Letters: EU referendum

A referendum on Europe: what the signals mean
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The Independent Online

Sir: You advocate the selective strengthening of Britain's ties with the EU but studiously avoid mentioning the elephant in the room (leading article, 18 October). A bedrock principle of the EU, which differentiates it from a free trade area, is the free movement of peoples. Not being able to control who can reside in the UK is a fundamental abridgement of sovereignty. This is tolerable only as long as the EU does not extend much beyond Western Europe.

The irony is that it was the British who, wishing the EU to remain a mere "free trade area", led the wideners to victory over Old Europe's deepeners. Furthermore, our three mainstream political parties favour Turkey's entry. A referendum on the new treaty would allow the British to vote No to the concept of an EU which bordered Syria, Iraq and Iran. A No would also send a message to our political class that national cohesion matters.

Yugo Kovach

Twickenham, Middlesex

Sir: David Cameron knows perfectly well that any referendum on the EU Treaty would be no such thing. Like 99 per cent of the electorate I have read neither the defunct constitution nor the current proposed treaty, would not know where to buy copies of them and, even if I did, would not have the time or the inclination to read, digest and compare them for similarities and differences – that's the job of MPs.

No, his campaign is designed to embarrass Gordon Brown (who admittedly was stupid to promise a referendum in his manifesto and should admit as much); to attract UKIP members back to the Tories; and to get a No vote to appease the right wing of his party. In no way is his campaign designed to further the interests of this country.

Geoff S Harris


Sir: You claim in your exposé of EU myths (18 October) that the new European treaty is not the same as the Constitutional treaty of 2005. But this view is at odds with those who framed the actual document. Bertie Ahern commented that the treaty preserved "90 per cent of the original constitution", while German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that the new treaty used "different terminology" without "changing the legal substance" of the Constitution. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing admitted that although the British, Dutch and French wanted no mention of the word "constitution" the new treaty contained "all the key elements of the constitution".

How can you continue to peddle the idea that the treaty and constitution are so different when its creators believe otherwise? There is only one reason Gordon Brown remains opposed to a referendum and that is that he knows he will lose it.

Jeremy Havardi

Watford, Hertfordshire

'Racial' differences in IQ are irrelevant

Sir: Surely James Watson deserves to be corrected, not denounced ("Celebrated scientist attacked for race comments", 17 October). Where human races have evolved separately it is most unlikely that they possess exactly equal average intelligence, but for most purposes the inequality is irrelevant. Brilliantly intelligent people have much to contribute to society and we should do what we can to exploit their talents, but for most occupations wisdom is more important than intelligence, and there is no reason to believe that this is inherited (nor that honesty is). I think Ronald Reagan was a much better president than Jimmy Carter, but was probably less capable of solving intelligence tests.

It cannot be doubted that the cleverest black person is much more intelligent than the average white person, so recruitment and promotion should depend on capability and not skin colour.

Colin R Merton

London W1

Sir: As a social scientist, I find it objectionable that certain avenues of research are sidelined or arbitrarily identified as "racist" merely because they conflict with accepted notions of political correctness (Letters, 18 October). I applaud Watson's comments as an constructive contribution to the global development debate.

The pernicious lie that there are no significant differences between different human genetic clusters is dispelled both by Cavalli-Sforza's widely accepted work and by the controversial, but irrationally stigmatised studies The Bell Curve and IQ and the Wealth of Nations. The latter treatise, in my view – although I cannot say that I fully agree with its thesis – is the ideal counterpoint to the rather sterile debate in international history and development studies as to where the fault lies for the poverty of underdeveloped polities.

In the bulk of universities, this is presented as the agency of what is crudely portrayed as wicked, Occidental imperialism, while, in reality, the example of the newly industrialised countries of East Asia (NICs) and China indicate that it is conceivable for poor, non-European countries to progress despite systemic constraints. In 1950, the per-capita GDP of Zambia was greater than that of the Republic of Korea. At present, the ROK has a GDP per capita roughly 30 times greater than Zambia. As a serious social scientist who rejects geographical and structural determinism, I therefore cannot help but agree with Watson on the partial correlation between intelligence and genetic heredity.

This is, naturally, not to say that I in any way view Africans as deserving of anything less than equal respect and concern. Watson himself makes no such suggestion and, I believe, would fully endorse the statement that every single human being, regardless of intelligence, possesses equal, intrinsic moral worth. Nevertheless, intelligence and moral worth are two distinct questions and I hope the shrill voices of doctrinaire political correctness will take this into account when debating Watson's stance.

Stefano Mariani

Post-graduate student, LSE London SW5

Sir: Human "intelligence", like human height, is influenced by hundreds of genetic interactions, sensitive to hundreds of environmental factors. There is a difference in the average height of men and women, but the overlap is extensive. We could no more guess the sex of a person from his/her height than we could guess a person's ethnicity from his/her "intelligence". The causes of small differences in average can range from 100 per cent environmental to 100 per cent genetic.

It will be interesting to see if our own home-grown intellectual Richard Dawkins will condemn the bogus "scientific" conclusions of James Watson (when they meet in public next week) with the same vehemence with which he condemns (rightly) the bogus "rationale" of "intelligent design" and religious belief.

Gabriel Dover

Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, Oxford

Sir: I was highly dismayed to read the responses to James Watson's claim that Africans are less intelligent than Westerners (Letters, 18 October). The visceral response to brand such a hypothesis as "racist" is to fundamentally confuse a scientific contention with a moral one. To say any one group of humans is statistically less intelligent than another is quite separate from the claim that that group is morally inferior or that it would be justified to discriminate against its members. As it happens, I believe that Watson's evidence is very weak as there are many other factors other than genetics which influence the results of the "tests" he refers to. However, despite this, we should remember that political equality is not an empirical hypothesis but a moral stance. When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal", he was referring to equality of rights, not to identical biology.

