The Herald (South Africa)
THE WRITE STUFF
Debunking the notion of genetics being responsible for intelligence:
GROWING up in a country where racism lurked around every corner – yet was the very antithesis of what he learnt at home – played a large role in shaping who Gavin Evans is today.
It also goes a long way in explaining why genetics, racial science and its relation to IQ testing are issues he addresses in his book Black Brain, White Brain: Is Intelligence Skin Deep?
Evans was in Port Elizabeth this week for the launch of his new book.
He was born in London but grew up in South Africa and finished his school career at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth.
He says his upbringing at the height of apartheid saw him question race relations.
“The issues of race and racism were always in the forefront of my mind,” Evans said, adding he was constantly confronted by race related issues.
“With very liberal parents, my perception was not the same as others,” he said.
The years of thinking about race and racism have paid off through his book, in which he skilfully pulls apart scientific rhetoric and discredits historic allegations about the diminutive intelligence of “inferior” races.
Evans presents, and engages with, various case studies where he debunks the notion of genetics being responsible for intelligence.
Ripping apart theories about the link between race and intelligence Evans is able to decipher fact from fiction and illustrate how history has shaped perceptions of races.
“When people see differences in others they like to think what they are is the norm, others are therefore different and abnormal.”
Evans debunks “racist science” and centuries-old beliefs that Africans are predisposed to being less intelligent than their European counterparts.
Delving deep into ancient history, or as Evans puts it pre-history, Black Brain, White Brain illustrates numerous examples of how the indigenous people of Africa have been sidelined throughout history.
Lamenting his school days, Evans says he was confronted with history books which re- flected ideas of race in South Africa; books that were guilty of omission and distortion.
“They had nothing in them about South African history prior to colonisation, distorting what had actually happened,” Evans said.
Evans believes this has had a direct impact on the blurring of lines when looking at race and the question of intelligence.
“What we have seen from archaeological artefacts, especially here in South Africa, is there was a civilised society dating back thousands of years before colonialism or when the first Europeans arrived here.”
Evans claims during colonial conquests, in order to subjugate other people, especially those of perceived lesser intelligence, the colonialists believed “natives” were less human and punted this idea through racist science.
“Approaching life with that idea in the back of your head and through the people you meet and observe who regard race as having an essence, it will affect the way you interact and perceive others,” he said.
Evans carefully examines how scientists punted the idea that genetics and racial differences were linked to intelligence and the alleged science behind it. He explains intelligence cannot be determined purely by an IQ test.
Evans, who has taken three IQ tests himself in the past, claims intelligence should not be measured against genetics or race but rather through various factors, including upbringing, environmental factors and culture.
“Culture and cultural upbringing do have an impact on the IQ because those tests are, or were, performed on individuals who cannot relate to what is being presented to them.”
Evans says this is unjust and should not be a measure of intelligence.
“Intelligence is not scientific, it cannot and should not be measured on the basis of an IQ test.”
Several chapters in Evans’s book are dedicated to examining IQ studies and many questions are raised about the methodology and flawed data presented as research.
Evans has worked as a journalist, published several books and is a lecturer at London’s Birbeck College. He lives in the city with his family.
With liberal parents, my perception was not the same as others