A couple people have reached out to me recently because of a bubbling controversy over genetics and intelligence, which has inevitably turned to questions of race, as I have written at length about related issues. As a frequent email correspondent of mine said, “You’re writing a whole book on the subject.”
Well, not quite. I have a book under contract about individual genetic variation and what it means for education, meritocracy, and the need for a new egalitarian social order to replace liberalism. That is, my interest lies in why John and Joe have different academic potentials, not why black and white or girls and boys might be perceived to. This is an absolutely essential distinction to understand, and yet nearly everything I’ve read in the popular press about this subject elides the two. That is an analytical mistake and a moral disaster. If you believe that black people are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than white, that is indeed racist, and in my view not supported by the research. If you believe that some individual students are born predisposed to be less intelligent than others, and that these predispositions profoundly shape academic outcomes, you are simply expressing the consensus view of experimental psychology, one established by literally hundreds of high-quality studies. James Flynn, to pick one example, has long disputed the idea that genetic differences are responsible for the academic achievement gap; he also fully supports the consensus view of behavioral genetics. That is no conflict. It would help if people would read some books.
Until that gets sorted out – until people grasp the difference between genetic influences on individual intellectual potential and on group differences – the conversation can’t work.