Journal of Human Relations, 1972, 20, 71-75.

Note: The article below does of course offend against the common Leftist claim that there is no such thing as race. Anybody who takes that claim seriously should perhaps read this article as a preamble to what appears below.


John J. Ray

There has recently been an extensive controversy in the psychology literature on the possible genetic base of racial differences in intelligence. This has been so acrimonious as to inspire the thought that the controversy itself forms an interesting case-study in the sociology of knowledge. I refer to the articles by Jensen (1968 and 1969) and Garrett (1969). One outcome of these controversies is the apparently justified accusation by Jensen (1969b) that an important body of his colleagues (the members of the council of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues) indulged in "propaganda" and disregard for the facts of the issue. Garrett (1969) makes similar observations. As Van den Haag (1969) points out, the cause of equalitarianism seems to have induced some remarkable failures of reasoning even among normally eminent social scientists. How may these phenomena be explained?

Study of Intelligence as the Hereditary Given

Before one can understand what is really going on in this controversy, it is necessary briefly to recapitulate some basic findings.

There is no doubt that American Negroes obtain lower average scores on standard intelligence tests than do American whites (Tyler, 1965, p. 306; Garrett; 1969). In fact the differences found are often so large and so regular in their incidence that this might be held to be one of the most impressive uniformities in the whole of psychological measurement.

To use Hebb's (1949) terminology there are two types of intelligence -- A and B. Intelligence A is the inborn, hereditary "given" whereas intelligence B is intelligence as measured, i.e. intelligence A plus some variable overlay of learned problem-solving strategies. It is mean differences across races in intelligence A that is of concern here.

Substitution of Ideology for Science

The way to assess differences in intelligence A is to control or equalize the influences and opportunities affecting the B Component. When this is done, differences remaining are attributable to intelligence A variations. Tanser (1939), Bruce (1940), and McQueen and Browning (1960) have carried out such studies where environmental influences on white and Negro groups have been controlled. All reported significant superiority of the white groups. In spite of this, most psychologists (Tyler, 1965, 9, 300) continue to claim that there are no innate differences in intelligence between whites and Negroes. The usual reason advanced for adherence to this credo is that the tests used must in some way be unfair to non-members of the dominant white culture (even though the Negroes and whites of Tanser's study had attended the same schools since 1890!). If this claim is true, how does one explain the consistent finding (Pintner, 1931) that Chinese and Japanese school-children get average test scores equal to or above those of American whites? One is asked to believe that the tests are unfair to people who have sat in the same classrooms as whites but not unfair to Chinese and Japanese who have a totally different cultural background.

Why is it that psychologists, who are most in a position to observe racial differences in intelligence, resolutely refuse to believe the evidence before their eyes? The answer to this is, I believe, an instructive, if sad, incident in the sociology of knowledge. Often drawn to their profession by humane or humanitarian considerations, psychologists are so committed to the belief that whites and Negroes morally should be treated equally that they seem to conclude, albeit unconsciously, that the best way of securing this morally desirable end is to convince people that whites and Negroes in fact are ontologically equal. If the facts fell into line with this account, all would be well, but as it is, the present author would question whether any moral goal is ultimately well served by denying reality as it is. If there are native differences in intelligence, our strategy in pursuing humanitarian goals must presumably become more adaptive by a recognition of it.

This question of the ideology subscribed to by the scientist is also relevant to the question of what we accept as a criterion for evidence. There have been many attempts to construct "culture fair" tests but their application has not been successful in removing Negro-white differences. We must then at some point ask ourselves: "When do we stop?" When do we consider the case proved? When do we start to conclude that there might not after all be some real difference there that is not attributable to a measurement artifact? Given the impressive uniformity of the findings to date, it seems abundantly clear that the existence of a real difference between races would long ago have been considered to have been proven out of hand were it not for an ideological commitment to the opposite viewpoint.

When is Moral Moral?

