Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Frank Ellis and The Grauniad

I am writing this from the nice Brooke's Bar in the Pleasance; yet another OK bar that has enhanced its cachet by allowing smoking on the balcony (but have now resorted to employing a young man simply to stop people from taking their drinks into the open air with them. They do this for alleged licensing restrictions which is, actually, bollocks but never mind, eh?). However, via my counters I see that some people have been arriving via this Comment Is Free article.

There's nothing more that I enjoy than taking apart the facile and ridiculous, whilst utterly ignoring whether the argument is right or wrong, so it seems that this particular load of old arse by Simon Woolley is the perfect candidate.
For Leeds University to abandon its race case against Dr Frank Ellis and allow him to retire early with one year's salary with his pension intact is breathtaking cowardice, an abuse of public funds, and a slap in the face for black Britain.

Ah, I see; we qare now defining ourselves as black/white/yellow/brown Britain are we? Can I say that I regard this as racism? Ain't we all British these days; surely we are blind to skin colour? Obviously not at Comment Is Free...
It was only after fierce pressure from university students and academics that on March 23 Ellis was suspended and a disciplinary inquiry launched under the Race Relations Act.

It was only after students read his (edited) speech in their student newspaper that they had a single, solitary fucking clue about his views. And, yes, it was only after their craven breach of the principle of free speech—surely something that should be vociferously defended in a university—that any action was taken at all.
The university's case was pretty strong. How could black students have sufficient confidence they would be afforded equality by a lecturer who believes them to be innately, intellectually inferior?

As the university pointed out at the time, all exams were double-marked so it would make fuck-all difference. Since one of the students seemed to admire Ellis, up until he read his lecturer's views, one assumes that Ellis's "racism" was hardly evident.

Yes, a bunch of students banded together to write a letter saying that Ellis belittled them, but they only did this after the interview and when the student uproar was in full swing [links later, chaps].
Furthermore, how could black students have confidence in the university that was unable to tackle such a shocking display of racism?

By saying, "hoorah for free speech"? Some chance with the students of Leeds unfortunately who, like most students, were unable to make a connection between the principle and the action.
That Ellis is a racist, an "unrepentant Powelite" - and a supporter of white supremacy is in little doubt.

That this is a libellous statement is also in little doubt. Nothing in Ellis's speech makes the claim that he believes that the "white race" is superior to all others; nothing that he has said subsequently has done so either.

Yes, he has said that black people are intellectually inferior, but since the evidence that he has based opinions on also points to Asians having a rather higher IQ than whites it is safe to assume that this ex-SAS fluent Arabic-speaker fully accepts that evidence too.
In an astonishing article Ellis submitted to Leeds University's student newspaper explaining his views on genetic intelligence he argued: "How is it possible for a people with such a low average IQ to achieve, let alone to sustain a technologically sophisticated civilization? ... Everywhere one looks [in sub-Saharan Africa] there is unbelievable corruption and stupidity, superstition and random savagery.

What is controversial in this statement? Seriously? Barring South Africa, the whole of sub-Saharan Africa is a fucking mess: I defy anyone to argue differently. Let's look at Zimbabwe, Somalia, Chad, Ethiopia, etc.
To this gruesome list one can add sexual incontinence. Blacks die of AIDS either because they do not believe that AIDS will kill them or because the imperatives of immediate sexual gratification are so urgent and overwhelming that the consequences are disregarded."

This is more controversial, to be sure. However, anecdotal stories that I have heard, and read, from the ground do not make this an untrue statement; just simplistic.
Ellis's analysis predicated by his profound prejudices shames academic rigour. Using his own crude methodology (IQ + social status = natural order) the worlds poor, particular black people, that number in their billions and span the four corners of the globe owe their plight, not due to global inequalities but rather their lack of intelligence.

Fine. Now ask yourself: what causes these "global inequalities"?
As unpalatable as Ellis's views are they should not be our principal concern. In reality there are many that harbour similar or even worse views than Ellis. Our principal concern should be that students to be judged by their academic ability not by the colour of their skin. This fundamental responsibility lies with the university management. Ellis has the right to espouse his views but the university has an obligation under the law to protect its students from such rabid racism.

No. It has an obligation to protect its students from their degree or their marks being affected by "rabid racism", no more. By doing blind marking and double-marking, the university did precisely that.
By paying off Ellis the university management have removed someone who's views they describe as "abhorrent". But to many, including students, and lecturers belonging to Leeds University College Union, they have failed miserably in their duty to effectively tackle racism.

And to me, regardless of Ellis's views, they have failed in their duty to protect free speech. The students have failed in their duty to attack an argument with intellectual rigour, preferring instead the blind hysteria of the rabid reactionary; it is they who have failed.


Serf said...

Now ask yourself: what causes these "global inequalities"?

Colonialism and the Jews obviously.

Anonymous said...

"Our principal concern should be that students to be judged by their academic ability not by the colour of their skin."

Except when they need positive discrimination, of course.

