Recently behavior geneticist Eric Turkheimer participated in a commentary on Charles Murray and the issue of race differences in intelligence. Since I am not a behavior geneticist, I won’t argue the point that there is no present methodology to test for group differences in traits like IQ, although the recent method of estimating group IQ on the basis of the frequencies of all the known genes associated with IQ seems promising. I focus here on Turkheimer’s claims on the ethics of studying race differences.
In previous comments on the science of race differences, Turkheimer noted:
Why Race Science is Objectionable
If I may address my fellow Jews for a moment, consider this. How would you feel about a line of research into the question of whether Jews have a genetic tendency to be more concerned with money than other groups? Nothing anti-semitic, mind you, just a rational investigation of the scientific evidence. It wouldn’t be difficult to measure interest in money and materialism, and it wouldn’t surprise me if as an empirical matter Jews scored a little higher on the resulting test than other groups. As a behavioral geneticist I can assure you without reservation that the trait would be heritable, and, if anyone bothered to take the time to find out, specific genes would have small associations with it. Of course, this research program has already been carried out, at least to the extent the relevant technology was available in 1939. While we are at it we could open a whole scientific institute for the scientific study of racial stereotypes, and finally pull together the evidence on sneaky Japanese, drunken Irish, unintelligent Poles, overemotional women and lazy Italians.
This is a naked appeal to the ethnic interests of his ethnic group — exactly the problem with the “scientists” reviewed in The Culture of Critique. Race realists associated with the Alt Right, on the other hand, have tended to go with the data. They accept the findings that the IQs of Ashkenazi Jews and East Asians are higher than White means. The main issue, after all is White identity and White interests in being able to construct their own societies as other groups around the world have done and continue to do — whatever their talents or deficiencies compared to other groups.
Hopefully I am beginning to offend you. Why? Why don’t we accept racial stereotypes as reasonable hypotheses, okay to consider until they have been scientifically proven false? They are offensive precisely because they violate our intuition about the balance between innateness and self-determination of the moral and cultural qualities of human beings. No reasonable person would be offended by the observation that African people have curlier hair than the Chinese, notwithstanding the possibility of some future environment in which it is no longer true. But we can recognize a contention that Chinese people are genetically predisposed to be better table tennis players than Africans as silly, and the contention that they are smarter than Africans as ugly, because it is a matter of ethical principle that individual and cultural accomplishment is not tied to the genes in the same way as the appearance of our hair.
The reason we must not delve in to race science thus depends on “intuition.” Unfortunately, we all have different intuitions. Perhaps he is talking about the intuitions of liberal university professors. Or activist Jews.
But why should that hold any weight? My own intuitions are quite different, based on the persistent racial differences in IQ and academic achievement despite very expensive ameliorative efforts over the last 50 years, as well as finding similar race differences in other societies. Moreover, even though we don’t have a methodology to nail down genetic influences on race differences conclusively, it is certainly plausible that some of the differences are genetic in origin given that intelligence is highly heritable in all groups and that the races were separated for thousands of years and subjected to very different environmental selective pressures.
In particular, Turkheimer claims that race science “violate[s] our intuition about the balance between innateness and self-determination of the moral and cultural qualities of human beings.” This is odd coming from a behavior geneticist whose field has found substantial heritabilities of pretty much all psychological traits. The idea that people can rise above their innate limitations is appealing, and to some extent we can, by practice and hard work, maximize our potential (although the psychological trait of conscientiousness, which involves perseverance and striving to achieve goals, is also substantially heritable). No one is proposing that practice or environmental enrichment are not beneficial. But it doesn’t follow that just anyone can become a professional athlete or musician or mathematician, and in fact, the contrary proposition is absurd. Nor does it follow that striving and practice could make a child with a low genetic potential for IQ into a math whiz.
In his more recent comments, Turkheimer essentially repeats his previous ideas on a possible genetic propensity for Jews to be materialistic, noting:
One could try to avoid the question by hoping that materialism isn’t a measurable trait like IQ, except that it is; or that materialism might not be heritable in individuals, except that it is nearly certain it would be if someone bothered to check; or perhaps that Jews aren’t really a race, although they certainly differ ancestrally from non-Jews; or that one wouldn’t actually find an average difference in materialism, but it seems perfectly plausible that one might. (In case anyone is interested, a biological theory of Jewish behavior, by the white nationalist psychologist Kevin MacDonald, actually exists.)
