Clarence Thomas and Richard Posner hand victories to the internet

By J. DeVoy

In his remarks at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law earlier this week, Clarence Thomas used a term those who read legal blogs and message boards know well: TTT. (Beginning at the 40:00 mark.)

Thomas kind of botched the acronym, saying “third tier trash,” instead of the more commonly accepted third tier toilet.  Still, a win is a win.  I’ll be charitable and attribute it to his infrequent speaking, rather than a misunderstanding of the acronym.

In other internet-related news from the judiciary, Richard Posner once again flirts with human bio-diversity and the idea of genetically determined IQ in a book review he wrote for The National Review.  Generally a social taboo, a vibrant online community has sprung up to hyper-analyze existing IQ research, make projections upon it, and discuss the relationship between genes and outcomes.  From the article:

 Not that there aren’t genetic differences between groups. IQ has a genetic component and varies systematically across groups. The average Jewish and East Asian IQ is higher than the average non-Jewish white IQ, and part at least of the difference may well be genetic. 

To those who follow such things, however, this is hardly news.  As far back as 2007, Posner expressed a belief in the genetic component of human behavior, or at least the need to investigate it, in his blog:

It is important though highly controversial to explore the genetic causes of differences in human achievement or behavior in order to avoid an inaccurate sense of how much discrimination is responsible for differences across races, genders, etc., in behavior and achievement. For example, the female crime rate is grossly lower than the male crime rate. Is it plausible that the difference is wholly unrelated to genetic differences between men and women?

This is a far cry from the genetic determinism promoted by the research at GNXP, but acknowledging the possibility of genetic relationships to IQ and traits correlated to success is risky business.  James Watson, the discoverer of DNA, had his life’s legacy snuffed out for acknowledging such a relationship; Larry Summers, who seems to have landed on his feet in the Obama administration, was forced out of Harvard for insinuating that there were genetic reasons why men are over-represented in hard science and math careers.

2 Responses to Clarence Thomas and Richard Posner hand victories to the internet

  1. The problem with statements like this is not that they don’t contain a grain of truth, but that they inflate the role of genetics in determining behavior (which is what intelligence is.) Disparities at birth often do not predict accomplishments in later life. That makes the genetic component useless in all but the more extreme examples.

  2. […] without exceptions.  Supreme Court clerkship hiring is more egalitarian than one might expect, as Thomas has had to defend his hiring from “TTT’s” and even my alma mater, a lowly school from the perspective of Supreme Court clerkship placement, […]

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