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April 02, 2006

Racial IQ Research

A letter to the Editor today:

IN CLEAR violation of the tradition of academic freedom, the vice-chancellor of Leeds University has suspended Dr Frank Ellis and instituted disciplinary proceedings against him for presenting the research, published in peer-reviewed academic journals and scholarly books which demonstrates that blacks have, on average, lower IQ scores and poorer academic achievement than do whites (Profile, last week). Much solid research also makes it more likely than not that there is a genetic contribution to this (and other) group IQ differences. Dr Ellis, then, has done no more than restate what has been said for half century by a number of eminent psychologists and anthropologists at leading universities.

These include the late John Baker (Oxford), Hans Eysenck (London), Philip Vernon (London), Richard Herrnstein (Harvard), and Henry Garrett (Columbia).
A number of behavioural scientists, including ourselves, have reached the same conclusion. Others have put much of this on the record. Many more agree but have been reluctant to put this on the record for fear of the kind of intimidation that Dr Ellis is receiving from the University of Leeds.

There is an important and legitimate debate going on on intelligence and genetics, as there is on climate change and foreign policy. It is a sad day when British universities muzzle their academic staff and threaten them with dismissal for taking part in one of these controversies.


Professor Richard Lynn
University of Ulster
Professor Philippe Rushton
University of Western Ontario
Professor Arthur Jensen
University of California
Dr Charles Murray
American Enterprise Institute
Christopher Brand
University of Edinburgh
Professor Helmuth Nyborg
Aarhus University, Denmark
Professor Linda Gottfredson
University of Delaware
Professor (Retired) Donald Templer
Alliant International University (1978-2005), Fresno, California

The thing that absolutely gobsmacks me about the reaction to such research is that very reaction. There’s two extremely interesting scientific questions here:

1) Is there actually a difference in such group IQs?

2) Why?

I’ve already written at length here on things like variation within the groups being higher than between them, that malnutrition is a known cause of such problems etc etc so won’t repeat myself. But why are people so afraid of actually looking at the problems?

If the answer to question 1 is no then there’s an end to the whole thing. If, as seems likely, it’s actually yes, then question 2 becomes extremely important. Is it nature or nuture? Is it some immutable law of the universe or is it simply a reflection of circumstances to do with upbringing?

I’ll freely admit to a prejudice that it’s the latter...one story (told with relish by D2) that makes me think so is that the central European (and largely Jewish) immigrants into America through Ellis Island were held to be a great deal more stupid than those already in the US. It is their grandchildren, of course,  who now outperform most other US groups.

But seriously, this is a matter of science, so obviously it should be studied. The political implications of that study should in fact be of most interest to exactly those liberal types who decry the basic research. If there is something, whether malnutrition, the collective culture, teaching methods, institutionalised racism, whatever it is, that prevents children from certain groups from reaching their full potential, well, I thought that was the whole damn point of liberalism, to correct such failures?

April 2, 2006 in Science | Permalink


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That IQs differ between different groups of people is politically incorrect. Many academics are so corrupted by the PC environment they work in they assume that any research that has politically incorrect conclusions must be incorrect. These truth-dreading academics need fundamental truths and cannot allow scientific research to interfere with them. They are some of the most deeply religous personalities in the western world, and should be employed by private religous organisations, not publically funded, secular educational ones.

Posted by: pete | Apr 2, 2006 12:24:13 PM

"Is it nature or nuture"

Arthur Jensen has it down at 50/50, I would say its 40/30/30, 40% nature, 30% nurture, and 30% culture.

Can Cultures be collectivly intelligent?
Is it more stimulating to plug into a rich culture or a poor one? I would say so, the theory of the wisdom of crowds seem to suggest an underlying collective intelligence, and being part of that is more than a hand up.


Posted by: sean morris | Apr 2, 2006 12:39:40 PM

A few years ago I was reading an obituary and came to think - "what an unpleasant individual, vain and egotistical, a bully and a pig" ... then I looked to see the name of the deceased, it was "Eysenck".

Many have thought the things he said, but most are good enough people in their hearts to keep such thoughts to themselves rather than make a career from them.

".. and the pig got up and walked away."

Posted by: johnny bonk | Apr 2, 2006 1:11:57 PM

Another egotistic academic...it must be a character trait? or is it the German sounding name that makes your head spin?

Posted by: sean morris | Apr 2, 2006 2:21:23 PM

I am unsure about this. I was of the opinion that he should not be suspended if he was only reporting his research.

Then I heard Frank Ellis being interviewed on the radio a few weeks ago. He made his case well to start with and sounded reasonable. But then asked about how he gets on with his black students he said " I don't have any". He was asked various questions in a similar vein and he could quite easily have said words to the effect of "the variations between individuals are far greater than any statistical genetic differences between races, so I treat individuals at face value and do not discriminate on grounds of race" Instead
I came away with the distinct impression that he was hiding some rather less reasonable views.

Posted by: HJHJ | Apr 2, 2006 7:26:58 PM

I do tell that story with relish because the context is usually arguments with race bigots, but the way it sounds above sort of looks like I enjoy saying nasty things about Jewish people for the sake of it! I don't.

