Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Some Groups are Statistically Brighter than Others -- So What?

The best psychometric research over the past several decades (PDF) consistently highlights group differences in statistical measures of intelligence. Several biological and sociological rationales for these relatively stable differences have been offered. The key point seems to be: "What are we going to do about it?"
Four US Population Groups

A large number of academics from the ideological left have attempted to deny that any group IQ differences exist, but they are oddly averse to performing the type of definitive research which would prove their thesis. And since the consistent studies demonstrating stable statistical IQ differences between groups has been performed by persons of all racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds, it seems as if the most rational working hypothesis going forward, is that the group IQ differences are real, with multiple underlying causes.

Today's discussion is not meant to be about the causes of disparities in cognitive aptitude, but rather deals with the practical consequences for society.

The first thing to note from the graphic above, is the considerable overlap of the 4 curves. This indicates that general statements about the aptitudes of individual members of a particular group -- prior to testing of those specific individuals -- is unwarranted. In other words, policies should not restrict entry to any field of study or occupation based upon group characteristics.

Next, given the apparent long standing consistency of these group differences, it is clear that at least a portion of the statistical aptitude gaps originate from biological and genetic causes. Given this knowledge, any policies which give one group an advantage in terms of academic admissions, jobs hiring, or government contracts, is completely unwarranted.

Moreover, policies which provide advantages in obtaining bank loans, government loans, government benefits, or other government mandated advantage, based upon group membership or characteristics, is wholly unjustified.

Public favours should be doled out strictly on a meritocratic and group-blind basis. Anything else is bias of a most unjust and destabilising kind.

How would a society that admitted the existence of stable statistical group differences in aptitude work or function?

First, once such group statistical differences were admitted publicly, it is unlikely that the gaps would be dwelled upon to a significant degree -- the wind would be let out of those sails, in other words. Each person would be free to pursue his or her dreams and goals to the extent to which they were capable. They could do so publicly, with the secure knowledge that no one around them had been given undue advantage by government or government decree -- overt or covert.

Second, scientific means of improving aptitude could be researched and developed in an open manner, without the need to hide the potential uses of the research. Cognitive aptitude is a damned important personal characteristic, and statistical measures of population cognitive aptitudes are very important to the fate of a society. The higher the average population IQ, the higher the per capita GDP, statistically.

Third, much current societal discord would be done away with, since it would be seen that differences in group outcome were not due to any mystical "institutional racism," but were rather due to very real statistical group differences of aptitude, due to multiple causes. Other sources of societal discord -- such as the obvious inherent unjustness of official discrimination on the basis of race -- would likewise be done away with.

Some tumult would occur in transition between the present unjust mandates and a fairer, more meritocratic system. Such always occurs when persons lose an undeserved sinecure. But as long as the facts which underlie the basic fairness of discontinuing the current system of legal discrimination were explained clearly and consitently, society will find a more stable and less discordant equilibrium.

More on this topic at a later time.

More: This Reason Magazine review of an optimistic tech-future book offers several reasons why the future should be brighter. Everything hinges, of course, upon the ability of society to set up an equitable system which gives justice to the rule of law, and equality before the law.

If bias and discrimination are built into the system from the beginning -- as in the institutionalised slavery accepted by the founders of the original USA -- something bad is going to happen down the line, no matter how optimistic the technological future looks to some.

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