Created Equal

Regrets
Science, technology, and life.
Nov. 28 2007 10:19 AM

Created Equal

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Last week, I wrote about the possibility of genetic IQ differences among races. I wanted to discuss whether egalitarianism could survive if this scenario, raised last month by James Watson, turned out to be true. I thought it was important to lay out the scenario's plausibility. In doing so, I short-circuited the conversation. Most of the reaction to what I wrote has been over whether the genetic hypothesis is true, with me as an expert witness.

I don't want this role. I'm not an expert. I think it's misleading to dismiss the scenario, as some officials have done in response to Watson. But my attempts to characterize the evidence beyond that, even with caveats such as "partial," "preliminary," and "prima facie," have backfired. I outlined the evidence primarily to illustrate the limits of the genetic hypothesis. If it turns out to be true, it will be in a less threatening form than you might imagine. As to whether it's true, you'll have to judge the evidence for yourself. Every responsible scholar I know says we should wait many years before drawing conclusions.

Many of you have criticized parts of the genetic argument as I related them. Others have pointed to alternative theories I truncated or left out. But the thing that has upset me most concerns a co-author of one of the articles I cited. In researching this subject, I focused on published data and relied on peer review and rebuttals to expose any relevant issue. As a result, I missed something I could have picked up from a simple glance at Wikipedia.

For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to "the scientific study of heredity and human differences." During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime ("Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous") and heresy ("Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people"). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.

I was negligent in failing to research and report this. I'm sorry. I owe you better than that.

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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