Black Scientists

By cjohnson | February 18, 2006 11:20 pm

So it is Black History month here in the USA, in case you have not noticed. Yes, all the jokes about why the shortest month of the year was chosen for the USA’s Black History month have already been made, so I won’t go there (it is in October in the UK, by the way). No, instead I’d like to (as part of my promise to report to you on things that are part of my academic life) tell you about what happens to me during the month of February every year.

Pretty soon after February starts, the deluge of email I get every day gets enhanced a bit by emails from students from all over America. I (and the relative handful of us around the world) become part of an assignment, you see. It seems that these kids are instructed to find a black scientist and write something about them and do a presentation to their class about them. (If you get these emails too, put a comment and let me know!)

Of course, this is a very good thing overall (see earlier discussions here , here and here -including the illuminating sometimes depressing discussion threads- about increasing the number of times that young people are made aware of a career choice that they can make that society, through the media, etc, tells them that they can’t make), and I’m very willing to help where I can.

Unfortunately, most of the requests are essentially simply attempts to get me to do the inquirer’s homework, which, I have to admit, I am extremely resistant to do. For example you’ll get a questions like “Have you written any papers or books?”. Hmmm, so at this point I usually check that it is still the case that if you type my name into Google, I still dominate the first page you get. Yep, still true, and a few clicks from any of those links that come up can bring up all the stuff I’ve ever written. So in the interests of encouraging students to do the work, I usually send a link or two: to my personal webpage (here), or one of two profile pages for me at USC (here and here), or the departmental page on me (here), and hope that they’ll take the ten minutes or so it takes to get the data. (This year I also give a link to this blog.) Another is “what is your date of birth?”, probably originating from the fact that this is harder to find on the web. Well, I’m not comfortable giving that precise information out to random people, so that one gets punted, at least partially. This year I even got a girl on a mobile phone asking me these questions, although I wish she’d actually introduced herself and said what the conversation was about before just asking me personal information…. She was young, so it’s forgivable….Her mum eventually came on the line and explained a bit, and I sent some links by email along with some good wishes.

I’ll repeat that I do welcome these questions -at all levels- from these young people, since I like the idea that for a change, there are classrooms around the country discussing scientists of African descent, as opposed to sportspeople, entertainers, and criminals, which are almost all you ever see us doing as career choices in the media (I exaggerate only a little). The first two are all excellent things to be doing, but I just want young people to be aware that they can choose to do other things too, including being paid to just think about how the world works.

For the first time, this year I got a higher level of questions. They were from a pair of students (Nekia and India) from an older age group, studying at the Johnson C. Smith University. Here they are:

1. Who or what inspired you to pursue your career?

2. What was the most difficult moment that you faced while pursuing your goal as a mathematician? Why? How did you get through it?

3. Knowing that attending college and/or graduate school can be stressful and overwhelming, what would you recommend to students so that they can stay strong and not give up?

4. When you hear the words Black History who are some of the late mathematicians that come to mind? Why?

5. At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be a mathematician?

6. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? What inspired you to write them?

7. My partner and I research shows that you have written 62 papers. Were these papers written throughout your post-doctorial studies, or are they papers that were just written throughout your studies? Are these the only papers that you have written?

Wow. These are really good questions. So I’ll be writing back to them with some extensive answers and some links to things I’ve already written. It is really great that they took the time to write me a nice introductory email letter first of all, asking whether I would mind if they asked me some further questions. That was rather nice, I thought.

Notice that I’m thought of as a mathematician a lot in these discussions. This is because (I think) of the website entitled Mathematicians of the African Diaspora (MAD, yeah, I know), which seems to get updated from time to time with (roughly accurate…I’ve published a bit more, and I’ve been at USC for more than a few months, for example) information about several black scientists. I’ve no idea who does this, but it seems to be a first port of call for a lot of students doing these projects. I explained in an email to Nekia:

I’m “culturally” (the way I think, approach problems, and the type of problem I choose to work on) more of a physicist….. but I use a great deal of mathematics in my work, so some might mistake me for a mathematician.

I’ll end with an amusing story. Amusing to me, anyway. So the afternoon of the last day of 2005 I came down from the top of the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101 , which I told you about here, and decided to walk through central Taipei for a couple of hours and see the city on foot, as I love to do. This meant that I would see a lot of different areas and lots of people. It also meant I would get to think, which is something I love doing on long walks, especially when there’s lots of new stuff to see.

Well, one of the things that got me thinking was a strange encounter in the amazing food hall at the bottom of Taipei 101. I was sitting there eating some pastries and drinking my beloved zhenzhu nai chá (milk tea with tasty black tapioca pearls…mmmm!) when an older woman appeared in front of me and said in perfect English “Are you from New York?”. So rather shocked (for one thing I’d not heard or spoken English all day, and for another that was all she said… no “hello”, “excuse me”, etc) I just blurted out “Los Angeles”. Her face clouded a bit, she repeated “Los Angeles” to herself, and then she turned away and disappeared off to whereever she came from. I found myself annoyed. One reason was that I never got the chance to explain that the story was far more interesting than that, depending up what “from” means. I could have given several answers. Rather, she probably had been having an argument or a bet with others, based on some cliche or stereotype they had in their minds based on my appearance, and I never got the chance to dissolve that image at all. Well, I did not let it ruin my day (there was so much to come… see later), but I found that I got thinking about this while walking later…. The question that was on my mind, while spotting foriegners in the stores, on the streets, etc, as I walked, was “Where are all the other black people?”. I often find it a bit odd (sometimes depressing) that I seldom see other black people as tourists or other travellers, wandering around in the various places I go around the world. This is not because I particularly want to meet them…I’d stay away from black people in a (far away, non-Western, etc) foreign place just as much as I try to stay away from all other foreigners (foreigners to the region I’m visiting I mean!) for the most part…. and I’m sure they would do the same for me. I’m just curious, that’s all. Is it just that we typically choose to do other things with our time and income rather than explore other cultures? Or -if on business trips- that we typically choose to do other stuff when visiting a far away place, and I’m just weird, choose to go to other places in a city, and so don’t run into anyone else? It cannot all be attributable to class, or economics, etc, can it? So, not having any real data on this, I filed it away -as I have before- as something to watch and think more about, and eventually found myself at Longshan Temple Market, and the famous Snake Alley. More later.

So what’s the end to the story, you ask? Well, it still makes me laugh. Later that night, I was on my way to a night club (more later), and decided to walk when I realised that it was not too far away on foot. On the 25 minute walk, I passed one black person on the street, and then a bit later, another. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they actually both live in Taiwan long term [update: hard to explain what I saw…..they just did not look like short-term visitors]….. So did someone hear my thoughts and decide to prove me wrong? Funny. But it got even weirder. The next day I got a few “Happy New Year” emails, and one of them was “Happy New Year from Taiwan”, from Jim Gates! Jim Gates (website here) happens to be one of the three or four (depending upon how you count) other formal high energy theorists on the planet of African descent (in faculty positions…..there are two or three younger people coming up). (Jim is the person people usually see on PBS programs on various aspects of physics, and then -even though I look nothing like him- come up to me later and go “I saw you on TV the other day!”… sigh.) What were the odds that he would be in Taiwan the same time as me, and just after I had my little internal moan about the absence of other black people in the city?! I thought that was rather funny indeed. (It turned out later that he was not in the same hotel -but easily could have been- but he was not very far away when he sent that email. I did not meet up with him on that trip, as I left Taipei the day after and went off back to Hsinchu. We exchanged some amused email messages about the coincidence, however.)

Well, make of that what you will.

-cvj

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  • Belizean

    Funny story. I guess we all look alike.

    Re: Black History month, I’d have to agree with the opinion, recently expressed by Morgan Freeman, that it would be better, if it didn’t exist.

  • http://www.irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    Cliff: In the UK, February is LGBT History Month.

    Belizean:

    Re: Black History month, I’d have to agree with the opinion, recently expressed by Morgan Freeman, that it would be better, if it didn’t exist.

    I agree up to a point. I think part of the point of Black History Month is that eventually it won’t exist any more. Yes, having one month of the year for one particular group is ghettoiste. It would be much better if the history of the civil rights movement were integrated into mainstream history. But until that happens, I think having a black or LGBT or whatever history month is better than not talking about those aspects of history at all.

    The main problems i have with Black History Month is that the don’t cover enough. They give the impression that racism is a thinkg of the past (yes, I know we disagree about whether it is true or not that racism is a thing only of the past), and secondly, they focus only on the negative aspects of black history. Kids learn about slavery and segregation, but not about the art and music and literature than came out of that history.

    lol, I’ve just been blogging exactly that on my own blog.

    –Q.

  • Moshe

    Clifford, a side note about the question “where are you from”, there are lots of possible answers to that question for me (more so for my wife) and the answer is context dependent, so it usually takes me a few seconds of thought to find the right answer… makes me look very suspicious in border crossings…But most times strangers just want to inquire about that strange accent, so I tell them I am from Vancouver.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Quibbler,

    Actually there’s quite a focus (over here) on the postitive aspects too. Special exhibitions and performances showcasing art, history and other aspects of black culture. And…it seems….. they also have presentations about the roles of black people in aspects of society beyond the typical ones, such as science…… better to have it one month of the year than no months of the year, which, sadly would be the alternative (as opposed to all).

    Belizean,

    No, we do not live in an ideal world. I don’t like this sort of thing either…I don’t like that there has to be diversity commitees, and societies of black lawyers, etc, and black history months. But my feeling is that this things exist in order to ensure that there is a time one day soon when they no longer are needed.

    Moshe,

    It is true for a lot of people. But that was not the point of my frustration! Your answer “Vancouver” is great, by the way….. And I would have been so much happier if I’d said “London” in reply to the sudden, rude, question of the inquirer. She might have learned something. Oh well.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Moshe

    Yeah Clifford, I completely understand the frustration, evidently she was having some trouble placing you neatly in the right mental compartment…which is why I enjoy replying “Vancouver” to such inquiries, though it used to be much more fun back when I lived in Texas…

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Hi Clifford, the word “diaspora” is kind of interesting. I thought that the term meant Jewish exile. Does it imply that all African physicists and mathematicians are Jews after all – Jews who fled to Africa? This is mostly a serious question because I really did not understand whether the word “diaspora” is generalized in some way or whether it is joke or real or what’s exactly going on.

    Distinguishing scientists to races should probably be left to special days such as February 29th if not February 30th.

  • http://thebumblebeeblog.blogspot.com/ Poppycock

    Lubos: the term diaspora is frequently used in a more general sense, refering to any dispersed population with a common origin. I have a couple of dictionaries and both give the dispersion of the Jews in the 6th century BC as the first definition, and then the generalisation of the term.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Hi Lubos,

    Did you by any chance check a dictionary? It’s a standard English word that does not have the specific racial meaning you thought. A quick look (ten seconds) on Google gives me several hits for the definition. It shares the same root as “disperse”. I think then the rest is clear…… so it is not a joke.

