FINAL: Human Intelligence and Racism (myers 5/5/98
This research topic submitted by Kris Still and Emily Gibson ( email@example.com ) on 5/6/98 .
According to Martin Heidegger from the time Plato introduced this utopian vision in The Republic to the present, Western philosophy has been striving to create a unique, closed and final picture of the world, which could be classified as truth. Heidegger further asserts that Western science, modern technology, and American pragmatism are outgrowths of this "will to power" which has dominated the history of Western philosophy.
In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Gould traces the history of biological determinism in attempt to demonstrate the scientific weaknesses and political context that created determinist arguments. This history begins with Plato utopian vision, proceeds through the pre-evolutionary era of craniometry and ends with the hereditarian theory of IQ.
In our study, we correlated the three major factors that affect and individuals status-race, class, and gender-with answers to individual questions about IQ testing and the heritability of IQ given by 83 undergraduate chemistry students at Miami University. Ultimately what we hoped to prove was that in accordance with Heidegger's notion that dominant groups uses science as a justification for their superior position, individuals from dominant socio-economic groups would be more likely to support the hereditarian argument that intelligence is a single, testable entity that follows Mendelian rules of inheritance and that this results in inherent genetic differences between various groups.
Our data analysis consisted of eight chi-square analyses and included summary data, observed frequencies, and expected values. The purpose of each test is to determine whether or not race, gender, or economic status affects a subject's answers and furthermore whether the dominant group is more likely to support ideas that IQ tests, measure a biologically predetermined entity
Overall, for each of our analyses the chi-square value is greater than 0.05 and therefore our data was inconclusive. It should be noted, however, that this fact is most likely the result of a homogenous population whose answers to our questions appeared arbitrary and inconsistent.
In his Republic, Plato outlines a society where citizens should be "educated and assigned by merit to three classes: rulers, auxiliaries, and craftsmen." (Popkin 127) Stability of the society was dependent on honoring these ranks and the citizens acceptance of them. According to Martin Heidegger from the time Plato introduced this utopian vision in The Republic to the present, Western philosophy has been striving to create a unique, closed and final picture of the world, which could be classified as truth. (Linn 41) Richard Rorty extends this argument to say that Western metaphysical philosophy has identified this truth with power assuming that "truth is somehow a matter of the stronger overcoming the weaker." (Rorty 32) Heidegger further asserts that Western science, modern technology, and American pragmatism are outgrowths of this "will to power" which has dominated the history of Western philosophy. (Linn 42)
A perfect example of the application of this will to power can be found in idea of biological determinism-which is the notion that "social and economic differences between human groups (primarily races, classes, and sexes) arise from inherited inborn distinctions and that society, in this sense is an accurate reflection of our biology." (Gould 52) This theory has its origins in The Republic and represents a transplant of the will to power from the realm of philosophy to the scientific realm. One of the principle themes of the biological determinism argument is the claim that worth can be assigned by measuring intelligence as a single quantity. Determinists have relied on two major sources of data two support this theme during the last century: craniometry and intelligence testing.
In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Gould traces the history of biological determinism in attempt to demonstrate the scientific weaknesses and political context that created determinist arguments. His goal is not to condemn determinists as evil men that strayed from the path of scientific objectivity, but instead criticize the myth that science is the pinnacle of objectivity free from the influence of human culture. In following the path of the development of biological determinism, Gould shows the reader that data and numbers are not pure bits of information that can be called truth, but instead are results rooted in cultural contexts that influence what we see and how we see it. Within this argument Gould also harkens back to the historical foundations of the will to power and shows how it has manifested itself in the data published by the proponents of biological determinism.
Beginning with craniometry, scientists, which included Samuel Morton, Robert Bean, and Paul Broca, set out to test the hypothesis that ranking of races could be established objectively by physical characteristics of the brain, particularly by its size. They measured brain size of various groups that were considered inferior and compared their results to those of white males in order to demonstrate that these individuals had smaller brains and this was the cause of their inferiority. They tested brain size either by measuring the cranial capacities of skulls or by weighing actual brains or portions of the brain. In an attempt to provide further support for their hypothesis, many of these scientists also measured the cranial capacities of respected scholars and intellectuals and show that these men lie well above the average.
According to Gould, the major flaw in the craniometric argument is the knowledge that brain size is by no means an indicator of intelligence. Even in the absence of this fact, however, an analysis of the experimental methods behind a large portion of craniometric data raises many suspicions regarding its accuracy. Omissions, accidental miscalculations, and poor precision that never failed to favor the testers a priori assumptions about differences among various groups plagued the experimental methods of the majority of craniometric studies. There are countless examples of the experimenter either including a disproportionate amount of individuals that support their hypothesis or omitting a large number of individuals that violate their hypothesis. One such example, is the case of Morton's data from his Crania Americana, which included a large proportion of small brained Inca-Peruvians causing a lower mean for Native American groups. Meanwhile, he raised the Caucasian average by leaving small-brained Hindus out of his sample.
