Arcane Fire

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Genes, Intelligence, and ‘Crimson DNA’

with 4 comments

Stephanie Grace is a Harvard 3L who wrote a really troubling email detailing why she believes it’s possible for genes to influence intelligence, and therefore, why she believes blacks are intellectually inferior to whites.  This argument is crazy.  But what’s even more crazy is the fact that my one of my coworkers attempted to make the very same argument she did–in a softer manner–and didn’t see anything wrong with it.  I’m posting my response (to a long email thread we had) here, but I encourage everyone to Google her and read up on the whole spectrum of what’s been written in the past 48 hours.  

And  I would (controversially) note that discussions like these are best left unsaid.  I’m serious- I don’t care if you only believe “it’s possible” for one race to be superior-I have no interest in entertaining your argument.  And if you must make an argument alleging superior genetics/race/intelligence to a group of people, have a better argument than pointing to the color of one’s skin or hair, or by telling me that black people can run faster.

A friend adds: “And if you are truly interested in this argument, then you should read “Mismeasure of Man,” which is considered one of the strongest answers to Stephanie’s (which is, fyi, a watered down attempt on the arguments presented in “The Bell Curve”) theories.”

“In this case, I would say the ad hominem attack is a valid argument.  This is a very dangerous way to think about the races and intelligence.  By trying to rationalize one race being smarter than the other, you are basically trying to find a way to condone racism.  Intelligence is a very difficult thing to measure.  Much more so than physical differences.  So here, John, we can also say that there is a flaw in your argument based on your assumption that intelligence and physicality are comparable.  Because they are not. 
And there have been books that have disproven this idea that there is a genetic difference between race and intelligence.  But if that’s not enough for you, I think it would actually be impossible to trace intelligence or social or emotional traits to genetics because each trait is so dependent and affected by culture and one’s surroundings.  So trying to rationalize Stephanie Grace’s argument (and your own argument) are harmful, and bigoted, and mean.  So Jane’s point is perfectly valid here.”
*Names have been changed.

Written by doorr

April 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Race, Seriously?

4 Responses

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  1. Genes, Intelligence, and ‘Crimson DNA.’ Race is a form of history that probably will never go away.
    I have learned in life there are just some things that should not be discussed in the office. Race, religion and some forms of gossip are examples. If one can escape those three, it makes things better in the long run. I feel that there is a disparity in education, when people of different races are not always given the same form of education.


    Rosette Rome

    April 30, 2010 at 7:56 pm

  2. its horrible of you to put her name to this. you should be ashamed.


    May 1, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    • I considered not using her name, but sources like the Boston Globe, Gawker, Jezebel, Above the Law (where the story broke), the Huffington Post, NPR, Daily Princetonian, and countless other blogs published her name well before I wrote this post. If someone is going to Google her, they would find her name and ideas on these sites well before they would come across my blog (FYI, at least ten Google pages before mine). So, considering it’s accepted as part of the story now, I don’t think it’s so horrible for me to use her name.

      But the shame part..I’m a little lost.


      May 2, 2010 at 8:49 am

  3. Unfortunately, the Mismeasure of Man is more a work of propaganda than science. It is a popular book because it tells people what they want to hear, but it got seriously panned in specialist academic journals. Gould misrepresents the position of those he criticises and omits studies that contradict his argument.

    I’d recommend Nevan Sesardic or John Carroll’s articles below. Also, see Ian Deary’s recent paper in Nature for an up to date take on psychometrics and intelligence.

    Philosophy of Science that Ignores Science: Race, IQ and Heritability, Philosophy of Science 67 (2000), pp.580-602.

    Also, see John Carroll’s review in relation to factor analysis, or David Bartholomew’s Measuring Intelligence: Facts and Fallacies.

    The neuroscience of human intelligence differences

    IJ Deary, L Penke, W Johnson – Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2010 –


    June 11, 2010 at 2:34 am

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