Turkheimer's Projects: Genetics and Human Agency | Reply to Criticisms of my Comments on IQ

I recently had the opportunity to contribute a blog at Cato Unbound in reply to an essay by James Flynn, summarizing his new book. I am an admirer of Flynn’s work and found little to argue with in the original part of the blog. Perhaps unfortunately, while the blog was online William Saletan wrote a piece at Slate about race differences in IQ, and encouraged by our blog organizer, the contributers to Cato Unbound took off after that. I had my say, there was a round of strong rebuttals, and…. the whistle blew, leaving me with lots of good arguments unmade. Since then there have also been comments by Steve Sailer and Kevin MacDonald. Thus the new blog. I do not have a good record of maintaining blogs once I start them, but who knows, and it will serve my present purposes. I’ll take the points one at a time, and probably won’t get to all of them.

  1. Vigorous Disapprobation? My mistake. In the first version of the post, I crossed wires on the words opprobium and opposition, and wrote ‘vigorous approbation.’ The other bloggers and the blog organizer noticed the mistake and asked me about it, and on the spot I came up with that overheated construction, now enshrined as a permanent reminder to read my stuff carefully before I post it.
  2. Do I think racial scientists should be censored, fired, ignored, punished, anything? No, and I said so. I think they should be criticized for pursuing questions that are ultimately undecidable scientifically and potentially harmful socially. That criticism should be civil, based on free and open exchange of ideas, and should avoid personal attacks.
  3. On being offended. I wish I had not given in to the contemporary tendency to declare that I was offended by ideas that I disagree with strongly. The truth is I am not offended by them in any personal way, and it doesn’t help to describe ideas as offensive. I mean that I disagree with them.
  4. If I don’t think the outcome of the race debate is a matter of empirical evidence, doesn’t that mean that I am not really a scientist? No, the answers to lots of questions are not a matter of empirical evidence. Some questions, for example, are subjective, e.g., Were the Beatles better than the Rolling Stones? The race and IQ question not a matter of empirical evidence because it is badly constructed in a way that guarantees that no decisive empirical evidence can ever be found. I have already explained why I think this, but to summarize:
    1. To say that a group difference is genetic, you have to say what you mean, and how you can tell the difference.
    2. No one involved in this discussion other than me has offered a definition. Mine is, a group difference is genetic if one would expect it to occur in all possible environments.
Scroll to Top