Test results that help us spot the racists

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The Independent Online
ANY black people reading this should stop right now. A nutty book just published in America claims that black people have lower IQs than white people, especially if they are poor, in which case their IQs are really, truly low. The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein claims that black people are hopeless at sorting shapes and putting numbers in a row, and that this is the result of inferior genetic inheritance. The implication is that black people are born to be poor and stick to tabloids.

This comforting view, if you happen to be a white supremacist, ignores the evidence that IQ tests measure only the ability to do IQ tests. Used on immigrants at Ellis Island, the tests 'proved' that 83 per cent of Jews were feeble- minded - suggesting hefty cultural bias, rather than the 'overwhelming' gap in brain power (these days it's between blacks and whites) posited by Murray and Herrnstein.

In truth, the admission that intelligence has a genetic component doesn't get us anywhere: disentangling the genetic component of a person from social, behavioural and environmental factors is tricky. And so what if it's possible to identify an inherited aptitude for anagrams? It doesn't tell us anything about wisdom, sensitivity, or thoughtfulness. Unless you think membership of Mensa is the pinnacle of human achievement, the knowledge that an abil- ity to spot the odd-shape-out is inherent isn't especially interesting. It's more useful to speculate how people come to have an understanding of literature, or an ability to get on with people, or a talent for surviving poverty.

Incidentally, any men reading this can also stop right now, because the earliest, proper IQ tests proved that girls were more intelligent than boys.

That was before they were changed to give a more acceptable result.

THE POPE has given the world the benefit of his thoughts on many subjects in his new book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, though not, sadly, on IQ. But I fear he might line himself up with those 19th-century scientists who argued that women's brains were smaller than men's, and that women, in consequence, had more in common with gorillas than people. (Not such a 19th-century idea either: last week Professor Richard Lynn of Ulster University claimed that women's failure to achieve as many first-class degrees as men was a result of their smaller heads.) The Pope's book, described (by his publishers) as 'an international publishing event', is a beautiful object, and I spent some time running my hands over the pages and admiring the cover - though I wonder now if this was partly to put off the troublesome business of trying to work out what His Holiness was saying. Despite the efforts on Newsnight of a woman from the Catholic Times (in a headband she should have given up at the age of nine) to convince me that the book was full of wisdom, it seemed merely perplexing. The Pope is dismayed by loss of 'amazement at the mystery of womanhood', which he cites as a root cause of feminism. The trouble is, womanhood isn't amazing, or no more so than manhood. I'm not sure either whether I want to be respected for my 'spiritual beauty, the peculiar genius of woman', even though the Pope thinks lack of such respect means that 'in our civilisation, woman has become, before all else, an object of pleasure'.

Funny, I thought the whole point of feminism was to stop women being objects: not the Other, not the guardians of spiritual welfare, not a sort of superior gorilla.

I DON'T think the Pope would approve of Margaret Kent, a fellow best-selling author, whose book How to Marry the Man of your Choice is designed to turn women into objects of pleasure so as to ensnare a husband. Ms Kent's '60- day man-plan' includes injunctions to 'wear hose high on the thighs' on the grounds that men don't want to see your stocking tops, which is not what I'd been led to believe; and to pretend to be a tourist, so you can approach men and ask them questions. This is all very well, but when they find you live round the corner and have done for the last 20 years they are going to think you're insane.

It is also vital not to let your fingernails grow too long in case men think (God forbid]) that you're not interested in domestic chores. Similarly, you should engineer meetings in launderettes, where you can impress them by always carrying spare fabric softener. And once they've been won over by your handling of the tumble drier, interview them to assess their marital prospects. 'Do you believe,' you should ask, 'that you will ever come back to earth in the future as another being? If so, what do you expect to be?'

This is suggested question number two: any man with sense will have scooped up his laundry and run before you get to number three. But if not, you can move on to sex ('do not expect him to use a condom . . . use birth control that is pleasant for him') and the final kill, which apparently involves telling him you're wonderful (you, not him) at 3am, when 'he may not have the mental energy to fight off the thought'. It may not be wise to try this at home.

AMERICAN advertisers are having second thoughts about celebrity endorsers: famous people who appear in commercials and then get charged with murdering their wives, or accused of child molestation. A year ago, Burt Reynolds was one of the public's favourites (they track these things there) but he's since been involved in a divorce during which he suggested to his wife that they each take a lie detector test to see who committed adultery first, with the one who didn't getting all the money. He doesn't even make it on to the list this year. It would be wonderful if British companies took heed and cut back on their celebs, less because they're sleazy than generally repulsive: I was never excited by Claire Rayner's near uncontrollable enthusiasm for 'wings', and Nanette Newman and her washing- up make me want to scream.