Liberal says liberals must reconcile with racial IQ differences, just as Christians reconciled with Darwinism

(Note: based on the dual theme of Saletan’s article as reflected in the title of this entry, the entry contains two unrelated discussions going on side by side, one on race differences, the other on Darwinism. I regret any confusion that this may create.)

When Amy Harmon in the New York Times virtually admitted the existence of inherited racial differences in intelligence, I said that this was something new under the sun. Some doubted that. But here’s further proof of the signal importance of Harmon’s article. Echoing Harmon almost word for word, William Saletan at Slate writes:

I wish these assurances [that James Watson hadn’t a “scientific leg to stand on” when he said that that black Africans are less intelligent than whites] were true. They aren’t. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there’s strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It’s time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true. [Italics added.]

Saletan goes on to lay out the case for inherited racial differences in intelligence, including the correlation of brain size and IQ, which he finds particularly convincing. (That’s brain size being discussed. In Slate.) He doesn’t sound at all like someone preparing himself to accept an unwelcome truth; he sounds like someone who is already convinced that the races differ markedly in intelligence, and that this difference is largely genetic.

That’s arch-liberal William Saletan saying this. In the very liberal Slate.

Interestingly, Saletan compares the present dilemma of liberals such as himself and his readers to the dilemma of earlier Christians facing the “fact” of Darwinian evolution:

Evolution forced Christians to bend or break. They could insist on the Bible’s literal truth and deny the facts, as Bryan did. [LA adds: this is the usual smear of Bryan, cultivated by a half century of replays of Inherit the Wind. In fact Bryan did not argue for the literal truth of Genesis.] Or they could seek a subtler account of creation and human dignity. Today, the dilemma is yours. You can try to reconcile evidence of racial differences with a more sophisticated understanding of equality and opportunity. Or you can fight the evidence and hope it doesn’t break your faith.

I’m for reconciliation. Later this week, I’ll make that case.

I’m really looking forward to reading Saletan’s reconciliation of liberalism with inherited racial IQ differences, which he will model on the Christians’ reconciliation of Christianity with Darwinism. What will this reconciliation consist of? Let’s see … Just as today’s Christians accept Darwinism, but still believe that God ultimately directed the Darwinism random mutations (!!!), and also believe that God planted a moral soul in man after Darwinian evolution had—by a strictly random process of random mutations which was teleologically directed by God—attained the human form, Saletan will concede that yes, there are intrinsic racial differences in intelligence, but these differences only reinforce society’s profound moral obligation to ensure that all racial groups despite their differences in intellectual ability achieve the same socioeconomic outcomes.

My bottom line: Just as Darwinian evolution based on random genetic mutations cannot be honestly reconciled with a Creator who guides evolution and intended man to exist, the truth of intrinsic race IQ differences cannot be reconciled with the modern liberal belief in the substantive equality of all human groups. However, there is a big difference between the two cases. In the first case, Darwinism is false, and Christianity is true, while in the second case, inherited race differences are true, and liberal substantive equality is false. The true position, then, is that a divine creator exists, and that human groups instrinsically differ in their abilities. This is not a contradiction, because “micro-evolution,” the differentiation of groups within a given species, is a fact, while “macro-evolution” or Darwinian evolution, the appearance of new species and new life forms as a result of random mutations and natural selection, is both unproven and intrinsically impossible.

- end of initial entry -

A reader writes:

You almost have to be grateful that whites are on average less intelligent than Asians, it permits the subject to be discussed somewhat.

James W. writes:

Saletan did just admit to his ideology being a faith. Was this inadvertent?

If liberals gain a new understanding that their clients are not only victims of Caucasians, but of intelligence, that will change nothing in their approach. This would assume the original understandings were based on reason, scholarship, and principle; making it possible then to correct a mistake. But they were not. The same itch that formed their original misunderstandings will simply expand old ones. That can not be reasoned down that was not reasoned up.

You cannot correct a liberal without his becoming a conservative. That is why it happens so infrequently.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

I thought Saletan’s article would catch your eye. It does seem to me that more and more liberals are leaning toward the position you’ve described—that yes, there may be some intrinsic differences in IQ, but this only reinforces society’s obligation to seek what Thomas Sowell refers to as “cosmic justice” by organizing itself so as to achieve equal outcomes. It might even form the basis of a new liberal consensus regarding such things as affirmative action: if the problem of different outcomes is somehow intractable, because of something as unalterable as our biology, then this assures the liberal establishment a never-ending mission, and liberal bureaucrats are guaranteed a never-ending supply of jobs and funding. It might even allow them to stop pretending that there could ever be an end point to the leveling process, that in 20 or so years we can do away with affirmative action. The shameful and embarrassing promise of the Grutter decision, to violate the Constitution’s plain meaning only so long as is needed to achieve liberal conceptions of justice, can be abandoned altogether. How many liberals will be willing to embrace some selective and limited biological determinism in order to justify their never-ending administration of all goods and social relations?

