If you’re not up to date on the racist screeching that led the National Review to fire columnist John Derbyshire, start here. It’s a great summary of what Derbyshire has been able to get away with saying and why he suddenly became toxic to the magazine.
Once you are up to date, check out these posts that go into some of the issue surrounding the racist claims Derbyshire made in his piece.
I want to take another tack here, and point out that the sort of pseudoscientific tripe that he’s peddling about black intelligence has been around, and criticized, for a long, long, long time. To demonstrate this, I want to take a look at a paper that was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London way back in eighteen-hundred-and-fucking-thirty-six, and whose author demonstrated better science, intelligence and morality than Derbyshire ever will. The paper, by Friedrich Tiedemann, is titled, “On the Brain of the Negro, Compared with That of the European and the Orang-Outang,” and argues against the prevailing view of the time that blacks are inherently unintelligent and much more kin with apes.
Dr. Skyskull takes a look back to a careful physiologist who was doing critical work on race long enough ago that we really ought to know better by now.
There’s a lot of this IQ racialism lurking around the conservative movement (as well as the brave contrarians like Andrew Sullivan, whom I mock here). And even if they think they’re just being ‘bold intellectual explorers’ or some other bullshit (never mind that they never address serious methodological and statistical problems with IQ), many who cheer them on are nothing but despicable racists.
I suppose Derbyshire did us a favor: he showed us how, under the IQ flimflam, there’s just the usual movement conservative id.
Mike the Mad Biologist makes the case that it can’t be what Derbyshire said that got him fired, as many perfectly “respectable” people are still given platforms to make the same unscientific cases.
It was easy enough to see how Dweck had gotten to that pinnacle of academic achievement. She was, after all, the smartest. But what of Mischel? How could someone whose IQ would have placed him squarely in the back of Dweck’s classroom have gone on to become one of the leading figures in psychology of the twentieth century, he of the famous marshmallow studies of self-control and of an entirely new approach to looking at personality and its measurement? Something wasn’t quite right – and the fault certainly wasn’t with Mischel’s intelligence or his stratospheric career trajectory.
This isn’t directly related to Derbyshire, but this interesting post by Maria Konnikova undercuts some of the narratives of deterministic intelligence that the biases of Derbyshire and other rely on.