The Limits of Measurable Data in Analyzing Complex Problems

I think a big problem in this debate is that you want to be very data oriented. You want to compare raw numbers and decide the whole argument on that. The problem is that we are dealing with rather fuzzy quantities where these simple numerical comparisons don’t always make a lot of sense. They are really just rough guidelines to start a further discussion.

Immigrants to various countries e.g. varies quite considerably. Britain e.g. gets a lot of highly educated Africans immigrants as far as I know. While immigration to Norway has often been refugees. Also our immigrants have often been muslims, which tend to be harder to integrate, especially in a very liberal country like Norway where social norms are quite different.

Canada and Austrialia are countries which typically strongly filter who they accept in and who get very high performing immigrants. A lot of these countries perform creaming in a way Norway doesn’t. Quite the contrary, in Norway the political pressure is often to accept the people who are worst of not the best.

If you are to compare how well different countries do on integration, you would have to look at specific immigrant groups which you can somehow compare. Just using grouping all immigrants doesn’t give a good idea. In Norway statistics will usually give different outcomes for people who come as refugees, job seekers etc.

If racism towards immigrants is the problem, Norway is clearly more racist than America! Please do better.

Hehehe as I said the immigration to each country is too different to compare like that. Also I have never suggested America is racist across the board. In my view racism in America is primarily directed towards blacks and hispanics second. For other groups I would actually assume opportunities are better in the US than in Norway. The US is better established as an immigrant country. A challenge in Norway is also that there are few jobs for unskilled immigrants. Minimum wage is quite high in Norway and hence most jobs require a lot of skill. Hence Norway has to spend a lot of resources increasing the skill level of its immigrants. Often a bit of a problem given that Norwegian is also not a very common and it is not as uniform as American English.

330 million Americans speak basically the same language. Norwegians all spend quite different variations of the same language and the language exist in 3 different written forms. You pick a form depending on how which one most closely match the spoken version you use. You are also often expected to understand Swedish and Danish as well as those language are also frequently used here. To some degree we have solved this by letting a lot of immigrants do their job by simply speaking English. However that is not always a viable option in every profession.

But I would say the key challenge in much of Europe is integrating muslim immigrants. The cultural difference is challenging. E.g. Africans from Christian countries or regions seem to do better than those from muslim areas.

The US I would say has an advantage with a lot of Hispanic immigrants as they are of a very similar culture, and speak a strongly related language.

Perhaps not, Norway doesn’t break down their results by race, maybe white kids do about the same in both places.

No European country does that. The word “race” is not use in most European languages to my knowledge. The closest word in Norwegian is similar in meaning to “dog breed”. It would be a highly offensive word to use. You would sound like a Nazi.

The American concept or race, does not exist in Norway or in the Norwegian language. Statistics will usually be nationality based.

The main thing I see in the PISA results is that immigrants do worse in almost every western country. The results are broadly consistent across Europe. Singling out educational inequality as a US specific problem is blatantly wrong.

No, I don’t think so. African-Americans e.g. are not immigrants to the US. They have been there since the beginning. And we know education is highly unequal in America.

And this is a long standing problem. It has been remarked on for a long time how much worse schools e.g. African-Americans have gotten. And we also know social mobility is low in the US.

And immigrants do much better than natives in the UAE and Qatar. Low native averages, and I’m not sure who the immigrants are. Rich businessmen?

They have a lot of high skilled expats. In the middle east, most people working in technical fields e.g. are westerners.

In general, there are broad trends that explain worldwide outcomes. Instead of seeing those trends, you keep going back to a few cherry picked studies that were mentioned in your original post. You claim that these outliers clearly discredit all other evidence of racial differences in IQ.

I don’t believe I have claimed that. Rather I have claimed that there is no clear evidence of what you claim, as one can find evidence in both directions.

Okay, so your Brookings link was false. I already went to the source data and graphed it myself and showed that the mixed race kids were underperforming white kids. The author is simply misrepresenting the facts.

Since they bundled together kids with different mixes I was also a bit suspicios of the result, so I am okay with your analysis. I don’t hinge my whole argument on this study.

No one thinks there’s much of an IQ difference between girls and boys.

That is an odd statement indeed, given that men and women by definition have 100 in IQ by average. Women didn’t magically get the same average as men. The tests where made to so that they would.

I’m not sure why, it could be that girls are more diligent.

Really!? Not sure what schools you went to, but I must say as a general trend boys never took school as serious as girls. I would say that continued up to university level in my experience. But it is more varied there. Some boys put in a lot of effort while others are slackers. Girls seem to have a more even effort.

It is what we see in society in general. Men tend to dominate both the top and the bottom. We have both the top achievers and the major screwups.

