Is intelligence heritable? (And who cares?)

[Note: If you want to play an IQ game, check this out. It was kind of fun to me. I didn't see what my score was or even if there was one because it's written in what I think is Japanese, but the dude at least gives you the rules in English so you can "play"]

Bryan Wilhite at Kintespace, who I consider the most balanced of all of these "black bloggers" that I've encountered, for lack of a better term, sometimes refers readers to a blog called Assault On Black Folks Sanity run by one Michael Fisher -- a Yale graduate, according to another blog, in this little virtual circle, called Undercover Blackman. Not that him going to Yale matters much. I think I made note of that before I began really reading deep here and just decided to not leave it out. Anyway, I had heard of Fisher's blog before but never really developed much interest in it. To be frank, it seemed from some admittedly superficial visits, to be drenched in black symbolism, which for me, being a graduate of Howard University, is often a turn off because I've encountered so many "loud", superficially "Africanized" black people in the last 6 years that sometimes it sickens me -- metaphorically speaking, I guess. Cheikh Anta Diop's caution against Negritude and aspects of cultural nationalism as blinder was like a "amen" moment for me.

Anyway here's how the story goes. Undercover Blackman (run by David Mills) has had/is having this argument [part 1 | part 2] going on with another blogger Craig Nulan (an M.I.T. graduate who runs the blog Subrealism) about measuring intelligence, whether or not intelligence is something that is able to be inherited (heritable), or not, scientific racism, and egalitarianism ("equality").

Undercover Blackman/David Mills says yes intelligence is able to be inherited (it is heritable). Note: this is a different statement then declaring that "intelligence is (presumption: always) inherited".

According to Mills, he's not into psychometrics (measuring intelligence) "per se. But [is] interested in the polemics [arguments] surrounding it... particularly the quality of arguments and the rhetorical tactics of those enforcing" what he calls "the liberal egalitarian orthodoxy". At the same time he stands against those who would "demonize those who research the connection between genetics and intelligence... [by] making a case for the permissibility of the question of differing cognitive characteristics of different human sub-groups."

Craig Nulan says no, intelligence is not heritable -- it is unable to be inherited.

At first I didn't get why someone like Mills with a "black blog" would promote a concept that is widely thought in "mainstream black America" to enable black people to be seen as genetically inferior in intelligence to whites. Then I thought well maybe the reason he feels comfortable supporting this concept is because it also supports the notion that whites are genetically aggressive and oppressive, etc. So on one hand it knocks black in terms of "intelligence", but on the other hand it helps him empirically explain why so-called white civilization has been so destructive. But that wasn't exactly right either. So I kept reading, and reading, and reading. And I'ma just post here some of the more interesting elements of "argument" that I encountered in my reading.

In the end I ended up encountering some of Michael Fishers comments with great relief, because as I read and followed, I felt as if these two intelligent people (Mills and Nulan) were wasting their time and not coming to any functional understandings. I just couldn't imagine anyone I know finding any use, practical/spiritual and anything in between for their dialog. And wondered what I was doing wasting my time reading this.

I guess the reason I chose to spend time doing this and typing this was because I think it's a worthy goal to try and get black folk talking in truly progressive terms and in truly progressive spaces. And in order to know what is progress you kinda gotta know what is not progress, which is a collective goal. So I'm just trying to present this argument to you in hopes that we can get closer to that goal by determining here whether this is a progressive discussion or if it is not. If it is we ought to engage in it, if it is not we ought to say so and encourage each other to spend our time elsewhere doing more important things. I realize at a fresh 24 years old, that I might be a youngin in this crowd, but I think it worthwhile to get up in this.

Here's one comment by Mills that was interesting to me.
David Mills: "If you think that Africans would’ve put a spacecraft on Mars by now if only the wicked Europeans had left ‘em alone 500 years ago... then, damn, call me any names you want."

Later on a reader named Christina delivered what I thought to be one of the most refreshing and non-egotistic comments of the conversation:
Christina: "Goodness. This comment thread has the feel of an incomprehensible inside joke. Maybe I'm the one who needs to step off, but I wish ya'll would speak plainly.

