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1500
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13
debates
42.31%
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Topic

Scientific Racism

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Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

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After not so many votes...

It's a tie!
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Science
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1530
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6
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~ 330 / 5,000

So-called race realists claim that intelligence testing, national prosperity, and historical developments prove the inequality of races.

In this debate, my opponent must play devil's advocate and put forward evidence for each of these 3 arguments so that I can dismantle them.

They may provide other arguments if they so desire.

Round 1
Con
Three of the most common arguments raised by "race-realists" in favor of racial inequality are IQ, GDP, & history.  I will pre-emptively rebut each of these, but my opponent is free to bring up additional ones in their first round.

1.  Intelligence Testing

Supposedly, the hierarchy of races based on intelligence as determined by IQ tests goes like this, from smartest to dumbest:

Ashkenazi Jews, Asians, Causasians, Hispanics, African-Americans.

But IQ tests are invalidated by 3 things:

1a.  Flynn Effect

The older an IQ test is, the better modern populations perform on it.  For example, an adult who scores average on a modern test today, would score at a genius level when taking an IQ test designed a century ago, when compared to how people 100 years ago scored on that same test.  If IQ tests were legit, this would imply our ancestors were so retarded they would not know how to lift a spoon to their mouth to feed themselves.

1b.  Subjectivity of Scoring

Many, if not most, of questions on an IQ test have no objective answer.  For example, some puzzles (e.g. "Raven's Matrices") involve identifying the picture that best completes the pattern, where "best" is determined by whoever designed the test, or by consensus in some survey, without hard proof.

Open-ended questions suffer the same problem.  For example, "What do cats and dogs have in common?"  There are infinitely many correct answers to this question, but the psychologist administering the test uses their own discretion in scoring, and there is no objective proof for which answer is actually the "best."

Prejudice can result in a psychologist assigning a lower score to races they don't like, or don't understand as well as people they're more familiar with (e.g. their own race).

Last but not least, there is too much flexibility in how long a psychologist may allow a client to take on any given question.  Instead of the official WAIS ("gold-standard" of IQ tests) manuals designating specific times in minutes and seconds, they only offer guidelines to help the psychologist get a feel for when someone is taking too long.  This calls into question the IQ of whoever designed the IQ test manual.

1c.  Lack of Correlation

IQ tests are useless in predicting real-world success.  They do identify mentally disabled people with high accuracy, but this means nothing, since IQ tests also identify dead people with high accuracy:  All corpses will run out the clock and be assigned a score of precisely zero.   You didn't need an IQ test to know they were dead, and you never need an IQ test to know if someone is too stupid to ever have hope of living a normal life. [1]

High IQs do not correlate at all with greater income, except for people whose job is similar to an IQ test; in other words, any correlation is circular.  [1]


2. GDP & History

I'm just going to merge these together since GDP is boring and they are basically the same argument anyway.  It may be pointed out that a world map of GDP per capita suggests the whiter a nation, the more prosperous it is, and White people (specifically, Europeans) have historically conquered more of the globe than anyone else, ever.

But if you go back a couple thousand years, Germans were known by the classical Greeks and Romans as barbarians who lived in huts in the wilderness. Fast forward 1,000 years and these "barbarians" are ruling all of Europe as the "Holy Roman Empire."  

Go back even further a few thousand more years, and the Sumerians or Egyptians are the world powers of the time.  

Give it a few more decades from today, and China may very well surpass the West.

So just because Africa is doing badly today, doesn't mean that African people are inherently inferior to anyone else.  

Nations and races rise and fall throughout history.  They always have an always will.

Thanks for reading.

Pro
1. Intelligence Testing

I will focus most on this category of argument because I have extensive prior knowledge about it and because this was my opponent's lengthiest group of contentions.

The fundamental problem is that I.Q. tests have been thoroughly studied and validated, and my opponent's arguments are easily refutable with deep knowledge of the field. Scientific fact is not a suitable topic for 'debate,' let alone between laypeople, being analogous to 'debating' whether or not the Earth revolves around the Sun.

However, debates generally operate under 'tabula rasa,' i.e., voters customarily vote based on arguments presented without reference to prior external knowledge, and I will thus directly refute my opponent's slander about I.Q. tests, while also linking to authoritative sources on intelligence testing.