Another good example of the discrepancies in craniometric data is a comparison between the data collected by Robert Bean and his mentor Franklin Mall. Bean and Mall measured the genu and splenium of the same sample of human brains. Bean's data indicated that brains of white males where significantly larger than other groups while Mall's data indicated that there was not a significant difference. What caused this difference? The only difference between the experimental methods of these two tests was that Bean knew the race or gender of the subject from which the brain came whereas Mall did not.
With the dawn of modern psychology, support for the determinist argument shifted from physical to psychological. This shift began in 1905 when a French psychologist named Alfred Binet created a testing scale with the purpose of identifying children whose lack of success in normal classrooms indicated the need for special education. The test consisted of a series of tasks with each task assigned an age level, which represented the youngest age at which a child of normal intelligence should be able to complete the task. The age associated with the last task the subject could perform represented the subject's mental age. The subject's intellectual level was then determined by subtracting the subject's mental age from their chronological age. In 1912, W. Stern argued that mental age should be divided by chronological age, not subtracted from it giving the subject's intelligence quotient or IQ. Modern IQ testing was born.
Binet cautioned that his testing scale was: 1) A practical device for identifying children with special education needs and not a measure of "intelligence;" 2) A guide for identifying learning-disabled children and not a device for ranking normal children; and 3) Not a means of marking a child as innately incapable (i.e. special training could improve a child's IQ). (Gould 185) Nevertheless, a group of American scientists ignored this warning, however, and decided that these tests could be used to support a new determinist argument that rose out of Darwin and Mendel's writings on heredity. This new hereditarian theory of IQ asserted that intelligence was a single entity that followed Mendelian rules of inheritance and that this entity could be measured using IQ tests.
Gould cites two major fallacies associated with this theory. The first is reification, which refers to the assumption that test scores can be used as a yardstick for measuring a single, testable entity in the human head called general intelligence. This fallacy traces its roots back to Western philosophy's attempts to create a unique, final picture of things. This fallacy gives intelligence the status of an objective truth and as Heidegger indicated this truth becomes a means for the dominant group to control subordinate groups. John Caroll argues against this fallacy in his essay "IQ and Race" with the argument that intelligence comes in many different forms. Caroll says: "Most people recognize that there are some people with fantastic memories, some with mathematical minds, some with musical genius, some with mechanical expertise, some with good vocabularies, some good at seeing analogies, some good at synthesizing, some at unifying, etc., etc. And, of course, some people excel at more than one of these behaviors. In short, it may be appropriate to speak of human intelligences, but not of intelligence." (Caroll 23)
The second fallacy of hereditarianism is not wrong in saying that IQ is to some degree heritable, but instead is problematic because of two false extensions of heritability hypothesis, which are used in most hereditarian arguments. These are: 1) The notion that heritable means that an individual's intelligence is predetermined by their genes and that this can not be improved by environmental factors; and 2) The confusion of within- and between- group heredity. This means that researchers mistakenly assert that comparisons between the differences in the average percent of variation among individuals within a group indicate a difference between the two groups.
We can illustrate the hereditarian fallacy at work with a simple example. Consider human height within two hypothetical groups of males: one with an average height of five foot, ten inches from a prosperous American town and the other with an average height of five foot six inches in a starving third-world village. Heritability is 95 percent in both cases meaning that tall fathers have tall sons and vice-versa. According to the hereditarian fallacy, the differences between these two groups are the result of a specific genetic makeup and as long as the population remains isolated, these differences will continue. What if improved nutrition enhanced the height of the shorter group over a period of time or a drought caused a food shortage in environment of the taller population? According to the principles of heredity, the average height would be affected by such environmental factors. So why couldn't intelligence, which has a much smaller heritability than height, be improved by education? (Gould 186) Furthermore, a recent edition of USA Today a study ranked U.S. students (which includes a large amount of little Anglo-Saxons) twelfth in performance on standardized achievement tests. According to hereditarian logic this would indicate that all American students are innately less intelligent than foreign students. It ignores the possibility that the difference in test scores might have been the result of the United States' inferior education system.
