It’s Not Just Derbyshire: Charles Murray Can’t Answer the Question Either

While it’s good news that John Derbyshire lost his job at National Review Online for his disgusting racist screed, Freddie deBoer notes that Derbyshire’s arguments about IQ and race aren’t different from many of the ‘genetic conservatives’ (boldface mine):

Some people are expressing incredulity that Derbyshire has not yet been fired. But why? William Saletan still has a career. And his series of essays endorsing race science used the exact same research that the grimier, Stormfront-reading wing of the racist Internet references time and again. Elspeth Reeve’s piece in the Atlantic attacking Derbyshire plays this same game. Reeve claims “Derbyshire doesn’t say that black people, especially women, are pathetically stupid people….” Yes! Yes he does! Here’s Derbyshire:

The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”

That is precisely saying that black people are pathetically stupid people. It is so aggravating that journalists, under the guise of attacking race science, repeat this canard that there is somehow a more responsible, less racist version of race science….

If we’re going to make progress and move beyond the John Derbyshires of the world, we have to stop pretending that there is some difference between what Derbyshire wrote and books like the Bell Curve. And we have to insist on honesty from those who talk about these issues. Weigel makes hay out of the fact that Taki Mag is a fringe publication. But Slate is not a fringe publication. The New Republic is not a fringe publication. Mainstream publications dip their toes in these waters all the time.

Like Derbyshire, Murray and the racialists (potential band name!) wouldn’t be able to explain why the Alabama-Massachusetts gap among non-poor whites with college-educated parents is as large as the black-white gap in Massachusetts. Because this is the issue:

Murray really needs to be asked why these two states differ so much–and remember, these are not poor children, and these children also have well-educated parents. If it’s genetic, well, I hope conservatives have fun explaining how ‘real Americans’ (as opposed to coastal, subway-riding ‘elites’) are genetically inferior. “It’s not your fault you’re stupid, you were born that way…” If it’s cultural, then that would invalidate much of what Murray preaches in Coming Apart. Massachusetts has a relatively expansive state government and liberal social policies (e.g., gay marriage). And remember: you can’t cite a ‘culture of poverty’ or the supposed decline of the lower-middle class. The parents of these students are college-educated and not-poor (at least 200% of the poverty line)

There’s a lot of this IQ racialism lurking around the conservative movement (as well as the brave contrarians like Andrew Sullivan, whom I mock here). And even if they think they’re just being ‘bold intellectual explorers’ or some other bullshit (never mind that they never address serious methodological and statistical problems with IQ), many who cheer them on are nothing but despicable racists.

I suppose Derbyshire did us a favor: he showed us how, under the IQ flimflam, there’s just the usual movement conservative id.

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6 Responses to It’s Not Just Derbyshire: Charles Murray Can’t Answer the Question Either

  1. joemac53 says:

    I read his book on the Riemann Hypothesis. I loved that book. I did not believe there was such a thing as a “conservative” author about math. I even expressed that to him in an e-mail thanking him for the book. He had never crossed my radar before. (2003)
    The more I read of his non-math work the more I was appalled, so this latest finds me appalled but not surprised. I am so disappointed, and I’m done.
    I ain’t reading no more.

  2. AndrewV says:

    Well Mike,

    I was particularly amused at this comment :

    “It occurred to me that Taki’s Magazine might take down John Derbyshire’s racist rant after all the negative attention it has justly received”.

    In case you are wondering, in my experience anyone who knows anything about Taki would rate the chances of that happening to be vanishingly small.

    I had read the article at Taki’s coincidentally, shortly after sending him an email declining his invitation to lunch, but offering him the same the next time he is in my neck of the woods, and if I had had the foresight to send it later, I would most probably have included a bon mot on the subject.

    Quite frankly, there is nothing wrong about the practical advise that John gave, and the proof of that is in how we actually order our lives, those of us that is, who are actually in a position to do so.

    My practical advise to you is to stop writing about race and IQ, on the grounds that it apparently increases your blood pressure to dangerously elevated levels and the attendant consequences.

    That would be a shame, as you have afforded me many moments of amusement, and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.

  3. Chuck says:

    “Like Derbyshire, Murray and the racialists (potential band name!) wouldn’t be able to explain why the Alabama-Massachusetts gap among non-poor whites with college-educated parents is as large as the black-white gap in Massachusetts.”

    Ah, yes, yet another moronic anti-IQ-diatribe from “mike” the mad biologist. Mike, Arthur Jensen discussed this specific issue 40 years ago in “Educability and Group Differences.” It’s well recognized by “racialists.”

    I’d be happy to debate the race-IQ issue with you. If you’re interested — and think that you’re up to it — drop a comment on my blog.

  4. Chuck says:

    “Never mind that they never address serious methodological and statistical problems with IQ”

    Cosma Shalizi’s critique was dated even before he wrote it. Which specific “methodological and statistical problems” do you have in mind?

    • Chuck,

      1) I would take you more seriously if your blog you left actually existed (; you seem to have deleted it.

      2) Explain to me how Shalizi is wrong. Seriously. Especially the problems with g, as well as why Shalizi’s simulations are wrong regarding positive correlations, both in terms of the basic issue that positive correlated measures (which are how IQ tests are designed) will always yield a significant g even when the underlying factors aren’t causally correlated, as well as the outcomes of his simulations (along with Glymour’s arguments in his paper).

  5. Chuck says:

    (1) I comment on the race/IQ issue here:
    (2) As for Shalizi’s statistical artifact critique against statistical g, a positive correlation is not a mathematical necessity and all IQ subtests are not designed to positively correlate, so we are left explaining the positive correlation.. Were the positive correlation a product of the design of IQ tests, as Shalizi suggests, the g-factors extracted from different batteries of tests should be different. But they are not. Johnson et al. discuss this: “To the extent that there is a g factor, g factor measurements among individuals should be independent of the specific mental ability tests used to define the factor. That is, the nature of the general factor should be uniform from test battery to test battery. If the nature of the g factor changes with the composition of the test battery, the factor analytic approach to identifying structure is arbitrary, and so are the factors identified through its use (Horn, 1989). Put simply, the question is whether there is only one g. (“Just one g: consistent results from three test batteries”).

    As for Shalizi’s critique of biological-g theory — there are now three competing g theories — refer yourself to Bartholomew’s much cited “Measuring intelligence: Facts and fallacies” for a lucid discussion on g inferences.

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