Racial Hierarchy

My opponent presents a 'racial hierarchy' of intelligence, as supposedly determined by scores on intelligence tests, in descending order: Ashkenazi Jews; Asians; Caucasians; Hispanics; African-Americans. Although no source for this list was provided, I will not dispute that it basically concords with psychometric findings. I do question why my opponent offers this list as though it is an exhaustive division of human 'races.' Even from a purely social perspective of 'race', this list contains glaring omissions such as Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals.

It also seems to me, although not explicitly stated, that my opponent views race as only a social construct, without a biological basis. If humans are analyzed and taxonomied with the same objectivity afforded to non-human animals, it becomes immediately obvious that there are great genetic differences between human populations, even though there might not be a perfect mapping between biological and social concepts of race. Where lines are drawn is arbitrary. For instance, Norwegians will, generally speaking, be most closely related to other Norwegians, somewhat less closely related to Germans, and still less closely related to Ethiopians. I don't know anybody who denies the applicability of this reasoning to, for instance, dog breeds.

Different populations will have different characteristic genotypes and different characteristic phenotypes, the odd exception notwithstanding. For example, Maasai males have an average height around 6'3" [1], compared to less than 5' for Pygmies, whose short stature has been verified as at least partially genetic [2]. If the statistical distribution of height, a quantitative variable, varies so much between groups, there is ground to suspect that the statistical distribution of intelligence, another quantitative variable, will also vary between groups.

Race, as a biological concept, is valid insofar as it is a useful heuristic.

Counter-1a. Flynn Effect

There is reason to believe that people, especially on the lower end of the intelligence spectrum, have gotten smarter over the previous century or so, due to improvements in nutrition and disease prevention. Malnutrition and disease are two factors which can alter a person's level of intelligence. An organism's traits are the result of both its genes and its environment, not just one or the other. See the paper in [3]. 

Another probable driver of the Flynn effect is that people have gained familiarity with these items since they were introduced. This does not invalidate the items, but rather only demonstrates a need for regularly renorming the tests, i.e., administering the test to a new sample to determine which scores now correspond to which I.Q.'s. This is analogous to giving an algebra test to students who have little facility with algebra, tutoring them rigorously for a month, and then giving them a similar test. In both cases, the most talented students will do the best within their respective test administration, but scores between the two administrations will be incomparable because we can expect all students to improve significantly.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, the Flynn effect has already been thoroughly studied by relevant experts, yet they still consider intelligence tests valid. See Intelligence: All That Matters [4] by Stuart Ritchie for an exposition of the importance of I.Q.

Counter-1b. Subjectivity of Scoring

My opponent gives a supposed example of an open-ended question, "What do cats and dogs have in common?" without providing any example of such a question from a contemporary mainstream I.Q. test. I admit that this question is ridiculous and unsuitable for an intelligence test, but if my opponent presented a real item from a real test, I suspect that it would not be so blatantly devoid of a single correct answer. (However, if this is a real item, then it should only be treated as a bad outlier, in the same way that one wrongly keyed answer on a 30-question multiple-choice algebra test will not nullify its capacity to evaluate the taker's understanding of algebra.)

My opponent also asserts that the psychologist administering the I.Q. test uses their own discretion in scoring, apparently not realizing that responses are graded against a key or list of acceptable answers. See, for instance, this guide for scoring the WAIS-IV, a test which my opponent names as the 'gold standard' of I.Q. tests [5].

My opponent claims that, "Prejudice can result in a psychologist assigning a lower score to races they don't like, or don't understand as well as people they're more familiar with (e.g. their own race)." Legendary psychologist Lewis M. Terman rebutted a similar attack in his article, "In Defense of IQ Testing," [6] and I will allow him to speak for me:

Mr. Lippmann does not charge that the tests have been thus abused, but that they easily could be. Very true; but they simply aren’t. That is one of the recognized rules of the game. Isn’t it funny what horrible possibilities an excited brain can conjure up? I recall a patient who had worked himself into a wretched stew from thinking how terrible it would be if butchers by concerted action all over the country, should suddenly take it into their heads to slaughter their unsuspecting customers. He was actually determined to get a law passed that would deprive these potential murderers of their edged and pointed tools.
As for the idea that I.Q. tests are biased against any race for any reason, this has been thoroughly refuted by expert psychologist Arthur Jensen in his book Bias in Mental Testing [7] [8].

