March 18, 2014

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“Race realists,” as they call themselves, very much want to think that Latin Americans are inherently stupid. The idea appeals to me. As a curmudgeon, I like to believe in the corruption, venality, concupiscence, and stupidity of our sorry race. Certainly it is the way to bet. Further, I admit, indeed espouse, the biological possibility that one genetic strain may be brighter than another.

While I want to regard all of humanity as inferior, with regard to particular groups, vile ripples of unwanted evidence occasionally raise their ugly heads (if ripples have heads). Consider Latinos. After living for eleven years in Mexico, I cannot see that Mexicans are any stupider than anyone else. (This, of course, leaves ample leeway for being stupid.) The assertion among fans of IQ is that because of their admixture of Indian blood, Mexicans, and for that matter all mestizos of Latin America, are stupid. I don”€™t see it.

“€œTo believe a group is stupid because of the evidence is one thing; to believe it in spite of the evidence is another.”€

But personal observation carries no water with race realists. Fair enough. Let us consider brown people in Peru, a small, heavily mestizo Andean nation of some thirty million. Let us also consider the International Math Olympiad, an annual contest of high-end mathematical talent around the planet. In 2012, Peru finished 16th. Results from the Olympiad vary considerably by year: In 2013, Peru finished 26th. Australia finished 15th and 27th in those two years (and Mexico 17th in 2013). Yet it is hard for me to see how an inherently stupid people could make it to 16th. This is especially puzzling because Peru does not have the highly developed mechanisms for discovering talent that America has.

I consequently suggest that race realists, at least with respect to South America, have become more racial than realistic and may suffer from a recto-cranial inversion. I hope that Fred on Everything can serve them as salutary forceps.

To believe a group is stupid because of the evidence is one thing; to believe it in spite of the evidence is another. Which I think they are doing. In support of this blasphemy I adduce, first, the Peruvian kid Raul Arturo Chávez Sarmiento, who became the second youngest participant to win a medal in the Olympiad and went on to win both silver and gold medals.

Now, the usual explanation in IQist circles for Latino successes is that only the white ruling classes accomplish anything. Well and good, if it works. The truth is the truth. However:

Arturo Chavez

His two siblings are a physicist and mathematician, so there hasn’t been much regression to the mean in his family.

One data point does not a distribution make. At the end of this column are links to bios of the Peruvian math team. Click on a few and see whether you can find a white kid.

Also interesting is Jorge Cori. Says Wikipedia, “€œJorge Cori (born July 30, 1995 in Peru) is a Peruvian chess prodigy. He is ranked No. 1 among Under-18 players in the Americas, No. 3 in Peru and No. 8 among all Under-18 players in the world.”€

Jorge Cori. If he is white, I”€™m Jean Harlow. (There is little evidence that I am Jean Harlow.)

Then there is Jorge’s sister, Deysi Cori, women’s Grandmaster. Wikipedia: “€œCori is ranked 42nd in the world among women players and 3rd on the junior girls list. She is currently the only player in the junior girls Top 20 who resides in the Western Hemisphere.”€

Deysi Cori. Norwegian, I guess. No trace of Indian blood. You teach her chess. I don”€™t do human sacrifice. Not if I am the human, anyway.

Now, the existence of exceedingly smart Peruvian kids proves nothing conclusively. A Gaussian distribution being asymptotic, there is a calculable chance that a population with a mean IQ of 20 will produce, well, Gauss. It is a very small likelihood. Yet the Math Olympiad is not for the intellectually emaciated. Further, you do not get a high world ranking in chess by being merely very smart, or very, very smart. The probability that a small country still developing, of low average intelligence, much of its population in small villages in the mountains, would by freak mathematical accident produce these kids”€”anyone but a race realist would stop and think. 

If I am wrong, show me. As a curmudgeon, I believe that everybody is wrong about everything, including me. This produces a certain logical opacity, which encourages alertness.

So why do we have this Andean flowering now, and not earlier?

We can guess. As a correspondent of mine says, “€œThis surge of young talent has all appeared within the last decade or so, which has coincided with economic growth and the appearance of a mestizo middle class.”€

Here we have the old question of whether IQ produces prosperity, or prosperity produces IQ (or, perhaps, unleashes it). The IQist bible is IQ and the Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen. The book purports to show that a nation’s economic rank depends of the mean IQ of its population. The test scores the book uses tend to be a gobbledygook amalgam of different tests offered to different test groups at different times and would make a statistician’s hair curl. Still, if you accept these numbers as vaguely approximating reality, there is indeed a correlation between IQ and prosperity.

A problem is that prosperity can change almost overnight, at least with some populations, which leaves you, to the extent that IQ is genetic, with one IQ correlating with two very different prosperities. Oops.


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