It’s hard to say, but you can look to some minor precedents, such as the feminist approach to military, law enforcement, firefighter, and emergency rescue training. In those areas, physical differences between groups have been grudgingly accepted by even most self-described liberals (though there are some laughable hold-outs on that front as well). The basic idea there has been that no testing procedure which produces disparate outcomes—which are inevitable under a uniform standard—is at all acceptable. Better to have females serving on the decks of aircraft carriers who are utterly incapable of performing basic emergency tasks than to admit to any general differences between male and female sailors. So something like a permanent, outcome-oriented double standard should be expected, if—and that’s a big if—the liberal establishment ever comes around to accepting group differences in IQ. Their devotion to outcomes has never been based in any hard evidence that groups are equal in native aptitude anyway (making unsupported, anti-empirical assertions and shrieking “racist!” being regarded as sufficiently rigorous argumentation in those circles), so it won’t really amount to a repudiation of any previously-endorsed scientific proposition.

I think they can and will pull it off, but probably in a non-explicit way. No plainly-worded climb-down on their part is likely, and lots of fuzzy “research” and obfuscatory op-eds by eminent-sounding liberal sociologists purporting to debunk the notion of group differences can be expected. (My favorite—“There are more differences within groups than among them!” which proves exactly nothing.) But a quiet move in the direction of permanent, institutionalized favoritism for the less-capable is almost certain to find its justification in either (1) the proposition that all groups are equal in ability, or (2) the proposition that they aren’t. Ain’t liberalism grand? No matter what the facts, you can expect the exact same policy.

LA writes:

In a continuation of Saletan’s article (Slate’s formatting does not exactly make it clear that there is second part of the article), he consideres the evidence against the genetic theory of racial differences in IQ. I haven’t read it yet.

A. Zarkov writes:

You say:

” … the appearance of new species and new life forms as a result of random mutations and natural selection, is both unproven and intrinsically impossible.”

How is it intrinsically impossible that new species can arise from random mutations or from the main driver of speciation: genetic drift? It’s one thing to say that we don’t yet have a confirmed mechanism of new species creation, and quite another to assert that it’s impossible for such a mechanism to exist.

You also say:

“… Just as Darwinian evolution based on random genetic mutations cannot be honestly reconciled with a Creator who guides evolution and intended man to exist, … “

What do you mean by “random?” Very few people understand, or can even properly define what “random” means. The dictionary definition is really inadequate, and this concept remained somewhat vague until the 1970s. Thanks to the work of the mathematicians Chaitan, Kolmorgov and Solomonov, we can now define randomness without recourse to vague notions like “without purpose meaning or pattern.” For example a sequence of numbers can appear to be random, yet be generated by a simple algorithm. The random number generators in computers provides a good example. Chaos theory from physics shows that a purely deterministic mechanism can produce seemingly random behavior in non-linear mechanical systems. I do not see why a divine creator must produce a universe that looks purposeful to humans. We could write a computer simulation of evolution that produced new species relying on an apparently random mechanism, yet was fully deterministic in the sense that we could predict everything from the start and would be completely repeatable if restarted with the same initial conditions. Given enough resources we could make the synthetic computer universe look more and more like a real universe. All we can rule out is a class of creators that must produce purposeful looking universes. We cannot rule out all creators.

LA replies:

I have dealt with and, I think, decisively refuted this same argument numerous times, yet people keep coming back and repeating it again and again without even acknowledging my previous statements on the matter. If the Creator created a universe based on an algorithm which would operate in a way that would appear random to humans but in fact was planned by the Creator to have certain results, then the process by which those results were achieved IS NOT RANDOM, but the result of a purposeful intelligence.

It is absolutely amazing to me the number of times I have seen this same argument presented, using the same words and the same example, a random number generator.

I also notice that while Mr. Zarkov says that I don’t understand the definition of random and that he is going to provide me with the correct definition, he doesn’t do so.

His notion of randomness seems to come down to the idea that if the process that produces a particular event appears to the observer to be random, then it’s random, even if the process was in reality designed by a divine intelligence to produce that result!