Counter-1c. Lack of Correlation

My opponent asserts that I.Q. tests cannot meaningfully predict real-world success. This is an outright falsehood, asserted ipse dixit by proxy from the author of the linked source, Nassim Taleb, who is not an expert in psychometrics and whose positions contradict those of leading psychometricians. A source bearing superior ethos is Mainstream Science on Intelligence, a joint statement by 52 eminent researchers with relevant expertise [9]. The truth is that I.Q. tests are such excellent predictors of real-world success that I.Q. could be tautologically defined as, "what I.Q. tests measure," and still be a valid experimental construct. Supportive excerpts from Mainstream Science on Intelligence include: for the validity of intelligence tests, #2; for racial bias, #5; for the real-life validity of I.Q., #9, #10, and #11. (To save space, the full quotes are not reproduced here.)

Finally, my opponent declares that I.Q. does not correlate positively with income except for jobs similar to an I.Q. test. In a way, though, that is why I.Q. tests are valid. While a job may not superficially resemble an I.Q. test, jobs and tests both demand a general capacity for thought, and that is what I.Q. tests measure. Her argument is analogous to claiming that height cannot correlate with success in basketball because a basketball hoop is not a yardstick.

Conclusion-Section 1

I.Q. tests meaningfully measure a real, general capacity for thought. They have little or no bias against any racial group, whether race is defined in social or biological terms. Some groups consistently score lower on I.Q. tests than other groups do. Therefore, we have overwhelming evidence that races differ in average innate intelligence.

Section 2 - GDP & History

My opponent conglomerates these two angles into one section. Because my prior knowledge here is not so extensive, I will limit myself to brief, categorical refutations.

My opponent points to fluctuations in long-term trends, such as Sumerians and Egyptians being the world's greatest powers or China surpassing the West, without placing them in a larger context. Sub-Saharan Africans never independently generated any great civilization or adopted technology beyond mud huts and spears. This consistent failure over many millennia is evidence that they lack the intelligence do so.

From a purely scientific perspective, no category of organism is 'inferior' or 'superior' to any other, but only adapted to its environment. Value judgments can only be applied within the context of an orthogenetic framework wherein traits, such as greater intelligence, are considered ethically desirable. Because I.Q. is positively correlated with variables generally considered desirable, such as national wealth, law-abidingness, and health of lifestyle, races with lower I.Q.'s can be considered inferior in a general sense, although any such judgment can never be extended to individuals.

Sources

Round 2
Con
1. Intelligence Testing

You can't compare IQ testing to heliocentrism, or psychology to astronomy at all.  Psychology is pseudoscience.  At the very least, it is a "soft science" according to its own proponents, with far lower standards of proof than any subfield of physics.

Racial Hierarchy

The biological diversity of humanity is like the color spectrum: The differences are objective, but where one draws the lines and assigns labels, etc., "This line separates Asians from Native Americans", or, "This line separates red from orange", is totally subjective and redefined depending on what is most convenient.

That doesn't mean blue is better than green, or any color is better than another.

1a. Flynn Effect

  • Nutrition & Disease
Better nutrition and disease prevention doesn't come halfway to explaining why our great-great-grandparents were mentally retarded, compared to us taking the same tests they took 100 years ago.  Or looking at it another way, just because we have a better diet today (debatable), doesn't explain why our intelligence has supposedly surpassed genius-level compared to gram-gram (RIP).

To be precise, people gain 3 IQ points every 10 years. [2] 

So 100 years ago, most people would have had an IQ of about 70, equivalent to that of a person suffering from Down's Syndrome.

Of course, that's only if you believe IQ tests are legit.


  • Familiarity
If you argue that modern people do better on ancient IQ tests than ancient people because our lifestyles expose us to more stuff similar to puzzles on IQ tests, then I can argue that different races in America (e.g. African-Americans) are lagging behind IQ-wise only because their culture does not expose them to "IQ-like stuff" as much as Caucasians.  

  • Appeal to the Authority of Stuart Ritchie
Of course Stuart Ritchie considers IQ tests are valid, he is a psychometrician.  His entire career depends on him believing IQ tests are valid.

1b. Subjectivity of Scoring

  • Open-ended Questions
My opponent gives a supposed example of an open-ended question, "What do cats and dogs have in common?" without providing any example of such a question from a contemporary mainstream I.Q. test.
Fine, let me share an actual question from the Analogies section of the Chile version of the WAIS-IV (original in Spanish):

Ítem 7. Celular y computador

2 puntos
  • Son medios de comunicación
  • Son (aparatos, tecnología) que nos permiten comunicarnos
1 punto
  • Son (aparatos tecnológicos, tecnología)
  • Son dispositivos eléctricos
0 puntos
  • Son objetos que uno tiene en la casa
In English:

Item 7.  Cellphone and computer

2 puntos
  • They're methods of communication
  • They're (devices, technology) that let us communicate
1 punto
  • They're (technological devices, technology)
  • They're electronic devices
0 puntos
  • They're objects one has at home
The test-taker is supposed to identify what a cellphone and a computer have in common.  I picked this question in particular because it's a good illustration of how much subjectivity goes into grading.

