Sunday, November 05, 2006

Africans have a lower IQ?

There's a storm in a teacup over an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics' claim that Africans suffer from ill-health and non-development because of a low IQ. I've never had much time for evolutionary psychology. It conjurs up a fantasy world where every behavioural quirk can be explained by some Darwinian impulse implanted into our DNA thousands if not millions of years ago. Doubtless, there are biological/selfish gene impulses which manifest themselves in certain forms of behaviour - patterns of desire which are grounded in finding a mate being the obvious candidate. But the idea that evolutionary patterns can explain every aspect of behaviour is ridiculous and absurd. How does it explain why someone might develop a fetish for rubber, or why some people like skiing?

In the case of Satoshi Kanazawa at the LSE, he seems to have made quite an elementary causal mistake. If Africans do have comparatively low IQ's, it is because of widespread ill-health, malnutrition, lack of access to education etc, not the other way round. On what basis apart from crass eugenics could it be otherwise?

The killer refutation would be to go to poor areas of the West and test IQ's of caucasians there. I'm sure the same set of results would occur. Would Kanazawa try to be the genius and argue that poor Caucasians are poor because of low IQ?

Of course, freedom of speech should prevail in an academic setting: allow the force of communal criticism to regulate I say. But it does shine a light on the inherent stupidity of an entire discipline. In times like these, where it is a rare privilege to attend a university with a fully fledged philosophy department, why is evolutionary psychology still being funded and supported? Rather than survival of the fittest, it sounds like a case of survival of the most stupid.


kemi,  5:21 pm  

The problem is that the IQ test results they are basing their research on are inherently flawed. It's important to know that IQ tests given to African kids are EXACTLY THE SAME as those given to kids in the west BUT:

1)Most African children in schools are taught and study in a foreign second or third language. The standardized tests they are given are automatically biased against them. Naturally it will take you longer to pass a test in a 2nd/3rd language than in your first.

2) Most kids in Western schools deal with puzzles and games quite similiar to their IQ tests on a frequent basis. Most African kids especially the poor ones, are taught with a very rudimentary curriculum of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. There is very little cognitive development/teaching outside that so they are again at a disadvantage.

3) The average child in the west gets a lot more mental stimulus than the poor African one. While western kids grow up watching Sesame Street and CBeebies and all sorts of programmes targetted at entertaining and educating them at the same time. Let's not forget piano lessons, ballet, gymnastics and other whatnots. an African child is left to his or her own devices or even worse has to go work on some farm somewhere.

4)Similarly, a child in the west is more likely to have better educated parents, who may have read him/her to sleep and who had books and newspapers in the house which the child had access to. Even the opportunity for stimulating conversations, a parent being able to explain why we have rainbows and why the sky is blue is going to give the Western child a big advantage when it comes to reasoning.

5) For various reasons, children in Africa start school later. So giving a 10 year old child in the west and a 10 year old child in Africa the same IQ test introduces further bias against the African child. Where the children are at the same educational level, the age is factored in so it starts to look like a 6 year old western and a 10 year old African are at the same IQ level.

These are just things off the top of my head. I'm sure if someone actually put some effort and researched this, they'd find lots of other similar issues. The truth is that IQ is a measure of how well you pass a test, not what potential intelligence you have. You would need to compare wealthy, privately educated African kids with the average state educated ones in the West to even get close to some sort of parity.

The sad thing is that we have failed to rescue the brightest from a poor educational system. I know so many kids who were brilliant in secondary school, but they were born into the wrong family and they ended up average. The well schooled kids of the rich caught up and overtook them by the time we were all 21.

Western Governments would do much better in setting up private colleges and giving scholarships rather than giving fucking aid money to the kleptocrats who only keep it for themselves.

Anonymous,  5:34 pm  


I'm currently re-reading The Bell Curve, a most interesting statistical exercise in evaluating IQ-related information with respect to race. I'm not entire sure what conclusions they've drawn quite yet; there are many charts, graphs, and maths which make my head hurt. I must have a low IQ!

indar ph 5:56 pm  

An interesting point of view.
Having just returned from two years in Nigeria I'm very interested to see whether Mr Kanazawa is willing to back up his beliefs by debating them in public.

Anonymous,  7:49 pm  

seems obvious to me that this researcher has confused cause and effect.

Anonymous,  7:56 pm  

Hmmm, I have spent much time in research of Africa as I am preparing to journey there soon. And what I have noticed is this...those African people that have been given the opportunity for education (whether because they are wealthy or via other means), they prove to be far more intelligent than their western counterparts

I am not sure it is because they appreciate what they are given more, or that like all evolutionary processes, it has been honed in them. The very idea that they are less intelligent is ludicrous and even insulting, even to one such as myself.

