What good is IQ?

A reader asks:

To clarify, while I believe natural selection explains a lot I have
caveats about IQ as a tool for testing intelligence. If you can’t
measure the coast of France with a single number how can you do it
with human intelligence?

Easily. Human intelligence is a great deal less complex than the
coast of France. :-)

It’s fashionable nowadays to believe that intelligence is some
complicated multifactor thing that can’t be captured in one number.
However, one of the best-established facts in psychometry (the science
of measuring mind) is that it is quite difficult to write a test of
mental ability that is not at least 50% correlated with all other such
tests. Or, to put it another way, no matter how you design ten tests for
mental ability, at least about half the variance in the scores for any one
of them statistically appears to be due to a “general intelligence”
that shows up on the other nine tests as well.

Psychometricians call this general intelligence measure “g”. It
turns out to predict important real-world success measures quite well
— not just performance in school but income and job success as
well. The fundamental weakness in multiple-factor theories of intelligence
is that measures of intelligence other than g appear to predict
very little about real-world outcomes. So you can call a lot of other
things “intelligence” if you want to make people feel warm and fuzzy,
but doing so simply isn’t very useful in the real world.

Some multifactor theorists, for example, like to describe accurate
proprioception (an acute sense of body position and balance) as a kind
of intelligence. Let’s say we call this “p”. The trouble with this
is that there are very few situations in which a combination of high p
and low g is actually useful — people need to be able to balance
checkbooks more often than they need to walk high wires. Furthermore,
g is easier to substitute for p than the other way around; a person
with high g but low p can think up a way to not have to walk a high
wire far better than a person with low g but high p can think up a way
not to have to balance a checkbook. So g is in a strict functional
sense more powerful than p. Similar arguments apply to most of the
other kinds of specialized non-g ‘intelligence’ that have been

Once you know about g, you can rank mental-capability tests by
how well their score correlates with g. IQ is valuable because a
well-composed IQ test measures g quite effectively. For purposes
of non-technical discussion, g and IQ can be considered the same, and
pychometricians now accept that an IQ test which does not closely track
g is defective.

A lot of ink has been spent by people who aren’t psychometricians
on insisting that g is a meaningless statistical artifact. The most
famous polemic on this topic was Stephen Jay Gould’s 1981 book
The Mismeasure of Man, a book which was muddled,
, and in some respects rather dishonest. Gould was a
believing Marxist; his detestation of g was part of what he perceived
as a vitally important left-versus right kulturkampf. It is
very unfortunate that he was such a persuasive writer.

Unfortunately for Gould, g is no statistical phantom. Recently g
and IQ have been shown to correlate with measurable physiological
variables such as the level of trace zinc in your hair and performance
on various sorts of reaction-time tests. There are hints in the
recent literature that g may be largely a measure of the default level
of a particular neurotransmitter associated with states of mental
alertness and speed of thought; it appears that calling people of
subnormal intelligence “slow” may not be just a metaphor!

IQ is one of several large science-related issues on which
political bias in the dominant media culture has lead it to present as
fact a distorted or even reversed version of the actual science. In
1994, after Murray and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve got a
thoroughly undeserved trashing, fifty leading psychometricians and
psychologists co-signed a summary of mainstream
science on intelligence
. It makes eye-opening reading.

The reasons many popular and journalistic accounts continue to
insist that IQ testing is at best meaningless and at worst a sinister
plot are twofold. First, this belief flatters half of the population.
“My IQ may be below average, but that doesn’t matter because IQ is
meaningless and I have high emotional intelligence!” is,
understandably, a favorite evasion maneuver among dimwits. But that
isn’t the worst of it. The real dynamite is not in
individual differences but rather that the distribution of IQ (and
hence of g) varies considerably across groups in ways that are
politically explosive.

Men vs. women is the least of it. With other variables controlled,
men and women in a population have the same mean IQ, but the
dispersion differs. The female bell curve is slightly narrower, so
women have fewer idiots and fewer geniuses among them. Where this
gets touchy is that it may do a better job than cultural sexism of
explaining why most of the highest achievers in most fields are male
rather than female. Equal opportunity does not guarantee equal
results, and lot of feminist theory goes out the window.

But male/female differences are insignificant compared to the real
hot potato: differences in the mean IQ of racial and ethnic groups.
These differences are real and they are large enough to have severe
impact in the real world. In previous blog entries I’ve mentioned the
one-standard-deviation advantage of Ashkenazic Jews over gentile
whites; that’s roughly fifteen points of IQ. Pacific-rim Asians
(Chinese, Japanese, Koreans etc.) are also brighter on average by a
comparable margin. So, oddly enough, are ethnic Scots — though
not their close kin the Irish. Go figure…

And the part that, if you are a decent human being and not a racist
bigot, you have been dreading: American blacks average a standard
deviation lower in IQ than American whites at about 85. And
it gets worse: the average IQ of African blacks is lower
still, not far above what is considered the threshold of mental
retardation in the U.S. And yes, it’s genetic; g seems to be about
85% heritable, and recent studies of effects like regression towards
the mean suggest strongly that most of the heritability is DNA rather
than nurturance effects.

For anyone who believe that racial equality is an important goal,
this is absolutely horrible news. Which is why a lot of
well-intentioned people refuse to look at these facts, and will
attempt to shout down anyone who speaks them in public. There have
been several occasions on which leading psychometricians have had
their books canceled or withdrawn by publishers who found the actual
scientific evidence about IQ so appalling that they refused to print

Unfortunately, denial of the facts doesn’t make them go away. Far from
being meaningless, IQ may be the single most important statistic about
human beings, in the precise sense that differences in g probably drive
individual and social outcomes more than any other single measurable
attribute of human beings.

Mean IQ differences do not justify making assumptions about any individual.
There are African black geniuses and Ashkenazic Jewish morons; humanity and
ethics demand that we meet each individual human being as an individual,
without prejudice. At the same time, group differences have a significance
too great to ignore. In the U.S., blacks are 12% of the population but
commit 50% of violent crimes; can anyone honestly think this is
unconnected to the fact that they average 15 points of IQ lower than the
general population? That stupid people are more violent is a fact
independent of skin color.

And that is actually a valuable hint about how to get beyond
racism. A black man with an IQ of 85 and a white man with an IQ of 85
are about equally likely to have the character traits of poor impulse
control and violent behavior associated with criminality — and
both are far more likely to have them than a white or black man with
an IQ of 110. If we could stop being afraid of IQ and face up to it,
that would give us an objective standard that would banish racism per
se. IQ matters so much more than skin color that if we started paying
serious attention to the former, we might be able to stop paying
attention to the latter.

UPDATE: An excellent summary of science relating to g
is here

Categorized as Science


  1. Fascinating and very thought provoking reading. I’ll confess I found it rather shocking and difficult to deal with myself. But I am particularly thankful that you have stressed the individualist aspects of this debate.

    Let us hope that people accept this with an open mind. Yes, such statistics can indeed be used as a rationalisation for “blacks are stupider” and other such racial superiority garbage but the potential misuse of information is no reason to silence it.

    Any information can be potentially misused. It is our responsibility as free-thinking human beings to choose to use information for good and to deal with reality as it is, rather than ignore it when it clashes with our worldview. We must trust ourselves enough not to be fearful of knowledge, because there is no evil worse than the wilful acceptance of ignorance.

  2. One thing I have not seen considered in these discussions is the evolutionary impact of urbanization. Historically, cities are population sinks: long-term survival of a population in an urban environment requires superior levels of useful traits – most especially verbal/mathematical intelligence. It should surprise no one that populations with long urban histories have developed high intelligence. There are many populations which urbanized in the 1800s. Typically, these populations lived like pigs and suffered high death rates (especially infant mortality) for the first couple of generations. Then, magically, they became respectable and stopped dying so much. Blacks (in America) had the ‘misfortune’ of urbanizing in the 20th century, when improvements in public health eliminated the hazards of urban life; their mortality has been low, and they have not adapted…

  3. Interesting explanation. But it doesn’t quite explain for instance why the Japanese managed to industrialise relatively painlessly during the Meiji period.

    Then again, there was a great deal of political problems and wars and stuff during the Meiji, so maybe that created the nescessary pressure for adaptation. Lookie like I answered myself, yay!

  4. Very interesting piece. It might very well be possible to capture intelligence, as in raw processing power, in one number.

    However, you seem to assume that intelligence leads to other positive character traits, such as non-violent behavior and high morals. That’s crap. Few things are as stupid as overvaluing intelligence.

    The way intelligence is usually approached is rather silly. For an example, albeit a lame one, let’s replace IQ with christianity. The politically correct are going on about how all ethnic groups and nations are equally christian, and to say otherwise is racist, because christianity equals Good. The racists are foaming that some ethnic groups and nations are clearly not christian, and are thus inferior to us, because christianity equals Good. Small group of people are saying that christianity of a person does depend a little on his ethnic background, but people should be judged based on their individual CQ. Most people are wondering why the hell would christianity equal Good in the first place.

