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March 07, 2006

Frank Ellis

Hoo, boy. This Dr. Frank Ellis is stirring things up:

The Commission for Racial Equality has stepped into a row over a university lecturer who claims that black people are, on average, less intelligent than whites.

I’m a touch surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t be?) by the reaction of the University:

Students at Leeds University have called for Dr Frank Ellis to be sacked. But the university says academics have the right to their personal opinions. It will not act unless the students produce evidence of prejudicial treatment, which they have not alleged.

Quite right, we don’t do thought crime here.

...to warn the Government of views on multi-culturalism, which was doomed to failure because "it is based on the lie that all people, races and cultures are equal and that no one race or culture is better than any other".

No, I don’t believe that all cultures are equal either. I regard those that practice, say clitorectomy, as being lesser than our own. Hell, I regard the parts of my own culture that argue for permissive abortion laws as being less than they should be.

However, it’s probably worth mentioning that this Frank Ellis does seem to have drunk deeply at the fountain of stupidity. There is an amount of scientific research showing that certain racial groupings have lower average IQ scores. A lot of it was written up as a book called "The Bell Curve" a few years ago. Can’t remember who it was by but the claim, backed up by lots of impressive graphs and tables, was that blacks scored lower than whites. It’s the sort of thing that gets Steve Sailor all excited.

Is it true? I don’t know and I don’t care. The usual arguments against these sorts of things are that IQ tests measure IQ and we wouldn’t be all that surprised if they measured whatever IQ is in a culturally biased manner. There’s also how much of IQ is actually innate (or genetic) and how much is environmental. And so on.

My own objection is not to the studies, nor whatever information they do or don’t contain, but to those who think that they are in any way important. Assume that the assertion that blacks have a lower IQ is true. By the 6 points or whatever it is claimed. Is this actually useful to us in any way? Is there anything we would, should or could do  with this "fact"?

Not really. The variation within the groups is so much vaster that it doesn’t tell us anything useful at all about the individual standing before us. IQ, whatever it is, varies from about 60 (just about capable of walking and talking at the same time) to 150 and more (genius etc). In all groups. Across races, cultures, sexes, regions, countries and so on.

If we are actually to hold on to one of the defining pieces of Western Civilisation (OK, what I regard as one of), that it is the individual, not the group, which is important, then this information, which tells us nothing about the individual at all, is simply irrelevant, not worth worrying about.

I’m sure my view is coloured (sorry, pun not intended) by some work I’m being paid to do on Simon Baron-Cohen’s work, empathizing quotients and systemizing such, often referred to as "male" and "female" brain types. The important point to get across is that while the majority of men indeed have the "male" brain, are more systemizers than empathizers, this doesn’t actually tell us anything very interesting about the individual. What we want to know is whether the individual is more of a systemizer than empathizer.

Just so with any other attribute. Individuals matter, not averages across some hazy group.

March 7, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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» THE BELL CURVE from Clive Davis
Tim Worstall ponders the controversy over Leeds academic, Frank Ellis. I was living in New York when The Bell Curve was published, and I remember how heated the debate was on both sides. (Not much has changed since then.) My [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 7, 2006 10:07:13 AM


I agree with you entirely: but I also predict that this lecturer will be sacked, or forced out, despite thought crime not, as you say, being a crime.

Posted by: Mr Eugenides | Mar 7, 2006 9:56:22 AM

I thought you all believed that private employers had the right to sack any of their staff whenever they wanted, subject to their contracts?

Tim adds: Sure, what’s in his contract?

Posted by: Matthew | Mar 7, 2006 10:31:05 AM

I (think I) agree. Actually, if my memory serves me right, the conclusions in the "Bell Curve" were about probabilities rather than anything else and also about the probabilities of abilities produced by nature or nurture. The authors did not conclude that any race - however defined - had superior intelligence or the reverse. All they concluded was that if you take at random a black individual and a white individual, then the probability is that the white individual will get a better score on an IQ test than the black one. This begs questions concerning the meanings of "random", "black" and "white" (and "IQ test")although common sense should be the guide here. My response - along I think with Tim's - is "that's vaguely interesting but so what?" On the other hand, the proposition that - in the UK anyway - there is a more than 50 per cent probability that a random "black" athlete can run 100 yards faster than a random "white" athlete is completely uncontentious. Nevertheless, should I (a white) be offended that such a question could be discussed - let alone answered? BTW doubtless the lecturer will be sacked.

Posted by: Umbongo | Mar 7, 2006 12:42:30 PM

What we want to know is whether the individual is more of a systemizer than empathizer.

Just so with any other attribute. Individuals matter, not averages across some hazy group.

Yes, but in a world with a massive amount of data, one does not and can not react to everything as a newborn, not taking into account probabilities and experience. Would you say that "the weather on a particular day matters, not averages among days with similar previous conditions?" Of course not; weather forcasting is based on comparing our expectation to similar days in the past. It is, of course, imperfect, but everyone knows that.