    Thanks,

    -cvj

  • Aaron

    Jim Gates (website here) happens to be one of the three or four (depending upon how you count) other formal high energy theorists on the planet (in faculty positions…..there are two or three younger people coming up).

    WHOA! What is a formal high-energy physicist, and why are there so few of them?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    “formal” meaning working on mostly fundamental foundational aspects….new principles, symmetries, mechanisms, structures, etc, etc….. examples are quantum field theory, supersymmetry, string theory, loop quantum gravity….. etc….

    Why are there so few? Well, that’s a question that is discussed in those posts I linked to in the third paragraph of the main post.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Clifford,

    you definitely exaggerate. Indeed, now I can find dictionaries – much like Poppycock – that define “diaspora” not only in the meaning I know but also as a general thing for all possible nations, but you just can’t deny that the word means primarily the Jewish diaspora which is how the word was used for several centuries or millenia, since the very moment when the Old Testament was translated to Greek when “diaspora” started to mean exclusively the Jewish exile. When you Google for diaspora, for example, Google immediately offers you Jewish diaspora much like if you made a typo.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=diaspora

    Much like Aaron, I am impressed by the category “formal high-energy theorist”, and I will also be grateful for an explanation of this mysterious term. Is it some special combination of high-energy physics and religion?

    All the best
    Lubos

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Sorry Clifford but your counting seems nonsensical to me.

    Let me enumerate a couple of people strongly exceeding your estimate who work on the formal high-energy physics as you defined it:

    Polchinski, Witten, Maldacena, Strominger, Shenker, Banks, Susskind, Arkani-Hamed, Randall, Gates, Nicolai, Berenstein, Motl, and hundreds of others.

    If you think that they don’t work on the foundational issues whose examples you offered, it will be interesting to learn why you exactly think that they don’t.

  • Aaron Bergman

    I think it’s clear from context that Clifford means formal high-energy theorists of African descent.

  • NL

    You’d think that willful obtuseness (or even worse, willful ignorance) as a rhetorical tactic would have been relegated to the dustbin of history as Usenet faded. Sadly, it has not.

    As soon as I saw the subject of this post I knew that half the comments would be Motlicious, regardless of what direction the discussion took…

  • Kea

    “I’d stay away from black people in a (far away, non-Western, etc) foreign place just as much as I try to stay away from all other foreigners…”

    Actually, this applies to some Western countries as well. It must be eerie to be someone of African descent here, for instance, where just about everyone is well represented BUT people of African descent.

  • Moshe

    Incidentally Clifford (with the risk of interrupting these fascinating linguistic discussions…) I’m curious about some of your answers to the questions you were asked, maybe when you answer them you can post it?

  • Belizean

    Clifford,

    Morgan Freeman’s point is that special treatment of blacks and their history reinforces race consciousness and thus retards progress toward a colorblind society. In other words, such treatment prevents us from reaching your “time … when they no longer are needed”.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ LuboÅ¡ Motl

    Concerning distinguishing identity. When I present my heavy Hungarian 😉 accent to a polite American, it often happens that they identify me as a Swede – perhaps using some combination of the accent and appearance. Of course that this Swedish guess would never insult me, much like the “New Yorker” should never insult Clifford.

    As a member of an equally “underrepresented” group (nation, in my case), I feel the right to talk about these things much like Clifford does. Why is it that the Jews are better represented in theoretical physics than various central European nations or the blacks? Of course that it is a combination of the tradition and social pressures as well as genes – and these different things have interacted for centuries and can’t be quite divided. It’s just a pretty strong signal in the data that the Ashkenazi Jews have a higher IQ in average, much like East Asians have.

    Also, it has been a tradition to do things like theoretical physics for many centuries if not millenia in the context of the Jewish culture. This tradition is hard to match in most other nations, and this very fact obviously plays against the successes at many different levels. In all these cases, if there is a “problem” to talk about, the problem is in “us”, not in “them”.

    Sometimes people think about papers with fun selection of authors – like Alpher Bethe Gamow or authors of one nationality only. It may be fun as a symbol to highlight a certain group but it must be kept within some mantinels. We could also establish hyperformal high energy physics in which the Czech physicists would be the best ones but such a new discipline would be rather painful. 😉

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Lubos,

    Yes, you have a right to talk about whatever you like, and you can draw your usual racist conclusions on partial data…..and you can do it on your blog. I’ve picked a particular subject, and so let’s stick to it. You can also continue to hijack and derail the discussion by deliberately being obtuse (as already pointed out) but it’s only serving to make you look rather foolish.

    So please stop it, and give those who care about the issue the chance to take part in the discussion. Thanks.

    (And yes, as was clear to everyone else who read the post, I meant formal high energy theorists of African descent. I’ve clarified that in the post now, by adding a few words.)

    Kea:- By all other foreigners, I hope you realize I mean foreigners to the region I’m visiting! I’ve clarified that in the post….

    Belizean:- I understand Freeman’s point, and I’ve made that point many times myself. I’m less convinced that it is right than I used to be.

    Moshe:- Later perhaps. Someof it was actually already answered in a long comment I made in the last post on this subject (black middle classes).

    -cvj

  • Moshe

    Thanks Clifford, I remember that comment…also, about the celebration of black history, I think this is distinct from the questions regarding preferencial treatment etc., celebrations of cultural identity are very common. I don’t see this being so different from having Chinese new year celebrations, Octoberfest, etc. etc., usually just an occasion for good fun.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Moshe, that’s actually a good way of putting it.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • anotherscientist

    Hi Clifford,

    Uh, non-pushy Lithuanian Jewish female scientist here. The other guy is a bit weird but maybe it’s best to just drop responding to him. I hope you won’t take him as representative either.

    Let me try to bring it back to topic and ask you a question that I would really love to hear your answer on.

    How should non-minorities best encourage minorities to stay in fields where they are underrepresented? I’ve often wondered about this, both from my own perspective as a female in the hard sciences, but also in trying to figure out how other minorities feel about this. How can a white male or female best go about providing an inclusive environment for a black man or woman? Could you come up with some practical things that we could all do to improve the situation? I’m not sure if I’m forcing you to be redundant here or not. I guess what I am getting at is something like a practical wishlist. Like, “As a black man or woman, I wish my lab/department/field would __ (things to do or not do)”. I would be fascinated to hear more from you on the daily practical side of this issue. I know how I feel about this from a female in a male environment side of things, but I would be really curious to know about this from the black in a white environment perspective.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ LuboÅ¡ Motl

    Dear Clifford,

    your description of the opportunity for others to discuss is completely ridiculous because a serious discussion is exactly what you – and only you, in this case – attempt to prevent by all means that are available to you.

    Concerning your comments about racism, you know very well that I am already completely immune against such dumb accusations – and moreover, I find it quite obvious that you don’t believe what you write yourself so it is completely unnecessary to refute such comments.

    You’ve been living your life in the atmosphere where no one can say anything critical about you or your opinions because you are black. This is unfortunately how it worked – and it probably still works in this way. It is completely wrong. It is not only wrong for the society, it is also wrong for you because you were not given the opportunity to think about certain elementary things.

    In this text, you presented not only vacuous celebrations of physicists of the same race as yours – which would certainly be described as racism if I did the same thing – but also the idea that one particular colleague is one of four people in the world who study foundational aspects of high-energy physics. You know very well how a “discussion” would look like if I were not here (and in this case, thankfully, also Aaron Bergman would have to be absent). People would just continue to build on your assumption that there are four deep theoretical physicists in the world because anything else would be insufficiently politically correct.

    This is how “discussions” among far left-wing people have looked for 40 years, to say the least, and these 40 years of twisting everything have made virtually everyone in this group completely unable to evaluate reality.

    Sorry, Clifford, but what wrote about the discipline of formal high energy physics is totally silly. I am telling you that not only because I care about you, but also because I care about others who have indeed felt significant pressure to “okay” various stupidities just because they sound politically correct.

    I am not sure how writing these obvious things can stop anyone from discussing anything.

    Best
    Lubos

  • Aaron Bergman

    Let me take this moment to formally diassociate myself from pretty much everything Lubos said. (And will say, probably.)

    I was correcting a misreading of Clifford’s post. That’s it.

  • anotherscientist

    Lubos,

    When you come back in your next life as a black person, or a woman, or an aboriginal, etc etc, only then do you get to say that people like Clifford have existed in an environment where “you’ve been living your life in the atmosphere where no one can say anything critical about you or your opinions because you are black”.

    You and are both Jewish, and speaking for myself, I have heard an incredible amount of anti-semetic slurs and criticisms over my lifetime. It is as ridiculous to say that to Clifford, as to say to me that nobody criticizes Jews because the Holocaust has made everyone too defensive to say anything and so we all live beyond criticism. This is a load of crap and you know it. Stop insulting him in this way, it’s horrible. And this is the last post I am going to write about your needlessly provoking comments.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Lubos,

    Thanks. You have expressed the view several times that other races have higher IQs, and that black people in inner cities have made a cultural choice to opt out of educational opportunities. That I consider to be racist. My view, my blog.

    You also are known to come into discussions about women in science and express your view that they are unable to do science as well as men. I consider that to be sexist. My view, my blog.

    Where on earth did you get the idea that people cannot disagree with me because I am black? People disagree with me a lot on lots of things…. my race is irrelevant.

    Where do I present “celebrations” of physicists of the same race as myself? You mean by mentioning them? Is it an uncomfortable fact for you that we exist? Sorry about that old chap.

    I am tired of the messages that the dominant media present to under-represented groups in science about their ability to do science. I will not let this medium (this blog I mean) become part of that. I am asking you again politely to stop adding to those messages. Do not use this blog as a vehicle for your racist, sexist and homophobic (yes, I’ve read some of your offensive material on that issue too) views. Do it elsewhere.

    This is my last request to you on this matter.

    And you know those messages you send me in email after our blog “discussions” telling me how much of a friend you consider me? I don’t like getting them….. Please stop sending them. They are trash.

    Thanks,

    -cvj

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    anotherscientist:- Thanks for your question above. I will try to give a more complete answer in due course, but to me the most important thing right now is to work on the pool of people coming in when they are very young. We need to work much harder on getting kids to see that moving into science careers is a viable option for them….first and foremost for them to see that it is something that they are allowed to choose as a career, and second for them to see that it is something that they can have as a viable career choice to put bread on the table. If there is no knowledge in a whole community of people about this (because they might not know anyone who has done it, and since the media, for example, chooses to show them few or no examples), then we’ll never get enough people choosing to walk that path. I’ve spoken a lot about this on other threads, and so please forgive me if I refer you to those discussions. see the threads I referred to in the third paragraph of the post, for example.

