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Culture vs intelligence

Published: 20 April 2013 (GMT+10)

Many people have questions about race and culture, but are afraid of being labelled as ‘racist’ for asking these questions. However, there are answers that reject both racism and political correctness.

123rf.com/Vladimir Voronin

Ron R., Australia, wrote in, asking:

Before I start my question I wish to clear up any misunderstanding that it may cause. Firstly I am a committed Christian and am fully engaged in the creation story as stated in Genesis. I have been on several short mission trips to Asian countries. I have a small amount of aboriginal heritage in that my great-great-grandfather was aboriginal. I am in no way racist. Having said that, it is not hard to notice that nearly all the great thinkers throughout history were from other than the black races. We see mathematical theorems from the Greeks, as well as poets and philosophers, names such as Homer, Socrates, Pythagoras, statesmen such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, more recent achievers such as Galileo, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart, Basil the Great, George Washington, Da Vinci, whilst all during this time aboriginals were living in bark huts and throwing sticks at kangaroos, never having a written language or ever developing a mathematical theory or a scientific discovery. The same for those in the jungles of South America or the fields of Africa, or the South Pacific Islanders. Whilst these groups may have a rich culture of their own it has never extended to the advanced thinking of other groups and gave no continuing legacy.

I know there was no curse on Ham and that black people are not a curse, and I have read some of your articles on the ‘curse’, but I just can’t understand why the great thinkers of all time came from outside the black groups, realising that some were not exactly white either, but while the Greeks, Romans, etc. were so advanced in many areas such as maths and astronomy, other groups were and still are living a subsistence life and show no ability to do otherwise.

Carl Wieland responds:

Dear Mr R./Dear Ron,

Thanks for writing in. I am not assuming that you or your question are coming from a racist perspective (although was the ‘throwing sticks at kangaroos’ comment really necessary? Someone who had seen a traditional Aboriginal hunter skillfully using the incredibly designed and aerodynamically efficient weapon known as the hunting or killer boomerang, might not use a term which suggests that this is somehow a sign of ‘primitivity’).

I’m glad that you accept the Bible’s history—that will make answering your question easier. We’re all descended from Noah’s sons, who exited the Ark around 4500 years ago. The entire population mixed until the dispersion at Babel broke humanity into separate groups. Of course, there are genetic variations in intelligence among individuals just as there are for most, if not all traits. So it is possible in principle that, just as some groups inherited the genes for greater sun protection than others (though all have the same sunscreen chemical in our skin, just varying amounts of it), some groups might have been inherently more or less intelligent than the other. But for one thing, it would not be statistically likely that this would be a huge difference; and in any case the bulk of data available points to the fact that such differences are either trivial or non-existent. And any such variations that might exist would certainly be drowned out by the ‘noise’ of the variation in personal (and group) outcomes caused by major differences in culture and upbringing. Which makes sense when we consider the outstanding examples of brilliant people of African or Aboriginal descent. I strongly recommend getting my recent extensive book One Human Family, which covers these issues in a lot more depth and detail; it is not a politically correct tome, and grasps the nettle in squarely facing exactly these sorts of different group outcomes in history. In particular, it has a detailed section, based on firsthand (and current) involvement of my own doctor daughter in Aboriginal communities.

Note too, the conclusion you have drawn from the fact that there are subsistence-type groups today; rather than saying that there is no overall tendency for the groups to abandon that lifestyle (debatable, anyhow), you make the unwarranted leap to saying that they “show no ability” to do otherwise than live a subsistence life. There are instances galore in which someone from a group which generally lives such a subsistence life, given the opportunity and the right environment/upbringing, does otherwise ‘in spades’. Think too of, for example, the many African-American PhDs, lawyers, fighter pilots, scientists, etc. whose ancestors lived a subsistence lifestyle and were also assumed at that time to be inherently incapable of aspiring to much more, let alone achieve.

In short, the disparities that exist are not in innate intelligence on a population level, but culture (in the broadest sense of that word). So let’s go back to the dispersion at Babel. The groups that were separated by language would have had different distributions of skills and ‘know-how’. Some groups would have the knowledge to set up governments, architecture, etc. We see civilizations like Sumer and Babylon arise nearly overnight. Other groups would have very little of that. If you and 20 members of your immediate and extended family were isolated from the rest of society, for instance, how would you fare? You’d likely be reduced to ‘stone age’ technology very quickly, and have to use every bit of intelligence and cunning to secure shelter and food. Even if you happened to have a Ph.D. in that group, there wouldn’t be the time or leisure to have philosophical dialogues. And when you consider the low literacy rate in the ancient world, it wouldn’t be too unlikely that such a group wouldn’t have someone capable of writing down anything for posterity. So you see the factors that would allow or limit intellectual development have nothing to do with intelligence. There’s also a high likelihood that skills of the original group that didn’t directly aid survival would be lost in future generations, see Losing ancient technology.