  5. Wow.

    You’ve got the balls to say what many people suspect but are too scared of admitting to. I mostly agree with your viewpoint. OK, some concrete points:

    * You made yourself a nice straw man in proprioception, but what about something like social skills? I doubt if that is strongly positively correlated to g, but surely people with better social skills are better at working their way out of situations etc.

    * About the female bell curve being narrower: this should be obvious to anyone with more brains than an earthworm. Darwinawards.com has noted that the overwhelming proportion of awardees are male. On the other hand most extraordinary achievers have been male throughout history.

    * I don’t know about the 85% heritable part; where did you get that from? Can you at least give a link to some study or something? I’d rather wait to see more studies on this, since it is inherently difficult to measure. And if IQ is largely heritable you’d expect the average IQ of American blacks to be close to that of African blacks, wouldn’t you?

    * “IQ matters so much more than skin color that if we started paying serious attention to the former, we might be able to stop paying attention to the latter.” *sigh* _So_ true, but _so_ politically incorrect.

  6. What about the former communist countries? Did their inhabitants suffer some sort of g shortage that suddenly disappeared and led to freedom? And what happened to China? Ah, the g factor was raised considerably when Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1976. No wonder their GNP is growing by 87% every year!

  7. Well, it’s been nice knowing you. If they give you an option for how you will be executed, ask for something cool and hard to arrange, like being fired into the sun or something.

    Seriously, you’re brave.

    If they let you get a word in edgewise, stress that you find these facts awful. It’s a key distinction.

    Perhaps in fifty years these issues won’t matter much…

  8. I actually once started to do a research paper about this in high school but was stopped rather quickly. I was actually threatened with suspension if I worked on the paper; they felt I was being racist and discriminatory.

    The ironic thing was, I was going out with a black girl at the time.

  9. I respect your arguments and I’m _not_ going to accuse you of racism, but I will politely disagree. I think that all of the factors mentioned thus far (urbanization, inheritance, etc.) may merely be symptoms of cultural factors. Maybe Group X (the X-Men!…er, nevermind) is richer and can devote more time to it, or maybe they worship Boccob or somebody and respect learning above all. Or maybe not. I’m not sure, and I don’t see the research to support pinning differences in mean group intelligence on just one or two factors. Again, it’s not that I don’t think that’s possible, just that there are too many other factors that I don’t believe have been accounted for.

    As for woman and achievment, I’ll just paraphrase Dave Barry and point out that, for pretty much all of human history until 50 or so years ago, women had the legal rights of gravel and that they managed to make any major advances in the face of such constraints is a marvel.

  10. I would suggest that your 85% inheritable statistic is not that well supported. This statistic mostly comes from identicle twins living apart.

    But identicle twins share two things, genes and pre-natal nutrition. I suspect the nutrition side of the argument hasn’t been completely settled.

    Thomas Sowell points out in his book (sorry, can’t remember which one) that other ethnic groups had their IQ scores increase by 1 standard deviation or so after moving to America – thus raising the average IQ of the entire population.

    Could blacks have never made the nutritional leap to our middle class diet? Going directly from a poor mans diet to a junk food diet?

    Sadly, since the IQ data isn’t politically correct, nobody can investigate this angle. The basic premise can’t be acknowledged, so the research to find its source isn’t allowed either.


  11. > In previous blog entries.. ethnic Scots

    Perhaps I am not living up to the gifts inherited from my Scots forebears (perhaps there was a German in the woodpile), but I have not been able to find in your blogsite, nor with Google or Dogpile, a source for your assertion that Scots score appx. one std. dev. above norm. The BBC claims folks from Leichestershire do (115), but Scots are down at 109.

    Would you humor me and my Scots-English wife with the source for your assertion?

    Thank you kindly.

  12. John, the Scots advantage is described in “The Bell Curve”.

    James, interesting idea about prenatal nutrition — that’s actually a pretty plausible mechanism for boosting the correlation.

    arvindn, read Jensen’s recent stuff at the link at the bottom of the blog post; there’s lots of references to the heritability evidence there. It’s fashionable to describe social skills as a separate kind of intelligence, but there isn’t even any good way to measure these and several excellent reasons to believe that verbal intelligence drives them — and verbal intelligence tracks g.

    Steve, the pattern of variance in IQ doesn’t have the right shape to be cultural. Go look up “inbreeding regression” and “heterosis” and read the stats on IQ spread between parent and child in adoptive families. These are very strong evidence that it is mostly genes that matter here.

  13. Regarding Richard Rostrom’s speculation on the intelligence-enhancing role of cities: in _Guns, Germs, and Steel_, Jared Diamond speculates in exactly the opposite direction. He argues that non-urban-dwellers ought to be smarter: in cities before modern times, the major killers were epidemic illnesses, which don’t discriminate much on the basis of intelligence; even geniuses might catch plague and die. Hunter-gatherers, in contrast, mainly survive by their wits, so there are strong selection pressures for intelligence.

    It would be interesting to see some hard data supporting one hypothesis or the other.

  14. One point about twin studies, across most species animals favor their kin.
    This could bias the twin studies if adoptive parents invest less in their education than bioparents.

    I don’t disbelieve the statistics but I don’t think they have enough focus to be meaningful. Race is an umbrella for a bunch of factors that could include higher risk of malaria, higher risk of exposure to head trauma, a legacy of slavery and the list goes on. Environment is an even wider umbrella covering anything but genes.

    The neurophysiologist Damasio is an example of the use of IQ in a focused way to answer specific questions. “Emotional intelligence” is not a feel good term. It was based on his work on people with frontal lobe deficits who had intact IQs but couldn’t hold stable employment.

  15. Charles Goren was once asked who were better bridge players, men or women. He said: “Women are better; men are best” thus reflecting the higher mail sigma. I should note that his regular partner at the time was Helen Sobel.

  16. Social skills are skills – something that is easier for a smart person than a dumb person to learn. Our culture has generated the belief that only certain skill sets really qualify as intelligence and that therefore people who have applied more of their intelligence to social skills, like businessmen and politicians, aren’t as smart as those who have applied their intelligence elsewhere, like writers and physicists. Our society also places less social value on social skills among people who excel in the physical sciences and engineering and therefore many people who prefer those fields have made less effort than they could have to develop social skills. (Less social skills, because the market values social skills quite highly, in all professions.)

  17. I have some difficulty with IQ test results as truly measuring this “g” quantity. Presumably, g is a measure of general intelligence, and should not distinguish between linear and gestalt thinking, nor should it distinguish between verbal and visual/pictorial thinking.

    My question is, what is the bias of the IQ tests? Are the tests biased towards linear thought? Verbal thought? Both? Do the tests still contain subtle cultural biases, such as a bias in favor of urban/industrial cultures. Clearly, really glaring cultural biases have been eliminated, or your Pac-Rim Asians wouldn’t score as well as they do.

    Can the tests eliminate environmental factors, such as having an older, bookish sibling taking an active interest in helping the younger kids? I’m not hypothesizing here; one of my younger brothers (5 years my junior) scored 154 on an IQ test taken after he had been my roommate for a year (I was 14 at the time, and he was 9). My brother has always been smart, but not that smart. Then there was the time one of my sisters took an aptitude test (not an IQ test, but similar problem here) when she started high school, and got misplaced in Advanced Algebra. She had been informally exposed to just enough math concepts by being around me to do well enough on the test to be put into Advanced Algebra. She promptly fell behind, utterly baffled by the material. Before she could flunk the course, the school authorities wisely transferred her to beginning business math (turns out she had a talent for accounting).

    So, I’m not so sure about the validity of IQ tests. Even if they do measure what they are supposed to, there are other factors besides heredity at work in intelligence. Prenatal nutrition is one. Infant and childhood nutrition is another. Child-raising customs, as well as parental expectations, are another. It is quite well known that Asian families, at least those who immigrate to the US, tend to urge their children to excel in school, as do Jewish families. Yes, intelligence is heritable, but I think it is only partly so–there are just too many environmental factors as well.

    I am also not convinced of the connection between criminality and intelligence. While it is true that most street criminals tend to be stupid, it takes brains, as well as a grave shortage of morals and/or ethics, to become an embezzler, an organized crime boss, an Enron executive, or a crooked Congressman.

    In conclusion, I just have too many arguments with what is measured by IQ tests (which may not be just g) to take seriously that American blacks are dumb, and sub-Saharan blacks are even dumber. Especially in the case of sub-Saharan Africans, we need to dig deeper for why they score so poorly on IQ tests. My guess is that the problem is a combination of pro-urban/industrial culture bias in the tests themselves, massive ignorance among Africans (coupled with cultural indifference to learning), dietary problems, and endemic disease problems.

