They believe in what?

In reaction to Richwine Affair, all right-thinking people are quick to proclaim that they don’t believe in a genetic basis for IQ. They’re much less quick to explain – with any sort of precision – what they actually do believe in. At best, we’re treated to some hand-waving paired with the phrase “social construct.”

Lots of ink has been spilled criticizing the genetic explanation. However, I’m unaware of any examination of the physical properties of the mainstream explanation. Let’s see what it actually looks like.

As best I can tell from reading blog posts by proponents of the mainstream narrative, their theory consists of two beliefs: 1) everyone’s genetic IQ potential is identical at birth; and 2) a social construct operates to oppress certain “races,” which otherwise have no basis in reality.

Let’s flesh out both of these beliefs in detail.

Absolute Human Neurological Uniformity

Andrew Sullivan recently said:

But the idea that natural selection and environmental adaptation stopped among human beings the minute we emerged in the planet 200,000 years ago – and that there are no genetic markers for geographical origin or destination – is bizarre. It would be deeply strange if Homo sapiens were the only species on earth that did not adapt to different climates, diseases, landscapes, and experiences over hundreds of millennia. We see such adaptation happening very quickly in the animal kingdom. Our skin color alone – clearly a genetic adaptation to climate – is, well, right in front of one’s nose.

Moldbug less recently said:

As the authors of this new book put it: given the genetic history of the human species, global equality in any quantitative trait – physical or behavioral – is about as likely as dropping a handful of quarters and having them all land on edge. Of course, as reasonable thinkers, we are prepared to consider improbable propositions. If presented with extraordinary evidence.

Indeed, the mainstream theory is grounded on an incredible belief, especially since most of the people that hold this belief believe generally in evolution.

In sum, it means that they believe evolution works on plants, animals and people, except on peoples’ brain – the inherent intellectual ability of which was held precisely uniform across all sub-populations that may have developed other different characteristics.

It’s unclear how this mystical force works. Have people gotten smarter over time? If so, has everyone alive gotten equally smarter at identical time periods? (I’m presuming that the force operates at the individual level, since races doesn’t exist (see below)).

One must assume this is the case.

This force – the one that keeps inherent initial intellectual ability precisely equal across groups – would appear to be an incredible discovery. Perhaps one of the most important discoveries in the history of mankind. It’s odd that it doesn’t have a name. Did someone get a Nobel Prize for discovering it that I missed?

The Power of the Social Construct

Let’s take two populations: Ashkenazi Jews and Australian Aboriginals. The former consistently show an IQ of somewhere around or north of 105, whereas the latter seem to have an IQ of somewhere south of 70.

Note that that difference is more than two standard deviations!

How has the “social construct” worked to keep the aborigines down while elevating the Ashkenazis?

Several things are immediately clear.

Out right prejudice and racism against a particular groups (i.e. the Ashkenazis) doesn’t necessarily negatively contribute to this “social construct,” as the Ashkenazis have been disproportionately successful in many environments in which they were legally considered second-class citizens.

The “social construct” force must be able to operate across the planet at a subconscious or telepathic level, as the aborigines were underachieving long before they made contact with the outside world. (In fairness, they did invent the didgeridoo, and where would as a species be without that)?

The “social construct” force seems to favor and disfavor the same groups across millennia and without regard for geographical location.

Finally, the “social construct” seems to operate on a racial level, even though races don’t exist.

Again, this force is an incredible discovery and yet I also cannot find a name for it or a description of its physical workings anywhere. Is there a reason why some groups are the chosen people in the eyes of this force? How was it able to operate worldwide prior to contact among peoples? How it is possible to establish social constructs among people that are unaware of each others’ existence? How can it work on a basis that doesn’t exist (i.e. race)?

Religious Fanaticsm

An examination of these “theories” in any depth quickly reveals them for what they are – religious beliefs, fanatical religious beliefs. After all, they must be taken on faith – there is no other basis on which to take them.

This interpretation is consistent with the consequences of questioning these beliefs.

Oddly, it would appear that this religious belief is more strongly held by The Heritage Foundation, National Review, Cato and Scientific American than Harvard. Or perhaps this is just a case of the Pope being more free to question religion than any of his critics.

