The I.Q. Gap: Culture Trumps Genes
To the Editor:
Richard E. Nisbett (“All Brains Are the Same Color,” Op-Ed, Dec. 9) does the black-white I.Q. debate a service by adroitly picking apart hereditarians’ arguments.
What’s always odd about I.Q. discussions, however, is that I.Q. is used synonymously with intelligence. It’s pretty hard to argue that on average blacks aren’t as smart as whites without really knowing what intelligence is or what I.Q. tests measure.
I.Q. tests were created in the early 1900s before scientists had sufficient understanding of the brain or genetics. They were cobbled together with no real intelligence theory ‚Äî developed and adapted to test children in French classrooms, immigrants at Ellis Island and soldiers in the Army during World War I ‚Äî and they have changed very little over time.
If we want intelligence tests, we need to devise new ones based on actual scientific theory rather than Victorian and Progressive Era puffery. Until then, at the very least, we should have a healthy agnosticism about who is smarter than whom.
Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 10, 2007
The writer is the author of a book about the history of I.Q. tests.
Published in New York Times December 16, 2007