Are Whites More Intelligent than Blacks?
YES, say many people. Whites, as a race, have inherited more intelligence than blacks.
William Shockley, a Nobel laureate in physics, strongly asserts that this is so. He says: “My research leads me inescapably to the opinion that the major cause of American Negroes’ intellectual and social deficits is . . . racially genetic in origin.”
Professor Arthur R. Jensen of the University of California in Berkeley is a leading exponent of the view that in intelligence whites are biologically superior to blacks. He declares: “The number of intelligence genes seems to be lower, overall, in the black population than in the white.”
What is the basis for such claims?
Basis tor Claims
Inheritance, many will point out, has a lot to do with racial differences. Blacks have inherited dark skin, thick lips and kinky hair, and whites have inherited strikingly different features. So, if whole groups of people have inherited such different physical characteristics, it is only reasonable, some will argue, that the races would inherit different degrees of intelligence. But do they? Why is it claimed that blacks, as a race, have inherited less intelligence than whites?
The reason is principally due to results from Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests. In these tests blacks score, on the average, about 15 points lower than whites. Even when whites and blacks of a similar social and economic status are tested, the scores of whites average significantly higher than do the scores of blacks. So Jensen concludes from such evidence “that something between one-half and three-fourths of the average IQ difference between American Negroes and whites is attributable to genetic factors.”
The results from IQ tests, coupled with conclusions based on the evolution theory, have reinforced the opinion of many that blacks are mentally inferior. Some scientists have argued that the races evolved, to a large extent, independently over hundreds of thousands of years. Blacks, it is claimed, crossed the evolutionary threshold into the category of Homo sapiens later than whites.
Since IQ tests today are the principal basis for the claim that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites, let us look at those tests.
Intelligence and IQ Tests
First of all, what is meant by intelligence?
That is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. A great many different qualities might be called intelligence. People may be “intelligent” in one context, perhaps being able to memorize names and dates easily, but be “stupid” in another, such as in doing arithmetic problems. So there is no universally accepted definition of what intelligence is.
What about IQ tests, then? Do they measure intelligence? Commenting on this, Patrick Meredith, professor of psychophysics at Leeds University, England, said: “It might be held that Frenchmen are brighter than pygmies, but if you see pygmies in their natural environment making bridges out of fibre and living life successfully you might ask what you mean by intelligence. The IQ rating is no indication of how a person will behave in a defined situation. The IQ test is a totally unscientific concept.”
It is generally agreed that IQ tests fail to give a complete picture of the many factors involved in intelligence. Circumstances and backgrounds of peoples are too varied for them to be able to do this. What, then, do IQ tests measure?
Arthur Whimbey, professor of psychology at a university in the southern United States, observes: “Studies lead to the conclusion that IQ tests do not measure innate intellectual capacity, but rather a group of learned skills that can be taught in the classroom or in the home.”
To confirm this, it has been demonstrated that persons can be taught how to take IQ tests, with startling results. One investigator reports that a young Mississippi black student was given instruction about taking such tests, and in six weeks he raised his IQ score dramatically.
You can easily imagine the wrong conclusion s a person might draw from IQ scores, and the effects this can have. An American black, who is now a university professor, writes:
“At 15 I earned an IQ test score of 82 . . . Based on this scare, my counselor suggested that I take up bricklaying because I was ‘good with my hands.’ . . . I went to Philander Smith College anyway, graduating with honors, earned my master’s degree at Wayne State University and my Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. Other blacks, equally as qualified, have been wiped out.”
Yet, the fact remains that whites score, on the average, 15 points higher than do blacks on IQ tests. Why? If one is going to argue that blacks are innately just as intelligent as whites, then why don’t they score better than they do?
Examining the Question in Context
There are many factors that can account for their lower average IQ scores. In particular, American blacks have been greatly disadvantaged by their treatment by whites as inferiors, and as undesirables. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren illustrated modern racial attitudes in an April 1977 Atlantic article.
When the Supreme Court’s school segregation decision was pending in the mid-1950’s, President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States invited Warren to a White House dinner for the purpose of influencing him to decide in favor of upholding the segregation law. “The President,” Warren writes, “took me by the arm, and, as we walked along, speaking of the southern states in the segregation cases, he said, ‘These [Southerners] are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes.’”
As vocalized by this president, whites have commonly attempted to “keep blacks in their place”—in a segregated, subordinate position cut off from the benefits enjoyed by whites. During slavery, and later during legalized segregation, this was easy to do. Blacks who stepped out of line were whipped, lynched or otherwise punished. The effect was to produce the childlike, subservient, mentally slow “Sambo” personality. Whites have commonly believed that this personality was inherent in blacks. However, Harvard professor Thomas F. Pettigrew explains:
“No African anthropological data have ever shown any personality type resembling Sambo; and the concentration camps [in Nazi Germany] molded the equivalent personality pattern in a wide variety of Caucasian prisoners. Nor was Sambo merely a product of ‘slavery’ in the abstract, for the less devastating Latin American system [of slavery] never developed such a type.”
Thus, IQ test results must be considered in this context of over 300 years of oppression during which many blacks, for their own defense and survival, adopted a subservient personality. And remember, until the latter part of the last century it was against the law in many places of the United States for blacks to learn to read or write. Even since then, blacks, taken as a whole, simply have not had the same educational opportunities as whites.
Effect of Environment
The quality of preschool home education also bears directly on intellectual achievements. It is of interest that the full 15-point IQ gap is manifest in the United States between black and white children by age five, even before they go to school. Some may claim that this is proof that blacks are born with less intelligence than whites, but there is evidence that other factors can be responsible.
