Human Diversity

The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class

[Amazon Link]

Odd things happen to language all the time, and one of the oddest is what happened to the word "diversity". I blame Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, whose decision in Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke mentioned "diversity" in a student body could be a "compelling state interest" that would justify treating people better or worse based on their race. "Progressive" people turned that word into a magical justification allowing blatant unfair racial discrimination. But now, given Justice Powell's pass, as long as you say "diversity", you can get away with not saying what you're really doing.

The title of Charles Murray's new book uses the D-word in the classic sense: differences. And it's a noble effort to bring science into the discussion, tempered by a classical-liberal view of essential, underlying, human equality. As the subtitle implies: when it comes to issues of "gender, race, and class", biology plays an important role in explaining observed differences. Avert your eyes if that shocks or offends you, but ignoring it will ensure that your efforts to improve/reform/transform society will be misguided, ineffective, wasteful, and almost certainly invidious.

The main body of the text is split into three parts, each dealing with one of those subtitle pieces. Easy to summarize, because Murray puts forth "propositions" heading up each chapter.

  1. Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures.
  2. On average, females worldwide have advantages in verbal ability and social cognition while males have advantages in visuospatial abilities and the extremes of mathematical ability.
  3. On average, women worldwide are more attracted to vocations centered on people and men to vocations centered on things.
  4. Many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior
  5. Human populations are genetically distinctive in ways that correspond to self-identified race and ethnicity.
  6. Evolutionary selection pressure since humans left Africa has been extensive and mostly local.
  7. Continental population differences in variants associated with personality, abilities, and social behavior are common.
  8. The shared environment usually plays a minor role in explaining personality, abilities, and social behavior.
  9. Class structure is importantly based on differences in abilities that have a substantial genetic component.
  10. Outside interventions are inherently constrained in the effects they can have on personality, abilities, and social behavior.

Each proposition is supported by Murray's summary of research, mostly very recent, of what's been revealed by genetic and sociological studies. In my case, Murray was pushing on an open door; I was kind of believing those things anyway. But he gets very deep into the genetic weeds, and (frankly) I'm not looking to become conversant with the science at that level. But it's there if you need it, and can understand it. Supporting Murray's argument, should you want to go even deeper: three appendices (about 50 pages) and end-matter footnotes (about 80 pages).

A couple concluding chapters are less science-intensive, and contain Murray's speculations and recommendations. Dilettante readers (or those not even pretending to dilettantism) might want to read these more intently. They won't surprise his fans (and they will be ignored or misconstrued by his enemies): they're a humane and liberal vision of how to deal with "diversity".

The book's penultimate sentence: "We need a new species of public policy that accepts differences and works with people as they are, not as we want to shape them." Amen.

[You might think that Murray's concerns are overwrought; if so, you might want to check out a recent Quillette article by Tim Courtois on Gender Ideology. There are powerful forces of denial, and they don't cotton much to your fancy-schmancy "science", Chuck.]

Last Modified 2022-10-01 9:48 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


Michael Ramirez notes the day:

[Veterans Day 2020]

Thank a veteran, if you get a chance.

  • We don't usually do more than one piece of eye candy per day, but this (from Mark J. Perry at AEI) is pretty good, unless you're a Venezuelan: Visualizing the rise and dramatic collapse of ‘democratic socialism’ in Venezuela.

    I admit, I find Uruguay somewhat surprising.

  • I can only shake my head, roll my eyes, sigh a sigh, and wonder why. From the College Fix: Hundreds of students protest after school posted a photo of a College Republican. That's at Bates College, average annual cost $73,538 before aid.

    Hundreds of students recently protested at Bates College after the school posted one photo of a College Republican leader on Instagram as part of a planned series on student voting leading up to the 2020 election.

    After an outcry from students, the private university in Maine deleted the post and the school’s president appeared at a rally to apologize for his mistakes. But that’s not enough, as the students are now using the social media post as a reason to push for a list of demands.

    It is difficult to be unamused by the first two (out of five) demands of the students, as reported by the student newspaper:

    1. An apology from the Bates administration regarding the silencing of students and restriction of free speech.
    2. Deletion of the Instagram post.

    That $73,538/year doesn't seem to have made the students any more adept at avoiding obvious self-contradiction. Maybe they should add a demand for a tuition refund.

