September 6, 2005

The Supreme Court on IQ and Judgment

A lot of the nice people who are currently professing to be shocked by my pointing out that low IQ and poor judgment are correlated also favored the Supreme Court's 2002 decision that, in effect, banned the death penalty for killers with IQs under 70. The NYT, for example, editorialized: "[I]nflicting the death penalty on individuals with I.Q. scores of less than 70 who have little understanding of their moral culpability violates civilized standards of justice."

I found that decision dubious because "Thou shalt not kill" is a quite simple concept. Also, the death penalty is seldom handed out for homicides committed in the throes of passion, but typically for murder one with malice aforethought and often with aggravating circumstances as well.

I wrote for UPI:

"Some of the IQ defenders were quick to point out that Court and the New York Times had implicitly agreed with them that IQ tests were not racially biased. [U. of Delaware professor Linda] Gottfredson said, 'The death penalty may be the only public policy debate involving race in which we are not bombarded with the usual canards about IQ tests being biased against blacks.'" ...

Finally, the Court's decision officially designates that a much larger fraction of the African-American population is of diminished moral capability compared to the white and East Asian populations. About 2 percent-3 percent of whites or East Asians don't exceed 70 on IQ tests, vs. 10 percent-12 percent of American blacks...

Assuming that wealthier and more foresightful people tended to get out of town before the hurricane, I would guesstimate that roughly 15% to 20% of the people left behind in New Orleans were, according to the Supreme Court, ineligible for the death penalty due to having IQs below 70.

Now, be clear that I'm not saying that low IQ people are not morally culpable or that they lack free will or all those other philosophical issues that are fun to stay up all night talking about in the dorm room. What I am saying is that policymakers need to plan ahead for the likely problems that have been shown to be statistically correlated with having large numbers of low IQ people. Otherwise, more people will die, especially low IQ Americans.

But instead, we see that merely calling attention to this simple fact gets me demonized in National Review Online by, of all people, the son of the man, Norman Podhoretz, who wrote "My Negro Problem -- and Ours" in Commentary in 1963!

Or here's a particularly self-righteous effort from somebody called Damnus Absque Injuria.

So, how can any official plan ahead based on realistic assessments of how a particular population is likely to react in an emergency if the entire subject of behavioral differences is a career-killing thought crime? These are our fellow human beings and our fellow Americans in New Orleans, but we're letting them die because we've been terrified to make plans based on politically incorrect facts.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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