The Man Who Divided Germany: Why Sarrazin's Integration Demagoguery Has Many Followers
Part 4: The Genetic Argument
What Sarrazin fails to mention is that these numbers only apply to the first generation of Turkish immigrants. According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), 8.9 percent of second-generation men with Turkish backgrounds marry German women, a percentage that increases in future generations.
To stir up anxiety over Muslim immigrants, Sarrazin also discusses congenital diseases in his book. On page 316, he writes: "Entire clans have a long tradition of inbreeding and a correspondingly high rate of disability. It is known that the percentage of congenital disabilities among Turkish and Kurdish immigrants is well above average. But the subject is usually hushed up. Perish the thought that genetic factors could be partially responsible for the failure of parts of the Turkish populations in the German school system."
The probability of serious hereditary diseases among the children of marriages within extended families increases to 8 percent when they are the product of unions between cousins. The risk is 4 percent in marriages between unrelated partners. However, the absolute prevalence of ailments is low, as evidenced by the example of phenylketonuria, a disease in which a specific amino acid is not properly metabolized. In Turkey, one in 2,500 people is born with the disease, whereas the ratio among ethnic Germans is 1:10,000.
The Jewish Gene
Sarrazin's attempt to cite these cases as examples of "hereditary factors" that supposedly lead to poor performance among ethnic Turkish students is bizarre. "It's nonsense," says Bernhard Hortshemke of the Institute of Human Genetics at the University Hospital of Essen in western Germany. "One cannot use cases of extremely rare hereditary diseases to draw conclusions regarding the intelligence of an entire group."
Sarrazin's comments in an interview with the national Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag illustrate his propensity to assume that there are relevant genetic differences among ethnic groups: "All Jews share a certain gene, all Basques have certain genes that make them different from other people." This statement is scientifically untenable, because the genetic makeup of all human beings is based on an original population of about 10,000 individuals. "All human genes already existed in this population, and these genes are found in all of today's ethnic groups," says Diethard Tautz, president of the German Life Sciences Association (VBIO).
For this reason, all human beings share the genes -- presumably hundreds, if not thousands -- that are responsible for cognitive abilities. "This is why it can be assumed," says Tautz, "that every ethnic group has fundamentally the same genetic potential for intelligence."
Sarrazin's assessment of the genetic differences among ethnic groups is incorrect, as is his main thesis on intelligence. "Fifty to 80 percent of human intelligence is hereditary," he writes, suggesting that it is illusory to believe that intellectual stimulation can significantly alter cognitive abilities.
By No Means Born Stupid
But this statement makes no scientific sense, because conclusions on heredity do not relate to the intelligence of an individual but to differences in intelligence among individuals. When children in upper socioeconomic groups are tested, genes are responsible for about 50 percent of differences in intelligence. The situation changes considerably when children from lower socioeconomic groups are tested: Differences in IQ levels are almost completely attributable to socioeconomic factors, whereas there is virtually no measurable genetic effect. This finding, which Sarrazin neglects to mention, shows that genetic potential is suppressed by family conditions informed by poverty and stress. In other words, the weaker of these children are by no means born stupid. In fact, they are precisely the ones who would stand to benefit more from support programs.
Klaus Bade, a leading German expert in the field of migration studies, actually paints a rather upbeat picture of the overall situation. The process of integration has "by no means failed," he says. "A rational analysis shows us that the situation is significantly better than the way it is portrayed in the public debate," he argues. "In fact, in many empirically measurable areas, it is quite satisfactory or even highly successful."
In short, Sarrazin's book is unconvincing, and yet it has managed to convince many people. That fact has now become a problem for Germany's two main political parties, the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Listening to the Voice of the People
When SPD party leaders met on Monday of last week, it didn't take them long to decide that Sarrazin should be expelled from the party. But even throwing him out could prove to be a headache for the Social Democrats.
By Friday afternoon, the party headquarters had received nearly 4,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls about the issue, according to officials at SPD headquarters in Berlin. Party members and non-members alike had expressed outrage at the way Sarrazin was being treated.
"It's about time that you listened to the voice of the people," urged one writer. "If far more than 80 percent of Germans agree with the arguments presented by Mr. Sarrazin, but the politicians reject them, then either you are acting against the will of the people or you feel that they are immature and deranged." In another e-mail, someone wrote: "If you just regularly watch the TV show "Aktenzeichen XY … ungelöst" (a German show similar to Britain's "Crimewatch" or "America's Most Wanted"), you can't deny that in the majority of the cases foreigners are somehow involved in the crimes depicted." The "Turks living among us" in many cases "do not adhere to German law" and do not shy away from "killing young women or 'disfiguring' them so that they are no longer 'women' (female circumcision)."
The party leadership felt compelled to react to the mood among the rank and file. In an e-mail to party members, SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles wrote that the expulsion proceedings are "not a rejection of an intensive debate on integration policies in our country." Rather it is also necessary "to address and tackle uncomfortable truths." One of these is that "there are at times significant educational and linguistic deficits" among young immigrants.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2010
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH
Begin quote gallery: Click on the arrow