Nobel Prize for Sale; Bell Curves and measurements; and the robots are coming. An addition to the Slate article.

View 853 Sunday, November 30, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983



Minneapolis will close ‘suspension gap’

November 12, 2014 by Joanne

Minneapolis public schools will try to eliminate the “suspension gap” by reviewing discipline of black, Latino and Native American students. The move is part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which has ben investigating high suspension rates for black students.

“MPS must aggressively reduce the disproportionality between black and brown students and their white peers every year for the next four years,” the agreement states. “This will begin with a 25 percent reduction in disproportionality by the end of this school year; 50 percent by 2016; 75 percent by 2017; and 100 percent by 2018.”

This year, the district has cut suspensions by more than half by using alternatives for non-violent behavior, such as talking back to a teacher. Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said teachers are being trained to handle student behavior in the classroom, reports Minnesota Public Radio.

– See more at:

Good morning, Dr. Pournelle,

I saw this article, and wondered if you had seen it:

I’m torn between disgust at those who disagree with him, and sadness over how far we have fallen as a society.


Don Parker

James Watson selling Nobel prize ‘because no-one wants to admit I exist’

World-famous biologist James Watson said he is selling the Nobel Prize medal he won in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA because he has been ostracised and needs the money

By Keith Perry

James Watson, the world-famous biologist who was shunned by the scientific community after linking intelligence to race, said he is selling his Nobel Prize because he is short of money after being made a pariah.

Mr. Watson said he is auctioning the Nobel Prize medal he won in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA, because "no-one really wants to admit I exist".

Auctioneer Christie’s said the gold medal, the first Nobel Prize to be sold by a living recipient, could fetch as much as $3.5m (£2.23m) when it is auctioned in New York on Thursday. The reserve price is $2.5m.

Mr. Watson told the Financial Times he had become an “unperson” after he “was outed as believing in IQ” in 2007 and said he would like to use money from the sale to buy a David Hockney painting.

Mr. Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for uncovering the double helix structure of DNA, sparked an outcry in 2007 when he suggested that people of African descent were inherently less intelligent than white people.

* * *

Mr. Watson – who insisted he was “not a racist in a conventional way” – said it had been “stupid” of him to not realise that his comments on the intelligence of African people would end up in an article.

“I apologise . . . [the journalist] somehow wrote that I worried about the people in Africa because of their low IQ – and you’re not supposed to say that.”

In 2007, the Sunday Times ran an interview with Dr Watson in which he said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”.

He told the newspaper people wanted to believe that everyone was born with equal intelligence but that those “who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

I doubt Watson said “people of African descent are inherently less intelligent than white people”, because it is easily possible to interpret that to mean that all whites are intellectually superior to all those of African descent, and that is obviously and demonstrably untrue: a falsified hypothesis.

What is true is that the differential psychology community seems agreed that if you accept people to be members of the race they say they belong to, then the mean intelligence scores among the races will rank in order, from Ashkenazi Jews as highest, followed by North Asians, White, Hispanic, and Black. The differences in means vary with the instrument used for the measure, but the rank orders are consistent and have been for many years, (in fact many decades) despite vigorous efforts to reduce cultural effects on scores. This is given in tedious detail in dozens of peer reviewed academic studies, and has been commented on by many best selling books, including “The Mismeasurement of Man” by Stephen Jay Gould, and The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. Gould says it’s all mistaken measurement and has no merit; The Bell Curve tries to stay away from race but concludes that IQ is about 60% determined by heredity. The Bell Curve was denounced at a AAAS meeting at which the chairman of the special session on the book announced at its opening that he had not read the book, nor would he ever; after which he invited discussion.

In other academic discussions and debates The Bell Curve remains controversial, as does the notion that IQ is at all determined by genetics and heredity. Nevertheless, the differences in mean IQ of the different races – generally determined by what race the subject claims to be – show those mean differences, the mean for Ashkenazi Jews about a standard deviation above the mean for Whites, with the mean for Asians falling between them; and the mean for Blacks about a standard deviation below that of Whites, with the mean for Hispanics falling between them.

The Head Start program, which had the approval of nearly everyone who was aware of it, was an attempt to wipe out the IQ differences by giving early exposure to schooling to minority children (as well as better nutrition to those in poverty). While there are studies showing many beneficial effects of Head Start while pupils are enrolled in it, no study yet devised has been able to show significant differences in IQ between those who were in the program and those who were not four years after they left the program.

There have been few programs that accepted the mean IQ differences and went on from there to attempt to deal with that as a fact, so we do not know what to do if IQ is largely determined by heredity, and there are mean racial differences. Should bright kids get a different education from average children? Should “dull normal” children have classes with more emphasis on training and skill development, normal have a mixed bag of skill and abstract intellectual education, and bright to very bright have more emphasis on abstract intellectual matters, mathematics, geometry, algebra, etc.? The literature is full of speculations about this subject.

Of course we are mostly discussing public schools paid by taxes; there are plenty of private schools supported by the wealthy who generally avoid the average public school system. There are also religious schools which have held to higher intellectual standards. There are charter schools and other specially organized school paid for by public money, but they are generally opposed by teachers’ unions, and have often been closed by public action.