Ngozi,  9:35 pm  

gosh, that's evil.

d,  9:36 pm  

th etime and energy other races spent on insisting that black ppl are makes me sick.

Nkem 11:36 pm  

This is actually a boring old hat argument. I've read it too many times before. Kemi's very good attempt to explain why Mr Yokozuna's theory (I'm a dumb African, all Japanese names are all Yokozuna to me) is rubbish only has a fraction of possible arguments against it. Kemi, remember Geoffrey Sampson? When I was at Sussex, there was a storm caused by one Professor Sampson's eugenicist rants on his website. I didn't have any lectures with him, but imagine the inherent bias with which he would have taught any black students. Read all about it on his website. This is too tired an argument to confront. I only worry, about students who have to deal with lecturers with a bias marking their work. Anonymous marking is the way to go.

Fern R 10:23 am  

For what it's worth, many scientists who study intelligence and IQ do claim that poor white people are poor in large part because they have a lower than average IQ.

The real test would not be to test poor white people. It would be to test the children of Africans who grow up entirely in the west. If Africans who grow up eating a western diet, going to western schools, etc still have lower IQs then that will say something. But as you pointed out, it's hard to determine which came first, the poverty or the low IQ, from the IQ tests of people who, for generations, have lived in poverty.

Anonymous,  11:20 pm  

Fred R said:

'The real test would not be to test poor white people. It would be to test the children of Africans who grow up entirely in the west.'

You could argue that this was what was shown by the rapid increases in 'IQ' scores among African Americans [many of whom will have West African genetic roots] in the 20 centuary. These increases are well documented and happened too rapidly to be attributed to any 'evolutionary' causation.

Equally, the effects of nutritional deficits on cognative development (in children) and functioning (in adults) are being shown to be increasingly important.

In the US kids are put on speed (ritilin) to 'cure' their 'attention deficit', while lot's of studies now show that not feeding them junk food would have the same impact. Yet the good doctors keep writing those prescriptions. How 'intelligent' is that? And how perverse.

mullet 10:27 pm  

kemi is right - it's no use giving african people culturally biased iq tests. That's like saying Russian people are daft because they didn't score high on the 'Glasgow slang' test.

Anonymous,  8:58 pm  

people need to remember that when europeans came to southern africa,europeans and asians and the rest of the northern hemisphere were well into the modern age/era (writen language etc)africans were still in the hunter gatherer stage of developement which could be as much as 3000 years behind, so how can we expect them to bridge that gap in 500 years.

Bronzetrinity 7:17 pm  

As someone trained in the use and history of IQ tests the most important question to answer first is What IQ test was used? IQ does not equal intelligence. It is an indicator but not an exact measurement. Furthermore, depending on the test, it can not be determined how much it measures innate ability rather than education and cultural learning that would be directly affected by education. That leads me to my third point, IQ tests are biased towards the culture of the people who created the test and to the people it was standardized on. A test made by Americans for Americans is inappropriate for other cultures. Unless the author had different versions (not just translations) for every country sampled then his results are invalid. Last of all, the researcher must be a moron because any educated scientist knows that correlation cannot prove causation. Just because IQ on his test is related to the economic conditions of the countries does not prove that low IQ caused the conditions. It could be that the economic conditions caused the low scores, or there could be other variables responsible for both findings (such as poor schools, different values and goals, different cultural behaviours etc.). There is no way in hell that the same Western test can be administered to many different non-Western cultures and correlated to prove they are responsible for their economic conditions. I am surprised and disappointed that this article was published in a peer-reviewed journal. Rest assured that many scientists will critique and dismiss the study.

Anonymous,  11:05 pm  

The best test for racial IQ would be a test of basically pure 100 percent african american versus those of mixed blood of say an average of 50 percent white. Assuming the appropriate blood lines could be established by dna testing and given a statistically valid sample size the resuls would be interesting.. My bet is those with 50 percent white have a higher IQ. Of course no matter what the results there will be arguments as to why it was not a fair sample, how the half whites had a better self imagine in a racist society, yata yata yata. Why white is really black if the lights are turned off or the sun is not shing or you are blind, etc. etc.

Anonymous,  8:26 am  

I'm an African living in Kenya and I've just scored 113 in an online IQ test. The test was culturally biased since most Africans have never heard of pies and ducks.

