Channel 4 on science's last taboo
Is there any question that should be taboo and not explored by scientists? A programme on Channel 4 this evening at 9 pm looked at what is described as science's last taboo: race and intelligence. The film hears from scientists on both sides of the argument about whether races differ in intelligence.
Years ago there was a spoof of the quiz show University Challenge on a comedy. The teams were asked to name the tea shop opposite one of the Cambridge colleges and unsurprisingly the students from Cambridge answered the question correctly leaving the team from Lampeter baffled. That was not a fair question and many scientists believe that intelligence tests have cultural bias in the same kind of way.
I watched the programme tonight. Rageh Omaar travelled to different parts of the USA and talked to scientists of various disciplines. In Britain he interviewed the geneticist, Steve Jones. He also looked at a very successful school in a poor area of New York. The programme showed that there are good reasons why race and intelligence should not be a taboo topic. There are differences in the achievements on intelligence tests but there are many cultural and environmental factors and this gives the possibility for change.
Racists would like it to be that black people are inevitably less intelligent than white people but there are good scientific arguments for saying that any differences in test achievements are far from inevitable. For example, many black people in the USA have a significant portion of DNA or genes that derive from Europe but the black people who achieve high results do not have a larger proportion of genes from Europe.
The programme was the first in a short series, Race: Science's Last Taboo, running until early November 2009.
Did you watch? What did you think?
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