Saying they're communication devices earns more points than saying they're electronic devices. But one can just as easily argue this is backwards, because it's easy to imagine someone purchasing a computer with no intent of ever using it to communicate or even connect to the internet, while practically nobody would buy a cellphone without intending to pay for cellphone service to make calls or texts.

In other words, a computer is not primarily a communication device, while a cellphone is.  So it's not more correct to say "they're both communication devices" than "they're both electronic devices".

  • Prejudice
I said psychologists may have trouble interpreting the answers to open-ended questions from races of people unlike their own. The list of aceptable answers is not at all exhaustive, and a White psychologist may assign the wrong number of points if they are unfamiliar with a test-taker's African-American Vernacular (for example).  The test-taker is highly unlikely to provide an answer word-for-word exactly like any in the list of possible answers, so the psychologist is forced to exercise some discretion is assigning points.

This doesn't mean the psychologist is deliberately racist, so the silly butcher conspiracy theory doesn't apply to my own argument.  I never said all White psychologists are in cahoots to purposefully reduce the scores of Black test-takers.

IQ test grading is not objective.  It is subjective, and therefore not scientific.

1c. Lack of Correlation

  • Appeal to Authority of Psychometricians
Nassim Taleb, who is not an expert in psychometrics and whose positions contradict those of leading psychometricians.
That doesn't mean anything though.  Psychometricians have to support the validity of IQ testing, or drop the title of "psychometrician" and abandon their profession.  

The definition of "psychometrician" is literally someone who administers IQ tests.  Their opinion on IQ tests cannot be brought into this debate as evidence.  That would be like citing the Pope in a debate over the existence of God.

  • Basketball Analogy
Her argument is analogous to claiming that height cannot correlate with success in basketball because a basketball hoop is not a yardstick.
No.  The correct analogy is me claiming that height, while a good indicator for how successful one may be at slam-dunks, does not correlate with success in other aspects of the game:  dribbling, passing, teamwork, defense, avoiding fouls, etc.

Similarly, IQ testing does not correlate with real-world success, unless that success involves a profession or activity similar to an IQ test (e.g. academic work as opposed to manual labour or artistic endeavours).

Conclusion-Section 1 

We have no scientific evidence supporting the validity of race-disparate IQ scores apart from various fallacies, like appeals to authority and circular reasoning.

Section 2 - GDP & History

  • Civilization
Sub-Saharan Africans never independently generated any great civilization or adopted technology beyond mud huts and spears.
Come on, I literally rebutted this already in the first round.  To save you the effort of scrolling up, here's what I said:

Germans were known by the classical Greeks and Romans as barbarians who lived in huts in the wilderness. Fast forward 1,000 years and these "barbarians" are ruling all of Europe as the "Holy Roman Empire."
You can't deny a race's potential for civilization just because it hasn't demonstrated it yet.  Today's Sub-Saharan Africans may be the barbarian Germanic tribes of millenia past.

  • Intelligence
races with lower I.Q.'s can be considered inferior in a general sense
We already dealt with IQ in the previous section ...

Good luck!

Pro
Intelligence Testing
My opponent opens with this claim:
You can't compare IQ testing to heliocentrism, or psychology to astronomy at all.  Psychology is pseudoscience.  At the very least, it is a "soft science" according to its own proponents, with far lower standards of proof than any subfield of physics.
"Psychology is pseudoscience" is too extreme and categorical of an assertion to be taken seriously with so little proof, especially considering that my opponent actually lost a debate on that topic [1]. I would agree that there are problems with how psychology is studied in modern academia, but you can't just baldly call an entire deeply studied branch of knowledge pseudoscience.

Biological Demarcations

As for the biological differences between groups of humans, my opponent writes: 
The biological diversity of humanity is like the color spectrum: The differences are objective, but where one draws the lines and assigns labels, etc., "This line separates Asians from Native Americans", or, "This line separates red from orange", is totally subjective and redefined depending on what is most convenient.

That doesn't mean blue is better than green, or any color is better than another.
True, there is no single line which everyone would agree separates red from orange. Yet crimson is clearly red, and peach is clearly orange.

