28th November 2010
I rarely watch TV but being somewhat unwell for some weeks now, I've stayed away from the computer as much as possible today, and in this process managed to watch parts of the Ashes series currently underway, as well a documentary entitled, Race and Intelligence made by Rageh Omaar of Al Jazeera TV (formerly of the BBC). [The full episode is available here – noting that this is perhaps accessible only in Australia].
Those of you who've read BFN will recall my discussion of "race" and IQ including a discussion of the Flynn effect (in the Online Notes), and my hypothesis that IQ is impacted very significantly by the level of freedom in society (through various pathways).
This documentary is quite good, and successfully compresses key issues in a fairly short duration. Do watch it if you get a chance.
The documentary demolishes a number of myths:
a) the biological concept of "race" (btw, I've got an extensive discussion of this issue in DOF). There is no bigger nonsense in the world than the concept of "race".
b) the idea that IQ is fixed (it changes over time),
c) the idea that that IQ measures intelligence (it measures our adaptability to the modern environment), and
d) that it has anything to do with race (it has to do with whether one's culture values academic success).
I agree with the culture explanation but believe that there are two critical cultural ingredients (1) FREEDOM – or the level of freedom we give our children to ask questions, and (2) PARENTAL ASPIRATION from their children. The more parents have high expectations from their children, the more likely will the children be to imbibe an interest in academics and the professions.
And as so clearly demonstrated in Malcolm Cladwell's Outliers, once these two ingredients are in place, the most important is the child's passion or fascination with something. The child must WANT TO succeed in something that it likes.
And now for a review on this documentary published in The Independent on 27 Oct 2009:
[I]n Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo, Omaar dared to examine the notion that black people are genetically less intelligent than whites.
It is an abhorrent notion yet with some scientific credibility. James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, has expressed gloom about the future of Africa on the basis that "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really". There are plenty of other illustrious scientists who support the view that there is a kind of global league table of intelligence, apparently with the Australian Aborigine at the bottom, and Omaar talked to several of them. But he found that their assertions are largely based on IQ tests that militate against the developing world, taking no heed of "wisdom, social intelligence and creativity". Moreover, in South Africa, where educational opportunities are no longer determined by race, such ideas are increasingly confounded.
This was a thought-provoking, important and indeed timely documentary, although it is rather dispiriting that Omaar felt the need to make it. He asked one contributor why such flawed scientific evidence should even be available to support racist ideology. The answer was devastatingly simple: because we live in a racist society.