Week #12 - Social and Ethical Issues (due 4/16)

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Read this pair of duelling essays published in Nature.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7231/full/457786a.html

The topic is whether there is any justification for scientific exploration of associations between gender or race and intelligence; Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams from Cornell argue the affirmative, while Steven Rose takes up the opposing case.

What are your thoughts?

Comments

Week 12 Response

I personally feel like there is nothing that should be excluded from scientific exploration. I feel that to do so goes against the very tenants of science itself. Science is about truth and discovery, and just because certain avenues of study may yield uncomfortable results doesn't take away from the science itself if it is conducted according to the most stringent standards. That being said however, I don't see any how society could benefit from the findings of such research. From a social perspective, I feel that it would divide us and opinion-ate people. I can totally see some stupid public figure or pundit like Glenn Beck using such studies to further divide our already polarized society. If you're a conscious self-aware being, you should be treated as such, no more, no less. If differences between race and gender do exist, they should be utterly inconsequential to the fact that people are people, and should be treated as such.

So in summary, I don't think there should be any restrictions or discouragement in doing studies on race and gender, but the results from such studies shouldn't really be important, and therefore I personally don't see value in doing it.

Week 12 Blog

I can certainly see the negative effects of studies like this being performed to associate race/gender with intelligence or IQ. A greatening disparity between people of diverse geographic locations or genders in terms of intelligence may create dramatic problems in our society. I don't believe any information drawn from these studies can necessarily be helpful for our society, but I think if a person can find funding for such experiments they should be able to study freely.

Blog 12

I don't think that this sort of research should be done. What can come out of it? Even if research were to show that women are genetically less intelligent then men, how could that possibly help society? If anything, it would only contribute to the disparity already present and would erase the progress made since the women's rights movement. I can envision such "proof" eating away at the self esteem of all women, because if you're restricted genetically then why put in the effort to move forward, pushing against the ceiling of "female intelligence"? As someone who has looked into the history of eugenics in the US, it may seem hard to believe, but at one time the upper and middle classes were firmly convinced by "science" that being poor was genetic, that being a criminal was genetic, and that these "degenerates" should be sterilized to prevent them from "spreading" their degenerate genes. If science were to prove that there was a difference in intelligence between races or gender, it would be inevitable that society would view that group differently.

Ceci/Williams state that they attribute differences in intelligence to differences in environment and I tend to agree, but it seems as though this characterization can only be made on a person to person basis, not across an entire race, gender or community. So, unless this sort of race or gender-specific research is focused on susceptibility to disease I see no reason for it to continue.

Week 12 response

Steve Rose is correct in his argument that these studies should not be done. As these studies would have no help to the scientific community, but rather may hinder it. If studies such as these were to be released it could hinder scientific advancement as different races and genders may begin to see each other as inferior. By determining one race or gender as more intelligent the it will become less likely for different races to use each other for different ideas as stereotypes may develop.

Week 12 Response

While I do see the research topic of associating intelligence with race or gender as an interesting one, I also see the dramatic negative effect of the conclusion of such a study on the dynamics of a society. I belong to a culture where the caste system has played a critical role over eons and has had only dire effects on the social fabric of the society. It is obvious that such a study could potentially lead to racial/gender profiling of people to fit into specific roles in society. While I can imagine for genetics to play a critical role in the intelligence level of an individual, I firmly believe that the upbringing, education and the surrounding in which the individual is raised has a substantially uplifting impact on the individuals intelligence level.

week 12 response

Steven Rose is 100% correct in his argument. The potential “scientific” studies of associations between intelligence and demographic groups would be totally useless to our society, and wildly inaccurate as well. First, how would you reasonably be able to lump a certain group of people into a specific mold to carry out one of these studies? You can’t. People don’t have just one defining characteristic that places them in a certain group. Each individual is unique in so many different attributes.

