White Europeans "less intelligent," blogger claims

Via Sean Meade and Kottke, the headline “Black people ‘less intelligent’ scientist claims” attempts to summarize this:

[Discoverer of DNA James Watson] says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with this line of criticism. I have brought it up on June 18th, August 24th, September 6th, September 9th, and September 27th.

Now, Jim Watson may not be a “profoundly evil man,” but he is a bomb thrower more interested in outraging his enemies than in converting them to friends. (He shares this traits with Richard Dawkins, a man he agrees with any many issues.)

Therefore, I won’t address his anecdotal “evidence” or personal behavior, but Watson is getting at the fact that there are multiple standard deviations between general intelligence in certain populations. For instance, each group in the following list has a mean general intelligence about one standard deviation higher than the group next on the list

  • Ashkenazi Jews
  • White Europeans
  • African Americans
  • Black Africans

It appears, though there is not conclusive proof, that environment, culture, epigenetics (maternal cytoplasm), and genetics (Watson’s DNA) all play a role in the difference. (Of course, there are confounding factors which may or may not be relevent — Black Africans possess the greatest in-group genetic diversity on the planet, while Ashkenazi Jews are genetically one of the most uniform populations.) But the cause is less important than the fact, which is that these large differences in general intelligence exist now.

Two questions, for those of us living in the developed world, are

  • Should the free exercise of a citizen’s rights depend on their ancestral group’s mean general intelligence
  • Should the free exercise of a citizen’s rights depend on his general intelligence
  • Should nation building efforts in other countries depend on the mean general intelligence in that country.

The first two questions are normative, whiel the third is technical. The answers, of course, are

  • No
  • Sometimes
  • Yes

gnxp has a good take on this pseudo-controversy, and also (somewhat relatedly) about inbreeding among Samaritans.

OODA Alpha, Part VI: A Theory of Mind

The above description of the OODA loop, and particularly of orientation and decision, report a metatheoretical description of cognition. Like all metathories, the above discussion “ is a proposal about the basic assumptions that would undergird a plausible theory” but does not describe mechanisms that could be tested (Moshman, 2005, 71).

While specific empirical tests are beyond the scope of a theoretical review, it is nonetheless important to outline the mechanisms that would be used in such a theoretical test. Below, two mechanisms from Boydian psychology, reorientation and disorientation, are described.


OODA Alpha, a tdaxp series
1. Abstract
2. Dual Processing Systems
3. The OODA Loop
4. Decision
5. Orientation
6. A Theory of Mind
7. Reorientation
8. Disorientation
9. Education
10. Instruction
11. Student Interaction
12. Creativity
13. Conclusion
14. Bibliography