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Author Topic: How can I articulate that skin colour and intelligence are not genetically linked?  (Read 7769 times)

Offline damiri

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Damiri asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Greetings from Colorado, USA!

I am new to newbielink:http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/ [nonactive] and I'm enjoying it immensely; thank you!
I am a Biology Major at Metro State University, and I have a question.
I have a friend who has got mistaken notions about genetics and race. He believes that intelligence is passed along with the same genes for skin color.

Yes, that means he is a racist, I'm sorry to say. He's a very old friend, and I didn't know about this large problem of his until recently. So, rather than drop him, I'm trying to educate him on this mistaken notion.

I've already told him I thought the idea that genes for "intelligence", (by that I got him to say he meant problem solving and invention), travel along with the same genes as for skin color. His real meaning is that if you are brown you are not very smart. Now, I know his attitude is reprehensible, but what I really want to know is, how do I explain why this hypothesis is unlikely?

I could write what I think I understand about this already, but I'd rather here the straight up skinny from The Naked (in Colorado we say "nekkid") Scientists.

Cheers and thank you for your help.

What do you think?


 

Offline RD

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Your friend may have a point, (and no I'm not Asian) ...

Quote
THIRTY YEARS OF RESEARCH ON RACE
DIFFERENCES IN COGNITIVE ABILITY

J. Philippe Rushton
The University of Western Ontario
Arthur R. Jensen
University of California, Berkeley

The East Asian children in Hong Kong and Japan obtained the highest IQs, followed in descending order by the White children in Britain and Ireland, and then the Black children in South Africa.
http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushtonpdfs/PPPL1.pdf

Certain diseases have racial bias e.g. scleroderma in the Choctaw, MS in Scots, Lupus in African Americans, Crohn's in Jews.

If disorders are not equally distributed amongst the races then why should abilities like intelligence ?.
« Last Edit: 24/02/2009 06:05:59 by RD »
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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Exactly! Why not? :)
Jeez, I feel smart now... and it's not because of that research report.
 

Offline Don_1

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Studies have also shown that those from wealthy backgrounds will do better at school than those from the more deprived backgrounds.

I think intelligence has more to do with attitude, ability and opportunity than genetics.

A child from a wealthy background will have the attitude for success almost impregnated and the opportunity is handed to them on a plate. All they need is a modicum of ability.

A child from a deprived background may have the attitude of their forebears that success does not visit their domain and the opportunities may be very limited. This child will require a far greater ability than the child from the wealthy background. This will be the case regardless of ethnicity.
 

Offline Karsten

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And what do we do with scientific knowledge about this? What if scientists research and find out that skin color and the ability to problem solve and invent are linked and are not dependent on economic background? Imagine the societal consequences if their data is trusted (an I am sure it would be by millions)! Or the consequences for the researchers who dared to publish this data (depending on where they live)?

How do you do this anyways? Who is to say which person has which percentage of ethnic/racial background? What makes a person member of a certain ethnic group? Does there not have to be an exact definition of ethnicity before you can research what comes with that ethnicity? How do you measure ethnicity or race (and why would you)?

Ultimately you may find that there are human beings of all sorts of backgrounds that are more or less talented in certain areas. To scientifically investigate this based on race results in more trouble than it solves problems. In my opinion, not every can obviously filled with worms needs to be opened by a scientist. I cannot see ANY benefit of knowing whether people of a certain ethnic/racial background have any more talent in a certain area. For all practical purposes (and if you really care to know) it depends entirely on each individual. For ideological purposes, stereotyping, and generalizations such research is great.

I fear that most people who are willing to label other people to be members of certain ethnic groups and believe that members of certain ethnic groups have/lack certain abilities have an attitude that cannot be easily changed with scientific arguments.
 
 

Offline Don_1

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I fear that most people who are willing to label other people to be members of certain ethnic groups and believe that members of certain ethnic groups have/lack certain abilities have an attitude that cannot be easily changed with scientific arguments.
 

