Belief Against an Intelligence Gap

JuliusBranson - [original thread]

Recently there has been discussion about the discussion about why the woke aren't here debating with us in large numbers, particularly with regards to the topic of HBD. This has so far culminated in an AMA by a self-prolaimed wokie which was quickly posted to the sub where the haters gather by the same account who started the AMA. The poster wanted to discuss many topics but I am going to focus on what he said about HBD as I feel that that is really what people are referring to when they bemoan the lack of woke in this subreddit. In other words, I think we have a healthy diversity, or at least a healthy amount of people who lean left, on topics such as sex, gender, class, economics, epistemology, ethics and so on. /u/Inconvenientprequel didn't directly mention HBD in his top post, instead opting to make statements like "Equality is good, actually" and "I think suffering is bad, compassion is good." I view these statements as utilitarian and I code that as left; I for one essentially do not agree with either of them and I feel like I am outnumbered in that sentiment here. Consequently I believe that we have a healthy amount of representation for that viewpoint here. I could go on but my point is that almost everyone here believes HBD, but a large chunk of those people see themselves as "blue tribe outcasts." Feel free to hash this out below if you think I'm wrong, but AFAIK those who want more wokists here agree with this, as I have seen it said here and there multiple times. The point I am making is when people say they want more woke here, that can more or less be boiled down to them wanted more people who don't agree with HBD. This is important because I'm going to look at why I think those who don't agree with HBD don't argue, and by extension if this past paragraph is correct it should help inform as to why the woke don't want to come here and argue.

Now I want to consider HBD as a simple, binary ideology: in general there are those who agree with it and those who do not. This is a simplification of a bimodal continuous distribution, but I don't think a lot of relevant nuance is lost as in practice those who believe it to some degree are lumped in with those who believe it to a larger degree by those who more or less believe it to no degree. This is what we see in this article, which I will be coming back to, by Turkheimer & co. Turkheimer et al argue that there is no evidence that there is any genetic component of the black-white IQ gap, and lumps Murray's hesitant statements in The Bell Curve in with people who believe the gap is totally heritable (such as myself). I don't think it's much of a leap to just note that this is generally how it works in real life as well, or in other words, that this lumping phenomenon is very common.

I for one am pretty sure that we have a sub with a nice diversity of pro-HBD viewpoints. Maybe this can be evidenced in the comment section. What I mean is that I would be surprised to find out that I am not outnumbered; that for every person who thinks the black-white IQ gap is 100% genetic there is a person who frequents this place who will say "wait a minute, it could be 50%" and another who will say maybe 80% and maybe even one who thinks it could be as low as 30%. What we are missing is people who think it's essentially 0%. People who might reasonably interpret the previous imagined discussion in such a way that you have surely read here and there, perhaps as "merely a discussion on how inferior black people are." Again, given a prior that HBD is totally false, this is totally reasonable. And of course this has been discussed in the meta-discussion: people who don't believe in HBD are probably scared off by HBD discussion because it's mean.

But why would that be so many people that we have essentially no one here who doesn't agree with HBD to some meaningful degree? I believe that the two different views select for temperamental differences. In other words, it's not random how people come to pro and anti-HBD views. It's not an equal pool of people on each side. It's not that some pro-HBD people are scared off by discussion of anti-HBD and vice versa. I in fact believe that anti-HBD people are much more likely to be "scared off" by discussion for one reason or another relative to pro-HBD people.

And specifically I think there are roughly two reasons why an anti-HBD person might be "scared off", and that these two reasons are analogous with why said person is anti-HBD. These two possible reasons are in turn analogous with my post on the Leader/Follower dichotomy for ideologies. My observation is that there are members of any ideology which are followers of other figures, and there are independent leaders of ideologies. The leader's psychology are what really explain the ideology, especially when it is dominant, since I believe most people will then follow said ideology because it is egoistically rational. Only weirdos (I jest) like us will irrationally dissent based on notions of "truth" or whatever else.

