No, It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That
Satoshi Kanazawa, Interdisciplinary Institute of Management, LSE
Evolutionary Psychology (2006) 4:120-128. human-nature.com/ep
And they certainly cannot think outside the box. Miller is correct to point out that East Asians have slightly higher mean IQs than Europeans (Lynn and Vanhanen, 2002). However, East Asians have not been able to make creative use of their intelligence. While they are very good at absorbing existing knowledge via rote memory (hence their high standardized test scores in math and science) or adapt or modify existing technology (hence their engineering achievements), they have not been able to make original contributions to basic science.
Table 1 presents revealing statistics from the entire history of Nobel prizes (1901-2005). The first set of five nations in Table 1 have produced the largest number of Nobel Prizewinners (USA – 155; Germany – 91; UK – 67; France – 38; Switzerland – 24). They are all Euro-American nations. The second set of nations are the nine Asian nations which have ever produced any Nobel laureate (Japan – 12; India – 7; China – 5; Taiwan – 2; South Korea – 1; Bangladesh – 1; Pakistan – 1; Myanmar – 1; Vietnam – 1). The last two nations have produced only Nobel peace laureates. These numbers are listed in Column (1).
Nobel laureates by country: http://www.answers.com/topic/nobel-laureates-by-country
Population: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/socind/population.htm, http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/popclockworld.html, http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbsum.html
Column (2) shows the relative representation of Nobel prizewinners from each nation out of the total 776 laureates. Column (3) shows each nation’s population as of mid-2005, and Column (4) shows the relative representation of each nation’s population in the world out of the 6.451 billion. So, for example, the United States has produced 20% of Nobel Prizewinners while its share of the world population is less than 5%. Column (5) shows the relative representation of Nobel prizewinners standardized for population. Any number greater than 1.000 signifies overrepresentation; any number less than 1.000 signifies underrepresentation.
The contrast between the five Euro-American nations and the nine Asian nations cannot be starker. The first four Euro-American nations are overrepresented among the Nobel laureates by a factor of 5 to 10; Switzerland is overrepresented by a factor of 28! In sharp contrast, all Asian nations are underrepresented among the Nobel laureates. Japan, for example, has been a major geopolitical and economic power for most of the 20th century (Small and Singer, 1982). Yet it has produced only 12 Nobel laureates, the same number as Austria, which has one-sixteenth of Japan’s population.
This problem has long been known to East Asian specialists as the “creativity problem” (Eberts and Eberts, 1995, pp. 123-127; Taylor, 1983, pp. 92-123; van Wolferen, 1989, pp. 89-90). Some argue that the ideographic Asian languages curb abstract thinking and creativity among Asians (Hannas, 2003). Others point out that Asian cultures, religions, and educational systems devalue and discourage logical thinking (Eberts and Eberts, 1995, pp. 120-123; van Wolferen, 1989, pp. 236-244). Whatever the reason, it is evident from Table 1 that some combinations of cultural, social, and institutional factors combine to stifle basic science in Asia.
The message of Table 1 is clear: Science is not democracy; it is inherently elitist. A nation does not dominate science by having a large number of people but by having good ideas. And there appears to be a dearth of good, original, scientific ideas in Asia in the last century. If Leda Cosmides were born Japanese, she with her high intelligence would have made an excellent product engineer for Sony and contributed to making the robot dog Aibo look and behave even more like a real dog. But it would have never occurred to her that the human brain might be composed of distinct modules, let alone to modify an obscure logic test to uncover the existence of one such module. That requires massive creativity, which Asians lack.
As the most populous nation on earth, People’s Republic of China (PRC) figures prominently into Miller’s vision of the Asian future of evolutionary psychology. While Miller emphasizes recent economic achievements of PRC, however, he conveniently neglects the political reality of communist China. Miller is correct to point out that, due to its higher average intelligence and the largest population, there are millions of bright young students in PRC, but for political reasons we are not likely ever to meet them.
The communist government of PRC has a policy of not letting their brightest students leave the country for fear of the brain drain and of forcing them to study home at Chinese universities. Then it sends the second-rate students to American universities and the third-rate students to British universities, both with falsified transcripts and exam results to make them look first-rate. Here at LSE where I teach, we receive a large number of these third-rate Chinese students dressed up as first-rate. (About 5-10% of all undergraduate and graduate students at LSE are from PRC.) Virtually every Chinese applicant to LSE boasts “the highest exam scores in their province.” Apparently it has not occurred to the LSE admissions office that there could not possibly be that many provinces in China. Naturally, most of these PRC students do very poorly and fail out of the program, and, when they do, many confess to having purchased or otherwise fabricated their exam scores and transcripts before they applied for LSE.
Yes, there are millions of bright Chinese students in PRC, but we are not likely to meet them anytime soon until or unless the political reality of PRC changes or otherwise the communist government ceases its policy of sending second- and third-rate students to the US and UK.
Part of the reason why Asians cannot think for themselves and make original and creative contributions to science is because they are too conformist. One of the factors that Miller identifies as a possible obstacle to the Asian future of evolutionary psychology (“academic conservatism”) is actually fatal. Scientific revolutions happen by challenging the established paradigms. No conformists have ever brought about a scientific revolution.
Once again, at LSE, we have an enormous problem of plagiarism among our Asian students. Despite the fact that each student, Asian or otherwise, must sign a declaration that their work is original and they have not plagiarized, many Asian students simply copy the work of established scholars. To them it is a venerable act of honoring their masters to “borrow” from them, by copying their words verbatim. No matter how much we tell them that it is wrong, Asian students simply cannot understand why it is wrong to honor their intellectual masters by faithfully reproducing their work. Needless to say, this is no recipe for scientific progress.
Our enemies are not fundamentalist Christians; they are instead our university colleagues in Women’s and Cultural Studies Departments. Our true obstacle is not the Christian fundamentalism in the wheat fields of Kansas; it is the political correctness in the ivy-covered buildings on our own campuses. The feminists and social constructionists, all of whom have Ph.D.s and no problems with the theory of evolution by natural selection (as long as it is not applied to the human brain), are in a position to do far greater damage to our science than the Christian fundamentalists. Really, what can Christian fundamentalists do to us? Refuse to pump our gas? Spit in our Big Mac? In contrast, our politically correct feminist and social constructionist colleagues control our recruitment, tenure, and promotion processes, and influence our research funding. If anything can interfere with the future of evolutionary psychology in the United States and Europe, it is the cultural insanity of political correctness. That is the true enemy that we must fight.