Arthur R. Jensen Dies at 89; Set Off Debate About I.Q.

Margalit Fox, New York Times, November 1, 2012

Arthur R. Jensen, an educational psychologist who ignited an international firestorm with a 1969 article suggesting that the gap in intelligence-test scores between black and white students might be rooted in genetic differences between the races, died on Oct. 22 at his home in Kelseyville, Calif. {snip}

His death was confirmed by the University of California, Berkeley, where he was an emeritus professor in the Graduate School of Education.


Because of his empirical work in the field on the quantification of general intelligence (a subject that had long invited a more diffuse, impressionistic approach), he was regarded by many colleagues as one of the most important psychologists of his day.

But a wider public remembered him almost exclusively for his 1969 article “How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Achievement?” Published in The Harvard Educational Review, a scholarly journal, the article quickly became—and remains even now—one of the most controversial in psychology.

In the article, Professor Jensen posited two types of learning ability. Level I, associative ability, entailed the rote retention of facts. Level II, conceptual ability, involved abstract thinking and problem-solving. This type, he argued, was roughly equivalent to general intelligence, denoted in psychology by the letter “g.”

In administering I.Q. tests to diverse groups of students, Professor Jensen found Level I ability to be fairly consistent across races. When he examined Level II ability, by contrast, he found it more prevalent among whites than blacks, and still more prevalent among Asians than whites.

Drawing on these findings, Professor Jensen argued that general intelligence is largely genetically determined, with cultural forces shaping it only to a small extent. For this reason, he wrote in 1969, compensatory education programs like Head Start are doomed to fail.

While some observers praised Professor Jensen as a scientist unafraid to go where the data led him, others called him a racist. He continued to be heckled at speaking engagements throughout his career. He was burned in effigy on some college campuses and received death threats; for a time, he was accompanied by bodyguards.


Even psychologists who disagree with Professor Jensen’s conclusions defend him against charges of racism.

“Arthur Jensen’s life is emblematic of the extent to which American scholarship is inhibited by political orthodoxy,” James R. Flynn, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said on Wednesday.

“Jensen was a true scientist, and he was without racial bias,” Professor Flynn added. “It never occurred to Arthur Jensen that people would use his data to argue for racial supremacy. Now, to be fair to his critics, over time he became more and more convinced that the evidence did show a genetic component.”

A noted authority on intelligence, Professor Flynn has long opposed Professor Jensen’s views on the subject. “Take it from me, the evidence is highly complicated,” he said. “The best we can say is that it is more probable that the I.Q. gap between black and white is entirely environmental in origin.”


A 1981 book by Professor Grover, “The Cognitive Basis of the Intellect,” was written as a response to Professor Jensen’s book “Bias in Mental Testing” (1980). In that book, he argued that it is possible to construct tests of general intelligence that are free of cultural bias, which in turn makes it possible to isolate heredity as a wellspring of intellect.

But in focusing on the link between genetics and intellectual ability, Professor Grover said on Wednesday, Professor Jensen’s work has sweeping, and potentially grave, implications.

“It was irrelevant and not particularly useful to suggest, as those who endorse Jensen have, that Jensen was just holding a politically incorrect point of view and that’s why he was being criticized,” she said. “His studies and his influence would have a dramatic effect on the perception that people have about minority groups and their potential, and even their right to a quality education.”

She added: “In no way am I suggesting that he wasn’t completely well intentioned. But I would make the point that you cannot separate social science from human rights, regardless of what side of the fence you’re on.”

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  • “The best we can say is that it is more probable that the I.Q. gap between black and white is entirely environmental in origin.”

    If that is true, then why aren’t Whites universally lauded as saints for emancipating our blacks from their native African environment?

    “If we are supposed to feel guilty for the bad things Whites have done, then shouldn’t we feel proud of the great things Whites have done?”  -Greg Johnson, PhD

    • Detroit_WASP

      “The best we can say is that it is more probable that the I.Q. gap between black and white is entirely environmental in origin.”

      People say that in the context of explaining black failure for the last 400 years (since they have known the white race).  What about BEFORE that time.  Why didn’t blacks invent the wheel, a written language or indoor plumbing?

       Africa has more natural resources than North America and yet it is a crime ridden, economic disaster, just like Detroit, Cleveland and East St. Louis.  

