Saturday, February 22, 2003

Bell Curve the Fourth

From Kieran Healy.

In other words, the gap between blacks and whites on the only thing we can measure that might be related to underlying intelligence washes out when we take environmental factors into account! So where, exactly, is the controversy? I reject Kevin's straw man: no-one is arguing that there's no such thing as smart people in the "know it when I see it" sense he talks about. Things only get controversial (and racist) if you think there's a persistent, measurable between-group difference on this trait between blacks and whites that can't be eradicated by equalizing environments. But Kevin plainly does not think this is so, because he has just told us that the only measurable group-level test-score differences are explained by environmental factors! Which leaves us with the harmless proposition that the genetic component of intelligence is variably distributed across the population, but not in the basically racist way that Herrnstein and Murray insinuate.

Which leaves us with the question of why Kevin would post something that just cries out to be misinterpreted. The last four paragraphs of his post are taken up with 'Do Not Shy From Harsh Truths, My Liberal Friends' and 'Face the Truth Head On' stuff. That's a seductive rhetoric for embattled liberals. You're on the side of truth. You are being realistic. The conservatives like you. I'm all in favor of facing unpleasant truths, being a social scientist and all. But what's so unpleasant about what seems to be the truth here?