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LETTERS TO AND FROM THE EDITOR Dear Readers: I hope to bring our present debate on the question ofrace and intelligence to an early close. There are two reasons why the question should not have been raised: (i) Negroes and other minority groups may be offended, and (2) the debate is misused by racists. But it seems plausible that racial differences in intelligence and drives may be real and ofpractical importance in human relations. I am among those who resent the authoritarian behavior ofthose who claim to speak for all scientists in implying that the issue is closed. Some equalitarians emulate the racists by their use of sneer and smear to oppose ideas which differ from their own. Opinion on the importance of heredity and environment has gone through several excursions. Remember the boast ofJ. B. Watson that ifgiven 100 healthy infants at birth he could determine the success or failure ofeach by control ofenvironment without regard to genetic background? Hereditists grew in numbers among psychologists as the psychometrists who constructed and administered intelligence tests claimed to have perfected valid measures ofnative intelligence. "Constancy ofthe LQ." was then a dogma. Psychology discovered the concept ofoperationalism and some proclaimed that the subject oftest validity was no longer open to debate: "We will define concepts in terms of our tests." They were concerned primarily withthe internalconsistency oftests and overlooked the need to demonstrate the convergence ofseveral different testing operations as a sign ofvalidity. Astimewent on it became clearthat testperformance canbe affectedby training and culture. Moreover, some psychologists believe that there are intelligence factors which are not measured by the tests now in use. Recognition ofthese weaknesses does not mean that standardized tests ofintelligence are without value in testing ability to learn and to reason. The tests correlate well with other measures of mental abilities such as scholastic performance, "expert" ratings ofintelligence, and achievement in life situations where abstract reasoning is required. Many psychologists avoid taking sides on "nature vs. nurture" debates. They know that both are important, that the interplay is complex, and that it is presently impossible to assign values for relative importance when such problems as the biology ofintelligence are at issue. Not all psychologists are willing to sign manifestoes which imply that the issue is closed. Since the discussion in perspectives has centered on the question ofNegro vs. white intelligence, I will discuss this. The question is not, "Are whites superior to Negroes in intelligence?"; this is anuncritical question to whichracists have afalse answer. Obviously some Negroes are superior to some whites and vice versa. Are there significant average 382 Letters to andfrom the Editor Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Spring 1962 differences in the intelligence of Negroes and whites? This would not be an important question ifsociety could accept and practice the principle that each individual bejudged on the basis ofhis abilities, drives, and behavior rather than race. But not only is being Negro a basis ofdiscrimination, there are a growing number ofattempts at the random forcing ofdesegregation in housing and schools on the basis ofrace without regard to abilities, drives, and behavioral standards. The average performance ofNegroes on standardized tests, in classroom achievement, and in competitive life situations requiring learning and abstract reasoning is usually (but not always) below that ofwhites and Asians. Why? We can be certain that differences in culture and in quality ofeducation account for apart ofit. The hypothesis that the entire difference can be accounted for by nurture is tenable, but there is no good evidence that it is correct. Proofwould require that representative samples oftwo diffèrent races have been raised from birth in identical cultures and given the same educational opportunities. Ifthe achievements ofthe two groupswereequal, this would bestrong support for thehypothesis . When comparisons ofhighly selected groups show the average Negro to be equal or superior to the average white; the equalitarian abandons for the moment his claim that intelligence tests are worthless,just as he ignores the factors ofselection (social-economic) which, by correlating significantly with the variable under study (intelligence), yield atypical samples. On one hand, the equalitarianproclaims that objective measures ofintelligence are invalid, andthe next moment heprofesses to knowthe answer to our question. What criteria are used by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 382-396
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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