Ability, Heredity, and Race. Can a black-white performance gap be hereditary but not racial?

This article treads on territory that many consider thin ice.  from Slate.com  bulk of article is here.


"Ability, Heredity, and Race."

There's nothing unusual about dismissing race as social construct. Racism watchdogs do it all the time. But they do it precisely to deny hereditary differences between blacks and whites. The authors of this study are affirming hereditary differences. That's what they mean by "survival fitness in different parts of the globe during thousands of years." Evolution in Europe and evolution in Africa produced different results.



Lose the Race: Can a black-white performance gap be hereditary but not racial?
By William Saletan

"Anthropometric measurements of large populations show that systematic differences exist among blacks, whites and Asians. The published evidence is massive: blacks have longer limbs than whites, and because blacks have longer legs and smaller circumferences (e.g. calves and arms), their center of mass is higher than that in other individuals of the same height. Asians and whites have longer torsos, therefore their centers of mass are lower.

These structural differences, they argue, generate differences in performance. Using equations about the physics of locomotion, they analyze racing as a process of falling forward. Based on this analysis, they conclude that having a higher center of body mass in a standing position is advantageous in running but disadvantageous in swimming.


The authors of the original article go on to discuss the meaning of performance differences among different groups, while trying to avoid being racist.  It's such a fine line, Im curious about what free-thinking people will think.  Where is the line between acknowledging that different sorts of traits and  talents may accumulate more in some populations than others, vs. being racist, vs. falling into what some would call liberal political correctness (sorry if that term offends,please  give me a better one if that's the case) to avoid sounding racist?

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Replies to This Discussion

This is a touchy subject for some people. What comes to mind for me is to consider the physical differences between the two sexes of male and female. I understand there is at least one other sex, intersex but for the purposes of discussion, I'll stick to the two.

When it comes to performance measures, males are on average, stronger and faster. I acknowledge this and have no problem with it. A female can make up for that gap through vigorous manners of training and be on equal par. However the males appear to naturally surpass females in measures of strength and speed. In measures of endurance, I believe both females and males are of equal averages.

What the problem is with either race or gender performance gaps is what it may imply about the superiority of one over the other. Studies such as these can be exploited and used as evidence to subordinate races, classes and sexes. These issues have to be carefully monitored which is what organizations such as UNESCO is for.

So again, I myself have no problem acknowledging that some races of people may be able to outperform others in certain areas but I keep a sharp eye out when they start to conduct gene testing to test hypothesis of hereditary differences. Lest we end up with another Tuskegee on our hands.
Years ago, while teaching myself about cybernetics, I ran across the slogan "A difference is a difference that makes a difference."

What you measure or why you measure will define what differences exist. One can measure center of gravity but that has no difference with regard to intelligence. I would posit that race or gender are the same as center of gravity for the purposes of intelligence. Conversely, intelligence is of no predictive power when discussing running (I will state that racing, not just running, can be affected by intelligence.)

Bunnys' approach is right on target, I think. It is not an issue that will go away because folks are the kind of critters that, while wanting to part of a group, also want to distinguish the groups or themselves within the groups. Beside the socio-political watchdogs we need to be, a reminder of Dr Seuss' tale of the star-bellied sneetches should be inserted into any situation that is starting to go off the rails.
I don't see that the authors did anything to address the charge of irrelevant racial divisiveness, other than denying it in the introduction. The POINT of this study is to compare Europeans to Africans, judging from the excerpts presented, isn't it?

They conclude that advantages are due to morphology. But isn't that obvious? Why did they not just study this irrespective of race? Long-limbed people of any skin color are probably better runners. How has injecting Race done anything but confuse the issue? Wait....it sells books.
Brilliant observation. But as we all know race is just that more eye-catching, and shocking. The racial aspect of the essay was added for sensationalism.
As soon as I saw this in my email I said 'uh oh' at first, but then I just became more curious as I always do when I see topics like these. I think this topic is normally centered on the IQ-gap and it's implications on social policies in America. Whites in America have an IQ average of 100 while blacks have an IQ of 85; Asians have an IQ of 105(It might be 106). From what I've read scientists believe it is 50%genetic and 50% environmental. I don't think IQ is the end all be all of everything. Just like I don't think physiological differences enhance or diminish who we are. They are just differences. We all share the same planet and should be encouraged to understand as much as we can about it and about ourselves while we're here. The research done is for the truth. The truth is we have differences but we have too much in common to dwell on differences. And 'Bunnys Blade' and 'Glenn Sogge' are both right. Like Glenn says "What you measure or why you measure will define what differences exist." This is very true.

And Bunny I agree, these studies are almost always used by demagogues and racists to deny civil rights to other people unlike themselves. It's funny. Some bigots use religion to trick people to hate, others try to use statistics for a more sophisticated approach. But at the end of the day these bigots hurt science and humanity by distorting discovery and by dividing us more than we ever would be naturally. The racist pseudo-scientists people look at the achievement gap in standardized testing and say 'look, see, we can't do anything. There's no such thing as equality.' But that's untrue. If the liberals are too caught up in the environmental explanation the extreme right is too caught up in the genetic explanation. I think the only thing social policy should ensure in our society is equity of opportunity. This doesn't mean outcomes but equal access to education, employment, public services etc.

I too am open to any objective scientific inquiry and data concerning pretty much anything. I love science and think it is part of what makes us human; it drives us forward in discovering more about ourselves and the world around us. This is why the results don't make me go into hysterics, they just make me look into the topic more. And that's why I think the subject can get very touchy because these demagogues and human filthbags use these studies for the wrong reasons.

*End of Rant*



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