Posted by: dsquared | Apr 2, 2006 7:49:41 PM

It's a fascinating and unsettling argument.I did browse "The Bell Curve",about a decade ago,and came away depressed.Two of my first degree relatives have Ph.D's in neurosciences and believe there is a substantial genetic diference in ethnic groups.(Indeed one remarked,"If I taught what I believed my house would be burned."
Still,I'm not surprised authorities would try to censor "unacceptable" information.Although we're more technologically advanced,we're not genetically brighter than people in the Middle Ages.Ellis may have to murmur,"But it still moves,"after he recants.
And,I will offer a few comments on the above.
The reason people are afraid is secondary causes have been studied ad infinitum.The awful worry is that "Blacks"-have lower average intelligences than other races.If there is a strong genetic component to this(and there certainly is a vast amount of work supporting this),there may be no fix.Calling researcher"vain",etc for bringing up unpleasant information,while satisfying ,does not address the unpleasaant informtion.When faced with something like this,I try to respond in a way unlike the anti-evolutionists or terra centrics of earlier times .And I believe Herrnstein and Murray did state Eastern European Jews had the highst IQ's of any ethnic group.

Posted by: colin | Apr 3, 2006 12:10:15 AM

From the Leeds Universtiy website's article on the Ellis suspension -

The University of Leeds is a diverse and multicultural community ..

Obviously the views of the university staff are too diverse for its liking. I suspect they'd like to be rid of Mr Ellis so as to reduce this diversity and to encourage the rest of its staff to keep their views within proper limits of diversity if they want to keep their jobs.

Posted by: pete | Apr 3, 2006 5:57:19 AM

My problem is that according to at least one report, this lecturer gave a talk in the States a few years back that was hosted by a White supremactist group, and which included a speaker from the KKK. It may also be the case that the institution did not feel this man could be a fair judge of his students, and comments that he had no black students only reinforces my suspicions about this man's objectivity, and whether he is a fit and proper person to be a university lecturer paid for by public funds.

Posted by: Johnathan Pearce | Apr 3, 2006 9:56:20 AM

Sean - "the German sounding name that makes your head spin", hmmmm I had thought that Eysenck was a Jewish name.

Posted by: johnny bonk | Apr 3, 2006 4:18:14 PM

Colin - "Calling researcher"vain",etc for bringing up unpleasant" , hmmm, no, the point I was making was that he came over as an unpleasant individual in his obituary ... "vain" referred to him and his treatment of other people (especially his wife) .. he seemed to be an unpleasant person per se, without regard to who he was or what he did.

Should also mention that the obit was probably in the guardian (can't remember), so might have been a clever hatchet job.

Posted by: johnny bonk | Apr 3, 2006 4:26:27 PM

Johnathan Pearce,
1)Sources would be nice.The venue,the KKK member,etc.And do you believe a speaker is automatically resposible for the views of other speakers at a programme?
2)Can one believe in group differences and judge an individual on his/her merits and talents?I tend to think so.

Posted by: colin | Apr 4, 2006 2:35:52 AM


On your second point, I agree. However, in the interview I heard, Frank Ellis was given plenty of opportunity to say words to this effect, and in my opinion he deliberately, but cleverly, avoided doing so. So my strong suspicion is that there is more to this than initially meets the eye.

Posted by: HJHJ | Apr 4, 2006 8:43:24 AM

Rather late in the game, but regarding the above letter, seeing there are a few "eminent minds" from the United Emigres of America... You've got to be kidding. I'll bet some of you were most likely behind the "No Child Left Behind" construct and formulating the test questions for young, black students in Harlem regarding the size of tennis courts and what "play" Venus Williams would choose next. Have any of you read the questions asked on the "No Child Left Behind" test? Would the test, by any chance, liken back to the days of Goddard at Ellis Island?

Oh, you're all so "scientific" and learned. I'm truly amazed. At least one of you must be a reincarnation of Carl Linnaeus.

Even before I mention some really nasty stuff, a few of you will question my logic when, in this modern age, we are so far removed from the previous UNscientific information mentioned above. No, not at all. What you promulgate is dangerous and likens incredibly to dogma responsible for the ruination of millions of lives.

Kudos to the Chancellor of Leeds University -- and I have NO clue what went on behind the scenes.

Posted by: Hety | May 18, 2006 9:07:00 PM

The whole Jewish immigration from central Europe to America question relating to IQ actually affirms a genetic / heritability stance. Were environment the main player, one would expect such groups to equalize in terms of IQ; instead they excelled later on which suggests initial disadvantages were quickly overcome and true ability shone through. A similar point has often been made by hereditarians in that environment has a greater effect earlier in a given life-cycle (whether group or individual) and the true characteristics of said group / individual emerge later once those innate properties have had time to take hold.
Another point to consider is that were there no difference between races in IQ - apart from prejudice causing such disparity - you would not expect the same bell curve shape to intelligence distribution, (it is exactly the same in shape, just shifted down the IQ scale for some races), because it would be odd for adverse environmental circumstances to affect all individuals equally, which is exactly what a lack of change in distribution would suggest. More intelligent individuals would prove more robust; that in turn would at least modify the bell curve trend.

Posted by: Matt | Apr 29, 2008 5:45:18 PM