Looking at the PISA graph above, first generation immigrants to the UK generally do a little better than other European countries. Second generation immigrants in the UK do pretty well. Definitely better than they do in Norway.

Again substantially different demographic. The UK benefits from a wide selection of former English speaking colonies.

Immigrants do well in Canada and Australia, and they do somewhat well in the UK.

Countries that tend to pick the top cream of immigrants. Not surprising.

My best guess is that you just picked a country that suits your argument, rather than trying to look at the broader picture.

Not entirely. The point is to try to make a comparison on what outcomes are like for blacks in different countries under different conditions. Outside of the US, the UK is among the few countries with a sizable black population which been there for some time.

So I don’t know what this broader picture should be. Few other western countries have very many black immigrants.

I am not sure if other immigrant groups are of much interest. I was under the impression that race realists view most other races similar to whites or better.

In a general sense, the more that you even out the environment, the more that heritability goes up, because genes are the only remaining variable. This is a problem for the intelligence environmentalists

I could claim the opposite. If we should manage to even out the environment my prediction would be that you group difference in IQ score would be mostly gone. I would predict that in about 100 years we will not see much difference between races in score.

if you could give everyone an identical education, intelligence would be highly heritable and all you’d see is the genetic differences.

Depends on what you mean by education. If you mean only the formal schooling then I disagree. Profound differences evolve in the early years due to different quality of parenting, neighbourhood etc.

The only way to get heritability to zero and eliminate gaps would be to actively give a worse environment to the smarter kids and a better environment to the dumber kids.

Why would that be a goal is beyond me. I don’t have a problem with different outcomes due to genetics. My position is simply that I don’t think there are reasons to believe this difference to be very large. Yes it can be large on an individual level but not between groups. I can be wrong about that. It is just based on how we know genetics work, it seems implausible.

You also argue based on health outcomes. That issue is not immediately clear to me. Ian Deary showed years ago that life expectancy is correlated with IQ:

You can see on concrete medical conditions that disadvantaged groups tend to overrepresented. As the disadvantage is reduced this difference tends to dissapear.

That doesn’t discount the possibility that the healthcare system is also racist. It may well be. It’d be a great topic for an honest person to study, with the goal of improving lives.

There are a myriad of examples of this. It has already been studied. E.g. ambulances will typically take a black person to a worse hospital when given the choice. Studies show black health issues are taken less serious. Their pain is paid less significance. There are example of people who only got a correct diagnosis when the doctor was not made aware of the person being black.

But you can’t just point at the life expectancy difference and say it’s obviously 100% the result of prejudice.

I don’t believe I did. I was talking about how blacks have worse outcomes on all sort of medical conditions. However these outcomes correlate strongly with life style. Yet researchers typically try to racialize these outcomes.

Blacks live more disadvantaged lives, resulting in worse diets, worse exercise etc. This is the likely cause of black overrepresentation. Yet many researchers try to claim it is the blackness itself which causes it. It is just an example of how science is eager to racialize everything.

It is part of my broader point about race science. You like to pretend this science is all objective. I am trying to make the point that it isn’t.

That’s interesting, some scholars do blame black parenting and culture for low test scores. I don’t know how to fix black parenting, if that’s the problem. Certainly there are way too many single black mothers in the US.

Here I see a common ideological blinders among many Americans. American conservatism is so fixated on traditional family values that they see the lack of a traditional family as the key problem. Their belief is that lots of divorces and singles bring social ruin. Yet Nordic societies are often a complete mess with respect to families. And this has not been an issue for us, primarily because there is a strong social safety-net to protect and help people.

I have watched some of these American talk shows, and I cannot say I am surprised by why outcomes are bad for single black moms. You got these moms working 3-jobs and the audience celebrate her like a hero. Seriously? Is it something to celebrate that the jobs pay so shit and the government support is so shit that she basically has no time to be home to actually raise her children properly?

Second problem is that American sex education, access to contraceptives and abortion is abysmal. So a lot of these single moms end up with kids they did not want in the first place. Come on this is not rocket science!

America can to a hell of a lot more for single moms. But I know it is unpopular. I remember a Texas girl living here in Norway that was so upset by all the support we gave single moms. Apparently helping single moms is very unpopular in the US. Perhaps the problem is a cultural attitude.

The key way to help people is to give them better income, better child care etc. You can even give better parental training. Some programs have done that. And one of the most important changes you can do is change the zip code. Where you grow up makes a big difference. But again you hit on the issue that American cities tend to be quite segregated on income.

I haven’t done a detailed analysis of which interpretation of the Minnesota Adoption study right. Why do you choose one of the other? Because you carefully read both and concluded that one is right? Or because you wanted something you could post that would show that these racist pseudoscientists are wrong.