Such peoples attitude cannot be changed at all by science. I doubt that Obama's success in the US elections will have altered the attitudes and opinions of members of the KKK. Sadly indoctrination and conditioning of children by their bigoted parents continues to this day.
 

Offline Karsten

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I fear that most people who are willing to label other people to be members of certain ethnic groups and believe that members of certain ethnic groups have/lack certain abilities have an attitude that cannot be easily changed with scientific arguments.
 

Such peoples attitude cannot be changed at all by science. I doubt that Obama's success in the US elections will have altered the attitudes and opinions of members of the KKK. Sadly indoctrination and conditioning of children by their bigoted parents continues to this day.

Indeed. It is quite sad to think about how much training you need to become a teacher (with little effect on the children's attitude) and how little you need to become a parent (with a lot of effect on children's attitude). It makes you wonder if anything can change anywhere fast. This relates to peace in the Middle East, science education in the bible belt in the USA, homophobia and racism everywhere, women's rights in Saudi Arabia/Iran/Afghanistan,.., radical habit changes in order to reduce carbon emissions in industrialized countries, etc. If the younger generation is not thoroughly sick of their parent's behavior, little changes.

But to report a bit of a positive thing: I had a conversation with my car mechanic just last week about race. His opinion seemed to become a little softer when I mentioned that his perception of crime among African Americans is better to be explained with poverty rather than race. He did not change his tone completely but he was thinking about what I had said. But he is not a member of the KKK. Just misinformed. Mild case so to say.
 

Offline damiri

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Thanks so much all of you for your help and insightful comments.

I really believe my friend can be talked out of his racism. People can change. People all over the world are changing their ideas about race, class, gender, sexual preference all the time.

I value my friend. In all other respects he is a decent man and a compassionate one. He is a brilliant man, a PhD in Political Science and well versed in all sorts of things, but I think, not genetics.  ;)

Intelligent people can sometimes argue themselves into believing all sorts of things, but they can talk themselves out of it as well.

It seems important to me that if I care about this person I should at least try to change his mind.

If there is one man in the world who can be swayed by a scientific argument, I believe he is the one.

D
 

Offline Ultima

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Completely ignoring any relationship of intelligence (if you can even define it) and genetics. You can easily argue that your friend is spouting complete nonsense based on ignorance. Skin colour is linked to genes that are involved in the general control of pigmentation throughout your body, and those specific to the skin. The specific genes (& mutations on those genes) involved with skin colour, do not have anything to do with intelligence, itís that simple. However if you have dark skin the chance of you having light blue eyes is very low. This is because the genes involved with pigmentation of eyes and skin are in the same family or "network" of genes that interact when expressed. The same can't be said through a purely genetic argument about intelligence.

http://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Skin_color
http://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Intelligence

Racial appearance also has less to do with "race" in the sense of genetics or intelligence. Many physical racial features such as dark skin are more dominant than light skin, however intelligence isn't limited to so few a set of genes. So a child of mixed race might look strongly like one of their parents, but could have aspects of intelligence related to either of them!

This is not to say there can't be variance even genetic between the races for intelligence, just that the idea of genetic racial identity goes out the window once you have mixed heritage such as in the US where you are from. Looking like you are of African descent has little impact if two thirds of your ancestors are from Western European descent, what does it even mean to say anything based on racial argument in this situation...

It's far more likely that social factors impact on the results of IQ tests, if you are from an impoverished African country you are hardly going to be used to dealing with any kind of abstract IQ related problem. So when a scientist from the US comes along and asks you to solve some contrived puzzles as quickly as possible, you're not going to be that great at it. Perhaps you should instead ask a shepherd who scores poorly on 3D reasoning, and other IQ tests if any of the sheep are missing from her herd. If she can tell you immediately and accurately, without counting, chances are she has high intelligence which wouldn't come out in a traditional test.

