Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Great Effort, Interesting Results, but Not Everything Is What It Seems. Caution Is Required

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Great Effort, Interesting Results, but Not Everything Is What It Seems. Caution Is Required

Article excerpt

In order to analyze the possible mediation of cognitive abilities in the relationship between SES and race, Fuerst and Kirkegaard (2016) consulted numerous databases. The result was an 81-page paper presenting careful analyses expressed in 58 tables and 26 figures; no doubt, a great effort was made. In addition, in order to achieve transparency and truthfulness in their analysis, the authors have challenged readers to analyze data on their own. Fuerst and Kirkegaard probably were inspirated by other studies with similar "macroeconomic" theory as the study of Ashraf and Galor (2013), where the following can be read: "...the level of genetic diversity in each country today (as determined by the genetic diversities and genetic distances among its ancestral populations) has a nonmonotonic effect on income per capita in the modern world" (p.43). In case of the Fuerst and Kirkegaard study, the overall picture that comes from their results is: whatever geographic environmental predictor is considered in regression models, whether poorly controllable by human action (e.g. cold climate, temperature, latitude, altitude, hours of sunlight) or more easily controlled (e.g. parasite load, STD, HIV), the strongest predictor of cognitive abilities and socioeconomic outcomes is racial ancestry, specifically European ancestry.

My criticism is not directed at the pertinence of correlations and regression models for this kind of study. It is known that to identify genuine cause-effect relationships in social and behavioral science has proven difficult. Nevertheless, if the argument is tested in independent studies, where distinct sources of bias are expected and where the results go in the same direction, it is reasonable to consider the possibility there may be a causal relationship. Fuerst and Kirkegaard tested their hypothesis named "R-CA-S" (racial-cognitive ability-socioeconomic hypothesis) in samples of Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, USA (countries with societies fairly admixed in terms of genetic ancestry), conducting analyses separately and then at the Pan-American national level. Their results support what Lynn (2006), Rushton and Jensen (2005), Templer (2008) and others have asserted for a long time: there are differences in cognitive abilities between races with socioeconomic repercussions for human groups, especially for African and Native American people, which are the groups that have lower cognitive performance. As a corollary we infer that it would be difficult to remove poverty and overcome socio-cultural backwardness of human groups with African and Amerindian ancestry since there is solid evidence of the strong stability of cognitive abilities (Whalley & Deary, 2001), and there are doubts regarding generational cognitive gains (te Nijenhuis & van der Flier, 2013). Thus, are we ready to accept as correct this polemic and important socio-behavioral conclusion? Um momento! Let us consider some observations:

1) School achievement shows some form of commonality with intelligence but both are not the same construct. It is known that a hypothesis being tested repeatedly using the same general method in several independent studies but with the same type of bias, the hypothesis is not being really tested since each repetition will merely replicate the bias of the original design (Sekhon & Hidalgo, 2011). In this case, the bias in the original design that is perpetuated by repetition, namely that intelligence and school performance are treated as the same thing, is frequently conducted in researches which use aggregated scores. Since the study of Rindermann (2007), who estimated a g-Factor of International Cognitive Ability explaining 95% of the variance of the 20 student assessment scales and the national IQ list elaborated by Lynn and Vanhanen (2002), several researchers (including Lynn himself) have proposed new lists of national IQs incorporating school measurements for analyzing diverse social-behavioral phenomena at the national level (Lynn & Vanhanen, 2012). …

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