    At the level of a department, I’ve not a whole lot to say. Several universities are waking up to the realization that there are many simple things that can be done to improve the working environment for women and minorities. This turns into a retention issue, which should sit right alongside recruitment matters in this areas. There are issues to do with childcare, maternity leave, the length of the tenure clock, etc, with regards women. With regards black people, I think that given that the numbers are so low at present, it is maybe not useful to talk about universal solutions…. The few black colleagues you might have should just be treated like everyone else… individuals who ought to be listened to, given a supportive working environment, etc. I think that in an environment where there is a perception that everyone is just waiting to attribute things that you do to your race, rather than your individuality, the thing black people (and women) ask for most is just that they be afforded *the benefit of the doubt*.

    I’m sure I’ll return to this topic several times in the future. Please come back and please join in the discussion and ask further questions. And make suggestions too. I appreciate your participation.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Samantha

    I know that I should not encourage this discussion further, but I can’t help it. On reading that Lubos has come up with the idea that Clifford believes there to be

    one of four people in the world who study foundational aspects of high-energy physics

    and they are all black … I burst out laughing. Oh it’s a horrifying glimpse inside Lubos’s mind too, but also pretty damn funny.

    Anyway Happy Black History Month everyone!

    I think it would be just great if more high school students, no matter their background, were encouraged to write to scientists (any scientists). Much along the line of the visits to Fermi lab, JoAnne has been describing in recent posts.

  • anotherscientist

    Hi Clifford,

    Many thanks for your welcome and your interesting insight. I’ve been an occasional reader of your blog for some time but missed out on the fact that you were black – which just goes to show that at heart, science is a meeting of the minds and it doesn’t matter an iota if you happen to be black or I happen to be a woman.

    Let me ask a more specific version of my question – I’ve worked in places all over the world, but being now in the US, it particularly strikes me how segregated it still is here. In my current department, I have seen one black grad student and that’s it. I find this appalling. Of course there are qualified black people out there but but obviously they never made it into our department (or stayed). So that’s what makes me wonder those questions I asked you. How to remedy the situation where there isn’t anyone at all?? Aside from early exposure, which you mentioned and which I totally agree upon, it is worth going out of one’s way to try to find better recruitment and support mechanisms at an undergrad level? What about encouraging applications and acceptances in the department? I also share your desire to not get singled out, me for being a woman, you for being black, but on the other hand, isn’t there more that can be done without necessarily centralizing it as an issue? The current situation in a lot of institutions here that I’ve been at or visited really bothers me.

    Another question, if I may. I’ve found that having a male mentor is still very helpful, provided that person views it as a ‘non-issue’ that I happen to be female. Do you think this is also true in the case of white mentors for black people?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    anotherscientist: – Ah…. all good questions. I’d like to get back to you on them, but I cannot do it now. Please check back later. (Don’t expect too much though…if it were simple to answer there probably would not be a problem any longer…) I’ll just scatter a few more thoughts…..

    And as for not realizing I’m black from what I write: Great. Just as you say, it only goes to show…..

    And I should say “thanks” for not getting all weird and uncomfortable when I choose to mention it, as so often happens with all sorts of people, even friends and colleagues.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • anotherscientist

    Hi Clifford,

    People often have a (similar?) disconnect when they meet me for the first time… not sure what they were expecting, but I guess it wasn’t me. :) But that does bother me sometimes, I admit.

    I know these are all complicated questions, but if you ever feel like you have time to throw out some ideas, I would love to hear it. Our department is pretty much void of people I could ask, and the few that are really around, well, I don’t know them well enough to ask without probably making them uncomfortable. (The whole bringing attention thing… ) And it strikes me that there is not enough getting said out there about what individual scientists can do, whether or not the department is cooperative/uncooperative.

    And, thank you for keeping a lot of this issues out in the forefront with your blog. We all have a long way to go, and we all need to keep getting reminded of that. Science can only benefit from diversity.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Excellent post, Clifford. For me, the most important reason for us to go around popularizing and explaining science isn’t to recruit a new generation of scientists, it’s because everyone should understand and be excited about science, no matter what their chosen vocation happens to be. Similarly, a good reason to let people know that not all scientists are white men in lab coats is to challenge various pernicious preconceptions across the board. If a kid meets a successful black (or female, or what have you) scientist, they may not necessarily be inspired to become a scientist themselves, but they may be inspired in some equally productive way for their own lives. The real reason for Black History Month and other awkward but useful contrivances is to remind people that the real world is much richer and more complicated than our simple stereotypes lead us to sometimes believe.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    When I look around academia, I don’t see many people like myself – from very working-class backgrounds. This is one of the forces that compels me to get out there and try to let working class people know that if they value education and work hard, they have a very good chance to guarantee themselves a comfortable future. If they have the inclination, and the aptitude, they may become academics, but there are, of course, many other careers that are open to them, once they get over the anti-intellectual influences that they face. I was lucky enough to have parents who saw past all this and showed me the importance of education. Many others are not as lucky.

    Race, in the U.S. can be analogous to, related to, intertwined with, or separate from the above. In any case, the way in which the larger society interprets race plays a central role in determining which members of a given race feel like there are no additional obstacles (beyond those common to all people) to their pursuing the career they feel suited to.

    Trying to make this a non-issue in science is a goal that, when achieved, will help us all, improve our science and contribute to a wider appreciation of what we do by society as a whole.

    I spend time on this because I want to see as many people as I can realizing that they have options and opportunities in their lives, no matter what the circumstances of their birth. Clifford’s work in this vein, partly described in his post, is impressive and inspires me to do more and better.

    The criticisms and deliberate misreadings of his post are truly ridiculous. But they do provide a very useful service. They remind those of us committed to making race, class, gender and sexual orientation irrelevant to the intellectual, social and financial opportunities available to a person, that there are still obstacles at the highest levels of our professions, and that we should redouble our efforts and keep up the fight.

    If you are poor, a minority, a woman, or gay, and you are reading this thread, you may be disheartened to read some of the comments. I sincerely hope that the majority of the remarks overwhelm the impact of this bigotry.

    Great job, and thanks Clifford!

  • PK

    Hi!

    What exactly is the reason that people are so offended when someone says that race X has higher IQ on average than race Y? I am white, but would have no problem at all if it turned out that Jews and Asians are on the average more intelligent than whites. I mean, there’s already lots of people more intelligent than me, so what’s the problem if I find out where most of them live?. Also, such intelligence-measurements would only tell us about averages, so a given black, white, asian, hispanic etc person could still be more intelligent than any Jew.

  • Aaron Bergman

    Among many other reasons, there’s the fact that people who believe that tend to inject their oh-so-brave thoughts into conversations that have nothing to do with them.

    Hope this helps.

  • Belizean

    Mark,

    As you know, underrepresentation in physics of lower-income groups is to be expected. Physics is an insane means through which to seek a comfortable life. Besides the income-earning years wasted in graduate school, as a postdoc, and as an assistant and associate professor (with tenure unlikely), there is the simple fact that there is an ever growing over supply of physics Ph.D.s.

    A rational working-class person seeking the surest means to a comfortable life would be better advised to become a physician, an engineer, a business executive, or an entrepreneur.

    Why waste years trying to become an underpaid physicist, when with far less effort you can become a pharmacist or a database administrator with starting salaries of at least $80K U.S.

    These working-class-turned-bourgeois pharmacists and DBAs will have children, who will be less focused on earning money. This will be a consequence of their materially comfortable childhoods. Recruiters for physics programs will have more success with them.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Belizean,

    Your points are interesting, but I do have some notes of caution: (I think we’ve discussed this in a previous thread too):

    (1) Why is “physicist” being equated to “physics professor”? A training as a physicist prepares you for more than just being an academic. Some of the best engineers I’ve worked with were actually physicsits first, for example.

    (2) Also, isn’t an $80K starting salary still better than a starting salary for a lot of other professions that a lot of people go into presently? Frankly, as long as someone gets a good education and makes the best of their talents, I don’t mind what they do…..

    (3) Do you realy think that everyone from the working class is focussed on making as much money as possible? Is it only the “bourgeois” who choose to pursue things that they find interesting, even if not as well-paid? I beg to differ.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    PK: – It simply has no basis in fact. When people start spouting that conclusion, in the face of so many other undeniably huge influences that would undoubtedly swamp any signal of the sort you are talking about, especialy when they are a trained scientist who should know better, you begin to wonder if there is something else going on in their mind…… If they are so willing to jump to such a conclusion -one race being better than another- how soon before they start lining you up and sending you off in trains to the death camps? Or sending death squads/mobs armed with machetes to hack you and your families apart?

    It goes from one to the other in a matter of a few years – months, in some cases. Study your history.

    -cvj

  • http://www.irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    Cliff:

    Actually there’s quite a focus (over here) on the postitive aspects too. Special exhibitions and performances showcasing art, history and other aspects of black culture. And…it seems….. they also have presentations about the roles of black people in aspects of society beyond the typical ones, such as science……

    It seems that Black History Month has improved since my day…I don’t remember any of that from school in the US. I’m glad there’s that focus on positive things. My school in the uK didn’t do anything for BMH in October.

    PK:

    The problem with talking about race X having a higher average IQ than race Y is, as Cliff said that there is no facctual basis. There is no reliable and valid way to measure innate intelligence. There are too many other factors that *DO* affect intelligence test scores, which shows that the tests aren’t really measuring innate intelligence. Secondly, such information is almost invariable misused even when it is false. It’s the same argument that Nazis used to strip Jews of their degrees in the ’30s, and it’s the argument that kept apartheid in place for years in South Africa, and it’s the argument that kept segregation in place for years in the US. And on a lower key level than apartheid and segregation and the Holocaust, it’s just downright offensive to make statements about intelligence of a racial group when there is no factual basis for that claim.

    Cliff, Thanks for posting this and your other threads on this topic. I think it’s really important that these issues be discussed.

    –Q.

  • Belizean

    Clifford,

    (1) An engineer is not a physicist. It’s a dubious proposition that the best training a engineer can have is as a physicist. There are industrial physicists, but the demand for these even when combined with that for academic physicists is still well exceeded by the supply of physics Ph.D.s.

    (2) People interested in capitalizing on their college degrees to the maximum extent should be made aware of the professions that facilitate that. Many enter less lucrative jobs simply because they are unaware of the more lucrative ones.

    (3) No. I think that a focus on money (as the goal in seeking a college degree) is merely more prevalent in those with materially underprivileged childhoods than in those who were able to take a high material standard of living for granted. This would explain the underrepresentation of low-income groups in professions yielding a low ratio of money to effort. [Of course, there are nevertheless many, including myself, with working-class upbringings who are not driven primarily by money. But that’s beside the point.]

