Bird Brain: MSU Race Denier Kevin Bird’s Attack On Science (And Scientists)
Print Friendly and PDF

As the U.S. prepares to confirm to the Supreme Court a black woman who cannot define the word “woman” [Blackburn to Jackson: Can you define ‘the word woman’?, by Myah Ward, Politico, March 22, 2022], we are reminded of the fact that Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated because she is a black woman, not on merit. She almost certainly got into Harvard due to being black, and not on merit; indeed, she has declared that she will recuse herself from a forthcoming case challenging Affirmative Action policies at Harvard due to her being one of the college’s overseers; also likely not on merit [U.S. Supreme Court pick Jackson to recuse from Harvard race case, by Nate Raymond, Reuters, March 23, 2022]. The Ruling Class has more than ever invested in the egalitarian myth. Now another Regime enforcer is trying to defend it: Kevin Bird of Michigan State University. readers are familiar with the facts. As psychologist Richard Lynn has noted, a widely replicated finding in social science is that African-Americans have a lower average IQ than white Americans: 100 vs. 85. (See his 2015 book Race Differences in Intelligence.) Not only that, but the difference concerns the most genetic aspects of intelligence; it is resistant to environmental interventions; and the correlation between alleles (gene variants) indirectly associated with high IQ and race differences in IQ is about 0.9, as Italian anthropologist Davide Piffer has shown.

We would expect a Supreme Court Justice to have an average IQ of at least 130 or so, the level needed to be a highly-successful professional,  which leaves a vanishingly small fraction of African-Americans to choose from. Thus, about 2.1% of whites have an IQ of 130 or over (that's 4,289, 823 people) whereas, because of the differing mean IQ and because the black bell curve appears more bunched than the white one, only about 0.05% of blacks do.


The American black population is 44,153,000, so that means just 22,076 people. (In the year 2000, anonymous statistician La Griffe Du Lion said that “More than 20,000 adult blacks in the U.S. have an IQ of 130 or more,” adding “but because of affirmative action, the chance that your black lawyer will be one of them is vanishingly small” [Standardized Tests: The Interpretation of Racial and Ethnic Gaps, La Griffe Du Lion, Volume 2, Number 3, March 2000]).

But then, controlling for IQ, blacks still have higher psychopathology than whites: they are less diligent, more arrogant, and less cooperative; traits which militate against high socioeconomic status, as Lynn has also noted, in his 2019 book Race Differences in Psychopathic Personality. So, they cannot realistically become Supreme Court justices on merit apart from quite exceptional and improbable outlier cases.

Nevertheless, every so often a paper is published—naturally in a very prestigious journal, all of which have been taken over by Woke ideologues and thus no longer publish articles on merit—which claims to disprove the idea that blacks have lower IQ than whites; or to disprove the idea that its cause is anything other than poverty, colonialism, and white racism. In other words, it claims to disprove the idea that “divergent selection”—the genetics of being evolved to suit differing ecologies—explains black-white differences in average intelligence.

A year ago, Kevin Bird—a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University—published a study claiming to prove that only 12-18%, and possibly much less, of the variance in IQ between blacks and whites could be put down to genes.

It appeared in the prestigious American Journal of Biological Anthropology, sensationally entitled, “No support for the hereditarian hypothesis of the Black–White achievement gap using polygenic scores and tests for divergent selection” [February 2, 2021], which is a manifest exaggeration of what it actually found.

Bird’s study implies that environmental factors explain the bulk of the IQ difference. Of course, these could still be “downstream” genes. As psychologist James Flynn argued in his 2016 book Does Your Family Make You Smarter?, if you have lower IQ you will intellectually stimulate your children less, you will be less attracted to stimulating pursuits and stimulating people and you will intellectually stimulate yourself less, creating a snowball effect that causes you to be as low in IQ as you can be.

Nevertheless, Bird writes that, based on his analysis

…hereditarian claims are not supported in the least. Cognitive performance does not appear to have been under diversifying selection in Europeans and Africans…the best case estimate for genetic contributions to group differences in cognitive performance is substantially smaller than hereditarians claim and is consistent with genetic differences contributing little to the Black–White gap.

Now, even Bird finds that genetics contributes 20%; so this statement is simply untrue.

But, unsurprisingly, it turns out that Bird’s study is flawed on a number of levels. Danish independent researcher Emil Kirkegaard, on his insightful website Clear Language, Clear Mind, has recently highlighted a series of problems with what he refers to as “the Bird Paper” [The Bird Paper and Hereditarian Predictions, January 11, 2022].        

