10.04.2010 Feature Article

IQ has got nothing to do with skin colour

IQ has got nothing to do with skin colour
10.04.2010 LISTEN

Dear readers,

I don't know how some people arrive at the conclusion that white people have got higher Intelligence Quotient, or IQ than black people and I think that they are wrong. These are the kind of statements that are meant to pull down the little confidence some black people have got when faced with a situation of competing with a white person. In African experience, it has got to do with our colonial history where a white man was always looked at as superior. However, differences in IQ have got nothing to do with race or colour. I'm gonna be forced to go a little bit scientific and I hope readers do not get bored by this. There are possibly two explanations for this according to scientists and psychologists.

The way the brain is formed and its relationship with intelligence is so puzzling even to a lay man like me but one of the most pressing issues facing the field of psychology is that of individual differences in intelligence. People's IQs are relatively stable over their lifetime, but this does not mean that their intellectual performance does not change. Some people's IQ grows with age while others it reduces by age. That's why you find people who were not that intelligent while in high school but grow out of it and end up even becoming presidents of nations or very important people.

The view that white people are more intelligent than black people is wrongly based on the inheriting view of genes which is simply inconclusive and which has got nothing to do with race. For example, identical twins tend to have similar IQs, even when the twins are brought up in different environments. Moreover, adopted children tend to have IQs that are more similar to those of their biological parents than to those of their adoptive parents. These findings suggest that it is not children's upbringing but rather their genes that determines their IQ. Attempts at improving the IQ of disadvantaged children through environmental intervention programs have also been relatively unsuccessful. However, it should be stressed that these twins with good genes can either be black or white. There is no gene that has got monopoly over the other because of race. In view of such findings, the development of intelligence is governed by some genetic program and is relatively immune to differences in environmental circumstances, at least within the range that most children experience.

Again when we look at the research understanding of how the brain develops and processes information, Scientists believes that neural connections are critical for the meaningful processing of information. This suggests that different neural connections are required for different abilities. Studies of brain development have shown that these neural connections are relatively undifferentiated when a child is born and that they then become progressively more elaborate over childhood until maturity. There is no difference in the neurons found in either a black child or a white one. We are all the same.

Nevertheless, there are those who possibly explain a difference in intelligence by looking at the environment. Some Scientists have explained the difference in IQ relating it to the environment. Many studies have shown that neural connections develop and change in response to environmental stimulation. This capacity of the neural connections to adapt has often been referred to as neural plasticity. For example, research has shown that if kittens are reared in a visual environment in which they are exposed only to vertical lines, in later life the only visual stimuli they will be able to recognize are vertical lines. If they are exposed only to spots of light during infancy, they will be able to see only spots of light in later life. These findings suggest that environmental stimulation plays a crucial role in determining the arrangement of a child's neural connections and, hence, how the child processes information. Most Africans (white and black) are probably less intelligent because of the environment around them but if this is improved, then Africa can have people with higher IQs. It has got nothing to do with race at all.

For instance, Obama or Nelson Mandela may be considered intelligent basically because of either two above explanations but race has got nothing to do with it. A black child in born and bred in Europe may turn out o be less intelligent than one raised in Africa.

Imagine a child whose brain is very good at adapting neural connections to the environment. He or she would be able to develop the appropriate connections to process many kinds of information more effectively than other children of the same age, and would appear to be bright or gifted. In contrast, consider a child whose brain is unable to adapt to the environment and who is unable to develop the neural connections necessary to understand many things experienced in the environment. That child would remain childlike as a result of poorly developed neural circuits. I don't know whether the environmental factor mentioned here includes nutritional explanation because how does one explain better fed kids in the western countries who come across as less intelligent than those in impoverished societies.

To be honest with you, when one looks at this area of research, you come to the conclusion that Black people are as intelligent as white people but other factors explain why they are in the bottom pit of success. It has got nothing to do with specifically their colour.

I again disagree with some people when they say that by the time Congo becomes the present Denmark, Denmark would be on another planet. There is no time frame when it comes to economic development. China was below Denmark in terms of economic development 20 years ago but not anymore. If Africa gets its grips together and probably get rid of the currently less intelligent and selfish African leaders, things will be fine in Africa. Africa will be a force to be reckoned with on the international stage if the politics on the continent can be sorted out as soon as possible.

Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
United Kingdom