  • Belizean

    PK,

    Many people are emotionally invested in reality having particular characteristics. Therefore, statements that assert that reality is not in fact as they want it to be offend such people. This sort of an emotional response is a telltale signal of irrationality. Such irrationality, though inimical to science, is widespread, normal, and very human.

    Until humanity becomes a race of disinterested intellects of pure rationality, certain subjects are best avoided.

  • http://www.amanda.com Amanda

    Samantha said: “and they are all black … I burst out laughing. Oh it’s a horrifying glimpse inside Lubos’s mind too, but also pretty damn funny. ”

    Not really. I would ask participants here to consider the possibility that LM is really suffering from some kind of psychiatric disorder. I mean this literally, not as an insult. No laughing matter surely?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    I’ve discussed that before, Belizean. The focus of my comment was not on getting people to become physicists, but to have the opportunity to realize their potential unhindered by bigotry and other obstacles.

  • cynic

    A couple of comments

    Perhaps the current crisis in string theory etc is about to turn physicists into engineers at a stroke: these are the rules for how things work (and there’s nothing special about them); use them to solve the following problems for which funding is available, essentially chosen by market forces or whatever.

    While it is not really very nice to muse on the psychological and personal undercurrents motivating some of the comments in this thread, one cannot help but notice that Lubos is twice excluded, and that this might account for his vociferousness. His obvious intelligence, and a concomitant impatience with those less clear minded than himself, set him apart from most of his fellow men (women don’t get a look in) and equip him well for a life in academe. This however has a prevailing culture that is, for better or worse, left of centre politically and somewhat prone to soggy liberal moral relativism and political correctness. Like any other hegemonic group, this soi dissant liberal establishment tends to marginalise, misrepresent and exclude those who do not share its defining ethos. So the lad feels hard done by, lays into all and sundry and is well on the way to becoming a pariah, for want of a better word.

    The sequence of aspirational working class grandparents, affluent parents and navel gazing offspring is very common. Periods of rapid social change e.g the industrial revolution and post WWI and II provide hundreds of examples; how many who lurk round CV can fit themselves into this template?

  • http://www.jumplive.com chimpanzee

    Mark:

    When I look around academia, I don’t see many people like myself – from very working-class backgrounds. This is one of the forces that compels me to get out there and try to let working class people know that if they value education and work hard, they have a very good chance to guarantee themselves a comfortable future.

    I like hearing college coaches talk about education in their sports programs. Sports is “Game Theory”, which has the same skill sets required in the “Game of Life”. Indiana Univ (“infamous” Bobby Knight), Duke Univ (Mike Kryzewski, who played for B. Knight @West Point), Notre Dame have very high graduation rates. B. Knight even taught a cross-discipline course @Indiana Univ in the Chemistry Dept..something about teamwork.

    Henry Bibby (ex-USC black basketball coach, John Wooden/UCLA protege) is a favorite of mine. Here’s an excerpt from an article:

    Education. That has always been Bibby’s primary goal. He sees himself as a teacher, not just a coach.

    “A lot of times we get caught up in winning the game,” he said. “I’ve always said it’s about educating our young people. If you teach them the right thing, and you give them the right inspiration, then everything takes care of itself.

    Bibby learned much of what he knows while playing under maybe the greatest teacher of all time, UCLA coach John Wooden.

    “I’ve always been a disciple of John Wooden,” he said. “I think he is probably the greatest coach I know.”

    “Although there is no progress without change, not all change is progress.

    The root of bigotry/sexism is lack of education & old-fashioned stereotypes. Al Campanis/Dodgers GM was fired 2 days later after he said:

    Nightline anchorman Ted Koppel had just asked him why, at the time, there had been few black managers and no black general managers in Major League Baseball. Campanis’ reply was that blacks “may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager” for these positions

    These remarks are eerily similar to L. Summers/Harvard comments about women-in-science. What I can’t believe is why he hasn’t been CANNED. Is MLB (back in ’87) more progressive than Harvard ’05?

    “We beat UCLA five out of six times,” Bibby said. “We owned UCLA. I thought that was something big at USC: to own UCLA.”

    Incidentally, USC “owned” UCLA yesterday..I saw it on the news.

  • http://christinaslibraryrant.blogspot.com Christina Pikas

    Getting my physics undergrad at Maryland meant I was lucky enough to have both a woman physics professor and a black male physics professor (Dr. Gates, in fact). Of course, it didn’t make the physics any easier but they were both good teachers and role models — it’s not their fault that I didn’t continue in the field :)

    I also worked in a public library in a county that’s 63% African American, 7% Latino (have we mentioned Hispanic Heritage month?), 4% Asian… any time I had a chance to talk to a youngster about math or science I pushed it in a big way. One middle school aged child was reading all of the popular science books he could get his hands on and I was definitely an enabler — but he wasn’t getting decent math training so I fear that he will get to college and be shocked and drop back to something easier.

    So I think we’ve got to work in the schools to nurture the interest in science and counter the public anti-science sentiments. IMHO (btw – European American female — I’m really sort of peach, not white unless I’m sick)

  • http://irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    There’s a Hispanic Heritage Month?! Why did no one ever tell me?

    This however has a prevailing culture that is, for better or worse, left of centre politically and somewhat prone to soggy liberal moral relativism and political correctness.

    Academia is a left-wing culture? Why did no one ever tell me that either? Mind you, i’ve yet to hear moral relativism from non-anthropologist academics.

    Been trying to resist the temptation to respond to Belizean, but what the hell: Belizean, when you have valid and reliable data for correlations between race and innate intelligence, I’ll believe it. But you don’t, because there isn’t any.

    –Q.

  • Bob

    LM,

    To begin with, the term “left-wing” needs to be dealt with here. The old Paris Parliament was built with two wings. At opposite ends of each wing was where people entered from and exited to the respective neighborhoods they lived in. The right wing is where the rich entered and sat and the left wing was where the working class entered the building and sat. How anyone voted bared no significance as whether one was left or right. If you are in the proletariat you are left wing. If you are in the bourgeois you are right wing. There is simply nothing left wing about the media or any college campus professors or anyone in Hollywood nor Jane Fonda or Al Gore. Firefighters, postal workers, construction workers, truck drivers, miners, etc. make up the left whether any of them like that label or not. I happen to be one. I worked at the post office for 35 years and now, since retirement, have taken up school bus driving to help me get that big Dob and a Coronado that I have my eyes on.

    The term “politically correct” needs to be dealt with as well. Language is a group of passwords that allow one to pass through barriers in life. Who has the most experience in going alone into the “other’s” neighborhood? Blacks have far more experience going into all white neighborhoods than whites have in going into all black neighborhoods.Granted, not all experiences were peachy and things were very rough in the beginning..They have learned to bring with a “socially correct” behavior so as to not threaten those in the neighborhood they are entering. They recognize risks when they see them and know how to back off or they would not be successful in passing through strange and threatening places.

    My father sold plumbing material and janitorial supplies in Chicago and the suburbs but, due to his fears of walking through all black neighborhoods, he did not sell to many high schools and businesses in Chicago with such a racial makeup. It would have been in the interest of that company to fire my father and hire a black salesperson instead, reaping higher sales for the company. My father lucked out financially due to O’Hare expansion in the 60s. Methodologies do not stay isolated. They follow us around in the other areas of our lives. He suffered too much emotionally when my mother died. He could not mix so well without her and may have done a lot better after her death with better socializing skills. He never developed abilities to mix with his children or his grandchhildren that well. I see too many caucasians falling prey to this situation in their elderly years.

    “PC” language exists in all aspects of life. Apprentices in the trades must learn a “trade-correct” language or they can’t buy parts at the supply houses. Physicists cannot go around and call sigma particles “thing-a-ma-jigs” because there won’t be any meaning to the data they gather from particle accelerators.

    I don’t like a lot of things about academia either, but I do want to know that if I pay a fat amount of money for the information that Clifford has in his classes, I better get and understand HIS view since I paid for it. I can always reject it later if it fails to fit the world’s changing reality. The Rutherford model of the atom is still used by many because of its convenience. It is fitting for many in biochemistry but is not for particle physics. So it is “correct” in one setting but not in another.

    Lately, the term “inexperienced” has been used by many in the integrated communities to describe “racist” attitudes. After all, people have either had a bad expereience or no experience in dealing with unfamiliar surroundings. Integration is being seen as a skilled trade and, like journeypersons in relationship to their apprentices, some do grow impatient, not realizing the skill they have is complex to those who do not have it developed quite yet.

    I hope you haven’t given up. I see no reason to.

    Clifford,

    Do you think, taking Morgan Freeman’s view in conjunction with your view, that February will become Neglected History Month in the future? Our generation sees some need to recognize it as Black History Month for now but a few hundred years down the road and most of what is written on that MAD web page will likely become quite old hat, having no meaning to a future generation in its isolated context. Likely, won’t others step forward finding a similar need to deal with barriers oppressions made in their lives?

  • http://goatsreadingbooks.blogspot.com Tim D

    I’d like to include a hopeful anecdote about minorities in Physics:

    Here at U. of Chicago, our last batch of summer REU students was more than 1/3 African-American (out of about 20 total students). My understanding is that this was due to a concerted outreach effort by the professor in charge of the program. Apparently, he sought out and recruited students from small historically black colleges in the South. As with most REU students, not all of them will actually go on to grad school in Physics, but word on the street is that a few of them are really quite talented with a lot of potential to be stars in grad school and beyond.

    So here’s a good example of how to expand the “pipeline” into science grad programs. I’m my experience on the admissions committee, research experience with a strong letter can trump a lot of things you might not get from a small, non-science oriented college.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Belizean,

    (1) I did not claim that the best Engineers were trained as Physicists. Please read carefully before writing stuff like that.

    (2) There is nothing wrong with being trained as a physicist (or some other scientist) and then changing fields. It is a great training to have. Changing fields happens a lot in all other lines of work so why not science? It means that you bring a useful alternative perspective to your chosen job, as well.

    (3) I still think that your view that people from working-class backgrounds are overwhelmingly seeking to “get rich quick” is wrong. It’s rather degrading, in fact. You’re suggesting that such people are unable to focus on anything else but money, and have no interest in careers that follow from their intellectual interests. This is just not true….. it depends very much on the individual, and the individual’s circumstances, personal encumberances, etc…. You over emphasize how low paying the jobs are too…. it is not unlivable, and there is a good deal of job security in some of the career options that physics leads to.

    -cvj

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Bob:- No, I don’t think that will happen to February. I think that we’ll have it be a wonderful celebration of black cultures….. as it already is, to a great extent.