The Bell Curve noted that the meritocratic society tended to move high IQ people together, and thus was likely to strengthen the hereditary factor in IQ transmission – assuming there is one.  It is generally assumed that breeding smart dogs to each other produces smarter puppies, so it is not unreasonable to suppose this might happen with people. Wealthy people tend to avoid the public schools, or to make the public schools in their neighborhoods somewhat different from those available to everyone else.  The question of different education for different people is very much subject to that effect, but it is of little value to those of low IQ.  ”No Child Left Behind” has resulted in schools in which No Child Gets Ahead, and gives another reason for those who can afford it to avoid the public school system.


I do not usually recommend Slate articles, but I can recommend this one:

Created Equal 
Race, Genes And Intelligence
By William Saletan
Slate Online

"Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Around the world, studies find the same general pattern: whites 100, East Asians 106, sub-Sarahan Africans 70. One IQ table shows 113 in Hong Kong, 110 in Japan, and 100 in Britain. White populations in Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States score closer to one another than to the worldwide black average. It’s been that way for at least a century."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"

– Declaration of Independence

Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn’t "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. " Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government’s supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn’t a scientific leg to stand on."

I wish these assurances were true. They aren’t. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there’s strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It’s time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.


[I received this after posting the above:

William Saletan

The link for the article you posted went to, not The linked article included none of the links that you thought were there. When I went to slate and searched, I was unable to find the original article with the links, etc. I don’t know if this means that slate deleted the article, that my search skills are underpar, or that it wasn’t posted on slate.

Fredrik Coulter

There were internal statements in the essay that led me to believe it was or had been published in Slate. I confess I didn’t check, and in fact the original place of publication isn’t important. It is a contribution to rational discussion of the subject.  Monday, December 1 10:00 AM]


It is a very long article  and carefully argued.

The question is of great importance. The ruin of the public school system is obvious to most, and activities like that of the Minneapolis school system to force the schools to punish students in proportion to the racial numbers in the classes is, while perhaps well intended, is going to have unpleasant and unwanted effects. I leave those to your imagination.

Now, no one I know advocates segregating children by race; but many believe, as I do, that dull, average, and bright children need different kinds of education, and forcing all to pretend to an equality that isn’t there is counterproductive. The kids know better. The teachers know better. In general even the reporters playing the game to get a story know better. There are bright kids and dull kids.

The problem comes when you sort the kids on performance, and the groups have racial proportions different from their prevalence in the general population. It is immediately assumed to be racial, even if the sorting mechanism has no racial components whatsoever and those scoring the tests are unaware of the race of those taking them. Unequal outcomes are assumed to be racially determined.

If you are trying to give each kid the education that is best for that student, you must take into account the potential. An IQ 88 student is not going to master calculus and while it is not impossible for him – or her – to master algebra, doing that will take a great deal of time and attention which would have been better devoted to learning something he – or she – can master. Most of those will be skilled labor or sales jobs, not abstract symbol manipulation ; in other words, skills that are learned by training . All this should be obvious.

It should also be obvious that half the children are below average, and a quarter are in the lowest 25% in intelligence. 

Let me once more remind you: half the jobs people are doing now can likely be done by a robot which can be purchased for about the annual cost of the person now doing that job. [If this is not strictly true in November, 2014, Moore’s Law and its corollaries pretty well assures us it will be true by 2020.]  The government keeps interest rates low. The maintenance costs of the robot will be about 10% a year of what is at present being paid in salary, health care, pension funding, washrooms and comfort facilities, etc. Perhaps we are not there now, but we are approaching that time very rapidly.

And the public schools are increasingly unable to teach anyone to do anything that some else would pay much money to have them do.

Meanwhile, Dr. Watson is selling his Nobel Prize at public auction, and the intelligentsia seems proud of that accomplishment.


1100 Monday December 1, 2014   I received this, and it should be here:


The Links at Slate


Here are the links at Slate for Mr. Saletan’s series, including a response by Stephen Metcalf

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE


Liberal Creationism — William Saletan. 11/18/2007

"Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn’t "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. "Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government’s supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn’t a scientific leg to stand on."

I wish these assurances were true. They aren’t…."


Environmental Impact — William Saletan, 11/19/2007

"Yesterday we looked at evidence for a genetic theory of racial differences in IQ. Today let’s look at some of the arguments against it. Again, I’m drawing heavily on a recent exchange of papers published by the American Psychological Association.

One objection is that IQ tests are racially biased. This is true in the broadest sense: On average, African and Asian kids have different advantages, and IQ tests focus on the things at which more Asian kids have the edge. But in the narrower sense of testing abilities that pay off in the modern world, IQ tests do their job. They accurately predict the outcomes of black and white kids at finishing high school, staying employed, and avoiding poverty, welfare, or jail…."


All God’s Children — William Saletan 11/20/2007

"Why write about this topic? Why hurt people’s feelings? Why gratify bigots?