And even if you were able to somehow successfully carry out one of these studies, what purpose could it serve? As Steven Rose explains, these studies would only succeed in categorizing different subgroups into a twisted social hierarchy. We’ve experienced enough of that in the past, and still in the present. It’s time to move forward.

week12

I do not believe that studies should be done to determine differences in intelligence between races and genders. The hypotheses that scientists form about differences in IQ across race and gender are based on biased IQ tests and stigmas created by social and political powers. I think that these studies are only problematic for our society because Scientists know what they want to find before they start.

week 12 reply

In terms of whether the scientific research into differences in intelligence between races and gender I believe that scientists should be allowed to pursue the research without such intense scrutiny. Socially it is a hot topic that garners a lot of negative attention, but it is a question that has been looked at throughout history. What better way to answer this question than by looking into the genetics and trying to find whether everyone is equal or different. Regardless of what researchers may find I also believe that the environment in which people are raised and where they are educated plays the most significant role in a person's intelligence.

I think that this is not so

I think that this is not so much a question of whether or not certain research topics should be able to be explored but instead the issue revolves around how societal views are internalized by 'science' to bias the questions being asked and the methods used to uphold these already existing ideologies. I think that some the responses on this blog are indicative of the fact that society already has constructed the belief that if a difference between race gender and intelligence were found the white male would most likely be on top of this intellectual hierarchy. It is internalized biases like these that fuel the work being done. It is naive to say that science operates in a vacuum and that it is merely how society interprets the research that may be problematic. Scientists are informed by the environment they grow up in and as such are just as susceptible to structuring their research to support hypothesis that they form based on these beliefs.

This is not to say that all science is inaccurately slanted, but it is important to question why these questions are being asked. There is not research being done into whether men and women in their 20s are more intelligent than men and women in their 30s. This is most likely because there is no socially constructed concept linking intelligence and age. People would look at this research and make connections to what education these varying groups had and questions of how intelligence was being measured would arise. However, the social influence on measuring intelligence is not called into question during these studies. If men preform better on a math exam than women than it is said men are better at math. But the idea that women have been brought up in a society that tells them they are inferior to men in such regard is overlooked. Furthermore, the definition of intellect is skewed to favor a certain sect of individuals who are already in power. Who defines intelligence and what deserves merit are again not questioned but these concepts are instead internalized as fact by the academy.

I agree that findings of difference would be detrimental to furthering of social stigmas but the more dangerous aspect of this research is why science is held as a unbiased institution that produces facts, which may later be manipulated by society. The questions being asked by researchers have to arise from somewhere and these places are often rooted in socially constructed ideas.

Week 12

In my opinion, there is absolutely no justification for scientific exploration of associations between gender or race intelligence. There are a list of issues too long to discuss on this blog as to why this research is flawed and a waste of our time. The first problem, being that studies concerning race and gender are almost always attempting to find difference. Why are researchers always asking about questions of difference? As shown by other responses in this blog, It is assumed that higher levels of intelligence correspond to whiteness and maleness.
Knowledge production is limited to a small minority of the population. Historically and still today, the sciences are dominated by white males. This small population has the ability to ask the research questions and publish the results that they wish to publish. Science is in no way objective and unbiased. Historically, and still today science has been used to maintain the status quo and to structure political and cultural power relations within our society. This association can be likened to pharmaceutical companies control over drug studies. They have the money and the power to decide what results are published and presented to the general population.
Any studies of race and gender differences are problematic because they are not founded on real science. For example, skull size used to be used a measurement for intelligence. It was said that white males had the largest skulls and that women and black men's skulls were of comparable size so they were therefore inferior in intelligence. The presence of a beard was also used as an indicator of intelligence. Anglo men could more easily grow beards than African men and women did not have beards so it must be a sign of intelligence. As these examples show: (This area of research is not based in real science because researchers start with their answer. The answer being that white males are of more intelligence than black males and all females. Researchers then look for any difference in order to prove these claims.)
Even if these studies are based on observations of lower intelligence rates in females and minorities, there are still issues with this. Standardized testing is highly biased in that it is also created by a small population and the questions are not equal for the entire population. It is not significant to measure intelligence levels from IQ or standardized testing if these tests are only being made by certain groups of people. Social factors also play into this, in that many women and minorities feel less confident in their educational abilities.