To my poor brain which just uses logic and common sense, the argument that randomness is compatible with purposeful intelligence is sheerest double-talk. And I think the only reason that intelligent people keep having recourse to this transparently absurd argument is that they are deeply committed to two beliefs that in reality are mutually exclusive: a divine Creator, and Darwinian evolution by random mutations and natural selection. They can’t give up either one. So they keep promoting this absurd argument which they think reconciles the irreconcilable. Their persistence reminds me of Edward Kennedy speaking at the 1980 Democratic National Convention: “The dream will never die.”

LA continues:

Note also that the random generation of numbers by a computer that Mr. Zarkov presents as his model for God’s guidance of evolution really is random, that is, it produces a sequence of numbers that have no pattern at all, even as God’s “random mutation generator” as posited by Mr. Zarkov is designed to produce a definite result. So his model, and the thing his model is intended to prove, do not conform with each other.

A. Zarkov writes:

You said: “If the Creator created a universe based on an algorithm which would operate in a way that would appear random to humans but in fact was planned by the Creator to have certain results, then the process by which those results were achieved IS NOT RANDOM, but the result of intelligent purposefulness.”

Exactly. But I think you assume that evolution must proceed on the basis of a truly random mechanism. That might be a sufficient condition for evolution, but I fail to see why it’s a necessary one.

Here is another example. I can encipher a message using computer generated random numbers or using random numbers from a radioactive source. The latter is equivalent to a one-time pad, and is provably uncrackable. But the former can in principle be cracked using methods of cryptography. If I can’t decode a given message, I don’t know whether that’s because the encryption used truly random numbers or I’m not clever enough to crack it. Just because we can’t (as yet) divine a purposeful message in evolution doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

LA replies:

So according to you, Darwinian evolution doesn’t have to be truly random. There could be a hidden designer behind the apparently random evolution and according to you that would be in conformity with Darwinian evolution, because, as you put it, there is no necessary reason why Darwinian evolution must be based on a truly random mechanism.

I don’t mean to sound as though I’m displeased with you personally, but I’ve run into this so often that it gets a little maddening. You act as though YOU can define Darwinian evolution any way you want to, to suit YOUR notion of what Darwinian evolution is or might be. But you don’t have the right to do that. Darwinian evolution has a definition, it means something definite, it means that the purely chance mutations that appear in the genomes of organisms get selected naturally and then accumulate into new features, new organs, new species, new orders, new phyla. That’s Darwinian evolution. Now if you think that it’s possible that there’s a divine creator who is creating what seems like a random process of mutations but which in reality is not random, well, that’s Zarkovian evolution. It’s not Darwinian evolution.

People do not have the right to re-define established concepts any way they like.

It’s like people saying in the midst of a debate on feminism’s campaign against the “patriarchy,” “Oh, but that’s not what I mean by feminism. What I mean by feminism is simply that women are treated like human beings!” Well, sorry, but (as Phyllis Schlafly once said to a young woman who used this argument), you don’t have the right to define feminism any way you like. Feminism is a recognized set of beliefs promoted by and associated with the best known promoters of feminism. If you have your own beliefs which are different from that, then those are your beliefs, they’re not feminism.

So, the subject of this debate is not Zarkovian evolution or Austerian evolution. The subject of this debate is Darwinian evolution. Let’s keep our eyes on that fact.

Bruce B. writes:

I’m less scientifically literate than some of you readers but here’s my thoughts:

I think “random” in the context of computer simulation (a clumsy analogy in describing our Creator handiwork, but one which I’ve also used) means a uniform distribution, that is, any possible input number is equally probable.

But can science really measure the aggregation of inputs to the system over 3 billion years and tell that the distribution is uniform or bi-modal or normal or whatever? My best guess is they haven’t and can’t. All they have is an idea that sounds plausible to them. Has anyone described the mechanisms of input to the system beyond broad generalizations? [Italics added.] I think randomness is an article of faith for the Darwinists, right?

LA replies:

Exactly right. This whole idea is just an ideational concoction coming out of nowhere, which people justify on nothing more solid than the notion that, given the infinitude of God, there is no necessary reason why it could not be true.

But this is not correct. God cannot make 2 plus 2 equal five. God cannot turn a triangle into a circle so that it still keeps its properties as a triangle. God cannot will something to happen through his intelligent purposefulness and make it happen through Darwinian chance mutations.

People do not have the right to use the infinitude of God as a licence to give credence to absurd and ridiculous speculations.