Most importantly, seeing this belief for what it is should clarify what is happening. This debate is a re-hash of debates that mankind has grappled with for thousands of years. It happens every time a new technological discovery overturns a key tenet of society’s core religion or philosophy. In this case, genetic and evolutionary discoveries are overturning the blank slate theory (this has tons of implications outside of race and IQ, but it’s here that the religious belief being contradicted is strongest).

Finally, we know how this debate ends. The forces of religion and status quo hold on for longer than anyone looking back can possibly understand, the same forces punish the early discoverers more severely than anyone looking back can possibly understand, and then the same forces lose and history makes fun of them for being so ignorant.

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37 Responses to They believe in what?

  1. Steve Johnson says:

    But don’t you understand? The Flynn effect means that IQ has been rising for 100s of years and our civilization worked then so therefore since all groups now are smarter than whites were 100 years ago, group differences in intelligence don’t matter!

  2. VXXC says:

    The forces of reaction were never…Progressive. Until now.

    They’re the ones who heap out the punishment and scorn the backwards.

  3. nickbsteves says:

    It happens every time a new technological discovery overturns a key tenet of society’s core religion or philosophy. In this case, genetic and evolutionary discoveries are overturning the blank slate theory (this has tons of implications outside of race and IQ, but it’s here that the religious belief being contradicted is strongest).

    But HNU was not widely believed by our ancestors. Nor is, in fact, widely believed today—it’s mostly just recited. It’s entry as a tenet into “core” belief is extremely recent. Society has barely had time to adapt to its being a tenet. Therefore I think the “overturning” of HNU won’t amount to hill of beans. When this collective delusion fades away from public consciousness, a few of us will wonder, “Geez, what were we thinking?” And the rest should be able carry on rather unaffected. HNU will be the powder blue leisure suit of religious belief.

  4. Lex Corvus says:

    Not only do progressives profess a belief in evolution, they positively revel in using it as a cudgel with which to beat their political opponents.

  5. Handle says:

    1. If I were disposed to be Kling-charitible, I suppose it’s possible that someone could reject a particular hypothesis without having an alternative. You could say, “I don’t know what the moon is made out of, but this green cheese theory seems like nonsense to me.” That’s kind of what the progressive are saying:

    Maybe it’s poverty, maybe it’s underprivilege, maybe its oppression, maybe it’s bad teachers, maybe its family life, poor nutrition, lead exposure, crime, verbal exposure, the historical legacy of slavery or colonialism, etc… or maybe it’s some combination of all these environmental factors. “The Science isn’t Settled.” But one thing I’m pretty sure it’s not is “race”. That’s the kind of thing pre-scientific and pseudoscientific hateful white supremacist racists believed a long time ago. I don’t really “believe” anything, but I have some plausible alternative guesses as to what “I believe” are the likeliest explanations.

    2. The point is not “what do they believe” – they can always come up with some new mysterious dark-forces hypothesis du-jour (and it’s pure windfall bonus if it involves getting the government to spend untold billions on some new project). The real question is:

    Ok, I see your position. Are you rationally open minded at all about the subject or are you dogmatic about it? If you’re open minded, then, please, just tell me, what kind of scientific experiment and result would it require to change your mind?

    That’s how you actually have a “conversation” or “debate” as opposed to “here’s what I want everybody to think I believe” and “‘shut up,’ he explained”

    3. I find it interesting that every time something like this happens, the progressive commentariat doesn’t merely link to on of the last five nearly identical things they’ve already written on the subject the last time they burned a witch. And they don’t even link to the last best thing they read from some like-minded ally. They all really, really feel the need to start fresh and drown up in a whole news-cycle of a cacophony of echos.

    It’s kind of like watching seasons of some lame sport year after year, hoping some team, eventually, finally figures out how to bring their A-game and make it exciting. Every witch-hunting season, all the teams come out and play the game with the latest technique they’ve developed, and also get to see what every other team has come up with in the off-season since the last tournament. And every year the conclusion is still the same – nobody quite made it happen. Nope. Still Lame. Oh well. Better luck next season everybody! Hope we don’t run out of witches!