Matthew Ball

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Sir: Steve Connor (18 October) argues that the progressive improvement in performance on IQ tests in recent decades cannot possibly be due to genetic factors. That is incorrect. All it would take is for the proportion of children born to parents with below-average IQ to decrease steadily.

Professor Michael Eysen

Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London

Sir: The thing that puzzles me about people who drag out the rather dubious results that show that on average persons of African descent to do worse on IQ tests than persons of European descent is that they never point out that on the same tests persons of Asian descent on average do better than persons of European descent. What do they wish us to do about this result? Hand dominion of the world over to the Chinese?

Michael Cule

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

T he Germans who resisted Hitler

Sir: Tony Paterson's comments on Stauffenberg's attempt to assassinate Hitler and the size of the German resistance are misleading (Berlin Babylon, 8 October).

Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler was not the first made by the German resistance, nor was it a one-man action. In March 1943 a plan to blow up Hitler's plane failed when the British-made detonator failed. The 20 July plot had been planned for months and the attempt to blow up Hitler was part of a nationwide operation. As soon as news of Hitler's death was received by Stauffenberg's fellow-conspirators in Berlin and other major cities, top-ranking SS officers and leaders of the Gestapo were to be arrested. Such arrests had already started when it was found that Hitler was uninjured.

From the 1920s, thousands of clergymen resisted anti-Christian propaganda. Many were executed. In the late 1930s German diplomats visited Whitehall at the risk of their lives to warn the Foreign Office of Hitler's plans.

Bryan J Fair


Suddenly, my glass of wine is hazardous

Sir: Your coverage of the study by Liverpool John Moores University makes for depressing reading (17 October). As a sixtyish male who routinely enjoys two or three glasses of red wine in the evening (one before supper, one with and one with a film on TV or whatever) I was until yesterday classified as a "moderate" drinker – no spirits, no beer. Moreover, until yesterday I congratulated myself that my moderate and enjoyable routine was also actually decreasing my chances of a stroke (or a heart attack, or is it both?) as a couple of years ago an authoritative study assured us that the regular consumption of some alcohol – particularly red wine – had beneficial health effects when compared with teetotalism.

Suddenly, I am a time-bomb waiting to explode with liver problems, heart disease and cancer. What has changed? Certainly not my consumption. Now it seems that two bottles of wine over a week is "hazardous". Is there nothing left in life that we can enjoy without being tut-tutted at by "new studies"? Just who are these people who conduct such studies? How much do they cost? Who funds them?

Liverpool John Moores University should make their findings known urgently to the governments of France, Spain and Italy, nations whose entire adult populations are obviously in mortal danger of thoroughly enjoying a hazardous life.

Stephen Clarke


The Chinese know how to save energy

Sir: For once, coverage of issues in China which, as someone resident here, I can broadly agree with (Hamish McRae, Opinion, 17 October).

In one sense the Chinese have a grasp of economic and environmental issues which the West has never had – resource constraint. It's why they adopted the one-child policy more than 25 years ago, and persist with it; it's why every accommodation block in the provincial south-west city where I live has an array of solar-powered tanks on its roof for supplying hot water (on the rare occasions the sun shines); it's why all the concrete stairwells have energy-saving sound-activated light bulbs; it's why the primary-age children I teach are fanatical about turning off unused lights; it's why you see more solar panels and wind turbines and dams than you ever see in Britain.

China continues to grab as many resources from around the world as it can, of course, because if they don't the West will take them. Because developed countries still don't have the slightest inclination to adopt low-consumption lifestyles. Talk about them yes; adopt them, no.

Mike Shearing

Duyun, Guizhou province, China


Adults behaving badly

Sir: "Anxious, badly behaved, stressed, depressed and obsessed with the cult of celebrity" (front page, 12 October). Why pillory children? That is a brilliant description of British adults.

Richard Pearce


What lies within

Sir: Keith Nolan (letter, 18 October) may be interested to know that I recently bought a carton of six eggs. On the lid, it said "Allergy advice: contains egg". Moreover (or should that be "more ova"?), it was on the inside of the lid, thus disappointing anyone who thought that they had bought, say, a lump of marzipan, or a minor suburb of Budapest.

Nigel Stapley


Disabled in poverty

Sir: Welfare reform must not be treated as a political football ("Cameron accuses Brown of undermining the family", 17 October). For many people the welfare state is an essential lifeline. But for disabled people who cannot work, all too often the support they receive is not enough to lift them out of poverty. It is a national scandal that disabled people are more likely to be living in poverty than they were 10 years ago, and twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people.

John Knight

Head of Policy and Campaigns, Leonard Cheshire Disability, London SW1

Ofsted must try harder

Sir: So Ofsted is now telling us that the 39 per cent of schools which are classed as "satisfactory" by their own criteria are, in fact, "not good enough" (report, 18 October). In other words, the term "satisfactory" in the context in which Ofsted uses it means, er, "unsatisfactory". I'm not sure whether we should be worrying about the schools, or about Ofsted.

Paul Dunwell

Alton Hampshire

Spaghetti hell

Sir: Please stop publicising the cult of the Great Spaghetti Monster within your letters page (18 October). The pilgrimage to His spiritual home is causing enough congestion on the Birmingham stretch of the M6 as it is.

Stephen Dodding