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Of course it matters whether group differences are genetic in origin
It is sometimes said that as long as we accept the various group differences in society, it doesn't matter what the etiology really is. For instance, here's Richard Hanania:
Similar claims were made by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein in The Bell Curve:
"Aren’t genetic differences passed down through the generations, while environmental differences are not?" Yes and no. Environmentally caused characteristics are by definition not heritable in the narrow technical sense that they do not involve genetic transmission. But nongenetic characteristics can nonetheless run in families. For practical purposes, environments are heritable too. The child who grows up in a punishing environment and thereby is intellectually stunted takes that deficit to the parenting of his children. The learning environment he encountered and the learning environment he provides for his children tend to be similar. The correlation between parents and children is just that: a statistical tendency for these things to be passed down, despite society’s attempts to change them, without any necessary genetic component. In trying to break these intergenerational links, even adoption at birth has its limits. Poor prenatal nutrition can stunt cognitive potential in ways that cannot be remedied after birth. Prenatal drug and alcohol abuse can stunt cognitive potential. These traits also run in families and communities and persist for generations, for reasons that have proved difficult to affect.
In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of difference are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.
I submit that it matters, and quite a lot. First, I don't think most people who say these things really mean it. It's often used as a kind of agnostic middle position by those who know the truth. Second, there's a good reason that egalitarians resist the conclusion with the emotional force that they do. Clearly, it matters to them a lot. Why? If group differences -- whether race, sex, national, or whatever -- are genetic in origin, then they will be much harder to change than if they are not. While changing genetics is possible, especially across longer time spans, it is clearly not something where one can just find one weird policy trick to do it quickly. If a group difference is genetic, there will not be any such policy known to man that we could just implement that will make them go away. And there are currently 1000s of social programs running in Western countries to remove all sorts of group differences, most of them with little or no positive effect. The justification for these programs would be undermined if the gaps are actually genetic. Take, for instance, affirmative action (i.e., pro-low intelligence discrimination) in the USA. It was implemented with an explicit justification that existing gaps were not genetic in origin, and that we would just have to wait a few decades for gaps to go away:
Judicial predictions of reduction or elimination of the RAG through color - based decisions approached the ludicrous. In rendering the decisive vote on the High Court decision Grutter vs. Bolling (539 U.S. 2003) and endorsing a continuing legality of quotas, Justice Sandra Day O ’ Connor averred, “ ...the Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences of social performance will no longer be necessary. ” In 2012 and having concurred with Justice O ’ Connor in the 2003 ruling, Justice Breyer acknowledged evidence of the unchanging RAG but noted only nine of the 25 years had passed. Puzzled by remarks of Justices O ’ Connor and Breyer, Otis Graham , writing in the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal , recalled the 1976 statement of Constance Baker Motley, an African - American judge, at a Conference on Affirmative Action at the Center for Studies of Democratic Institutions: “I despise the necessity of reverse discrimination but I swear to you we will end it in 25 years.” Twenty years had passed when Graham noted this in 1997, and it is now 16 years since then.
It's been 46 years since 1976 when these words were said. In 2003, in a Supreme Court case (Grutter v. Bollinger), they wrote:
The Court's majority ruling, authored by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, held that the United States Constitution "does not prohibit the law school's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." The Court held that the law school's interest in obtaining a "critical mass" of minority students was indeed a "tailored use". O'Connor noted that sometime in the future, perhaps twenty-five years hence, racial affirmative action would no longer be necessary in order to promote diversity. It implied that affirmative action should not be allowed permanent status and that eventually a "colorblind" policy should be implemented. The opinion read, "race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time." "The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." The phrase "25 years from now" was echoed by Justice Thomas in his dissent. Justice Thomas, writing that the system was "illegal now", concurred with the majority only on the point that he agreed the system would still be illegal 25 years hence.
Well, it took about 19 years for that to be legally reversed. And of course, there was little progress on the Black-White gap in the meanwhile. Here's some of the SAT trends from Dalliard's recent review:
You can see a slight upwards trend since 2018, but these trends likely have more to do with tinkering with the test rather than real gains. The psychometric literature using latent models (to avoid tinkering and other method artifacts) find basically the same 15ish IQ gap as has been reported since the gaps were first reported.
