Thoughts on the article “Racism is real, race is not: a philosopher’s perspective”


Most people still think of race as a biological category.

Most people don’t know enough about science to understand why that is.

One area of concern is the continued focus on IQ and race. I think this area of research is highly dubious. Too many racists use this research and warp its conclusions for their own ends to make political claims that aren’t justified by the science backing it.

The main reason why the science is highly dubious is that we cannot completely isolate the effect of culture on genes. There are still many institutional forces at play that shape intelligence and race. There may be some true difference between the so-called races but I very strongly believe that this is much, much less significant than racists make it out to be. I would say that the intelligence difference between races would be negligible once all environmental factors could be isolated. This is not possible, however. So we can’t know for certain.

Even if it is true? What then? What does it matter? Just because somebody is more intelligent than another person doesn’t mean they will achieve anything of value in society. And the definition of “intelligence” is quite vague as it is.

Why would the average IQ of a low IQ race, for example, be much higher in a developed economy than an underdeveloped one? Because economic and social pressures are still shaping intelligence test scores, etc. Think about how long ago it was the case that slavery and colonialism were widespread and totally all-powerful. Not that long ago.

This idea of intelligence and race is one of the last vestiges of scientific based (even though the conclusions about this in the literature aren’t conclusive) arguments for “race” that racists cling on to and it is still taken seriously by scientists. But there are no scientific studies which say race causes a person to be more intelligent than another person. Just that there is a correlation but scientists cannot be sure what the cause of this correlation is.

Another interesting development is that scientists think they will eventually be able to identify the exact genes responsible for intelligence. Once this happens, and if we figure out eventually how to manipulate our genomes, then I don’t want to speculate but this sounds like a scary future. A future where all humans could, in theory, become as “intelligent” as they want. What would race even mean then?

I don’t think I would agree with abandoning all intelligence research and how this intersects with race. But it is tempting to support this unconditionally. If it doesn’t serve any pragmatic and ethical ends, it should be abandoned.

A cosmopolitan society embraces difference and is inclusive of all walks of life and types of “intelligence”. An exclusive society will only lead to tyranny.

But generally, I agree with the conclusion that we should consign the notion of race to the dustbin of history. I think we’ve already done that in the places where it counts. Not many biologists accept “race” to be scientific. The rest of non-scientific society will eventually accept this too. We hope.


See original TC article here:

Racism is real, race is not: a philosopher’s perspective”

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