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  19. Cayte: What is this “legacy of slavery” bullshit I keep hearing Americans yammer on about?

    I’m Australian of Irish Immigrant parents. The Irish were known as the “niggers of Europe” for a reason. Indeed the Irish history contains 800 years of alternate attempts at colonisation and extermination by the British that makes the “legacy of slavery” seem like a cakewalk by comparison.

    This has had no effect whatsoever on my intelligence. I might not be able to work out CSS to save my freaking life but I’m not stupid either. Indeed I’m one of those people who put my intelligence into social skills, as Anthony mentions.

    The ill treatment of my ancestors in the past has no bearing whatsoever on my intellectual prowess today. The “legacy of slavery” IMO equally has no effect on intelligence and is nothing more than some elaborate handwaving.

  20. I’m suggesting that the culture of slavery discourage in fact banned literacy.The situation may have created a climate where short term high payoff high risk
    strategies worked better than low payoff long term stategies like planning for the future. The cultural dynamic may have been self-sustaining and persisted past its usefulness. Crime, llegitimacy and other pathologies would be expected where the cost benefit ratio favors short term stategies.

    My major point is that the data is ambiguous as purely statistical data
    always is. Its consistent with more than one explanation. If the cause is genetic then we need to find the mechanism behind the genetic influence at least before we call it science. Science posits, tests and iterates through explanations. “Blacks are dumber” is no more of an explanation than the “spark of life.” is in biology We’ve found an anamoly. For science this is the starting point not the ending point.

  21. I can’t be understanding you correctly, because what I’m getting from what you’re saying sounds so off that it seems like a strawman:

    Children of slaves have decided to engage in self-inflicted psychological trauma even though it makes absolutely no sense. And rather than deal with it, they instead whine about something that happened to their great-great grandparents.

    Gee, my heart bleeds peanut butter. There are people who go “Whaah! I have a problem!” and there are people who go “Hmm, how shall I fix this problem?”

    The latter do better in life, simply because it’s a better attitude to have.

  22. Eric,

    I will admit I am a little troubled by your blog entry on race and IQ. Maybe it is true that some are smarter then others and that they should lead the “dimwits” but it is like the Matrix. Some don’t want to know it exist and are thus happy. What is wrong with being happy? I mean the other blog about porn and women makes me think you play too many civ games, write to much code and are angry that you have not had some girl knock on your door of your computer room, not to talk but to screw. You are the man so start leading the losers with high IQ’s like you should be. Make friends, be happy.


  23. Any research on intelligence and religious beliefs? Antidotal evidence seems to suggest people with the highest g lean toward agnosticism.

    Mike: I’m a little confused by your flame. Eric suggests that high g correlates strongly to economic success. He doesn’t call ‘dimwits’ inferior just mentions their inferior g. Regarding the Matrix, the old adage ignorance is bliss seems to be quite true to me. Many of the dumbest people I know are also the happiest. However I would prefer understanding to ignorance even if it leads to occasional sadness from realizing the stupidity of society as a whole.

  24. I once did an IQ test from a book. I scored 140. Two days later, I did another IQ test from the same book. The questions were of a similar form, and I was able to do better, scoring an IQ of 170.

  25. (Continuing from my last comment)
    From this I conclude that either (1) my intelligence greatly increased over the 2 days, or (2) IQ tests aren’t a particularly good measure of intelligence

  26. Consider 3 men, Alex, Bob and Charles. Alex consistently beats Bob and Charles at chess. Bob is consistently better at getting women into bed than Alex or Charles. Charles has gone further academically than Alex or Bob: he has a PhD and earns more money than the other two put together. Which one is the most intelligent?

  27. Korgmeister
    OK, an example. The blacks have had some early successes in entertainment and sports . The high payoff and visibility of a few
    had led to exaggerated community support for achievement in sports and entertainment. The reverse is true for academics, everyone tells you don’t waste your time.. So you try to be a star. A few make it but the rest fall by the wayside.

    I’m not saying this is true just that its one of the gazillion plausible
    explanations for the data. My criticism of the research is when its called
    science. Its a compilation of facts. Science is more. It also ferrets through the explanations and zeroes in on the best.

  28. esr is incredible. He can post about how anti-semites are filthy racists and then proceeds to tell us how blacks are stupid and criminal.

    I wonder when he will suggest ethnical cleansing as a well to advance humankind.

    Yes, this was an ad hominem, anonymous flame. Maybe my IQ is not as high as esr’s.

  29. David: there’s some evidence at this page suggesting a correlation between high IQ and secularism, but it’s fairly weak. ESR: Interesting and disturbing article. But, where on earth did you get your figure of 85% heredity for g (by which I assume you mean that 85% of the variation of children can be explained by some average of the variation of the parents)? Given the amount that is known about the early development of intelligence being adversely affected by environmental factors such as undernutrition (which does noit mean not getting enough calories), toxicity and understimulation, I’d be surprised if the figure was that high.

  30. Tests out of books like that aren’t realy IQ tests. They are larks, more than anything else. A genuined, take to the bank IQ test is one that is administered by a professional. ANything on the internet or self-administered doesn’t really count.

  31. name,
    I’ve done IQ tests administered by professionals and they didn’t seem that different to these ones out the book (though one I took when I was a kid had a very silly question in it). The point is, if I do two tests with similar questions on them, I’m going to do better the second time – it’s normal to find things easier with practise. After multiple tests my IQ is bound to go up. The question I ask is: does my intelligence go up too? If it doesn’t, then IQ tests aren’t a good measure of intelligence; if it does, then getting people to practise doing IQ tests a lot will improve their intelligence.

  32. Random, whether you have much in the way of intelligence, you’re certainly not applying it here.

    Noticing that certain people are smarter than others, and noticing that there are correlations between things which aren’t logically connected to intelligence and intelligence, does not imply any moral conclusions.

    There is no logical inconsistency between believing that people should not be judged (or granted or denied rights, etc.) by their race or ethnicity and understanding that race and/or ethnicity correlate with certain desireable characteristics.

    In fact, statistical variation makes racism logically inconsistent. Even though it is morally acceptable to treat people of different intelligence differently, it is not moral to use race as a proxy for intelligence, because it’s such an inaccurate proxy. There are many black people who have an IQ > 115, just as there are many Jewish people who have an IQ < 85. If people with an IQ of 85 should be treated one way, people with IQ of 100 another, and people with IQ of 115 yet another, treating blacks the first way, gentile whites the second and Jews the third would not achieve the aims of treating people differently by IQ. Morality requires being cognizant of relevant facts; one cannot make moral decisions regarding race and intelligence without knowing the facts about IQ variation among racial groups.

  33. Eric,

    I was disappointed in your rhetorical question:

    can anyone honestly think this is unconnected to the fact that they [american blacks] average 15 points of IQ lower than the general population?

    Particularly so, because I believed you had something worthwhile to say. But in my mind a psychometric basis for measuring “g”, and whatever scientific basis you can pull out for heritablility does not translate into the premise for the question you pose.

    You have a chance of being right, if no factors other than intelligence, contribute to violent behavior. But given the dearth of understanding on this topic, if you actually believe that intelligence is the sole factor in determining behavior, then you should get your “c” tested. That’s “c” for common sense.

    Science in general & statistics in particular are great tools for informing us of the empirically observable world but if we don’t actually qualify results with what we already understand about the world, then any study is bound to find conclusions that are the result of preexisting biases.

    Unfortunately, your writing on this topic has that flavor.


  34. Just to remind the readers. Happiness is also heritable. Not particularly related to IQ, race or socioeconomic status. Most likely a combination of nuerotransmitter status, upbringing and random circumstance. REL

  35. Eric, I have got to ask this very unscientific question, “Are stupid people responsible for all that is wrong with the world?”

    Do you think elitism is really that inevitable? Where are you going with all this coding, speaking, writing, influencing and thinking? Are you a closet or actual utopian? Is there some “ultimate” form of human existence that you envision and strive for?

    Are you just picking on people that are _different_ from your ideal self? Is this suppose to be entertainment? Is this suppose to be thought provoking?

    I respect your boldness and intelligence, but what about wisdom? If it can’t be measured it doens’t exist? Alas, I am probably not speaking your language, but I just expected more in the way of insight from you.

  36. Are blind people responsible for all that is wrong with the world? Of course not. Even though they aren’t, it’s still a good idea for us not to be carrying around a lot of myths about how vision works.

    There are some things, including qualities of mind, that are both hard to measure and important. This doesn’t make the qualities we can measure any less important.

