Ever since Charles Murray's racist nonsense "The Bell Curve" first posited that different races have different intelligence aptitudes (to the everlasting shame of The New Republic and its then Editor Andrew Sullivan, the book was treated as a serious work at the time), we have had to suffer too many "serious discussions" on this issue, and other related issues (Summers). Making racism respectable was Charles Murray's goal, and for a while it succeededed. But, as the NYTimes Ed Board points out
, race is not an easily described concept genetically:
[A]t Pennsylvania State University, where about 90 students took complex genetic screening tests that compared their samples with those of four regional groups . . . [m]any of these students thought of themselves as "100 percent" white or black or something else, but only a tiny fraction of them, as it turned out, actually fell into that category. Most learned instead that they shared genetic markers with people of different skin colors.
Ostensibly "black" subjects, for example, found that as much as half of their genetic material came from Europe, with some coming from Asia as well. One "white" student learned that 14 percent of his DNA came from Africa - and 6 percent from East Asia. The student told The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper, earlier this year: "When I got my results I was like, there's no way they were mine. I thought it was just an example of what the test was supposed to look like. Then I was like, Oh my God, that's me."
What amazes me about this, as I was amazed by the remarks of Lawrence Summers, is that even if the racist nirvana could be achieved: that intelligence could even be reduced to a measurable concept, that it could be proven that there are genetic differences between the races and genders that lead to different intelligence aptitudes, etc. - does anyone seriously believe that that hypothetical factor is even worthy of mention as compared to the very real, very well documented societal prejudices that have plagued mankind since the beginning of history?
What value these genetic studies may have for understanding diseases et al I can't say, but I am always skeptical when the science appears to be undertaken to discover whether there are innate differences in intelligence between races and genders. I can't see the purpose there, though the potential harm I think we all see.
But, science does not march for anyone of us. And my thoughts on this will not stifle any scientific inquiry. Nor should they.