We see some ancient groups that became ‘civilized’ by Western standards fairly quickly—like China and Greece, for example, and these are the cultures that produced ‘great thinkers’. Other groups, like the Aborigines, Native Americans, Inuit, and others retained a more tribal culture. Written language in the former cultures doubtlessly fostered intellectual discoveries—we can see in history how something as simple as the Arabic numeral system can revolutionize the way we think about mathematics; written language is a similar leap because suddenly it’s possible to store information without relying on memory. And that’s generally how technology advances; not from people becoming smarter (in fact the biological evidence indicates that humanity is deteriorating in terms of innate brainpower, thanks to accumulating mutations). Rather it has to do with new discoveries being stored and transmitted, and then another person or generation builds on those existing ones.

Your list of musicians is also affected by the same argument. First, there’s the matter of musical taste—very few sorts of music are universal enough to transcend time and culture. Singing is an almost universal human trait; it’s safe to assume that most cultures created music. But not all cultures had the means to create musical instruments and the leisure to learn to play them, and not all cultures have musical notation. So it’s very possible (probable, even!) that there were some great African song writers, for example, but their music simply could not be preserved.

More than anything, intellectual and musical expression on a population level (so leaving out the consideration that an individual might not have the intellectual firepower) seems to be influenced by the culture. Is there written language/musical notation? What sorts of intellectual pursuits are encouraged and approved of by the community? How open is the culture to individual expression? In what ways does the culture subsidize or patronize artists or intellectuals? All of these factors influence whether or not ‘great thinkers’ will arise, and whether their work will be preserved for future generations. Also, of course, the philosophy of the culture. It has already been well documented that it is no coincidence that the huge strides of science and technology that arose in Western Europe were shortly after the Reformation put the Bible into the hands of everyman. See The Christian roots of modern science. But it is also no coincidence that the greatest period of art and music was also in Christianized Europe, with music seen as an expression of giving glory to God for His great salvation. Consider Bach, for example, and Handel’s Messiah. (Incidentally, it has been said, perhaps with some justification, that as the post-Christian West becomes increasingly more evolutionized, the music produced, by people of the same ethnicity as Bach et al, seems to have rapidly headed away from man created in the image of God glorifying his Maker and Redeemer, with some of it more closely resembling animal grunts).

Once again, given your interest in such matters, and at the risk of displaying author bias, I would recommend One Human Family; the link lets you see the table of contents as well as read some sample pages.


Carl Wieland

Helpful Resources

One Big Family
by Gary and Frances Bates
US $8.00
Hard Cover
The Puzzle of Ancient Man
by Donald Chittick
US $7.50
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

S. D.
In the United States, at least, the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action has not been black men, latino men, or even women of color, but white women, this includes corporate jobs and universities admittance. I think preference of any kind is unfair, though they may have been necessary at first. Still, I do not see people questioning their intelligence, or white men, for example, complaining that their wives were unfairly employed. I realize your book covers race and not gender, so this topic was not touched on, at least, not in what I've read so far. I am just responding to some comments on this article.
I am about half-way through One Human Family and I like the book. I will continue to support this ministry.
Carl Wieland
Thanks, Stephanie. When you've finished the book (it doesn't get into gender), why not submit reader feedback to its website (www.OneHumanFamily.US)? Positive or negative welcome (though so far no negatives :-)).
Graeme M.
Some New Zealand history may be of interest to readers. Although Maori had no written language before the missionaries began to write it down in the 1820s the way they designed their pa was ingenius. In fact, the Maori chief, Kawiti, was the inventor of modern trench warfare. In 1845, he designed a pa at Ohaewai and defended it with 100 comparatively lightly armed men against 250 crack, heavily-armed British troops, from the world's best army. 110 British died and between 1 and 10 Maori. How could this be? Simply, Kawiti was a military engineering genius. He was able to outwit the British and defeat them with minimal loss of life from his own men. 70 or so years later in World War 1, fought between Europeans of supposedly superior intellect, there was colossal loss of life. Kawiti's record suggests he had considerably greater military intelligence than some of the European decision makers in World War 1.
Carl Wieland
Thanks, Graeme--interesting, but if any of us get a 'wow' response, it mgh
Wayne O.
I am not sure that the Nobel Prize ought to be the final standard for intelligence and contribution to humanity these days given the seeming exclusion of Biblical Creationist scientists and what appears at times now to be atheistic leanings.

Lachlan M.
@ Carl Wieland- I think you have misunderstood me: 1) I was not referring to your book when I commented on the problems aboriginals have with acholism, welfare, education etc. I was correcting Brett, who seemed to have some of the same misconceptions regarding the state of aboriginal people as many of my fellow countrymen do. I was not stating for a minute that aboriginals are inferior in any way to us (whites) as some of your comments seem to suggest (but perhaps I misunderstand you here). I was merely pointing out that in general the aboriginals are lazy and apathetic (due to public welfare), and lack the motivation (but not the ability) to acheive academically (as I specifically stated). I believe that my criticism was fair and is in fact backed up by facts (but would be happy to be proved wrong). I thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment, but I found your reply quite confusing in context of what I said and would be grateful if you would further clarify what you said: in specific, could you please clarify what you meant by "fixed differences"? Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work CMI!
Carl Wieland
Lachlan, I did not think you were referring to the book, but I was referring you to it in response to your comments. You would have found in it many things that supported but also explained your criticisms, which if left unclarified seemed to indicate that you did believe in intrinsic inferiority, i.e. fixed differences meaning impervious to persuasion, cultural change, education, etc. Misunderstanding both ways is easy with brief comments. To you and other readers who go on to check out OHF (sorry, but it's the one book I'm written that I'm super-passionate about--sat next to a man recently who was so rapt he went and bought 40 copies to give to heaps of people including politicians) - the book's site gives opportunity to give reader comments, both positive and negative.
D. J.
Mr. Weiland,
You're setting up a straw man rather than addressing the issue at hand. I didn't suggest that Jews or Ukrainians are less intelligent than French or British people. I'm sure they're not.