I observe that anti-HBD is the dominant ideology -- hopefully people can agree with this as most people here who work would probably lose their job if it were discovered that they believe that the black-white IQ gap is even partially due to genetics. Examples of HBD related cancellations come to mind: Hsu is one and Scott Alexander could also be considered one. It follows then that there will be a lot of followers who are anti-HBD because it is the expert and the social consensus. Indeed, when I listen to people I often here this. Many will explicitly refer to "consensus." Our friendly AMAer did this implicitly; instead of independently discussing systemic racism, here he merely linked a wikipedia article, and here he "just thinks HBD is false," linking two articles instead of generating his own argument. In contrast, he writes loads on socialism, citing specific facts, organizing them into arguments, etc. What we see here is none other than the leader/follower distinction: intellectually speaking, we may class our friendly AMAer as a 'leader' of Marxism and a follower of anti-HBD. He has thought independently about Marxism, but with regards to HBD he is simply going with expert consensus. On Marxism he has dug into the facts and can have an argument; he either knows it to be true or false but is otherwise sticking with it for personal reasons. But for HBD he knows only the expert consensus. He could not say first hand if it were true or false. In consequence there is no real discussion to be had about HBD with this poster. By definition, people are only equipped to defend ideologies which they may be classed as 'leaders' of. Linking a Vox or a Wikipedia article is just not an informed discussion. Those articles are not necessarily wrong, but by definition it isn't a discussion. People who are uninformed on HBD except for what the experts say about it are just not going to have a discussion about it because they obviously don't care enough about it to become capable of having an independent discussion about it. I for one am like this with many topics, for instance climate change. I know nothing about it either way and so I don't discuss it. This does lead to me being agnostic on the topic and staying completely silent; this is what people are complaining that most people who are nominally anti-HBD do. But it makes perfect sense to me: they don't care enough to debate the topic online, and since it's a dangerous topic, it obviously makes sense to give the socially expected answer if pressed. Such a person furthermore is unlikely to have many experiences that devalue "consensus," so instead of agnosticism they'll have slight agreement with anti-HBD because it's consensus. This is what I see in main subs a lot -- people who don't really care but kind of think it's mean to say IQ heritable and besides it's expert consensus that it isn't so just shut up and stop being racist okay? My point is that it's not really a mystery why they aren't here passionately debating with us.

What about anti-HBD 'leaders' and those more active followers who would swear their life on anti-HBD yet seem to never debate it beyond perhaps an article or an tangential argument that race is a social construct? Well, tautologically speaking, if we have a 'follower' who is uninformed on HBD yet swears by it or against it, they are obviously dogmatically motivated to begin with. Of course they're not going to show up and have a hearty debate. This leaves the 'leaders.' What about the 'leaders?' This is where Turkheimer comes in. I see two possible answers: the leaders should be informed enough to know if HBD is true or not. Do anti-HBD leaders genuinely believe in their position, or are they motivated by something else? If the former, we can theorize that there may be less of them for some reason, or they may just be too bored to debate since they're in power (how often do you debate flat earthers? To someone who is highly informed and genuinely believes HBD is false, pro-HBD people are flat earthers). If the latter, then it's obvious that not debating is a tactic of sorts.

Now I can go back to the Vox article that the AMAer linked. I want to understand Turkheimer, and reveal whether a forum frequenting amateur would love debating the topic if they knew what Turkheimer knew.

Long story short, I don't want to reinvent the wheel. Someone already wrote an excellent analysis of this question and concluded:

He has committed himself to the misrepresentation of science, its history, and the actors within it, for clearly ideological reasons.

I urge you to read this whole article, for it is magnificent, but I will provide highlights:

First Turkheimer has stated twice that he has the motive to obscure the truth regarding HBD:

If it is ever documented conclusively, the genetic inferiority of a race on a trait as important as intelligence will rank with the atomic bomb as the most destructive scientific discovery in human history. The correct conclusion is to withhold judgment.

I should be clear that I am not making a “both sides do it” argument. It is the hereditarians who are trying to reach a strong and potentially destructive conclusion, and the burden is absolutely on them to demonstrate that they have a well-grounded empirical and quantitative theory to work with. So, if you are out there and think that group differences t [sic] are at least partially genetic, please explain exactly what you mean, in empirical terms.

Next, the Scarr-Rowe effect. Turkheimer likes to argue (this is in the Vox article) that the heritability of IQ correlates with SES positively, and that this implies that the black-white IQ gap is not caused by genetic differences.

