The subjects covered in this blog include Islam, Islamism, Slavoj Žižek, IQ tests, Chomsky, Tony Blair, Baudrillard, global warming, sociobiology, Marx, Foucault, National/International Socialism, economics, the Frankfurt School, philosophy, anti-racism, etc. - Paul Austin Murphy
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Kenan Malik on the IQ of Black Americans
interesting that Kenan Malik offers a short account of various
academics who've published well-publicised and controversial papers
and books which argue that the IQ of black Americans is lower than
that of white Americans. He mentions Arthur Jenson (an academic at
Harvard University), Richard Herrnstein (another Harvard academic and
joint author of The
and the British psychologist, Hans Eysenck. At the end of the
paragraph, Malik states the following:
the rise of inner-city violence, particularly in America, has led a
number of scientists to consider the biological reasons for
that's it! No further commentary except to say that “opponents of
such claims [are] more determined to challenge them” (185). But
them. Perhaps this isn't place to do so. In addition, it can of
course be the case that aggressive
can be studied without any focus on race. Nonetheless, Malik does
make a statement about “biological reasons for aggressive
behaviour” just before the comments about black IQs.
Do anti-racists accept IQ tests or don't they?
hints at why he doesn't tackle claims about the IQ of blacks by
discussing the statements of Margaret Mead on the subject. Firstly,
Malik says that Mead “took a conscious decision not to explore the
biological bases of human behaviour” (181). He then quotes Mead
herself giving the reason for this. She said that it would be
“dangerous” (Malik's word) because “'of the very human tendency
to associate particular traits with sex or age or race, physique or
skin colour'” (181). What's more, Mead concludes by saying the
seemed clear to us that further study of inborn differences would
have to wait upon less troubled times.'”
isn't to argue that there aren't arguments elsewhere (there are).
However, it seems that both Mead and Malik today (to quote Mead
again) simply assumed that racial scientists “'make invidious
comparisons based on such arbitrary associations'” (181). (Why
“invidious”? Were all the “associations” truly “arbitrary”?)
As I said, arguments against racial science and IQ testing exist
elsewhere. Nonetheless, platitudinous remarks and smug assumptions
seem to rule the roost on most occasions when race is discussed.
also makes an astonishing claim when he confesses (if that's the
correct word) that “[s]tatistically, the average IQ of African
Americans is lower than that of white Americans” (224).
Nonetheless, he immediately states that
we believe that African Americans are less intelligent than whites,
we must recognise than an important part of the explanation lies in
the social position of African Americans as a whole in American
appears that because Malik stresses the important impact of culture -
and therefore politics - on science, then this must be an ideal case
to give a political (rather than a scientific) explanation of the
facts. Indeed since conscience and morality/ethics are part of
culture, perhaps it's only right
that the differences of IQ between blacks and whites simply must
do with the “social position of African Americans in America
today”. However, at least prima
the first way to interpret the fact that black IQs are lower than
white IQs is because of genes or brains. Sure, such a quick
conclusion can never contain the entire truth; yet at least it must
be so much as stated.
other possible conclusion is that American blacks have a poor “social
position” partly because of their low IQs. After all, many other
American racial groups - which started off with disadvantaged social
positions - eventually became more and more successful and better off
(such as Jews, the Chinese, the Irish and so on).
his book Malik (either directly or indirectly) stresses the point
that it's scientifically - and perhaps philosophically - illiterate
to stress biology at the expense of what he calls “culture”.
True, yet - in this passage at least - Malik stresses culture (or
“social position”) at the expense of biology. Indeed even though
Malik repeatedly refers to that binary opposition between biology or
genes and culture, he does seem to come down on the culture side on
every occasion – not only this one.
also repeatedly stresses that individual scientific theories partly –
sometimes wholly – express the culture and therefore the politics
of their day. Does that mean that Malik's science expresses the the
of our day? After all, Malik says that all science (even anti-racist
science) must express the politics or culture of its day.
of this is to deny that American blacks have experienced what Malik
calls “social discrimination” and that they've done so “as a
group” (which, to Malik, means this isn't about “individual
blacks”). Nonetheless, Malik focuses entirely on such social
discrimination and seems to assume - or conclude - that this is the
entire explanation of the fact that American blacks have lower IQs
than American whites.
this is an argument against what's called “methodological
individualism” (which Malik critically mentions elsewhere). That
is, cultural/political interpretations trump biological/genetic
interpretations when it comes to statistics... and much else. The IQ
black Americans, then, isn't to the point. (Not even the IQs of large
groups of black individuals is to the point.) What matters is
“African Americans as a group”
(Malik's italics). And such a group suffers from “social
discrimination”. That must mean that culture and/or politics not
only trumps biology, it also trumps statistics and IQ scores.
puts the case against methodological
(without using those two words) more explicitly - and on the same
page - when he writes that
animals, for whom social behaviour can be understood as the sum of
individual actions, for humans there are aspects of the social which
are irreducible to the individual level, and which can only be
understood in social terms”
backs up his argument with a quote from the philosopher Bernard
is true is that each action is explained, in the first place, by an
individual's psychology; what is not true is that the individual's
psychology is entirely explained by psychology.'”
least in this instance, Bernard Williams stresses both sides of the
binary opposition that is (individualistic)psychology versus culture.
Nonetheless, this may well be a rather innocuous (i.e.,
non-political) point about philosophical externalism (a position in
the philosophy of mind). In other words, Williams (in the quote
above) mightn't have been singing from the same (political)
hymn-sheet as Malik himself. *) All quotations are from Kenan Malik's Man, Beast and Zombie.