Professor Richard Lynn, guru of modern eugenics, race and IQ
Like a bad penny, former Macquarie University legal academic Andrew Fraser keeps turning up. Michael Duffy wrote an opinion piece in Saturday’s SMH resurrecting Fraser’s pet issue of race and IQ:
[Last] Wednesday, The Australian newspaper published a letter from six American and European professors, and two other scholars, protesting against the commission’s decision. They said: “Fraser has done no more than restate hypotheses offered for more than half a century by eminent psychologists and anthropologists at leading universities.” (That’s outside Australia, of course.) Indeed, “There is an important and legitimate academic debate going on about race, intelligence and genetics.” (Not in Australia, mind you.)
I agree. However, Fraser didn’t even attempt to raise or discuss the academic debate about race and IQ in any meaningful sense. He merely used (and misrepresented) it as a pretext for odiously racist political advocacy. Africans, Fraser thinks, shouldn’t be allowed to migrate to Australia because they’re too stupid, and will therefore be prone to criminality and violence. And Asians shouldn’t be allowed to migrate either, because they’re too intelligent and will take the jobs of existing Australians!
Not only is there no evidence for either claim, they’re both actually contrary to the evidence. See here (Mukherjee, 1998) and here (Collins, 2002) for two excellent studies on race, ethnicity and crime, and here (Garnaut, 2003) for material on the economic effects of migration. New Zealander migrants, Lebanese, Pacific islanders and Vietnamese have somewhat higher levels of crime than existing Australians, while pretty well all other racial and ethnic migrant groups have lower rates. Fairly clearly, the reasons for higher crime rates of some ehtnic groups are social and cultural not genetic.
And on the “Asians are taking our jobs” meme, the research in fact shows that smarter, better educated migrants make a net positive contribution to jobs and growth.
Whether Fraser should have been sacked from Macquarie, or subjected to legal action under racial vilification laws, for expressing his views is another question entirely. But Duffy did no-one any favours by implicitly suggesting that Fraser has made any contribution whatever to the academic debate about race and IQ.
Nevertheless, I agree with Duffy that race and intelligence is an important issue that has been little discussed in Australia, no doubt largely for reasons of misguided political correctness (although nervousness is entirely understandable given the Nazi Holocaust). So let’s kick off a real discussion here. A civil, thoughtful one. Let’s conduct it on the basis of actually looking at some of the material (or at least readily available web resources that summarise it). Here’s a link to the website of Richard Lynn, perhaps the foremost academic researcher on race and IQ. Here’s the Wikipedia article on Lynn, here’s a long article by Jason Molloy at the blog Gene Expression reviewing Lynn’s book ‘Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis’, and here’s the more general Wikipedia entry on race and intelligence.
No-one seriously challenges that the comparative figures Lynn (and others) cite in relation to race and IQ are real ones, generally based on many surveys over a quite long period of time. The controversy arises when one attempts to extrapolate and hypothesise causes, consequences and policies. In general terms, Lynn finds:
His conclusions are that the East Asians (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans) have the highest mean IQ at 105. These are followed by the Europeans (IQ 100). Some way below these are the Inuit (Eskimos) (IQ 91), South East Asians (IQ 87), Native American Indians (IQ 87), Pacific Islanders (IQ 85), South Asians and North Africans (IQ 84). Well below these come the sub-Saharan Africans (IQ 67) followed by the Australian Aborigines (IQ 62). The least intelligent races are the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert together with the Pygmies of the Congo rain forests (IQ 54).
In relation purely to Europeans, Lynn finds smaller differences (a spread of around 10 IQ points from highest to lowest European country, which he still claims are significant. Lynn asserts a genetic/evolutionary explanation, and that’s where his work becomes questionable:
The early humans that migrated out of Africa and spread throughout the world would have carried all the alleles for high and low intelligence with them, but those who colonized Asia and Europe were exposed to the cognitively demanding problems of survival during cold winters. Many of those carrying the alleles for low intelligence would have been unable to survive during the cold winters and the less intelligent individuals and tribes would have died out, leaving as survivors the more intelligent. This process would have reduced and possibly eliminated the alleles for low intelligence, leaving a higher proportion of the alleles for high intelligence. The more severe the winter temperatures, the greater the selection pressure for the elimination of low IQ individuals carrying low IQ alleles. This process explains the broad association between coldest winter temperatures and IQs and brain size.
But if you actually look at the figures, some northern European countries (where it’s colder so that Lynn argues IQ is higher) actually have lower average IQ than some southern European countries.
