Book Review: Jensen on Jenson: Race, Intelligence, and Genetics by Robert Miele.

it is a very hard task to remain objective when reading this book. If you are Black, like I am, you will immediately react to the theories expressed and discussed within. If you have been in or near the education field in the past 50 years, you too might take exception with some of the ideas expressed within. As a psychologist in the making, I had to be very aware of when I was reading with tinted glasses in order to digest the information scientifically.

Arthur Jensen is a world renown and somewhat infamous psychologist whose work in the 1950’s and 60’s revolved around the testing of intelligence and its correlation to heredity. Jenses posed the following question: Are Black students dumb because they are Black or is there some other formula to the equation?

As appalling as the question is, Jensen (and Miele) implore an objective review of the theory. He argues that G factor, basically ones intelligence potential, is affected by genes and heredity. So the difference in IQ (about 10 points) of the average Black and white student must be based on heredity. Why? Because intelligence tests correlate more with race than any other factor, environmental or other. He argues that no significant study based on cultural or socioeconomic differences has explained this gap in the IQ average, so therefore it must be genetic. If the information and argument aren’t enough
to piss you off, know that Jensen was a former professor at UC-Berkley and from that very influential position, he was able to influence the likes of Paul Moynihan (Google Moynihan Report on Black Family) along with Richard Nixon and in turn, policies dealing with the socioeconomic inequalities in the Black community. Jensen’s study was used for arguing against compensatory education. In short, Jensen and his Jensenism was the champion philosophy to do away with the integration and school reform (Brown v. Board, etc.)

I have to say that Jensen, through questions from Miele, does a good job of separating the controversy from the scientifc question. And that’s all that he begs of the reader. He just wants a scientific study of the facts.

Unfortunately, his theories are based on scientific hocus pocus, and because of this are very open to debate. Jensen himself states that at most genetics make up only 75% of the G factor while environment contributes the other 25% of the influence. Furthermore he is clear to point that the average difference in sibling IQ is greater than the difference between the races. If you’re confused by now, don’t worry- that’s what stats are meant to do. This is the sort of book that commands an academic reading. If I had the time to draw a negative study, I’d do so. As confidently as Jensen is in his theory on race and the G factor, I feel just as strongly there is no correlation on intelligence and race. Do I have scientific correlations and Spearman calculations to argue this? No. But I am speaking from my own experience. I am very aware that I have always been smarter and possessed a higher IQ than the majority of my Black classmates. Is it because they are stupid? Am I half-white? The answer is no and no. I gravitated to education and its importance early on and as a result, was able to get the head start in learning necessary to facilitate genius. This is clearly an environmental influence of course, but I don’t think my color had much to do with me grasping key concepts sooner than most of my classmates. When I began learning with students who were not Black, I still was the smartest in class. They were upper middle class to rich white students, so they should have definitely gapped my IQ by at least ten points. But who am I to speak scientifically about my own experiences. After all, I’m the exception to this theory.

So I ask myself? Am I being unfair? What if this is true? After all, he did use Spearman’s correlation formula. And there are clear biological and thus hereditary differences between the races. I ask myself are thesd biological differences significant enough to argue a genetic difference between the races (thus creating subspecies of humans)? I don’t think so. Biologist have long argued the similarities in the genetic make up of humans and chimpanzees. Some say that we are 97-99% the same. I ask myself does the 10% difference in IQ and G factor show a significant enough difference to support the argument that humans split into subspecies? No. Until there is evidence that a particular gene has an effect on g, there is no argument for intelligence based on genetics. I understand the need to look for explanations in IQ differences in both genetic and environmental influences, but the Jenses argument that genetics decide intelligence is just as thin as the opposing argument- that poverty explains underachievement.

It looks like this debate is still going on, and everyday growing more necessary, as schools in the US continue to lag behind foreign countries and people search for a solution to the disparity. If the human genome project is ever fully complete, perhaps there may be evidence that white people do possess a gene that extends their average IQ 10 points higher than Black people on average. If it is discovered, this debate can silence a lot of people. Until then its best to continue to work on the disparities in the external environments of all American students. After all, its not like the 10 point difference in IQ tests has led the white population to a state of nirvana. If whitey’s so genetically intelligent, why are white people not speaking Alien tongue yet? Why is China kicking every European country’s ass too? I guess in the end 10 points of IQ don’t equate to shit in the practical sense. Unless you try to make it mean something it doesn’t.

Ryan Mega

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Jensen on Jenson: Race, Intelligence, and Genetics by Robert Miele.

  1. Very interesting. I like the way that you analyze and critique. Your critiques and analisis (spelling? I have never been a great speller) would make my old advanced composition teacher so happy. When I read your reviews I am reminded of that class. Let me not digress, once again great job on your writing 🙂

  2. Actually the Black-White IQ gap in people aged 17 and over is about 15 to 18 points, not 10 points as you state.

    You claim to be much smarter than most upper middle class Whites, when it comes to academic achievement you are like the Toby Gerhart of brains (i.e. you are the racial outlier that is the “exception that proves the rule”).

    The idea that China is becoming a great economic power is not surprising considering that Han Chinese, like other east asians (Koreans and Japanese) tend to have higher IQs than Whites.

    here are a couple of links to more recent papers by Jensen:

    http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/rushtonpdfs/PPPL1.pdf

    http://www.bentham.org/open/topsyj/articles/V003/9TOPSYJ.pdf

  3. So the difference in IQ (about 10 points) of the average Black and white student must be based on heredity.

    Among adults, the gap is about 15 points or one standard deviation according to most studies.

    Jensen was a former professor at UC-Berkley and from that very influential position, he was able to influence the likes of Paul Moynihan (Google Moynihan Report on Black Family) along with Richard Nixon and in turn, policies dealing with the socioeconomic inequalities in the Black community. Jensen’s study was used for arguing against compensatory education.

    I don’t think Jensen has had much of an influence on social or educational policies. The policies that have been adopted have mostly been contrary to his recommendations. Compensatory education programs such as Head Start have proved to have little to no effect, so Jensen was right about them.

    Furthermore he is clear to point that the average difference in sibling IQ is greater than the difference between the races.

    IIRC, the average difference between siblings is about 12 points, so it’s smaller than the black-white gap.

    As confidently as Jensen is in his theory on race and the G factor, I feel just as strongly there is no correlation on intelligence and race. Do I have scientific correlations and Spearman calculations to argue this? No. But I am speaking from my own experience.

    Your own experiences in no way contradict what Jensen says.

    Until there is evidence that a particular gene has an effect on g, there is no argument for intelligence based on genetics.

    A handful of genes that influence g have already been pinpointed. Check out Robert Plomin’s research on this. Furthermore, we do not need to know the exact genes to be sure that genes have a large role in causing differencs in intelligence. Behavior genetic methods (e.g. comparisons between twins and other siblings, adoptees, and parents and children) prove beyond any doubt that heredity influences IQ.

    It looks like this debate is still going on, and everyday growing more necessary, as schools in the US continue to lag behind foreign countries and people search for a solution to the disparity.

    In international student achievement studies, white and Asian Americans get as good scores as people in the top-performing European countries. The supposed crisis of American schools is all about the poor performance of black and Hispanic students.

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