This debate has seen a lot of casualties. Among them James Watson (pioneer of DNA), Sam Harris, Charles Murray (The Bell Curve), William Shockley (a Nobel laureate in physics), Amy Wax (professor at U-Penn) and Nicholas Wade among others I call them victims as some of them have been stripped of titles and lampooned on end. Some of them also have some sort of superiority complex which is unjustifiable. Some are eugenicists who believe that people of low IQ should be culled, and like meningitis-stricken chicken, taken off the face of the earth. Those ones are sick.
The response from us people of color, especially blacks, who are at the receiving end of the research and writings from those who believe that blacks are less-intelligent compared to whites, has not been very intellectual or even, for a better word, intelligent. We shoot back by pointing for examples to some of our prodigies, or to the fact that we did better than many white people while in school with them. Others point to their many degrees. The first port of call for me, is to look at the basis on which intelligence is ranked; IQ-Tests. What are the limitations of those tests? We shall come to that in a minute. I believe it is not enough to boast about our schooling. When I see an African boasting of his 7 PhD certificate and another 10 MScs, it makes me sad. So much waste of time and money. One is enough. See us today, we now place way more premium on degrees than on how our work and knowledge can improve the lives of our people and our society in general. We have millions of people lumbering paper degrees all over the place while our society is stuck in reverse.
The fact that we believe the acquisition of degrees, and a mimicry of the western way of life is what makes for intelligence, is itself an indication of that low IQ that they speak about. Having a high IQ should demand a certain profundity of approach; we don’t have to be told to do what is right before we do them. But what is IQ – Intelligence Quotient – in the first place?
IQ scores are based on ‘standardized tests’. They are meant to be a measure of one’s intelligence based on questions set from different fields which the examiner believes intelligent people should know. Usually no one knows it all. Albert Einstein, the most intelligent man of the last century had an IQ score of 160. Bill Gates’ IQ score is also 160, ditto Stephen Hawking. I googled the highest IQ scores in the world and saw several names with over 200. Philip Emeagwali is listed with IQ of 190. Gary Kasparov with an IQ score of 194.
I have taken a number of IQ tests before and usually fall around 130 to 140. Many of the guys with extremely high IQ scores are nerds. Many autistic spectrum people have extremely high IQs but low EQs or SQs (Emotional Intelligence Quotient or Social Intelligence Quotient). In other words they don’t know how to relate with people or groups. A good balance is somewhere in between.
The problem with IQ tests is that it is often context specific. I used to criticize the fully foreign questions that Frank Edogho asked on Who-Wants-to-be-a-Billionaire. An IQ test set by Americans will sure have some questions that are fully American in nature such that if you hadn’t been born in the USA and lived there for a considerable amount of time, you may not know the answers. Ditto one set in the UK. We here should therefore set our own IQ tests to know who and who is more aware of their environments, because intelligence, stripped of all the garb, is down to being aware of your environment, and being able to recall the name of things, responses to situations and of course versatility. An American that knows next to nothing about Africa cannot be said to be intelligent. In fact I watched a clip on WhatsApp yesterday of a 4 years old Ghanaian girl who knows ALL the State capitals in the world – even for tiny islands! She also knows their leaders and I doubt if she could even write yet. That would pass for the beginnings of a very high IQ life. She may not be expected to know a lot about the world for now though.
So back to whether blacks are less intelligent than whites, Chinese and Indians. I had cause to recently worry about the subject as I drove around the streets of Abuja. My simple references were the way we managed our society, our environment, our economy, our politics. At first glance, or even with the benefit of an in-depth empirical study, anyone will conclude that indeed we do have a low intelligence quotient. This is fully reflected in low life expectancy, a tanking economy, a society at loggerheads with itself where tribes/clans clash and kill themselves over nothing, and where most of our time, money and other resources are spent on unproductive ventures than planning for our future. We can also see it clearly with the way most of our people live inside filth, and how many of our young people engage in easily-detectable fraud, or how our political leaders steal from the commonwealth and take the money abroad to go and make other countries better. In fact, average national IQ levels will correlate with the Human Capital Index ranking of countries. Nigeria occupies the fifth to last position of the 157 countries surveyed in the World Bank HCI. The last 30 positions is occupied by countries in sub-Saharan Africa with some spirnkle from Asia and South America. So we may arguably or validly draw an inference that Nigeria has the fifth lowest average IQ scores in the world.
So is the black man less intelligent compared with the brown, red, yellow or White man?
I will say for now, yes. I mean it is a temporary, fixable issue. To reverse the scenario we have to invest in nutrition, communication, enlightenment, and education. We also have to find better leaders who are ready to die for the cause by sticking to a long-term vision for their people. We have to have a long-term plan to show the world that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us genetically, or with our brains. You see, we have to also understand our history. Perhaps because we lived in temperate regions, we invented less. Whether we believe in creation or evolution does not matter. Our ancestors found themselves in these parts. Everything they needed occurred naturally. There was no compelling need to start creating something out of nothing. The problem today though is that those of us living here today still expect to get something out of nothing. But the world has changed. We therefore have to ditch that old something-for-nothing mindset which spiritualizes the physical and get real, knowing that we have to show our contributions in the pageant of history. This we must start by investing in ourselves; again in the nutrition and education of all our children; our environment, our science and technology, our economy, our political leadership. We must show pride in the way we handle that which is collective to all of us. It is a symptom of low IQ when our singular interest is to show how wealthy we are as individuals, in the midst of mass poverty. It is a symbol of low IQ when we are seen as a partying race, who are good only as entertainers to the world – sportsmen, musicians, comedians, actors and so on. We must of necessity do more and mainstream in the hard, boring areas of knowledge.
But as we chase IQ, let us never neglect SQ and EQ. First, let us fix governance.