I do think blacks are less intelligent, in general.

When an African or Aboriginal Australian makes a significant contribution to one of the 'hard' sciences and wins a Nobel prize, or when an African nation becomes successful, stable and prosperous, let us know.

Talented individuals like Thomas Sowell notwithstanding, the fact remains that what you're saying can happen actually never has.

When you remind us that white Jews and Ukrainians are intelligent as other white Europeans, or that the rise of Western culture accompanying the Reformation was among white Europeans, it hardly undercuts my argument that whites are more intelligent than blacks.

Rather what is seen is that Western societies degrade in proportion to the presence of blacks and Hispanics in their midst, while black and Hispanic socities are made more prosperous in proportion to European control.

The preaching of the Gospel and teaching Biblical values has a salutory effect among all people, making us better than we otherwise would be, but it doesn't change biology.

On the whole I don't think you are beholden to PCism. But the pro-diversity crowd that your casting your lot with in this matter is the same crowd that supports abortion, homosexuality, socialism, Israel-bashing, disarming citizens, evolution and other evils.

It should at least give you pause to wonder if maybe those forces are aligned for a reason.

Thank you for your earlier response.

Carl Wieland
Ah, the limitations of brevity. Far from being a 'straw man', the point was the way in which the results of IQ tests change due to changing cultural/economic patterns. People with similar racist ideas about either Jews or Eastern Europeans (despite the illogicality of the latter) could have used the IQ test results of early last century in the US to make the same sorts of comments that you are making--and in fact many did, using identical slurs and biological arguments re Jewish people. And I'm sorry, I don't accept the version of the 'genetic fallacy' that says that an argument that needs to be based on facts should be determined by the company that the argument keeps. (Quite apart from the fact that our arguments are quite different to the PC antiracism; for example, theirs is selective; the reverse racism of affirmative action is 'ok' as is racism when practised by black vs white. Not so when one considers the One Human Family of Scripture. In short, one can show that the PC crowd's arguments on racism contain fallacies, too, and more importantly, the stance is actually inconsistent with their evolutionary/deep time presuppositions. Just as your deeply flawed and (may I say heartbreaking) biological racism is inconsistent with your stated apparent anti-evolutionism. But you'll notice that I'm not using the same quasi-genetic-fallacy in reverse by suggesting that you should reconsider because Hitler, Haeckel and other fanatical evolutionists held such views. The evidence, which is what counts, just doesn't stack up with your view but I can't condense into a few sentences all the carefully crafted arguments in OHF. I challenge you to read it carefully (and probably slowly would be wise). To handwavingly dismiss Sowell by saying 'despite' his existence is telling; the point of me bringing him up was because he is one of a substantial minority whose achievements arenot due to being some statistical outlier(s), but because he/they escaped the negative effects of the white-derived cracker culture and who uniformly do better than whites on average. And yes, many African nations suffer from dysfunctional cultures; which serves to make the point that they did not have the background cultural benefits of centuries of biblical overlay (think of the dreadful effects of animism, witchdoctor thinking, demonic spirit worship, etc). Of course there is much more to it, including both the positives and negatives of colonialism, but much of it was exacerbated by the effects of biological racism (much of it from Darwinism, but some despite it, like yours, though both united in rejection of the implications of our OHF. Please stop digging the hole deeper by propagating more fallacies until you have had a chance to read and reflect. I would have trouble trying to think how if I were an African or Hispanic Christian I could contain my dismay that a professing brother in Christ could come to these sorts of conclusions. So it is probably just as well that comments on all articles come to an end soon after publication. BTW, I regret that OHF is not available free, but I promise you will not be disappointed and will find the evidence (note--evidence, not 'first impressions that seem logical') compelling, assuming that you are open to persuasion by reason and that the racist agenda is not driving things more than you yourself might realize.
Linda C.
George Washington Carver [African-American--Ed.] was a great scientist whose discoveries affect our lives today.
Carl Wieland
Indeed. By way of aside, though, if we truly grasped the significance of things like culture and upbringing, we would no longer need to the full realization of our One Human Family-ness will be
D. J.
Oh please. Believing that all humans races are equal is like believing that all breeds of dogs are of equal intelligence or ability. They just aren't. Why insist they are?

The races developed after they spread out from Babel and began to reproduce in relative genetic isolation from each other.

Whatever environmental or random or providencial influences caused them to develop different characteristics like skin color, body fat, hair texture and on and on, surely resulted in differences in intelligence as well.

What miracle would have caused all the other physical characteristics to be expressed but somehow have left the most complex organ, the brain, identical in function accross widely dispersed racial groups?

Yes, humans are all one physical family, like canines are all canines. But if you observe a wolf and Chihauhau you probably won't come to the conclusion that they're equal.

