Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Dirty War on Thilo Sarrazin: German “Scholars” Lie about IQ, Genetics, Demographics

By Nicholas Stix

I just read my VDARE colleague Steve Sailer’s evisceration of authoritarian Frankfurt School guru, the pseudo-philosopher and pseudo-sociologist, Jürgen Habermas’ counterfactual and anti-scientific, New York Times attack on Social Democratic economist Thilo Sarrazin. Sarrazin is the author of the runaway new bestseller, Deutschland schafft sich ab: Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen (Germany Abolishes Itself: How We are Gambling with Our Country.

Sarrazin’s thesis is that Germany is being slowly destroyed through the low German birthrate (for generations below replacement levels), and the immigration and proliferation, through higher birth rates, of peoples—preeminently Moslem Turks—of lower average intelligence, who cannot maintain the sort of peaceful, prosperous, Western society that Germany has been for generations, and who are creating a growing underclass that is not only “dumber” than native Germans, but more dependent on the state, towards which it is also hostile.

Toward the end of Sailer’s column, he mentioned a German-language, anti-Sarrazin screed by a lefty professor of sociology at the University of Munich named Armin Nassehi, which was published on October 18 by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s most influential daily newspaper.

So, while listening to the New York state and city election returns on leftwing NY1, I read Steve’s column, and then, while listening to the national returns on Fox News, I translated Nassehi.

If Nassehi reads badly in English, it’s because his German stinks. Back in my student days, I published a couple of punchy pieces in a major West German newspaper, and I can tell you, they were much better-written than Nassehi’s pedantic screed. My German was so good, that 25 years later, I’m still an English-language learner!

Sarrazin’s Theses

Biology Contradicts Biologism

The opposition between nature and culture in the natural and social sciences is obsolete. However, second-rate theory is insufficient for the solution of educational problems among the underclass.

By Armin Nassehi

The debate surrounding Thilo Sarrazin’s theses has changed. The initial outrage about the tone and the biologistic justification template has died down. Now, his theses have been reduced to those social political aspects, which will be debated over time. And yet, it is a mistake to overlook the biologistic arguments. Because in them it becomes clear that Sarrazin is not interested in solutions, but in serving resentment. And it is above all the resentments, and less the arguments, which are garnering him applause.

The discussion which has been led until now, resembles a public dispute in the 1990s in the United States. That refers to the book, The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. It reads like a blueprint for Sarrazin’s theses, and is repeatedly cited by him. Both scholars showed that the average IQ of North American blacks lies about 15 points below the white populace. From that they drew the same conclusions as Sarrazin. [NS: In the following sentence, Nassehi is referring to Murray and Herrnstein.] Along with environmental conditions, it is genes that provide the basis for the difference in average intelligence between blacks and whites, which is why it would be desirable in terms of lifting the total intelligence of society to reduce the black birth rate, perhaps through the cutting of transfer payments, because the schools have a negligible effect at equalizing the intelligence deficit.

No longer the state of the debate

Sarrazin’s argumentation barely distinguishes itself from theirs. As undebatable as it is that the birth rate is higher in the lower classes, the argument that draws the conclusion from it of a collective loss of intelligence is undebatably false. It was just this naturalization that sparked the discussion of The Bell Curve. Particularly influential was for example, evolutionary biological criticism of Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, Leon J. Kamin und Stephen Jay Gold [sic], against biological determinism: Intelligence is not determined by genes. At best, in populations with identical environmental conditions, the statistically inexplicable variance can then be “genetically” explained – one ties together what one ultimately cannot otherwise explain.

The strict opposition of genetics and environment, of nature and culture, in which Sarrazin is so interested, no longer corresponds, since the public discussion of The Bell Curve, to the state of the debate. Today, whoever earnestly takes questions about genetics into consideration, in order to explain the genesis of intelligence and the aptitude for learning, of abilities and learned behavior, will no longer be able to do this via the opposition of nature and culture. What is very perplexing is that in the public debate over Sarrazin’s intelligence biologism is that questions of epigenetics and neuronal plasticity have not played a role … and that the experts have not spoken about them.

The unified consensus is that there is no gene for intelligence, also no clear genetic disposition for more or less intelligence as a pretty much naturally demarcated, unchanging limitation. Epigenetics does not play environmental influences off of nature, or put them in a compensatory relation. The chapter on education in Sarrazin’s book, which he always recommends when anyone charges him with biologism and naturalism, is however written in exactly this spirit: to organize the “interplay” of nature and culture such that also those less intelligent can profit from it.