Week 12 Blog

I believe that there is justification for scientific exploration of associations between gender or race and intelligence. I don't believe that limiting what science can research will be beneficial to any groups. I think that scientists should be trained to test based on social structure or design experiments with a social component alongside an expert in that field, to ensure that the results are not skewed and have a better chance of being accurate. I agree with Ceci's argument of free speech, and I don't necessarily believe that researching based on gender would equate with something offensive.

Week 12 - AT

The potential drawbacks of this study are obvious and unsettling: should one group of any sort be discovered to be more prone to stupidity it would undoubtably lead to prejudice and many lost chances for individuals who did not follow the normal patterns associated with their race or gender. Any study would also suffer from the difficulty of measuring intelligence, especially when there are so many types of it, and so many mental fields at which one group might excel but not another.
The advantages of such a study, assuming one could be done that would provide real, useful information- are a little less obvious. Upon reading this I took a step back to ask what the benefits are of pursuing /any/ study that differentiates groups. What about studies that prove one race is more susceptible to a certain disease? Early death? Childbirth abnormalities? All of these could lead to prejudice. But the benefit of these studies lies in the idea that once we identify a biological trait we can study it, and once we can study it we can work towards creating a "cure," or manipulating it. If we discovered one group was absolutely abysmal at spatial recognition compared to the others it would be a crippling realization for that group, yes, but what if it could then be changed? Wouldn't they, and society, benefit by that? Wouldn't he population be just a little "smarter" than it was? I'm not saying that doesn't lead to it's own issues, but it is something to keep in mind.
Besides, if we don't want to allow science to pursue questions some group might not like the answer to- why are we looking into the big bang? That discovery would upset a lot of religious groups. Or why run tests on the effectiveness of herbal medicines? Somebody makes their living off of that! What if we were to find out blondes really DO have more fun? The horror!

Joking aside, the fallout of a study like this could be very detrimental and that should not be ignored. But in the name of progress over all, I say go for it. Once you know the truth you can always work to change it.

  • Alice Trei

week # 12- Social and Ethical issues

I think there will always be differences in intelligence among people and between different races, that’s the beauty of nature. Besides, in my opinion it all really depends on how you define intelligence. Although I am in support of scientific research, I really don’t see how these studies are going to benefit anyone. I think we should draw a line when it comes to research and if the outcomes are going to be more negative than good, than there is really no need to go there in the first place. No matter how “good” the intentions are of such studies, I think It will just cause more problems.

Blog 12 race/gender and intelligence

Rose has a reasonable point when he says that research should be carried out if it has well founded reasons for being done and there are tools, theoretical and technical, to carry it out. There aren't tools available to measure intelligence without bias of some sort. All IQ tests have some sort of flaw and cannot be carried out across all global populations without showing bias. So I agree with Rose that there isn't really a basis for performing studies to see if there is a genetically based difference in intelligence with respect to gender or race. I also think that these studies could do more harm than good because the results of these studies could be used to support discrimination. I think that Ceci and Williams brought up some interesting points such as environmental factors and testing issues, such as unfamiliarity with the testing set up, that would result in differences in IQ scores. I don't think that their reference to Lysenkoism is a fair one but I can see their bases for it. They were arguing that science shouldn't be silenced/censored and that it is controversy that can lead to discovery. I still think that the use of research of this nature could too readily be used to support discrimination and since an effective measuring tool of intelligence as a whole is not available perhaps gender and ethnicity should be left out as factors. Environmental factors that affect IQ could readily be studied and the results could be put to beneficial use though.

