Tag Archives: adoption

Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology: A bibliography

In a 2011 graduate course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology,” students were asked to add an annotated reference or resource (=person, organization…) to the evolving googledocs bibliography each week.  (Annotations were to convey the article’s key points as well as its connection to the student’s own inquiries and interests.)  The result is as follows: Continue reading

Race, genes, and IQ test scores: The latest conceptual starter kit

The new conceptual starter kit evolved after reflection on feedback from colleagues and, when delivered two days ago to high school students, proceeded more or less as follows:

Race, Genes, and IQ test scores

Everyone has a sense that this is a controversial issue.

The title suggests a simple relationship: race is coded in genes and genes determine IQ test scores.  Or: Differences in Races => Differences in Genes that people have, which, in turn => Differences in IQ test scores

Take home lesson:

The world is not that simple.

There are lots of questions to ask and to explore.

In this talk, I want to get you to think like a scientist: Ask questions.  Put forward explanations.  Do they fit the data?  Debate alternatives.

Most of the talk is not about racial data—we’ll get to that near the very end.

————–

I won’t tell you yet what groups 1 and 2 are, but you would know if you were in them.

Notice that the average of group 2 is quite a bit higher than that for group 1.

OK. What would you make of these patterns if you were in group 1? In group 2?

[Responses from the audience.]

You might have said, it depends on where you are in group 1 or in group 2.  Near the middle?  Near the bottom end?  Near the top?

First lesson: Individuals in groups differ from the group average and should not be treated as if the group average is what they are.

Second lesson: Science is more than getting at causes.  Already, you [in the audience responses] were talking about what you would do and what more you would want to know (e.g., is the IQ test biased towards group 1?)

————–

What would you do on the basis of these patterns?

Example: Group 1 community leader: Push for better schools…  Get depressed because Group 2 will stay ahead…

What more would you want to know about these patterns before you decided what to do?

Example: IQ researcher: Work with geneticist to look for genes that group 2 have that group 1 doesn’t…

————–

Imagine you are…. (see your card to find out who [community leader in group 1community leader in group 2Teacher of children from both groupsgovernment policy-makerGenetics researcherIQ researcher]):

How would you react to these patterns in IQ test scores?

Question: What would you do on the basis of these patterns?

OR Question: What more would you want to know about these patterns before you decided what to do?

————–

[Discussion between neighbors, then sharing of responses]

What would you do on the basis of these patterns?

Examples:

Group 1 community leader: Push for better schools…  Get depressed because Group 2 will stay ahead…  Create different tests…

Government policy-maker: Accept income inequality because it comes from IQ inequality…

Teacher: Make more effort to teach people in group 1…

What more would you want to know about these patterns before you decided what to do?

Examples:

Government policy-maker: Look for situations in which group 1 and group 2 are more equal and learn from that…

IQ researcher: Work with geneticist to look for genes that group 2 have that group 1 doesn’t….

————–

IQ researcher: Work with geneticist to look for genes that group 2 have that group 1 doesn’t…

Why ask this?

Reasoning might be:

Because there is variation within each group and genes are involved in variation of other traits, e.g., height.

And the gap has been there for a while and hasn’t changed.

And there is no simple environmental or social factor that explains the gap.

And what are the alternatives?

————–

But consider results of a study from France:

New information:

Group 1 = people who were adopted by poor families.

Group 2 = their brothers and sisters who were adopted by well-off families.

Now

IQ researcher: Work with geneticist to look for social conditions that group 2 have that group 1 doesn’t.

But that is too simple.  Indeed, saying it’s a combination of genes and environment is too simple.

————–

Consider results that are common across many industrialized countries:

New information:

Group 1 is your grandparents’ generation.

Group 2 is your parents’ generation.

What would you NOW do on the basis of these patterns?

OR What more would you NOW want to know about these patterns before you decided what to do?

It turns out there is no simple environmental or social factor that explains the increase.

Would we look for genes to explain this increase?

Reasoning might be:

Because there is variation within each group and genes are involved in variation of other traits, e.g., height.

And the gap has been there in many countries.

And there is no simple environmental or social factor that explains the increase.

But we know that genes don’t change much from one generation to the next, so there must be something wrong in the logic.

We need to think about more dynamic explanations.

[Here I used Dickens and Flynn’s story about basketball in the age of TV to convey a model in which there is a matching of environments to differences that may initially be small (e.g., children who show an earlier interest in reading will be more likely to be given books and receive encouragement for their reading and book learning), and a social multiplier through which society’s average level for the attribute in question influences the environment of the individual (e.g., if people grow up and are educated with others who, on average, have higher IQ test scores, this will stimulate their own development).]

We now have a sense that genes versus environment—nature vs. nurture—is too simple and that we need more dynamic explanations, so…

————–

New information:

Group 1 are African-Americans in the USA.

Group 2 are Euro-Americans (“whites”) in the USA.

What would you NOW do on the basis of these patterns?

OR What more would you NOW want to know about these patterns before you decided what to do?

————–

Why propose that maybe genes could explain the differences in averages between the two groups.

We have seen that

Differences in Generations -> Differences in Genes -> Differences in IQ test scores

so

Is this still plausible to you? : Differences in Races -> Differences in Genes -> Differences in IQ test scores.  If so, why? (Are therefactors influencing your thinking beyond the data?)

————–

Take home lessons:

The world is not a simple matter of genes explaining anything and everything.

Be skeptical of anyone who wants you to think it could be simple.  (They are not being true to the science of average group differences.)

Ask questions—dig deeper into the complexity.

Race, genes, and IQ test scores: A new conceptual starter kit

My previous conceptual starter kit for thinking about genes, race, and IQ test scores jumped in too quickly.  It might be better as a sequel to the new starter kit here (designed for a high school audience at a museum of science presentation on what science says about racial differences).

The title “Race, Genes, and IQ test scores suggests a simple relationship:

Race -> Genes -> IQ test scores

or:

Differences in Races -> Differences in Genes -> Differences in IQ test scores

Take home lesson: The world is not that simple.

ACTIVITY (distributed on a Note card on each person’s seat).

Imagine you are XX (where depending on the notecard XX = Individual in group 1 // Individual in group 2 // Government politician/ policymaker // Teacher // Genetics researcher //  IQ researcher)

  • What would you do on the basis of these IQ test score patterns?
  • What more would you want to know about the IQ test score patterns before deciding what to do?

Compare your answers with your neighbor.

Now let me tell you that group 1 are your grandparents’ generation and group 2 are your parents’ generation.

(How could this be?–IQ test scores are supposed to have an average of 100.  Answer: Each generation IQ testers shift what counts as 100.

Now—

  • What would you do on the basis of these IQ test score patterns?
  • What more would you want to know about the IQ test score patterns before deciding what to do?

Discuss with your neighbor how your original answers change or not with this new information.

Now let me tell you that group 1 are people who were adopted by poor families and group 2 are people who were adopted by well-off families. (Actually the 115 should be only 112 in this case.)

Ditto

Now let me tell you that group 1 are African-Americans in the USA and group 2 are Euro-Americans (“whites”) in the USA.

Ditto

Take home lesson: The world is not as simple as Differences in Races -> Differences in Genes -> Differences in IQ test scores.  (If it were, then Differences in Generations -> Differences in Genes -> Differences in IQ test scores, but we know that Differences in Generations do not -> Differences in Genes.)

(+ Be skeptical of anyone who wants you to think it could be: They are not being true to the science or to the complexity of understanding differences among groups.)