Source: StockSnap


An Ongoing Controversy

An existing controversy in the world of science is the issue of race in relation to intelligence. While some scientists claim that race can be used as a measure of intelligence to some extent, others state that the variables (race and intelligence) lack absolute definitions and as such using them to arrive at absolute scientific fact may be fallacious. “Race” has been seen as a concept which breeds racism, prejudices and injustice. Chimamanda Adichie, a renowned writer and novelist concurred in her novel “americanah” when she responded “race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have a choice”.

This has been an ongoing debate for decades and it still is. While race is seen as a social construct used to differentiate people by skin colour and historical antecedents, intelligence is seen as the measure of cognitive ability as well as creativity. This is usually measured by IQ (Intelligence quotient). Although these definitions have been frequently used, they are not generally accepted.


Available statistics show that Blacks are always at the bottom of any racial IQ test. Although many global studies have been condemned for lacking adequate data from the black race especially sub-Saharan Africa, the findings are often used to infer. While the Asians are always at the top of the echelon, they are closely followed by the Jews and then Latinos and lastly Africans.

For almost a decade, the average IQ for Americans is 103, among Asian-Americans 106, Jewish American 113, Latino Americans 89, and black Americans 85. Globally, roughly the same pattern is repeated; whites 100, East Asians 106 and Sub-Saharan Africa 70.

In 2013, a survey was carried out to ascertain the main sources of difference in IQ between Blacks and whites. On the average, 47% of the correspondents agreed that it was due to genetic differences.

The Debate: Genetics Or Environment

Most of the arguments on race and intelligence can be broadly classified into two groups: the hereditarians and the culture-only theorists.

The defining difference between gear groups is whether any significant part of the mean Black-White IQ is genetic or purely cultural in nature.

The first argument is that inherent genes have a great role to play in determining the intelligence of an individual. Proponents of this theory are of the opinion that whites are innately more intelligent than the average black because of the presence of some genes. This hereditarian position originated in the work of Charles Darwin (1859, 1871) and then was elaborated by his cousin Sir Francis Galton (1869, 1883). Based on research models used in behavioral genetics, this view contends that a substantial part (about 50%) of both individual and group differences in human behavioral traits is genetic. It, therefore, follows that even if all individuals in both groups were treated identically, average group differences would not disappear, though they might diminish.

The opposing culture-only position finds no need to posit any genetic causation, stating that if the environments for all individuals could be equalized, the observed group differences in average IQ would effectively disappear, though this might be difficult to achieve. This position has been predominant in the social sciences since the 1930s. This argument was further expatiated by Robert Stenberg when he said that in a hunter-gatherer society, IQ is very important but if the hunter cannot shoot straight, IQ will not put food on the table. He went further to say that physical strength is just as important in warrior hunter society as IQ is. “If Africans, Asians and Europeans evolved different genes, it is because of the uniqueness of their respective environment” he concludes. Genetic advantages are in other words culturally created.

While it is being contested as to why Africans score lower in IQ tests than whites, some argue that African students are less interested, more anxious, work less efficiently and give up easily when confronted with difficult task. This argument was contested by two scientists Rushton and Skuy who explained that African students work more diligently, often staying longer than the white students to cross check their answers two or three times.

The culture-only model predicts that some factors such as poverty, history of slavery, and white racism have operated on black population and suppressed natural level of intelligence and so made heritabilities substantially lower in blacks than whites. Charles H. Cooley, founder of the American Sociological Association was the first to introduce an analogy that supports this viewpoint. His view stated that corn seeds given normal environmental conditions will grow to be healthy and tall, whereas, when introduced to a deprived environment, they become stunted in growth. According to this view, CULTURAL DEPRIVATION, not heredity is the cause of a Black-White IQ differences.

Issues Arising

For the past century IQ tests scores have been rising; this score increase is known as the “Flynn effect,” named after Jim Flynn. In the United States, the increase was continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to about 1998 when the gains stopped and some tests even showed decreasing test scores. For instance, in the United States the average scores of blacks on some IQ tests in 1995 were the same as the scores of whites in 1945. Flynn has argued that given that these changes take place between one generation and the next it is highly unlikely that genetic factors could account for the increasing scores, which must then be caused by environmental factors. The Flynn Effect has often been used as an argument that the racial gap in IQ test scores must be environmental too, but this is not generally agreed – others have asserted that the two may have entirely different causes.

Also, it was discovered that the gap between the Black-White, IQ scores has been closing. This means that the difference has become as little as 5 to 6. According to William Saletan, this could be due to intermarriages among racial groups. This however is contested by some theorists who claim that the difference remains significant.

In another development, the brain size has been discovered to be positively related to Higher IQ scores. In a study by Rushton in 1997, analyzed recorded head circumference measurements and IQ scores from 50,000 children in the Collaborative Perinatal Project from birth to age 7 was used to ascertain the relationship. Using the head circumference measures to calculate cranial capacity at birth, 4 months, 1 year, and 7 years, at each of these ages, the Asian American children averaged larger cranial volumes than did the White children, who averaged larger cranial volumes than did the Black children. Within each race, cranial capacity correlated with IQ scores. By age 7, the Asian American children averaged an IQ of 110; the White children, 102; and the Black children 90. Because the Asian American children were the shortest in stature and the lightest in weight while the Black children were the tallest in stature and the heaviest in weight, these average race differences in brain-size/IQ relations were not due to body size.


It is important to note that these IQ tests which puts one race ahead of another may have been one of the catalysts of white supremacy theory as well as racism. Mahatma Gandhi summarized it all in his famous quote “the only difference between man and man all over the world is one of degree and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same specie..”

If this is true, what then is the basis for the intelligence and race argument?

What accounts for differences in IQ tests results?

Are blacks innately less smart or is it just racism?


See more interesting stories featured at SwaliAfrica Magazine – – Discover Africa in a new way & don’t forget to subscribe.

By John Itebu

Article Source:


Leave a ResponseCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from The Sociological Mail

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading