A new book by Hornsey author, journalist and Birbeck media studies lecturer Gavin Evans is aiming to debunk the idea that white and Asian people are innately smarter than black people.

Black Brain White Brain: Is Intelligence Skin Deep? took two years to write and is partly inspired by his experiences of growing up in South Africa where he fought against apartheid.

The Marylebone-born writer moved to Haringey 22 years ago and regularly writes for the The Independent in the UK and The Mail & Guardian in South Africa. 

What was your involvement in the anti-apartheid movement?

I was a member of the underground of the African National Congress for ten years, and served on the Transvaal executive committee of the Operation Vula campaign. I was also involved with the End Conscription Campaign.

What inspired the book?

It angered me that there was a new wave of racist science getting undue and often largely uncritical publicity. I began to explore the arguments and saw that they were based on bad science (or a poor understanding of science). This needed to be exposed.

What did your research include?

I started with reading the work of race science proponents – people like Satoshi Kanazawa, Richard Lynn, Charles Murray, Nicholas Wade and many others – and then went back to the basics and did extensive secondary research into four areas: archaeology, evolutionary theory, genetics and IQ theory, reading scores of academic papers and books while picking the brains of friends and academic colleagues who were experts in these areas – evolutionary biology, genetics, neurology and psychiatry.

How does it make you feel when people say intelligence is linked to race and certain races are less intelligent?

It pisses me off! Such claims are based on false scientific premises and, aside from the bad science, they are dangerous. Whenever it is claimed that one group (such as, say, Asians or Ashkenazi Jews) are innately more intelligent than average, the corollary is always that there are groups who are innately less intelligent. What I show in my book that this view is wrong, and that it is deeply racist.

 Why is it important to rate people’s intelligence?

I don’t think it is, partly because I don’t believe you can measure intelligence in terms of a single number. There are many mental assets that we include in the term ‘intelligence’ that are not covered by IQ tests (emotional intelligence, wisdom, artistic intelligence, practical intelligence and so-on) and I don’t believe IQ tests measure intelligence. What they measure is the ability to cope with a certain form of abstract logic. Genes play some role in this ability, but environmental factors are clearly more significant.

Does a higher IQ make you happier?

Possibly, but it also be that happiness is a factor in higher IQs. It has been found that poverty, stress, chaotic upbringings and poor diet have a direct role in diminishing IQ. Which is why middle class people, on average, have higher IQs than working class people (it is not that they are genetically superior; it’s just that they are exposed to more IQ-boosting experiences, particularly regarding abstraction and the scientific way of viewing the world. 

What do you hope to achieve from the book?

I hope to puncture the latest bubble of racist science, and, in the longer terms, I would like the book to be a reference to be used against future race science claims.

Do you have any more in the pipeline?

Yes. My next book has the working title of Mapreaders and Multi-taskers and it will be the twin of Black Brain, White Brain. It will show that Mars and Venus versions of the differences between male and female are wrong (again, based on bad science) and that, in fact, men and women are far more similar in the ways their minds work than is generally acknowledged. 

Black Brain White Brain by Gavin Evans is published by Thistle Publishing