  37. Your response strikes me as a bit evasive, but not being belligerent I will go with it.

    I find it very interesting that you used something like blindness to reiterate your point. We socially and technically compensate for people that have lost some or all of their vision, but we socially and technically ridicule and punish those that we deem to have “subpar” intelligence. Depending on what circles you run in those of exceedingly high intelligence are treated “differently” as well (better and worse). So while there may be a statistically accurate argument (although I am not saying there is) that the better your sight the better your chances of “real-world” success, it would be pointless, inflamatory and even considered mean-spirited, because we try our damnedest as a society to make sure that blindness is not an inhibitor to any form of success that a blind person seeks. I am not going to even go into the amount of research and effort there is to correct, restore, or enable sight.

    This whole discussion, to me, clearly illustrates the mythical proportions that science has taken on as the end all be all. True science, IMO, questions itself as well. Science just may have it wrong and we may have just not figured that out yet. Science, definitively implores that of us, simply because there is so much that we do not know. Although ,as another side-note, as you pointed out in TAOUP, paraphrasing the ethernet guy, whatever replaces science will probably be called science. Besides that, I am not at all convinced that intelligence testing has entered the realm of science just yet. Administering tests to sample groups, science it is not, says me.

    Your response does not explain anything about why you felt it necessary to say that the more intelligent the person the more likely they are to experience “real-world” success. The implications of that statement make my mind reel. So yes, of course, blind people are not responsible for all that is wrong with the world, but saying that intelligence tests could possibly banish racism just seems a tad bit naieve from where I am sitting.

    I do not believe seeking to measure intelligence is a bad idea, and yes I do think it is something worthwhile to poke at, as we could possibly learn something about the mind from such investigations, but in our current state it is a tricky endeavor at best, and a slippery slope at worst. The fact that the tests were administered with race being of note, when skin tone is absurdly arbitrary, is so telling as to be annoying that it doesn’t annoy you. Giving these tests and recording race (and arguably gender) is that slippery slop I speak of, IMO.

  38. “Your response does not explain anything about why you felt it necessary to say that the more intelligent the person the more likely they are to experience “real-world” success”

    Uhhh…because lots of people believe, incorrectly, that IQ is a meaningless number?

  39. It seems that I may be annoying you (I am not sure), that is not my intention. This will be my last comment.

    “Uhhh…because lots of people believe, incorrectly, that IQ is a meaningless number?”

    Then why not just say that? Why mention race and gender at all?

    I guess this is going nowhere. I realize you are human, but damn man you have really dissappointed me, and I mean that sincerely.

    Take it light…


  40. Cayte: Well, the example you showed indicates a lack of proper risk analysis when making important career decisions.

    That would strike me as most definately being unintelligent.

  41. I talked about race and gender differences because the politically-correct desire not to acknowledge those is the reason that a lot of people are working hard at keeping you ignorant about psychometry.

    I covered all this in the post…

  42. I really wonder how class and lifestyle relate to this equation of intelligence. What do studies about intelligence say when controlled for family income? Do middle-class African-Americans have a similar average intelligence to middle-class Jews, Asians, Latinos, and Whites? Statistics, time and time again, show a close correlation between family income and success in school. I suspect that if you look closer, you would see similar correlations between income and g.

    I personally think the argument presented here is very deterministic, and fails to account for many other factors in intelligence, such as early childhood nutrition and behavioural intervention.

    But God forbid, would people actually use g to actually attack theories of inequality? Hell no. Its just another convenient justification for inequality.

  43. When “The Bell Curve” came out, someone claimed that all researchers involved in psychometrics had IQs greater than 110. It wouldn’t, of course, be surprising that researchers in any field would have above average intelligence. The point is that researchers in this case have significant personal motivation to show IQ has “meaning” in addition to general research bias due to the fact that researchers want to discover something new and interesting. Even though this topic has had a lot of scrutiny, I personally remain skeptical because of the strong research bias.

    A few specific comments:
    “Unfortunately, denial of the facts doesn’t make them go away.”

    Perhaps not, but unproven potential “facts” are not yet facts. This one is better left unproven IMHO, assuming that it would be “fact”.

    “that [IQ] would give us an objective standard that would banish racism per se”

    No, it would give us a perfectably justifiable reason for racism (or at least for behavior that looks exactly like racism). For example, if I need to hire someone for a position that I deem requires intelligence, and it’s “fact” that blacks have 15 points lower IQ AND IQ matters, and I have limited resources with which to find the candidate for the position (almost always the case), then it would follow that I shouldn’t even interview blacks because, on average, they are less likely to do well in the position, so it would cost me more resource to find a qualified candidate. That would be true even if I somehow had the resources to administer an IQ test to every individual candidate for the position because I would have to administer the test to more blacks to find suitable candidates.

  44. New research suggests the controversial general factor of intelligence “G”, may be largely a measure of fuel-efficiency

    Recent research more than hints that the genetic foundation of high intelligence may be the spendthrift brain – and our brains burn a tremendous amount of energy, something like 20% of what the body uses. Not to mention other critical vitamins, minerals, etc.

    In ancient times when food supply was far from assured, and periods of famine nearly certain; having a gas-guzzling, but highly effective brain might not have been an unalloyed evolutionary advantage, unlike the environment of citizens of first-world nations today. There’s obviously a trade-off between the extra food and safety that extra neural activity might accrue, and the additional expenditure of nutrients, fats and calories of a (thereby fuel-inefficient) brain with permanently in high gear. A more fuel efficient, sugar-sipping brain with a little less oomph and cognitive acceleration might nonetheless be more likely to survive a very poor hunting or gathering season.

    The latest research in this line is summarized in the article “Cleverness may carry survival costs” at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994200

    As a quick summary quote: “When Frederic Mery and colleagues at the University of Fribourg, pitted fast-learning fruit fly larvae against their more dimwitted cousins in scarce food conditions – the slower fruit flies came out on top.”

    See also a couple of earlier messages on Yahoo’s evolutionary-psychology egroup, 8736:

    “Cavities, Fuel-Efficiency, and IQ Variation” Nov 24, 2000 (by myself)

    and a dismissal by Lionel Tiger:

    Further messages on this topic have been intercepted and not posted by the moderator, however.

    The good news is, this may mean that only a small genetic intervention could raise the average IQ of the world’s populace by perhaps 40 points (the average IQ has gone up a great deal in the last century anyway), and do so sooner than we think. For all we know now, it may be that simply blocking the action of a single protein that’s acting as a regulator would do the trick, in which case an otherwise harmless food additive may be all that’s needed. This probably won’t happen in the next ten years, but after that, it’s more difficult to know where to place one’s bets.

    Now, all this is speculation until someone places the pill in your hand that can do this trick, or pinpoints the precise proteins affecting fuel usage in the brain. Still, it seems to me very unlikely that there is a more complex variation amongst fruit fly brains than human brains, and evolutionary trade-offs aren’t the exception, they’re the rule. Betting that IQ is linked to fuel-efficiency in humans is not a bad bet.

    Of course, it’s a further question, whether food in general, or some particular component: sugar – sheer calories – or minerals, or omega fats, or other nutrients are the critical resource whose consumption is being regulated.

    This is an uncomfortable topic for many, including many within the new community of “Evolutionary Psychology” who don’t want to plunge into a near-certain controversy just when respectability seems possible for their field. That’s understandable. But the implications are enormous, so we ought to be discussing them sooner rather than later.

    Russell Johnston

  45. When I glanced a few of Jensen’s articles, I found a claim that breast feeding may boost IQs half a deviation. Of course only a medical doctor can determine if this is appropriate for a particular woman. If IQ means something IMHO more bandwidth should be devoted to publicizing strategies that may improve lives than assigning status to groups.

  46. Re “Stupid people are more violent”, on behalf of stupid people everywhere, the economically disadvanteged, that is those with least to lose, are most likely to risk, and to risk their postition in society. It’s possible that genetic faults might cause both stupidity and poor impulse control, of course, but fetal alcohol syndrome is a whole lot more common and causes both of these. Drug and alcohol use is also more common in disadvantaged groups everywhere. One might imagine that in a more muscle-oriented society the nerds would be more violent than the highly respected ditch-diggers and mud-wrestlers.

    Speaking of which, decades ago I went to a lecture by Vernon, then a world famous psychologist of IQ, in Calgary. He was not a nice man, but he had found a whopping IQ difference (deficit) in Native youngsters in Alberta. What he had actually found was fetal alcolhol syndrome, before anyone else suspected it’s existence. Unfortunately, his belief in genetic racial differences blinded him to the discovery, it wasn’t investigated further (in part, too, because the left hated his work) and countless more youngsters were marred for life before someone else put two and two together, more’s the pity. Both left and right were willfully blind to the problem for many, many years, but those I talked to after the lecture on the left (including a minister) were also certain that any discussion or futher research was absolutely unethical – a restriction on freedom of speech which, if followed strictly, would have left the epidemic of fetal alcohol syndrome to go on unchecked and undiscovered.

    Even people who aren’t nice, and who’s ideas aren’t nice sometimes make discoveries, so here’s to free speech.

