My Record On Race and IQ

I've aired every side of the issue. That's what journalists do.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! But the press is mercifully free and Ben Smith can write what he wants. To be fair to Ben, he’s a man with ambitions at the New York Times. After the woke coup there earlier this summer, he had no choice but to call yours truly a racist if he seeks a future at that paper. He knows what happened to James Bennet for crossing the critical race activists now in control of what was once the paper of record. And he reported a lot about my career that the far left wants to erase entirely from the record, for which I am grateful.

In the interest of full transparency, Chris yesterday tried to assemble everything the Dish published on this difficult subject from 2000 to 2015 (if he missed something, let us know and we’ll add it). In the context of the insane amount of content the Dish published over 15 years (well over 100,000 posts), it’s not that much. The subject pops up every few years in the discourse and I cover it. But I’m giving you a summary so you can make up your own minds about whether I have covered this topic fairly, whether I have given the criticism of this argument a proper airing. That’s what I owe you as readers and subscribers. I will always be accountable to you first, as I was at the Dish.

You will, in fact, read here some of the most intense, passionate and reasoned rebuttals of the thesis that “race” and IQ have any connection you will ever find. They include a five part series from one of the Dish’s own staff members, Patrick Appel, and a piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates, strongly disagreeing with me, while also urging black readers to read the Dish on this very subject. You can also find me asking forgiveness of TNC for any understandably hurt feelings. That was the spirit of discourse as recently as 2011.

The caliber of the writers here is impressive: alongside Ta-Nehisi Coates, Steven Rose, Will Saletan, Brad DeLong, Will Wilkinson, Reihan Salam, David Leonhardt, Freddie DeBoer, Ezra Klein, Zack Beauchamp, and dozens of readers who have just as much to say and just as much insight as the pros on both sides. Just as I gave an open platform to every critic of Charles Murray 26 years ago in The New Republic, so too have I published every argument out there debunking his thesis. Some of these critiques have been more brutal than anything ever published in the New York Times.

I believe that’s what journalists should do: air a debate as responsibly as possible. It’s what the New York Times did as recently as 2018, when it published an op-ed by Harvard’s top geneticist, David Reich, arguing that there are indeed some genetic variations among distinct human populations, and we shouldn’t assume they don’t exist. If the chief geneticist at Harvard believes this remains an open debate, and the New York Times was prepared to publish him, by what principle does the very same paper attempt to smear another writer as a racist when he has merely taken the same agnostic position?

My position is that we don’t know, but the research is continuing, and we already know that almost every attribute humans have is caused by a mix of genetics and environment, and anyone entirely denying one part of this equation or the other is being intellectually dishonest. The core premise of critical theory, moreover, is that nothing in human affairs can be attributed to nature or genetics, because everything is a function of power-dynamics in society. And so the science of genetics is a form of white supremacy, in their eyes, and cannot be treated as a neutral source of information. That’s why they are now trying to re-engineer our entire educational system to become something utterly alien to the glorious and rare Western tradition of free inquiry.

I think they are only half-right: the environment is hugely important in understanding how groups of humans flourish or don’t, and we should do everything we can to ensure maximal equality of opportunity. But I honestly cannot say that nature and genetics have no impact at all.

That’s true of homosexuality as well as race: both genes and environment. I’m sure genetics play a role in gayness, but I have openly and respectfully explored the actual arguments of Freudian reparative therapists who believe that homosexuality is entirely environmental and due to early childhood formation. I didn’t call them bigots and ban them. I tried to engage their actual arguments, and didn’t dismiss them entirely — because I don’t regard any debate about the causes of homosexuality as taboo. I feel the same way about any other subject. I have the same core principle whatever I’m thinking about. This is why I have tackled this question. The insinuation that I am a racist, driven by dark motives is, quite simply, a woke smear. It’s McCarthyism of the left.

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What Ben asked of me was to state definitively that this debate is over. I couldn’t. I can’t, and retain any self-respect. Two points: He hangs his argument on the crudeness of the social construct of “race” — which is absolutely true and on which I agree with him. The term “race” can be misleading here, which is why I try carefully to call it “human populations”, even though those “populations” do conspicuously overlap with some socially constructed categories we call “races”. It’s a semantic but important distinction. And I told Ben I agreed with that. He declined to include that in his story.

But once you get past the semantics, you realize that Smith is asking me to deny any role for genetics in differences in human populations. And I cannot violate my conscience and say I believe that, even though it would make my life easier and my career much smoother. Ben was asking me to deny, for example, that genetics can tell you what part of the planet your ancestors came from, which obviously has some “racial” content. But anyone who has used ancestry.com knows this is possible. It’s a crude science right now, but it’s gaining in sophistication, and denying that it is measuring something real is preposterous.