Bird produced a comparison between two datasets of Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). The idea of these studies is to try to find alleles that are associated with specific traits, such as high educational attainment, something which correlates with intelligence. Clearly, siblings differ genetically, being only 50% the same on average, but they are relatively similar. This means that you are in effect heavily controlling for environment if you look at siblings, so you can start to highlight genes which may be relevant to differences in educational accomplishment. You can then see if the frequency of these genes differs between populations. If they do, perhaps that’s evidence for a genetic cause for race differences in intelligence differences, as Piffer proposed there was.

Bird, then, compared a study of effect sizes between families and an unpublished study of effect sizes within families. In theory, this is a good idea. But, in practice, it doesn’t work. People don’t have many siblings, meaning the samples are small and the statistical power weak. Bird’s result, extrapolating from the “within families” data, was to find only a small genetic contribution to race differences, as so many genes appeared to be no more related to education level, for example, than chance would predict.

But Kirkegaard explains that this result makes sense in light of Bird’s questionable methods. That the unpublished study Bird drew upon “produced null results is not surprising since it has very low signal-to- noise ratio. Bird somehow ignores this power issue.”

In other words, Bird’s sample is too small to produce meaningful results.

Analyzing this unpublished study, Kirkegaard points out that Bird’s result “is at odds with results from other researchers” who did find more evidence of statistically significant results. “Maybe someone has a coding error . . .”

Furthermore, Bird cited a particular paper for his methods—but did not tell the reader that this paper also found evidence of a genetic contribution to race differences in educational attainment.

In layman’s terms, Bird has obtained the results that he wants via sleight of hand and questionable assumptions.

Bird’s paper was also criticized just after its publication by another researcher, John Fuerst [Insignificant” Differences, by John Fuerst, Human Varieties, February 8, 2021], who argues that Bird’s findings, in fact, “strongly agree” with a hereditarian model.

But the problem with Fuerst’s critique, and to some extent Kirkegaard’s, is that they are by necessity extremely technical. Fuerst mathematically demonstrates what’s wrong with Bird’s argument, while Kirkegaard goes into technicalities which will go over the head of anyone who doesn’t understand complex statistics. Bird, of course, does understand these things, allowing him to present clever sleights of hand as “truth” and thus to wow the educated layman into thinking he’s proven his point.

So, for those who can’t follow the Math, who should we trust?

Well, Bird’s Twitter bio @thebirdmaniac makes clear that he is an avid socialist, and includes his pronouns.

 His website praises the late Richard Lewontin, the notorious pioneer of “Lewontin’s Fallacy," another scientific sleight of hand. Lewontin claimed that there were more genetic differences within races than between them, but he found this by using genetic loci that didn’t differ much between races. When this was repeated using loci that reflected environmental adaptation, the essence of race, then the results were exactly reversed; about 80% of genetics differences were between races [Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy, by A.W.F. Edwards, Bioessays, 2003]. In other words, Bird supports someone who deliberately misled people, using technicalities, to disguise the reality of race differences.

Bird’s Left-wing fanaticism extends to attempting to cancel academics whose views he dislikes. According to biologist Colin Wright

…a Michigan State University graduate student (and president of the Graduate Employees Union) named Kevin Bird accused me of ‘spreading disgusting transphobic pseudoscience.’ Unlike other critics, Bird didn’t even pretend to be motivated by anything other than a desire to deny me employment in my field.

[Think Cancel Culture Doesn’t Exist? My Own ‘Lived Experience’ Says Otherwise, Quillette, July 30, 2020]

Bird also led the outrage mob against Michigan State University Physics professor Stephen Hsu, for his expressing empirically accurate views about race and sex differences in intelligence [On Steve Hsu and the Campaign to Thwart Free Inquiry, by Peter Toshev, Quillette, July 1, 2020]. This forced Hsu to resign as vice-president of the university.

So, Kevin Bird is so committed to the idea that there cannot be genetic race differences in intelligence that he will get someone fired for arguing that there are— for disagreeing with the views in his paper.

People like Bird are leading us to a new academic Dark Age in which an ersatz religion has invaded even the hard sciences. It’s hard to say what will ultimately happen. But, as I have noted, the last time universities—specifically English universities—got taken over by religious fanatics (as they always do because anything prestigious attracts the power-hungry who prize status over truth), the result was that universities went into decline. They became nothing more than finishing schools for the upper class; with “academia” moving elsewhere, either to gentleman scholars or foreign universities. Oxford and Cambridge only regained their academic prestige in the nineteenth century, when they reformed to be more like their scientific competitors.

Kirkegaard is an example of the migration of genuine truth-seeking out of Western universities (he’s an independent scholar). Bird epitomizes why that movement has had to take place.

So whose math and technical choices would you trust? It’s no-brainer…a no-Bird Brainer.

Lance Welton [email him] is the pen name of a freelance journalist living in New York.

Print Friendly and PDF