John Derbyshire: MORE Race Denialism From The Poor Old NYT? They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
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Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, available exclusively on 

whatiIt would help lower the temperature of all this civil rage and rancor, or at any rate make black people less useful as pawns, if we could get some widespread acceptance for race realism.

Sub-Saharan Africans, and their descendants in the New World, are a local variety of our species homo sapiens. That they present their own particular statistical profile on heritable characteristics—which includes traits of behavior, intelligence, and personality—is deeply unsurprising. So do dog breeds; and what artificial selection in dogs has generated over a few hundred years, natural selection among humans could certainly accomplish in several hundred thousand years.

That's all familiar stuff to readers. Is there any chance of race realism taking hold in society at large?

Not if the New York Times has anything to say about it.

Currently defending the citadel of race denialism at the Times is one Amy Harmon [Tweet her] bylined as "a national correspondent … covering the intersection of science and society."

Ms. Harmon recently contributed two pieces for the Times on the shortage of black mathematicians. can speak with some modest authority to this. Touring around colleges to promote one of my math books (Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics) fifteen years ago I could generally find, at any given college, one member of the math faculty who was a kindred spirit and would speak honestly to me.

I should explain, on the slight chance that there are readers who don't know it, that American college faculties lean far, far Left.

I was working for National Review at the time and was introduced in colleges as a National Review contributor.

That was too much for some of the faculty. They thought it outrageous that their campus should be blighted by the presence of someone from a bigoted, fascistic, hate-filled, neo-Nazi outlet like National Review.

No, stop laughing; I am not making this up.

As I said, though, there was generally at least one closet conservative in the math department. At the first opportunity, he would invite me into his office, carefully close the door, pour me a drink, and unload on the particular variety of far-Left campus craziness prevailing at his institution.

To be fair to these poor beleaguered souls, their strongest frustrations were directed not at their colleagues, but at the college administration. As far Left as faculty generally are, college administrators are way farther. I heard some grisly stories.

I recall one of these guys—and yes, they were all guys, of course—telling me about his experiences on the hiring committee of the math faculty. The committee was under terrific pressure to hire a black lecturer. But it wasn't easy to find one because of the very tiny numbers of math Ph.D.s.

He said—and I still remember the precise simile he used—he said the colleges "fight like cats" among themselves to get one of those precious blacks.

In her February 20th article, Ms. Harmon gives the number of black research mathematicians as thirteen—nationwide—out of a total of eighteen hundred i.e. 0.7 percent.

With blacks at thirteen percent of the population, that is indeed a striking under-representation.

This bigoted racist bias is not just American, it seems. It's world-wide. The math equivalent of a Nobel Prize is the Fields Medal, awarded to just sixty people since it started up in 1936. Not one of those people was black.

Ms. Harmon is scientifically illiterate about the causal factors here. She notes for example that there are people—bad people! horrid people!—who posit biological reasons for the disparity. But!!!—

They lack any genetic evidence to explain the gap in average I.Q. scores between white and black Americans that they cite as the basis of their belief.

The answer to that is the one that human-sciences blogger JayMan gives: "You don't need to know the name of every worker in the factory to know it produces widgets."

Here's another piece of scientific dumbness from Ms. Harmon:

Having a parent with a Ph.D. is helpful to getting one in math, while black children are less than half as likely as white children to live with such a parent.

 Of course, science has no clue—not the faintest hint of a clue! no clue at all!—as to what, exactly, it is that parents pass on to their children.

Most likely it's nothing at all. Those zygotes emerge from conception as perfect little blank slates, right? Only Nazis think otherwise.

Before leaving this topic, let me record my last encounter with a black mathematician.

This was also while I was working at National Review. In the run-up to the 2012 campaign, when my coeval Herman Cain was in the GOP field, he dropped by to give us some face time, as GOP candidates all did.

As well as having been born the same year as me, Cain has, like me, a Bachelor's degree in math. He's smarter than me, though, and went on to get a master's in Computer Science. Somewhere along there he worked on math problems for the U.S. Navy.

I knew about this when I met him, so we had some math chat.

What kind of problems had he worked on? I asked him. "Ballistics," he said; "Missile trajectories and such."

Me: "Lotta differential equations?"

He: "Oh, yeah."

Me, a bit sneakily: "ODEs or PDEs?"

He: "Mostly Os."

If you don't understand that exchange, just take it from me: for ballistics, Cain's answer was the right one.

I came away impressed with the guy.

As impressive as that achievement is in a politician, however, differential equations are mathematical grunt work. To be on the math faculty of a good college, you need to be a couple of levels above that.

By a well-known property of the tails of distributions, which statisticians keep trying to explain, the proportional differences get bigger really fast out there at the extremes. being a math professor doesn't pay that well. If you're a black person with a math Ph.D., there are firms on Wall Street that will fight like cats over you too, offering way more money than the academy.

Amy Harmon doesn't know any of this.

She doesn't know any of anything much.

Can someone please put the New York Times out of its misery? It used to be a very good newspaper. I remember my first encounters with it, when I arrived on these shores back in 1973. I was impressed. You could spend all day with the Sunday edition, much to your advantage in improvement of your knowledge and understanding.

Now the NYT  is far gone in decay. Now it is just the propaganda organ of a shallow and false ideology.

Come on, shut the wretched thing down. They shoot horses, don't they?


2010-12-24dl[1]John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at can do so here.

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