Stop talking about race and IQ

Here’s my advice: You can talk about the genetics of race. You can talk about the genetics of intelligence. But stop implying they’re the same thing. Connecting intelligence to race adds nothing useful. It overextends the science you’re defending, and it engulfs the whole debate in moral flames.

I’m not asking anyone to deny science. What I’m asking for is clarity. The genetics of race and the genetics of intelligence are two different fields of research. In his piece in the Times, Reich wrote about prostate cancer risk, a context in which there’s clear evidence of a genetic pattern related to ancestry. (Black men with African ancestry in a specific DNA region have a higher prostate cancer risk than do black men with European ancestry in that region.) Reich steered around intelligence where, despite racial and ethnic gaps in test scores, no such pattern has been established.

It’s also fine to discuss the genetics of IQ—there’s a serious line of scientific inquiry around that subject—and whether intelligence, in any population, is an inherited social advantage. We tend to worry that talk of heritability will lead to eugenics. But it’s also worth noting that, to the extent that IQ, like wealth, is inherited and concentrated through assortative mating, it can stratify society and undermine cohesion. That’s what much of The Bell Curve was about.