Book Club Topics
Questions for Book Clubs and Discussion Groups Based on Science in Black and White
  1. Is the concept of race a valid group to use when comparing IQ, or intelligence performance, and other social outcomes in diverse populations? Why or why not?
  2. Why, as some experts caution, do problems arise when comparing mental abilities and social outcomes, in different racial groups?
  3. If race is not a valid category for distinguishing between biological populations, then what is? What are the advantages and limitations of alternative classifications based on genetic ancestry or ethnicity?
  4. Discuss the differences and similarities between concepts such as racial bias, ethnocentrism, racism, racialism, and race-realism.
  5. What is nature versus nurture? Why is it such a controversial topic when talking about different ethnic groups, racial groups, or groups based on shared genetic ancestry?
  6. How are the traditional views of nature versus nurture related to ideas about racial differences, in general, and racial differences between blacks and other populations, such as European whites and people of Northeast Asian descent, in particular?
  7. What is “racial science”?
  8. Does all scientific research that focuses on biological differences across racial groups or genetic ancestry groups meet the criteria of racial science? Why or why not?
  9. What differentiates racial science from race-neutral research, which, according to many conventional experts, is fair game to pursue.
  10. What are some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of comparing both biological and social traits in diverse ethnic populations or racial groups?
  11. How are racial science and white supremacy intertwined?
  12. Is research on “race” and intelligence, “race,” and IQ, or “race” and social behaviors a legitimate topic for researchers, including biologists, psychologists, and social scientists, to probe? Why or why not?
  13. What does recent research reveal, or not reveal, about possible racial or ethnic population differences in genetics linked with IQ and other indicators of cognitive performance?
  14. Why do some experts use the term “intelligence performance” rather than “intelligence” when assessing the cognitive skills of individuals, populations, or other groups?
  15. List three categories of data from purportedly scientific studies that racial scientists (and race realists) often cite to support their claims about racial or population differences in intelligence, social behaviors, and societal achievement.
  16. Discuss whether or not these findings hold up in the face of counter-evidence presented by other scientists and researchers from a wide range of fields.
  17. What does recent research tell us, or not tell us, about potentially racially or ethnically linked differences in the frequency (or prevalence) of certain genes linked with social behaviors such as violent crime?
  18. What is the warrior gene? What are the implications of one particular form, or variant, of the warrior gene in terms of increasing a person’s risk for violent crime?
  19. Describe three lines of research that have been used in attempts to prove that certain racial groups or ethnic populations have innate tendencies toward antisocial behaviors such as aggression and violence. Is any of this research considered mainstream? Why or why not?
  20. Researchers from diverse disciplines, such as genetics, neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and sociology, traditionally have conducted separate studies on a wide range of health issues facing marginalized and underserved populations. Describe some of the potential benefits as well as risks of collaborative, cross-disciplinary investigations designed to help solve health crises affecting people of color, including blacks.
  21. Experts currently use a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to address the escalating physical and mental health problems of disenfranchised populations, both within and outside the United States. Cite examples of recent, innovative interdisciplinary studies that incorporate research methods of both nature and nurture in order to explain social outcomes, such as cognitive performance, educational attainment, or encounters with law enforcement.
  22. Are these approaches useful for explaining ethnic and racial disparities in life outcomes? Why or why not?
  23. Do the answers depend on how much a research study is slanted toward a pro-nature perspective or a pro-nurture perspective?
  24. Do the answers depend on the type of nature—the types of biological traits analyzed in the study—or on the type of nurture—the various environmental influences evaluated in the study?
  25. Is environment the same as nurture, or does nurture encompass more than multiple physical and social aspects of the environment?
  26. Both pro-nature and pro-nurture experts agree that social behaviors, inducing intelligence performance, or IQ, is shaped by interactions between biology, on the one hand, and environment and experience, on the other hand. Is there a one-size fits all formula for determining how much of an impact biology has and how much of an impact environment has on this interaction? Or can biology play a larger role in some cases and environment a bigger impact in other cases?
  27. Until recently, what aspects of biology versus environment have been ignored in most studies on nature versus nature?
  28. Today, there is heightened awareness that the massive social adversities of African Americans cannot be rectified until institutionalized and systemic racism, ethnic discrimination, and related bias are eradicated through new legislation and policies. As leaders and experts seek new solutions, is there a role for biological research in solving complex social problems that are sometimes intergenerational?
  29. What are some examples of biological correlates or biological underpinnings that reportedly contribute to social behaviors?
  30. What is meant by nature, especially when referring to the influence of nature on human social behavior? Is it limited to genes, or can it also include other biological factors? If so, name some of the other possible biological phenomena that may be part of “nature.” Briefly describe these phenomena.
  31. Discuss how new discoveries in epigenetics have transformed, or will likely soon transform, the nature versus nurture debate over the racial and ethnic gap in social outcomes.
  32. Describe how the interplay between genes, environment, and nongenetic biological phenomena (such as epigenetics) affects both physical and mental health. What impact does an individual’s health, a community’s general health, or a population’s overall health have on the ability to reach goals in life?
  33. What are the potential risks and dangers of incorporating biology and medicine—for example, findings on genetics, the brain, hormones, physiology—into research aimed at finding solutions for major societal problems, such as poverty, stress, trauma, unemployment, poor housing, limited health access, and entry into the criminal justice system, that impact marginalized populations of color in the Untied States? What, if any, are the potential advantages and benefits?
  34. Has epigenetics become, as some critics complain, a new veiled form of biological determinism? Or does it authentically represent a novel concept of nature that is flexible, dynamic, and conditioned largely by environment rather than inherently fixed, rigid, and unchangeable?
  35. What impact, if any, is knowledge of epigenetics, gene expression, and plasticity, for example, having on racial scientists in their incessant quest to find a biological basis for alleged race-based superiority and inferiority?
  36. What impact, if any, is a deepened understanding of epigenetics, gene expression, and plasticity having on social, medical, and biosocial strategies intended to re-engineer to the life outcomes of people from historically underserved and often traumatized communities?
  37. Some researchers are evaluating the effects of specialized classroom learning techniques on both brain activity and academic achievement in low-income children. What do their findings suggest about the possible merit of environmental interventions for improving scholastic performance and for potentially enhancing educational attainment in school aged children, regardless of the students’ genetic ancestry or ethnicity?
  38. Can scientific research comparing correlations between biological and social traits in different populations be conducted objectively, or is it doomed for condemnation as biased from the start? If not, what are some of the assumptions and hypotheses that researchers could adopt to avoid partiality that might skew their findings and slant the way they interpret those findings?
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