The big problem with his commentary on IQ and race is the way he misrepresents criticism of the The Bell Curve. He links the criticism of The Bell Curve to criticism of the single-factor IQ model, but that’s simply inaccurate. There are plenty of errors of other sorts in the book. The statistical work is wrong, even according to the conservative magazine Reason:
The long discussions of heredity also distract attention away from the main thrust of the argument and generate needless controversy. The authors acknowledge, as does most serious science on the matter, the difficulty of identifying separate genetic and environmental contributions to intelligence. Most scholars assign some weight to both sources, but the allocation of precise weights generates much well-deserved controversy. The authors fail to justify why it is useful to establish any particular set of weights or even a range of weights, except the special weight that assigns all credit to the genes.
This observation points to the second, more fundamental, reason why this book fails to provide an effective challenge to contemporary egalitarian social policy. One might oppose such policies on moral or ethical grounds. Instead, the authors choose an empirical approach. Yet they fail to develop the empirical case in a satisfactory or coherent manner.
Raymond also cites Jon Entine, who “has investigated the statistics of racial differences in sports extensively.” Except that Entine has done no such thing, according to Scientific American:
Ironically, the greatest strength of Entine’s book — its single-minded focus and clarity — likewise yields its greatest weakness. Because Taboo takes the form of an argument — a case to be proved, rather than an inquiry — it has a polemical flavor. Instead of sifting through fragmented, conflicting data on the rise of black athletes in sports, Entine seeks to prove his case by presuming his conclusion is true, then supporting it with selected evidence. Such a “proof” would be reasonable, were it not for his claim of reliance on the “scientific method.” It is a disingenuous claim. The book does not even attempt to examine a robust data set, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the information, or come to an evenhanded conclusion. Instead Entine chooses to spare his readers the ambiguities of robust data, which form the core of a scientific inquiry.
Jon Entine, like Charles Murray, is affiliated with the neo-con think tank AEI. Raymond notes that Stephen Jay Gould was a Marxist and extrapolates from that, declaring that “his detestation of g was part of what he perceived as a vitally important left-versus right kulturkampf.” It’s regrettable that Raymond didn’t apply the same filter to Murray and Entine; if political affiliation is a sign of bias, then one might well draw conclusions from the fact that Murray and Entine are substantially closer to the neo-con movement than Gould was to the Marxist movement.
I’m left wondering, as I said, what’s going on here. An uncharitable explanation is that Eric Raymond is a racist. A charitable explanation is that Eric Raymond defines himself, in part, as a rebel who stands up to the establishment, and that he is attracted to theories that are presented as rebellious. “It’s fashionable nowadays to believe that intelligence is some complicated multifactor thing that can’t be captured in one number.” Mix in a healthy portion of elitism, and there you go.
I have no idea which of those, if either, is true. Neither of them is particularly laudable. I’ll finish with a quote from the entry on demographics in the ESR version of the Jargon File:
“The ethnic distribution of hackers is understood by them to be a function of which ethnic groups tend to seek and value education. Racial and ethnic prejudice is notably uncommon and tends to be met with freezing contempt.”