Moreover, there’s been large amounts of migration between European countries, pretty well continuously over the last couple of thousand years at least: northwards invasions by the Romans, then southwards invasions by Germanic and Scandinavian tribes, and ongoing voluntary migration (at least by the middle and upper classes) associated with the rise of European market capitalism from (say) 1700 onwards. Moving on to modern times, freedom of movement within the EU also promotes extensive admixture of nationalities. Unless the IQ studies on which Lynn relies conducted exhaustive genealogical studies on each of their individual subjects (which I bet they didn’t), it would be impossible to draw any meaningful conclusion that measured differences in average IQ of this modest magnitude have a genetic explanation.
The contrast with IQ figures for Africans and Australian Aborigines, however, is much more stark. It really can’t simply be dismissed as irrelevant, and no doubt that’s Duffy’s point. Jason Molloy summarises Lynn’s findings on Australian Aborigines:
Lynn first looked at the Australian Aborigines in his 1978 chapter – it listed 3 studies, and he estimated their intelligence, much like Sub-Saharan Africans, as 85. In 1991 the same three studies were listed, and there is no suggestion Lynn lowered his estimate. When Ed Miller examined studies of Australoid intelligence in 1996, he too suggested something like 85. In comparison RDiI now lists data from 29 studies of Australoid populations, including those of New Guinea for a combined sample of 4,785. Since that time Lynn has dropped the Australoid IQ average a dramatic 23 points, down to 62. This is considerably lower than all previous estimates have suggested, but Lynn’s review also highlights just how neglected this populations intelligence has been, even by Lynn, until now. Small admixture and adoption studies exist for Australian Aborigine intelligence and both suggest something hereditary. These populations have had some of the lowest technological development of all populations and also have the smallest brains of any living population. An exception is the visual parts of the cortex, which are much larger than in Europeans. Interesting given their much lower intelligence, then, that their visual memory abilities are substantially superior – one researcher found a visual memory IQ of 119. Genetics are further suggested because the advantage is also true for very young children and for aborigines born into modern urban settings.
I dealt with Lynn’s findings in general terms in a post some time ago on the egregious Andrew Fraser:
But more recent research seems to undermine the odiously racist conclusions touted expressly by Rushton and Andrew Fraser (and implicitly by Herrnstein and Murray). Although it now seems fairly well accepted that there are significant measurable differences in average IQ between races, that doesn’t mean what racists like Fraser would have us believe. Some researchers (e.g. Fischer et al. (1996)) have argued that the type of IQ test used by Herrnstein and Murray is really a test of schooling rather than intelligence (a critique that arguably applies to most IQ tests to some extent). Perhaps more importantly, recent research indicates that heredity/genes account for only 40-50% of a person’s intelligence, with the rest being attributable to environment.
However, that still leaves a difference of around 20 IQ points between Aborigines and Europeans as conceivably having a genetic basis. That’s a very large difference, which may well have major policy implications in terms of the types of education, training and enterprise development programs delivered to Aboriginal communities. But what implications? And is the IQ difference actually genetic at all? Recent primate research (on marmosets) by Elizabeth Gould found:
Eight years after Gould defied the entrenched dogma of her science and proved that the primate brain is always creating new neurons, she has gone on to demonstrate an even more startling fact: The structure of our brain, from the details of our dendrites to the density of our hippocampus, is incredibly influenced by our surroundings. Put a primate under stressful conditions, and its brain begins to starve. It stops creating new cells. The cells it already has retreat inwards. The mind is disfigured.
The social implications of this research are staggering. If boring environments, stressful noises, and the primate’s particular slot in the dominance hierarchy all shape the architecture of the brain¢â¬âand Gould’s team has shown that they do¢â¬âthen the playing field isn’t level. Poverty and stress aren’t just an idea: they are an anatomy. Some brains never even have a chance.
Anyone familiar with modern remote Aboriginal communities could only agree that they are quintessentially ‘boring’ and ‘stressful’ environments, for a complex range of reasons. Federal Minister Joe Hockey recently described Central Australian Aboriginal communities as every bit as bad as the notorious Crossways ghetto in apartheid era South Africa.
Maybe that’s why Aboriginal IQ scores are so dramatically lower than Europeans. Maybe the explanation is biological but not genetic. And if that’s so, then far from supporting the demands of racists like Fraser for excluding ‘inferior’ races, Gould’s findings instead demand that our governments, communities and individuals make the most stringent efforts to improve the environment in impoverished communities, so that children get something vaguely resembling an equal opportunity for their brains and lives to develop and flourish in the same way as their wealthier human cousins.