Why Harvard Is Right to Discriminate Against Asians: Response

This article is going viral on UNZ Why Harvard Is Right to Discriminate Against Asians.

This article is pretty bad and makes major unsubstantiated claims. I am surprised Ron Unz would even publish it. Insulting his readers’ intelligence for a few thousand clicks seems like a poor trade-off.

A high profile lawsuit by East Asian (American) students claimed that Harvard, like other elite universities, discriminates against East Asian applicants in its admissions process. Although Asians are over-represented at these institutions (compared to their relative population in the U.S.), the evidence seems to suggest that there would have been even more Asians at Harvard if admittance was purely on high school academic records and test score performance.

My take on this is, private institutions such as Harvard should be allowed to discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or other factors, but public institutions cannot, and that admittance information such as acceptance, reject, and wait-list stats by race, religion, gender, and other variables should be made public, for all universities. Because college is such a major time and money investment, consumers should have access to such information so that they can make the most informed choice. Thus, if a university is demonstrably biased for or against a certain group, then members of said group would know in advance to not waste their time and money applying. If Harvard wants to dilute its brand by admitting subpar applicants and rejecting superior ones, then that is its choice.

The debate is often framed in the context of merit and affirmative action (who wants to see more meritorious candidates rejected over less qualified ones?), but colleges may be justified to reject applicants for other reasons, too. I think this is a potential blind spot for conservatives, who are uniformly opposed to affirmative action, because it’s logically inconsistent to oppose discrimination or favoritism on racial grounds but support it on, say, religious grounds. Imagine that a Christian college such as Bob Jones University (I dunno if this is actually true for Bob Jones but I’m using it as a hypothetical) has to choose between an atheist applicant who has a 4.0 high school GPA or an evangelical applicant who has a 3.0 GPA. Given that the values of the second applicant are more aligned with the values of the college, would it not be unreasonable for the college to favor the second candidate.

In this article, I will argue that young East Asians develop their cognitive abilities faster than the young of every other population and thus reach their full mental capacity much earlier than everyone else. In adulthood, many other people from other groups — in this analysis I will particularly focus on white Americans since there are other complex issues with Blacks and Hispanics — catch up with or even overtake them. This early development gives East Asians an early cognitive edge which they naturally use to gain a practice advantage in all academic subjects and cognitive tests, and get into gifted schools and elite universities. Unfortunately, this test score superiority does not translate to intellectual leadership or dominance in adulthood after other people’s brains also fully mature and/pr continue to mature.

lol what? If this were true, it would be as big of a deal as the Flynn Effect. To the best of my knowledge, no evidence that adulthood cognitive decline among Asians relative to other races exists, and the author supplies zero studies or other evidence. This is a huge claim that the other fails miserably to substantiate.

They admit a large portion of high-scoring Asians, expecting them to be the next intellectual leaders of society, but they end up being almost just normal achievers in adulthood. Thus, an academic system that was designed to select the best of the best, the crème de la crème – the future guiding lights of society – ends up selecting for hard working followers with only slightly above-average intellectual contributions to society.

However, Harvard discriminating against Asians does not imply that Asians are less intelligent, or undergo cognitive decline later in life. The logic of the rest of the article does not follow from the premise. It would seem that Harvard , rather than selecting for raw intelligence , unlike MIT or CalTech, is selecting for a combination of high intelligence and leadership ability. So Asians excel at the former but may be lacking in the latter. However, leadership is more of a function of EQ than IQ. With the exception of tech CEOs, it’s not like business executives are that much smarter than everyone else, with IQs of maybe 115-125 or so, which is about 1-1.5 standard deviations above average. This is probably true also for politicians, lawyers, and other professionals.

A Google search shows that Asians excel in adulthood at math, computer science, and other intellectually-demanding endeavors. Two prominent examples include Fields Medalist Terence Tao and string physicist Michio Kaku.

If Palantir follows anything close to Thiel’s personal philosophy on selecting the best minds, then it should not be surprising that they would essentially discriminate against some East Asians. One of the questions Thiel asks entrepreneurs who want his envied investment capital is, “tell me one opinion you strongly hold that other people tend to strongly oppose” (paraphrased). Thiel looks for a certain kind of independent thinking and originality in his prospective entrepreneurs; perhaps Palantir also wanted a bit of that imaginative creativity for some of its top engineering jobs, especially for overarching strategic suggestions involving more than just incremental coding abilities.

