Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ideologies of Intellect

"One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that 'equal powers of reason' were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

"James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London."

"The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when 'testing' suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade."

"Dr Watson stated at the weekend that he is 'inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa... because all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really'. He went on to argue that although one hopes that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, has equal powers of reason 'people who have to deal with black employees find this not true'."

Peace and blessings,

The following excerpts were taken from the first two articles below. I heard about
  • James Watson's
  • (link to bio: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1962/watson-bio.html) comments a few weeks ago. In terms of his claim that there may be differences between the intellect of Africans and that of Europeans, I don't see a problem with that statement per se. Given the different experiences of people who grew up in different environments (e.g. Africans, Asians, Indians, Europeans, etc...), I think it is plausible for there to be some differences in intellect to a certain extent. Much of our cognitive development and how we approach and solve problems in influenced by the environment we grow up in and how we interact with that environment. Therefore, insofar as different groups of people lived in different environments, I would expect to see some differences in how their cognitions and their approach to solving problems, namely because certain problems are more or less salient in certain environments, and therefore the type of environment we grow up in will determine the nature and extent of our interaction with that environment. The problem I have is with his statement that Africans are less intelligent that Europeans, because to utter such as thing suggests that certain peoples' intellect is "better" than others. All men were created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and He shows no partiality (2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:19). Furthermore, He instructs us to not show partiality towards our fellow brothers and sisters (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17). Despite these instructions, however, there appears to be something in our sinful nature that makes it easy for us to not only make distinctions between one another, but to associate value judgments based on these distinctions. Now it's obvious that God created a wide variety of difference cultures and ethnicities, and we should celebrate these differences as reflecting God's beauty and brilliance. The problem comes when we attach more value to certain groups or characteristics than others, because then we are showing partiality.

    Another issue I have with Watson's claim is that his so-called evidence is suspect. For a world renowned molecular biologist to claim in 2007 that Africans are not as intelligent as Europeans, and to base this claim on IQ tests in the 1990s that showed some differences between racial groups, is problematic. For one, many have argued that IQ tests are flawed and biased. Also, I don't see how he can have the audacity to suggest that Africans are not as intellegent as Europeans, given that many humanity's intellectual contributions to the understanding of the world (e.g. science, philosophy, mathematics) either originated or was epitomized and "borrowed" from the Egyptians, who are North Africans. Lastly, no one can dispute the fact that life began in Africa, which would explain why Africa is home of the first university in the world, the
  • University of Timbuktu.

  • In the book Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children (Gloria Ladson-Billings, 1997), the author recalls a teacher who told her students in her math class about the African Orgins of Algebra, and how the first definitive evidence of the use of Algebra were found in the writings of Ahmes, an Egyptian mathmetician who lived around 1700 B. C.

    In closing, I just pray that we get to a point where we can celebrate difference as one of God's may gifts to human kind, and to view these differences not as our limited, flawed nature wants us to view them, but how God our Creator views them. Given that we did not create any aspect of our being (e.g. brain), we are in no position say one group's intellect is better than another's. To start passing value judgments on people's intellect is to suggest that we know everything there is to know about intellect, and history clearly shows us otherwise, lol. What do you think? What are your thoughts on Watson's comments? Do you think that groups of people can generally differ in their intellect? Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

  • theory on race and intelligence

  • 2)
  • The basis for Watson's assertion

  • 3)
  • Watson responds to critics

  • 4)
  • Watson's institute does not cosign on his theory
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