But that’s what Ben was demanding of me: that I recant something that is true in order to be acceptable to mainstream journalism. And that’s now the standard at the NYT — denying the truth because of ideology. If you want to read a source where all arguments can be rationally and fairly debated, and where everything is transparent, and only the truth matters, I urge you to subscribe to The Weekly Dish. Keeping free discourse alive since 2000. Which is more than you can say, sadly, of the New York Times.

2006
Race and Genetics (“A sane reader writes:”)

2007 (interesting there’s no reader dissension here; sign of the times of Dish pre-staff)
The Genetics of Race (data from Science Times)
Race and IQ (“The debate explodes again with James Watson’s public statements”)
Genes, Race And IQ (reader dissent against Watson)
Race and IQ II (quote from W.D. Hamilton)
Race and IQ (Saletan tackles the Jewish factor)
Race and IQ (Saletan defending Watson — in Slate)
Race and IQ (“A useful nuance in the debate” from Cato)
Race and IQ Update (Brad DeLong and Jonah Lehrer join debate)
Race and IQ Update (Ezra Klein dissents)
Race and IQ: What We Do Not Know (Reihan pointing you to Jim Manzi — “this is one of the best and fairest analyses of the debate I’ve come across”)
Race and IQ, Again (multiple commentators on Flynn Effect)
Revisiting “The Bell Curve” (reader on Watson flap)

2009
The IQ Debate: Pro And Con (quote from Steven Rose and others)
Genes, Race, And IQ (“A new contribution to the debate some didn’t even want to have. From a review of Richard E. Nisbett’s book Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Culture Count”)

2010
Race And Intelligence, Again (“A Harvard Law student, Stephanie Grace, wrote a private e-mail to fellow classmates about a discussion at a dinner party”)
Ctd (Thoreau sounds on off scandal)
Ctd (reader reaction and dissent)
Ctd (more from readers)
Ctd (more from readers)
Ctd (more from readers)
Bell Curve Update (Leonhardt and Daniel Indiviglio sound off)
Ctd (Ryan Avent joins)

2011
The Study Of Intelligence (pointing to UC Berkeley psychologist quoted in Alternet)
Ctd (responding to a reader’s dissent)
Ctd (responding to Coates dissent)
Ctd (responding to a second dissent from Coates, and Freddie jumps in)
Ctd (responding to two more reader dissents)
Ctd (pointing to APA’s 1995 report on “Intelligence: Knowns And Unknowns”)
Ctd (“I’ve reached out to some academic pros in the intelligence field … ”)
Dear Ta-Nehisi (final big response to him on this thread)
Ctd (“My friend's response to my earlier post. It’s a riveting area but also a draining one that we've covered pretty exhaustively now from both sides.”)
Race And Intelligence: A Wrap (“… we did provide an unfiltered forum over at our Facebook page, which has over 100 entries so far.”)

2012
Is There A Limit To IQ? (multiple peeps on Flynn Effect)
Race And IQ: A Conservative Debunks (Ron Unz challenges the “Strong IQ Hypothesis”)
Ask Charles Murray Anything: What Criticism Of The Bell Curve Did You Most Take To Heart? (video embed missing)

2013
Race And IQ. Again. (your response to firing of Jason Richwine)
Why Rule Out Racism? (Wilkinson and Freddie respond followed by your response)
Race And IQ. Again. Ctd. (Ron Unz at length)
Is Race Only A Social Construct? (Coates jumps in, also his commenters, then you)
Ctd (Razib Khan joins debate)
Ctd (more from Coates)
What IQ Tests Measure (Brink Lindsey and you at length)
“Racists Love Race Science” (Freddie and you)
Not Everyone Is Created Genetically Equal (Freddie against Zack Beauchamp)
The Ten Most Controversial Subjects On Earth (a chart, “Somehow, the Dish missed the great wrestling controversy and anarchism. But we’ve got the others covered.”

2014
Quote For The Day II (short one from Nicholas Wade)
A Debate Over A Troublesome Book (first in series of dissent-driven posts from Patrick)
Why “Race” Isn’t Biological (second from Patrick)
Wade’s Reckless Speculation About Races (third from Patrick)
The Ideologue Who Doesn’t Know He’s An Ideologue (fourth from Patrick)
What’s Race’s Impact On Biology? (fifth from Patrick)
Genes And Our Politics (big response to Wade’s book from you)

Excuse Me, Mr Coates (triggered by new New Republic and old “neo-Dixiecrat” one)
Ctd (another big response from you)
Maternal Age And IQ (reader response)