      • The didn’t invent because they were sacred prophets whose feelings were hurt and opportunties for greatness were stunted by internalized racist oppression when the looked into the future and saw White privilege.

  • Detroit_WASP

    Forget about all the IQ tests.  Forget about the Flynn effect, regression toward the mean, forget about nature verses nurture and all the other THEORY.  Just ask the liberals why EVERY black city in America, and the world, is crime ridden, economic and academic disaster.  Why liberals, why?

  • libertarian1234

    “The best we can say is that it is more probable that the I.Q. gap between black and white is entirely environmental in origin.”

    That’s pure nonsense.

    If anyone should be regarded as biased, it should be Flynn.  He started with a desire to support leftist dogma, and he manipulates, squeezes, and exaggerates, until he thinks he has enough data to flim flam people into accepting his skewed process and conclusions, then puts it forth as the truth.

    Forget I.Q. tests.  Blacks have performed so miserabl;y in any kind of intellectual challenges throughout history it’s quite plain to anyone with half a brain they’re the least intelligent of all other races, with the possible exception….maybe…..of Australian Aborigines. 

    Remember Dr. Watson, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA, who said….in essence….. that they (meaning the scientific field) promote the idea of black equality, but it’s not really so, then the lefties went into such an uproar that somebody in the field accidentally told the truth he had to retract what he said?

    Flynn and others were working hard to flim flam the masses into believing we’re all the same and blacks are really just as intelligent, innovative and creative as all the other races, because I.Q. is determined by environment, then up comes the ageing Dr. Watson and he let the cat out of the bag, accidentally dissing Flynn’s entire propaganda apparatus and years of manipulative “studies.”

    Flynn is a liar, and he’s no more than a radical left wing ideologue that searches not for the truth, but data that he can skew to create a new truth he feels everybody should embrace.

    • Bantu_Education

      A liar thats for sure.  He knows the truth so he’s not a fool or a self-deceiver like most liberals (well, lets say I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt) but a an intellectual and moral coward.   I felt almost sick when  I saw him smiling sweetly in a group photograph with Richard Lynn and Philippe Rushton – he’s not fit to lick the boots of those courageous men.     

  • JohnEngelman

    I believe that there is often wisdom in tradition, and distrust abrupt social changes. If the studies of Arthur Jensen, Professor J. Philippe Rushton, and others had been available in the early 1950s the civil rights legislation would have been more moderate, slower in coming, and less disruptive to our society.        
    Opportunities would have opened for blacks who behave responsibly and perform adequately, but the black ghetto riots that happened from 1964 to 1968 and the more durable increases in black social pathology may have been avoided. 

  • APaige

    It looks like Liberia.

  • APaige

    He was right about Head Start being a failure…because IQ is mostly (50%-80%?) herditary/genetic and all the money spent on changing the ‘environment’ would fail. The U.S spends $5 billion a year on Head Start…every study indicates that there is no long term (passed 3rd grade) positive effect on those that attended a Head Start program. The whole goal of the program was to close the ‘gap’ before first grade and that would eliminate the gap in later years. Anyone know of any school in the U.S that does not have a racial gap?

  • dukem1

     That, sir, is a very good point.
    Sometimes I think that, in some future,  people will look back  at 20th century scholarship the way we look back at 16th century alchemy ….how could they have been so sure of what was so wrong.
    My assumption here is that in my imagined future there will be  people capable of such introspection;  of that, I have my doubts.

    • Bantu_Education

      The alchemists were not as misguided as we suppose – in time they will be proved right – one day gold will be manufactured, just as we have learnt to make diamonds.   Racial egalitarians, on the other hand, are now and always will be totally wrong.  

    • Dr. Möbias

      There will be no looking back.  The history of western civilization is currently being revised if not erased.  A prescient white South African once told me:  “When your monuments are torn down, your street names changed, your history books rewritten, the names of your parks, schools and municipal buildings renamed after your new masters, you’ll know YOU have been conquered, are being erased and have no future.”

      Doom and Gloom?  Maybe.  But this is what is happening apace.

  • Bantu_Education

    So it took the NYT 10 days to gather up the courage and humility to finally offer this grudging eulogy? I rarely comment before reading an article and the comments but I have to make an exception here as this long delay strikes me as very strange, and maybe indicates an internal fight.  Can anyone imagine them waiting 10 days to report Nelson Mandela’s passing?  Well, I know that to the likes of the NYT he’s a saint, but even so I can only assume the powers that be at the NYT have spent the last 10 days arguing about whether the death of another odious “racist” should be celebrated, grudgingly eulogised or just swept under the carpet with an implied good-riddance like Rushton, et al.  

