"Why Steve Sailer Is Wrong"
May 29, 2009, 11:52 PM
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One of the odd side effects of the Ricci case is that it continues to inspire a lot of watery commentary about me.

For example, Tyler Cowen blogs on Marginal Revolution:

"Why Steve Sailer is wrong"

That's a request I received and probably the reader is referring to IQ and race.Let me first say that I am not the Steve Sailer oracle. On such a sensitive matter I don't wish to misrepresent anyone, so I'll simply tell you what I think of the issues, without suggesting that he or anyone else necessarily disagrees.

In other words, this post is going to be about a straw man. If anybody is actually interested in what I have had to say about IQ and race, well, in 2007 I published FAQs on IQ and race.
There is a belief that progress in genetics will resurrect old, now-unpopular claims about race and IQ, namely that some races are intrinsically inferior in terms of IQ. I very much expect that we will instead learn more about the importance of the individual genome and that variations within "groups" (whether defined in terms of race or not) are where the traction lies. So I don't expect "old style eugenics views" to make a comeback as applied to race, quite the contrary. On that point, here is more.

I also think that IQ will be shown to be more multi-dimensional than we now think. If you wish to understand the role of IQ in human affairs, you would do better to study autism and ADHD than race (by the way, I discuss the importance of neurodiversity in much greater detail in my forthcoming book Create Your Own Economy.)

You may know that some nations — basically the wealthy ones — have higher IQs than the poor nations. But IQ is endogenous to environment, as evidenced by the Flynn Effect, namely the general rise in IQ scores with each generation. It is sometimes noted that some racial IQ gaps are not closing but I find it more significant that scores can continue to rise. For instance it is quite possible that groups with higher measured IQs simply have been on an "improvement track" for a longer period of time. More generally I think we should consider the Flynn Effect a bit of a mystery and that suggests an overall tone of caution on these issues rather than polemicism.

Most importantly, there is a critical distinction between hypocritical discourse on race and racism itself. Hypocritical discourse on race is harmful and often Sailer does a very good job skewering it. But racism itself is far, far more harmful, whether in the course of previous history or still today. It is fine if a given individual, for reasons of division of labor, spends his or her time attacking hypocritical discourse about race rather than attacking racism itself. (For instance we shouldn't all focus on condemning Hitler and Stalin, simply because they were among the most evil men; there are other battles to fight.) But I still wish that specified individual to ardently believe that racism is the far greater problem. Insofar as that individual holds such a belief about racism, I am much happier than if not.

The comments section is for discussion of the issues in a mature way; if you want to attack any particular individual, that is for elsewhere.

Addendum: If you are looking for another perspective, here is William Saletan on Steve Sailer.