Deep in genetic pool 2

July 4, 2003

Alison Wolf's inferences about gender are fundamentally flawed. Even if there was no genetic basis for difference in ability between the sexes, there would still be differences in social and educational experience that would be reflected in the statistical distributions. In looking to genetics to explain differences, Wolf constructs arguments that could be used to support the genetic superiority of middle-class over working-class students, or white over black students.

Even if gender or race had a real influence on measured ability, the difference between the means of the distributions arising from genetic factors, though it might be non-zero, would be of little relevance to any debate. The fact that the ability distributions overlap over the whole of the ability range is more important.

If it is possible to attain high-level performance in either population through a combination of genes and educational provision, then each population - or genetic pool - has potential.

Keith Rennolls
Professor of applied statistics
University of Greenwich

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