A Brand of controversy

September 5, 1997

Julia Hinde's article ("Branded an outcast", THES, August 15) describes as "controversial" certain of Chris Brand's views, namely that there is a general intelligence factor (g), that it can be measured by IQ tests, that it is substantially heritable, and that differences between racial averages are in part genetically-based.

What does this word "controversial" mean? There are at least three reasons why people may dispute a claim. First the matter may be genuinely controversial in the sense that the facts are unclear, ambiguous, with poor statistical probability. Second, a pseudo-controversy can be generated by a person who is lying. Third and most importantly, pseudo-controversy also arises when people form convictions about an issue of which they have wilfully failed to inform themselves. This latter is the cause of almost all the "controversy" about IQ and about race.

Over the decades proponents of politically correct ideology have beaten a retreat from one "controversy" to another in the face of accumulating counter-evidence. A massive amount was spent in the US on trying to raise the IQs of blacks. Only when this and other hopes failed was resort had to the claims that there were no such things as IQ or race anyway!

It is because they have lost their argument on rational, scholarly terms that the PC brigade are now resorting to suppressing books and sacking their authors. The journal Nature (certainly not noted for any leaning towards the Brand/Jensen view) stated in its issue of July 31 that "the debate now centres on whether IQ is 50 or 70 per cent heritable ..." (p 417).

Is it remarkable that such ignorance of basic educational science can appear in The THES? Well, it may be related to one professor's (John Furedy's) comment that universities have become "islands of repression in a sea of free speech" (www.psych.utoronto.ca/furedy).

Martin James

Moseley, Birmingham

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