Gould also cites some additional problems with the intelligence testing data. One major area of dispute is the content of the tests. Gould asserts that oftentimes tests contain culture specific material and do not leave room for answers that are just as plausible as the "correct" answer. Another major source of discrepancies in IQ data is test taking procedures and the condition of the subject. These factors play a large role in influencing test scores, and several studies have demonstrated this fact by indicating that the same subject's score will vary greatly with changes in the subject's environment or physical or mental condition. A third critique of IQ data is that the majority of more recent empirical studies rely on factor analysis. Gould argues that this is problematic in that factor analysis is a purely statistical technique that produces a set of factors to redescribe data and not a method of proving the existence of underlying entities such as intelligence. In addition, Gould also indicates that there are an infinite number of possible solutions for a factor analysis and that hereditarians usually choose the one that best serves their purpose. (Gould 299)
On the cover page of this paper is one of the numerous tables from Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's book The Bell Curve. This book represents the most recent chapter in the intelligence debate-a debate that as I mentioned before began with Plato and has continued through today. In this latest chapter, the same old determinist arguments are offered again:
General intelligence, called "g," and defined as "a person's capacity for complex mental work," constitutes the "broadest conception of intelligence." IQ is "what people mean when they use the word intelligent or smart." G, IQ or smarts can be accurately (and without cultural bias) measured by standard intelligence tests. IQ is 40%-80% heritable and is relatively stable over a person's lifetime. Blacks' IQ scores are significantly lower than whites'. Low IQ is the cause of social problems such as poverty, crime, unemployment, illegitimacy, welfare dependency, etc. High IQ is the only passport to success. The world is rapidly separating into a cognitive elite and a cognitively deficient underclass. Nothing can be done to raise IQs, and social programs such as Head Start, Affirmative Action, AFDC, etc. are useless, counterproductive or both. Since nothing can be done to change these inequalities, the only answer is "letting people find valued places in society."
(Herrnstein and Murray 27)
This book been condemned by numerous critics as "atrocious science," (Scientific American, February 1995) "pseudoscholarly" (San Francisco Chronicle, November 6, 1994), "sleazy" (The New York Review, November 17, 1994),"an unusually lengthy promotional brochure for a rather unattractive political package." (The Washington Monthly) "a house of cards constructed to push a political agenda" (Business Week, November 7, 1994), "a fable masquerading as social science" (San Francisco Chronicle, November 6, 1994), and many others. Perhaps the most biting criticism comes from Gould who published a revised and expanded version his book The Mismeasure of Man primarily to include a critique of The Bell Curve. In this section Gould calls The Bell Curve: "a rhetorical masterpiece of scientism that runs to 845 pages, and is filled with the same omissions and confusions that have been a part of determinist arguments for years. " (Gould 371)
The interesting (or perhaps frightening) thing about The Bell Curve is that in the face of all of this criticism the book managed to spend twelve weeks on the hard cover best-seller list and has garnered more attention then any other book published on this topic in the last ten years. Gould attributes this popularity to the depressing temper of our time-"a historical moment of unprecedented ungenerosity, when a mood for slashing social programs can be so abetted by an argument that beneficiaries cannot be aided due to inborn cognitive limits." (Gould 366) In her review of the text Lucy Horwitz uses a less technical explanation of this will to power. She attributes the popularity of The Bell Curve to "the Archie Bunker Effect." Why was All in the Family so popular? Because the strongest human emotion is not love or hate, but the need to feel superior to someone. And Archie Bunker, by expressing his need to feel superior to everyone different from himself, provided a double thrill-the thrill of having others put down, yes, but also the thrill of feeling superior to Archie. The Bell Curve provides this same thrill of feeling superior to a whole race, plus the thrill of feeling superior to its racist authors. (Horwitz 3)
The goal of our research was to demonstrate how cultural factors contribute to an individuals willingness to buy into determinists arguments like those presented in The Bell Curve. In surveying a random population of our fellow students about their feelings on intelligence testing and the heritability of IQ, it was our intention to show that an individuals feelings on these topics can be directly correlated to their position in the social hierarchy of the United States. In our study, we correlated the three major factors that affect and individuals status-race, class, and gender-with answers to individual questions about IQ testing and the heritability of IQ. Ultimately what we hoped to prove was that in accordance with Heidegger's notion that dominant groups uses science as a justification for their superior position, individuals from dominant socio-economic groups would be more likely to support the hereditarian argument that intelligence is a single, testable entity that follows Mendelian rules of inheritance and that this results in inherent genetic differences between various groups.
In attempting to test the affect of race, class, and gender on the measurement of intelligence, we conducted a survey of 100 undergraduate Miami University students. Our sample consisted of students enrolled in Chemistry 145, section D, which is a general chemistry, laboratory class with an enrollment of more than 100 students. We distributed 100 copies of the survey at the beginning of the class and offered a brief outline of our study and what its purpose. We did not offer any specific instructions on filling out the survey. Once the subjects had completed the survey, they were instructed to return them to us. Unfortunately, because we did not collect the surveys ourselves, some of them were not handed in and we ended up with 83 subjects for analysis.