UBM, I have another question: how does attacking egalitarianism help address racial inequality? I'm stipulating that everything you say is true -- intelligence is real, intelligence can be accurately measured using the tests we currently have, "cognitive elites" are perhaps represented in higher percentages in one race than another (I'm not actually sure if you're making that particular argument or not, though...?)

I just want to get a better vision of the "new politics" that you would like to see.

Part of me is thinking that you may be arguing that black folks need to clean up our own house before blaming The Man for our problems...am I right? But I was just thinking that, heck, if black folks' lack of cognitive elites is just a matter of heritability, what's the point? Maybe we can't clean up our house because we are mostly dumb, and will always be that way because it's in our genes. Perhaps we should commence to marrying off the few black cognitive elites that exist with the smart white people that will have us, and just do something to keep the dumber people from breeding?

Obviously, I'm being tongue in cheek, and I know I'm going way off on a tangent. I don't think you're really saying all that (are you?) I just really do want to understand better where you're coming from on this particular issue.

If the main point is "the heritability of intelligence should not be a forbidden topic," I'm down with that too. :-)

Another reader named Bay Radical wrote something similar:
Bay Radical: "How does that conclusion help to undo those inequalities? (I assume undoing inequalities is a goal for you.)"

In response to Christina David Mills wrote:
David Mills: It bears repeating that "intelligence," unto itself, is not the supreme human virtue. One can be intelligent yet a sociopath. One can be intelligent yet lazy and undisciplined and useless. One can be intelligent yet inexplicably drawn to superstitious beliefs.

The white hereditarians who accept a genetic explanation for the IQ advantage of Jews and East Asians don't go around with their heads hung down because somebody else is "smarter than us." They focus on getting the most outta what they got.

On an individual level, an acceptance of IQ disparities as a "state of nature" does not invalidate the progressive impulses to build black culture; to support black artists; to patronize black businesses and black professionals; to organize for political and economic advancement; to demand high standards of one's own; to reward black excellence; to love black people.

All it does mean is: abandon affirmative action and other policies of racial preference; and dial down the rhetoric of anti-white resentment, because white people aren't responsible for all inequalities in the U.S. or the world.

And in response to Bay Radical David Mills wrote:
David Mills: BR, I think we need to accept the reality of certain unequal outcomes as the state of nature, not the consequence of white racism. We can accept that reality and still fight vigorously to undo inequalities of opportunity which impede black people's ability to fulfill their potential.

I hope that distinction is clear. I shall endeavor to make it more so:

If 6 percent of a given freshman class at MIT is black, the egalitarian impulse is to say that this is an unjust "inequality" because 12 percent of the U.S. population is black, and the proportion of blacks at MIT should reflect that.

But the 6 percent number could be totally just... if we accept that blacks, due to the IQ gap, won't be proportionately represented at elite institutions, if admitted under objective criteria (like test scores).

We can accept that unequal (yet absolutely just) outcome... and oppose policies which actively discriminate against qualified blacks.

This was the nature of the struggle for black advancement until very recently: the demand to be judged fairly, to be judged based on one's merit, to not be discriminated against on the basis of color.

In that way, I think I'm going back to a "classical" version of the struggle... while tossing in the trash can the intellectually bankrupt religion of "black nationalism."

AND sort of in response to both of them, Mills wrote:
David Mills: Perhaps the supreme value of these IQ threads (as much as they might unsettle certain sensitive readers) has been to reveal the weakness of black-nationalist thought processes, knowledge bases, disputational styles and intimidation tactics.

We need a new politics!

Unfortunately, the siren song of black nationalism has drawn many of our brightest young folk into a cul-de-sac. Meanwhile, Whitey's on Mars.

Later on I discovered I missed a comment by Michael Fisher regarding another comment made by a reader name Submariner. Fisher was giving kudos for a portion of Submariner's comment:
Submariner: We don't even have an objective indicator for race...

To which Fisher responded:
Fisher: [...] One sentence. Ding. Knock out. Debate over.