    -cvj

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Amanda:- I’m guessing that Samantha’s point was simply that you have to laugh sometimes at the nonsense some people go to great lengths to conclude when they don’t want to read and find a simpler interpretation for what’s right in front of them. Laughter is often the best response. Anyway, it is probably not the best medium over which to perform a diagnosis of someone’s mental state… there can be so many other things going on, anyway. So laughter is maybe a pretty good response.

    Everyone, can we please now stop discussing Lubos, and stop any further aiming of remarks or responses directly to him? He has hopefully decided to leave us alone to wallow in our hopelessly foolish politically correct juices, and we should be grateful.

    Let’s move on with the discussion that’s on the table in front of us.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Aaron

    I think it’s clear from context that Clifford means formal high-energy theorists of African descent.

    Ohhhhhhh….

    Personally, I think that could’ve been more clear, since I’ve heard of jobs for which there really are fewer than ten qualified scientists in the world.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Dear Clifford,

    “You have expressed the view several times that other races have higher IQs, and that black people in inner cities have made a cultural choice to opt out of educational opportunities. That I consider to be racist.”

    what some people call racism, others may call statistics.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence

    Best wishes
    Lubos

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Thanks Lubos…. run along now…. there you go.

    Thanks.

    -cvj

    [Update: For the younger people reading: Beware of the whole IQ discussion. Before rushing to conclusions, ask yourself who is setting these IQ tests, what they are actually measuring, what the conditions the tests are taken under, what the actual content of these tests are, and whether what is being tested is actually a measure of your intelligence or not!]

  • http://irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    Bob:

    Lately, the term “inexperienced” has been used by many in the integrated communities to describe “racist” attitudes. After all, people have either had a bad expereience or no experience in dealing with unfamiliar surroundings.

    Yes, I’ve heard the term “sheltered” used to “justify” racist attitudes. And I think it’s important to use the term “racist” for racist attitudes, rather than use a euphimism like “inexperienced”. Inexperience is *not* a reason or excuse or justification. If you’re not prejudiced about a particular group, why would you have any problem integrating or associating with that group? “Inexperience” doesn’t cut it.

    Clifford and Belizean:

    (3) I still think that your view that people from working-class backgrounds are overwhelmingly seeking to “get rich quick” is wrong.

    I think the extent to which Belizean is applying this idea is incorrect; however, it is true that some people from less well-off backgrounds are deterred from jobs that require a university degree (or several university degreES) because of the cost involved, and instead opt to go into the job market immediately after HS. That in itself is not an indication of a “get rich quick” attitude, just a reasonable reaction to financial circumstance (reluctance to put oneself into thousands of dollars of debt when you could start earning right away). That’s not to say that people from working class backgrounds don’t want to study things they’re interested in — just that sometimes financial circumstances override that. which I guess is just a reiteration of what Clifford was saying…?

    –Q.

  • Samantha

    Beware of the whole IQ discussion. Before rushing to conclusions, ask yourself who is setting these IQ tests, what they are actually measuring, what the conditions the tests are taken under, what the actual content of these tests are, and whether what is being tested is actually a measure of your intelligence or not!

    I once heard the following on NPR (and if anyone can point me to the actual study, I would be grateful): researchers compared scores of different groups of students taking standardized tests (say, IQ tests or SATs). They broke the students down along along racial and sex lines i.e. white boys, white girls, Asian boys, Asian girls, black boys etc etc and then compared the results depending on who the students thought they were competing against. And they found that if boys thought they were competing against girls (rather than other boys) their scores would improve. Conversely, if girls were told they were competing against boys, the girls’ scores would fall. And there were similar results along racial lines: thus, black students did worse if they thought they were being judged against white students (rather than against other black students) and white boys did worse if they thought they were competing against Asian boys.

    Thus, the IQ of the SAME group of students will rise and fall depending on the perceived social pressure applied to that group of students. This result says everything to me about how much (or little) you can tell from an IQ score.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Dear Clifford,

    the Wikipedia article itself already has its own disclaimers and all possible arguments and counter-arguments that the whole Wiki community could have invented or collected. I am not sure why you found it necessary to add another disclaimer. I agree with you that one should try to think about all aspects you enumerated – as well as others – when she or he tries to find a reasonable opinion about the matters.

    Best wishes
    Lubos

  • Elliot

    When I clicked on the link the first thing I saw was a large graph showing that blacks were less intelligent than other groups. Not being as careful as some of you “real scientists”, I might easily conclude upon quick inspection that this dramatic visual representation contained some measure of truth. Therefore disclaimers are not only recommended but mandatory. It should be right there at the top like the warning on the cigarette package. “Contains stuff that is poisonous and hazardous to your health and the health of society at large.” It is exactly this misleading representation of the data that leads directly to the need to speak out loudly in protest. Let’s save the fine print disclaimers for insurance policies.

  • http://goatsreadingbooks.blogspot.com Tim D

    Thanks for your post Samantha – I don’t have a citation for your experiment, but it sounds very similar to experiments done at Stanford by Claude Steele’s group. The one experiment I recall from that group was that they could get standardized test scores to improve significantly just by telling black students that their tests would be graded by black folks. The group that was told their tests would be graded by white people did significantly worse, if I recall.

    The other fly in the ointment for the “IQ=intelligence” folks is the Flynn effect, where IQ scores seem to be rising by 3 points per decade, which wouldn’t really happen if it was measuring innate intelligence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

    So yeah, I would agree IQ is a terrible measure for whatever it is we term “intelligence”. Naively I wouldn’t even expect intelligence to be a scalar quantity, much less one measurable by paper-and-pencil tests.

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    When I clicked on the link the first thing I saw was a large graph showing that blacks were less intelligent than other groups.

    Eagle-eyed, as you were, you probably noted that what was depicted in that graph were 4 identical bell curves, with exactly the same variance, differing only in their mean values.

    A sure sign of fake data, if there ever was one. (This is not a statement about the Reynolds et al paper, which I have not read. It is a statement about the mendacious nature of the author/editors of that wikipedia article, who would include an obviously phony graph as the lead-visual of their article.)

  • http://www.irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    Samantha:

    Ceci has some studies about the correlation between the number of math courses kids have taken and their SAT or GRE scores, which shows that SATs/GREs are measuring acquired knowledge rather than innate intelligence.

    Also as Tim said, Flynn has written a lot about social multipliers affecting performance on aptitude tests.

    Proponents of the idea that innate intelligence can be measured with IQ test fail to provide explanations for the strong positive correlation between amounts of coaching/encouragement and IQ scores.

    –Q.

  • Belizean

    Quibbler,

    I don’t want to touch the race-and-intelligence debate with a 100-foot barge pole. There is simply too much emotion and associated irrationality surrounding it. Forgive me, but it does seem, however, that your pronouncement that “There is no reliable and valid way to measure innate intelligence” is an example of this. It seems more like a preconceived article of faith than a conclusion reached after examining attempts to perform the relevant measurements.

    To convince yourself of this, here are a few questions that you might want to ask yourself:

    Is there a valid way to measure any other innate characteristic such as optimism, musical talent, curiosity, or athletic ability?
    Is there a valid way to measure differences in the innate mental characteristics of various animal species (e.g. rats vs. horses)?
    Is there a valid way to measure differences in the innate mental characteristics of various varieties within the same animal species (e.g. bloodhound vs. greyhound)?
    Is there a valid way to measure differences in any of the innate mental characteristics of women vs. those of men?
    Do you believe that all of the innate mental characteristics of women are identical to those of men? Even though there is no valid way to measure these characteristics?
    Do you believe that environmental effects on measurements of differences between innate mental characteristics of group X and group Y can be minimized by measuring the individuals in group X raised in the environment of group Y and vice versa?
    Do you believe that arguments that cultural bias explains the low test score of group X are in any way affected by existence higher test scores by a group Y that is more impoverished that group X and has a more alien subculture?
    Do you find it strange that the consensus among the vast majority those researching the genetic basis of intelligence is that their own race is not the most innately intelligent one?
    Were you to come to believe that any ethnic group is in some sense innately inferior to any other ethnic group, would this bother you?
    How many papers or books purporting to have measured differences in innate intelligence between racial groups have you read?
    Do you find these questions irritating or offensive?
    Do you believe that only a racist could ask such questions?

    I’m not looking for a debate. [Hence, no links. I assume that you can google as well as anyone.] My point is simply that this is an emotionally charged subject requiring us each to be aware of our emotional biases and concomitant irrationality. And while you might conclude (as I do for reasons that I have not adduced) that there is no significant dependence of intelligence on race, it smacks of emotionalism to simply claim that innate intelligence cannot be measured and to therefore seemingly imply that the many attempts to do so (by often ingeniously correcting for other influences) are just a load of rubbish produced by race mongering idiots.

    Lastly, hatred of one group by some members of another is not caused or even exacerbated by studies of the relative properties of the groups. If, for example, you hate Jews, and you learn that they are superior, then you hate them for that. If you learn that they are inferior, then you hate them for that. If you learn that they are the same, then you hate them for that. You just hate them. Given that Jews are only a quarter of a percent of the world’s population and have received nearly 30% of its scientific Nobel prizes, do you really believe that Neo-Nazis and Islamists hate Jews because of a perceived mental inferiority of the latter? Surely it’s absurd to suppose that any result of any study could affect this sort of hatred in any way.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/tabula-rasa-glass-room.html Plato

    Do you really think anybody wants to show such ignorance?

    I believe there is “sensitivity” , to minimize impact of words, by finding terms that are more appropriate? To be thought a rascist would hurt many I think, and being cognizant of that, these alterations are done?

    I don’t think one wants to be evasive about confronting these issues, and in recogniton of Black History Month, a seasoned life/academia, offers experience. A summation of the “wisest words they could” for the generations to come. If you had to summarise the “one thing” you learnt from all of this, what would that be?

    There is something very consoling, from those same seasoned vets academia/life, in recognition of perspective, which can be shared, in regards to human decency beyond all races, genders.

    One doesn’t want to run away and hide. So one tries to become that tabula Rasa? Listen and learn. Beyond, the confines of ordinary life.

    I must admit, as a earlier commentor noted, I didn’t recognize Cliffords color/nor do I now, that such distinctions were apparent, is a very telling understanding of what “wisdom” can indeed be imparted, There had been no gender/race, while our views of life had been biased, and given accent. How so, that wisdom?

    So lets say Bob above is colored? Does one think the lesson of that life any less important? There is wisdom being imparted in his words.

    I do think we all struggle “to be” that “human decency” towards each other. Life eventually seems to ask for such honesty.

  • Samantha

    Belizian,

    I think you missed a question:

    If you to come to believe that, in fact, one race or sex is NOT innately inferior or superior to any other ethnic group, would this bother you?

