Ignoring and Embracing Science: Psychometry, Intelligence and Race

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Kathryn BARBER, York University, Canada
The idea of the “post-fact” era associates right wing populism with the denial of ‘facts’, ‘expert’ knowledge and ‘science’, particularly with regards to climate change. Yet websites like American Renaissance, which advocate a genetically-based racial hierarchy, contain references not to pseudo-science published on the blogosphere but to legitimate, peer-reviewed, scientific works published in academic journals conducted by tenured academics and researchers at well-known universities (See, for example, the work of Richard Lynn and Santoshi Kanazawa). These articles affirm the rationality and rigor of the ‘scientific’ tradition through their embrace of the concept of race. This paper suggests that rather than a full denial of science, the current moment sees (at least) two contradictory approaches to science used by right wing populists. One is centered around the denial of ‘science’, as in the case of climate change; the other is a full embrace of the rhetoric of science as in the case of ‘racial’ IQ differences. Examining the psychological sub-field of ‘psychometry’ (with a focus on intelligence testing), this paper will examine two phenomena: 1) ‘Spearman’s hypothesis’ or the idea that ethnic differences on intelligence tests are the result of innate intellectual differences between ethnic groups; 2) the ‘Cold Winter theory’ which suggests that differences in IQ between racial groups are the result of “different evolutionary pressures faced by the ancestral humans who left Africa, compared with those who remained…. plac[ing] a natural-selection premium on higher IQ” (Pesta and Poznanski, 2014, p. 271). It will demonstrate how the language and practices of science are being used to advance the idea of heritable racial differences in intelligence. It will then draw on Karl Popper, Donald MacKenzie, Pierre-André Taguieff, Pietro Basso, and Sandra Harding in order to contextualize and understand this simultaneous denial and embrace of ‘science’.