Early childhood is a principal period of intellectual growth. Dr. Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago, as well as other educators, maintains that by the time a child reaches age five he has undergone as much intellectual growth as will occur over the next thirteen years. In keeping with such conclusion, Science News Letter observes: “During the early years, a child’s intelligence can be greatly influenced by a responsive environment conducive to learning and exploring.”
But consider the home situation of many American blacks. Their families are more frequently disrupted than are white families. The father is often not at home, perhaps being forced to look in another area for employment. Often, in black families, the mother alone must rear the children. Under such circumstances, can it be expected that the young will be provided the early educational training that will equip them to match the intellectual achievements of whites?
Further, recent studies show that in larger families, black or white, where parents usually give less individual attention to their children, the children have lower IQ scores. Since black families are, on the average, larger than white ones, this may also be a contributing factor to blacks’ lower intellectual achievements.
Another factor to consider is that home environments are not the same—white and black cultures are significantly different. And traditional IQ tests have clear cultural biases that favor whites. As an example, a Stanford-Binet picture test showed a prim-looking white woman and a woman with Negroid features and slightly unkempt hair. The child was marked “right” for picking the white woman as “pretty,” and “wrong” if he picked the black.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a large number of blacks have achieved IQ scores well above the average score of all whites. In fact, during World War I blacks from certain parts of the northern U.S. scored higher on IQ tests than whites from certain parts of the South, which would indicate that blacks are not born with lesser intelligence. Theodosius Dobzhansky, an American biologist, made this telling observation: “The race differences in the averages are much smaller than the variations within any race. In other words, large brains and high I.Q.’s of persons of every race are much larger and higher than the averages for their own or any other race.”
The book Intelligence—Genetic and Environmental Influences, edited by medical doctor and university professor Robert Cancro, examines at length environmental factors that contribute to the lower intellectual achievements of blacks. In view of all the disadvantages blacks have had, the writers conclude: “It is really surprising to find the mean IQ of black Americans only 15 points below that of white Americans. No reason whatever exists to consider this discrepancy as biologically inevitable.”
The well-known anthropologist Ashley Montagu reached a similar conclusion. He writes: “If nutrition is poor, health care deficient, housing debasing, family income low, family disorganization prevalent, discipline anarchic, ghettoization more or less complete, personal worth consistently diminished, expectations low, and aspirations frustrated, as well as numerous other environmental handicaps, then one may expect the kind of failures in intellectual development that are so often gratuitously attributed to genetic factors.”
Montagu concludes: “There is no evidence that any people is either biologically or mentally superior or inferior to any other people in any way whatever.”
Yet is there proof that the difference in average IQ scores of the races is not due to whites inheriting more intelligence than blacks?
Conclusions from the Evidence
There is no proof that whites either have, or have not, inherited more intelligence than blacks. What is clear, however, is that environment has a big effect on intellectual development. In Israel, for example, deprived Oriental Jewish children, who were placed in communes called kibbutzim and brought up collectively, showed higher IQ’s than children of the same background reared by their parents. Also, American Indian children reared in white foster homes obtain significantly higher IQ’s than their brothers and sisters on the Reservation. But does the same hold true for blacks?
A recent study of black children reared in white homes revealed that it does. The study, which included over a hundred white families who adopted black children at an early age and reared them in their homes, showed that the IQ’s of these blacks compared favorably with those of whites. “Overall,” write the investigators, “our study impressed us with the strength of environmental factors. . . . If a different environment can cause the IQ scores of black children to shift from a norm of 90 or 95 to 110, then the views advanced by the genetic determinists cannot account for the current IQ gap between blacks and whites.”
The weight of scientific opinion, therefore, seems to be that the lower average IQ scores of blacks can be explained largely, if not entirely, by environmental factors. In the book The Biological and Social Meaning of Race, Frederick Osborn of the Population Council of New York sums up: “Only one conclusion is possible from the studies which have been made to date. Differences in test intelligence between the major races are no greater than can be accounted for by the known differences in their environments. On this there is general scientific agreement.”
It is of interest that, as opportunities have opened to them, more and more blacks are succeeding in fields of business, education, medicine, and so forth.
Yet, it must be acknowledged, the question of the relative intelligence of the races cannot be positively determined. The evidence is now inconclusive, open to various interpretations, as one writer noted: “A hundred different conclusions can, and have been, drawn from the same body of evidence. The conclusion one arrives at depends as much on emotion as reason.”
So, then, why bring up the matter of IQ scores in an attempt to prove that blacks are less intelligent than whites? Steven Rose, professor of biology at the Open University, England, explains why some people do: “The question of the genetic basis of racial or class differences in IQ . . . achieves meaning only in a racist or classist society attempting to justify its discriminatory practices ideologically.”
As a result of the storm of controversy over the alleged lower inherent intelligence of blacks, the National Academy of Sciences declared: “There is no scientific basis for a statement that there are or that there are not substantial hereditary differences in intelligence between Negro and white populations. In the absence of some now-unforeseen way of equalizing all aspects of the environment, answers to this question can hardly be more than reasonable guesses.”
One thing is certain, however, and that is that there is no sound basis for viewing people of another race as inferior. Without making any distinctions as to race, the Bible wholesomely advises us to have “lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.”—Phil. 2:3.
But still there are persistent views that hinder persons from applying this fine Scriptural counsel. A prominent one is that persons of other races than one’s own have an objectionable body odor.
[Blurb on page 13]
“If you see pygmies in their natural environment making bridges out of fibre and living life successfully you might ask what you mean by intelligence.”
[Blurb on page 15]
“During World War I blacks from certain parts of the northern U.S. scored higher on IQ tests than whites from certain parts of the South.”
[Blurb on page 16]
“Differences in test intelligence between the major races are no greater than can be accounted for by the known differences in their environments.”
[Picture on page 14]
The environment in which children grow up affects their intellectual development