The Bell Curve was mostly about showing that the data strongly suggests that general intelligence exists and is largely inherited. (Using such things as studies which compare identical twins raised apart versus together, and so on.)
Race came in with regards to affirmative action/positive discrimination schemes. We want to know how talented an individual is. But such schemes force us to view people of particular races as members of a group rather than individuals, by doctoring all their credentials and causing them to be suspect. Potential employers or customers end up wondering if the person truly earned their position or were given it. (The same is true of athletes or nepotism cases, of course, who get viewed as members of their particular non-racial group.)

The concluding point of the book worried that, if intelligence was largely inherited and the returns to intelligence in the economy were increasing, whether the upper class in the future would become a largely closed group again, like in the days of aristocracy. It further worried that, if so, the new upper class selected on merit and intelligence (but largely the sons and daughters of the previous generation's upper class due to IQ's inheritance) would have less of a sense of noblesse oblige to the lower class and more of a sense of entitlement. Since, after all, this new upper class would deserve their position on merit, in their view. (Since people rarely view their own intelligence as an accident of birth in the same way that they might being born to someone wealthy or who is king.)

Posted by: John Thacker | Mar 7, 2006 3:37:50 PM

The Bell Curve, when discussing affirmative action, also presented data not often shown when talking about it in order to make its moral point about it. They agreed that one could defend some amount of affirmative action to discriminated groups, like blacks in the US, but questioned the wisdom of giving a strong affirmative action edge to very wealthy blacks compared to very poor whites from families where no one had been to university, as currently happens.

Posted by: John Thacker | Mar 7, 2006 3:42:18 PM

There's always a fuss when research findings are controversial and non-PC. Universities should provide researchers with a list of suitable outcomes to their research, with funding dependent on reaching such conclusions.

Posted by: simon | Mar 7, 2006 6:15:08 PM

the book worried that, if intelligence was largely inherited and the returns to intelligence in the economy were increasing, whether the upper class in the future would become a largely closed group again,

What, if anything, did the book say about the regression towards the mean, John?

Posted by: paul (in lower case) | Mar 7, 2006 8:31:14 PM

Apparently I have an IQ of 147 (source: Internet tests and a proper IQ test a few years ago) and feel that I am in no way approaching genius status. Is that because my IQ is too low or because genius doesn't necessarily correlate with high IQ...?

Posted by: lth | Mar 8, 2006 9:32:53 AM

This is not the first time Frank Ellis has come under fire for saying uncomfortable things.

>> However, it’s probably worth mentioning that this Frank Ellis does seem to have drunk deeply at the fountain of stupidity.

Was in the SAS. Knows a thing or two about cryptography. Wrote excellent book on Vasiliy Grossman. Spent time in USSR. Predicted sovietisation of UK (true, minus Islam). Stupid?

Tim adds: No, I don’t say he’s stupid. If I’d meant that I would have said so. But I do regard thinking about IQ differences between races as being a stupid idea, for the reasons given above.

Posted by: Trofim | Mar 9, 2006 9:25:32 AM

good luck to frank ellis, free speech r.i.p.

Posted by: martin | Mar 12, 2006 11:19:31 AM

Dr Ellis is in fact quite correct.Having lived amongst 'black' people for over 20yrs.I believe
Dr Ellis is vastly understating the fact.

Posted by: K.G.Syn | Mar 22, 2006 1:51:44 AM

The question is not whether this individual holds views which may or may not be correct,
and may very well upset a lot of people but whether he has the right to hold those views.
I believe that he does and all right thinking
people should defend his right to not only have
them but to FREELY express them without retribution of any kind. I see that he has now been "suspended" and that the Commission for Racial Equality has become involved not to mention the National Union of Students. No doubt we will witness another re-run of a man being hounded out of his profession because his views do not sit comfortably with the "world view" of those that run Soviet Britain. By the way - am I the only one who is confused as to how "students" can have a union. I suppose they are threatening to withdraw their "labour" if the University does not fire Dr Ellis? In conclusion, I fear Britain is fast becoming a police state.

Posted by: Mark | Mar 24, 2006 4:27:03 PM

Years of observation from living in countries other than UK tells me that, e.g. many Chinese are industrious & ambitious, as are most Indians, many Indonesians lazy & corrupt, many Middle-Easters over-sexed, and most Americans a lot nicer than English newspapers would have us believe. Personal opinion, but am I allowed to say this out loud in England? Only with trepidation, and with the expectation of having my wrist metaphorically smacked. Until this country completes its journey towards totalitarianism, Frank Ellis has the right to say freely anything he thinks, whether or not anyone considers it "not in any way important". And if the writer of the head piece "doesn't know & doesn't care" about the pursuit of knowledge, any kind of knowledge, well.... Surely he must know that very many IQ tests are alingual and therefore unlikely to be culturally biased.