  • Bantu_Education

    The phrase “Cock-eyed optimist” springs to mind, not sure why. 

  • JohnEngelman

    Conservatives also have trouble accepting truths that are incongruent with what they want to believe. Because they hate taxes they believe that tax cuts are the cure to every economic problem. Because they love driving their SUVs and pick up trucks they believe that man made global warming is a myth. 

  • chuck_2011

    There is a difference in IQ between blacks, whites and asians but that, IMO, does not fully explain why black majority areas routinely fail. The black culture in america revels in failure and being at the bottom of the heap.   As a group they do not speak properly, expect handouts from the government and allow bad behavior to rule the day. Given the IQ gap I would hope that a little work ethis and self-respect to make for it. No the blacks in america expect a free ride and will do anything to get it.

    • Its not just raw cognitive ability (what IQ comes very close to measuring). There are also big differences among the races in deferring gratification, aggression, sexual drive, impulsivity, etc. For example, at the same income level, asians have more savings than whites who have much more savings than blacks. The undesirable traits that blacks (on the aggregate) possess relative to whites is far from limited to raw cognitive ability. 

      Note: Controlled for IQ all ethnic groups have almost identical incomes. Therefore, one would expect at the same income levels that the IQs of all ethnic groups would be almost identical. Thus, one can not attribute lower savings rates among blacks to simply a matter of IQ.

  • Bantu_Education

    Blackadder needs money and tries his hand at alchemy

  • In the St. Louis City circuit, serving a city that was 53% black 44% white according to the 2000 census and 49% black 42% white according to the 2010 census, 98% of all adult felony defendants and 99% of juvenile felony defendants are black.

  • Yeah ladies and gents my IQ is a four digit number 😉

  • Dr. Möbias

    Our future is Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union.  There will be bloody, ongoing, violent ethnic and racial warfare over resources and because people do not like living with those not of their own racial group.

  • JohnEngelman

    That website looks like an ideological website without scientific credibility. This is what “Scientific American” has to say about global warming:
    The New Normal?: Average Global Temperatures Continue to Rise2010 may prove to be the hottest year since record keeping began in 1880 Hot summers (and balmier winters) may simply be the new normal, thanks to carbon dioxide lingering in the atmosphere for centuries.

    This trend reaches back further than a couple of years. There have been exactly zero months, since February 1985, with average temperatures below those for the entire 20th century.    

    • SLCain

      Are you aware that “Scientific American” is not a scientific publication.  If it were, it would have, oh, I don’t know….graphs,…….equations even (as a matter of policy, they never publish equations.  Not one statement in the article you linked to had any citations.

      Bear in mind that the scientific establishment that claims to know – to know, with out any doubt – what is causing the average surface temperature of the Earth to increase, also claims to know – to know, with out any doubt – that race has no meaning, and that all races are exactly equal in abilities.

  • Mark Schmidt

    Here is why IQ tests are a load of bulldust. The Flynn effect.

    US adults in 1932 would have a score of only 80 on today’s tests, less than that of US blacks.

    The West on an average IQ of 80 (or less) at or before 1932 had already developed an amazing civilisation. But on IQ tests the average score was less than that of today’s blacks and Hispanics.

    Go figure.

    • From Wikipedia

      But this rise in IQ test scores is not wholly explained by an increase in general intelligence. Studies have shown that while test scores have improved over time, the improvement is not fully correlated with latent factors related to intelligence.[13] Rushton asserts that the “gains in IQ over time (the Lynn-Flynn effect) are unrelated to g”.[8][14] Researchers have shown that the IQ gains described by the Flynn effect are due in part to increasing intelligence, and in part to increases in test specific skills.[15][16][17]”

      There you have it. IQ tests are still the single most reliable predictor of success in school and life in general. Neither social status (while being raised) nor education level can tell us more in those respects. 

      • panjoomby

         Thank you, Mike! Excellent, helpful & accurate posts.