There is No Need for a Genetics of IQ

A generous way of reading Sarrazin would be to see the stronger parts of his argument. His suggestions such as all-day-schooling, the extension of preschool educational offerings, the shifting of transfer payments [welfare programs] in the extension of educationally relevant institutions, etc., are as worthy of discussion as they are familiar. All of them have long been discussed; for them, however, there is no need for a naturalistic conception of intelligence. On the contrary, the distinction implodes: the nature of our intelligence becomes a natural phenomenon, and culture is biologically based, in that, human intelligence must be opened up in an environment, which lays the “switch” with which potential can develop and unfold. From that we can derive a much different understanding of nature – not in the sense of an older conception of a deterministic empire, but rather the extension and self-organization of structures and processes.

When one thinks further about the question of intelligence and the educability of people, one loses the security, with which one could ultimately secure one’s own resentment with the help of “nature.” The best arguments against biologism are today presented by biology itself!

From a social science perspective, we know much about the practical heritability of behavior and attitudes. We know from the research on social inequality, as well as the research on migration fairly precisely that there are particular problematic milieus, also immigrant milieus, that “pass themselves on.” The discussion of Sarrazin has concentrated however on exactly this “visible” aspect of the German migration reality – the majority, in contrast, is assimilated in a manner such that these living conditions are barely distinguished from those of the indigenous population.

False Incentives

Clearly, one does problematic groups no injustice, when one points out their agrarian distance from education, traditional family orientation, diaspora religious origins and ethnic segregation. Here grow attitudes from which little incentive and possibility arise to escape one’s own milieu. Sarrazin is completely correct that false incentives are given to a particular segment of immigrants and their offspring, that encourage their ethnic and familial segregation. One may know that this expresses only a small part of the reality of German migration, but one must suppress this, if one’s priority is the naturalization of one’s own resentments.

That the educational failures come from such problematic, unassimilated milieus has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with an intelligence deficit that is somehow independent of these living conditions. However, much more with how little accommodating conditions predominate, which this group has the potential to use – not merely in the sense of an abstract intelligence, but rather in the sense of a more or less assimilated participation in the educational and labor market.

Debts to be Collected, and Debts to be Brought

Against these arguments, Sarrazin would play off institutions’ debts to be brought against victims’ debts to be collected. Whoever argues in this fashion is obviously as much the prisoner of his habits as the Anatolian immigrant in his segregated milieu. Sarrazin makes it very easy to demand of educational failures the disposition that must first be brought about. Sarrazin’s argument presupposes what it would create. That works only through demands, but also now and then through coercion and the setting of necessities. Demands must also be accompanied by support – not in the public educational gesture, with which Sarrazin incites resentments against the underclass and migrants. Already the obligation to learn German or to offer integrationist activities in exchange for transfer payments changes the relationship between migrants and state institutions. Granted, that presupposes political will and costs money. Clearly, this political will is not going to develop through genetic and, since then, Islamophobic declarations.

The question is why the naturalization of the other, the stranger appears so attractive. It is obviously an attempt to offer simple explanations to an insecure middle class. To a world in which everything could be different, in which differences of perspective and plurality are unavoidable experiences, nature suggests clarity and certainty. It is largely an effect of the social condition, which in turn causes problematic living conditions. That this comes through stronger and more visibly with immigrants than with the indigenous population, is to be expected. If we have an integration problem, then it is in fact one with the so-called underclasses, who have lost the ability and the possibility to integrate within the institutions of the labor market and education.

This is the test case for future social policy. Here we see the revenge of decades of a lack of political courage and action. That all-day schooling; productive work instead of money in the realm of education; obligatory kindergarten and enforcement of obligatory schooling; language courses and continuing education as conditions for transfer payments; concepts of workfare, where possible, and note, not just for the migrant population; and similar notions were promising models was already known.

It was always the membership in organizations that produced the mentalities that a society requires. Perhaps we must now found new institutions or change the existing ones, in order to bring the people (back) into society. Only then will one win back social classes which appear to have lost the taken-for-granted, bourgeois belief in social mobility. That is the case for migrant, as well as for indigenous populations.

Armin Nassehi teaches sociology at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University.


John Sobieski said...

Perfect leftist gibberish. Anyone who believes Islamophobia is a legitimate criticism is an enemy. Phobias are irrational. Fear of Islam is not irrational. It is just a leftist smear word like 'racist'.

Anonymous said...

"Fear of Islam is not irrational."

Fear of Islam based purely on impressions formed from rightist propaganda is irrational. This is what Islamophobia refers to. A rational person would not fear Islam based on a one-sided account by groups with known political agendas whose very success depends on people fearing Islam.

"It is just a leftist smear word like 'racist'."

Racist is a perfectly well-defined term, referring to anyone who practices in-group/out-group double standards of ethics, where the in-group is racially determined. To refuse to acknowledge the actual meaning of the word and instead dismiss it as a "smear word" is a sign of unwillingness to honestly face the issues that the word raises.

Nicholas said...


Yes. I was tempted to improve Nassehi's German, but his whole charm lies in his unintelligibility!

Nicholas said...


You're a liar.