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An Anthropological Perspective on "Race" and Intelligence: The Non-Clinal Nature of Human Cognitive Capabilities

C. Loring Brace
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 55, No. 2, 3 JAR Distinguished Lectures (Summer, 1999), pp. 245-264
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3631210
Page Count: 20
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An Anthropological Perspective on "Race" and Intelligence: The Non-Clinal Nature of Human Cognitive Capabilities
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Abstract

Traits that are clinally distributed are under the control of selective forces that are distributed in graded fashion. Traits that cluster in certain regions are simply the results of relatedness and are not adaptively important. Traits that are of equal survival value for all human populations should show no average difference from one population to another. Human cognitive capacity, founded on the ability to learn a language, is of equal survival value to all human groups, and consequently there is no valid reason to expect that there should be average differences in intellectual ability among living human populations. The archaeological record shows that, at any one time during the Pleistocene, survival strategies were essentially the same throughout the entire range of human occupation. Both archaeological and biological data contribute to the picture of the slow emergence of human linguistic behavior and its subsequent maturation. The similarities in human capability were not the result of a sudden, recent, and localized common origin. Instead, the widely shared common human condition was the consequence of a long-term adaptation to common conditions during which specific unity was maintained by low but nontrivial rates of genetic exchange among groups. The differences in human lifeways that have arisen since the end of the Pleistocene--and in most instances much more recently--have had too little time to have had any measurable effect on the generation of inherited differences in intellectual ability. When average group differences in "intelligence" test scores are encountered, the first conclusion to be drawn is that the circumstances under which intellectual capabilities are nurtured and developed are not the same for the groups in question. Where such tests show different "racial" averages in test scores, this should be taken as an index of the continuing effects of "race" prejudice and not of inherent differences in capability.

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