    This aspect of the debate has always puzzled me. I understand why it would bother me, a woman, to learn that “they” were right all along: I am, in fact, less smart on average than men.

    What I don’t understand is why it makes (some) men (or whites or whatever) so angry that they might not, in fact, be smarter than women (or blacks) rather they are only similarly intelligent.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/tabula-rasa-glass-room.html Plato

    Jacques/Ellot,

    Protest the page there.

    Being quite conscious now of Elliot’s and your statement, if the “model of perfection( what is it)” were to be attained, how would you change that page? Human decency?

    I am scared much like Belizean in touching that issue, because there seems to be “a categorization” to the diversity of human experience, that someone might put gender and intelligence too. Slotted boxes.

    While there is indeed the potential in all, to be much smarter and wiser about things, regardless.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ LuboÅ¡ Motl

    Dear Elliot,

    please feel free to speak out loudly in protest if you find it appropriate and if you don’t care if you will look like something that rhymes with your name. 😉 Also, it would also be completely crazy to expect that you can hide this whole field of science from the whole Western civilization.

    Comrades in China which is much less technologically developed are trying to “protect” the population from certain insights by the Great Firewall of China but their attempts are not terribly effective. In the West, it is completely ridiculous because we live in the 21st century.

    Feel free to write hate mail to Jimbo Wales or anyone else – I guess that he is getting dozens of mails from **iots like you every day. Meanwhile, the page collects the data that have been found and investigated and various interpretations, arguments, and counter-arguments, and if you find these things and debates in general dangerous for your health, you should better destroy your computer and cut your internet connections otherwise your health is sure to be damaged.

    Indeed, this world is nothing for you.

    Best wishes
    Lubos

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    Protest the page there.

    I like the page just the way it is.

    The obviously phony graph, right at the top of the page, serves as a red flag to anyone (anyone with an ounce of sense, that is) that the text that follows should be viewed with the utmost suspicion.

    If the author were a more clever propagandist, he would clean up such instances of obvious fakery, making the more subtle problems with the rest of the page harder to spot.

    Short of either

    a) getting the author banned from wikipedia, and the page rewritten from scratch or
    b) festooning the page with swastikas and KKK hoods

    the current page does about as well as one can hope to warn the visitor about the questionable nature of the content therein.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/tabula-rasa-glass-room.html Plato

    The obviously phony graph, right at the top of the page, serves as a red flag to anyone (anyone with an ounce of sense, that is) that the text that follows should be viewed with the utmost suspicion

    I never looked at the page or graph, so I’ll take your warning here:)

    Could you create a trackback to article that eliminates “do not follow” and make it work to all viewers within this thread?:)

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/tabula-rasa-glass-room.html Plato

    oh! and Rss feed

  • Elliot

    Lubos,

    Thanks for the input.

    Look at the Weschler test (which this graph is based on) and its 14 subcomponents and get back to me with a definitive statement that there are none of these subtest that could not be culturally or social biased. Well let me save you the time because you can’t. At least three of them have unmistakable cultural contingencies.

    I truly hope you are more careful and precise with your real scientific work than you are with your “drive-by” commentary. Science is not an area where “shoot from the hip” poorly researched opinions, will take you very far.

    Cheers,

    Elliot

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Dear Elliot,

    it is probably a complete waste of time to discuss with you. You simply don’t want to investigate these questions – why don’t you just say that you think that these things should remain taboo? Why do you replace such an honest sentence with your completely unjustifiable attacks against this piece of scientific research?

    These people are not “shooting from the hip”. And neither am I, for that matter, because I’ve studied these questions for quite a couple of years. They have been seriously investigating these serious scientific questions in hundreds of their mostly very serious articles. Whether or not you decide to say that “some papers have cultural contingencies” is completely irrelevant. Unlike you, they are doing scientific research. What you’re doing is nothing else than vacuous attacks against science.

    You should at least learn how to spell Wechsler’s name.

    Best
    Lubos

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    Whether or not you decide to say that “some papers have cultural contingencies” is completely irrelevant.

    Not the papers. The IQ Test components.

    I think you just amply proved Elliot’s point.

  • http://www.irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    Belizean:

    It’s not that I think these questions are taboo, it’s simply that I’ve read a lot of the literature (i study it at univeristy) and *none* of it convinces me that it is in fact that case that one sex or race is more intelligent than any other. In fact, none of it convinces me that the measures are valid. Furthermore, if it were in fact the case that, as you suggest, one sex or race is innately more gifted than others, we simply don’t have the tools to discover that right now. All the evidence we have a present seems to point to variation in abilities between *individuals* but *not* between the sexes or between racial groups.

    Is there a valid way to measure any other innate characteristic such as optimism, musical talent, curiosity, or athletic ability?

    not quantitatively.

    Is there a valid way to measure differences in the innate mental characteristics of various animal species (e.g. rats vs. horses)?

    quantitative measures would be vague at best, although we can make lots of qualitative observations.

    Is there a valid way to measure differences in the innate mental characteristics of various varieties within the same animal species (e.g. bloodhound vs. greyhound)?

    no.

    Is there a valid way to measure differences in any of the innate mental characteristics of women vs. those of men?

    no.

    your next three questions don’t make sense. science is not a question of belief. I jsut think that the evidence available gives me no reason to think such things.

    Do you find it strange that the consensus among the vast majority those researching the genetic basis of intelligence is that their own race is not the most innately intelligent one?

    Um, actually the vast majority of those researching this who are making such conlcusions are are white or Jewish, and are concluding that whites and Jews are innately more intelligent than other people.

    Were you to come to believe that any ethnic group is in some sense innately inferior to any other ethnic group, would this bother you?

    Not if the evidence in favour of such a conclusion where overwhelmingly clear. At present, the evidence, even tenuous evidence, just isn’t there.

    Do you find these questions irritating or offensive?
    Do you believe that only a racist could ask such questions?

    no and no respectively.

    There is reason to think that intelligence is biologically determined *to some extent*. However, a test that accurately measures innate intelligence would have to be unaffected by social/cultural factors and the amount of teaching/encouragement someone has had. So far, performance on *all* intelligence tests is affected by such non-innate and non-biological factors. Some of the questions *are* culturally contingent (the “bears in the north are white” question is the classic example). Increased coaching *does* correlate very strongly with higher test scores.

    –Q.

  • Kea

    “I must admit, as a earlier commentor noted, I didn’t recognize Cliffords color/nor do I now….”

    Given the obvious race/gender etc. blindness of blogging, it is interesting to observe how often people are happy to make assumptions: 90% of the time, I am mistaken for a male. This appears to be a considerable bias – neither is it confined to the more mature, and hence more culturally biased, amongst us.

  • Kea

    Did anyone see the film Napolean Alexander? I might have the title wrong. It was very funny. The ultimate pale-faced geek meets his soulmate on the internet, who turns out to be a hip black woman.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Dear Jacques,

    IQ test components are a part of the papers that used the results of these tests, so I don’t know what’s the fatal difference.

    I am also not sure what you want to derive from all these strange proclamations about “cultural contingencies”. The whole science has “cultural contingencies” if you want to talk about them. Science is culture, as certain fellow bloggers proclaim. There are dozens of ways how science in general and physics in particular was developed simultaneously with various philosophical, religious, and cultural constructs.

    We use Arabic numerals which does not mean that the whites or blacks should not learn numbers just because they were created by different cultures. Newton’s theory of mechanics was created by Newton as a proof of the holy spirit that is present in the whole space – which does not mean that the non-Christians have a justification not to learn classical mechanics or the concept of inertial frames.

    It may be easier to understand certain things if one’s brain is thinking within certain intellectual mantinels. But this is a part of the process of thinking. If someone is not getting something, he or she is not getting it and the absence of “cultural contingencies” with his or her culture may be an explanation, but it can’t change the results of those IQ tests.

    If you think that you know how to measure the relevant numbers more accurately, try to propose your own measurements and evaluate them.

    Best
    Lubos

    P.S. I am used that certain people are using anything that you see as a proof of your medieval religious preconceptions. Be sure that there has not been a single glimpse that could resemble circumstantial evidence for any statements that Elliot has tried to offer us, and if you think that there has been such evidence, you have definitely made a mistake.

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Incidentally, Wechsler has always been a leader in this kind of research.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=wechsler

    Look at these thousands of citations and then you try to decide whether your general vague criticism is better than a pathetic form of denialism. No research done by humans is quite perfect but the way how you criticize this research – and indirectly hundreds of people who do it – is very far from a constructive scientific approach.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Quibbler, I have read about tests using identical twins who were raised in different families. These tests point to a strong genetic factor determining how well someone will do in school. The correlation between the twins actually becomes stronger as they grow older.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Innate differences in intelligence between us and our cousins are less than expected, see here. :)

  • Bob

    Doesn’t the law of conservation of energy prevent the existence of superiority? I was under the interpretation that we cannot make gains with the universe, only exchanges. The apparent gains only result by a loss incurred elsewhere. Higher IQs can only be realized by the limitation of the test and the exclusion within such tests of the student’s shortcomings.

    Secondly, testing methods has to be brought up in this discussion..the SAT in particular. How many experiments have been done on students who pass multiple choice tests and then have to take the same exam in essay form? Does the grade go up or down?

    How many of you here really think that straight A students would actually pass if their multiple stab in the dark methodology were stripped from them? Don’t forget that the reason that insane method was implimented was in reaction to the apparent inability of all Americans to pass science back in the 1950s. Prior to that, the grade curve was lowered for science. It was lowered clear down to 50% for passing and was even lower in some schools. At least math stood its ground and refused to provide such a crutch.Yet, teachers liked it because they could grade more papers in shorter time…That brought bigger class sizes to cheapen education. A lot of students liked it too. Now they could cheat and reduce study time way down.

    The reason this working class person did not go out and get a college diploma is because I don’t feel any diploma I did get is worth more than the paper it is written on. The one I got from high school was utterly worthless and the ones I got in the field of electronics just gave me the false impression that I knew something concerning the subject.

    If you gave a test to my grandfather and father concerning the subject of carpentry, my father would pass and gramps would fail. But if you gave gramps a nail and a hammer he could build a house and all the furniture inside of it. Dad would only nail his thumbs into the wood.

    Somewhere along the line education needs to get its house in order before it can claim that it measures intelligence.

  • Bob

    Lubos,

    Thank you for the link but as far as science is concerned it seems to not do to well. Don’t people in the particle physics community look at about one billion pieces of data and only after predicted results occur 99.999% of the time is a
    “discovery” claimed? Now how many test subjects were those studies done upon? Do they equal the number of malpractice suits filed in the same years?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Wow. I go away for a little while and come back to see the thread has gone off into irrelevance.