  47. How about Flynn’s Effect : “Flynn observed that in 14 countries–today he has data from at least 20–IQ was growing anywhere from five to 25 points in one generation.”

    Flynn is also clearly a liberal to the point that it’s possible he might manipulate his results to match his ideology, but I have not heard of any good rebuttals of his statistical analyses. This is quite inconsistent with an 85% correlation between IQ and genetics, but not inconsistent with nearly all variation in IQ among middle-class children raised in the same country in the same decade being genetic. One weakness of twin studies is that the twins shared the same environment for nine months, and it’s likely the nine prenatal months are more important than the next 20 years. Another weakness is that adopted twins are likely to go to similar families.

  48. Interesting article. Couple of points:

    As many others have pointed out, the things you want to measure here are really hard to get right. Feel free to carry on thinking about them, and I’ll feel free to carry on being a skeptic. Even if you do manage to prove a strong correlation between IQ and some factor, and you manage to prove that you can isolate that factor from all the other things that shape a person’s life and that this is the important one… you still have the old cause and effect problem: Does junk food make people stupid, or do stupid people like junk food? I guess stupid people can’t choose their race ;-) but you get my point.

    Second, even if you could overcome all the statistical hurdles and prove that IQ is a good measure of g, and that it’s strongly correlated with race, and you managed to discount other factors as being important… well what then? Where does it get us? We can’t tell all the people of the “wrong” race to switch so that they can become more clever! I know there’s a strong tradition in science of investigating things for their own sake, but I really can’t see how this knowledge would help anyone.

    Having said that, of course I’m not going to stop you or anybody else from asking these questions – just don’t expect to be able to convince me easily of any results you get and, even if you do convince me, be prepared for a big “so what?”.

  49. The thing that annoys me about debates about ‘g’ is that everyone makes it into such a polarized issue. Those who think that the concept of ‘g’ is bunk will paint their opponents as racists trying to justify their ideology, while proponents of The Bell Curve will paint their opponents as being PC radicals, much as Eric has done here.

    The truth is, if you actually do your research, you’ll see that 1) there is significant evidence to suggest that ‘g’ is a real, measurable factor that has significant implictions, and 2) that all that previous evidence is completely bunk. I tend to side with the latter opinion (because that’s really what they both are – opinions) based on the evidence I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean I simply ignore the other side of the argument.

    You’ve obviously done your homework regarding all the research reports in support of ‘g’, Eric, as can be seen here, but honestly – have you ever actually picked up a book like Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth? These books aren’t just spewing off “all those Bell Curve authors are dirty racists” remarks – they actually go through and provide thorough academic analysis of the points made by The Bell Curve, pointing out logical inconsistencies and errors in interpretation.

    By the way, to whomever pointed out the Darwin Awards in regards to men vs. women intelligence, there’s a difference between unintelligence and recklessness. Those featured by Darwin usually fall in the latter category, and the male predominance can be adequately supported I think either by social pressures on males as opposed to females or, if you’re not into that, simple testosterone rushes.

    I think another factor people seem to ignore here is that in learning, one becomes a better learner. Think about how fast lessons went by in kindergarten as opposed to in high school and then in college – this isn’t just an age thing. If you were to take a 20-something who’d never been to school in his life, I can almost guarantee you that he’d score a rather low IQ (and not just because he wouldn’t be able to read the test!) not because of some inherent genetic defect or because of a lack of knowledge, but because of a lack of experience in learning. If you were to put him in school, he would have to start out at a kindergarten level pace, for the same reason – despite the fact that he is a fully mature man.

  50. Sorry, meant to say that “2) there is significant evidence that all the previous evidence is completely bunk.”

  51. drx sez:
    “So while there may be a statistically accurate argument (although I am not saying there is) that the better your sight the better your chances of “real-world” success, it would be pointless, inflamatory and even considered mean-spirited, because we try our damnedest as a society to make sure that blindness is not an inhibitor to any form of success that a blind person seeks.”

    In addition to being “pointless, inflamatory and even considered mean-spirited” and otherwise generally un-PC to make the argument, it would be redundant. Terms like “differently-abled” have been a laughing stock from the moment they were invented – everyone knows that having a handicap is handicapping, even if they’re too polite to say so.

    Eric’s argument about IQ is not redundant, because there are people out there who really don’t believe it matters. (Interesting tidbit – the Army has found that IQ is a very good predictor of survival in combat.)

    Your comment also reminds me very much of BretW’s:
    “unproven potential “facts” are not yet facts. This one is better left unproven IMHO, assuming that it would be “fact”.”

    This is the essence of PC.
    Don’t talk about it! Don’t think about it! You’re not supposed to notice these things. < Fingers in ears > LaLaLaLaLa I can’t heeeeeaaaar yoooouuuu < /Fingers in ears >

  52. Dear Ralph,

    You have mistakenly categorized me, but maybe not unfairly so due to the way I represented how I see things.

    Bottom line, we control for IQ and then what? To me it is like biotech, we have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. I clearly stated that I think it is a good idea to poke at these things scientifically, but , to me, the researches are not saying anything worthwhile yet! They are just findings. What do we do with these findings, privatize them?

    From what I read of the links that Mr. Raymond embedded in his bold essay to wake us all up to the great new thing that is psychometry, he is carelessly misrepresenting the research and pushing conclusions that are pointless.

    I get that he thinks people are afriad to talk about these things because of the double hot button of race-gender that these “findings” touch on, but really where do we go from here?

    So let’s say you and Mr. Raymond have your way and the “general populace” (that’s not the actual researchers) begin to talk about this. What then? What is the point?

    Every reputable thing I have read so far (on the net admittedly) loathes to call any of this concretely conclusive, and Mr. Raymond just decided to not even address how much research has gone into trying to close the various gaps. All declared unsuccessful, but there is an interest there.


    Remember that word. Research for research’s sake was a big regret of the scientists that worked to create the “bomb.” Just something to think about. While you all enjoy your ivory tower existence.

    The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.
    –Albert Einstein

  53. BretW – knowing that race is an imperfect predictor of IQ does not justify racist behavior, especially when there are non-racist ways to accomplish the filtering by IQ that might be desired.

    Firstly, while IQ is important to success in any particular job, experience with similar jobs or knowlege of the field of a job can be more important. ESR may have a higher IQ (g, etc) than I do, but a geotechnical engineering firm would be foolish to hire him over me, because I have 12 years experience in the field, and ESR doesn’t. The potential payoff of ESR being able to learn more quickly is too low because the time required for him to catch up is longer than the time horizon an employer looks at when evaluating new employees.

    Secondly, while administering IQ tests might be prohibitively expensive, it’s quite possible to shift the costs of proving one’s intelligence (and suitability for a job) onto the applicant. A résumé is a record of one’s accomplishments, assembled by the applicant. If the accomplishments aren’t impressive enough, round-file. If they are, checking them is relatively easy.

    The above points are true for college admissions: future academic success isn’t completely predicted by IQ, and can be reasonably successfully predicted by previous academic success, though controlling for quality of schools’ grading requires additional testing, which colleges ruthlessly shift the cost of onto the applicant.

  54. BretW, Anthony

    What do we do with this info?

    Well for one thing, we start *allowing* employers to use IQ tests, instead of forbidding it on the grounds that they’re “racially discriminatory.” That allows employers employers to use IQ directly instead of various far more obnoxious proxies like race and what college you got accepted by.

    This might result in disparate outcomes by race, but then the huge social policy implication of all this is that group differences in outcome are *not* by themselves proof of discrimination.

  55. Some of the commentators ask “So what?”.

    Ok. currently the evidence on group differences is not watertight, but the differences can’t possible be purely environmental.

    I’m sure that already, this knowledge is implicitly being used by some in international investment, immigration policies, hiring practices, partner choice, you name it. We can’t always know people’s IQs, but can read signals from their appearance. This is known as “statistical discrimination”.

    The group differences don’t enter the official rethoric or economic theories. Currently there is no economic article (in reputable journals) that would claim that the development potential of africa is permanently lower than that of asia’s because of inherited intelligence.

    All these things must be dealt with sooner or later. Sure ethics is a problem. Most of us wouldn’t like to see neo-nazis having a party of their life after the NY Times headline would read “Proven. Blacks less intelligent than whites” or something similar.

    However, any intelligent solution to problems, also to social problems, starts with accepting the facts. Of course in this case we probably end up with a less intelligent but more “comfortable” solution. Like in many things in any society.

    But hell yes, we need people like Raymond to be the nasty Socrates of our time.

  56. Identical (mononzygotic) twins share the same environment for the first 9 months of life.
    And so do fraternal (dizygotic) twins.

    And yet, the IQs of fraternal twins correlate no more than the IQs of non-twin siblings. Identical twins’ IQs, on the other hand, correlate much more than either non-twin siblings or fraternal twins.