The survey itself is comprised of eleven questions adapted from a more extensive questionnaire proposed by Mark Snyderman and Stanley Rothman in their book The IQ Controversy. All eleven questions attempt to find out the subject's opinions of IQ testing and the heritability of intelligence. Five of the eleven questions were yes/no answers. The remaining six required more interpretation on the part of the subject. Some questions asked subjects to rank answers with numbers while others asked the subject to choose the selection that best indicates their opinion on intelligence. A copy of the survey is included at the end of this section.
For the most part, the questions we asked on the survey were formulated in order to give us an idea of the subject's opinions about intelligence tests. Therefore, questions dealt with topics like: 1) Is success on intelligence tests biologically determined? or 2) Do such tests have racial and socio-economic biases?
Along with asking 11 questions regarding one's opinion of intelligence tests our survey also asked for background on each subject. The survey asked for information on the sex, age, race, religious background, and family income of each person interviewed. Family income was grouped into five categories: well above average, above average, average, below average, and well below average. Subjects checked the range that best corresponded to their view of their socio-economic status. One might argue that this is a subjective method of determining economic status since it is based on the subject's opinion of their economic status. This is better suited for our analysis, however, since we are more interested in a person's perception of their position in the socio-economic structure not their actual position. The purpose of this background data on each subject interviewed is to allow us to draw conclusions about how an individuals race, class, and gender will effect their feelings about the heritability of IQ and intelligence tests.
After collecting the 83 completed surveys, we coded our data for statistical analysis using the StatView program. When coding our data we chose to focus on 8 of the 11 questions. These questions were of the simpler yes/no variety. We believed that some of the other, more complicated, questions were problematical because they introduced too many variables and did not lend themselves to simple statistical techniques. In addition to coding the survey results, we also entered the personal data on each subject. Perhaps this is the most important part of our data as it allows us to explore the correlation between social status and views of intelligence, which has many broad societal implications.
In order to explore the affects of race, class, and gender on opinions of intelligence tests we evaluated our data with the help of a contingency table and chi-squared test. The chi-square test analyzes the degree of correlation between two variables and gives a statistical p-value. This p-value can be used to determine whether the results are due to chance. In our chi-square tests, we compare the answers to a particular question with one of the aspects of a subject's status- race, class, or gender-in an attempt to determine if there is a correlation between these two variables. A p-value of less than 0.05 would indicate that such a correlation exists, while a p-value greater than 0.05 would indicate that this variation could be attributed to chance. In choosing these variables, we attempted to select questions that we felt might be influenced by one of the aspects of a person's status. More specifically, we tried to test variables that we thought the dominant group would answer one way and the subordinate group would answer the opposite way.
As we mentioned in the methods section, in analyzing our data we compared variables that we felt would indicate that the dominant group answers favored intelligence testing and the heritability of IQ. This would serve as support for Heidegger's assumption that as human beings we look to science for a justification for social hierarchies and as a means of protecting our position in these hierarchies.
Our data analysis consisted of eight chi-square analyses and included summary data, observed frequencies, and expected values. The purpose of each test is to determine whether or not race, gender, or economic status affects a subject's answers and furthermore whether the dominant group is more likely to support ideas that IQ tests, measure a biologically predetermined entity. The variables and assumptions behind each test can be found in the following summary table:
Variable 1 Variable 2 Assumption
Question 10 Income Subject's answer to question ten will be affected by income with those of higher economic status more likely to answer yes.
Question 9 Income Subject's answer to question nine will be affected by income with those of higher economic status more likely to answer yes.
Question 9 Question 11 Subject's answer to question eleven will be affected by their answer to question nine. Those that answered yes for nine would most likely answer that there is a genetic difference.
Question 11 Income Subject's answer to question 11 should be affected by income. Those with higher economic status should answer that differences are genetically based.
Question 5 Income Subject's answer to question 5 should be affected by income with those of higher income indicating that success is dependent on inherited biological aptitude.
Question 5 Gender Subject's answer to question 5 is dependent upon gender with males being more likely to answer that success is dependent upon inherited biological aptitude.
Question 9 Gender Subject's answer to question 9 is dependent upon gender with males more likely to answer yes.
Question 9 Race Subject's answer to question 9 is dependent upon race with Caucasians more likely to answer yes.
Question 3 Race Subject's answer to question three is dependent upon race with Caucasians more likely to answer yes.
Although our p-values for all of our tests indicates that our data is inconclusive a closer look at the coded raw data and measured values indicates that there are trends in the data that indicate our hypothesis might be true.
For example, our test comparing income with question 5 (Do you feel that success on intelligence tests is based on acquired or inherited knowledge?), gave the lowest chi-squared p-value for of all our tests with a value of .2263. This value indicates that there is a 22% chance that these results were due to chance, but the contingency table provides valuable insight on the dependency of income on a subject's answer to question 5. 16 out of 19 or 84% of subjects of average inc
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