In a vacuum, blue isn't better than green because there are no inherently "good" or "bad" colors. However, if you were choosing a color palette for a public awareness campaign about forest preservation, green would be the better color to choose because people intuitively associate green with forests. If instead choosing colors for a campaign about ocean preservations, blue would be the better color.

Similarly, from a purely evolutionary perspective, there are no "good" or "bad" groups, individuals, genes, phenotypes, etc., but rather only what best survives and reproduces in a given environment (fitness). If we were to use evolutionary fitness as our moral standard, rape would be good behavior because rape spreads your genes. Yet I believe rape is wrong, and I think everyone reading this agrees. Because we can judge things based on ethics, rather than on blind efficacy as nature does, we can declare that some traits are better or worse than others. Intelligence is clearly a good trait because it correlates positively with better outcomes, both for groups and individuals. Therefore, we can say that more intelligent groups are generally better than less intelligent groups. The same logic applies for other traits like health.

Flynn Effect

If you argue that modern people do better on ancient IQ tests than ancient people because our lifestyles expose us to more stuff similar to puzzles on IQ tests, then I can argue that different races in America (e.g. African-Americans) are lagging behind IQ-wise only because their culture does not expose them to "IQ-like stuff" as much as Caucasians.  
You could argue that, and you could be wrong. Please read some well-informed sources about the Flynn Effect and about the validity of I.Q. tests. For instance, Arthur Jensen's Bias in Mental Testing. These objections have all been made by many, and thoroughly refuted by experts.

"Appeal to Authority"
Of course Stuart Ritchie considers IQ tests are valid, he is a psychometrician.  His entire career depends on him believing IQ tests are valid.
And I bet Stephen Hawking believed black holes were real. Your point?

Subjectivity of Scoring
I admit that looks like a bad item, but if all the items are so arbitrary and poorly thought-out, then why does performance on one item so strongly correlate with performance on other items, and why does performance on IQ tests so strongly correlate with outcomes beyond the tests? No matter how stupid something looks on the surface, you can't deny its validity when there is so much statistical evidence behind it.

"Appeal to Authority" Redux
That doesn't mean anything though.  Psychometricians have to support the validity of IQ testing, or drop the title of "psychometrician" and abandon their profession.  
And I bet biologists have to believe in evolution, huh? Maybe physicists have to believe in gravity and mathematicians have to believe in integers? The reason professionals "have to" support it is because of the overwhelming evidence for it. Someone who denies that evidence isn't qualified to be a psychometrician because they obviously lack knowledge of the state of the field.

The definition of "psychometrician" is literally someone who administers IQ tests.  Their opinion on IQ tests cannot be brought into this debate as evidence.  That would be like citing the Pope in a debate over the existence of God.
And the definition of a physicist might be considered, "someone who performs physical experiments." Yet a professional physicist will need to know a substantial body of theory in addition to doing the practice.

Basketball Analogy
No.  The correct analogy is me claiming that height, while a good indicator for how successful one may be at slam-dunks, does not correlate with success in other aspects of the game:  dribbling, passing, teamwork, defense, avoiding fouls, etc.

Similarly, IQ testing does not correlate with real-world success, unless that success involves a profession or activity similar to an IQ test (e.g. academic work as opposed to manual labour or artistic endeavours).
That counter-analogy is correct enough, but I don't know any serious psychometrician who has ever claimed that IQ is the only determinant of life success. IQ is a major determinant of life success for individuals. For groups, the average IQ of the group will determine the average success of that group because the "error" introduced by other factors important to life success will cancel out. That's simply the law of large numbers [2].

We live in a complex world, especially in modern technological societies. Many aspects of life are similar to an IQ test. Filling out paperwork, for instance. Life isn't mindless.

GDP & History

Germans were known by the classical Greeks and Romans as barbarians who lived in huts in the wilderness. Fast forward 1,000 years and these "barbarians" are ruling all of Europe as the "Holy Roman Empire."

You can't deny a race's potential for civilization just because it hasn't demonstrated it yet.  Today's Sub-Saharan Africans may be the barbarian Germanic tribes of millenia past.
For one thing, 1,000 years is more than enough time for significant evolution to occur, not that I can prove that it did. For another thing, 1,000 years is a sliver of time compared to the period that sub-Saharans have lived in Africa, probably about 100,000-200,000 years, so the evidence for a stable long-term trend is much greater there.

Sources