    In other words, it is possible to assert that the lion’s share of the correlation of IQs of identical twins is genetic.

  57. Another interesting fact–the academic achievement and test scores of african american children of parents making $70,000 or more is lower than that of white children of parents making $20,000 or less.

    IQ? Culture? Until a definitive study is done, I choose culture. But I have no objections to doing the study.

  58. “an economist” says (slight paraphrase): the differences cannot possibly be environmental. This really is not clear, the best that can be said is that we have strong evidence in favour of the assertion that IQ is largely inherited. As I said before, I find ESR’s figure of 85% incredible, and would like to see a reference.

  59. charles stewart,

    The group differences are environmental to a large extent (flynn effect etc), but not purely. This has been more or less known since Arthur Jensens “how much can we boost iq and scholastic achievement” article from 1969. 30 years of research has been backing this view: not ALL of it is environmental, and the genetic differences (between groups) have some real world implications. Eric Raymond is quite right in saying that this does not come through in the media. We’ve known this for 30+ years already.

    Should it come through in the media? I don’t know how to answer that. Too much for me.

  60. an economist: The point about the lack of widespread reception of the facts found by IQ researchers is well taken, but in the absence of a good theory of intelligence, the “real world implications” of the *facts* we have is rather moot. I don’t believe we have a good way of telling for sure what the relationship between the aggregate measurements of populations, or parent-child IR covariance on the one hand and the genetic basis for intelligence on the other. In the absence of this, I think ESR is drawing conclusions that go beyond the evidence.

  61. Actually, I think that one of the best predictors of success in life is the marshmellow test:

    Give a young child a marshmellow. Tell him you’ll leave the room for five minutes, and that if he doesn’t eat the marshmellow before you get back, he can have another marshmellow.

    This tests two things: The child’s emotional self-control, and his or her basic trust in society to be fair and rational.

    It turns out that people who understand–and discipline–their emotions, and who understand the emotions of others, tend to do very well in life, even if they have low general intelligence.

    Witness the cubicles of abused hackers and their smooth but pointy-haired bosses.

    Now, combine ‘g’ and emotional intelligence, and you’ve got something pretty substanstial.

  62. You forgot one, Eric.

    Gays average one, and transsexuals a whopping two, standard deviations above the mean.

    The gay community talk about “stupid breeders” therefore has a lot of merit according to this model.

  63. The consensus of the various different figures I’ve seen for the heritability of g is closer to 50% than to Eric’s 85% (Steve Sailer could tell you), but still, that’s a lot of wiggle room to help improve the lot of man with genetic engineering (oh no, not germline tinkering!! :-)

    And as someone pointed out above, it could be in large part a particular enzyme or 3, so germline engineering might not turn out to be needed if supplements can be used instead. But we don’t know enough yet either way.

    And between the nutritional underpinnings of the Flynn effect (widely speculated to be it’s largest component), and breast feeding advantages, and it looks like we’re getting a good idea of how we’ll all be able to be smart one day.

    But they who’ll do menial things if our machines ever break? [**duck**]

  64. People with higher IQ are not morally superior by virture of intelligence. Smart people are much more likely to have more money, and more social reputation. Thus, they have no reason to rob, and a whole lot to loose if they do. When the ammounts are high enough and they think they won’t get caught, smart people will steal the company blind. Furthermore smart people may not get directly involved with brute violence….not because high IQ makes you nicer, but because smart people have lackeys to do their dirty work for them. Stalin and Mao were not sluches in the IQ department. I think If you added up all the people murdered by idiots, and all the people put to death by the military/political power of smart people the bodies would pile higher on the smart side. Likewise, more thefts may be acted out by idiots, but more actual wealth is stolen and hoarded by the super-smart. God help us all.

  65. Since we are smashing old shibboleths, how about the one that says IQ has nothing whatsoever to do with head / brain size within humans, even though it seems to have everything to do with intelligence differences between species?

    What’s the truth? Do people with bigger skulls and brains tend to be smarter? Is there a truth to the old “egghead” adage?

  66. Interesting commentary on the importance of IQ and the insignificance of race. I agree with Eric on that.

    However, Christopher Badcock, in ‘Mentalism and Mechanism: The Twin Modes of Human Cognition, raises the likelihood of two distinct, largely incompatible, methods of thinking. One method, social/emotional, is primarily for manipulating other humans, and the other is mechanical/engineering, focused on manipulating things. In terms of IQ, there is very little representation of, and very little need for, mentalist thinking in test questions. After all, what value is there in knowing how someone feels? That’s for pollsters.

    I have a bit of speculation on the two modes of cognition. The Mentalist’s brain is a souped chimp-common ancestor brain, original equipment on anatomically modern humans. The Mechanist’s brain is an evolved (version 2.0) Mentalist brain, occurring about 60,000 years ago and giving rise to the Technological Big Bang.

  67. Eric, you have a mixup here between correlation and variance explained. Your very first paragraph equates 50%
    correlation with explaining half the variance.

    Unfortunately, variance-explained is the *square* of the correlation: a correlation of .5 explains only 25% of the variance. To explain 50% requires a correlation better than .7, a figure rarely achieved in anything concerned with the social sciences.

    Specific points:

    If African blacks are mentally retarded by our standards, then so were our grandparents: IQ has risen some 2 SDs in that time, requiring two separate restandardizations of the tests.

    The figure about crimes committed by blacks is of course meaningless in the absence of proper controls for SES. Also, what’s the support for “stupid people are more violent”?

    Finally, it’s misleading to call g “genetic”. To take one of Gould’s examples, height is much more heritable (correlation .9) than any kind of mental capacity, but there is no doubt that height is strongly influenced by environment as well: I’m taller than my ancestors because I’ve had better nutrition. “Genetic” tends to imply that environmental factors have little or no effect, which is plainly not the case.

  68. The variation in IQs (and apparently g’s) between different ethnic groups has to be cultural. This is for the very simple reason that these *aren’t genetic groups*. Look at some Ashkenazic Jews. We look like the peoples we live among (except in the cases of recent immigrants, such as everyone in the U.S, in which case we look like the people we lived among immediately before-hand.) There hasn’t been nearly enough time for Darwinian skin-cancer effects to shift us that way — it can only be that we interbred with the surrounding populations — a lot. Jews are a religious group — not a racial one.

    While we’re at it, hispanics are a linguistic group, whose genetics can be any mix of African, European, Native American, and East-Asian, including mixes that are almost all one source. East-Asian seems to include Japanese, even though they’re genetically Polynesian. Africans all get thrown together, even though there’s more human genetic diversity in Africa than in the rest of the world put together. Someone upthread even mentioned homosexuals!

    A responcible way to look for large-scale genetic effects would be to block for culture. Test lots of hispanics and try to connect to their genetic origins. Test Jews who converted, and their children, and their children’s children (as far as you can get clear records). I haven’t heard of studies like this being done, but I’ve seen no reason to expect them to find anything. After all, treating Hispanics as one group seems to make sense most of the time, and there’s no signs in Jewish culture of converts being less intelligent — and certainly not their children!

    Culture over genetics also matches what we know of neurology. The brain of a new-born is relatively unformed, and devoid of most advanced capabilities. The developement of complex mentality is beyond our ability to track, but it is known that simple things such as visual processing do not form unless the environment causes them to. We can reasonably expect that this is true of high intelligence as well.

    I’ll grant that twin and adoption studies argue against this, but the data sets there are awfully small and likely non-representative (being a twin or being adopted must have their own psycological effects, limiting the generalizability of these studies onto the population as a whole). For that matter, the studies I’ve seen are very clumsily constructed.

    Just because an idea is so unpopuler that most people won’t think about it doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s amazing what you can find yourself believing that way. :-)

  69. I am not studied in social science
    or the human brain, and cannot comment
    on statistics, but I feel that
    your conclusions re: race policy near the end of this article are simplistic.

    Obviously the rich have no need to
    commit violent crime, they can steal
    what they want bloodlessly or pay
    someone else to do the dirty work.

    At the risk of sounding simple-mindedned, poverty is a more serious problem, and a much more likely cause of violence, than stupidity.

    We would be better off dealing with
    IQ differences by *not punishing
    smart people*, and providing *good,
    free, education*, than by
    circumscribing the lives of people
    who are dumber. I leave the
    implementation of this “solution”
    as an excercise for the reader! :)

    As a final note, /I like the fact
    that you bring these touchy
    issues up/, even if I disagree with
    some of your particular conclusions.

  70. I heard on NPR (I think) that someone said that while controlling for income doesn’t change the IQ gab between American whites and American blacks much, controlling for family wealth does. While the significant increase in opportunity available to American blacks has led to significant increases in the relative income of blacks since the 1960s, it takes longer to close the gaps in accumulated wealth, especially since political trends since the 1930s are more hostile to accumulation of wealth than to earning of large incomes.