Objective IQ tests testify reveal signinficant differences in racial norms. Individuals vary even more widely within races than between them, but there are still major differences between them.

That is why no African country or neighborhood is a nice place, or even a safe one. And never will be.

I like most of what your organization produces. Just sad to see you bowing to PC pressure on this issue all the time!

Carl Wieland
Sorry, but I get peeved at any allegations that PC'ness would influence my thinking. You need desperately to read One Human Family, which is anything but. It is interested in facts, period--both biblical and scientific. The same as Dr Thomas Sowell (Harvard PhD, and incidentally 100% African ethnic origin) who has investigated the matter of not just different outcomes in different ethnic groups, but how this has changed through time. For instance, Jewish people in the US used to score abysmally in IQ tests--yet they have the highest percentage of Nobel Prize winners of any ethnic group by a country mile. And the situation re their performance in IQ tests is drastically different today. OHF goes in detail into the biology of how the races arose at Babel. It also mentions dogbreeding, but comes to drastically different conclusions to your comments seemingly aimed at justifying racial superiority on biological grounds, nor trying to justify PC'ness. Equally, Poles and Ukrainians, who are the same ethnic/racial group as French, British, etc., used to also do terribly in US IQ tests compared to other 'white' Americans, but as the cultural/social issues changed, so did the IQ test outcomes. Similarly, American blacks who happened to escape the influence of the redneck culture imported from the 'cracker' badlands of the British Isles (now seen to be 'authentic African-American culture') have done drastically well in terms of both academic achievement and social stability, with higher instances of two-parent family and higher incomes than the surrounding whites. Sowell was one of those, and he is totally anti-PC and opposed to things like 'affirmative action', which is really just as racist an attitude as your own. See also my comments in these threads re Julius Caesar. The still common, but naive view--almost taken for granted, even by many of the PC crowd, though they would probably not admit it even to themselves--is that the cultural/technological superiority of Western society was inevitable based on their 'intrinsic' characteristics. But this is actually not borne out by the facts of history, and the evidence is overwhelming that it was because of the society's post-Reformation emphasis on the Bible, as many of our articles point out.
Lachlan M.
@Brett M. the fact that the Aboriginals mastered the harshest climate on earth is not a sign of high intelligence, but of excellent bushcraft. And no, they didn't not become settlers because the resources were not available to them, they didn't because they didn't have the knowledge or technology that the white settlers did. "until the Kirrimbullah (whiteman) showed up."... please, if you're not aboriginal, don't use their words when talking about your own race: be happy that God made you who you are. "Their education system was brilliant in the fact that they could pass on valuable information that ensured survival without pen and paper and their current standing at the bottom of the Australian education system is a reflection of the unbending attitudes of educators and politicans to try something that suits Aborigines." Sorry, but their education system only extended as far as bushcraft, which is more of a skill rather than an academic pursuit, which they couldn't pursue to much effect considering they did not have a written language or number system. As for their current standing at the bottom of the Australian education system, it's a reflection of their general laziness and apathy as a race more than anything (they have the ability, but they choose not to use it). Where's the motivation to get educated and get a job when they can leach off the Australian taxpayer? I don't hate the aboriginals, but I find it frustrating that part of my parents hard earned cash goes to supporting people who freeload off others, abuse their wives and children, and spend all their money on booze. After the Fall, God said that man should earn his living from the sweat of his brow: that's not what we're teaching the aborignals. These people need God, not more centrelink money.
Carl Wieland
Hmm... if this were totally representative of the facts, one would have to face them. And (sorry to keep plugging it) One Human Family does not shy away from the huge disparity in academic achievement, etc. and the massive problems of alcoholism, welfare dependence etc. among the Aboriginal people. OHF refers to my own daughter's involvement with taking Aboriginal children into their home in the school term, and documents the transformation of a lad who was illiterate in year 6 into an academic performer. So while such ideas of 'racial laziness' or whatever (i.e. biological inferiority, as opposed to cultural) are easy to understand for white Australians frustrated at the waste (yes, that's what a lot of it has been, but not for the reasons commonly believed) of their taxpayers money, it is not supported by the facts overall. My daughter's belief was grounded in Genesis, that all have the same potential on average given the same chances in their sociocultural environment. When your comments are read carefully, they seem to acknowledge this, by referring to choice, but it is all too easy to read biological racism, i.e. 'fixed differences' into them. We need to remember that when Julius Caesar conquered Britain, he found the local Celts (our ethnic ancestors) to be hopelessly backward, lazy and stupid. Can I urge you to check out OHF, you would find it fascinating and would I think get a great deal of help in understanding, in a way that can draw Aboriginal people closer to God (I'm not sure this would do that for me if I were Aboriginal).
Diane S.
This was an excellent Q&A. From my recent experiences in Fiji, skin shade is carefully considered by the caste concious Hindu Indians. The darker Fijians contend with a supplanting culture, but is not relate to achievements and intelligence. Culturally, Fijians have not only embraced Christianity, they have recorded their history in Suva Museum with clarity & honesty. Both of sea voyaging & construction skills plus their cannabalism savagery to European missionary approaches. A second successful approach was achieved with Tongan interpreters. I have immense respect for a people who record history, warts and all. Dealing both with the tyrannies of distance and a parallel culture transplanted from India where they were despised because of their caste, so they came to work for the British in Fiji. These descendants still keep their Hindu ways, which has become usurping to the Fijians who are trying to follow Judeo-Christian ways. Difficult with modern political correctness. I gave my copy of 'One Blood' to my friend, with admiration for how far her people have come, like mine, warts and all.
Carl Wieland
Thank you for this. BTW, One Human Family goes quite a bit into other issues re the Indigenous vs Indian tensions in Fiji, and goes considerably beyond One Blood, which I helped co-author. Check out the table of contents here.
S. V.
Thinking outside the box is what leads to change. I am challenged by these discussions. Thank you CM.
Janet H.
Though a tiny minority, I have known people of Aboriginal background due to the towns I lived. Never found any of them I met lacking in intelligence, especially how to avoid labour ..which has apparent advantage in the short term, but problems in the long term. This attitude of avoiding labour may also be found among Anglo-Saxons-Irish brought up in Australia (a fact observed by a teacher of 40 years experience, where the child will do no more work but what is required to get their pass). The people who seem to achieve do not avoid labour...
And then one goes to the Bible and notes the praise given to those who labour and enjoy the work of their hands, so clearly it is not praising not a labour of unthinking boredom, but one where you think how great a thing I made today to save backbreaking work.. thus the joy of labour.
Patrick C.
I completely agree with the antiracist sentiments in the article and found the One Human Family book very enlightening. As an Egyptologist, though, I feel it’s important to correct some common (but increasingly widespread) misconceptions in readers’ comments re ancient Egypt.
NT, Swaziland, has a poor understanding of events surrounding the Egyptians during the final phase of the Exodus. The Bible does not specifically state that Pharaoh died in this cataclysm, neither does it state that his magicians, gods, and all his notables perished in the engulfing waters. It is reasonable to assume that Pharaoh, much of his elite, his civil service structure and army survived (12th Dynasty pharaohs built a chain of huge fortresses along the length of the Nile—each garrisoned thousands of troops). God was teaching Egypt an important lesson, not seeking its total destruction. How else can we explain the dizzying heights Imperial Egypt reached during the so-called 18th Dynasty, for example?
The term ‘Black Land’ when applied to Egypt refers to the colour of the soil in the Nile Valley. The name Ham can be confusing to some—this is the Anglo-Saxon transliteration of the Hebrew Cham חָם (pronounced khäm); this in turn is a transliteration of the Egyptian km (also pronounced khäm). We have to be careful when translating Egyptian as there are many usages of the root word km (the colour black)—things can be lost in translation.
HD, USA’s declaration “let’s not forget that Egyptians were black as you can get in the past...” reflects a common fallacy. Apart from the very brief period when the dark-skinned Kushite kings ruled Egypt, it is accepted that the Egyptians themselves had the same medium melanin skin shade we observe throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean regions today.
Marc K.
There is some suggestion that Augustine, the great African theologian, was black. After all, the Arab Muslim invasion wasn't to occur until a couple of centuries after his death.
Carl Wieland
Maybe so, though the historical data makes it difficult to tell what shade of brown he was.
Anna S.
Dear Dr Wieland, Please feel free to ignore; Living in Africa and having seen something of this "hold", I would like to ask you what role demonic influences play in this scenario. Could it keep people in bondage and fear so that they would not reach full potential ?
Carl Wieland
Interesting question; as you would know from the other responses, culture plays a huge role in these issues, and as documented in OHF, cultures with different religions, even when they are the same ethnic group, have vastly different outcomes.

