“a kind of social paranoia, a belief that mysterious, hostile forces are operating to cause inequalities in educational and occupational performance, despite all apparent efforts to eliminate prejudice and discrimination”

Quoting from Arthur Jensen’s book Educability and group differences (1973). He was being criticized for postulating genetic causes, which some critics think would cause great social harm if they were to be believed. That is, Jensen was replying to the Turkheimers of yesteryear.

The scientific task is to get at the facts and properly verifiable explanations. Recommendations for dealing with specific problems in educational practice, and in social action in general, are mainly a social problem. But would anyone argue that educational and social policies should ignore the actual nature of the problems with which they must deal? The real danger is ignorance, and not that further research will result eventually in one or another hypothesis becoming generally accepted by the scientific community. In the sphere of social action, any theory, true or false, can be twisted to serve bad intentions. But good intentions are im­potent unless based on reality. Posing and testing alternative hypotheses are necessary stepping stones toward a knowledge of reality in the scientific sense. To liken this process to screaming ‘FIRE . . . I think’ in a crowded theatre (an analogy drawn by Scarr-Salapatek, 1971b, p. 1228) is thus quite mistaken, it seems to me. A much more subtle and complete expression of a similar attitude came to me by way of the comments of one of the several anonymous reviewers whose judgments on the draft of this book were solicited by the publishers. It summarizes so well the feelings of a good number of scientists that it deserves to be quoted at length.

The author tends to show marked impatience with those indi­viduals who insist that in the race-IQ controversy genetic arguments for the difference must be conclusively demonstrated before the scientific community accords them standing. He points out that for any number of other questions the scientific community, when confronted by a body of what might be called substantial circumstantial or correlational evidence, would adopt the position that even though an hypothesis stood not conclu­sively proven it was most probably right. Furthermore, he indicates that this view, because it offers a convenient theoretical framework in which to fit observations and is congruent with the observations of racial differences in just about everything else, would also recommend itself to the scientific community. Emphasizing all these considerations, he suggests that the scientific community has failed to endorse the genetic hypothesis as the most likely explanation for difference in test performance by different racial populations merely because the area of race relations is a highly charged one. In several parts of the text he either directly or indirectly indicts the scientific community for showing such extreme caution in its reluctance to embrace the genetic hypothesis he so ably promulgates.

This is an indictment to which the community of scientists should plead guilty as charged. Unlike more esoteric and abstract questions an endorsement of the admittedly unproven, but in Professor Jensen’s view highly plausible, genetic hypothesis will likely be picked up by those who make public policy and by the public they serve, and viewed as established truths rather than plausible hypotheses. It is not difficult to see such a public leaning toward the genetic hypothesis by the scientific community being used to justify all sorts of racially restrictive policies. It does not really matter that the legislature who passed such restrictive legislation did not really understand that the scientific community was only collectively betting on a hunch rather than handing down truth. The problem is that wherever science has a large and direct interface with the social policy one must always weigh the potential social effects of saying as a scientist that one subscribes to this or that unproven hypothesis. The scientific community has, I believe, rightly felt that subscription to one or the other presently competing hypothesis has impli­cations that extend beyond science into areas of social concern.

It is likely that public policies based on the belief that differences in the environment account for the black-white difference would differ from policies based on the alternative genetic hypothesis. A plausible extension of the genetic hypothesis would suggest that the under-representation of blacks in many areas of society is, as one might expect, because the pool of able individuals is inherently proportionately lower in that population than in the white population and other racial populations. Subscription to the environmental view suggests that improvement of the environment, extension of opportunity and efforts to compensate for obvious educational and economic disadvantages if sufficiently massive and continuous will narrow and eliminate that gap. Whichever of these views is correct, the one adopted by the larger society could have an important effect on the direction and goals of public policies. Many who have examined the history of race relations in the United States and round the world feel that of the two hypotheses, neither of which stands proven, subscription to the genetic one carries considerable potential for mischief. It is for this reason such emphasis has been placed on exposing the difficulties of the work that must be done before the genetic view is raised from the level of hypothesis to the status of scientifically demon­strated fact.

I take little exception to this statement at its face value, and none at all to its spirit. The interesting point is that I have not urged acceptance of an hypothesis on the basis of insufficient evidence, but have tried to show that the evidence we have does not support the environmentalist theory which, until quite recently, had been clearly promulgated as scientifically established. By social scientists, at least, it was generally unquestioned, and most scientists in other fields gave silent assent. I have assembled evidence which, I believe, makes such complacent assent no longer possible and reveals the issue as an open question calling for much further scientific study. My critics cannot now say that this was always known to be the case anyway, for they were saying nothing of the kind prior to the appearance of my 1969 Harvard Educational Review article. It was just my questioning of orthodox environ­mental doctrine that set off such a furore in the social science world.