This canard that Asians lack creativity is also unsubstantiated and easily countered with many examples. Shenzhen and Shanghai are as technologically and economically competitive as the Silicon Valley. There’s a huge booming tech scene in China such as in the major, wealthy cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc. These cities and regions have tons of successful tech start-ups and established tech companies. Some examples include Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, etc. Almost all technology to some degree is derivative. Look at all the computer brands of the ’80s and ’90s. They all copied each other but with some small adjustment in features. Is there a big difference between Compaq or Dell computers? Not really. Michael Dell didn’t invent a new technology, but rather found a way to sell computers cheaper, by bypassing stores and instead selling them direct.

What is more likely is that Asian intelligence develops faster than everyone else and takes many Asians through elite programs that grant them exceptional credentials, but that cognitive advantage disappears in adulthood as others also reach full development (while missing similar elite credentials sometimes), which leads to an awkward social paradox. Only the truly best of the best Asians remain dominant at these older ages; but the numbers are only a fraction of those who passed through these selective elite programs and received their accreditation of presumptive genius!

To give the author the benefit of the doubt, maybe this applies to mental age. For example, someone who reads at a 12-year-old level as a 6-year-old cannot read at a 40-year-level as a 20-year-old. Such a statement is nonsensical. It’s simply called an ‘adult reading level,’ although obviously some adults are way better at reading than others. This is demonstrative of the shortcomings of using mental age to estimate intelligence into adulthood, but this does mean that high-IQ individuals lose their cognitive advantage into adulthood. Smarter people still learn faster and retain more of what they read, and can understand abstractions and make inferences better than less intelligent people. IQ scores tend to remain stable throughout life. People who have high IQs in childhood have high scores in adulthood. Even if IQ scores decline due to declining working memory in adulthood, one’s relative IQ tends to remain the same, so individuals who score in the top 1% as children will do so adults. There is no evidence that one specific race or group is more susceptible to such decline than other groups, as the author implies is true with Asians. Everyone follows the same sort of trajectory from childhood to adulthood.

If these children are scoring as high as 120 on average at the age of four (despite being hospitalized for malnourishment) and 110 to 112 at the age of ten, it is implausible that their IQ goes up as they grow older, and neither is it likely that it stays the same. If we accept that Asian adult IQ is 104 to 106 as Rushton and others suggest, then even by their own data, it is more likely than not that Asian IQ goes downwards as they grow older. Your IQ, after all, is only about how you perform compared to people in your age group. If they begin to catch up or overtake you, this will show a decline in your IQ even without you necessarily becoming less “smart.”

The only way to know would be to track the same individuals from childhood to adulthood and record the IQ scores. If Asians with 120-IQs in childhood are only scoring 105-110 or so as adults, this would be noteworthy and in many journals, but a Google search reveals no instances of studies purporting the existence of such a decline.

Thus, although Asians are 12 percent of American professionals, they are only 5% percent of the executives. This means that the group that was vastly overrepresented at meritocratic schools and colleges are now almost exactly the same as their ratio to the rest of the US population (5 percent) when it comes to positions where gifted adults are most likely to thrive. In short, they literally regress to the average.

This may be more of a function of individual preferences than declining intelligence. It’s more plausible that East Asians don’t seek leadership roles, or if they do, they are not rejected because of supposed IQ decline, but for other reasons. Again, the author is making two claims (declining Asian IQ in adulthood, Asians being underrepresented in certain executive and academic fields), but latter does not imply the former.

It may seem impossible that East Asians just happen to lose their large childhood IQ advantage in adulthood, but it is not so implausible if you think about it. For example, psychologists say that general intelligence can be subdivided into two parts: fluid and crystallized. They say that crystallized intelligence (which correlates with verbal intelligence etc) does not stop growing until quite late in adulthood, whereas fluid intelligence (which correlates with quantitative reasoning etc), starts declining after age 20.

Asians are apparently strong on fluid intelligence, or at least the quantitative factor in it (hence their math prowess), but count verbal intelligence as their biggest Achilles’ heel. Given the trajectories of these two aspects of intelligence in adulthood, it should not be completely implausible to expect an average Asian decline in total cognitive ability relative to groups that are stronger in verbal intelligence. (This may possibly explain why Ashkenazi Jews have the opposite reputation in adulthood since verbal intelligence, their strongest endowment, is apparently the new competitive landscape in cognitive adulthood).

But they, Jews and Asians, both roughly end up at the same spot. For example: a Jewish child has a verbal IQ of 120 and a performance/fluid IQ of 100, but the Asian child has a performance/fluid IQ of 120 but a verbal IQ of 120 (for an IQ of 120 for both), but by middle age, performance IQ drops 20 points for both individuals and verbal rises 20 points for both individuals, then the IQs are still unchanged, at 120. The only way the sums would be different would be if Asians and Jews have different trajectories, but there is no evidence of this.Given the increasingly technical nature of modern society one would surmise that Asians would be at an advantage, rather than at a disadvantage as the author of this article posits.