Archive for the ‘IQ’ Category

You Can’t Say That!

One of the worst things about our era is that our universities, which are supposed to stand apart from the conformist pressures of a democratic society and pursue the truth boldly, are filled with politically correct followers, whose critical thinking skills are defective.  Most professors, pundits, and other opinion makers run away from the truth on the basis of the most sentimental myths about human beings. 

Brave New World Watch had a nice link to an old Willmore Kendall piece where he recognized this tendency 50 years ago:

We stand constantly in the presence these days of a mode of argument that runs as follows: Proposition X, or Propositions X and Y, or Propositions X, Y, and Z, if valid, would force certain conclusions that are intolerable. The propositions in question are, therefore, not valid. And the view of reality that has tended to make them seem plausible, or attractive, or unavoidable, must be a false view of reality. The task, therefore, becomes that of substituting for the false view of reality another view of reality which will yield up propositions whose validity we are entitled to take for granted because it does not lead to the conclusions declared intolerable. Nor do we require any criterion by which to evaluate this other view of reality than just that: we embrace it, and all the tacit premises and clear implications that go with it, because it assures us a means of escaping the intolerable.

This is another illustration of an important truth about beliefs:  ordinary people are more attached to their conclusions than their supposed first principles.  They will readily change the latter rather than risk the former.  But the politically correct conclusions of our age–denying the reality of IQ  or the tyrannical implications of Islam–are supported by the most transparent, results-oriented, and unconvicing apologies in the academy.  We do live in a decadent time.

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The New York Times has resurrected the old post-Vietnam War canard that returning veterans are unusually disturbed, crazy, and likely violent.  It found 121 homicides committed by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans over a period of six years.  The good folks at Powerline show that if this exhaustive review unearthed all of the veterans’ homicides during that time frame, then the veterans’ murder rate was significantly lower than the general population’s.

This is not surprising.  Bill Burkett found the same results in a study of Vietnam Veterans in his excellent book, Stolen Valor.  It’s also not surprising that veterans (even with the burdens of PTSD) have lower rates of violence because crime of all kinds tends to be a low IQ man’s game, and the military screens out folks in the bottom two quintiles of IQ through the ASVAB.  In other words, the military is filled with people with 95 and higher IQs, while out here in the real world 20-30% of people are running around with sub-90 IQs, and the criminal population is dumber still.  This lack of brainpower matters because things like deferred gratification, self control, and violence are correlated with intelligence.  

The fact that none of the Times’ reporters chose to compare background murder rates demonstrates that innumeracy of all forms prevents an intelligent appraisal of reality, whether the issue is crime, AIDS, immigration, the economy, or seemingly unrelated matters like civil liberties.  Or, worse yet, they knew the real facts and suppressed them because they did not fit the script. 

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There is often serious lamentation by well-meaning people about the persistent gap on achievement tests by different racial cohorts. This phenomenon drives affirmative action efforts, and, in what I consider a worse policy, sometimes leads to the complete re-writing of standards so that they are amorphous, but also less predictive of good performance. So one sad consequence of the refusal to accept an achievement gap is the erasure of the useful information revealed by those same tests and their associated gaps.

John Derbyshire writes:

In fact, the differences can be eliminated. There are two ways to eliminate them. One, you make the test so easy that everyone passes with 100-percent score. Race gap eliminated! Or two, you make the test so hard that everyone scores zero. Race gap eliminated! This is not a trivial observation. Somewhere between infinitely-easy and infinitely-hard there is a point — a point of test difficulty — where the race gap is at maximum. If you now adjust the difficulty of your tests in either direction away from this maximum point, a tad easier or a tad harder, the gap diminishes. That’s what “maximum” means. You’ve diminished the gap! Do you think state education bureaucrats have not yet figured out this simple little nugget of elementary calculus? Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

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Nobel-prize-winning genetics professor James Watson–as in Watson and Crick–speaks out about IQ and genetics and the like in a measured, scientific way.

Professor promptly gets suspended from job, viz.:

Earlier this evening, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Board of Trustees decided to suspend the administrative responsibilities of Chancellor James D. Watson, Ph.D., pending further deliberation by the Board.

This action follows the Board’s public statement yesterday disagreeing with the comments attributed to Dr. Watson in the October 14, 2007 edition of The Sunday Times U.K.