Look at the radical difference made by the Gospel in Fiji, for instance, transformed dramatically from a culture where people lived in terror under a cannibalistic spirit-worshipping belief system (though now backsliding as evolutionism creeps in). Are the negative cultural effects of such beliefs merely the logical consequence of their belief system, or does it also involve greater 'strongholds' as you suggest? I tend to think the latter, i.e. that both are involved to a degree. However, that should never breed complacency about living in a 'Christian' culture. Righteousness exalts a nation, but for one thing most western nations are best described as post-Christian. For another, even in the height of the Christian era, while there were wonderful outcomes from the effects of the Gospel and biblical presuppositions (largely shared even by the unregenerate) the effects of sin and of course the activity of the Enemy of souls are always around. When I was researching the lengthy chapter on apartheid in One Human Family (which many Afrikaners themselves have said is fair and balanced and not PC) it made me conscious of how easy it would have been for me, if living in that culture and era, to self-righteously justify the crushing sins of my society. Doubtless we do the same in all manner of ways re other issues in the West ("there but for the grace of God...").
Robert K.
Thanks for this informative and interesting response. The CMI staff does a wonderful and patient job of responding to comments as well; I often find them as instructive as the articles themselves.

And, thanks a lot Carl... I now have another book on my "wishlist" ;-)
Wayne O.
I note Ngandu's comment about how ancestral traditions can sometimes be to the detriment of generations. I agree.