Now you are being deeply unfair and unreasonable. I wrote a summary of why I believed the correction made sense, based on yes actually having read it. If you are to so casually throw accusations around, then you better actually point to what in my summary of reasons you found problematic. It is in the original post.

Did you even double check the bogus Brookings study you cited, before posting that?

I linked to it, so anyone could judge for themselves. I read the study and I did notice that the fact that it did not subdivide on particular racial mixes might be a problem. I don’t have time to plot the number of every study I come across myself. That would be nuts.

Besides as I have stated already I don’t see this question as simply settled by numbers as you seem to think. There will always be a huge amount of interpretation needed. We deal with too fuzzy data. Too many parameters. Often the most important things cannot even be quantified as a number.

I have commented on this before with respect to software developer productivity. The limits of a data fetish.

You’re going in search of articles that dispute the race and IQ theory, not reading them very carefully, and claiming that they clearly discredit a theory that mostly has widespread predictive validity. (“checkmate!”)

You are kind of exposing your own bias with this claim, given that I actually wrote several paragraphs about the revised Minnesota study and why I believed the revision made sense.

The problem is that there are almost no studies in this area. There just isn’t a lot to look at.

and claiming that they clearly discredit a theory that mostly has widespread predictive validity.

What theory exactly is this? The theory that black are inferior to whites intellectually? Nobody in mainstream science has accepted that preposition. And what predictive validity are you on about? Predicting what exactly?

There are so few blacks raised by whites and which are tested in a lot of circumstances that I highly doubt there is very much you have predicted with this.

You’re discrediting all “race science” because you think race scientists were mean and wrong in the past. I haven’t studied “race science” in earlier times. I’m sure that scientists were very racist 100 years ago.

The problem with your assumption is that you think it only happened 100 years ago and then it was over. But this is an on going effort. It is still happening.

Nazis scientists and eugenicists both during and before WWII continued their work after WWII, they just gave it more PC names. You got e.g. the Mankind Quarterly funded by racists. It is still ongoing. Richard Lynn, a contributor has been used by Charles Murray e.g.

Ashkenazi jews were rounded up in concentration camps, a mere 75 years ago. Now they’re the highest IQ group on the planet.

This gets a bit frustrating to keep arguing over. From the beginning I have articulated the importance of culture and why outcomes will be different for different minorities. I will repeat myself for the 3rd time I believe. Look up the argument Gladwell makes in Outliers, about Jews.

Why does that history of racist oppression not harm their test scores?

I frankly think you are a making a silly and disingenous argument. Do we really need to count the numerous ways racism and discrimination worked different for blacks and jews and how that would naturally affect outcomes?

  1. Jews where not slaves the last 1000 years. Blacks where slaves for a very long time in more modern times.
  2. During slavery African culture was erased, and they were denied to learn to read and write. Punished if they did so. The Jews in contrast had a rich literary tradition they kept alive.
  3. African Americans where made to do simple manual labour under supervision. Jews tended to do craftsmanship or intellectual work often under their own supervision for the last 1000 years.
  4. The black family unit was utterly destroyed. Whites raped women, separate families. Black families developed into a exceedingly dysfunctional pattern from slavery and later oppression that carries on today. Jewish family unit was not touched by others. Jewish women where not raped on a regular basis.

Japanese Americans were put in internment camps 75 years ago.

Seriously? I find you are being deeply dishonest with these arguments. It seems like you are grasping at straws. Anything to deny the black experience of oppression. Anything to make it less significant. Anything to be able to claim that blacks are inferior.

You claim I am being unfair and biased in my view of your motivations. I frankly don’t see how I can have a fair view when you push arguments like this.

You compare an internment over a few years with slavery, prison convict system and segregation over hundreds of years!? Japanese where treated a lot closer to whites both before and after that interment period.

It is pretty ugly to exploit the hard work of the Japanese to make it despite their hardship as a way to belittle another minority that struggles.

They’re doing very well in school today. But you say it’s obvious that slavery 160 years ago is the source of black/white test score gaps today. That doesn’t seem obvious to me.

You don’t seem to even bother to have studied the history of oppression of African-Americans before coming with quite bombastic arguments aimed at proving their inferiority. It is frankly rather dishonest. Before doing that learn their history.

Slavery was not even really over 160 years ago. The convict lease system carried on until at least 1941 in some form.

As late as 1898, 73% of the state revenue of Alabama was African-Americans enslaved in these gulag like facilities. This institution was in fact more brutal than slavery. People where worked to death, because since they where no longer owned, there was no cost to the plantation owner to work a slave to death.

And segregation ended around 1968 was it? Are you to tell me that, that level of brutal oppression over such a long time did not leave a mark on black culture? That it did not affect the human capital blacks possessed which they could pass on to their children?

