From John Ray's shorter notes

22 May, 2013

A conversation about conservatism, race and IQ

Below is an email from an old friend which reminds me how much there is to explain in the matters I broach. I propose to answer it in italics. He mentions his eldest son, Paul, who is very conservative

While understanding that the understanding of authoritarianism may have some application in real life I don’t quite understand how proving that one race is less intelligent than another can have any application at all.

Back to authoritarianism for a moment; you blame all authoritarianism on ‘leftists’ despite ‘nationalism’ normally being seen as a right wing trait. Are there no ‘right wing’ regimes? Are not the Mugabe or the Idi Amins (and many other African states) right wing dictators? If not, then I would like to know the definition of right wing as I clearly don’t understand it. (Serious question)

Not all tyrants are ideologically motivated. In history most tyrants have been just tyrants. But as far as it goes Mugabe is a redistributionist, which makes him Leftist. Amin was just a brute.

There is a distinction between patriotism (love of counrty) and nationalism (the desire to have your country control others). The first is conservative, the second Leftist. Democrats declared almost all America's foreign wars. GWB went to war only when America was attacked (9/11). Friedrich Engels (co-author of Karl Marx) was a furious German nationalist; TR was a furious American nationalist and FDR so hankered for a war that he forced the unfortunate Japanese into one by cutting off their oil supplies

Actually I just looked up the definition in Wikipedia (interesting that your article prompted me to research something I normally wouldn’t have bothered with)

“In left-right politics, right-wing describes an outlook or specific position that accepts or supports social hierarchy or social inequality.[1][2][3][4] Social hierarchy and social inequality is viewed by those affiliated with the Right as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable,[2] whether it arises through traditional social differences[5] or from competition in market economies.[6][7] It typically accepts or justifies this position on the basis of natural law or tradition”

Would you agree with this definition?

No. It is a Leftist definition. "Rightist" is mainly a Leftist term these days. It is often used for Hitler, who was actually a socialist. "Conservative" is clearer for the non-Leftist side of politics.

The great triumph of Leftist disinformation that has identified Hitler as a Rightist has upset the whole Left/Right terminology. In his antisemitism, nationalism and eugenics Hitler was typical of prewar Leftists. The Conservative Churchill was his great opponent, not an ally

If so, it would seem to me that most dictatorships would fall within this definition?

By choosing a wrong definition you can prove many wacky things

Ha ha, I just reread your authoritarianism piece again and realised that you are going to accuse me of attempting to ‘...prove that conservatives are the authoritarians...’ .That wasn’t my intention I was seriously trying to discover just exactly what you think ‘right wing’ means as opposed to what I thought it meant. Of course Shakespeare pre-empted Freud with regards to self-justification “...I believe he doth protest too much...”

Would it be fun to list specifically how a ‘right wing’ person would respond to all of today’s controversies?

Use "conservative" and we can have an empirical definition. Briefly: "Devoted to individual liberty". Not much room for dictatorship there

Anyway, it wasn’t authoritarianism that prompted me to write, but intelligence across races.

Understand that I am not seeking to debate or argue with you but simply to align your thinking with mine in order to isolate where our thoughts might diverge.

In seeking to prove that one race is intellectually inferior to another how would you like to proceed with that knowledge to change the way the world works?

It could be used to give American blacks schools especially suited to their limited abilities -- They learn very little in today's schools

A few things occurred to me while reading:

Assuming that the average IQ is 100, what cross section of society is used to determine that number, ie is it the population of America or Africa or the Middle East, or is it the world or a specific race? I’m sure there is some complicated maths behind all of this.

The population mean (average) for the white population of Britain, the USA and most of Europe is 100 so that has become the norm

If it is America, then it must contain subsets of many races which (if your assertion is correct) must skew the average downwards making it irrelevant to any specific race and making a race of even a slightly higher IQ seem artificially higher. If IQ is determined on a racial basis (ie a different mean is set for each race) then I would have thought that cross-race testing would be very revealing given cultural specialities. I would be interested in these results if they are available.

