So, you may ask: what the hell is Nick Kristof doing writing about intelligence?
This article has jumped to #1 on the nytimes emailed list so obviously people are interested in it.
Let me tell you:
The field of statistics has advanced significantly. In the previous ages, people could claim a correlation out of thin air and we'd have to take them at their word. But now, with the use of regression analysis through easily accessible computers, people can ask which numbers correlate with which.
So, people naturally asked the same question of IQ. And guess what? Independent of income, race, gender, etc, IQ has tremendous predictive power. And there's only so long that people can go on denying it. Even Kristof.
But then we look at what Kristof says about the third world. Every week he writes a column guilt tripping us about how the US is responsible for the problems of the third world and that capitalism is flawed. We have to do more to help them. We should throw money at Darfur and Congo.
But then someone asked: what more can we do? After trillions in aid to Africa, what development has there been? Mexico has spent a century next to the most prosperous nation in world history, with export, remissions, and immigration benefits, and they can barely muster a per capita GDP around the world average. What gives? Could it be that they're just dumber than we are?
So he sees this and he gets nervous. His message goes down the tube if people start thinking that biology is destiny. So he pre empts them saying: "sure, IQ matters. But since it's not genetic, there is still a chance for Africa."
The sad truth is that there is no hope. Africa had a higher per capita GDP during colonial white rule. Recently, a poll found that South Africans are less optimistic about their country than when apartheid ended, and they are about the elect a homophobic, rapist, polygamist, AIDS denying future president.
Zimbabwe's economy collapsed when land was taken away from White farmers.
Kenya endured a bloodbath after an election because the tribes couldn't agree who won, while the United States elected it's first minority president.
Somalia's largest source of income is foreign aid and hostage ransoms.
It's a very basic question. If human civilization has collectively abused, mistreated, and slaughtered animals because it is in our benefit, why should we sacrifice our money and time to save Africa? Shouldn't we just let Darfur burn and allow Rwanda to repeat?
Why should species membership alone qualify someone for the collective sympathy and charity of the developed world? If sentient beings perish daily due to the harsh reality of nature, should barbaric humans be the exception?
Kristof says yes because we're all equal.
Unfortunately, he is wrong.