Thomas Sowell has some weird arguments about race that he has spread to many people. His fans are dogmatic, no less so than SJW’s, and their views need to be confronted with the relevant facts instead of being ignored.
What He Believes
Correct me if I am wrong, however, I believe that he has stated that the welfare state caused divergence in single motherhood rates between blacks and whites, the violent crime is from the southern white people — and that is also where the rap music came from. Basically, whatever his views are, they are notoriously bad and they are all wrong. Whatever mix of blaming white people and welfare he has, it is wrong because no mix of the two has CAUSAL explanatory power. I could just as easily blame the radical communists of the civil rights movement that forcibly yielded the state to racially integrate society.
Violent crime had been increasing prior to the popularization of rap in the late 1970’s. Apparently there was a Swedish guy that rapped in the 1920’s, it does not sound like rap, but some people think it is and I am no expert in that stuff. There is a recording of a southern white person rhyming in that clip in 1936 as well, though, it certainly is not sound like rap music in my mind due to various differences in the way it is sung, but ultimately so what? It was not people singing about the same things black people rap about, and even if it was, have you ever heard the phrase “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll?” The music would not be determined to CAUSE violence unless otherwise was proven and the magnitude of the causal impact would have to be pretty big to have any relevance to race differences.
A Digression on Negative Assimilation/Underclass Behavior
After slavery, the lower IQ blacks joined what is known as the underclass. The fact that blacks adopted underclass behaviors is a cool fact, but it is not crazy. Many Mexican Americans assimilate into the underclass as well. Do we just blame black people when this happens to Hispanic immigrants after a generation? No that is stupid.
If you do not believe me:
“Nonmarital Childbearing: In what some scholars have described as a pattern of negative assimilation, 41% of second-generation women who recently gave birth were unmarried, compared with 23% of immigrant women who recently gave birth. The higher share of nonmarital childbearing among the second generation has been driven mostly by second-generation Hispanic women (52% of these women with a recent birth were unmarried). Among the U.S. population as a whole, 36% of women who recently gave birth were not married.3" — Pew Research
This is quite literally an undeniable fact that assimilation into an underclass occurs. Should we just blame African Americans?
Obviously, we know that the native born encompasses African Americans which inflates that number and immigrants includes Asian immigrants as a statistical deflator.
Violent injury death rates per 100k are the best way to estimate relative violent crime rates (I do not care if somebody steals from 7–11, I care if they harm people). Interracial violence is generally not whites or Asians attacking blacks or hispanics, so this is a conservative estimate.
It is nonsensical to blame the pre-existing underclass for negative assimilation.
What Do Whites Think?
What do white people think about race? Well, white people tend to agree that racism alone did not cause these economic differences. Under the Sowell hypothesis, the culture differences can be explained by racism. If people are answering against the idea that in some way, shape, or form, racism is why black people are poorer — they do not believe Sowell’s reasoning. For example, black people would not have been concentrated in the south if not for slavery, the south’s relative poverty to the north would be to a lesser extent if they were not hindered by the paradigm of slavery so there would not be as much of this “white redneck culture” to rub off on them and make “black rednecks.”
Of the whites who tend to agree that it is just because of racism and stuff — well, you are looking at a very biased group. The consensus amongst normal white people is that it is a mix of racism and non-racism factors. I guess that I am biased because I think that looking into the IQ scores is a more telling method, but whatever. Given that whites are disproportionately conservative, I am closer to the median white person than the those who assert all of it is due to racism.
Consensus does not imply truth, however, it does suggest that I am not the only one who believes these things. I am willing to say them and I am aware of what I believe. For example, a white liberal will never admit to having a prejudice against white people!
Is There Objectivity Behind Sowell’s Arguments?
The argument that black culture lowers their IQ scores is simply not a good one because it is not going to change the rank order of intelligence. If it changed the rank order or even went so far as to unequally impacted every black person, multi-group confirmatory factor analyses would detect it by failure of measurement invariance.
Moreover, when somebody makes an assertion that something is CAUSING something, they must provide CAUSAL evidence. Regardless of what you think about race and IQ, Mr. Sowell provides correlational data. This is insufficient evidence to be worthy of consideration.
The culture may play a role in their IQ scores by influencing the breeding patterns (I do not really care if it does). Regardless of the cultural influence on mating patterns, genetic transmission is not irreversible.
Due to the replicability of these findings and the concern voiced by Arthur Jensen back in the year 1969 in a Harvard debate, it is hard to argue against them being true.
How Could Sowell Prove His Arguments?
Mr. Sowell could prove his arguments by examining the scores of transracial adoptions. If it turns out that African Americans raised in white homes score better than African Americans of similar SES raised in African American homes to a noteworthy extent and the differences are on g, then he very well may be correct.