But my chief complaint with the attitudes expressed in the above quotation is that they do not indicate the full complexity of the options we face. Even the simplest formulation of the issue requires a 2 x 2 table of possible consequences, as follows:

Prevailing hypotheses Genetic Environmental
Genetic True G False G
Environmental False E True E


(It is understood that a genetic hypothesis does not exclude environmental variance, while the environmental hypothesis excludes a genetic difference.) The aim of science clearly is to rule out False G and False E, that is to say, it strives to determine which hypothesis accords with reality, so that the result of suffi­cient research would be either True G or True E. What the prac­tical implications of True G or True E would be is another matter. But apparently, for some persons the crucial alternative is not between conditions True G and E, on the one hand, versus False G and E, on the other, which are the alternatives of interest to science, but between True G and False G (which are usually viewed as indistinguishable and equally bad), on the one hand, versus False E and True E on the other, which are seen as equally good. This amounts to saying that the hypothesis that prevails, whether true or false, is more important than the reality. Agreed, we would prefer the outcome True E to True G; but this wish has often led also to a preference for False E over True G. Since by subscription to the environmental hypothesis the two preferable conditions, False E and True E, prevail, there is no incentive to research that would decide between them. It is gratuitously assumed that False E is also good, or at worst harmless, while False G, to say nothing of True G, would give rise to incalculable ‘mischief’. False E is made to appear a more benign falsehood than False G. This may be debatable. What seems to me to be much less debatable is the choice between True and False, whether E or G, even acknowledging the preference for True E. Is there less ‘mischief’ in False E than in True G? When the question is viewed in this way, it seems to me, it places the burden upon research rather than upon personal preference and prejudice, and that, to my way of thinking, is as it should be. Is the choice between False G and False E worthy of debate? When all the arguments are lined up so as to favor False E over False G (and sometimes even over True G), the importance of the scientific question seems moot. But is False E really all that much preferable to False G? Dwight Ingle (1967, p. 498) suggested that it may not be:

When all Negroes are told that their problems are caused solely by racial discrimination and that none are inherent within themselves, the ensuing hatred, frustration behavior – largely negative and destructive – and reverse racism become forms of social malignancy. Is the dogma which has fostered it true or false?

False E could generate a kind of social paranoia, a belief that mysterious, hostile forces are operating to cause inequalities in educational and occupational performance, despite all apparent efforts to eliminate prejudice and discrimination – a fertile ground for the generation of frustrations, suspicions and hates. Added to this is the massive expenditure of limited resources on misguided, irrelevant and ineffective remedies based upon theories not in accord with reality, and the resultant shattering of false hopes. The scientific consequences of False E, if it is very strongly preferred to False G or True G, is the discouragement of scientific thinking and research on such problems. A penalty is attached to scientific skepticism and dissent, and there is a denigration and corruption of the very tools and methods that can lead to better studies of the problems, such as we are seeing presently in the ideological condemnation of psychometrics by persons with no demonstrated competence in this field and with no ideas for advancing this important branch of behavioral science.

Would True G really make for the social catastrophe that some persons seem to fear would ensue? Since this has been an unques­tionable assumption underlying much of the opposition to investi­gation in this area, little, if any, serious sociological thought has been given to the possible problems that might be expected to arise when two or more visibly distinguishable populations, with different distributions of those abilities needed for competing in the performances most closely connected with the reward system of a society, are brought together to share in the same territory and culture. What arrangements would be most likely to make such a situation workable to everyone’s satisfaction? It has often been assumed that such a combination of two or more disparate populations could not work; hence the fear of True G and the preference for False E rather than to take the risk of doing research that might result in True E but could also result in True G – a risk that many seem unwilling to take. There is indeed still much room for philosophic, ethical, sociological and political thought and discussion on these issues. It was with respect to the scientific investigation of such difficult human problems that Herbert Spencer remarked, ‘. . . the ultimate infidelity is the fear that the truth will be bad.’

The cited study is:

What the quotation above suggest is a kind of lying for racial justice. This position is very curious because the same kind of people who writes this sort of thing, also complain when Christians are lying for Jesus. Indeed RationalWiki, always the best example of irrationality, has a page attacking religious people for pious fraud.

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