Should Scientists Study Race and IQ?

Haim Watzman

The neurobiologist Steven Rose argues in an essay in the Feb. 12 issue of Nature that there are certain hunches scientists should not follow—namely, those which have to do with the relationship between race, gender, and intelligence. In a paired essay, developmental psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams argue for the pursuit of such research, even if it threatens to have dangerous and socially divisive implications.

The essays are available on-line only to subscribers to the journal (although the opinion forum where the pieces are discussed by readers is publicly accessible). So I’ll briefly outline the two arguments and explain why I think Ceci and Williams make a stronger case—and why I suspect that Rose means more than he says.

Rose writes:

To meet the canons of scientific enquiry a research project must meet two criteria: first, are the questions that it asks well-founded?… And second, are they answerable with the theoretical and technical tools available?

Rose summarizes the sorry history of science that has sought to prove innate disparities in intelligence and abilities between men and women or between white Europeans and other races and ethnic groups.

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Computers on the Brain: Why We Need Philosophers

Everyone says that brains are like computers. Well, maybe not everyone, but neuroscientists and philosophers of mind use this analogy in their attempts to understand how brains work. This is important information regarding the knowledge behind how people are actually able to concentrate and focus on their work from time to time. This is the type of information that is needed when people want to get focus supplements to help their brain work at the best possible level. On the face of it, the comparison is clear. We know what computers are and we know what brains are, after all. Just like we know that a rock is a rock and an apple is an apple and a democracy is a democracy, right?

Actually, it’s not that simple, as Hebrew University philosopher Oron Shagrir explained yesterday in a talk he gave at Bar-Ilan University as part of its Science, Technology, and Society Colloquium.

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