Tags: Education | Media Bias | bell | heisenberg | iq

Quantify People's Merits, Not Their Race

Quantify People's Merits, Not Their Race

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 04:20 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Everything concerning race is touchy. This is especially true of statistics.

Newspapers frequently report how many people of different races are found in specific schools, programs, and occupations. Racial "balance" is then said to exist or, more commonly, not exist. That such balance ought to exist is usually assumed.

James Damore wrote a memo about "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber" focusing more on gender than on race. His doubts whether "balance" was a reasonable goal in Silicon Valley precipitated such a stink that Google fired him. English Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, asked what he learned from the royal abdication crisis in 1936, replied "Never stand between a dog and a lamppost!" Someone should have warned Damore.

Given race's touchiness, people do warn me about discussing it. But at least I can't be fired, having retired 17 years ago.

Troubling racial statistics were discussed in The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994). Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein claimed that the middle of the bell-shaped curve of IQ distributions for black Americans was displaced to the left of the equivalent point for white Americans. In other words, they claimed the average black IQ was lower than the average white IQ.

Although Murray and Hernstein maintained that their data controlled for cultural differences, it probably wasn't completely accurate. Even if accurate, the measured IQs didn't prove correlation between intelligence and race. Only Americans were tested, and white and black Americans probably aren't random samples of their brethren on the planet as a whole.

More importantly, the authors condemned stereotyping and warned that their data could not support any conclusions about particular individuals of either race. Still, critics denounced them as outrageous racists, and a recent mob at Middlebury College prevented Murray from speaking.

Gathering and analyzing statistics like those cited by Murray and Hernstein is expensive. Money spent on this should produce information worth as much or more than the expense.

Many decisions are individualized: who to hire, fire, admit to college, befriend, etc. As the authors emphasized, average IQs tell us nothing about any individual, so this statistic is worthless for such decisions even where intelligence is relevant.

Other decisions about how to treat people are based on laws. But here too an individual's race and IQ are irrelevant, since genuine laws must apply equally to all individuals.

Racial IQ statistics aren't worth anything even for misguided people who want to discriminate. The race of the people against whom they want to discriminate is the only factor they want to consider.

Since such statistics aren't worth anything, gathering racial IQ data is a waste of money.

Compiling statistics about the racial makeup of Google employees, Academy Award nominees, or members of Congress is also a waste of money. But it is probably worse than just a waste of money.

We may be confronting a problem that is the converse of the original explanation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in physics: the fact that observing sub-atomic particles causes changes in what is being observed. The converse here is that gathering and disseminating racial statistics helps prevent needed change in our society, like an iatrogenic disease, "induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures."

Stereotyping — the fundamental problem with racism — grossly exaggerates the importance of one category into which an individual may fall. Money spent compiling statistics suggests that race is vitally important. Constant reporting of such statistics encourages people to focus on just that one characteristic and thus to continue thinking in racial terms.

Private parties must remain free to gather racial statistics, though one might hope that they lay off. But government should neither finance such projects nor force private organizations to do so. The 2020 census should neither force nor allow Americans to declare any race other than "human."

The Trump administration does not have a good reputation in racial matters, but its proposed elimination of the requirement that businesses report compensation paid to employees of different genders and races is a step in the right direction.

My friend, Dewey B. Larson, who challenged the nuclear model of the atom, had a sarcastic version of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as applied to the electrons supposedly orbiting an atomic nucleus, "It is impossible to ascertain with great precision the qualities of non-existent particles." By analogy, it is impossible to ascertain how many people of different races ought to be found in particular schools, programs, and occupations.

We do not need a world in which every organization has just the "right" numbers of different races. We need one where people don't exaggerate the importance of race and don't base their treatment of other people on their race.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published 1981 and his most recent book is "The Case of the Racist Choir Conductor: Struggling With America's Original Sin." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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We do not need a world in which every organization has just the "right" numbers of different races. We need one where people don't exaggerate the importance of race and don't base their treatment of other people on their race.
bell, heisenberg, iq
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 04:20 PM
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