Week 12 Response

Due to pure scientific curiosity, I think it would be interesting to attempt investigations that examine possible associations between intelligence and race or gender. However, curiosity does not necessarily justify the research. Findings from such studies could possibly worsen discrimination despite society’s constant efforts to prevent it. Furthermore, it would be difficult to determine whether the findings are actually representative of race or gender. Rose points out that subpopulation differences exist within races, preventing true comparisons. Also, Ceci and Williams even acknowledge that culture has more of an influence than previously thought. Untangling the effects of genetics and environment would be very difficult with such a complex trait as intelligence. Overall, the research could potentially worsen discrimination and yield false comparisons due to the many variables involved.

Week 12

I generally think that whether or not certain topic should be pursued solely depends on the researchers. And if they can provide empirical data to support their claims then it's all good. However, the key point is that they never make a statement unless they have evidence to back it up. In this way, the scientists get to pursue topics of their interest while at the same time the general public does not get infuriated by seemingly far-fetched ideas. If there comes a point that they have enough evidence, then sure they can make their claims, and those who don't agree just have to deal with it.

Unfortunately, in this issue, I see more harm coming than benefit. First off, I don't see any brilliant benefit resulting from such a research even if enough evidence can be gathered on group differences in intelligence. But I do see many problems. First, I think there really are already enough reasons and categories to divide people. We could do without another one. Secondly, this could very well be misused. Even if group differences exists, there still would be individuals in the 'less intelligent' group who would be smarter than at least some people in the 'more intelligent' group, but they still would have to suffer only because of the label they would get associated with their group.

Overall, it just seems like research on this topic would lead to more problems instead of resolving them, which clearly is not the point of science.

Week 12

I think that differences in intelligence based on race and gender is an interesting field. I do not think that there are genetic differences in intelligence between races, and this area of research is not something that our current society is ready to accept. I think that studying gender and intelligence is more acceptable because there are differences between males and females in certain cognitive areas that are already being examined.

Intelligence associated with

Intelligence associated with gender or race has less advantages. I believe that there are no relations between intelligence and gender/race. There are many ways you can measure intelligence such as through environment or income value but not through genetics. It is too problematic and raise much drawbacks. For example trying to genetic sequence a human to be smarter, and what happens if the human being is too smart? or Where are there limits on intelligence? It would be very interesting to understand, if not pursue the search of trying to find the genes that make's one "smarter".

Ceci/Williams Discussion

Both Rose & Williams make incredibly good points in their arguments which leaves me in the middle. While I think trying to determine a difference in intelligence between races genetically is pointless I would give them a thumbs up to go ahead ( as long as my tax dollars weren't involved) and have the opportunity to prove me wrong. However, I think this idea is too soon. I don't think the world is ready for whatever this project would yield. We're just not at that point as a society yet and I don't think we'll be there for a long time.

Genes for Intelligence

While I always seem to take this view, once again feel the same way, that putting to much restriction on scientific development could only bering bad things. I agree with what has been said before, that the quest to obtain this knowledge is unquenchable, and that it is what we would do with this information that is important. Potentially, being able to determine someone's intelligence would create a whole new system for prejudice- possible even against the individual (for their intelligence, determined through their genes) instead of against a race or gender. Or consequently as the articles say, find that a certain race is more pre-disposed to stupidity. For me it is the sequencing of the individuals genes for intelligence that would be even more terrifying-- How would society limit one who didn't have the gene for "intelligence," would they be denied certain jobs, schools, spouses etc? Like others I think that intelligence has not only to do with ones genes but with one's environment as well, but finding any correlation between genes and intelligence could undoubtably result in a scarily prejudice would.

blog 12

Association intelligence with race or gender will have more drawback than advantage. Personally, I don’t think there is any sort of relation between intelligence with race or gender as intelligence can be measured in many different form and also we have a wide range of intelligent people who come from different race and from both genders. I think environment influence intelligence more than genetic. Where we grow and how we grow define us more than whose gene was passing along. Research like this will lead to more discrimination than already exist in our society today.