2Oz 12:54 am  

This is a very interesting question. I, too, decided to read The Bell Curve following its rubbishing in the popular and scientific press. I thought many of the statistics were flawed and/or distorted (especially in the sense that the authors would cherry-pick the one study out of several that would support their argument, even if it was older or smaller than others).
Nonetheless, the central conclusion is a sound one - thatis, the increasing opportunities of the modern world mean that intelligent people can "get out" of bad environments (such as inner cities, famine ridden african regions etc etc) leaving the less gifted behind. Over several generations, this may lead to a situation were all the bright people have left, leaving the less bright having less bright offspring. Other posters are right to point out that stats for Africa are nigh-on meaningless due to the distorting effect of poor nutrition, lack of educational opportunity and childhood stimulation compared to the west etc etc - but the effect is a real one, and is an effect that will hit Africans harder than anyone else, simply because African ghettoes and rural villages are the environments offering brighter people the biggest motivation to leave.

Srikanth 4:43 pm  

I'm from India. I went to graduate school at Michigan State University and I've had the opportunity to interact with several African students (not African-Americans).
I should admit that I had an initial bias against their abilities. But it did not take me long to realize that these students from African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique were actually very intelligent. Moreover, they were extremely polite, cultured, well-read and had a great passion for learning- things that several White American students totally lack.
So, NO, I don't think that they are at a racial disadvantage. If Africa is the way it is now, I think it is because of the greed and manipulative nature of the European colonists who plundered the wealth and imbibed a sense of slavishness and linguistic and cultural inferiority in these people...much as they tried doing to India and other colonies.

truthbetold55 11:06 pm  

geez you people are stupid. First of all, the average IQ of an African American is 85, about what it was 50 years ago. The IQ of blacks are substantially lower in any westernized country in the world. Secondly, the IQ test you take on the internet is not the same test they give internationally. Everyone is quick to discard all of these findings without even knowing anything about the tests or data. The tests are as unbiased as they can get and consist of remembering shapes or recognizing patterns.
It has been proven that intelligence is passed on genetically from parent to child. It has been proven that certain races have a higher mean intelligence than others, I'm sorry if this shatters your cherished delusions that everyone is exactly equal. They arent, its the cold, hard truth.

Anonymous,  2:10 pm  

1) The IQ gap shows up most strongly on the least culturally loaded tests. The Raven's matrices consists of no language questions but rather diagrammatic pattern recognition. The Raven's is one of the most g-loaded tests available, which means it correlates most strongly with a wide range of both other tests and various life outcomes such as income, educational attainment, social status, longevity etc.

2) Poverty does not account for the average sub-Saharan African IQ of 70. Children are easily screened for various categories of physical underdevelopment and malnutrition. The gap shows up between white and black African students of equal age and educational level. It included university students within the same degree program. I'm comparing native African whites to African blacks here, not Western whites to African blacks.

3) Western blacks have an IQ roughly one standard deviation below Western whits. Blacks adopted and raised by well-off white parents still do not score as well as whites on IQ tests. Transracial adoption studies are among the strongest proof available that cognitive ability was not equally selected for among all racial groups.

4) Again, see the adoption studies. Also, you can simply look to the data regarding the IQ's of black children of wealthy black parents. You'll find that parental income does not make the IQ gap go away. Whites from households who earn less than 10k/year do better on the SAT (a good proxy for IQ that correlates quite highly) than do blacks from households that earn more than 80k/year. This is a yearly occurrence.

5) Again, low average African IQ is found even among those who attend school from the earliest agest when compared to African whites who do the same.

This post and many of it's responses is a PERFECT example when armchair egalitarians who know NOTHING of the research casually toss out objections at "the top of their heads." You end up not knowing what the hell you are talking about. The research is far more sophisticated than you realize and, if you ever took to the time to really delve into it, you might be shocked and just how easily the facts run counter to your suppositions.

Anonymous,  10:33 pm  

I am of African descent and I am a member of MENSA, the leading high IQ society.

Anonymous,  5:57 pm  

The fact that Africans have less opportunities available to them is both a cause and a consequence of the fact that they do so much worse in IQ tests. Being less intelligent, they have been unable to develop societies as sophisticated as Western societies.

Anonymous,  8:55 pm  

There are racial differences and individual differences so although you should not make sweeping generalisations there are inevitably going to be different tendencies in genetic make up between races. The important thing is not to be prejudiced so that individuals are suppressed. You would probably find most people agreeing that orientals as a race are more intelligent than whites but we know that is not due to poor health or economy.

Anonymous,  4:41 am  

Im sure he was funded by a group benefitting from these type of comments coming out in public.Looks like the West is not satisfied with plundering Africa and subjugating it for centuries, and is inventing newer methods of keeping it down.............when will this stop?When will God intervene.......can't go on forever.Its just not fair.

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