The size of this effect is usually small and this literature is plagued by faulty methods and bad statistical reporting (most interactions, as in all fields, fail or are absurdly weak). Turkheimer (with Richard Nisbett and Paige Harden) implies that the Scarr-Rowe effect can explain some part of the racial gap in ability:

The heritability of intelligence, although never zero, is markedly lower among American children raised in poverty. Several interpretations of this fact are possible. The one we find most persuasive is that children raised in those circumstances are unable to take full advantage of their genetic potential because they do not have access to the high-quality environments that could support it.

It is implied that blacks show lower heritabilities because they are generally poorer than white Americans. However, the heritability of cognitive ability has been found to be essentially the same regardless of race in the US. This is an instance where Turkheimer is verifiably promoting fraud. He has done this more than once. In the article where he makes that quote — an article discussing racial differences — , he links to his 2003 Scarr-Rowe finding from the NCPP study. This finding has never replicated at this magnitude and is, in fact, by far the largest effect size in the literature on this subject. More importantly, however, is that this study did not find a Race x SES interaction and that Turkheimer knew this. Turkheimer also knows that the heritability of IQ, like many traits, increases with age — this is one confound he is confident in ignoring. Here’s the relevant table omitted from the cited study:

The table is one that shows a) Turkheimer's data is from 4 and 7 year olds (this is totally unacceptable) and more importantly b) while he found a difference in heritability by SES (which never replicated to the degree he reported it), he found that there were no heritability differences by race. He is quoted showing that he knew this yet he never states this in his articles. In fact he generally just ignores data that contradicts his reasoning (which is fallacious), like that in The Bell Curve which shows that the IQ gap between blacks and whites persists at the highest SES levels. Turkheimer's reasoning is fallacious because he is essentially arguing that within group heritability implies something about between group heritability. He himself states that it is improper to do this, because heritability is typically reported to be high and so doing this typically results in claims that the between groups heritability is equally high. But his arguments are essentially obscure extensions of this fallacy. He argues that heritability is lower among the poor, more black people are poor, so the heritability of IQ among black people is on average lower than among white people (when directly tested this isn't even true, because the Scarr-Rowe effect is too weak and apparently not universal enough, but that's besides the point), so the heritability of the black-white IQ gap must be low, or even 0 as he attempts to argue in the Vox article. His statements on the Flynn effect, prominently featured in the Vox article, are also an obscured form of this fallacy. Nevermind the fact that the Flynn effect has nothing to do with the gap as it impacts both races equally: Turkheimer argues that since IQ has "risen" via the Flynn effect, heritability must be low, and so the black-white IQ gap must be low. Both implication steps here are non-sequiters. It makes no sense at all.

He also just totally ... ignores the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study. He ignores this while talking about within groups adoption studies showing poor people have lower IQ heritability, leaping from this fallaciously to predicting the opposite of what the MTRAS results were. Let me remind that this is in addition to ignoring the data in The Bell Curve on the black-white IQ gap at different SES's. Also in that Vox article they try to say the gap closed a bit, ignoring data from 2012 stating otherwise, saying they are only aware of data from 2009, even though the article was written in 2017.

Based on his biased comments and his non-sequiturs, I conclude that Turkheimer does not genuinely, descriptively believe in anti-HBD. He is motivated by something other than hard data. Since he is well informed, this suggests to me that /u/Ilforte is essentially correct: there is evaporative cooling. There are those who are uninformed and therefore cannot debate HBD, and there are those who become informed. Frankly, this analysis of Turkheimer and my own beliefs suggest that those become informed will become pro-HBD to some degree, because it is the side the evidence is more for. Those who do otherwise are biased against truth in some way -- of course they don't want to come on the forum of light and not heat and have their ideas be open for public scrutiny and so on. It is more characteristic of such a mind to worry about giving pro-HBDers too much attention, anyway.

I conclude that we have no "woke"/anti-HBD people here because pretty much no one interested in arguing for truth on an inconsequential internet forum is anti-HBD. Those who are anti-HBD are either informed like Turkheimer or just don't care enough to bother with politics in general. I think this solves the great mystery that has grasped this forum in the last week, and hopefully it is put to rest.