This reference to my work may be misleading. I have indeed thought about the selective pressures on different traits stemming from Jewish cultural traditions, with the implication that this may indicate that these selective pressures resulted in group differences. (Nevertheless, as described below, the extent of genetic influence on behavioral differences between Jews and non-Jews is not an important issue apart from scholarly interest.) In particular, in Chapter 7 of A People That Shall Dwell Alone (see also here), I discuss the cultural tradition whereby scholars able to master the voluminous body of Jewish religious writing were given preferential marriages and business opportunities and that these people had more children. To an evolutionist, this means that any genetic basis for mastering this body of writing would be selected for in subsequent generations — the fundamental and indisputable basis of eugenics. I also mention historical eras, such as the early Christian era, when Jews self-consciously became dedicated to developing an educated elite by not only stressing education and literacy but also by discriminating against unlettered Jews and expelling them from their communities. Wealth always mattered in traditional Jewish communities as it did for all groups, and — at least until the nineteenth century in Europe — wealthier individuals tended to have more children. This isn’t proof, but it’s certainly reasonable. And yes, it would apply to materialism as well. Although I have never made this argument, it would have to be shown that materialism is heritable and that traditional Jewish cultures emphasized economic success and rewarded it with better marriages and more children — a highly plausible scenario.
Using similar logic, ethnocentrism would have been selected for within Jewish communities because less committed Jews would be more likely to convert during hard times or do other things that violated the strict collectivist ethos of traditional Jewish communities. My view is that the phenomenon of martyrdom among Jews is a marker of selection for ethnocentrism:
We see examples [of martyrdom] periodically in modern times, and there are many historical examples, ranging from Christian martyrs in ancient times to a great many instances of Jewish martyrdom over a two thousand-year period. Persecution of highly collectivist groups does not typically result in defections, but rather an increase in collectivist tendencies. …
For example, Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian and apologist, stated that [we face] death on behalf of our laws with a courage which no other nation can equal. (Against Apion, 2:234) “No other nation can be shown to have fought so often in defence of its own way of life, and the readiness of Jews to die for their cause is proved by example after example” (Sanders, 1992:239). [Stories of Jewish fathers killing their families rather than be converted to Christianity in the Middle Ages are a staple of Jewish religious lore.] Examples of martyrdom are theoretically important because it is very difficult to suppose that such people have an algorithm that calculates individual fitness payoffs by balancing the tendency to desert the group with anticipated benefits of continued group membership. The obvious interpretation of such a phenomenon is that these people are obligated to remain in the group no matter what—even to the point of being martyred. Such examples suggest that there are no conceivable circumstances that would cause such people to abandon the group, go their own way, and become assimilated to the outgroup. …
At one extreme end of this variation [in ethnocentrism], it appears that there are a significant number of humans who are so highly prone to developing a sense of shared fate that they do not calculate individual payoffs of group membership and readily suffer martyrdom rather than defect from the group. It should also be noted that the existence of significant
numbers of people for whom desertion of the group is not a psychologically available option shows that between-group selection must be presumed to have occurred among humans. (see also Chapter 1 of Separation and Its Discontents, p. 18ff)
Obviously, a Jewish activist like Turkheimer wants to avoid discussing such possibilities because such research could fit into anti-Jewish stereotypes. This is understandable from his point of view. However, it is not necessarily in the interests of other groups that these topics be relegated to the fringes. This is less obvious in the case of Jewish traits perhaps than it is in the case of Blacks. This is because what really matters is Jewish phenotypes. It matters far less whether there is a genetic basis, say, to Jewish ethnic networking than that it exists and is critically important for understanding many aspects of Jewish power, from admission to elite universities to dominating Hollywood and the media (here, p. xlvi ff).
On the other hand, the persistent failures of Blacks and other low-IQ groups now inundating the West are typically blamed on some variant of White racism (lack of school funding, stereotype threat, poor neighborhoods, the legacy of slavery, micro-aggressions — the list is endless). In the case of Jewish phenotypes, there is no massive effort being expended to change Jewish phenotypes for the better at the expense of the White population, but in the case of Blacks there is. So the refusal to countenance research on race differences is not a zero sum game. Whites lose.