It applies to all cultures as a quote from Isaac Watts (1674-1748), writer of hymn "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" (among numerous others) makes clear:

"Some persons believe everything that their kindred, their parents, and their tutors believe. The veneration and the love which they have for their ancestors incline them to swallow down all their opinions at once, without examining what truth or falsehood there is in them. Men take their principles by inheritance, and defend them as they would their estates, because they are born heirs to them."
Renee G.
WHY?... people have always treasured KNOWLEDGE... and "knowledge puffs up" (1 Cor 8:1) because we begin to trust in OUR knowledge, OUR abilities, OUR advancing technology to fit OUR needs and DESIRES... instead of trusting in the Lord and HIS provision to delight us and make us happy, and we don't focus on LOVE which builds up OTHERS. We prefer KNOWLEDGE which puffs up and caters to the selfish individual. Sinful man is inclined to think of ways to make things more EASIER, FUNNER, more ENTERTAINING for the INDIVIDUAL. A society that treasures knowledge over LOVE will spend millions of dollars trying make the next big leap in "technology" to "wow" the customers, rather than using that money to build water wells in these "underdeveloped" places on the planet where people are parched and starving. We look down on them for being "caveman-ish" rather than being Godly and helping them out in LOVE.

I would just challenge the body of Christ to recognize the DECEPTION involved in thinking that technological advancements are "good". If they are, why didn't the Lord equip us with all those advancements in Garden of Eden? That was paradise! THAT is God's idea of "good" because when He created the heavens and earth in the beginning, He created it with simplicity and called it "good". Gen 1:31 says, "God saw all that He had made and IT WAS VERY GOOD". Brothers and sisters, do not call "bad" what God has called "good".

Either way, God will only be glorified that much MORE when He returns and shows mercy to all us Saints who trust Him in spite of all our flaws, differences, and differing degrees of sin and selfishness. When our Lord returns He will set all our hearts straight and show us what paradise is REALLY supposed to look like. It will look NOTHING like what man is building!
Carl Wieland
I applaud and share your passion for using money to build water wells in places "where people are parched and starving"--seriously. May I gently suggest, though, that you are indirectly making the point that technology is not somehow intrinsically evil, but can be used for great good. If reservoirs and pumping stations and water treatment plants (all of which are only possible with modern technology) were to apply to these places, people would no longer be parched and starving, so surely that is a great good. To answer your question why God did not give us these in Eden: First off, there was no need to work the ground hard to get food - this is specifically stated as one of the results of the curse due to sin. Second, we were given dominion over creation, and told to subdue (not ravage) it; which has widely been taken as a mandate for man's activities in discovering how God's world works, and then to harness it for man's benefit. Think only of hygiene and the conquest of much disease, which required an understanding (science) first; biblically, anything which alleviates, however locally and temporarily, the effects of the Curse is regarded as blessed. (The Curse pitted man against man, but blessed are the peacemakers; and think of Jesus' example in healing the sick.) We need to be careful in applying this 'if God had wanted us to ... He would have given us...'. I'm sure people used that to suggest we should not perform operations such as removing a ruptured appendix. Of course, technology can be used for good or evil, as indicated at the beginning of this response. A car can drive a sick person to hospital, or to be used to purposely run someone over. FWIW, I am personally grateful for the way, as documented in One Human Family, in which the way of thinking brought about by the Bible (and of course God's direct blessing on righteousness) brought about the revolution in science and technology from which so many continue to benefit; and like you, I support all moves to see similar prosperity and blessings in all portions of all other countries.
Christopher N.
"Think too of, for example, the many African-American PhDs, lawyers, fighter pilots, scientists, etc. whose ancestors lived a subsistence lifestyle and were also assumed at that time to be inherently incapable of aspiring to much more, let alone achieve."

First, "African American" is a PC term. Whites are not called European Americans. And no black in Australia would be called an African Australian. Plus, many blacks only get where they are because of affirmative action, and not actual intelligence equal to that of whites. Infact, if all things being equal are present, then whites would still come out on top, as they often do ,when whites are not discriminated against by affimative action and double standards. I am not an evolutionist, but I do think that whites (for whatever reason) over all, are more intelligent than blacks. To me this is just common sense. To say otherwise is PC
Carl Wieland
If you had read One Human Family, you would know that it is the very antithesis of political correctness, but that does not mean that every term that has become acceptable is inappropriate. The reason why I use 'African American' is because the historical term used had become associated with a denigratory term linked to the ugly (and totally unbiblical) racism that characterized large sectors of your society in particular. And you are wrong elsewhere; I do use the term "European American", as do others, and also "Aboriginal Australian" which is common, too. (Also 'indigenous Australian', though it is not as specific, as the term covers Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders). My book comes out strongly against affirmative action, btw, because whatever its good intentions might have been, such 'reverse racism' in practice tends to harm those it is meant to help. In OHF, I draw on the work of African-American intellectual and Harvard PhD Thomas Sowell, who also decries affirmative action. One of his points is that people like you will have their prejudices reinforced by thinking that people like him got their qualifications 'the easy way'. Racism is racism, whether it is espoused by whites like you or by blacks demanding unequal preferences, it is completely anathema to the Bible's clear teaching that we are all one closely related family, all having descended from Adam and Eve c. 6000 years ago, and after that from Noah's family some 4.5kya. And this is what modern science affirms, and it has nothing to do with PC-ness.
dean R.
“But it is also no coincidence that the greatest period of art and music was also in Christianized Europe, with music seen as an expression of giving glory to God for His great salvation.”C.W.

