Find by general acclaim the smartest man in the world. Call this man “Group A”. Call everybody else “Group B”.
There will necessarily be a group difference in mean intelligence, and even in the distribution of intelligences, however intelligence might be measured, if it could be unambiguously measured, between the groups.
Throat clearing: Intelligence cannot be measured unambiguously. There is some uncertainty in measuring intelligence, mainly in the attempts to quantify the unquantifiable and the misunderstanding of the nature or essence of the human intellect and will, which lead to the unfortunate widespread error of reifying “IQ” as intelligence. IQ is nothing but a score on a test or tests: it is not intelligence. Nobody “has” an IQ like they have height. Read all about these concerns in “The Limitations And Usefulness Of IQ“.
Even though intelligence cannot be unambiguously measured, it can at least be generally measured. We suppose the smartest man can be identified, or at least narrowed down to a small set of candidates. Call the small set of candidates “Group A” and everybody else “Group B” and it also follows there will be group differences.
Group differences in intelligence are therefore real. Something, actually many things we suspect, caused the intelligence of each person in each group. Given we are at least partially biological creatures, and some causes of intelligence are biological, some of the causes of difference in intelligence are biological and therefore heritable. Since there are differences in group intelligence, there are difference in causes of intelligence between groups.
All these are deductions made on simple observations.
Now it may be politically unwise to broadcast these deductions; however, it would be impossible to suppress them since, experience has shown, people of at least modest intelligence can work them out for themselves.
Tell a midget, “You are short and will never be tall.” Or tell a man, “You are a man and will never be a woman”, and you may in both cases hurt the feelings of these individuals. But you also hurt the feelings of a schoolchild by telling him that, alas, today is not a snow day. Not all truths need be broadcast when more harm than good would result, such as telling your wife that, yes, she does look fat in those jeans.
Enter Nathan Cofnas with his “Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry” in Philosophical Psychology, which is causing nervousness among the Equality set. These are folks who believe, in direct opposition to all observational evidence and deductions like those above, that there are no group differences in intelligence, or, if there are, that these differences should be hushed up. Only the latter opinion might make sense; the first is false.
From the Abstract:
In a very short time, it is likely that we will identify many of the genetic variants underlying individual differences in intelligence. We should be prepared for the possibility that these variants are not distributed identically among all geographic populations, and that this explains some of the phenotypic differences in measured intelligence among groups.
This is purposely terse, but since intelligence can only be measured ambiguously, and there is some error in measuring genetic markers, there will be uncertainty in identification of these markers and thus in identifying heritability, which will be over-certain. This is a statistics problem, with the standard misconceptions between parametric and predictive uncertainty in play. These can be read about here and here. Accepting that as read, the continuing with the Abstract:
However, some philosophers and scientists believe that we should refrain from conducting research that might demonstrate the (partly) genetic origin of group differences in IQ. Many scholars view academic interest in this topic as inherently morally suspect or even racist. The majority of philosophers and social scientists take it for granted that all population differences in intelligence are due to environmental factors. The present paper argues that the widespread practice of ignoring or rejecting research on intelligence differences can have unintended negative consequences. Social policies predicated on environmentalist theories of group differences may fail to achieve their aims. Large swaths of academic work in both the humanities and social sciences assume the truth of environmentalism and are vulnerable to being undermined. We have failed to work through the moral implications of group differences to prepare for the possibility that they will be shown to exist.
The reification of IQ with intelligence is there, and everywhere in the paper, as it is everywhere in papers like this. Do not let it fall from your mind that IQ is not intelligence and that to say so increases over-certainty.
That some scholars “view academic interest in this topic as inherently morally suspect or even racist” is because, as everybody knows, race differences in intelligence has been persistently observed. We can let race be self-identified, just as our groups above were self identified. The self-identification, even if there truly are no such things as human races, does not erase the observed differences in what everybody calls race.
Equalitarians either think that everybody could be as intelligent as everybody else, given the right circumstances, a belief which is akin to saying everybody can be the same height, for which there is no evidence whatsoever, and which all evidence is against. Or they believe the group identifications are correct and that the distribution of intelligence inside each group is the same or could be made the same in every group. This is like saying the distribution of height is the same or could be made the same for men and women. Again, there is no evidence for this belief; all observation is against it. With the exception that this belief could be true by careful selection of groups.
One last warning: suppose you (recalling the ambiguities in measurement) either belong to (A) the group with highest average intelligence, or (B) the group with the lowest average intelligence. You do not therefore necessarily posses this average. If you are in A you may be dumber than every person in B; or again, you may be in B but be smarter than everybody in A. Your group does not decide your (entire) fate.
Yet it is also not wrong for an outsider who knows only that you belong to a group to guess you are near the average intelligence of that group. It is thus also not wrong to base at least some decisions based on the observed group differences.
With all the qualifications just given, now go and read Cofnas, who gives some good and some less good reasons for investigating group differences in intelligence. You have to hand it to him because, though he is for these investigations, he manages to bring up Nazis.
A common fear is that, if race differences were proven to have a genetic basis, this would cause people to turn to Nazism. Indeed, the study of race differences is often explicitly equated with Nazism. This fear seems to be based on a historical misunderstanding. Nazi ideology was not based on scientific discoveries. The Nazis were flagrant pseudoscientists whose research in biology and psychology was permeated with ideology
National socialism isn’t, as he said, based on group differences in intelligence. In any case, Nazi, racist, and white supremacist are all synonyms of each other and of evil person. Thus the real fear is that evil people will use the observed group differences in intelligence to make unjust decisions about people because they are members of less intelligent groups.
It’s not a philosophical point to notice unjust decisions making happens already, and in both directions. It is as unjust to make a short man a member of a basketball team as it is to tell a man he can’t play basketball because he belongs to a group known to have poor playing abilities, even though this particular man can play well.
Likewise, it is unjust to plop an unintelligent person into a quantum mechanics class, as it is also unjust to bar a man from that course because he belongs to a group known to do poorly in these classes.