    • Foseti says:

      I sort of disagree. There’s no interest in debating. Analyzing the question in terms of what debating position they will take misses the point huge.

      I think the only strategy that has any chance of working beyond waiting for the evidence to get ever-larger is to portray their position for what it is: anti-evolution and fanatically religious (things they consider beneath them).

      • Handle says:

        You’re right about this. No point debating, only illustrating the folly.

        I think if the current evidence isn’t good enough then nothing can ever be. If something could be good enough, then that’s what would answer my question “what would it take?”

        I don’t know if you can ever convince any of these people that they are acting like fanatical fundamentalists.

        I can imagine a hypothetical “Racial-gate” like “Climate-gate” where the emails of some of most prominent race denialists are released and which say, repeatedly “Let’s keep lying and saying there’s no such thing as race or that there’s any variance in the average characteristics, which, of course, obviously, we totally know is absolutely true.” Would it change anything? Probably not.

  6. Handle says:

    Bryan Caplan’s got a post asking the question he put on his PhD students’ final exam, How to Spend a Billion Dollars?. Here’s my very conventional answer (hey, I was trying to stay in-the-box as much as possible).

    But what’s my unconventional answer? Besides “founding the resistance”, the second-best answer, it seems to me, (and finally getting to something relevant with this post), is to establish a trust that founds an “institute of dark studies” the whole purpose of which is to hire, at double their old salary, the victims of the witch hunts. Maybe call it “The Salem Foundation”

    Watson, Derbyshire, Richwine, and all the other Dark Masters. You think it’d be something to hand around the GMU economics department? Wait until you listen to the lunch conversations at The Salem Foundation cafeteria! It’s got the best Scotch selection in the world.

    Now, of course, you can’t just hire everybody who gets fired. But if you restrict it to hiring, say, the “best effort and most villified” per year, it would act like a tournament market, encouraging many thousands to risk their careers to publicize the dark knowledge in the chance that they could win the slot. The advantage of that is the publicity and the chance of sparking a preference cascade among all the pre-neoreactionaries out there.

    Koch Brothers, are you listening? You’re ultra-rich and in the anti-left political patron business. What you’re doing now, you’re doing it wrong. Surely you’ve noticed that. What you want, we’ve got it. Wake up, and help us with the good fight.

    • VXXC says:

      A good idea if intellectual heft gets us back home.

      It won’t, it will simply provide a target. They suck at governance. They’re good at destroying threats. It’s still not a bad idea. Not to win but to disarm potential enemies and cause loss of faith.

      However I think this was the original point of Heritage and CATO? No?

      FAIL.

      Now a martyrs club with intellectuals in the Dark Salem Institute along with …I dunno…Sons of persecuted Tea Party Moms is a decent idea.

      But worthy of pursuit for those whose talents lie this way.

    • How would the Salem Foundation differ from the Mencken Club? Average Age?

  7. Alrenous says:

    Everyone seems to like this post, Foseti. Nice work.

    Naturally, that means I want to change it. I wish you had mentioned the idea of souls. This is soul, redux. They believe all souls are created equal by God, and you think with your soul. Or rather, they did believe that, then changed their minds about souls and God without changing the downstream conclusions.

    So when they see evidence about IQ, they treat it as evidence about souls. Which is indeed preposterous. Then they make conclusions about IQ based on rejecting the evidence about souls.

    • Handle says:

      Actually … this is genius. Well done. Combined with my list of frequently claimed environmental exposures above – it’s actually the answer to Foseti’s question.

      Progressives believe (or believe they believe) in the Scientific Socially Sensitive Soul. The “S4”.

      Progressives have three contradictory ideas to reconcile and the cognitive dissonance is too strained for most people – 1. belief in HNU, 2. constant observations of vast disparity, 3. Lack of supernatural mechanisms (they believe they believe in materialistic empirical science).

      So they have their own version of universal reconciliation and it goes something like this:

      1. All humans are born with equal “souls” – the thing we think and feel with, the thing that gives us equal dignity and entitlement to equal rights and equal justice under law and equally generous minimum fruits redistributed from the collective output. Evolution is true, only hateful brainwashed idiots say they believe otherwise, and it made ethnic groups physically different, but “didn’t have time” to make ethnic groups mentally different.

