Don’t Talk About HBD?

Shut up About Race and IQ: Why HBD is just white nationalism, by Richard Hanania.

This is another Richard Hanania article in which the headline and sub-headline are somewhat misleading. It’s more like, “Don’t talk about HBD if you use it to justify ingroup preferences.” It’s not that he wants people to stop talking about HBD, or that he disagrees with HBD. Instead, he’s opposed to how some on the Right use HBD as a pretext for holding anti-market beliefs or tribalism, independent of HBD. Tribalism on the Right, similar to environmentalism on the Left, are anathema to individual freedom or free markets, but for different reasons or justifications.

He also notes that HBD does not automatically lend itself to right-wing or conservative values, outcomes, or beliefs; for example, Freddie DeBoer vs. Bryan Caplan. They find common ground on the failure of America’s education policy, but disagree on socialism vs. capitalism. A second example, not mentioned by Hanania, is about the debate over the cause of obesity. Many right-wingers who otherwise believe in HBD as far as IQ, education, or crime stats are concerned, HBD does not apply to obesity, which is framed as a problem of insufficient willpower, poor diet choices, or society being too tolerant of obesity. But what can be more biological than how humans metabolize food, or the brain-gut processes that underlie hunger signals or food addiction. Conversely, the Left embraces HBD regarding obesity largely having a biological etiology, not due to a lack of willpower.

One important thing to realize is that “race and IQ” isn’t exactly the world’s most hidden knowledge. The Bell Curve might have been the most influential conservative book published in 1993. It received an overwhelmingly positive review in The New York Times. Through personal experience and gossip, I’d say that maybe half of the smartest conservative and libertarian writers at least suspect that there are genetic racial differences in IQ, or even take it for granted, and in the era of free speech on Twitter so do many of the dumber ones.

He’s right that although HBD is impolite, it’s far from samizdat. Most people implicitly understand HBD is true but cannot express so openly. Tweets by Steve Sailer not uncommonly get thousands of ‘likes’, comparable to even mainstream celebrities. For example, a recent tweet got 3,200 likes:

Yes, HBD is hardly hardly niche or esoteric anymore, unlike maybe in the early 2000s when the idea was thoroughly stamped-out from discourse after the controversy and fallout of The Bell Curve, only to get a second life on Twitter and other non-mainstream media after the 2010s.

Paul Ehrlich’s ideas on overpopulation and mass famine were popularized in the 1960s and 1970s. When he was proved wrong in the most spectacular way possible — population growth leveled off, and more people turned out to be a good thing anyway — we got concerns about things like the ozone layer and too much garbage, and ultimately global warming.

To go off on a digression a bit, I am trying to figure out why Paul Ehrlich has suddenly become a household name evoking a certain loathsomeness reserved for only the worst figures of humanity. I recall he was mentioned in an Astral Codex Ten article from a year ago (in which I wrote a response somewhat defending him), and now people cannot stop talking about him. In 1968 Ehrlich wrote a famous book warning of a population crisis, The Population Bomb. As we all know and made abundantly clear by anyone with a Twitter account, he was unequivocally wrong: The world was able to accommodate billions of people without widespread war and famine, which I guess is a first in history that anyone has ever published a wrong prediction. Until his book, forecasters were never wrong. You can be wrong about many things, like predicting a financial crisis that never comes to pass, or the impending collapse of America, or the next Civil War, and no one will call you out on it or put you in the same category as Hitler, but be wrong about overpopulation and you will become infamous. Just ask Thomas Malthus–the other posterchild of being wrong about overpopulation.