Anonymous said...

i'm pretty certain that whatever people say, whether it is direct or indirect, is a reflection of their own opinions and observations.

to place this into context, i think it is HIGHLY presumptuous to avoid recognizing Britain's role in imperialism. Britain colonized many parts of Africa and to this day British corporations like Shell & BP exploit the natural resources of Africa to make money for execs. Colonialism was no different -- money was transferred from the colonies to the coiffers of political leaders in Britain while the populace had to work its way through impoverished conditions (ever look at quality of life in the 1800s for the English public during the colonial era?)

yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion in academia as long as verifiable evidence is used to back up those statements (the Bell Curve was refuted a long time ago). what you are not entitled to do is to ignore your audience -- after all, the first rule in writing an effective speech/essay is to consider your audience.

i personally would be interested to hear how many black women at the university of leeds filed harassment complaints against dr. ellis during his tenure.

Anonymous said...

The Bell Curve was not refusted.

You do realise that East Asians outperform whites, on average, on those same tests? The tests are strongly predictive of academic & occupational performance (this is why the US Army uses them). They predict ability to solve problems and learn information.

Gottfredson, L. S. (2004). Schools and the g factor. The Wilson Quarterly, Summer, 35-45. Won the 2005 Mensa Press Award.

Also, there are some interesting biological correlates:

See Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2007), 30:135-154 Cambridge University Press:

“Overall, we conclude that modern neuroimaging techniques are beginning to articulate a biology of intelligence. We propose that the P-FIT provides a parsimonious account for many of the empirical observations, to date, which relate individual differences in intelligence test scores to variations in brain structure and function.”

Also, EEG studies show increased neural efficiency in the cortex of ‘brighter’ individuals:

“In the field of physiological study of human intelligence, strong evidence of a more efficient operation (i.e., less activation) of the brain in brighter individuals (the neural efficiency hypothesis) can be found”

‘Intelligence and neural efficiency: Further evidence of the influence of task content and sex on the brain–IQ relationship’ Cognitive Brain Research
Volume 25, Issue 1, September 2005, Pages 217-225

Linda Gottfredson writes about this also, in terms of how well psychometric tests measure ‘g’:

“Some critics of intelligence research maintain that the notion of general intelligence is illusory: that no such global mental capacity exists and that apparent “intelligence” is really just a by-product of one’s opportunities to learn skills and information valued in a particular cultural context. True, the concept of intelligence and the way in which individuals are ranked according to this criterion could be social artifacts. But the fact that g is not specific to any particular domain of knowledge or mental skill suggests that g is independent of cultural content, including beliefs about what intelligence is. And tests of different social groups reveal the same continuum of general intelligence. This observation suggests either that cultures do not construct g or that they construct the same g. Both conclusions undercut the social artifact theory of intelligence.

Moreover, research on the physiology and genetics of g has uncovered biological correlates of this psychological phenomenon. In the past decade, studies by teams of researchers in North America and Europe have linked several attributes of the brain to general intelligence. After taking into account gender and physical stature, brain size as determined by magnetic resonance imaging is moderately correlated with IQ (about 0.4 on a scale of 0 to 1). So is the speed of nerve conduction. The brains of bright people also use less energy during problem solving than do those of their less able peers. And various qualities of brain waves correlate strongly (about 0.5 to 0.7) with IQ: the brain waves of individuals with higher IQs, for example, respond more promptly and consistently to simple sensory stimuli such as audible clicks. These observations have led some investigators to posit that differences in g result from differences in the speed and efficiency of neural processing. If this theory is true, environmental conditions could influence g by modifying brain physiology in some manner.

Studies of so-called elementary cognitive tasks (ECTs), conducted by Jensen and others, are bridging the gap between the psychological and the physiological aspects of g. These mental tasks have no obvious intellectual content and are so simple that adults and most children can do them accurately in less than a second. In the most basic reaction-time tests, for example, the subject must react when a light goes on by lifting her index finger off a home button and immediately depressing a response button. Two measurements are taken: the number of milliseconds between the illumination of the light and the subject’s release of the home button, which is called decision time, and the number of milliseconds between the subject’s release of the home button and pressing of the response button, which is called movement time.

In this task, movement time seems independent of intelligence, but the decision times of higher-IQ subjects are slightly faster than those of people with lower IQs. As the tasks are made more complex, correlations between average decision times and IQ increase. These results further support the notion that intelligence equips individuals to deal with complexity and that its influence is greater in complex tasks than in simple ones.

The ECT-IQ correlations are comparable for all IQ levels, ages, genders and racial-ethnic groups tested. Moreover, studies by Philip A. Vernon of the University of Western Ontario and others have shown that the ECT-IQ overlap results almost entirely from the common g factor in both measures. Reaction times do not reflect differences in motivation or strategy or the tendency of some individuals to rush through tests and daily tasks—that penchant is a personality trait. They actually seem to measure the speed with which the brain apprehends, integrates and evaluates information. Research on ECTs and brain physiology has not yet identified the biological determinants of this processing speed. These studies do suggest, however, that g is as reliable and global a phenomenon at the neural level as it is at the level of the complex information processing required by IQ tests and everyday life…."

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