Yes. The mean for the USA as a whole would be meaningless. You have to separate out the ethnic groups

Again, what actually is the point in proving your assertion? Are you suggesting that one race should be treated differently because they have a lower IQ? Should we assume that if we are talking to or listening to a Muslim we shouldn’t take any notice of what he thinks? Or are you suggesting that intelligent people are in some way better members of society than others? Or maybe better able to rule? There are many clever intellectuals who get many things wrong.

The policies adopted depend on many factors but treating all groups as the same will inevitably lead to policy failures -- outcomes not envisaged

I believe it to be true that many serial killers and sociopaths in general, have high IQ’s and are very charming people. My experience is that less intelligent people are much more likely to obey rules than those who think things through for themselves and therefore believe that ‘rules are made for the lowest common denominator and therefore don’t apply to me’. I have often found that the more ‘ordinary’ a person is the nicer human beings they are (if less interesting to communicate with)

There are exceptions but most incarcerated criminals are low IQ and poorly educated.

I personally get on best with working class people as I find them more down to earth

I applaud your desire to simply state the truth that research reveals and I totally understand that ideal but in order to do that effectively I suggest that the use of emotive words and phrases like ‘pretended’ ‘ ...who should know better’ ‘ is clearly...’ ‘...unlike...(fill in the assumption)...’ ‘...are obviously...’ ‘ is surely that...’ would best be avoided.

Yes. I avoid that in my academic writings but for maximum reach I have to make things vivid a bit

I know it is difficult to avoid these common phrases but they are read as put downs by people who may have an opposing view or who even see grey where you might see black and white, and leads them to think that if they disagree with the subject of the sentence they are somehow wrong or misinformed or even worse, stupid. I think that your points could be just as impactful (if less reaffirming to the converted) without the emotive content.

I don't actually hope to convert Leftists. That rarely happens except through aging. I aim to buck up my side

Perhaps it is the association of IQ with superiority that needs to be addressed. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that people should be upset by being called inferior?

High IQ is broadly advantageous but is not much use for singing or running and various other things so it is not everything. I accept, for instance, that I am physically clumsy. We all have our limitations and for a contented life you have to accept them

Maybe there is even a psychological inference to be drawn from those who seek to prove their superiority by these means? Lol. Didn’t someone once try to prove that the capacity of the skull was proof of superiority simply because he had a big head?

That was phrenology. But more sophisticated measurements do show a correlation of about .3 between brain size and IQ

I would be interested to know where you would classify me in the scale of left to right. I seem to adopt ideas from both ‘isms’ with little or no conflict. I come to conclusions on issues (wherever I actually do hold an opinion) by largely empirical and logical means but don’t claim to have any answers to the bigger questions of life. An example of where I do conflict is when I quite happily tuck into a meat meal but am quite incapable of killing the animal that supplied it. I acknowledge my hypocrisy but am powerless to rationalise it.

I think you are a recovering Leftist -- about right for your age. How you had such a conservative son is the mystery

You claim that ‘leftists’ know all of the answers, in which case I know no ‘leftists’ at all (although I think you would disagree). In fact the person I know who does seem to have most of the answers is you, John? Ha ha

Leftist policy prescriptions show very little awareness of possible problems so they do create the impression that they think they know it all.

If I knew it all I would just write it down once and then stop. That I keep writing indicates that I am always learning

I can’t help feeling that by spending your energies on segregating races you are simply employing the emperor Alexander’s solution to the Gordian knot problem, instead of trying to unravel the complex knot you would take a sword to it and simply cut the rope. Lol.

It's not at all complex. The only complexity is that many people dislike the evidence.

Race is a major problem in the USA but it is not I who have created it. I just try to point out that most of the problem is due to wrong assumptions of equality and that the problem will remain until reality is recognized

Like you I find these topics fascinating but I can’t agree with your assertion that ALL leftists deny that race exists. I have never heard that, neither have I heard them insisting that everyone is equal, I have only ever interpreted it as all men should have ‘equal opportunity’ which is what I loosely believe. This allows talent to rise to the surface from whichever substrate they come, and accepts by definition that some will naturally end up as less equal than others. In fact the very acceptance of this tenet is the acceptance that men are not all equal.

You need to note the shrill outrage when Americans even mention IQ or race. Belief in equal opportunity only is conservative these days

Anyway, the more I read over your articles the more it makes me think and I thank you for that stimulation.