What I then found was a very interesting succinct definition of White Supremacy, according to Nulan:
Craig Nulan: White supremacy is an extreme syndrome within the more encompassing pathology of dopamine hegemony…, at the end of the day, it’s dopaminergic culture and the dominance of dopaminergic psychology that must be overturned, or else we will all perish and that white racism is the result of the cognitive error of identifying ethnic groups as separate species.

And what I really appreciated about Nulan's definition of White Supremacy was that he defines it as a "syndrome", covering a lot of what was shared here on The Liberator blog about "whiteness" and so-called whiteness. Further he ties it very specifically to a larger "disorder" that he calls a "pathology of dopamine hegemony" adding that "at the end of the day, it’s dopaminergic culture and the dominance of dopaminergic psychology".

I looked for some more interesting comments that I may have missed and it turns out I missed a few of Fisher responding to both David Mills and Craig Nulan's statements, here's one:
Fisher: [...] at the core, the question of the inheritableness of intelligence was posed by you in terms of human-sub groups. You didn't define those sub-groups. Fact is, you can't. Unless of course, you define them in accordance with what you are measuring, intelligence, and try to express it in terms of I.Q.

The fact that intelligence is inheritable is obvious. Dogs don't operate on the same level of what define as intelligence as humans do. In the last analysis it is that intelligence that defines us as human.

Thus the term "homo sapiens sapiens" as the descriptor for our species.

The problem is, you just can't break down humans into further sub-groups on an objective and, above all, genetic, basis.

What makes "skin color" (which shade?) a more legitimate "racial" marker than anus diameter? Or anus radius? (what diameter value, what radius value).

Nulan couldn't really strike back at your argument on that basis, because he posits the existence of genetic races as well. Only not on the basis of skin color, but on the basis of "dopamine level" i.e.:

"The organisms (animals and humans) that get addicted are the ones that started genetically with low dopamine activity to begin with. This genetics separates people who get addicted and people who don’t." Nulan

(Which begs the question, even if this were so, at what measurable point is a low dopamine group separated from a high dopamine group. How is such a determination objectively, valuelessly made?)

The only way you can break down humans on a sub-group level is socially, that is, politically. This is the only way how a person of your and Craig's similar (but not identical) genotype can be identified as "black". Of course, that begs the question of your and Craig's genotypes being similar compared to what?

Thus the whole debate about intelligence is bullshit. All humans are intelligent, all humans inherit their intelligence. Maybe an individual human is more or less intelligent than another individual human. Who knows? Who knows why? But you can not logically maje any such statement about a "biological" or "genetic" group of humans based on skin color. Because you can not establish skin color or anything else as an objective marker.

Race, racism, white, black are all socio-political terms.

It ain't got nutin' to do with genetics. Thus you can't posit the question of "intelligence among blacks vs whites" in genetic terms. You can't do it. Impossible.

Here's another:
Fisher: None of that shit Dragon Horse stated makes any logical sense whatsoever.

What are the objective genetic makers of a "white person"?

To make it more confusing: what is an "Asian"?

Is a person with folded eye-lids who resides in Antartica an Asian? How folded does that fold have to be to qualify? Where does that person have to live to qualify?

DH's wife is "Asian" he says. Asopposed to what? Are the "Japanese" a "race"? Can the "Japanese" be broken down into further "races" (Okinawan, etc)? And each of those into further "races"? Where do we stop? Why?

At the end of the day it all comes down to a socio-political definition.

All that shit is racist thinking. A socio-political form of thinking. That means all of you, Mills, DH, and Nulan are subject to racist ideology. Though, as each of you are subjected to racism, you are not racists. In order to do that you gotta be able to classify yourself as "white" (socio-political term) and make it stick.

And another:
Fisher: Oh, and what is a"continental group"? What are the genetic markers of a "continental group"?

Why a "continetal group"?. What the fuck is a "continent" in the first place? Is Europe a "continent"? Is Africa? Where does does one continent begin? Where does the other end? OBJECTIVELY?

Like I said, it makes no logical sense whatsoever.

It's just all racist socio-political sloganeering.


We're a human development centered cooperative, producing in part through the generous and faithful contributions of our North Star members. Choose your membership: Annual ($36), Monthly ($3), ($5), ($10), ($15), ($30), ($70), ($200), ($500), ($1000).