Another simple argument is to think about historic genius, they come out of nowhere and from families of varying backgrounds. It's just something that is not directly heritable or even predictive.
« Last Edit: 26/02/2009 14:17:54 by Ultima »
 

lyner

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Racists are the other side af 'that' line. There is no point arguing with them because they are too self-interested and their prejudice is not based on anything rational.
They are just interested in maintaining their privileged position in society. Might is right, I guess.
 

Offline RD

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Quote
Being Scottish could increase your risk of contracting multiple sclerosis, according to new study.
Researchers found that people with a surname beginning Mac or Mc were 24% more likely to have the disease than those without a Scottish name.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/latest_news/113139.stm

If neurological disorders can have a racial bias then so can intelligence, (which is defined by neurological health).

If, hypothetically, one racial group could be scientifically proven to be on average to be more intelligent than the others,
 would anyone who mentioned this proven fact be a racist ?. 

[BTW  Am I a racist for mentioning the fact that, as far as Multiple Sclerosis is concerned, all races are not equal ?]
« Last Edit: 26/02/2009 21:14:03 by RD »
 

blakestyger

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He believes that intelligence is passed along with the same genes for skin color.

You're a biology teacher - a good palce to start would be to ask your friend what evidence he has for his belief, and take it from there.
 

Offline Make it Lady

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May I just say that genetically the human race is just one race. The variations have occurred over many years. Diet, environment and culture have changed us. Mixed race means half man half squirrel or some such.
Most prejudice has been spread historically using stereotyping. Black men for example are stereotyped as being good at sport, dancing and rapping and being bad at academic subjects and being even tempered. They are also supposed to have big Penis's. All this came from the slave trade. You wanted your slave to appear strong and fertile in order to sell them. Once they were freed they wanted to keep them down by calling them thick and violent. When white women started going to bed with black men, white men warned them off by saying that black men have big penis's that will damage a white woman. These augments of oppression are still doing the rounds today. Myths are hard to bust but easy to perpetuate including crazy genetic arguments. Darwin had some strange theories on the topic too.
Now imagine a black boy in a school that is pushed hard in sport but perceived as unintelligent. What happens to him if he is rubbish at sport and intelligent. What happens when he can't dance and goes to bed with an expectant woman. Stereotypes set people up to fail. Np one is a stereotype.       
 

blakestyger

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They are also supposed to have big Penis's.       

...big penises (FOG)

Seriously though, I think you may have confused race and species here. Biologically, race consists of a group of individuals within a species that is geographically, ecologically, physiologically or chromosomally distinct from other members of the species. In anthropology a race is a distinct human type possessing several characteristics that are genetically inherited; the major races being Mongoloid, Caucasian, Negroid and Australoid.

There's a lot of misinformation about race that gets put about to suit peoples' political aspirations. For instance, however much they'd like to be, the Arabs and Israelis are not separate races; they are in the same ethnic group - Arabs. There is no such thing as the Aryan race that the Naxis wanted, they're just Caucasians along with the Slavs and Russians they so despised.
 

Offline damiri

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He believes that intelligence is passed along with the same genes for skin color.

You're a biology teacher - a good palce to start would be to ask your friend what evidence he has for his belief, and take it from there.

lol, sorry, no I'm not a bio teacher, I'm a bio major, undergrad. But it's still a good point. I'll make him cite his sources!
 

Offline damiri

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Quote
Being Scottish could increase your risk of contracting multiple sclerosis, according to new study.
Researchers found that people with a surname beginning Mac or Mc were 24% more likely to have the disease than those without a Scottish name.
newbielink:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/latest_news/113139.stm [nonactive]

If neurological disorders can have a racial bias then so can intelligence, (which is defined by neurological health).

If, hypothetically, one racial group could be scientifically proven to be on average to be more intelligent than the others,
 would anyone who mentioned this proven fact be a racist ?. 

[BTW  Am I a racist for mentioning the fact that, as far as Multiple Sclerosis is concerned, all races are not equal ?]

