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Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Response to IQ - Immigration Policy

After reading an article about individuals suggesting we oppose letting in immigrants with low IQ's, which can be read here, I felt I had to respond to this ridiculous form of modern eugenics being proposed.  In this dissertation on IQ and immigration policy, the following claims were stated:

The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.

as well as the statement that:

No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.

Aside from the obvious racist claims, the arguments being presented here are extremely flawedFor one, IQ is hardly an accurate measurement of intelligence because it is based off of a statistical correlation -- it is constructed using data averages and does not account for variability.   IQ was created, in part, to scientifically accompany the idea that intelligence was inherited -- a prevailing idea which centered on the belief that whites were genetically more intelligent (along with other similar views, such as the Cephalic index).  Being humans, tests we create to measure intelligence are hardly accurate considering they will always be created out of a social construct that is generated in a particular culture.  There is this notion that the way humans take in information is universal - this is not the case.  People vary greatly in the way they learn and process information -- and certain types of "general knowledge" may be more prevalent in some cultures over others. 

Let us look more closely at the IQ test.


The image above is a sample from an old IQ test from around the time it first became implemented for public use.  Literacy was an issue, so the test-makers attempted to create a test using images with missing components in which the individual was supposed to correctly fix.  The images are rather convoluted to be used as an intelligence test.  For instance, in image 15, the only correct answer was to draw a bowling ball in the man's hand.  It could not have been already thrown (how one would know the timing from the picture, I do not know) nor could it have been drawn in the female's hand (why, I also do not know).  Obviously, this is entirely subjective and based off of cultural norms, not intelligence.  Though IQ tests may be different today, are they really contextually that different?  They are, after all, based off of ideas which are socialized into people since they were children.  People with differential experience surrounding these ideas may not perform as well as people who have been around them all their lives.  In reality, this test was designed to support white, Western individuals as a way to claim that their ideas were superior because they "were more intelligent" and thus implement them into law.

Second, correlation and factor analysis is a tricky subject.  The definition of correlation is a representation of the tendency for one measure to vary in concert with another.  The importance of correlation is that it is used to describe a relationship and can have predictive potential.  Correlation is useful because data can be coded numerically.  However, this reduces two sets of data into one (a line).  Now, take note that correlations can exist between any two samples of information.  Just because a correlation exists does not mean that there is causation.  In other words, just because there happens to be a positive correlation between the number of pirates and global average temperature does not mean that pirates cause lower global temperatures (ha!).  Correlations can exist either because two variables are responding to one another, one variable causes another, or both variables have a consistent direction over time.  In actuality, there are usually several factors aiding in the outcome of another.  For example, environmental plasticity (not based on genetics, but the environment changing phenotype, or physical appearance) is one major factor.  These methods are mathematical abstractions and are not actual "quantities." 

We can, for instance, take measurements from the acromial process, glenoid cavity, spine, and supraspinous fossa of a chimpanzee and human scapula and get a single number as a mathematical average of the data to make a predictive statement about the evolution of the scapula, per se.  However, as one can imagine, the difference in measurements will be rounded off into an average and will fail to take into the account the rate at which the individual parts have evolved and their relation with other factors.  The spine of the chimpanzee did not necessarily evolve at the same rate, direction, or with the same reason as the glenoid cavity, etc.  So, similarly, attempting to measure multiple aspects of the human brain into one single component, intelligence, often disregards many other factors completely.

People who claim these eugenic/Social Darwinist ideas are natural are complete fools and misunderstand Darwin's actual ideas about evolution.  Eugenics and Social Darwinism are, simply, the beliefs that humans which are better off in society are "more fit" while the poor are "less fit," and this accounts for their positions in social hierarchy.  These social constructs claim that inequality is natural while promoting racial purity because breeding with "less fit" individuals is considered maladaptive.  These ideas were essential to many aspects of policy from sterilization to the foundation of the Nazi party.  To me, it seems absurd that people are still even considering this.  Perhaps the explicit definitions of these ideologies has been toned down, but the fact is, they are still being talked about (note many right-wing claims, whether they believe in evolution or not, using these ideas as a foundation).  However, Darwin was NOT a Social Darwinist.  He did not believe it was the duty of human beings to "improve their races."  Darwin actually spends a great deal of time talking about what he called the "moral sense" of human beings which had an inherent effect on social groups.  He stated that inevitable morality in social organisms would lead to self-sacrifice and self-control as "highly and most justly valued."  He believed humans thrived socially, and "the expressed wishes of the community will have naturally influenced to a large extent the conduct of each member."  Darwin noted that fitness is defined by other members of the group as well, and natural selection will contribute to the group's welfare rather than the individual welfare.  In other words, serving oneself over others will not benefit the species.  If only one individual is fit, the adaptive traits will not be inherited and will eventually disappear.  Moreover, serving the interests of one group over others will also not benefit the species because variation is extremely important in the fitness of a species.  This is how speciation plays out.  Two populations that have diverged into separate species are separated by the fact that they cannot interbreed.  Why is this?  If all organisms could interbreed with one another, there would be far too much variation that it would actually tamper with a population that was already well-adapted to its environment.  Therefore, reproductive isolation is an important separation aspect in a species.  Individuals themselves do NOT evolve, only POPULATIONS evolve.  Therefore, it makes sense that the entire population, not one individual, increases its fitness.  Microevolution within a species is not to create some super-evolved organism that is better than the rest.  It is to create variation in order to keep the species from going extinct.  Too much similarity is, in fact, detrimental and will ultimately cause the extinction of a species.  In the end, it is more than apparent that eugenics and Social Darwinism are completely wrong.  As Darwin eloquently stated, "if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weirdness....

Saw this on Cracked.com in their Brain Hacks section...

How to Hallucinate Like You Just Took LSD, Legally...