Suppose HBD is True

Sup­pose, for the pur­poses of ar­gu­ment, HBD (Hu­man bio-di­ver­sity, the claim that dis­tinct pop­u­la­tions (I will be avoid­ing us­ing the word “race” here in­so­much as pos­si­ble) of hu­mans ex­ist and have sub­stan­tial ge­net­i­cal var­i­ance which ac­counts for some differ­ence in av­er­age in­tel­li­gence from pop­u­la­tion to pop­u­la­tion) is true, and that all its pro­po­nents are cor­rect in ac­cus­ing the poli­ti­ciza­tion of sci­ence for bury­ing this in­for­ma­tion.

I seek to ask the more in­ter­est­ing ques­tion: Would it mat­ter?

1. So­cietal Ram­ifi­ca­tions of HBD: Eugenics

So, we now have some kind of nice, tidy ex­pla­na­tion for differ­ent char­ac­ters among differ­ent groups of peo­ple. Okay. We have a the­ory. It has ex­plana­tory power. What can we do with it?

Un­less you’re will­ing to com­mit to eu­gen­ics of some kind (be it re­strict­ing re­pro­duc­tion or ge­netic al­ter­a­tion), not much of any­thing. And even given you’re will­ing to com­mit to eu­gen­ics, HBD doesn’t add any­thing HBD doesn’t ac­tu­ally change any of the ar­gu­ments for eu­gen­ics—be­low-av­er­age peo­ple ex­ist in ev­ery pop­u­la­tion group, and in­so­far as we re­gard be­low-av­er­age peo­ple a prob­lem, the ge­netic pop­u­la­tion they hap­pen to be­long to doesn’t mat­ter. If the point is to raise the av­er­age, the pop­u­la­tion group doesn’t mat­ter. If the point is to re­duce the num­ber of so­cially de­pen­dent in­di­vi­d­u­als, the pop­u­la­tion group doesn’t mat­ter.

Worse, in­so­far as we use HBD as a de­ter­mi­nant in eu­gen­ics, our eu­gen­ics are less effec­tive. HBD says your pop­u­la­tion group has a re­la­tion­ship with in­tel­li­gence; but if we’re in­ter­ested in in­tel­li­gence, we have no rea­son to look at your pop­u­la­tion group, be­cause we can mea­sure in­tel­li­gence more di­rectly. There’s no rea­son to use the proxy of pop­u­la­tion group if we’re in­ter­ested in in­tel­li­gence, and in­deed, ev­ery rea­son not to; it’s sig­nifi­cantly less ac­cu­rate and poli­ti­cally and his­tor­i­cally prob­le­matic.

Yet still worse for our eu­gen­ics ad­vo­cate, in­so­much as pop­u­la­tion groups do have sig­nifi­cant ge­netic di­ver­sity, us­ing pop­u­la­tion groups in­stead of di­rect mea­sure­ments of in­tel­li­gence is far more likely to cause dis­ease trans­mis­sion risks. (Ge­netic di­ver­sity is very im­por­tant for pop­u­la­tion-level dis­ease re­sis­tance. Just look at ba­nanas.)

2. So­cial Ram­ifi­ca­tions of HBD: So­cial Assistance

Let’s sup­pose we’re not in­ter­ested in eu­gen­ics. Let’s sup­pose we’re in­ter­ested in max­i­miz­ing our so­cietal out­comes.

Well, again, HBD doesn’t offer us any­thing new. We can already test in­tel­li­gence, and in­so­far as HBD is ac­cu­rate, in­tel­li­gence tests are more ac­cu­rate. So if we aim to stream­line so­ciety, we don’t need HBD to do so. HBD might offer an ar­gu­ment against af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion, in that we have differ­ent base ex­pec­ta­tions for differ­ent pop­u­la­tions, but af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion already takes differ­ent base ex­pec­ta­tions into ac­count (if you live in a city of 50% black peo­ple and 50% white peo­ple, but 10% of lo­cal lawyers are black, your lo­cal law firm isn’t re­quired to have 50% black lawyers, but 10%). We might de­sire to ad­just the way we en­gage in af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion, in­so­far as af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion might not lead to the best re­sults, but if you’re in­ter­ested in the best re­sults, you can ar­gue on the ba­sis of best re­sults with­out need­ing HBD.

I have yet to en­counter some­one who ar­gues HBD who also ar­gues we should do some­thing with re­gard to HELPING PEOPLE on the ba­sis of this, but that might ac­tu­ally be a more sig­nifi­cant ar­gu­ment: If there are pop­u­la­tions of peo­ple who are go­ing to fall be­hind, that might be a good ar­gu­ment to provide ad­di­tional re­sources to these pop­u­la­tions of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly if there are ge­o­graphic cor­re­spon­dences—that is, if HBD is true, and if pop­u­la­tion groups are ge­o­graph­i­cally seg­re­gated, in­di­vi­d­u­als in these pop­u­la­tion groups will suffer dis­pro­por­tionately rel­a­tive to their mer­its, be­cause they don’t have the lo­cal ge­o­graphic so­cial cap­i­tal that equal-ad­van­tage peo­ple of other pop­u­la­tion groups would have. (An av­er­age per­son in a poor re­gion will do worse than an av­er­age per­son in a rich re­gion.) So HBD pro­vides an ar­gu­ment for de­seg­re­ga­tion.