No, but it's not races who are not equal as far as disease goes, it's genetic populations. "Race" doesn't have a lot of validity as a term in biology these days. As others have pointed out, we are all a single species. The reason we are subject to different diseases has to do with genetic traits we hold. For instance, Sickle Cell Anemia is not a disease connected to brown skin color, but to a gene that says how resistant to malaria one is. It has also been found in a very few Mediterraneans, an area of the world that used to suffer with malaria outbreaks. Incidence of Sickle Cell disease in Americans of African descent has decreased as well to much lower rates than found in Africa. So, with the MS finding, we should be careful to connect it to something as subjective as "race", because this could prevent us from developing the correct experiments to study and treat the disease. So, we have 2 things that are too subjective to test; "race" and "intelligence". I don't think I'd want to set up that study. ;)
 

lyner

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There is almost bound to be some correlation - even these days. Take someone who has grown up in a privileged position  (like a  European, for instance) with good education and plenty of spare time to develop an 'intellect' and compare with another from an underprivileged position (for instance a Black African) who has had no formal education and who has had to work for a living since they were 4 years old. The one with an education is very likely to do better in an intelligence test which was invented by a European with a similar background. That will be almost certainly shown in the statistics.
Moreover, it is in the short term interest (or maybe the long term interest)  of the European to maintain that differential by maintaining the unequal circumstances.
That's how non egalitarian society works and justifies the status quo.
 

Offline yor_on

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SC is on the spot, We create those tests for describing our society's needs or specific uses, that's why they 'invented' other types of tests for other purposes, like 'emotional intelligence' etc. We have specific tests for testing your ability to correlate a given colour to the word stated in that colour for example in the air force, that will be a measure of mental 'coordination measure' as the word for the colour and the colur don't correlate, so to speak. like writing green but using the colour red for writing it. But of course there will be a correlation between your ability to read and the way you make that test. But they still measure better than a general 'intelligence test' where the probability of preconceptions made when creating that test clearly will have to increase. And point out to your friend that there is more to life than just 'intelligence tests'.

Ask him whom he thinks would survive in the kalahari dessert, him or a bush man. Also there is some guys and gals that are extremly 'practical' , and who will do very well in any society without any higher education or more than average 'intelligence'. 'Problem solving' will always be adapted to your society's needs and the environment. You need different solutions in a 'data hall' than when surviving that desert. People are the same everywhere, we all need human contact and we all like to feel appreciated, no matter where we live and no matter any 'intelligence test'.
« Last Edit: 13/03/2009 14:39:51 by yor_on »
 

Offline kcheng76

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Damiri deserves praise for making an attempt to use reason with a racist individual.  I am very much interested to know about the outcome.

I am a geneticist.  Skin color is determined by particular versions of a limited number of genes of varying degrees of effect.  The differences can be only one letter in the DNA (google SLC24A5, for example). 

My answer:

1) There is no reason to presume genetic linkage (proximity) of specific intelligence genes to skin color genes.
2) Intelligence is specific to culture - e.g. by some measures, whites are not nearly as good as aboriginal people.
3) European measures of intelligence are distinctly linked to European schooling and exposure to testing, so those intelligence studies linking skin color to intelligence are not controlled for environment, schooling, and other socioeconomicl factors.  This invalidates those studies.
4) The reasons for even asking the question are themselves questionable.  Why ask?  Are we perhaps looking for ways to make ourselves feel superior to others (an unfortunate human instinct), or making excuses for mistreating or exploiting people of color, which is still pervasive?  Do we really want to distribute opportunity unequally by color?
5) Read about colorism.  It is a devastating social disease that is the result of racism.

Race is a terminology based on 1) emphasis on differences, 2) emphasis on defining superiority, a priori, 3) scientific assumptions that we now know are false (we know that the "red" people of Linnaeus are of the same derivation as the "yellow' people.  It is blatantly amusing to ask whether every single "white", "yellow" or "black" person has all the personality characteristics assigned by Linnaeus to people by color.   
« Last Edit: 19/10/2009 05:15:47 by kcheng76 »
 

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