Blog 12 Entry

If we were to attempt to make a connection between intelligence race, and gender this would just cause more problems in today’s society. I feel that the majority of people intelligence does not just come from genetics but how some grows up in a certain environment. Depending on the environment that someone grows up in and the resources that are available for a person will ultimately determined the intelligence of the person not by their race or gender. The result of these studies would just lead to increase in discrimination in our society then what it already it is. In this case I don’t see any real benefit in having scientific study showing the connection between gender and race this will just more problems that we don’t need. So there is no real justification in showing the connection between a person’s intelligence and race and gender.

Week #12 Blog

I think that there are few merits to studying associations between intelligence and gender or race. The results of studies that investigate these subjects would likely point to an already-known societal problem: white males have a propensity to be favored in the work place, politics, etc. Further studies on intelligence in race or gender would only add to the (seeming diminishing, but still present) social stratification we have. As my fellow students have mentioned, I feel intelligence has only a limited genetic aspect. Instead, the majority of one's intelligence should develop in response to his or her environment and what resources are available. I also feel that studies in intelligence would only reaffirm stereotypes that need to be eliminated, like males are naturally smarter and more athletically adept than females, if their results showed for whatever reason differences in intelligence in these groups.

Week #12 - Social and Ethical Issues (due 4/16)

Attempting to make a connection between intelligence and race and gender would lead to more problems. For example it would lead to an increase in discrimination across the board. Furthermore a persons intelligence is not, at least entirely a function of their race and gender. Barring some genetic difference that leads to an impairment to a persons learning ability. I feel that a persons intelligence is much more dependent on their upbringing and what resources are available to them as they grow and develop. Arguments claiming that bigotry resulting from scientific progress shouldn’t hinder scientific progress is childish. It is akin to a person saying that its not their fault the car crashed even though they cut the brake lines on the car. Any research into the topic of some connection between intelligence and a persons race or gender would lead to discrimination. Furthermore its hard to even see any benefits that such research could provide, but it is clear to see the downsides of such research. As such there is no justification for scientific study into some “connection” between a persons intelligence and the color of their skin or what their secondary sexual characteristics might be.

week 12

The scientist in me thinks that pursuit of knowledge should be free of the constraints its applications and interpretation. for example, i would be interested to know what impact this gene has on intelligence and how it may be prevalent in this population versus another. the gathering of this data and its correlation with intelligence though, would have to be completely unbaised, completely comprenhesive, completely communicative. So lets say we have this information, then what? how could we apply this? no matter how pure one's intent may be, i believe the world will end up looking a lot like a cross between Gattaca and Brave New World. the issue is not the pursuit of knowledge or the data collected. the issue is all data has to be interpreted and applied. and since people do the applications and inpretetations, the pursuit of knowledge itself is tainted by their biases and exlusivities. therefore i would not be in favor of pursuing intelligence versus race and gender simply because there is no way findings so fundemental and controversial will remain with in academia. In short, knowing man i fear its manipulation and application in the mildest sense will not lead to any betterment of mankind and most likely the opposite.

Week 12 Blog Entry

Comparing intelligence between races or genders may be more detrimental than beneficial. I agree with Rose's conclusions that the relevant social categories are difficult to define, intelligence "g" factors don't exist, and the results would likely have negative implications. As much as I value the pursuit of scientific knowledge, Rose's final conclusion is enough to justify abandoning such research. Ceci and Williams argue that bigotry resulting from harmful scientific claims is "political" and should not hinder scientific progress. These authors do not discuss how factual scientific data could possibly not lead to the inevitable manifestations of such data, whether positive or negative. I believe this to be the most vital point in this debate, and one side clearly trumps the other. When we can predict that answering a question will have negative consequences, we ought to leave the question unanswered.