I watched The Lives of Others with interest recently. It told the story of how an East German Stasi officer, whose job consisted in part of listening to the bugged apartment of a famous artist, realized the venality of this invasion in the name of state security. Like the often anonymous posters on Gene Expression and other websites, the artist simply wanted to tell a story that was embarrassing to the official partly line, in this case the rampant suicide rate in the workers “paradise.”

Amazingly, today’s politically correct commissars are little better. But being decentralized, and often having power only in the business and academic world, we continue to think we’re free. After all, these commissars–HR “professionals,” university deans, tenure committees, newspaper editors–can’t throw anyone in jail, at least not in the United States. But when a wide range of thoughts, beliefs, and sentiments will quickly lead one to a life of penury and scorn if expressed openly, then clearly a type of power and social control is being exercised. When the media and local government collude to hide certain unpleasant facts from view and promulgate myths instead, then insecurity on the part of certain cultural and other authorities exists about the truth. From blogs to books to magazine subscriptions, club memberships, and opinions, all must be hidden from the “powers that be” as cleverly as opinions were once hidden in communist countries or terrible consequences will follow. We sometimes forget that communist regimes exercised most of their control not through threats but through the ability to keep a “subversive” from going to university, buying a car, or getting a decent job.

What a conceit to call modern America a free country. A free country needs a free thinking culture, and the fact that political correctness is now invading the once-immune hard sciences is a very bad sign indeed.

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I recently completed Diversity: Invention of a Concept, by Peter Wood. This is the first of several book reviews I’ll be writing of books generously sent to me by my readers.

Diversity has become one of the defining ideals of our age, surpassing in certain respects our earlier commitments to formal equality, liberty, the rule of law, and merit. The diversity concept, unlike more exotic ideas such as multiculturalism, is important because it has spread outside the academy into the world of business and politics. Every mainstream institution from Hollywood and the art world to the education establishment and business trumpets its commitment to diversity. Yet diversity has undergone little criticism. Unlike affirmative action, which was earlier justified as a form of reparations for white injustice to blacks, diversity is a “feel good” idea that purports to benefit everyone, even members of the majority. Minorities advantaged by affirmative action obviously benefit by receiving positions and admissions they would otherwise not receive. But privileged groups also benefit according to diversity’s partisans because they are now exposed beneficially to different perspectives, ideas, and cultures.

Earlier works such as Dinesh D’Souza’s End of Racism (1995) and Alan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (1987) dealt with narrower issues: the continuing social problems facing black Americans and the decline of standards in the academy respectively. Both of these works were authored in an age when diversity was less accepted as an aspirational ideal than it is at present. Wood’s contribution is unique. . . .


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The good folks at Gene Expression eviscerate David Brooks’ recently proffered (and facile) argument that IQ is not that important any more. He should tell that to the ambitious young kids trying to get into Harvard and pass their Calculus B exams. Alternately, he should have this conversation with the cashier at his local Piggly Wiggly . . . if that fine establishment meets his BoBo criteria, that is. Seriously: IQ matters, it predicts many outcomes, it is increasingly sorting people out by occupation, and its study has been conducted with a great deal of rigor. Consider this passage from Alex B. at GnXp:

IQ (at least as derived from a Full Scale score) has been, and still is, very reliable for most age groups and subpopulations, no matter how you measure reliability. For example, the Woodcock-Johnson, one of the more theoretically sound measures of cognitive ability, reports in their new normative update that the coefficient alpha values (which are a lower bound of reliability) above .90 for all ages ranging from 3 to over 80. Given that the maximum value alpha can take is 1 (under almost all circumstances), this is pretty good evidence. If you look at the technical manual for the Wechsler, Stanford-Binet, or Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, you’ll find very similar values (I refer to these only because their norms span a very large age group, and the full scale score is derived from multiple subtests). I challenge Mr. Brooks to find a more reliably-measured psychological construct in psychology, nay, in the social sciences.

These serious and dispassionate scholars often must conduct their work in secret, e.g., the brilliant anonymous statistician, La Griffe du Lion. It is telling because we imagine ourselves to be a free society, but we react with horror and ostracism whenever our important myths are challenged. This confinement of thought, unfortunately, has infected the academy. Though we are legally free to write and think and speak as we wish, employment and other pressures radically restrain free thought and free expression when such expression threatens the dominant ideology of equality, tabula rasa, and multiculturalism. Worse, group-think in the media and publishing industries prevents entire books and ideas from being widely disseminated. Just ask Larry Summers or Solzhenitsyn.

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