      2. But this soul – the universal human mind – and its performance on various highly-suspect cognitive tests – is extraordinarily sensitive to one’s environment and social conditions – from conception until death. And the nature of this sensitivity is both highly complex and as yet undetermined. It might even be plausible that different sensitivities to exposure to the same environmental conditions did evolve different in different ethnic groups in the last 100K years. Not the soul itself, those are all the same and equal everywhere and all the time, just the soul’s cognitive sensitivity to its environment. That could, perhaps, have a genetic component. It’s all perfectly materialist and empirical.

      3. So, people are equal, they just sometimes turn out unequal, because of a million environmental reasons, many of them evil oppression from other people, and all this is perfectly rational, scientific, and empirical. That’s what we believe we believe.

      90% of our favored “scholarship” is like a perpetual annual tournament trying to figure out whose got the latest, greatest version of this story that helps fill in some of the gaps and missing links. This group performs worse than average because of racism and oppression. What, you’ve got some other group that suffered racism and oppression but performs better than average? Oh, well, that’s because their cultures “value education” (you know how those Tiger Mothers can be!), or because of some very convoluted impact of “institutions”.

      • Vladimir says:

        Re: (2), do you actually have any examples of someone claiming that different populations have hereditary “different sensitivities to exposure to the same environmental conditions” as an argument against a simple hereditary explanation of group differences? Of all the countless arguments I’ve seen on this topic, I can’t recall a single one that fits this pattern.

        (Plus, I’d guess that even this much hereditarianism would already seem to any ideologically orthodox intellectual as too evil to consider seriously. It would be basically equivalent to saying that certain groups are genetically predisposed to perform worse on average when given the same opportunities, a claim that certainly seems far out of bounds of acceptable public discourse.)

      • Handle says:

        @Vladimir. No, I don’t have any examples of people making this argument; I’ve never seen it; I just made it up. It makes sense to me an intermediate “compromise” next-step position for the Cathedral to take. Adding another variable to a model, “like always makes it more able of explaining anything away.

        The only thing I can think of that’s at all close is that sometimes the Cathedral educators say that perhaps different teaching techniques could work for different ethnic groups. Here’s an “African-Centric” version with which I’m familiar. It actually used to be much worse, (more Nation of Islam + Frantz Fanon white-hatred propaganda) than it is now. But, like some of the marginally-successful programs like “KIPP”, it’s a lot more about long hours drilling vs Montesori-esque “free exploration and guided self-discovery”.

        Heaven forbid anyone call it “tracking”, or admit that that’s what’s really going on, with racially segregated schools substitution for cognitive-group segregation within a single school. It’s the opposite of what the selective “Science academies” do, which isn’t really about Science, naturally, but about creating a place for smart kids to be taught differently than the dumb kids.

        Putting a “X-centric” facade on a school is a neat trick. Cue Robin Hanson “X-centric isn’t about X”. It’s about tracking – and ethnic tailoring.

      • Alrenous says:

        “I’ve never seen it; I just made it up.”

        If proggies don’t actually believe it, they’re wrong about their own beliefs. Their conclusions ontologically commit them to it.

        I don’t suppose there’s an RSS feed of Handle comments I could subscribe to?

      • Alrenous says:

        You seem aware, but I just realized it should be said explicitly.

        Proggressivism inherently requires the competition to see who can intensify the cognitive dissonance the most. It is one of their critical status markers; it is how they keep the proles out, since it is partly genetic. This is because Jim’s ‘holier-than-thou’ competition inherently degrades into a competition to see who can believe the most nonsensical nonsense.

        You’ll often see it euphemized as opennenss or tolerance of ambiguity. The idea sets they’re daring you to adopt are almost always called ‘counter-intuitive.’

    • asdf says:

      Many progressives are IQ smart, but have ugly souls. Despite being given the gift of good genes they tend to languish in mediocrity and sin. As such the outcomes in their lives that raise their social status in spite of their own mediocrity (like graduating college or having an above average income as a result of being born with a good IQ) become a part of their pride. They didn’t achieve these things because of their IQ. They achieved it because they have great souls.