Just how much ideology can cause even an outstanding psychologist to drift into self-deception is exemplified in the position taken by McElwain (1970). McElwain is head of the Department of Psychology at Australia's largest university (Queensland) and author of the definitive "Queensland Test" of Aboriginal intelligence. This test was normed and validated on Aboriginal groups themselves. It includes only those sub-tests which could be shown to discriminate within the Aboriginal population. Although he does not appear to have committed himself in print, he has repeated to the present author in writing, an assertion often made to his students -- that when the Queensland test is given also to whites, a negative relationship between the discriminating power of a subtest within the Aboriginal population and the size of the gap between white and Aboriginal mean scores appears, i.e., as the test gets better so Aborigines rose closer to whites in average test scores. From this McElwain appears to suggest that if we got a really discriminating test, the difference between whites and Aborigines would disappear altogether.

Here, then, McElwain appears to commit the same fallacy in reverse that is so frequently alleged against tests normed and validated for whites! A test is designed specifically for an Aboriginal culture and yet whites still get higher scores on it! The amazing thing is that whites do not get lower scores on it. Of course the discriminating power and the size of the cross-racial gap are related. As the test is more and more characteristically Aboriginal in specific background, so whites are more and more disadvantaged. A true comparison study of the question set by this paper using the Queensland's test would require that a group of whites be found who shared an environmental background similar to the Aborigine culture. In that case only, might mean scores on McElwain's test be reasonably compared across the two racial groups.

If racial differences exist how do we explain them? A possible explanation is the ecological one: different racial groups develop different areas of excellence according to the specific demands of their characteristic environment. In the harsh European climate, forethought (symbolic thought) has historically been essential to survival -- particularly through the long winters. In Africa these same mental qualities have not had the same relative importance. Because of the more beneficient climate the importance of certain physical and psychomotor abilities has risen in comparison. In time the process of natural selection has ensured that these differentia became racially fixed. With the different characteristic environments of the white and Negro races, it would in fact be highly surprising to find similar levels in all abilities. What one would expect and what one does, I believe, find is that whites would be higher on cognitive abilities and Negroes higher on certain physical abilities.

Using the concept of a morality hierarchy proposed by Hampden-Turner and Whitten (1971) it might be said in fact that the attempt to deny the empirical findings of racial differences in intelligence in order to secure the moral goal of having all races treated equally represents a very low level of moral maturity. The person at the highest stage of moral development would presumably not need to have his moral resolve to treat people equally bolstered by assertions that people are equal anyhow. He would be anxious to do justice to the empirical findings in the awareness that they are essentially irrelevant to the moral decision he has made.

For the future then, humanitarian aims might perhaps best be served by abandoning the unlikely enterprise of proving all men equal. Instead, perhaps, we might concentrate on the question of what the difference between groups are -- and how differences might be used in the betterment of all.


Bruce, M. 1940. "Factors Affecting Intelligence Test Performance of Whites and Negroes in the Rural South." Archives of Psychology, No. 252.

Garrett, H. E. 1969. "Reply to Psychology Class 338 (Honours Section)." American Psychologist. 24:390-391.

Hampden-Turner, C. and Whitten, P. 1971. "Morals Left and Right." Psychology Today. 4:39-43, 74-76.

Haag, E, van den. 1969. "Addendum to Jensen." American Psychologist. 24:1042.

Hebb, D. O. 1949. The Organization of Behavior. New York: Wiley.

Jensen, A. R. 1968. "Social Class, Race and Genetics: Implications for Education." American Educational Research Journal, 5:1-42.

Jensen, A. R. 1969(a). "How Much Can We Boost LQ. and Scholastic Achievement?" Harvard Educational Review. 39:1-123.

Jensen, A. R. t969(b). "Criticism or Propaganda?" American Psychologist. 24: 1040-1041

McQueen, R., and Browning, C. 1960. "The Intelligence and Educational Achievement of a Matched Sample of White and Negro Students." School and Society. 88:327-329.

McElwain, D. W. 1970. Personal communication.

Pintner, R. 1931. Intelligence Testing. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Chapter 20.

Tanser, H. A. 1939. The Settlement of Negroes in Kent County, Ontario. Chatham, Ontario: Shephard Publishing Co.

Tyler, L. E. 1965. The Psychology of Human Differences. New York: Appleton, Century Crofts. Chapter 12,

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