    So we seem to have an explanation for the IQ variation, and possible public policy prescriptions for reducing it without descending into the idiocies of socialism or racial preferences.

    (btw – I’d love to find a reference for the claim that family wealth is significant in the racial IQ variation. Email me using my first name as my username and the tld and second-level domain name of my website url if you have a pointer to an article making or debunking such a claim.)

  71. Regarding one point in David Speyer’s comment above, there have been several scientific articles (one in PNAS and at least 3 or 4 more in the American Journal of Human Genetics) published over the past few years demonstrating similarity of the various Jewish populations’ genetic profiles. With respect to paternal inheritance (Y-Chromosome studies), admixture has been low (only Ashkenazi Levites show a high percentage of Y-Chromosome haplotypes, consistent with a small-scale conversion event in Eastern Europe approximately one thousand years ago). Maternal inheritance (mtDNA studies) gives a somewhat muddier picture of admixture with local populations among various Jewish groups.

    I’ve also come across a study fitting Japanese into the Northeast Asian genetic landscape. Perhaps you’re thinking of the Ainu being related to Polynesians? Or basing your assumptions on language groups?

  72. Your fallacious commentary here is typical of the pseudo-intellectual who is untrained in statistical methods, the scientific method, sociology and psychology. I get an earful from my wife on this topic on a regular basis, because she is a Ph.D. whose focus is on these very issues. “The Bell Curve” is fundamentally flawed, and if you’d sit down and listen to someone who has spent years examining the approach taken in this book you might begin to see just how horribly wrong you are here. People who think like you do tend to be overly proud of their own “IQ” and accuse those like me of jealousy. In my case, I have an IQ between 130 and 150, depending on which test and how I’m feeling that day, so don’t think I have cause for jealousy. (Heh, pretty useful metric, eh?) Step back a bit and think about what you’re saying here, ESR. Pretty horrid stuff. What respect I had for you is pretty much spent.

  73. violence in the usofa is induced. all it may have to do with the iq is that dimmer are more prone to induction.

  74. Today is the day I lost all respect for esr. From reading this entry I can you can see that esr is arrogant, racist and sexist. The Nazi’s came up with all sort of evidence to prove that Jews and Africans where of an inferior race. Esr is doing the some thing. Linking IQ scores to the violent behaviour is the most un-intelligent thing I have ever heard. This is an over-simplification of the problem. I guess esr took some silly test that makes him believe that he is more superior than the rest of the world.
    Shame on you esr! Shame!

  75. Look– apart from chappy in Freakonomics’ take on crime and eugenics, the question is wrong headed. France has an infinite coastline… anything smaller is across bays, inlets, coves, fissures, jutting rocks, pebbles at the waterline, sand castles drowning at high tide, sand grains..
    I do like the implied eugenics of Roe va Wade, though.

  76. I enjoyed your article. Nicely done, and I agree with most of what you have written.

    About twenty five years ago I looked through the record books of the Marines in my platoon. I found that the average white GCT (similar to IQ) was 100, and the average black GCT was 85.

    But the performance of my black Marines was still very good. Character, willingness to cooperate, and hard work made up a lot of ground. And the strong NCO leaders were frequently black, natural leaders because of the physical size and commanding presence.

    I also had one black woman in my platoon. I had her grouped with the black guys at 85. Wrong!!! Her GCT was 128 – smart enough to be an officer. She was also a college graduate.

    Showed me that I had some bias. You certainly could not tell she was smart by talking to her or listening to her – she sounded just like the other guys – maybe she was just trying to cover up how smart she was. And her performance was not any better than the 85 GCT guys.

    I talked to her about becoming a Lieutenant – she wanted no part of that, and was happy to continue as “of of the guys.”

    Intelligence is important, but it is just one component of performance. Hard work, character, and a positive mental attitude are every bit as important for success in work and life.

  77. It’s a typical one-sided IQ position, and hardly original. We have not been able to determine whether high IQ _causes_ success, and even most correlations are weak — in the 15-20% range, which is “acceptable” by scientific standards but hardly convincing. Moreover, behavioral psychology shows that genetic endowment has much weaker consequences on one’s life path than does his environment. The only thing that arguments such as this one do is raise a lot of controversy while concealing the much more relevant discussion. I don’t understand why people keep doing it… It’s like saying “Clinton was an adulterer” or “GW Bush cuts taxes.” Sure, what you say is mostly true, but where’s the meat?

  78. Once you start looking, what are irrefutable however are the facts: IQ tests done by educational institutions, military organizations, research organizations, etc..; the fact that a majority of prisoners in the U.S. are black or Hispanic; the fact that only a small amount of executives or inventors are women, etc.. But unlike other type of statistics (weather, birth rates, etc.) these facts are somehow not permissible and are always subject to interpretation combined with a multitude of excuses (slavery, nutrition, environment, you name it). As soon as someone states the salient facts one immediately becomes a racist, a bigot, or whatever label serves the political interest of the accuser(s).

  79. GM: The fact is that people have been saying that white people are smarter than black for hundreds of years. We’ve only had I.Q. tests for 20 or 30 years. How did the idea of white intellectual superiority originate?

    JB: My theory is that it’s based on the fact that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks.

    GM: Say what??

  80. I admit to being bothered at first brush by the facts presented here (assuming that is what they are). I know better than to deny facts, though. The most interesting response (is anyone surprised?) would be John Cowan’s, because that confirms the lines along which I was thinking, outside of arguing about the hard facts.

    There’s one presented assertion of your own, however, which is so plainly obviously wrong that it shakes my confidence in all of the conclusions you drew yourself that go beyond the research results: that stupidity leads to violence. You are massively ignorant and deluded if you truly believe that. Violence is bred by circumstances, not intelligence. I don’t know what your environment has been like, but I know a fair number of people who are obviously slow, yet the sweetest souls on Earth. And I’ve run across my fair share of highly intelligent, cold, conniving bastards. FWIW, to toss this in here: research shows that most suicide bombers are of above-average intelligence and education.

    I have stepped into real bovine dung a few times in my life. On the basis of that experience, I feel confident to say that the assertion that stupidity leads to violence is equivalent to it.

  81. Fundamentally, there seems to be a cause/effect mix-up occurring. Does high IQ breed success, or does success cause a high IQ? After all, successful people have more opportunities, greater leisure time, etc — and there are other correlated factors which take effect earlier. For example, “family wealth” is a good indicator of both success and high IQ. But what causes what?

    It seems to me that any discussion in this vein concludes that eliminating poverty and raising the underclass is of extreme importance. After all, poverty and lack of opportunities causes lower measured IQ (note that this may not correlate in any way to lower *potential* IQ), and esr himself has argued strenuously that high measured IQ is necessary for “success”. esr will probably think that I’m a “dirty lefty” for thinking this way, but that disagreement is purely ideologic, not rational.

  82. I notice the post doesn’t mention anything about accusations of racial/cultural bias in standardized tests or the difference in scores between test-takers in poor, underpiviledged areas and those in more affluent areas.

    What was the cultural background of those who took the tests, and was that background considered in the final score?

    Also, how does one factor the effects of a subpar education into an IQ test?

    I repeat the statement from Shr: “…behavioral psychology shows that genetic endowment has much weaker consequences on one’s life path than does his environment. The only thing that arguments such as this one do is raise a lot of controversy while concealing the much more relevant discussion.”

    And Mike, I’m black, and that Julian Bond/Garret Morris sketch was one of the funniest things I have ever seen on SNL.

  83. Just a question from a “french” point of view: is IQ, and “commiting violent crime” not related to the income of the people and/or their parents ?

    High Income = Better Education = High IQ
    Low Income + Social Pressure (TV, peers, …) = Higher Chance to Commit a Violent Crime

    Nothing to do with being black or white. I believe that there is a set of innate differences, other than the color of skin, between asian, caucasian or african population, but the difference implied by education and social context are far more important.

  84. I am not sure if I am correct, and I am too lazy to currently (8:09 PM) get the research to verify it, but I do remember hearing that the reason for the relative meaninglessness/deceptiveness has nothing to do with special intelegii.

    it has to do with the fact that IQ is measured by comparing the answers of people with answers of people of certain groups of intellegence and using certain similarities/differeces to give an “amount of intellegence” based on how close you are to certain groups of thought.

    moreover, I think that any statistical intellegence difference between races is meaningless, since every person should be judged individually, without regarding race. so that even if race A might be less intellegent than race B, preson X of race A is more intellegent than person Y of race B. Therefore, that is not a cause for racism.

    finally, I find real life to contradict your statements. There were many briliant artists who could not ballance their checkbook if their life depended on it. many programmers, mathematicians and logicians in general do not have human interaction skills vital to economic success in modern society (unfortunately?). and so on.

  85. Its all really quite simple. The perception of intelligence is a matter of social preference, or social need. Beyond that you are just being pretentious…

    The greatest forces in the universe have no intelligence, and will destroy us all no matter how much thought we apply to the problem.

