is proven to be a “spiritual phenomena by Pim Von Lommel, as well as others. The gap is proven to be a purely non-material cause).

  20. 20
    magnan says:

    Unfortunately, there is a lot of research data showing that IQ as measured by standard tests is at least to some degree heritable and therefore subject to genetic control or at least influence. This would be just common sense when applied to any other measurable human ability or physical human characteristic. Regardless of concerns over environmental factors contaminating the results. Regardless of the ultimate spiritual nature of human beings being not their physical bodies and brains. But here the pure science of this issue must necessarily be subordinated because of the explosive societal effects of research in the area (trying to remain in a scholarly mode of discourse). It seems to me it is obvious that in this area the explosive social and human rights issues dictate that it be avoided like the plague, as in fact has been done by most scientists in related fields of research.

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    Magnan you stated:
    “Unfortunately, there is a lot of research data showing that IQ as measured by standard tests is at least to some degree heritable and therefore subject to genetic control or at least influence.”

    What, the parents are smart! The kids are smart! So it must be inherited? Please excuse me for being a bit skeptical of this materialistic conclusion.

    The study I cited I stated:
    Blacks who believed the test was merely a research tool did the same as Whites. But Blacks who believed the test measured their abilities did half as well. Steele calls the effect “stereotype threat.”

    As well it is commonly known that the genetic difference between two individuals of the same race can be greater than those between individuals of different races.

    It is also known that the African population has greater genetic diversity than any other group.

    Tishkoff; Andrew Clark, Penn State; Kenneth Kidd, Yale University; Giovanni Destro-Bisol, University “La Sapienza,” Italy; and Himla Soodyall and Trefor Jenkins, Witwatersrand University, South Africa, looked at three locations on DNA samples from 13 to 18 populations in Africa and 30 to 45 populations in the remainder of the world.

    “We found an enormous amount of diversity within and between the African populations, and we found much less diversity in non-African populations,” Tishkoff told attendees today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Anaheim. “Only a small subset of the diversity in Africa is found in Europe and the Middle East, and an even narrower set is found in American Indians.”

    So I strongly disagree with you that the genetic (race) influence is nearly as strong as you or people are led to believe (led to believe by a materialistic based science, need I remind), and I also strongly believe that such factors as the education level of the parents and the “stereotype threat” that has been clearly pointed out in this thread, have a much greater impact on the IQ test than any so called perceived average genetic inheritance from the parents.

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is a site that gives a fairly good overview to the hard science on both sides of the debate of brain size and IQ.

    It is a very heated debate with hard science on both sides!

    This quote is of particular interest:

    Dr. Tramo uses magnetic resonance imaging ( r/index.html) to look at the relationship of head size and Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in twins. They found that twins had similar brain size, body weight, head size, and IQ. Brain size and head size were related. But IQ was not related to brain size or head size. These scientists decided that brain size was related to head size, but not to IQ in young, healthy s.

    This is a very complicated issue, to say the least, but from all the science I’ve seen overturning long cherished materialistic presuppositions, I have to firmly believe the size effect of brain for average healthy s of all races will be found to be minimal to non-existent when taking into account all the extenuating circumstances of environment.
    Put Simply, I believe nurture is a much more powerful force for Intelligence than nature when all circumstances are considered in examination.

    Very touchy and complicated subject,,,I think I’ll go back to my easier work on genetic entropy! LOL

  23. 23
    magnan says:

    I agree that this is a very touchy and complicated subject. However, I don’t see how all the research showing a large heritable component in intelligence can be validly denied. Certainly the degree of heritability is debateable. The website you cited, being about the issue of head size and IQ, isn’t relevant to the issue of the heritability of IQ in itself. I know that many brilliant men have turned out to have relatively small brains, to say nothing about the cases of apparent normal mental function without even any significant amount of cerebral tissue (with even an enlarged cranium due to hydrocephaly).

    I agree also that it is better to go back to the more ID related issues. Primarily because this particular issue is so loaded, ultimately politically incorrect and consequently dangerous. Most scientists justifiably will not touch it with a ten foot pole, even though the science of the issue is quite capable of research and possible resolution. Here the needs of society and human rights override completely free and unbiased pursuit of science, in my opinion.

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