Thomas Sowell Ignores Biology

Thomas Sowell’s latest article The Dumbest Idea is going viral, about how it’s wrong-headed of politicians to expect equal socioeconomic outcomes, when humans are diverse.

Sowell’s argument is environment-based, for example, that women earn less because they choose professions that don’t pay as well, not because biology is any way involved.

But by ignoring biology, Sowell’s thesis has glaring holes:

If every 20-year-old Puerto Rican in the United States had an income identical with the income of every 20-year-old Japanese American — and identical incomes at every other age — Japanese Americans as a group would still have a higher average income than Puerto Ricans in the United States. That is because the median age of Japanese Americans is more than 20 years older.

People with 20 years more work experience usually make higher incomes. And age difference is just one of many differences between groups

Sowell is ignoring the elephant in the room here – IQ. When matched by age, Puerto Ricans still earn less than Asians and whites. Also, the data shows that when matched by age, single blacks still have a higher rate of poverty than single Asians and whites, which holds across three different age groups:

As for women being underrepresented in the sciences, biology is yet again to blame: although men and women have roughly equal IQs, men have more variance, meaning more genius scores, which is necessary to succeed at STEM.

Sowell in 2003 gave a critical review of The Bell Curve. I deconstruct his review here.

Sowell writes:

“phenomenon seems peculiarly concentrated in comparisons of ethnic groups” is simply wrong. When European immigrant groups in the United States scored below the national average on mental tests, they scored lowest on the abstract parts of those tests. So did white mountaineer children in the United States tested back in the early 1930s. So did canal boat children in Britain, and so did rural British children compared to their urban counterparts, at a time before Britain had any significant non-white population. So did Gaelic-speaking children as compared to English-speaking children in the Hebrides Islands. This is neither a racial nor an ethnic peculiarity. It is a characteristic found among low-scoring groups of European as well as African ancestry.

But Blacks have had decades to catch up, and despite desegregation and billions of dollars in entitlement spending, have failed to so.

And the kicker, from Towards a Theory of Everyone: Chanda Chisala Rebuttal on the Nature of the Black-White IQ Gap:

That would suggest that the response on the parts of blacks and whites is due to some non-environment factors, a genetic factor, which is making the difference in IQ remain constant as the Flynn Effect goes into effect.

What makes it even more unlikely, in the last 60 years, their environments have become very similar since segregation. These differences don’t exist now, they go to the same schools by court order, same TV shows, same movies, basically same environment for both, and yet, that increasing similarity in the environment, the Flynn Effect, the IQ gap has remained intact. Which means whatever counts for the gap is genetic and not environmental. The more and more similar the environment, the less and less of the difference can be due to the environment and the more and more it must be due to genes. So this 15 point gap surviving these changes in the environment, seems more and more likely to be genetic in origin.

Sowell’s thesis that the bad behavior of whites (rednecks) is responsible for the dysfunction of blacks, is also easy to debunk:

In this paper by Steven Ruggles, he says that analysis confirms that the high incidence of black Americans of single parenthood and children residing without their parents is not a recent phenomenon. Data shows that from 1880 through 1960, black children were two to three times more likely to reside without one or both children than white parents. This directly goes in the face of what liberals say is the cause of the demise of the black family structure. Ever since blacks have been free from slavery has this begun to happen.

Sowell seems to be letting personal racial biases (ethnic genetic interests, assuming it exists) get in the way of objective scholarly research. Granted, if you’re an African American and you read a book or a study that shows how blacks consistently score low on IQ tests and are thus possibly less intelligent, all else being equal, you may be more inclined to resist these findings than if you’re, say, Jewish.