For practical purposes, if gaps are genetic, then they cannot be removed by any social policy short term. There are 1000s of such policies in place, costing billions, employing a vast industry of egalitarians and lobbyists for more policies. They are very, very invested in the genetic model being false. As is said: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. The academics agree too that this is very important, maybe the most important thing:
Closing the black-white achievement gap when schools remain segregated by race and income is extraordinarily difficult. To succeed, schools that serve concentrations of poor children must be staffed with skilled, experienced teachers who have learned to work together to provide large amounts of consistent, coordinated, high-quality instruction. Closing the gap is the greatest educational challenge facing the United States today.
There's more quotes here for those interested. Clearly, then, closing various gaps, especially the Black-White one, is of chief concern to many people. If the current gap is environmental in origin, it means that some kind of environmental tinkering will be able to close it, it's just a matter of figuring out how to do it. It may require completely redesigning society, as seems to be the objective of many Black Lives Matters communists, and Paige Harden-Turkheimer types. For instance, if Black mothers are bad for intelligence development due to bad rearing skills, then maybe one should force Black mothers to undergo maternal training, or even adopt away their children to White, Asian, or Indian parents. That's not my policy, but that is the logical consequence of many egalitarians stated belief that closing the gap is the most important thing to do. From the other perspective, if you are a free market supporter, and the gap closers think that they need to implement socialism in order to try to close the gaps, you too have an interest in finding out if gaps are genetic in origin. If they are, you can undermine their motivation for socialism. To the extent you think socialism is bad, then, you have motivation to promote a genetic model of gaps. Indeed, this point is often made by egalitarian researchers, who come up with elaborate theories of why conservatives support meritocratic, free-market based policies ("System justification theory", there are 6000+ academic articles talking about this).
If gaps are caused by genetics, but policies are based on the belief that they are not, then policies will be inherently misguided. Take police reforms and defundings. Many of them are intended to end 'systemic racism', a miasma-like cause posited to explain the omnipresent race differences in crime rates. When these are implemented, they end up causing more overall crime, and sometimes increasing the race gaps in crime rates because the police avoid dealing with Black offenders. Steve Sailer writes about this all the time. This result is not in society's best interest and it is directly caused by having the wrong belief about the causation. To put it simply, if some gap is genetic in origin, and society believes it is environmental, society will keep implementing counterproductive policies to remove the gap, and these will waste a lot of money and cause great harm. As Arthur Jensen wrote in 1973:
When all Negroes are told that their problems are caused solely by racial discrimination and that none are inherent within themselves, the ensuing hatred, frustration behavior - largely negative and destructive - and reverse racism become forms of social malignancy. Is the dogma which has fostered it true or false?
False [belief in environmental origins of gaps] could generate a kind of social paranoia, a belief that mysterious, hostile forces are operating to cause inequalities in educational and occupational performance, despite all apparent efforts to eliminate prejudice and discrimination - a fertile ground for the generation of frustrations, suspicions and hates. Added to this is the massive expenditure of limited resources on misguided, irrelevant and ineffective remedies based upon theories not in accord with reality, and the resultant shattering of false hopes. The scientific consequences of False E, if it is very strongly preferred to False G or True G, is the discouragement of scientific thinking and research on such problems. A penalty is attached to scientific skepticism and dissent, and there is a denigration and corruption of the very tools and methods that can lead to better studies of the problems, such as we are seeing presently in the ideological condemnation of psychometrics by persons with no demonstrated competence in this field and with no ideas for advancing this important branch of behavioral science.
Jensen touches on the last problem, which is that when genetics is the cause, but public opinion is that it isn't, someone else gets blamed for the low performance of groups. That someone is not going to be those groups themselves under the egalitarian framework, it is going to be the actually successful groups. For race matters, that will be mainly Whites (i.e., European leftist self-hatred) as well as 'White-adjacent' groups:
For the sexes, it will be men who are blamed for women's problems (the topic of my prior post). For wealth, it will be the rich, capitalists, and actually productive people in general.
As such, there is a moral argument here is that refusing to accept genetics when it is true, leads to blaming innocent groups for the relatively misfortune of other groups.