Cu­ri­ously, HBD ad­vo­cates have a ten­dency to ar­gue that seg­re­ga­tion would lead to the best out­come. I’d wel­come ar­gu­ments that con­cen­trat­ing an -ab­sence- of so­cial cap­i­tal is a good idea.

3. Scien­tific Ram­ifi­ca­tions of HBD

Well, if HBD were true, it would mean sci­ence is poli­ti­cized. This might be news to some­body, I guess.

4. Poli­ti­cal Ram­ifi­ca­tions of HBD

We live in a mer­i­toc­racy. It’s ac­tu­ally not an ideal thing, con­trary to the views of some peo­ple, be­cause it re­sults in a sys­tem­atic merit seg­re­ga­tion that has com­pletely de­prived the lower classes of in­tel­lec­tual re­sources; talk to older peo­ple some­time, who re­mem­ber, when they worked in the coal mines (or what­ever), the one guy who you could trust to be able to an­swer your ques­tions and provide ad­vice. Our mer­i­toc­racy has ad­vanced to the point where we are sys­tem­at­i­cally strip­ping ev­ery­body of value from the lower classes and re­dis­tribut­ing them to the mid­dle and up­per classes.

HBD might be mean­ingful here. In­so­far as peo­ple take HBD to its ab­surd ex­tremes, it might ac­tu­ally re­sult in an -im­prove­ment- for some lower-class groups, be­cause if we stop tak­ing all the in­tel­li­gent peo­ple out of poor ar­eas, there will still be in­tel­li­gent peo­ple in those poor ar­eas. But racism as a force of util­i­tar­ian good isn’t some­thing I care to ex­plore in any great de­tail, mostly be­cause if I’m wrong it would be a very bad thing, and also be­cause none of its ad­vo­cates ac­tu­ally sug­gest any­thing like this, more in­ter­est­ing in pro­mot­ing seg­re­ga­tion than de­seg­re­ga­tion.

It doesn’t change much else, ei­ther. With HBD we con­tinu­ally run into the same prob­lem—as a the­ory, it’s the product of mea­sur­ing in­di­vi­d­ual differ­ences, and as a the­ory, it doesn’t add any­thing to our in­for­ma­tion that we don’t already have with the in­di­vi­d­ual differ­ences.

5. The Big Prob­lem: Individuality

Which is the cru­cial fault with HBD, iter­ated mul­ti­ple times here, in mul­ti­ple ways: It liter­ally doesn’t mat­ter if HBD is true. All the in­for­ma­tion it -might- provide us with, we can get with much more ac­cu­racy us­ing the same tests we might use to ar­rive at HBD. Any­thing we might want to do with the idea, we can do -bet­ter- with­out it.

HBD might pre­dict we get fewer IQ-115, IQ-130, and IQ-145 peo­ple from par­tic­u­lar pop­u­la­tion groups, but it doesn’t ac­tu­ally rule them out. In­so­far as this kind of in­for­ma­tion is use­ful, it’s -more- use­ful to have more ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion. HBD doesn’t say “Black peo­ple are stupid”, in­stead it says “The av­er­age IQ of black peo­ple is slightly lower than the av­er­age IQ of white peo­ple”. But since “black peo­ple” isn’t a thing that ex­ists, but rather an ab­stract con­cept refer­ring to a group of “black per­sons”, and HBD doesn’t make any pre­dic­tions at the in­di­vi­d­ual level we couldn’t more ac­cu­rately ob­tain through listen­ing to a per­son speak for five sec­onds, it doesn’t ac­tu­ally make any use­ful pre­dic­tions. It adds liter­ally noth­ing to our model of the world.

It’s not the most im­por­tant idea of the cen­tury. It’s not im­por­tant at all.

If you think it’s true—okay. What does it -add- to your un­der­stand­ing of the world? What use­ful pre­dic­tions does it make? How does it per­mit you to im­prove so­ciety? I’ve heard peo­ple in­sist it’s this ma­jorly im­por­tant idea that the sci­en­tific and poli­ti­cal es­tab­lish­ment is sup­press­ing. I’d like to in­tro­duce you to the aether, an­other idea that had ex­plana­tory power but made no use­ful pre­dic­tions, and which was aban­doned—not be­cause any­body thought it was wrong, but be­cause it didn’t even rise to the level of wrong, be­cause it was use­less.

And that’s what HBD is. A use­less idea.

And even worse, it’s a use­less idea that’s hope­lessly poli­ti­cized.