Ron Unz published an essay in The American Conservative this week that reviews the data in IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen: “Race, IQ, and Wealth.” It is somewhat lengthy for a net rag, but Unz is always worth reading for his honesty in assessing evidence and in asking questions. He argues that Lynn and Vanhanen’s own research in IQ and the Wealth of Nations undermines their position that the average intelligence quotient of a given population results chiefly from that population’s genetic inheritance—a position called the Strong I.Q. Hypothesis. He not only mentions the well known Flynn Effect but also considers the variation of I.Q. in a given population or in closely related populations compared to the economic conditions of the population over time. Unz further argues that population I.Q. tends to rise with urbanization, as urban living provides the mind much practice in skills measured by I.Q. tests. He suggests that a contemporary city dweller may not actually seem “smarter” than his great-grandfather who was a farmer, but his I.Q. would be significantly higher. Similarly, Unz reasons that memory power has decreased with the rise of technology that has reduced the need to exercise memory in today’s society. In conclusion, Unz notes how different studies contradict both the Strong and the Weak I.Q. Hypotheses, and he calls for more research to be done in an area where few people have the courage or the intellectual integrity to do the work.
It seems obvious to me that nature and nurture play a role in human intelligence, as they seem to do in all human development. Moreover, it must be that nature and nurture have interacted and mutually influenced the other throughout human history. Human beings change and are changed by their human (cultural) and non-human environment. Furthermore, I suspect that each person, and in each grouping of related people (from more to less closely related), has a range of ability dictated by nature. Environmental conditions, personal choices, and the catch-all of fortune decide where in that range development actually reaches. As I have previously stated, a youth average in gymnastics ability would likely become much better at gymnastics were he placed in an intensive childhood training program—like that to which the Chinese Communists subject their Olympic athletes. It also seems likely that a boy naturally gifted in gymnastics ability would excel in basic gymnastics without any formal training—just by playing around in his yard. However, such a gifted lad would not even begin to reach his potential if he were raised as a couch potato who never climbed on the monkey bars. Yet, when someone with natural talent has the opportunity to develop his abilities, then he will excel to the heights of human accomplishment. It takes a special person to be Michael Phelps; not everyone can do it, even with the same resources and training. Why should this be different for matters of the mind?
Controlled reproduction—eugenics—clearly works in animal husbandry, even with “mental” qualities such as temperament and intelligence. This holds true not simply for individuals and litters but also for the extended family of a cultivated line—a breed. Certain breeds of dogs, for instance, have certain tendencies, and different breeds display various ability levels, though, as Aristotle observed, fringe exceptions occur in nature. With dogs, intelligence seems to be inherited. Why should we expect human beings to be any different?
Of course, the egalitarian Left has a problem with nature and with her unequal distribution of goods.
This topic reminds me of a comment that I made earlier in the year. In January, MSNBC fired Patrick Buchanan after negro “empowerment” groups complained about his arguments in Suicide of a Superpower, wherein Buchanan asked about the future of an America no longer populated by Old Americans. In response to an article in The Daily Caller about MSNBC’s severing of ties, a commentator named Stan wrote:
The defeat of Nazi Germany on the battlefield in 1945 had the direct consequence that open, honest discussion of race related issues has become forbidden, the ultimate taboo.
Boas-Lysenkoism rules in a true dictatorship not seen since the Soviet Union.
Witness even here on this so-called right wing website, how posters all claim that they are not “racists”, whatever that may mean.
In contrast, every single public figure, scientist, political leader, explorer, philosopher and intellectual in the nearly 3000 years of Western civilization, until the advent of Franz Boas, Lysenko and the Frankfurt School in the 1920-1930s, was a racist, in the real, proper sense of the term.
This madness is the suicide of the West.
Buchanan dared to say what should be obvious to anybody with half a brain.
To which I replied:
Don’t you know that the human race is mystically exempt from the the rules of genetics that we see in all other species? Inheritance and environmental influences on reproduction do not affect the human race. We should dub this Hallowed Truth our “immaculate evolution.” To think otherwise is to go down the slippery slope toward genocide! Or, at least, that is the sermon that I continually hear from all quarters. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but our Betters must be right.
Living creatures are complex, and human beings are especially so. We do not fully understand what makes us what and as we are. However, we know—and have known for millennia—enough about animal life to recognize the importance of inheritance. To what extent the various influences determine our aptitudes and dispositions remains a mystery. We should thus refrain from imposing ideology upon biology. As Unz argues, we need more evidence to reach a solid conclusion.