I don’t get this segment. As nice as some of that music is for its time & timelessness how can it be greater than or how is it greater than islander singing(for example) or why is a Rembrandt better than a van Gogh?
Apart from that I am encouraged by the perspective of the article.
Carl Wieland
Thanks for the positive comment, Dean. Actually, my book One Human Family, which I have had cause to refer to many times on this web page, refers to the wonderful sounds of Fijian Islanders singing at sunset--specifically, though, the context is once again the influence of the Gospel. I know that art and music are highly subjective, and to give a proper answer that does justice to your reasonable question would require many pages. I do suggest though that there are sufficient objective criteria in both art and music, to be able to explain why I'm not the first, even among secularists as well as Christians, to use such terms to describe the art and music of the period. For instance, I prefer listening to some genres other than classical music as a rule (e.g. country, to the shock of some :-)) but I would never, in the sense that I mean 'great' here, regard Hank Williams compositions as meriting that term, but I would Handel. I hope to collaborate one day with a musician who already works for CMI as a writer on a dedicated paper setting this out more clearly, but in the interim I recommend Francis Schaeffer's film series How then should we live? (I just checked and they are all currently On YouTube).
H. D.
the article is good, but its not complete, and to say the Western civilation is what brought things good for other countries that is just in history, the greeks where famous for copy others archievements, they build on civilation of others, Babylonians, Persians, however since Western Civilations has been at front in last 500 years, its done everything to record the great archievements of the West, lets not forget that Egyptians were black as you can get in the past, and they very develop society, they are so great church thinkers from Africa around the 1000 period that are not recorder, what about Nubians civilazion that had running water in they houses, Ottaman Empire, Assyrians, Babylonian and Byzantine, evan latest discovery of earlist computer indicate that it was not greeks that did this all on they own, it was babylonians. We are always assumption that we are so smart than the people of the past well that is not true, we might know more information and had made great archievements, but that those makes us more intelligent. evolution is what is driving some of these ideas, to think that some races are smarter than others, please be biblical and present whole truth
Carl Wieland
Henry, It is not possible to publish every pertinent bit of information, and I would have thought that while a) no-one thinks that no other culture achieved anything great, the reality that I think is equally hard to deny is that there was a major discontinuity/leap forward in the development of science and technology exploding out of Western Europe that has no real parallel. There were moves toward it, e.g. Greece, China, and the ones you mention but it was stillborn in those cultures. One of the themes of One Human Family (and it very much agrees with you that evolution is one of the philosophies that reject our Genesis one-ness, including pre-Darwinian notions) is that the reason is not racial/biological as so many in the West assume, but rather cultural--in particular, the explosion in biblical consciousness that followed the Reformation. See for one The biblical roots of modern science and for another, this review of Prof. Stark's book For the Glory of God. To acknowledge the huge advances brought about through the Bible, not biology is the very opposite of an ethnocentric 'Europeans are smarter' approach, I would have thought.
John J.
Thank you for Ron's question and Carl's excellent answer. My only reason for this comment is to say to Carl that I think that Ron's phrase ' throwing sticks at kangaroos' was meant to be humorous; at least it made me smile.
Carl Wieland
A reasonable enough suggestion, John, though you could not know that since being sent the reply published here, Ron privately replied and graciously apologized for that phrase, making no comment about having meant it humorously.
P. G.
Most westerners are under a great delusion today. They think that they have accomplished great things and are highly exalted and have need of nothing. But they have rejected God and because of that he has given them over to great delusions.

Nothing that rejects God or neglects to give him glory should be looked on as admirable. This includes Shakespeare, Homer, etc. And regarding Alexander the Great Pagan and Julius Caesar, there is no historical evidence that either repented and turned to God.

For Christians, who have God's Spirit living within them, western culture which rejected God is worse than worthless - it is an idolatrous worship of the creature more than the creator. Christians do not worship human intelligence or athletic accomplishments or revelings in self of poets and philosophers.

Read the newspapers and magazines and textbooks. Where is the acknowledgement of the majesty and goodness of God who created us?

Rather than trying to find out why the so called black races have different histories of math, music, poetry, and warlords, it would be more useful to consider why westerners worship the works of their own hands.

Whether Wall street tycoon or pygmy in the Congo, neither has accomplished anything that God should be in awe. The duty of man is to worship his creator and but for a few, black and white and red and yellow have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks in rebellion.

The gospel is one of repentance and reconciliation. We should remember that and not attempt to weigh spiritual things on fleshly scales.
Sas E.
Don't forget that Timbuktu was a world centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th century and the clay Mosques still stand to this day
Joseph Allen K.
There are many types of Intelligence: musical, spacial, athletic, quantitative, verbal, interpersonal, political, etc.

We are one RACE but we are many ethnic groups. Different ethnic groups seem to excel in different types of intelligence. I doubt that each ethnic group has exactly the same bell-shaped curve for each type of intelligence.

Likewise, I would think that other parameters (health, physical size, life-expectancy, etc) vary by ethnic group.
Carl Wieland
As indicated in One Human Family, we should not shrink from the data, and some minor variations would not surprise. But to date, this has not been demonstrated, and what you or I might think, or feel or assume must be subject to measurable reality. Indeed such data as are available suggests that the differences are trivial if indeed they exist.