  • [Amazon Link]
    Kevin D. Williamson's Tuesday article at National Review asks the musical question: What Gives You the Right? It's a relatively calm look at the bad idea of "positive rights".

    Positive rights run into some pretty obvious problems if you think about them for a minute, which is why so much of our political discourse is dedicated to moralistic thundering specifically designed to prevent such thinking. Consider, in the American context, the notion that health care is a right.

    Declaring a right in a scarce good such as health care is intellectually void, because moral declarations about rights do not change material facts. If you have five children and three apples and then declare that every child has a right to an apple of his own, then you have five children and three apples and some meaningless posturing — i.e., nothing in reality has changed, and you have added only rhetoric instead of adding apples. In the United States, we have so many doctors, so many hospitals and clinics, so many MRI machines, etc. This imposes real constraints on the provision of health care. If my doctor works 40 hours a week, does my right to health care mean that a judge can order him to work extra hours to accommodate my rights? For free? If I have a right to health care, how can a clinic or a physician charge me for exercising my right? If doctors and hospitals have rights of their own — for example, property rights in their labor and facilities — how is it that my rights supersede those rights?

    Rights are actionable — a right to a doctor’s services is a warrant to press that doctor into service against his will. That is why the conversation always is kept at a level of comfortable generality: You have a right to health care in general, not a right to any particular medical service at any particular time and place from any particular provider. That is another way of not talking about the facts of the case, because sick and injured people do not want health care in principle but in fact, not a general right to it but specific services and treatment. As some point, specificity and the actual facts of the case have to be taken into account.

    Looking forward to getting KDW's new book next week. Amazon link up and to your right.

  • Our second musical question of the day comes from Jeff Jacoby, who asks Were California voters confused?. Answer: "Well, probably, about some things." But they don't seem to have been confused when they soundly defeated an attempt to allow the state to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin."

    No, you read that right. Californians voted on "Proposition 16", an effort to remove the state constitution's language, added in 1996, barring such "affirmative action". Leftists and Democrats wanted it, the proposition's proponents outspent the opposition ($19 million vs. $1.3 million). But it lost badly.

    Have Prop. 16's advocates accepted their defeat gracefully, and acknowledged that they were badly out of touch with California voters? Of course not. They insist that they lost not because identity politics and racial discrimination are unpopular, but because the voters didn't understand what they were voting on.

    "The ballot language itself was confusing," said Oakland's Eva Paterson, a co-chair of the Yes-on-16 campaign. "We just weren't able to get through to voters. . . . People who didn't understand the purpose of Prop. 16 didn't get it." The same lame claim was offered by Michele Siqueiros, another advocate of racial and ethnic preferences. "I think voter confusion was our biggest uphill battle," she said. "We know that when folks read the ballot description that they were simply confused by it."

    What a pathetic excuse for failure. The campaign to re-legalize government discrimination sought to exploit voter confusion, by portraying the purpose of Proposition 16 as an initiative in support of inclusiveness, diversity, equity, balance, and racial justice — and by suggesting that anyone opposed to the ballot measure must be a hate-filled bigot. Rarely did advocates respond honestly to the profound moral argument against sorting people by race — the cause to which Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life. Virtually every lever of power and every influential voice in the state was deployed in support of Proposition 16. It was backed by Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris, by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, by the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Chronicle, and by hundreds of local governments, labor unions, corporations, and activist groups.

    So a bit of good news.

  • And third musical question du jour, from David Boaz at Cato: Did the Libertarians Spoil the Election?. As a Jo Jorgenson voter, I'm interested in the "blame libertarians" debate.

    On election night and the next morning, when President Trump was leading in the early vote count in more states than expected, Democrats were yelling at libertarians on Twitter that “you kept Trump in office.”

    As Biden moved ahead in the battleground states, conservatives on Facebook and Twitter–including former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker–were complaining that libertarians cost Trump the election because Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen was getting more votes than the margin between Trump and Biden in closely divided states.

    Both sides seemed to assume that their candidate should have gotten the votes of libertarians, and would have had the Libertarian Party not run a candidate, and that they were being wrongly deprived of their rightful property. Of course, elections give every voter the right and the opportunity to express their preferences by voting for the candidate they choose.

    Boaz provides data that suggests that third-party voters are sincerely turned off by the major party candidates, and there's not a lot of evidence that says they would overwhelmingly vote R or D if denied their choice.

Last Modified 2022-10-01 9:48 AM EDT