    The discussion has nothing to do with who has a greater IQ (and yes, it is clear that is meaningless drivel anyway, and thanks everyone who has helped rub Lubos’ nose into his own….er, output), the discussion is about access. Access to opportunities for people of all backgrounds to make an informed choice to go into science careers if they want to.

    This access comes in a number of components:

    (1) Removing the barriers that are placed in front of people from a number of “non-traditional” backgrounds (race, economic). These barriers -which start at a very early age- come in many forms, such as the lack of information out there (including images in the media) about these careers being choices for all, and they come in the more obvious form: racists such as Lubos being the gatekeepers…sadly, most of those racists are cleverer than Lubos and hide themselves better, and so can do a lot more damage….. but we much also watch out for the less subtle ones too, since they propagate fake “scientific evidence” for their views at every opportunity. Imagine how hard it is to fight to survive in a hard field when everyone -including the media- is telling you implicitly and explicitly that you are unlikely to be able to win the fight….it’s just “not your thing”, etc, etc. Have a look at the case of that black ice-skater who won the gold medal the other night, by the way. He was not supposed to be able to do that…it’s “not a black sport”…. supposedly. Read about the barriers of assumption, etc, that he had to deal with through his career. If that is happening in the sports world (one place black people are expected by society to succeed) imagine what typically happens when a black kid says they want to be a particle physicist.

    (2) Being given equal opportunity to explore this career choice once it has been made….this includes making sure that the environment at the place of study, and later, work of these “non-traditional background” people allows them to just get on with the job of being a scientist…not a “black scientist”, or “hispanic scientist”….etc. Again I refer you to the problematic attitudes, etc that can stop this from working. And “innocent” ignorance can be a problem too…. people should take very opportunity to educate themselves about what sort of things they can do to make their work environment a pleasant one. It is amazing how little thought is given to this, and how much better things can be with a little thought…..

    I could go on…. but I’ll just ask again: With all of the effects introduced by the manifest lack of equal access that exists right now, what measure of intelligence would ever see a real signal if there was one? (And see all the known context dependence in the IQ test mentioned in the coments above by others – thanks…)

    The best way of finding out whether black people can contribute to scientific inquiry is not to give them IQ tests, but to give them equal opportunity to participate in scientific inquiry, in significant numbers, and then wait and see.

    What could be simpler?

    -cvj

  • Elliot

    O.K. Lubos,

    Since you are too lazy or choose not to examine the facts here are the subcomponents of the Wechsler test:

    ———————————————————————–

    Wechsler IQ tests include the subtests below:

    Verbal scales:

    Information: Similar to “Trivial Pursuit,” this subtest measures fund of factual information. It is strongly influenced by culture. An American education and intact long-term memory will contribute to a higher score. Sample question (not really on the tests): “What is the capital of France?”

    Comprehension: This subtest measures understanding of social conventions and common sense. It is also culturally loaded. Sample question: “What is the thing to do if you find an injured person laying on the sidewalk?”

    Digit Span: Requires the repetition of number strings forward and backwards. Measures concentration, attention, and immediate memory. Lower scores are obtained by persons with an attention deficit or anxiety.

    Similarities: This subtest measures verbal abstract reasoning and conceptualization abilities. The individual is asked how two things are alike. Sample question: “How are a snake and an alligator alike?”

    Vocabulary: This test measures receptive and expressive vocabulary. It is the best overall measure of general intelligence (assuming the test-taker’s native language is English). Sample question: “What is the meaning of the word ‘articulate’?”

    Arithmetic: Consists of mathematical word problems which are performed mentally. Measures attention, concentration, and numeric reasoning. Sample question: “John bought three books for five dollars each, and paid ten percent sales tax. How much did he pay all together?”

    Performance Scales:

    Object Assembly: Consists of jigsaw puzzles. Measures visual-spatial abilities and ability to see how parts make up a whole (this subtest is optional on the revised Weschler tests).

    Block Design: One of the strongest measures of nonverbal intelligence and reasoning. Consists of colored blocks which are put together to make designs.

    Digit Symbol/Coding/Animal House: Symbols are matched with numbers or shapes according to a key. Measures visual-motor speed and short-term visual memory.

    Picture Arrangement: Requires that pictures be arranged in order to tell a story. Measures nonverbal understanding of social interaction and ability to reason sequentially.

    Picture Concepts: A new subtest on the WISC-IV. Requires matching pictures which belong together based on common characteristics. Measures non-verbal concept formation and reasoning; a non-verbal counterpart of Similarities.

    Picture Completion: Requires recognition of the missing part in pictures. Measures visual perception, long-term visual memory, and the ability to differentiate essential from inessential details.

    Matrix Reasoning: (WAIS-III only) Modeled after Raven’s Progressive Matrices, this is an untimed test which measures abstract nonverbal reasoning ability. It consists of a sequence or group of designs, and the individual is required to fill in a missing design from a number of choices.

    ——————————————————

    As I, accurately stated before at least 3 of these have cultural contingencies

    Information, Comprehension and Picture arrangement.

    Once again you have proven yourself to be singlemindedly focused on your viewpoint without examining the evidence. This is the third time, I think I have demonstrated that you are 1) not an expert in these matters 2) caught you in complete contradiction and 3) found you selectively presenting evidence to support your viewpoint without EXAMINING THE FACTS. I don’t know why you chose science. It does not seem well suited to your personality.

    Perhaps you are just having trouble with the English language. I realize it is not your native language. I don’t know how else to explain the fact that you are just not “getting it”. Perhaps a remedial class in reading comprehension in English would allow you make meaningful contributions to these discussions.

    For the record I believe that both genetics and environment play a role in intelligence not strictly environment. I reject the notion that race is a factor as YOU CAN SEE IF YOU READ THE ABOVE DESCRIPTION OF THIS WONDERFUL TEST, that cultural factors enter into it.

    Please get back to us after you learn how to read and comprehend English.

    Elliot

  • Belizean

    Perhaps this subject would lose much of its emotional charge, if the word “intelligence” were to be replaced with something like

    “testSmarts(TM)” — the ability to perform well on standardized tests (that just happens to be well correlated with material success in life and the achievement virtually any other goal).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Sigh.

    -cvj

  • Belizean

    Um, actually the vast majority of those researching this who are making such conlcusions are are white or Jewish, and are concluding that whites and Jews are innately more intelligent than other people.

    Actually, the usual claim is that asiatic races are the more intelligent than whites (including Jews).

  • Belizean

    Sorry about the detour, Clifford. Getting back on track, I could not agree more your statement:

    The best way of finding out whether black people can contribute to scientific inquiry is not to give them IQ tests, but to give them equal opportunity to participate in scientific inquiry, in significant numbers, and then wait and see.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Clifford:

    Access to opportunities for people of all backgrounds to make an informed choice to go into science careers if they want to.

    So, why not lower the tuition fees? Surely the tens of thousands of dollars you need to study at a university in the US isn’t going to help.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Tuition fees are not a large component of the problem, even at many private universities, actually. Anyway, the experiment has been done: I give you the example of the UK…If fees were the problem, why are there so few black scientists in my generation coming from the UK, when it was free -completely free- to get a university education in my day.

    Please, once again, read what I have identified as the key problems.

    Thanks,

    -cvj

  • Elliot

    Clifford,

    It would be nice to decouple the two as you suggest and just give people a chance. But if mythology such as the Reynolds study, suggesting inherent racial difference in intelligence is not exposed as being based on biased data, these impressions continue to be part of the cultural milieu and limit the opportunities you suggest

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Yes, I agree Elliot, hence the points in part (1) of what I said. And hence why I thanked all of you for helping me expose that nonsense when it came up here. There will be young people reading this and they will see it…it is also a record of a discussion that is archived and we can point to it in the future.

    We have to be vigilant… thanks to all for joining in.

    -cvj

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/02/tabula-rasa-glass-room.html Plato

    The best way of finding out whether black people can contribute to scientific inquiry is not to give them IQ tests, but to give them equal opportunity to participate in scientific inquiry, in significant numbers, and then wait and see.

    I really don’t think this was advocated in terms of equal opportunity, was it?

    I am worried about the undertones/currents Clifford, that any of us could “project” something about another.

    You rise to this? Defend others?

    I am aware of the generation much younger. As parents, how could we not care? As grandparents? As a teacher fairnessness, and equal opportunity to the minds ready to learn.

    You would have no empathy for some with “ignorant innocence?” Belizean recoils, I recoil, not from some ideological agenda, to be labelled, but from a human caring standpoint.

    I do not see intelligence limited by anything other then our will “not” to progress and learn. Triumph over the inequities whose leadership help wisdom procure a foothold in the commonsense.

    We all work in the public, learn to deal with those we have come to know over many years. We share our philosophy. It is a “silent way of change” that we could see things become better, and the waves were small ones.

    Yet they leave there impact over time.

    Whose heart was pure, when they thought about what to do next? Imagine weighting it, next to the feather of truth:)The transcendance of “heart thinking” is always moved to the head. A heaven, that we might have brought to earth in our own simple ways?

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Dear Elliot,
    you are confused about every individual issue that is relevant for these tests.

    The question “What is the capital of France?” indeed does not measure “pure intelligence” but be sure that the “more pure” intelligence you measure, the more clear results for the fundamental law of sociology and other data you get. Including questions like the capital of France actually reduces the differences between the groups, not increases. It is known that by training, you can eliminate most of the differences in “capital of France” questions that don’t measure the pure “g” tests while you cannot eliminate the differences in g-loaded tests.

    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/robinhood.htm

    Similar comments apply to other examples of yours.

    If you don’t know what is the fundamental law of sociology, you can Google search for it:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22fundamental+law+of+sociology%22

    All the best
    Lubos

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    If you are interested in the program that was, at least 5 years ago, best in the U.S. in educating black scholars, see this article about the Baltimore scholarships.

    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/blackelite.htm

    Links to more articles about these statistical issues were collected by Steve Sailer, a sociologist.

    http://www.vdare.com/sailer/zorro.htm

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    I want to say that the views that many of you advocate here are patently unscientific. Science has known foir quite many decades that the differences exist. East Asian IQ is consistently around 106, whites around 100, US blacks around 86, and blacks in sub-Saharan Africa 70. The dispute is or was only about the causes and brain imaging and other methods seems to show that the cause is genetic from at least 50 percent.

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-04/cdri-bai042505.php

    You can get a lot of other articles about these issues, e.g. by

    http://www.google.com/search?q=g-loaded+black+white+iq

  • Elliot

    Lubos,

    Does someone need to explain the difference between genetic and racial to you?

    It is not I who am confused about the tests. Reread your comment about the capital of France and think about it a little more.

