Why Singapore Students Top The List: The Bell Curve Revisited — LKY & Charles Murray

(Posted as a response to Melissa Chen’s Facebook thread on IQ and free speech, furnished at the bottom)
Let me throw in my 2 cents here on your IQ-LKY-Murray-Nawaz thread…
1. You emoted, ‘The emotions on the last post ran very high: I barely dipped my toe into the debate about the biological determinism of racial groups…’
Indeed, it would be tough to broach another topic that would elicit greater raw emotions/reactions than what you did — mixing debates on gray matter with religion, and with a whiff of sex to boot, however obliquely — throwing up names like LKY, Charles Murray and Maajid Nawaz all in the same breath. Now, for those who are familiar with Nawaz’s wild-oats days — not quite referring here to his Hizb ut-Tahrir radical Islamist membership experimentation in his late teens — it would be difficult to defenestrate those titillating evocations that are forever due to him, i.e., the horny vid of his cavorting with London striptease, coupled with his vaunting of the cheeky, come-hither Twitter meme of his then sultry wifey which he intended as a retort; check out the links here to be convinced…
2. In your preceding piece you expatiated: ‘I actually happened to read his (Charles Murray) most notorious work, The Bell Curve. I took interest in it because it was no secret that Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, subscribed to and practically fetishized the viewpoints espoused by Murray.’ End quote.
Apparently having been named-called here by some who now mistake you for a ‘eugenist and white supremacist’ — an ‘Asian supremacist’ would be more precise — you wistfully exhorted: ‘Embrace the science, liberals. Genetics imposes limitations, and pre-determines many outcomes of our lives. This does not make liberalism weaker – it can make it stronger.’
I shall not quarrel with your nuanced stance on IQ as you straddle the debate on biological determinism. But I do take issue with your familiar scoffing at LKY’s take on the distinctiveness of certain intrinsic ‘values’ he deemed immanent in cultures of the East. IQ, I would hasten to submit, is perhaps one of those ‘Asian values’ to which he had alluded and which (re Asian values) you would chomp at the bit to knock.
3. So are Singaporeans born smarter, endowed with higher IQ than their global counterparts to account for the rapid success of the tiny young island state? I suspect we are of the consensus view that they aren’t. Evidently, part of the answer for Singapore’s miraculous rise lies in LKY and fellow founders’ rejection at the outset of the notion of some divinely mandated equality (including inborn abilities and IQ) for all beings. I.e., the inherent Jeffersonian ideal of God-given equality in humanity: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” … never has and never will.
As America struggled since its founding to live up to such lofty ideal and rhetoric, LKY made no apology for being hard-nosed and pragmatic in governance from the outset, particularly in the area of education. By the late 70s, with sufficient longitudinal data on hand to reinforce what LKY must have suspected all along the predictive value of IQ for subsequent adult-life success/contribution, he was nothing loath to advocate academic streaming beginning at the primary level, allowing students to learn and thrive at differentiated pace and level. Egalitarian education for all intents and purposes was out the window. How time has indeed borne out his vision. It would be hard to quarrel with the salient outcome of his men-are-not-created-equal legacy in the one area of pre-tertiary education — as illustrated time and again in global league tables, Singapore pupils bested their cohorts in academic evaluations per TIMSS and PISA benchmarks.
In conclusion, I would hazard to make a wager with you that LKY’s ‘all-men-are-not created-equal’ legacy in governance philosophy will ever generate controversies in a PC-compliant world but will resonate ever more resoundingly with the pragmatists of the day.


Melissa Chen facebooked:
March 16 at 3:07pm
The emotions on the last post ran very high: I barely dipped my toe into the debate about the biological determinism of racial groups, acknowledging that phenotypic differences exist but to the extent that it is largely genetic is tenuous – yet, I was called a eugenicist and white supremacist.
The Right and Left have pushed each other into the antagonistic and extreme theories of biological vs. cultural determinism, respectively.
What does the evidence say though? The truth is somewhere in the middle, of course, but the left seems to think that everything is just a “social construct” and that biology doesn’t matter at all.
I understand it as an ideological reaction to biological determinism, which appears to substantiate the Right’s radical individualism and the far-right’s racism. But when you really think about it, isn’t it a little odd?
The growing scope and depth of biological determinism gleaned from advances in molecular and behavioral genetics could be effectively used to argue for a more Leftist redistributive society.
Why doesn’t the Left jump on this? They’re eager to hold up the Warren-inspired charge that “You Didn’t Build That;” isn’t this a far stronger basis for more socialist interventions?
If such a big part of us is not self-determined, wouldn’t that buttress the need for applying John Rawls’s veil of ignorance?
Embrace the science, liberals. Genetics imposes limitations, and pre-determines many outcomes of our lives. This does not make liberalism weaker – it can make it stronger.
Melissa Chen facebooked:
March 16 at 7:08pm
It became clear that my adversary in a debate about the recent Middleburry College incident had not read the relevant source material, when he declared Charles Murray to be a racist simply because the Southern Poverty Law Center branded him as one.
The SPLC lost its moral authority the day that they put Maajid Nawaz on the anti-Muslim extremist list.
Unlike the many students who comprised the angry mob that effectively barred Dr. Murray from speaking and gave an accompanying professor a concussion, I actually happened to read his most notorious work, The Bell Curve. I took interest in it because it was no secret that Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, subscribed to and practically fetishized the viewpoints espoused by Murray.
In his autobiography, he writes:
“The Bell curve is a fact of life. The blacks on average score 85% on IQ and it is accurate, nothing to do with culture. The whites score on average 100%. Asians score more… the Bell Curve authors put it at least 10 points higher. These are realities that, if you do not accept, will lead to frustration because you will be spending money on wrong assumptions and the results cannot follow.
By the 1970s when we looked at the old examination results and the present, and we saw the pattern in the housing estates, it fits exactly with educational attainments. That the more intelligent and hardworking you are, the higher your educational levels, the higher your income.
Supposing we had hidden the truth and taken the American approach and said, all men are equal. Then they (the less able or well-off) will demand equal results. And when the results are not equal, they will demand more equal treatment.
I decided if I didn’t bring it out, my successors will face a problem of credibility. Because they can’t bring it out, they will say we’re trying to escape the responsibility. So I finally brought it out into the open. There’s no other way. Not to come to terms with this is to deceive yourself and be pursuing policies which bring no good.”
How unapologetically immune he was to the clutches of political correctness that plagued the Western intellectual elites! In a way, he’s saying that if these differences exist, we must be committed to know and acknowledge them because a one-size-fits-all policy that treats everybody equally will actually result in inequality.
I have a somewhat decent background in genetics and I’ll briefly say that (a) IQ is highly hereditary (b) Phenotypic differences in IQ among racial groups exist but how that correlates to genetic differences is less clear and finally… (c) so what if there’s a component of biological determinism in this particular trait?
Murray himself wrote at the end of the book that “if tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental.
By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of differences are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.”
Why did this liberal intolerance rear its ugly head yet again, against Charles Murray? Why not engage with his ideas and refute his arguments, rather than violently shut his speech down?
I’m willing to bet that most didn’t even read his work, let alone conduct the research to evaluate it. It has to be repeated: the realities of any inherent differences do not demand any hierarchical sorting. That is where the science ends, and our moral values step in.

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