William Saletan, national correspondent at the on-line magazine Slate, recently published a three-part series about the powerful evidence for the view that the average IQ difference between blacks and whites is caused at least partly by genes. (The series begins here.) Much of his data came from a first-rate summary by Philippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen that appeared in the June 2005 issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.
It was a surprise to find a reasonably objective treatment of IQ at a web site owned by the Washington Post, and we posted excerpts at AmRen.com. (See “Race, Genes, and Intelligence, Parts 1 and 2” and “Race, Genes, and Intelligence, Part 3.”) But the series strayed so far from the Post’s monotonously egalitarian line that I felt sure Mr. Saletan would be spanked, and, indeed, he was. On November 28, a few days after the series, he limped back on line to confess that he was not an expert in IQ, and that he had done sloppy work. (See Part 4, “Regrets.”)
“In researching this subject, I focused on published data and relied on peer review and rebuttals to expose any relevant issue. As a result, I missed something I could have picked up from a simple glance at Wikipedia.
“For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to ‘the scientific study of heredity and human differences.’ During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime (‘Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous’) and heresy (‘Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people’). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.
“I was negligent in failing to research and report this. I’m sorry. I owe you better than that.”
He certainly does owe us better than that. Rather sad, really, that Mr. Saletan’s apology for bad research should be yet more bad research.
There was a furious round of commenting at Slate—some readers wanted Mr. Saletan’s scalp, others merely abused him—and Mr. Saletan scurried back onto the plantation to burnish his “anti-racist” credentials. He explained why the Pioneer Fund should never ever ever give money to AR:
“Taylor is a perfect illustration of racist abuse of science. He takes bits of data and weaves them together with completely unscientific inferences to suit his segregationist ideology. In doing so, he does tremendous harm to both science and society.
“If you run a research fund, you have a responsibility not to subsidize that kind of crap. Period.” (See Saletan at The Fray, November 29.)
On November 30, I posted a comment on Slate, as follows:
“Dear Mr. Saletan,
“You appear not to have anticipated the criticism your series would unleash, but your reaction to charges of ‘racism’ is drearily familiar: ‘No, no. I am a bold seeker of truth. The real racists are those wicked people over there.’
“That approach is not merely ignoble; as you are discovering, it doesn’t work.
“More specifically, why did you write that my magazine, American Renaissance, ‘preaches segregation?’ We believe in complete freedom of association, noting only that when they have such freedom, most people prefer the company of others of their own race. Segregation is the opposite of freedom of association, and the difference should be obvious to anyone.”
I then quoted his claim that I was a science abuser, and continued:
“There are more than 15 years of back issues of American Renaissance at our web page, AmRen.com. Can I trouble you to point out even one example of ‘racist abuse of science’? (See Taylor at The Fray, November 30.)
I suppose I should not have been surprised, but this letter mostly brought forth name-calling, guilt-by-association, and speculations about my personal life—as well as an occasional glimmer of common sense. Mr. Saletan did not put in an appearance, so I sent him the same questions, directly by e-mail: [email protected] Mr. Saletan is, of course, a very busy and important man, so he hasn’t quite found the time to reply.
The Slate series and the spanking have even been reported in the New York Times, which passed along Mr. Saletan’s blundering description of AR as “segregationist.” On December 2, I sent the Times a correction, but whether the paper will accept correction from a “perfect example of the racist abuse of science” is uncertain.
We are, ladies and gentlemen, in the early days of what will be an increasingly absorbing but, alas, unedifying spectacle. We are seeing what happens when what was once thought to be the most odious of heresies begins to triumph through sheer weight of evidence: blurted half-truths, hasty retractions, and increasingly shrill denunciations—while the number of heretics only grows. A few of the less blinkered liberals can see what is coming and don’t want to be the last defenders of what may be a doomed orthodoxy.
There will be plenty more Saletans. Their vanity tells them that the last to abandon ship will look ridiculous. In retrospect, everyone will see there was not one scrap of positive evidence for egalitarian orthodoxy. But when will it be safe to jump? Who will later be heralded as far-seeing, and who will be put to the stake? The defenders of orthodoxy are still powerful, and desperation makes them vindictive.
Those of us who are safely ashore can settle in for the show. In our lifetimes, no other scientific orthodoxy as significant as this is likely to go under. It is like watching the Berlin Wall crumble. Recovering liberals will insist, as Mr. Saletan did, that shocking as the truth may be, it really has no policy implications. They are wrong. Education policy, race preferences, immigration, diversity—all will be reexamined. And Americans will bend over backwards to reexamine them fairly and humanely.
When will the ship finally go down? James Watson’s rough prediction was that in 15 years—maybe 10—we will have found the genes that contribute to intelligence, and that they will be shown not to be distributed equally among all races. (See Steve Sailer’s article “James D. Watson—A Modern Galileo” at vdare.com.) The Saletan pirouette shows that not everyone will wait that long. But one thing is certain: The final rush for the lifeboats will be ugly.