From a Google search it appears that very few people understand the terms leftist and rightist which sort of suggests that they shouldn’t be used. I Googled ‘right wing dictators’ and got a whole list from many sources so perhaps you should concentrate on correcting this apparent misconception.

Yes. I think the term "rightist" has been so abused and distorted by the Left that it should no longer be used. The Left use it for anything they currently disapprove of. They have only the most childish analysis of what it means. I use "conservative" only and analyse at length what that means here and here.

In England the Tories were known for their “Laissez Faire” politics and I was always a supporter of that attitude and still am. My apparent leftist views seem to have come from a humanitarian attitude to those less fortunate and an unfortunate tendency to play devil’s advocate with people who express strong opinions about anything whether I agree with them or not. Essentially I am afraid of people who think they know what’s what.

That is a very conservative attitude

I do find it confusing when people take an attitude that is more the opinion of an ‘ism’ than one that springs from their own thought process or empirical experience.

Laissez faire in UK was often interpreted as ‘leave it alone’ which I guess is a literal translation but I preferred to see it as ‘don’t interfere when not strictly necessary’

In that light I really don’t get both sides of politics’ attitude to same sex marriage. I don’t see that it’s any of their business nor how it has any effect on people not immediately concerned yet Paul is dead set against it on the grounds that it is ‘leftist’?

Yes. I am a libertarian there. I don't think any marriage is any government's business. Governments should keep out of bedrooms. Marriage was originally a religious matter and I would be happy for it to remain just that. And there are always civil contracts for those who are not religious.

But the subtext is important. Homosexuals want homosexual marriage as a sign of acceptance. But many people will never accept them so advocates of homosexual marriage are pissing into the wind. A distaste for homosexuality is normal, which is why it was long penalized. And no Bible-respecting Christian could accept homosexuality as right and normal

It is really no surprise that Paul is a conservative as he was brought up to defend for himself and was only ever given things that encouraged him to save or be entrepreneurial. He did, after all, run our company from a tender age against his mother’s wishes. Jenny wanted him to get a ‘trade’ or ‘a career’. I had no objections to that but it wasn’t what Paul wanted.

He has learned from life largely

I do, however, think that Paul lacks compassion and an understanding of less fortunate people and other peoples likes and dislikes, it is possibly because he has never had to struggle and experience deprivation himself (unlike myself) and I think this is a lack in his personality. As much as I don’t understand people who like team sports, tattoos, religion, horse racing, guns, violence, I can still find things to defend people who do, and I certainly don’t take the position of considering them idiots because I know that not to be the case.

Paul is extraordinarily kind and compassionate towards his family. That may leave less room for others. He has played a largely fatherly role towards his siblings, giving them all sorts of support. Deeds, not words, again

I think your suggestion that schools could be segregated into ethnic groups in order to accommodate different levels of learning is totally unworkable in practice and would lead to massive social upheaval. They can’t even yet adjust the learning methods to accommodate the different learning patterns of girls and boys, so I’m sure that the other option would be impossible to implement. You would actually have to integrate people of equal IQ regardless of race but don’t you think that having a variety of IQ’s together is more stimulating and creates greater competitiveness? When some kids see others running faster they try harder and so it goes with academic achievement; if you isolate the lower achievers they will not have exposure to anything better and will therefore have little incentive to try harder in the belief that everyone is the same. Any form of difference between high and low creates ‘potential’ in science as in life. People need to see what can be achieved with application combined with talent in order to stimulate their natural competitiveness, don’t you think?

The dropout rate of American blacks from High School is phenomenal so almost anything would be better. And those who do graduate High School are often barely literate. But there were some all-black schools in the past that did produce well educated graduates. And single sex schools to this day seem to get good results. And standards were undoubtedly higher in the past. So we have proof from the past that streamed schooling does produce better results

I am all for an homogenous society where we can all learn to appreciate each other’s ideas, foibles, idiosyncrasies, foods, music etc and indeed influence each other.

I suspect that you mean heterogeneous. I grew up in a very multicultural town so handle that readily as long as I am free to choose my degree of participation in what happens there. Most people get on best with those most like themselves and organize their contacts accordingly. There is a Sudanese Mosque near where I live. Have you considered attending it? If not, why not? I am sure it is very heterogenous

Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs