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Saturday, November 26, 2016


The extent to which IQ has simply disappeared from public discourse has been amazing. It's not even mentioned in the context of noting how those horrible racists think there's a genetic difference between the races when it comes to intelligence.

It has simply disappeared.

It's almost as if the Left realizes that they've lost the nature/nurture argument, so feel it's best to just not bring up the subject.

Forty years ago the nature-nurture controversy was still a hot topic: are differences in intelligence genetic in origin, or more due to the environment? Even though political correctness had not set in during the 1970's the way it has now, the battle lines -- and arguments used -- were strikingly similar to what they are now.

On the Left were arrayed such luminaries as Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould, who would invariably try to turn what should have been a scientific argument into a moral one, and would invoke America's long history of slavery and discrimination to back up their arguments.

Gould tried to draw a parallel between geneticists and the old time phrenologists. And those on the Left would frequently try to tar their opponents by associating them with the KKK, or by saying that Hitler held similar views (sound familiar?)

On the right were the men widely regarded as heretics: Richard Herrnstein, William Shockley, and Arthur Jensen. All three were widely reviled by student activists at the time. But all stubbornly stuck to their view, knowing they had the facts on their side, even if those facts were unwelcome.

As the evidence accumulated, eventually it became plain that intelligence is largely genetic in origin. All the studies comparing IQ differences between adoptive siblings and biological siblings, or between separated identical twins and regular siblings raised together, pointed in the same direction. And every sophisticated mathematical analysis applied to studies of IQ pointed toward regression to a different mean for each race.

Environment obviously can play a role: if a child is starved as a youngster, or kept in a closet his entire life, that will obviously have a strong negative effect. But, by and large, differences in IQ are due to genes.

Herrnstein, Jensen, and Shockley all acknowledged that environment does play a role; however, those in the nurture camp refused to concede any role to genetic differences.

In 1994, Herrnstein and coauthor Charles Murray briefly reawakened the controversy with The Bell Curve, an 845 page book of which three pages were devoted to racial differences in IQ. Herrnstein and Murray were of course roundly denounced for their heresy; soon after the issue went back to sleep. (Come to think of it, you rarely hear the phrase "bell curve" these days, either.)

But after decades of affirmative action, Head Start, disparate impact lawsuits, countless movies and TV shows featuring wise blacks and foolish Anglos, and even a black President, all those racial differences stubbornly persist. The SATs, ACTs, LSATs, GMATs, MCATs, PISA scores, the various Regents exams, the Army's ASVAB test, and the various other civil service exams, all show the same rank order of finish.

All of which combine to make clear that your IQ is as genetic as the features on your face.

So, IQ never gets mentioned anymore. Because once you take it into account, the whole edifice of liberal thought comes tumbling down. Once a realistic look at IQ enters the picture, all the talk of how our schools and teachers are failing us looks misguided. All the talk of racism as the explanation for the differences in accomplishment, all the talk of white privilege, all the talk of disparate impact, just look sort of....silly.

As silly as saying that the only reason the men's weight-lifting records are better than the women's is because of sexism.

As silly as suggesting that the only reason 64 out of the last 64 finalists in the men's 100 meter dash at the Olympics have been black is because they had better coaching.

Ignore differences in natural ability, and you're left with a lot of inexplicable patterns and correlations.

And the most striking thing about all this is how obvious it is -- which is why you never hear IQ mentioned much anymore.


Steven said...

I think that the best analogy for IQ is height.

Nobody disputes that genetics has a lot to do with height. Tall parents tend to have tall kids; short parents tend to have short kids. There are really tall and really short people who are brought up in the same environment. In 1700, people were several inches shorter on average due to poor environment, but the ones who are above average today would have been above average then too. Moreover, if a baby didn't eat anything, he or she wouldn't grow at all.

So obviously environmental input is all important in its own way and it makes a significant difference to the average height of a society, but genetics explains *most of the variation* in any given environment. Talking about height instead of intelligence makes it easy to intuitively grasp the principles involved.

Secondly, people can observe that height differs between populations on average and most people wouldn't have much trouble accepting this is for genetic reasons, or at least its a distinct possibility. Well IQ is a very similar trait to height. Its is equally heritable; its also like height influenced by a very large number of gene variants. If height can differ between populations for genetic reasons, then IQ can too.

This is true even if you don't think there is any such thing as race for whatever reason. There are still different national and continental populations and there is still every chance the frequency of genes relating to height or intelligence can differ between them.

Good article.

John Craig said...

Thank you Steven.

I've heard that the correlation between a father's and son's height is only .15, which is positive but relatively weak. (Obviously, the mother's height must factor in there too, so genetics accounts for more than 15% of variance.) I've also heard that the correlation between a mother's IQ and the child's IQ is as high at .45, which is a much stronger correlation. (And that, too, doesn't take the other parent's genetic contribution into account.)

Just instinctively, I'd think that height is much more directly a function of nutrition than the brain is: when someone doesn't get enough to eat, the nutrition that does get absorbed would be more productively used going to the organs absolutely necessary for survival than to, say, creating bigger biceps.

You're right, the question of genetic differences between people doesn't have to be viewed strictly as a matter of race, though that's what always gets the attention in this country. There is obviously plenty of variability within races, too.

Steven said...

"For example, Peter M. Visscher of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia recently reported that the heritability of height is 80 percent, based on 3,375 pairs of Australian twins and siblings. This estimate is considered to be unbiased, as it was based on a large population of twins and siblings and a broad survey of genetic markers. In the U.S., the heritability of height was estimated as 80 percent for white men. These estimates are well supported by another study of 8,798 pairs of Finnish twins, in which the heritability was 78 percent for men and 75 percent for women. Other studies have shown height heritability among whites to be even higher than 80 percent."

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you, I stand corrected. I do remember having heard that .15 correlation statistic somewhere, though I couldn't tell you where. But yes, this study indicates a much stronger correlation.

Steven said...

It would make sense for a weak correlation between mothers and sons as they are different sexes. What about father's and sons?

So look at the height differences between north and south Koreans- same genetic population- and you can see how much environment influences height. Same could be true of IQ.

No doubt the African IQ is depressed due to poor environment.

So the question then is do white and black people in America occupy different environments despite being in the same country. Maybe, right? But then you look at upper middle class black kids regressing to a lower mean than upper middle class white kids, the IQ gap
becoming widest in early adulthood when habitability reaches its greatest, brain size differences, adoption studies.

Its still a debate but I think the strongest evidence is on the genetic side. But I'm no expert.

Steven said...

btw your intuition about the difference between height and intelligence might have something to it. Chuck, who used to have a blog called occidentalist and now blogs at human varieties, he suggested to me that intelligence is 'biologically deep' and the Flynn effect doesn't represent true gains in intelligence but are to do with more superficial factors that affect how perform on the test. I can't remember the exact point but that was the gist.

John Craig said...

Steven --
There are also studies of black children who were adopted into white families, and they point in the same direction. And there are plenty of examples of blacks who were born into relatively poor families but who turned out to be incredible athletes (even if not so bright). If poor nutrition is used to account for their sub-par (by white standards) IQs, then why did it not affect their physiques?

And yes, black children, no matter how smart the parents, regress toward a mean of 85, whereas white children, no matter how smart the parents, regress toward a mean of 100. So, yeah, it's all pretty clear.

I've seen lots and lots of studies over the years, I can't quote them all chapter and verse, but they all point to the same conclusion.

Steven said...

I started investigating race and I because I had heard of racial IQ differences and I wanted to reassure myself that the differences were due to environment.

I think the first thing that gave me serious pause for thought was hearing that Asian kids adopted by white parents had Asian average IQs. I found it easier to think that Asians are smarter for genetic reasons.

John Craig said...

Steven --
A lot of people start off the way you did, with "good intentions." Then, once they look at the facts, if they're able to keep an open mind, they come to the opposite conclusion.

You, like most whites, have been imbued with "white guilt." But there's no reason for it; you can't help what you were born as anymore than anyone else can. And the issue of different average IQ's between the races is purely a scientific question, not a moral one. The only way morality enters into this discussion is when it comes to the honesty with which one approaches the question.

Mark Caplan said...

IQ isn't as socially important as it once was. Government jobs such as police, fire, post office, civil service, and military used have have minimum IQ standards that applicants had to meet. But those tests screened out too many blacks and Hispanics, so the courts decreed the tests had to be redesigned so blacks and Hispanics weren't disparately impacted.

Colleges introduced dumbed-down majors so a reasonable number of their black students could get college degrees.

Businesses created pretentious-sounding titles such as Senior Executive Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion so well-paid black executives would show up on the company org chart, thereby dodging expensive and embarrassing discrimination lawsuits.

Even the geniuses in Silicon Valley are struggling to find a place for blacks to fit in so the cubicles won't look so white and Asian.

John Craig said...

Mark --
IQ itself is as important as ever; it's just that there's a whole industry that's been created around creating jobs for low IQ deadweight. After all, how could a company be profitable if it didn't have a Sr. VP of Diversity?

That said, I don't think these dumbed-down majors were created solely for the benefit of blacks students. There aren't all that many black students majoring in, for instance, women's studies; and there are plenty of white women who are. Blacks are more likely to major in Black studies-types of majors, or African-American History, or the like. But there are plenty of Communications majors, plenty of sociology majors, and the like who are white.

They seem to be having a hard time getting a more diverse work force in Silicon Valley, given that so many of the jobs there are are programming jobs which require a certain amount of technical aptitude.

Anonymous said...

The "IQ is due to nurture" has just been transplanted to "gender is a social construct" - and taught in universities as though fact. The evidence against the idea that we're only masculine/feminine because we're socialised to be so is: gendered behaviour in the animal kingdom, behavioural differences on the day of birth (baby girls more likely to look longer at faces), twin studies, failed attempts to make boys play with dolls and girls with toy cars, the case of David Reimer, transsexual people with genetic abnormalities who were socialised one gender but felt consistent discomfort with it, and the fact that gendered behaviour exists in all cultures and has existed throughout all eras. My guess is that the liberals have simply moved on from IQ to gender; they haven't truly deserted the view that the mind is almost totally malleable via socialisation. A liberal I know explains the IQ evidence away with "but there are different types of intelligence that IQ tests don't pick up" (never mind the G-factor) and "the scientists administering the tests might be biased" (never mind that results are usually calculated by computers). No matter the strength of the evidence in favour of nature, slothful induction will come into play to deem it inadmissible.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Great summation. To be liberal these days is to be able to willfully ignore all evidence, to airily explain away hard facts and replace them with dogma.

BTW, I've heard intelligence explained away as a "social construct" as well.

Steven said...

(*Just realised this sentence I wrote was stupid: "It would make sense for a weak correlation between mothers and sons as they are different sexes." Just needed to take that back cos its really stupid) said...

Steven, the sex difference in height between men and women. It is also 1-2 SD difference. And probably as sexist to say then men are taller than women than saying that Whites are more intelligent than Blacks.

Steven, they height differences between North Korea and South Korea don't change the sex differences in height, they are still 1-2 standard deviations

And IQ is much less dependent on nutrition, unless if nutrition is extremely deficient.