The fact that the transracial adoption gains are not on g is also a strong form of evidence that the mind is not moved by the culture. The g factor is calculated by factor analyzing the subtest correlations from an IQ test battery and finding the common factor of variance between the correlations.
The tests that correlate to g better are the more pure measures of intelligence. The gains from transracial adoptions are not on the more pure measures of intelligence, they are on the least pure.
Additionally, the adopting homes’ incomes and adoptees’ IQ scores did correlate in the transracial adoption study. This is strong evidence that income is not cause anything. Raising African Americans in white homes is not REALLY making them smarter.
Thomas Sowell has said:
“Since the black-white difference in IQ is 15 points, this means that an even larger IQ difference has existed between different generations of the same race, making it no longer necessary to attribute IQ differences of this magnitude to genetics. In the half century between 1945 and 1995, black Americans’ raw test scores rose by the equivalent of 16 IQ points.” – Sowell (2001)
Sowell seems to not understand the technical aspects of the Flynn Effect, but I can assume his lack of scrupulousness is not in bad faith. It is reasonable for any African American to be unenthusiastic about actually reading “The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability” by Arthur Jensen from cover to cover.
The best evidence against people like Sowell is probably the Minnesota Transracial adoption study which found pretty much no difference between adoptees and demographic averages at age 17.
Criticisms of the Minnesota Transracial Adoption study tend to be redundant and bad. Talking to people who are not race realists tends to lead to dull answers that are redundant and require absolutely no sophistication of thought. While I believe in Occam’s Razor, I do not use it as an excuse to produce lazy ideas.
Some people like to argue that correcting for the Flynn Effect changes things. This is incorrect for two reasons. The first being the fact that the Flynn Effect is not of any relevance to race differences.
“The magnitude of white/ black IQ differences on Wechsler subtests at any given time is correlated with the g loadings of the subtests; the magnitude of IQ gains over time on subtests is not usually so correlated; the causes of the two phenomena are not the same.” — Flynn 2013
The second is that when you correct for the Flynn Effect, you find that the children were what you would expect based on their ancestry.
Labeling Native Americans as Asian and is a dubious tactic that gives plausibility of denial. I am really most concerned about the IQ’s of the biracial children because that is a good sample size to make conclusions with. The ones with two black biological parents is nice, however, a sample size of just 21 is not something that I would accept as an argument against my views — for that same reason, this is not an argument against those who disagree. The best proper interpretation of the transracial adoption study is certainly a partial genetic explanation.
If you are confused as to the proper interpretation of the Minnesota Transracial adoption study, please read a more extensive review of interpretations.
Correlation vs. Causation
I assume that Thomas Sowell will not look at the standard of living in European social democracies vs. more free market systems in various 3rd world nations and change his mind about economics. For this same reason, I expect him to hold this same standard when looking at single motherhood rates over time and what is an interesting correlation vs. what is a causal relationship.
Sowell observes the correlation and assumes that the welfare state CAUSED the single motherhood rate.
It is a reasonable hypothesis for sure, however, it must be subject to more extensive scrutiny before we take it as prophecy.
A considerable share of the variance can be explained by relative change in proportion of African Americans living in cities. In both races, people in urban areas had a greater degree of single motherhood. The white proportion of residents that were urban increased a considerable amount, but not to the tune of nearly 40%!
During the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan froze the welfare spending growth. The growth of single motherhood did not stop. It remained quite linear from 1972/73 to 1994.
The leveling off of single motherhood in the year 1994 seems to interesting. A possible explanation would have to do with that crime bill, but deeper investigation would be needed before conclusions are made.
Sowell may or may not make the argument about single motherhood and criminality, however, I would like to establish that this is not likely a causal relationship either. One cannot just assert, post hoc, that the residual impact of the culture that was caused by single motherhood, which was caused by the welfare state without ANY causal evidence.
We can look at 1965 and say that is a cool coincidence, but it ultimately is not all that special.
Is it just a funky coincidence that the rates went back up around the time of the Great Society programs? Seems to be so.
What kind of welfare states did the have in 1920? I do not know. Not much, I think that we should look at things other than welfare and single motherhood as a cause.
I have written extensively about the homicide trends, and it appears to be a robust finding, looking at rare psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and other explanations that would not alienate an entire demographic is a better approach than the sort of incoherent explanations that never seem to make sense.
Anybody concerned with the relevant science will not entertain such foolishness. This sort of argument is one made by people who know nothing about anything and merely wish to stall debate. This is what I call an attempted “epistemological filibuster.” There is no evidence to support the culture claims, but there are lines of evidence that suggest he is wrong. Such views must be debated. There is no room for absolutely pseudoscientific views to be welcomed in public discourse — there is no reason to hate the people that absorbed these bad views, but you do need confront the views for their complete lack of merit.