Posted by: freethinker | Mar 26, 2006 9:46:19 AM

From my blog:

CLOWNS CAVE IN re ACADEMIC FREEDOM After two weeks pondering the readily available race-realist views (and a few swipes at yags, femininnies and the ‘too socialist for me’ BNP) of their Dr Frank Ellis, the LUniversity of Leeds suspended him (on full pay) and said they would carry out some more investigations which would take ‘months rather than weeks’ (BBC, 23 iii, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4838498.stm; 24dash.com, 23 iii). University Secretary Roger Gair was specially worried that "In publicising his personal views on race, Dr Ellis has recklessly jeopardised the fulfilment of the university's obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000" – the first time this tyrannous piece of ‘liberal’-left legislation had been wheeled out to lay siege to a respected academic who had spoken his mind; but Gair also thought FE may have been guilty of some unspecified form of disobedience – and let’s hope it hurt! Bleck Britain demanded that Leeds Luni should speed up its disciplinary proceedings (23 iii, http://www.blackbritain.co.uk/news/details.aspx?i=2079&c=uk&h=Leeds+boycott+continues+and+pressure+stays+until+FranK+Ellis+is+sacked%2C+say+campaigners) but the LUni probably had other ideas, wanting the high-publication-rate FE on its books until the latest bureaucracy-backed ‘Research Assessment Exercise’ was completed in 2007. After two weeks of lordly indifference, the London Times deigned to mention the Ellis Affair and its links to the fore-running naughtinesses of Herrnstein & Murray (IQ and race), Brand (IQ, race and anti-paedohysteria) and Lynn & Irwing (possible male superiority in IQ) (24 iii, ‘Lecturer is suspended for ‘race’ IQ claims,’ p. 11, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2100915,00.html); FE also got a mention in the leftist tabloid Daily Mirror, 24 iii, and in the Washington Times (which had a ‘Searchlight’ operative denounce him as ‘dangerous’} (24 iii, http://www.washtimes.com/upi/20060324-125201-8609r.htm) and in papers in India and Malaysia, and he had an Asian defend his right to free speech at http://www.asiansinmedia.org/news/article.php/publishing/1266. It transpired that FE had declined to offer any assurance to the LUni that he would no longer speak out about race and IQ; and (The Statesman, India, 24 iii, http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=3&theme=&usrsess=1&id=110670) that West Yorkshire Police were scaling back their enquiries into drug-fuelled rapes and burglaries in order to concentrate on the vital case of FE and his naughty thoughts contrary to the outrageous Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 – itself to be castigated by libertarians assembling in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday, 25 iii ("Rally in Support of Freedom of Speech" organised by Peter Risden of the group ‘March for Free Speech’ (www.marchforfreeexpression.blogspot.com)). FE was pictured twice by Leeds Today (http://www.leedstoday.net/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=39&ArticleID=1400951, http://www.leedstoday.net/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=39&ArticleID=1402099 – his North Yorkshire home and hide-out in Ampleforth intriguingly turning out to be very close the one-time home of the Reverend Roger Holmes, the Knicker Vicar’ of ‘Unholy Helmsley’ who was long the Chaplain of The g Factor NewsLetter); and his case was summarized and discussed along with those of the other British academic race realists Richard Lynn, Geoffrey Sampson and myself in Times Higher (24 iii, ‘Ellis case first test of race Act’, pp. 2-3; ‘Show a red card or just play on?’, pp. 58-9) – which amusingly pointed out how easily the word DEMOCRACY! could be converted into MEDIOCRACY. American Renaissance helpfully re-issued FE’s 1999 blast against PeeCee, ‘Multiculturalism and Marxism’: http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2006/03/multiculturalis_3.php.
PETITION FOR FREE SPEECH An opportunity to sign up for freedom of expression was provided at http://www.petitiononline.com/FoE2006/petition.html -- by Peter Risdon, who successfully organized the Saturday, 25 iii, free speech rally (re Danish cartoons) in Trafalgar Square http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/4844634.stm) (attended by hundreds of people, including Liberal Democrat M.P. Dr Evan Harris). By the end of 25 iii, there were more than 1,000 signatures.
FUNDAY TIMES TURNS ON ELLIS True to its longstanding trendiness, as when it odiously attacked the dead Sir Cyril Burt about IQ and heredity in 1976, the pathetic Sunday Times (26 iii) provided coverage of the Dr Frank Ellis affair in which it pooh-poohed “handwringing” about free speech and volunteered that IQ tests were “discredited” and that students boycotting FE’s lectures {actually intimidated by ‘anti-fascist’ thugs} “trumped” FE’s academic record. – The wretched newspaper (Britain’s biggest broadsheet Sunday newspaper, slogan ‘The Sunday Times IS the Sunday papers’) did not even trouble to explain why it had not been able to obtain any comment from FE or any of his academic supporters. {Simply, it couldn’t be bothered to trek to his North Yorkshire home.} Such was Britain of 2006: a place of hysteria and tyranny, with even a complacent media ready to rubbish a brave academic outspeaker (though admitting FE was an excellent translator and had been a fine soldier and a successful academic at Leeds for eight years). (For a weblog sympathetic to FE – and realistic enough to predict for a couple of weeks that he would be sacked – see http://timworstall.typepad.com/timworstall/2006/03/frank_ellis.html.)

Posted by: Chris Brand | Mar 26, 2006 8:52:03 PM

This sounds like the idea that breast-fed babies will have a higher IQ that bottle-fed ones. That turned out to be because most women who breast-fed their babies were southern, middle-class, urban, university-educated, IQ-test-sitting...

Posted by: Mostlywearingblack | Mar 4, 2008 7:45:46 PM