It would be like arguing that there’s no necessary reason why the entire universe with all its galaxies and stars is not really a day dream taking place in the head of an Italian guy sitting in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, with the entire 15 billion year history of the universe taking place between two sips of coffee (a sort of cosmic version of one of Joseph Knecht’s “Imaginary Lives” at the end of Herman Hesse’s Magister Ludi). Since God is infinite, he can do anything, right?

Jeff R. writes:

I am one of those who are truly surprised to read William Saletan’s piece in Slate and to hear of Amy Harmon’s ruminations on race and IQ. I read the Slate piece but not Harmon’s piece in the New York Times.

My reaction is one of anger; burning, seething anger. For decades, when intellectuals on the right have speculated openly and honestly about racial differences and intelligence they have had their lives and careers ruined. These two liberals can do the same with absolute impunity! Why? Simply and only because they are liberals. Its infuriating! Now that liberals are free to do so; however, I expect no such freedom will be allowed those on the right.

It is very revealing how Saletan uses the analogy of religious faith to describe how liberals might respond to what it appears now is simply the undeniable truth. Knowingly or not, he has hit upon a clear truth. Liberal egalitarianism is an ideologically driven faith that has struggled with the contradicting reality for over two centuries and has almost destroyed Western civilization as a result. But what will become of the faith when the facts can no longer be ignored? Liberalism will do what is has always done; define the terms upon and the context within which the incongruity will be explained! Never, even when its most fundamental tenet is shown to be false, will liberals give up the faith! That is what Saletan must argue in his next installment, which I too eagerly await. Cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics, which have always been the greatest hallmarks of liberal thought, will surely be on display in great volume. That is my prediction.

Bill in Maryland:
You write:

“Micro-evolution,” the differentiation of groups within a given species, is a fact, while “macro-evolution” or Darwinian evolution, the appearance of new species and new life forms as a result of random mutations and natural selection, is both unproven and intrinsically impossible.

Much of the heat that arises in VFR over the issue of evolution derives from different meanings attached to the terms employed. “Microevolution”, as you say, refers to differences that arise within a single species; by definition, these changes will not result in separating the population into distinct breeding sub-populations. “Macroevolution” is used by biologists to mean evolutionary change that results in the formation of new species, new genera, etc. Creationists use macroevolution to mean the development of novel characteristics—eg an eye, where there was none before. Such changes, if they took place, would almost certainly result in the development of what would be considered a new species, but the principle does not work in reverse: speciation is not necessarily a consequence of the development of functional novelty. Speciation occurs, for example, whenever isolated sub-species, originally reproductively compatible, change genetically to the point where interbreeding produces sterile hybrids (or, if the genetic distance is great enough, stillbirth or no birth at all). This humble form of speciation has been observed many times.

I would say that the correct formulation of your objection to Evolution Theory is that you deny that the combination of random genetic change and natural selection can give rise to functional novelty, i.e. random genetic change and natural selection can shuffle the characteristics of a population around and even produce reproductively isolated sub-populations from what was once a single breeding population, but it is incapable of being creative.

LA replies:

Without going into more detail than I want to go into at the moment, I think Bill’s formulation of my position is reasonable. When we’re speaking of speciation in and of itself, it appears that there is sometimes a gray area, such as Bill has described. Therefore it would appear that speciation in and of itself does not necessarily provide the bright red line we’re looking for. Expanding on Bill’s formulation of my position, to me the bright red line beyond which Darwinian evolution does not go is one of the following: (1) functional novelty (the modern human cerebrum, perhaps); (2) entirely new organs (the bacterium flagellum, the eye); and (3) entirely new life forms, whether phyla (e.g. chordata), sub-phyla (e.g. vertebrates), classes (e.g. amphibians), genuses (e.g. whales), or species (e.g. Homo sapiens).

Jeremy G. writes:

Innate race differences in intelligence are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. These newly emergent race-realist liberals may now believe that blacks are just like lower IQ working class whites. However, the innate differences in sensibility (i.e. differences in personality, in capacity for foresight, in tendencies towards violence, etc) are far more deadly to liberalism than differences in IQ. When whites increasingly begin to realize and publicly discuss the reality that the very high levels of black violence and other black pathologies are innate and are not the products of a racist white society, efforts towards integration will become substantially subdued. And how can liberals in good conscience prevent this discussion from taking place, having just acknowledged the reality of the century-long suppressed truth of racial differences in IQ?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 19, 2007 11:18 AM | Send

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