Gunnar Myrdal who studied the conditions of African-Americans and of white racism in American in 1939 to 1944 wrote the book series An American Dilemma. Now I have not read it myself, but my wife have given various excerpts. What is clear from his very thorough investigation was that racism against blacks was pretty extreme at the time. Southern White culture had almost an obsession with supressing black people. There was no equality before the law. White vigilantism was widely tolerated. White cops where thoroughly racist. In fact HALF of all African Americans killed, was killed by white cops. Myrdal studied the attitudes of white cops. They where racist to the core and saw as their job to suppress blacks.

The relentless racism and belittlement caused blacks to internalize a lot of this racism themselves. A black guy who made it as say a doctor could not expect to make much money because even blacks shunned him. Blacks did not think a black doctor could do a good job. They had internalized the racism whites subjugated them to.

No other minority has been as thoroughly brainwashed as African-Americans to believe they are lesser people, less capable, and unworthy of any success. Yet you find it hard to believe that they have not broken free entirely of this legacy. Quite a lot of black who live today where born to people who lived under segregation. It is not that long ago.

The systemic racism theory doesn’t seem like a useful predictive theory.

There are ways of testing it and it has been done. Pictures where you must decide whether a guy has a gun or not. People are more likely to think the black guy has a weapon. Tests on who police stops in traffic when they can see skin color and when they cannot. Tests on how cops exaggerate how much drug people who are arrested have on them.

It posits that test score gaps are the result of systemic racism. If a group has a test score gap, that means that there’s systemic racism against that group. And the amount of systemic racism is proportional to the gap. It’s not a theory, it’s a tautology.

Again I find this argument shockingly dishonest. Systemic racism is quite obvious. I don’t assume systemic racism exists against African Americans because test scores look bad. I suppose it because I can look at America society with my own eyes. I can listen to Americans. I can listen to African Americans explain their experiences.

I can read various statistics that and controlled tests pointing in that direction.

Or why is it that EVERY single time something screwed up happened against a person done by an authority I immediately know the victim was an African-American? Say it is a story about a school kid wrestled to the ground by the police.

First thing I know, when I see a headline like that in my Norwegian paper is:

  1. That could not possibly be in Norway, because that kind of brutality never happens against school children.
  2. It must be in America.
  3. It must be a black person, because that kind of brutality generally does not happen against white Americans.

You cannot predict that right every time, unless there is a clear pattern. And I get it right every damn time.

It says there’s a lot of systemic racism harming black people, less harming hispanics, and society is systemically biased to favor Indian and Chinese immigrants. And that’s just supposed to all be obviously true!

You are dumbing it down. What is the point in keeping arguing over this when you ignore the nuance in my answers?

Blacks are victims of both current racism and of the legacy of slavery, segregation and oppression.

Indians and Chinese e.g. are subject to racism, but have good outcomes because they compensate by working twice has hard as well as being subject to less racism. That is the result of more favorable culture and more human capital among parents to pass on.

I’m not sure I’ve addressed all your points. It’s hard to keep up with the pace of this gish gallop. But let me know if there are specifics you want addressed, and I’m happy to discuss my opinions or uncertainties on each.

We may come to an end. I mean I enjoy having had the discussion even though as you can tell I feel some frustrations at times from your line of argument. I can tell you do the same.

You have a strong point in the statistics which you seem to study thoroughly. My main criticism of your approach would be, that you focus too much on whatever you can measure assuming that is the most important while placing too little value on anything you cannot plot in a graph.

I am tempted to suggest you read more history and undestand things like cultural transmission. I think Richard Dawkins has a good idea with his “meme” concept which has since been abused. His idea was that we transfer genetic information between individuals through genes. But Dawkins saw how culture played such an important part in human development I came up with the idea of little packets of ideas which can be transmitted as a meme between individuals.

Basically in my view you are only looking at the gene transfer while I am looking at both gene and meme transfers. Memes are of course much harder to count and measure.

And if there is anything we know about data science, it is that anything not easily counted or measured is ignored. But that does not mean those things are not important.

You have made some caricatures of my views. So I will make a caricature of your view. You consider only that with which you can measure as valuable and important. You deem the importance of data proportional to how easy it is to measure.

But I will spend all my energy fighting these kinds of beliefs. I have seen this in the workplace, in social services and pretty much everywhere how this measurable data fetish is so utterly toxic and destructive.

I would like to rehabilitate respect for the wonderfully sophisticated neural network we all have embedded in our heads capable of processing vast streams of messy data.

This neural network can navigate a car on the road. Try to get a navigate a road by using only easily measurable and quantifiable data. It will never work.

There is a reason expert systems failed.

I apologize for being poor at keeping this short. Maybe some time in the future I will look through this discussion and see if there is shorter and more succinct way of presenting the arguments and philosophical difference.

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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