Race IQ and Intelligence in Term Paper

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2001 1. Then, they could sort taxonomically. In other words, one man's 'smart' is another man's 'dopey', concepts that have little to do with the "intelligence" IQ tests are designed to measure. This is certainly, as well, a clear indication of how completely IQ tests are based in a narrow range of cultural norms. Indeed, they could be viewed as impoverished measures for failing to account for the values, intellectual and otherwise, of any society except the well-defined, homogenized and 'unjuicy' western society that invented the tests. Sternberg et al. concluded that, regarding IQ tests, "scores from tests used in cultures or subcultures other than those for which the tests were specifically created are suspect, and probably of doubtful validity in many if not most cases (2001 1).

What about race?

The myths about race and IQ go back a long way, to a time before IQ tests. Philosophers Hume, Kant and Hegel all believed that the various branches of humanity were distinguishable both temperamentally and intellectually. As difficult as it is to credit today, Kant and Hume associated "the dark pigmentation of persons of African origin with cognitive deficiencies, and Hegel wrote disparagingly of the natural temperament of Africans as explanatory of their cultures" (Keita 1999 65). They came by their prejudice 'honestly': Aristotle had argued that the dark pigmentation of the Africans of Egypt and Nubia in ancient times signaled cowardice (Keita 1999 65).

Thereafter, while philosophers no longer seemed to dabble in racial issues, social scientists did. The main debate has centered on whether the idea of race is a natural or a social construct. "If race were just social construction then essentialist arguments associating phenotypical characteristics with behavior or cognitive dispositions would have no ontological grounds to stand on" (Keita 1999 65). if, however, race could be defined scientifically, then one could draw conclusions about the natural characteristics of members of each distinct racial group. In the West, this approach has been the one that has probably received the most attention.

This also, unfortunately, constructed an entire field of research that would need to be debunked in order to legitimize the viewpoint that intelligence is culturally based, not genetically based, and that IQ is a measure of very limited usefulness in very limited situations with a very narrowly defined 'cultural' group. And even more unfortunately, some researchers as late as 1996 added fuel to the 'IQ-gap' fire. a. Shuey, in 1996, reported that the average IQ gap between "blacks" and "whites" in the United States was approximately 15 points, a considerable distance when one considers that any person with an IQ measuring 120 or above is considered very smart indeed; those below 85 are generally not accepted into the United States Army; those with an!Q below 75 are considered incapable of living on their own (Geocities Web site undated).

Levin, also, added to this debate when he speculated that the greater difficulties of living n a very cold climate such as Norway caused the inhabitants of that region to develop intellectually more than those who lived in warm climates, not requiring construction of substantial housing, larders, warm clothing, etc. (Keita 1999 65).

Keita notes that Levin's reasoning is "causally essentialist and cannot be supported by the facts" (1999 65) because, for one thing, Neanderthal man (resident in the colder regions for at least 300,000 years) was "not as cognitively evolved as those members of Homo sapiens, who migrated from Africa to Europe and Central Asia 30-40,000 years ago" (Keita 1000 65).

In addition, "the argument that the colder climates of Europe and northern Asia produced more cognitively evolved branches of humanity than those derivative from the warmer climates cannot be sustained given that the world's first civilizations (on the assumption of the Eurocentric definition of civilization) emerged in tropical and sub-tropical regions" (Keita 1999 65). These were the civilizations of the very people Kant et al. disparaged; Nubia, ancient Egypt, plus Mesopotamia and Harappan on the Indian subcontinent (Keita 1999 65). If that were not sufficient information to debunk the cold climate/high IQ myth, Keita notes that there are very temperate portions of Africa, notably the Kenyan highlands, Ethiopia and the plateaus of West Africa (1999 65). In addition, Levin was using only the narrow measure of the IQ test in his conclusions, not the expanded definition of intelligence shown to be predictive of success in virtually any culture, as long as the cultural norms and expectations were used to measure that intelligence, as in the Latino/Asian/Anglo example above.

Moreover, perhaps the final proof that ideas of a correlation between race, IQ and intelligence are erroneous rests on a study offered by Keita, who notes that IQ scores of southern Europeans are a full standard deviation lower than that of northern Europeans. The average IQ of Spaniards is Spain is reported at 87. Italian immigrants to the United States scored 84,whle Swedish immigrants scored 102. To further debunk any meaning for this, beyond the ability of various groups to conform to the narrow expectations of an out-of-context test, is this report: " Portuguese immigrants to the United States scored 83, a score lower than that registered by African-Americans in general" (Keita 1999 65).


Keita concludes that "it would seem that the IQ gap is not based on race after all, but on something more akin to exposure to levels of modern technology and education. According to convention all Europeans are classified as belonging to the so-called Caucasoid race, yet there are significant differences between the scores obtained from northern Europe and those from southern Europe" (1999 65). In view of the cultural intelligence studies reported above, it is difficult not to agree with Keita. Added to that is this fact: while we think of technology as 'cyberspace' and other post-industrial inventions, there has been technology -- improvements in the methods of doing work -- since long before the first IQ test was administered. Therefore, any validity a racial gap might have presented early on can be seen as exactly the same as the one discussed today: a myth based on varying levels of exposure to technology and the educational content preferred by the dominant society.


Keita, L. (1999). Why Race Matters: Race Differences and What They Mean. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 23(1), 65. Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

Reeve, C.L. (2002). Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth. Personnel Psychology, 55(3), 778+. Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

Schlinger, H.D. (2003). The Myth of Intelligence. The Psychological Record, 53(1), 15+. Retrieved April 21, 2005,…[continue]

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