Saturday, November 10, 2007

Unintelligent Question

Is this little girl less intelligent because of her race?

Here we go again. My father-in law just sent me an article from the New York Times. It seems the genetics, race and IQ debate continues. Are we living in the 21st century or the 19th century? Here is a bit of the article:

“We are living through an era of the ascendance of biology, and we have to be very careful,” said William Henry Gates Jr., director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “We will all be walking a fine line between using biology and allowing it to be abused.”

Certain superficial traits like skin pigmentation have long been presumed to be genetic. But the ability to pinpoint their DNA source makes the link between genes and race more palpable. And on mainstream blogs, in college classrooms and among the growing community of ancestry test-takers, it is prompting the question of whether more profound differences may also be attributed to DNA.

Nonscientists are already beginning to stitch together highly speculative conclusions about the historically charged subject of race and intelligence from the new biological data. Last month, a blogger in Manhattan described a recently published study that linked several snippets of DNA to high I.Q. An online genetic database used by medical researchers, he told readers, showed that two of the snippets were found more often in Europeans and Asians than in Africans. (Read the whole thing here)

I know that it is not a nice thing to say, but I'm beginning to question the intelligence of those who continue this obsession with "proving" that this or that race is smarter than the other. Why is this question even interesting at all, especially when there are other questions that are more interesting. Researchers have long ago questioned the validity of so called IQ as both a culturally biased view of intelligence and too narrow to encompass the richness of what makes us human. The real issue here is the Eurocentrism and materialism that underlies the assumptions of those who think that intellect can be reduced to an IQ test.

"Now concerning mental faculties, they are in truth of the inherent properties of the soul, even as the radiation of light is the essential property of the sun. The rays of the sun are renewed but the sun itself is ever the same and unchanged. Consider how the human intellect develops and weakens, and may at times come to naught, whereas the soul changeth not. For the mind to manifest itself, the human body must be whole; and a sound mind cannot be but in a sound body, whereas the soul dependeth not upon the body. It is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free. The mind comprehendeth the abstract by the aid of the concrete, but the soul hath limitless manifestations of its own. The mind is circumscribed, the soul limitless. It is by the aid of such senses as those of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, that the mind comprehendeth, whereas, the soul is free from all agencies. The soul as thou observest, whether it be in sleep or waking, is in motion and ever active. Possibly it may, whilst in a dream, unravel an intricate problem, incapable of solution in the waking state. The mind, moreover, understandeth not whilst the senses have ceased to function, and in the embryonic stage and in early infancy the reasoning power is totally absent, whereas the soul is ever endowed with full strength."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 337)

In my experience, very little of the investigation of intellect and its relationship to genetics considers the existence of the soul, or the relationship between soul, mind and body. This is a significant flaw in such approaches from a Baha'i perspective. Secondly the moral and spiritual implications of intellectual diversity among human beings, whatever the origin is as important a question as why those differences exist. Another question is the impact of divine revelation on intellectual development, a question excluded by materialistic assumptions about reality.