      Put another way, the progressive underperforms relative to his gifts, and wants to think he’s an over performer because his gifts are above average. The only way to believe that is to assume everyone has the same gifts.

      • Alrenous says:

        Nice one. The logic indeed goes backwards as well.

        It’s hard to avoid the knowledge of your own soul’s ugliness; they need the soothing accolades.

  8. “The forces of religion and status quo hold on for longer than anyone looking back can possibly understand, the same forces punish the early discoverers more severely than anyone looking back can possibly understand, and then the same forces lose and history makes fun of them for being so ignorant.”

    A very good post. But this last paragraph makes it sound as if today’s heresy hadn’t been simple common sense up until just a few years ago.

  9. Five Daarstens says:

    Great post!

  10. Genetic science and neuroscience are making rapid progress in overturning the talking points of the modern political class, for those who can see and interpret. But the political class can spew out media smokescreens at their leisure, powerful enough to obscure and negate any reasonable argument or debate.

    Rather than debate the obvious point ad infinitum, the opposition might consider taking a more practical approach.which would be more likely to yield positive dividends down the road.

    This is a counter-intuitive suggestion, since the intellectual class rarely thinks beyond the world of ideas. But the point is crucial to the prospects for any islands of free speech and action in the future.

  11. The underlying debate is whether reality is objective and can be studied and understood, however imperfectly, once a conservative and now a reactionary belief; and the idea that reality is created in the mind and things can change as we think and will, as a group; and that because of this it is all the more imperative to impel the desired thought, to hasten the coming of the golden age, the belief of all kinds of leftists.

    And if the golden age is not here, it’s because evil people refused to think correctly.

  12. Bruce says:

    I hope I don’t embarrass you (or myself!) with lavish praise but you really are a top-notch writer.

  13. Matt says:

    Seems to me no one believes in Absolute Human Neurological Uniformity. Everyone recognizes that some people are smarter than others. The disconnect is when this is applied to groups, especially racial groups. Some questions:

    How immutable is IQ
    What conclusions should one draw from an IQ score
    What policy could be based on IQ
    What policy should be based on IQ
    etc

    As for the fanaticism, it’s not always clear who is acting and who is reacting, but I take lefties at their word when they say that they are worried about belief in racial differences in this or that being taken to justify discrimination or hatred. Most of the right-wing blogosphere offers little comfort in this area. Dealing with the history is probably necessary at some point.

    IMO a more sensible economic/trade policy might render a lot of these questions moot.

    • mtpollack says:

      What “lefties’ aren’t commonly pointing out is that the counterfactual denial of statistical differences between human groups is also used to justify discrimination (race-based initiatives based on the assumption that disproportion in group outcome must therefore be based on institutionalized racism) and hatred (of pallid “racists”).

    • asdf says:

      The problem is that the other side isn’t trying. That’s a valid concern, but so is open borders immigration and disparate impact affirmative action. Those things have done immense damage and they are getting worse, not better.

      If the other side was offering nuance, I think we could offer sympathy and nuance. It’s these policies that I dislike, and pushing HBD seems like the only way they’ve left to fight these policies (whether it will have bad side effects or not). Because they can’t compromise and fix their mistakes, its a war. You either win or lose a war. You use whatever weapons you have in a war. Once you’ve won you can decide how merciful you want to be.

  14. […] today a commenter at Foseti made a similar […]

  15. […] IQ denial is a religious belief. […]

  16. Deep Strength says:

    You may be interested in the fact that most studies conclude that there’s between .65-.85 correlation with inheritance of brain morphology and intelligence. For example,

    http://www.jneurosci.org/content/26/40/10235.abstract

    For those that don’t know… .6-.8 is a strong relationship, and > .8 is a very strong relationship for inheritance of brain morphology and thus intelligence.

  17. […] varies by race. This is an obvious fact and it’s bigotry (see Jason Richwine). Propensity to commit crime varies by race. Women have […]

  18. […] conversation can be reverse-engineered to extract some answers to Foseti’s question, “They believe in what?“  Perhaps more important than what they believe is that their confidence in their beliefs […]

  19. […] sort of creationistic belief is worrisome. Note that not only does Collier refuse to consider genetics and evolution, he’s disgusted […]

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