  • JohnEngelman

    I have raised the issue of global warming. There are two reasons I believe in man made global warming for the same reason that I agree with Arthur Jensen, J. Philippe Rushton, and others that the races differ innately in average intelligence and behavior. First, both beliefs are plausible. Second, they correspond to what I have experienced during my life.
    For many hundreds and thousands of years the different races have evolved in very different environments. It makes sense to me that qualities that had survival value in the African jungle would not be useful, and perhaps even dysfunctional in China. For two thousand years China had a draconian criminal justice system that removed aggressive men from the gene pool. The imperial exam system made it possible for young men from humble origins to enter the scholar gentry. Once there they were given generous incomes, and expected to have several wives and many children. 
    In Africa the best hunters and warriors – that is to say the best killers – had the most wives. Intelligence was not irrelevant, but it was less important to procreation than it was in China. 
    These differences explain why Chinese tend to be more intelligent than Negroes, and less prone to violent crime. Most of the Chinese Americans I have known, and I have known many, have been more intelligent than most of the blacks I have known. I have been a victim of black violent crime. I have not been a victim of Oriental violent crime.
    As far as global warming is concerned, we know from fossil evidence that 100 millions years ago and earlier the climate on earth was much warmer than it is now. Sea levels were higher. Much of what is now the United States was under water. 
    Over a period of many millions of years plants removed carbon from the atmosphere by the process of photosynthesis. When these plant died most decayed, and the carbon was once again released into the air. However, many of the plants were covered before they could decay. As time went on this plant material was transformed into petroleum, coal, and natural gas. 
    As the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere declined, so did the average temperature. Areas that had once become jungle became frigid. Ice ages began. 
    By consuming fossil fuels we are restoring the climate that existed when much of the United States was under water. 
    During my life I have noticed milder winters and hotter summers. 

    • Bantu_Education

      Africa the best hunters and warriors – that is to say the best killers – had
      the most wives, and consequently the most children. ”

      I have my own theory as to the possible
      origin of the abysmally low African IQ.  One
      of the first things a visitor to Africa will notice is the loudness of Africans
      “talking” to one another.  (btw, just one more reason why whites
      cannot abide living near blacks).  The reason for this, so I have been
      told, is that in the tribal village anyone speaking softly was suspected of
      plotting against the chief.   

      Until very recently most Africans lived
      in tribes, usually just a few thousand strong, ruled over by chiefs who
      maintained power through absolute fear.    Judging from the reports
      of white explorers, executions were frequent, brutal, and often quite random.
       Since, as a general rule, soft speakers tend to be more intelligent than
      loud speakers, any society which culls its soft speaking members will, over
      many generations, suffer a dysgenic effect. 

      In African society thinkers were not much use anyway and, since the
      chiefs would suspect them of treachery, they were culled in favor of
      remorseless killers who could slaughter the men of rival tribes and capture
      their women and cattle.  African “society” and its
      “economy” was based almost entirely on killing and looting.  

      Little has changed. 

    • HKwills

       I am sure your “life” experience constitutes a statistically significant sample. Better pick up a primer on statistics.

  • JohnEngelman

    A noted authority on intelligence, Professor Flynn has long opposed Professor Jensen’s views on the subject. “Take it from me, the evidence is highly complicated,” he said. “The best we can say is that it is more probable that the I.Q. gap between black and white is entirely environmental in origin.”          
    – Margalit Fox, New York Times, November 1, 2012       
    I wonder if anyone anymore really believes that any more, or if they just say it because it makes them feel good. 
    If the IQ gap was entirely, or even primarily, environmental there would be more variation geographically and historically. There would be somewhere on earth a large population of blacks who perform and behave as well on the average as whites. 

    • All environmentalists arguments must be extremely complicated. They are simply collections of ad hoc arguments with virtually no predictive power. Meanwhile, arguments that racial differences are mostly genetic are simple and have very strong predictive capabilities.

  • The Verdict of History

    Egypt was a Caucasian civilization… not a negro one…

  • JohnEngelman

    Orientals have low crime rates in Oriental countries.
    In the long-term hybridization is beneficial to the human species. By “long-term” I mean thousands of years. When races mix genes mix. Individuals who get the good genes survive and reproduce. Individuals who get stuck with the bad genes do not. 
    That is why we benefit from a few trysts our Cro Magnon ancestors enjoyed with several winsome Neanderthals that they encountered along the way after leaving Africa over 50,000 years ago. Most of the Neanderthal genes their decedents picked up were not beneficial. Those we have in our chromosomes were.