Because truth matters. Because the truth isn’t as bad as our ignorant, half-formed fears and suspicions about it. And because you can’t solve a problem till you understand it.

Two days ago, I said we could fight the evidence of racial differences in IQ, or we could accept it. Yesterday, I outlined the difficulty of fighting it. What happens if we accept it? Can we still believe in equality?…."


Regrets — William Saletan, 11/28/2007

" Last week, I wrote about the possibility of genetic IQ differences among races. I wanted to discuss whether egalitarianism could survive if this scenario, raised last month by James Watson, turned out to be true. I thought it was important to lay out the scenario’s plausibility. In doing so, I short-circuited the conversation. Most of the reaction to what I wrote has been over whether the genetic hypothesis is true, with me as an expert witness…."

And a response to Mr. Saletan’s Posts


Dissecting the IQ Debate — Stephen Metcalf 12/3/2007

A response to William Saletan’s series on race and IQ.

"In response to James Watson’s remarks concerning the intelligence of blacks, Slate’s William Saletan wrote a series of pieces on race, IQ, and genetics. In his first post, Saletan wrote: "It’s time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true." One’s to-do list reflects a balance of perceived likelihoods. Is preparing for the congenital mental inferiority of blacks more like budgeting for retirement, or buying asteroid insurance? Caveats and wiggle words aside, the impression left by Saletan’s piece is that it’s more like, say, a prudent response to rising sea levels. To drive the point home, Saletan suggested a historical parallel: Liberals made angry or defensive by the possibility that blacks (as a group) score lower on IQ tests than whites (as a group) for genetic reasons are like Christians made angry or defensive by the theory of evolution. Thus the headline "Liberal Creationism…."

There is enough scientific evidence for a genetic difference in mean intelligence between the races to warrant considerable attention to the probability that it is true, and the implications of that.  There is also considerable evidence that education ought to be different for people widely different in IQ.  Jobs that would drive high IQ people mad can be performed very well by less gifted workers who rightly feel valued for doing the work: we have known that in the aircraft assembly business for seventy years, and I had experience with the phenomenon as a psychologist with the Boeing Company in the 1950’s.  We ignore these probabilities at our peril, and the dreary state of the schools is more evidence of this.




Blacks in America.

As a Jewish-American, I can remember another person who characterized people as ‘barbarians’, consequently, I don’t think that framing is useful.

To counter the ‘Old White Man’s Echo Chamber’, you should read this piece by the author Kiese Laymon, "My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK <> ", which provides a counterpoint to the dehumanizing stereotypes you’re so casually invoking.

However, the most clear and concise observation in all this is certainly Xaviar Holland’s, "In these potentially violent times in Ferguson, I think it’s important to look at the example MLK set. His quiet dignity. His restraint. How he was able to show compassion even under duress. How he got shot in the fucking face anyway."

You’ve lived long enough to make it to the 21st Century. Re-examine your 19th Century beliefs because the context has changed.

Mike Lieman

A barbarian, in contrast to a civilized person, puts his personal and tribal desires far above those of the welfare of the society he lives in. Tribalism and barbarism are so far as I can tell the natural state of mankind; I will leave it to anthropologists to argue the matter. Civilization is something learned and imposed, and is far more fragile than most think: as perhaps the Jews in the Weimar Republic discovered (See I Am a Camera, or the musical version known as Cabaret.)

A variation on Mr. Heinlein’s observation…

This article considers the relationship between Arizona’s minimalist infringements on the Second Amendment and the absence of rioting and looting in Phoenix and Tucson even though called for by the agitators.

Charles Brumbelow

See comment to the letter above.

Dear Jerry,

You might be interested in what Fred says about Ferguson and barbarism.


Fred is an old friend.  He says nothing he doesn’t believe, and he has thought about it before he says it.  We do not always agree, but we respect each others’ views and I always find good food for thought in his columns. He is as aware as I am that there are African Americans at all intelligence levels.

I have always thought the law ought to be color blind.  I believe so now.  I have no objection to private associations promoting any group they would like to promote, whether they choose beneficiaries by race, religion, national origin, sex, hair color, whim, or a Ouija Board; but I believe public policy should take account of individual abilities, not race, and should not be forbidden to do so.



‘Unfulfilled by such a victory for peace and freedom, unwilling to go home when our war, the Cold War, was over, Bush 43 decided to bring the entire Warsaw Pact, three Baltic states, and Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. For this project, Bush had the enthusiastic support of McCain, the neocons and the liberal interventionists.’



Roland Dobbins

I more or less said this at the time, but apparently no one was listening.  The day that George H W Bush moved into the White House, all the Reagan people were gone. And while I hate to agree with Putin, his description of their behavior when The Wall fell as “Triumphalism” rings fairly true.  [I admit to participating in some of that myself.] Reagan would never have made that mistake; he would have built golden bridges for the Russians to transition from communist ruin to increasing prosperity . Then came the Balkan crisis and Mr. Clinton and Secretary Albright, who preferred to make enemies of the pan-Slavic Russians bombed the Serbs without understanding the Balkans at all, and with no idea of what American interests – if any – were involved. The cost was enormous.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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