One reason they are hard to measure is that there is so much background 'noise' introduced by the variations in culture. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence against ethnic-racial variations in group outcomes being biological (as opposed to cultural) is the existence of strong differences in such parameters between groups from the same 'racial' group; e.g. French, Germans, Russians.
Ngandu T.
I am an African Christian. I did appreciate the letter from Ron R. and the answer from Carl Wieland. I agree with Carl that the culture plays an important role in our societies. In my culture we were always reminded the way the ancestors did things. New ideas are not promoted. This is the opposite of western culture where people sponsor and promote new ideas. When you think about pyramids in Egypt and South America, you have to recognize that great and intelligent people lived there. Pythagoras himself developed his theorem at the feet of the pyramids in Egypt. This Egypt is recognized as the land of Ham (Psalms 78:51; 105:23,27; 106:21-22). An African anthropologist said that Egypt means "black country", the Bible calls it the land of Ham. Imagine what happened after Pharaoh, his great army, his chariots, his magicians, his gods and all his notables were engulfed by the red sea. It was a national catastrophe. The country was without king, without army. It was its end. The descent of Ham ran en masse to the South, leaving their country and their knowledge behind. When their enemies learned what happened to the great king Pharaoh, they came and took over the land of Ham. Ron has mentioned some names; we can even add more names to his list, but this does not say that every person in western culture is a thinker or a philosopher. What is good in Western culture (in general) is that when one person discovers something he will get support and will be excited to teach others. In my culture such a person will hide himself, because no one will support him. Old people will remind him to follow the way of his ancestors. This way of thinking is changing slowly, though it is still strong in the rural areas.
Paul R.
Just because a culture has left no written record we should not assume that they had no great thinkers. The complexity of some of the languages would suggest otherwise. We know that there are artists and storytellers from these nations. Many of us would not survive long in some of the harsh environments that these people live in. The skill in tracking and bushcraft demonstrates intelligence. How did they develop use of poisons in hunting for example.
Originally at Babel people groups much have had similar levels of technology and knowledge. Some of this would have been lost over the years.Sadly in many cases people left worship of the one true God and turned to stars,animals and spirits and became in thrall to witchcraft etc
Is western culture in danger of going the same way?
Victor B.
A well answered article - I particularly like the point you make - " ... the factors that would allow or limit intellectual development have nothing to do with intelligence". Indeed despite our huge technological advances we are still at a loss at explaining many of the achievements of cultures we consider ancient or primitive. (eg building of pyramids). I also highly recommend "One Human Family" :-)
Chris R.
Many people also have questions about the influence of gender, but are afraid of being labelled as ‘sexist’ for asking these questions.

Strangely many people will advocate getting a "woman's point of view" without realising the concept negates strict intellectual equality.
Brett M.
The high level of Aboriginal intelligence is reflected in the fact that they mastered the harshest environment on the planet. They didn't become settlers simply because they did not have the resources to develop settlements. No beasts of burden, no milk producing animals, no seed-bearing plants etc . . . They had a nomadic culture because they had no other option. And, they were geographically, technologically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world. There was no obesity, no diabetes, no jails, no unemployment, no poverty etc . . . until the Kirrimbullah (whiteman) showed up. Their education system was brilliant in the fact that they could pass on valuable information that ensured survival without pen and paper and their current standing at the bottom of the Australian education system is a reflection of the unbending attitudes of educators and politicans to try something that suits Aborigines. Jesus came to remind us that the culture that pleases God is not the culture that the world prizes. The culture that pleases God is summarised by the Son of God in Matthew 5 -7. In short, "We are to be holy, as God is holy". Germany prided themselves on their technological and cultural achievements and yet their godless belief system "that they were a superior race and they lived in a sea of inferior peoples whom they should overcome" led to the gas chambers for millions. Australians adopted the same Darwinian world-view and thousands of Aborigines were slaughtered and their lands confiscated in the name of an ideology that "might is right". And, those who survive are cemented in poverty because of evolutionary influence in the political and educational discourse. This national stain on the Australian soul was driven by an satanic ideology used to cover their greed.
Peter N.
Great response Carl!

Another factor is that North-South migration and communication covers a wider range of climates and ecologies and can include desert, jungle and snow. That requires a wider range of survival skills and knowledge - hence slowing technology transfer and increasing difficulties for migrating groups.

The same applies for East - West sea travel. Yet despite this, individuals from groups such as the Maori peoples were able to make multiple back and forth journeys from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Hmmm, I also wonder if some of the great European advances were facilitated greatly by the "Medieval Warm Period" relieving the pressure of cold winters and giving a century or more of prosperity. Later the "Little Ice Age" caused social disruptions and invasions - and also gave us the close-grained resonant timber ideal for the Stradivarius violin.
Global Warming: bring it on - but I suspect our actions make negligible difference to the weather.
graham P.
Excellent piece. Try also reading "Gifted Hands" about a black ghetto-boy at the bottom of his class who, with his mother's encouragement and the help of the Holy Spirit, has become the world's best neurosurgeon.
Carl Wieland
Yes, and he is a six-day creationist; we're trying to get an interview with him for Creation magazine. Stay tuned!

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