    My views are not doctrinaire. I actually am open to “some” of the concepts of sociobiology which is an anathema to most “liberals”. I am an open minded thinker not just spouting the party line. Unfortunately it is your playbook looks like it was scripted.

    Your comment about the tests presumes that the input data is not biased. Thats exactly the point you are continually missing.

    Cheers,

    Elliot

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ Lubos Motl

    Dear Elliot, yes, they did explain it to me, but apparently not you. In this case, the debate was about showing that the differences are genetic in nature. We are talking about differences between races, so they are always racial. But the question is whether the cause is social or biological, and the answer in the paper is that they are mostly biological.

    You say “…think more…”. Well, I have already thought more than you roughly by three orders of magnitude. Indeed, the differences may soon extend to four orders of magnitude.

    If you suggest that 100 years of thousands of tests that have systematically proved the fundamental law of sociology were all biased, maybe you should indeed get some social help from the government for your mental retardation. The round Earth is also based on biased input data, is not it? Compassion with people like you.

  • Elliot

    Lubos,

    Personal attacks on my intelligence are not particularly productive and say more about you than me. After all I am descended from Ashkenazi Jews so therefore it is likely based on your world view that I am genetically superior to you. In fact let me give you an example that will point out the total absurdity of your position:

    I assert if we take you position on race and intelligence as being valid that I am more likely to win a Nobel Prize in Physics than you are. Given that I am descended from Ashkenazi Jews who have won a significant numboer of Nobel Prizes in Physics and you are from Czechoslavakia who has won exactly zero Nobel Prizes in Physics that statistically it is more likely that I will win one than you.

    I think I have made the point quite clearly that the Weschler IQ test is culturally biased and therefore inferences based on that test cannot be valid. Yet you insist on ignoring the fact that the data is wrong and continue to reassert conclusions based on faulty data.

    Let’s just go back for a moment to your comment that asking a question about what is the capital of France would tend to reduces differences between groups. Can you imagine that a child somewhere in a third world country born in extreme poverty with no access to books or mass media might not know what the capital of France is. Should this be an valid indication of his/her intelligence You need to pay attention to details. That would improve your chances for that Nobel Prize 😉

    Regards,

    Elliot

  • http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/ Jacques Distler

    You need to pay attention to details. That would improve your chances for that Nobel Prize 😉

    Ah, details…

    Ever wonder what the 95% confidence levels are on the (already flawed, for the reasons you delineated) IQ statistics Luboš bandies about are? There’s a reason he never mentions those…

  • http://irrationalpoint.blogspot.com IrrationalPoint

    Cliff:

    While it’s true that the access issue isn’t nearly as simple as being about the *cost* of a university degree, it is not true that a university education in the UK is free or that cost isn’t an access issue. While it is true that there are no official “tuition fees” for students who finished HS before 2006, the majority of universities have been charging “matriculation fees” or “graduation fees” for years. And living expenses are a big cost, especially given the current housing market. And tuitiion fees are now being introduced in England. Cost *is* an access issue.

    But the specific problem that faces black people, as you pointed out, isn’t so much the financial cost, as it’s people’s attitudes towards and expectations of black people.

    –Q.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/01/earth-bound-solutions-to-all-possible.html Plato

    okay Jacque,

    I’ll bite. What is Lubos’s IQ? Elliot, what is yours?

    I would like to know if these numbers should influence what we are reading?

    If there are going to be clear indications, that brilliance, has been touched for a momentary, irregardless, will there be an unintentional sliding back too, reverberate back too “earthy based principles” of genetics of science, becuase of some genetic process in their thinking?

  • http://thebumblebeeblog.blogspot.com/ Poppycock

    IrrationalPoint: Just to set the record straight, there have been tuition fees at English universities for several years (since 1998). However, these were set at ~£1000 for all institutions, and whether or not you had to pay them was means-tested. In other words, you (and/or your parents) had to tell them how much you(they) earned and then you were told for how much of the tuition fees you were responsible. This also determined how much student loan you were entitled to.

    You are correct that the situation is changing – universities will be able to charge “top-up fees”, ie higher tuition, from Autumn 2006.

    Also note that in Scotland the situation is different.

    Of course the cost is an issue, and I don’t think Clifford denied that. So I think we all agree that it is a component but attitudes etc. are more significant. Just wanted to set the record straight with regards to the UK system.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    IrrationalPoint:- If you read my comment carefully you will see that I am talking about when I was a student. It was free. F-r-e-e. You got a grant that covered everything, fees and living expenses. All you had to do was study and get the grades. It is not so long ago, actually. So this is why we know that the problem is not entirely the cost of university.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Belizean

    Lubos,

    I commend you for assuming risks to support the truth as you see it.

    But don’t you realize that now that Larry Summers has been forced to resign, it won’t be long before you too fall victim to the coming purge for your fearless but impolitic posts?

  • Elliot

    Belizean,

    While I am not disappointed to see Summers depart, I would hope that traditional notions of academic freedom as well as the first amendment would insulate Lubos’ blog from any coming “purge”.

    “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    (normally attributed to Voltaire)

    Elliot

  • http://www.irrationalpoint.blogspot.com Quibbler

    Cliff and Poppycock:

    sorry, don’t want too get too sidetracked. Yes, I got what you were saying Cliff. Grants/student loans still exist, but don’t quite cover living costs, at least not now or where I study. In Scotland, there are no top-up fees thus far, but there are matriculation fees for non-Scots, and graduation fees for Scots and EU students. (i’m in Scotland).

    However, it is also true that even if uni isn’t actually *costing* you anything, you aren’t earning much either. I do know people (who would have gone to uni before Cliff) who weren’t able to go to uni because they couldn’t afford to because they needed an income right away.

    Ok, I’m being pedantic, and I’m sorry.

    Not to get too sidetracked though…

    it seems sometimes to be the case with hispanics that hispanics are encouraged into jobs that lots of other hispanics do — things like engineering and architecture. is it similarly the case that black people are encouraged into fields that other black people are already in, like sports or entertainment?

    –Q.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    To your latter paragraph…. yes. That’s a big problem. People steroetype, and it filters into their expectations and their recommendations.

    -cvj

  • Bob

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0221/p18s02-hfks.html

    Genetic inabilities show themselves in large percentage differences while environmental and expectational differences display themselves in smaller differences.

    What is the difference in percentages concerning the percentage of ducks that can fly verses the percentage of humans that can fly?

    What percentage of men have given birth?

    How many women have prostate problems?

    What percentage of humans can freely breathe Jupiter’s atmosphere?

    This is what encompasses genetic deficiencies. All those percentages show large gaps that are enormous.

    The “twins” experiments that have two twins separated at birth that seem to follow the same path in different environments turns out to be an absurdity. None of the test subjects were separated into “different” environments at all. Someone raised in New York has the same environment as someone raised in Los Angeles. The differences are only spatial. Try raising one twin amongst gorillas in the rainforest without human contact at all for 40 years and compare him to his genetic twin in New York City and see how similar they turn out.

    The history of science has shown thousands of years of testing was done with an interest, to protect the ruling classes. Aristotle no longer strangles us.

    Astronomy Day is May 6 this year in Illinois and the number of blacks that have attended over the years has been disappointing but is climbing. In my past work environment next to no blacks showed an interest in the stars while my present one shows the majority are.

    Our club has seen a difference in African blacks’ interest in the stars verses American blacks interest in the stars. Travels to Africa have always showed a great interest by all blacks who surround our telescopes in journeys there. The sun worshippers and the moon worshippers are thrilled to look through telescopes. Their religions all point them in that direction. American culture does not do that for American blacks. These are environmental differences.

    What is the percentage of whites showing an interest in science? It is pretty low, just like all other races. All of us here are oddballs in our surroundings.

  • A.G.

    I gotta tell you, graduate school decisions on admissions are tricklin’ into my mailbox, and LuboÅ¡ Motl has been my main experience of Harvard up to this point. I am not comfortable with the idea of enrolling there if the prevailing culture is exemplified by his tirades. It has nothing to do with his views on IQ, because I only stand to benefit by his views. I just want to do science without having to worry that I’m going to be impeded at every career milestone by similar conflict, obnoxiousness, arrogance, and demeaning comments.

    Can someone tell me whether this is common in Cambridge? Because if so, I’ll stay away….

  • Elliot

    A. G.

    I probably am not in the best position to advise you on graduate school but I would suggest that you should not let Lubos affect your decision about Harvard. I hope some of the other folks here who are closer to the academic community will speak up and echo the sentiment that he is a sample space of one and not a representative of the environment at that university. Best of luck with your decision.

    Elliot

    P. S.

    Running a blog and making obnoxious, arrogant and demeaning comments requires no special academic qualification or talent. It can be done with very little technical knowledge in oh … about 30 minutes.

  • NL

    Making a decision on grad school based on LM is the height of foolishness.

    Not just because it has nothing to do with the rest of the department, but, being an assistant prof, he will not necessarily be there for the duration of your grad school career…

  • Anonymous This Time

    Dear A.G.

  • Anonymous This Time

    Dear A. G.

    Sorry — hit submit by accident.

    I wanted to add my 2c worth that Lubos’s opinions and demeanour are not representative of the wider Harvard faculty in physics (indeed, of the people I know there, I suspect they would all be vehemently opposed to them) and I would not let the presence of a single assistant professor significantly sway your decisiont to attend a given graduate school (in either direction).

    The best way to get a feeling for a department that has offered you a place in its graduate program is to visit it in person, and talk to other graduate students. If they seem miserable (for whatever reason), then *that* is a red flag.

  • Bob

    Quibbler,

    I should have answered you earlier concerning the terms “inexperienced” and “racist”.

    We are all bigots. None of us has been perfectly cleaned of our bigotries to be able to point a finger elsewhere and call someone else “racist” or “sexist” or “classist” when we are all suffering from it. To use the term “racist” is to assume some purity exists by the person pointing the finger.

    It further falsely implies that when certain rhetoric disappears and all access is open then racism has died…Today’s gang bangers take advantage of that every day. They hurl racial, sexual, and class insults at each other every day on school buses and then hang around each other at night. They find fighting and beating each other up as a way of expressing affection. I busdrive them to school every day. This gives me an experience that others do not have, but does not make me clean of all my prejudices..It merely brings out others I didn’t know I had to the surface.

    “Inexperience” implies that, like a trade, a long journey is ahead and this term is more fitting with science. The term “racist” is more fitting to the smacks of religion…the concept of good and evil…the false world of halos and horns..

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  • Me

    A.G.–I am female in Harvard Physics. Lubos’ views are far from the norm here.

    It would be foolish to base an admissions decision on any one professor, although you should choose your advisor very carefully–and a reputation for racism or sexism is a red flag.

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