What James Watson Didn’t See

It’s too bad that eugenics, in the most fundamental sense, has not been much practiced. The core idea, good birth, seems like something no one could be against. We all know what would be conducive to good birth and well babies– prenatal care, nutrition, emotional support, good early education. It’s not a bad idea, either, to teach young people to take care of their health and make good choices for the benefit of their future children.

These measures have never been tried on a global scale. Instead, the twentieth century brought war, racism, genocide, forced sterilization, censoring of birth control information and massive starvation and pollution. It is amazing that the world child has survived so well.

Sean Goncalves has a fine essay about environmental influences on intelligence, providing a valuable counterargument to reckless statements such as scientist James Watson’s remarks about the relative intelligence of black people and white people. Here he cites some research…

Fryer and Leavitt responded to Watson’s scientifically-unfounded claims by pointing to Department of Education research that includes test data of the mental abilities of one-year-olds.

“While you might think it would be impossible to capture anything meaningful at such a young age,” Leavitt writes, “it turns out that these measures of one-year-olds’ intelligence are somewhat highly correlated with IQ scores at later ages, as well as with parental IQ scores.”

They found “no racial differences in mental functioning at age one, although a racial gap begins to emerge over the next few years of life … The observed patterns are broadly consistent with large racial differences in environmental factors that grow in importance as children age.”

Goncalves uses the President’s recent veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program funding bill as an example of politics working against our long-term best interest.

I would love to see a scientific experiment where health care is provided to all who need it and the effect on the population is measured. Wait–there is a measure. It’s call the infant mortality rate. In 2006 we had the second worst ranking in the developed world. But we were better than Latvia. That’s a consolation. I wonder if Americans are naturally superior to Latvians? But does that mean that Canadians are smarter than us?