Social science today condones and perpetuates a great falsehood - one that undergirds much current social policy. This falsehood, or "egalitarian fiction," holds that racial-ethnic groups never differ in average developed intelligence (or, in technical terms, g, the general mental ability factor). While scientists have not yet determined their source, the existence of sometimes large group differences in intelligence is as well-established as any fact in the social sciences. How and why then is this falsehood perpetrated on the public? What part do social scientists themselves play, deliberately or inadvertently, in creating and maintaining it? Are some of them involved in what might be termed "collective fraud?"
Intellectual dishonesty among scientists and scholars is, of course, nothing new. But watchdogs of scientific integrity have traditionally focused on dishonesty of individual scientists, while giving little attention to the ways in which collectivities of scientists, each knowingly shaving or shading the truth in small but similar ways, have perpetuated frauds on the scientific community and the public at large.
Perhaps none of the individuals involved in the egalitarian fiction could be accused of fraud in the usual sense of the term. Indeed, I would be the first to say that, like other scientists, most of these scholars are generally honest. Yet, their seemingly minor distortions, untruths, evasions, and biases collectively produce and maintain a witting falsehood. Accordingly, my concern here is to explore the social process by which many otherwise honest scholars facilitate, or feel compelled to endorse, a scientific lie.
The Egalitarian Fiction
It is impossible here to review the voluminous evidence showing that racial-ethnic differences in intelligence are the rule rather than the exception (some groups performing better than whites and others worse), and that the well-documented blackwhite gap is especially striking. All groups span the continuum of intelligence, but some groups contain greater proportions of individuals that are either gifted or dull than others.
Three facts regarding these group differences are of particular importance here for together they contradict the claim that there are no meaningful group differences.
1) Racial-ethnic differences in intelligence are real. The large average group differences in mental test scores in the United States do not result from test bias, which is minuscule overall, as even a National Academy of Science panel concluded in 1982. Moreover, intelligence and aptitude tests measure general mental abilities, such as reasoning and problem solving, not merely accumulated bits of knowledge - and thus tap what experts and laymen alike view as "intelligence."
2) Regardless of how we choose to construe them, differences in intelligence are of great practical importance. Overall they predict performance in school and on the job better than any other single attribute or condition we have been able to measure. Intelligence certainly is not the only factor that affects performance, but higher levels of intelligence greatly increase people's odds of success in many life settings.
3) Group disparities in intelligence are stubborn. Although individuals fluctuate somewhat in intelligence during their lives, differences among groups seem quite stable. The average black-white difference, for example, which appears by age six, has remained at about 18 Stanford-Binet IQ points since it was first measured in large national samples over seventy years ago. It is not clear yet why the disparities among groups are so stubborn - the reasons could be environmental, genetic, or a combination of both - but so far they have resisted attempts to narrow them. Although these facts may seem surprising, most experts on intelligence believe them to be true but few will acknowledge their truth publicly.
Misrepresentation of Expert Opinion
The 1988 book The IQ Controversy: The Media and Public Policy by psychologist-lawyer Mark Snyderman and political scientist Stanley Rothman provides strong evidence that the general public receives a highly distorted view of opinion among "IQ experts." In essence, say Snyderman and Rothman, accounts in major national newspapers, newsmagazines, and television reports have painted a portrait of expert opinion that leaves the impression that "the …