    By the way my IQ has never tested below 135, however, I know many people better than me at many things with lower IQ’s.

    IQ is very superficial, it means you solve problems well…

  86. The general point is right. I find him too kind with the patronizing, PC comment: “if you are a decent human being and not a racist bigot, you have been dreading” to be ridiculous. If you are a scientist, you approach you subject with no preconceptions, not even those spoon fed by CNN. When I walk down the street, I can make a legitimate assessment that many of the black people lack the ability to be responsible adults. They block my way, act generally infantile, and in many ways act insane. But oh yes, we are supposed to disregard all real life experience and pretend that we don’t notice the retarded black people who we avoid on the street.

  87. Mice commit fewer violent crimes than humans. Therefore, mice are smarter than humans.

    Let’s say a test measures how fast you can say a tongue twister. Then let’s say that a person’s ability to get a number of high-paying jobs is directly contingent upon that person being able to get a certain score on the tongue-twister test. In other words, they have to first “pass” the test as administered by a firm offering a desired job or must have “passed” any number of analogous tests to get an education to qualify for the job. If this were the case, then it could be suspected that income would correlate with how well you could say the tongue twister. Aha! This must mean that the tongue-twister test would measure a person’s general intelligence!! Please excuse me while I laugh heartily…okay, I’m done now.

    An Ashkenazi Jew (who doesn’t take his own IQ too seriously)

    P.S. Will libertarians please stop pretending to be the practical ones and just admit that they like to see people suffer? That whole song and dance is wearing thin on the rest of us. Nobody really takes it seriously anymore. While I am here, I would also like to implore you guys to stop mentioning Gary Kleck’s DGU statistics; we’ve already heard them a million times and we already know that they suffer from possible memory telescoping, self-selection bias, and an inadequate assessment of what a reasonable DGU actually is.

  88. I’ll have you know that the number of genes responsible for a distribution is proportional to (mean/std. dev.)^2. This means that for whites it is proportional to (100/15)^2 ie (6.67)^2. Now the std dev off blacks is somewhere between 11 and 14 say 12.5. Therefore the no of genes responsible for the distribution is roughly proportional to (85/12.5)^2 or 6.8^2 roughly the same thing. It is highly improbable that blacks and whites have different genes and that being the case both are equal. If you want details of the calculation, my email is phil3@eth.net

  89. esr, you state that stupid people tend to be more violent, irrespective of skin color. How do you characterise politicians ? I see this contradiction in politicians. They are _not_ stupid – a stupid Bush would have been a (stupid) cowboy. He could never become the president – but then, politicians _are_ stupid ! it is not an “intelligent” bush that ordered attacks on Iraq suspecting their possession of WMD (and btw, were any found in Saddam’s tooth fillings ? :-)

    In this blog, there’s talk of IQ in men vs women, races, cultures even sexual preference….perhaps there is a need to look at new dimensions – professions (politicians, journalists, beauracrats, prostitutes, lawyers etc). And see if IQ differences are seen across professionals coming from different geographical regions/cultures/… I strongly suspect that there isnt any – you can probably explain it away with bell curves and “relativity theories”. Arent politicians the world over lousy ? And beauracrats lazy ? And journos trying a quick one ?

    Fact of the matter is IQ, or for that matter any metric, has limited use (remember what’s common to statistics and mini-skirts ? what they reveal is trivial, what they conceal is vital!). Stretching the use of metrics (IQ included) hardly helps further any real cause.

  90. IQ. is the ability to adapt to your enviornmental situation no matter what the obsticales. However all people have different skills or ( gifts) if you will making each person better able to adapt to their situation better than others. You cannot give the same iq. test to harvard proffesor and construction workers and come up with a acurate evaluation of Intelligence or vise versa.Your background determines your skills.Vocabulary Is a memory skill Not intelligence.It’s obsurd to say the crime is related to intelligence.Ive’ worked with, and for, some very intelligent people who did not have an honest bone in thier body. The truth is the smarter a person is the more supereior to others they felt. Taking advantage of others seem to be the self proclaimed right. A reward for thier superior intelligance ! NOT!


  91. my IQ is 195 and nothing to applie it to because i screwed up my life when i was young’\

    can anyone use this stuff i have in my head i’v got to channel to something sound, lazer, stradegy

    please help i feel i’m wasting the worlds time

  92. I would like to know how many Americans, no matter how hard they try, are disenfranchized from having health insurance, a home, a car, and good nurishing food because of their genes.
    How many because of being brought up in poverty?
    I believe that the surge in technology eliminates too many from good jobs.
    I believe that many will only find opportunity in the Military and then only if they are lucky.
    Russell Williams

  93. I’m a South-African born white male with an IQ of 130. This is regarded as high above average. English is my 2nd language, so i’ll do my best to express my views as clearly as possible without too much grammar and spelling errors.

    In school I never had to study quite as hard as my fellow classmates to achieve similar scores or even higher. I was an average achiever throughout high school. I have qualifications in the NDT industry, as well as welding inspection and i’m a computer technician. Basically, no Phd, but more than enough to make a decent living you would think.

    I’m regarded as an intelligent person by my family and friends (who don’t know about my IQ score, because i’m ashamed to tell them.) The fact of the matter is, i have never learned how to STUDY. I read though material once or twice before tests or exams. I’m able to comprehend quickly, and my own conclusions are more often than not, correct. I also have an above average general knowledge, that comes naturally as a result of an interrest in a wide variety of subjects.

    Now for the interresting part. 10 years ago, my parents adopted a 2 year old black boy from Swaziland. My little brother, Bobby. He has had exactly the same living conditions that I’ve had. We really try to help him and my parents give more attention to his schoolwork than they did with me, to try and avoid making the same mistakes they did with me. In total contrast, with all the help at hand, Bobby has difficulty to learn. He attends a normal school, (not special ed.), but really has to work hard to achieve above average results.

    Bobby is 12 years old and still has difficulty to read, write neatly and his spelling is terrible. No matter how many times you make him write the words out, he seems to forget them just as quickly as he learns them. It takes a great deal of explanation for him to comprehend something.

    Now, if you, the reader, want to point a finger and shout RACIST, let me quickly share something with you:

    In South-Africa, most qualified white peolpe lost their jobs as a result of – affirmative-action. They were forced imigrate to Britain, Australia etc. to provide for their families. Today, 12 years after Nelson Mandela was released, my country is falling apart. Nuclear power stations cannot supply enough electricity because inexperienced black engineers were forced into positions that they simply cannot fulfill. Every day we hear of a South-African minister going to jail for fraud, rape, theft…

    I’m forced to work as a bartender because their is no work for me in my own coutry, where I was born!!!!!!!. My government rejects the capabilities of a person with an IQ of 130 because he is white. Isn’t that discriminating because of skin color? Yes it is. THE GOVERNMENT OF SOUTH AFRICA IS RACIST. It doesn’t matter that I personally did no harm to the black people in the years of apartheid, I’m getting punished for something I did NOT do! I am not racist, these are the facts of my life. I am a living social experiment of this topic, and therefore I can honestly admit the truth: The Black people that I personally know, are not only less intelligent on average, they’re also the most ignorant about the FACT!

  94. I’m an under acheiving member of the 99% plus club. Member (at times) of MENSA, INTERTEL, etc. Actual IQ…who knows? Depends on the test at the time. 190+???

    I say under acheiving because those who know one has a high IQ and don’t themselves always ask, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich or famous?” I am neither. I served over 25 years in the Air Force as active duty, reserves and air national guard. Have over 300 college credit hours with one bachelors degree to show for it. I am now in my mid fifties. Counting the Air Force I have had five diverse careers and enjoyed all of them. I am currently a computer technician.

    Why am I not rich and/or famous? Several reasons.

    Because for those of us with very high IQs bordem comes quickly in any career path except for a very few of us.

    Because it is so easy to get by, to live the easy life, for us. We can predict the outcome of a situation from the first few actions and take utmost advantage for our benifit while others are trying to guide events for their benifit-failure being their most common reward.

    Because we understand the “system”. When one knows how the system works one can take full advantage of it. During my military career I suffered a couple of line-of-duty injuries. Not debilitating, but with on going issues as the years go by. Most Americans look for a job with good health care benifits and, in some cases, pay through the nose for it. My health care, hospitalization, medications, possible nursing home care and burial are at no cost, to me. I also receive compensation for my injuries. Did are try to get hurt? No way! But once it happened I knew what the outcome would be. I also knew the federal government moves slowly and plan accordingly.

    Because we tend not to notice or be concerned with those of lower IQ. That sounds harsh, but it is true. Unless we are having them do something we want done why bother? Even in casual conversation they cannot keep up and we day dream while waiting for them to get to the point.

    Back in the 1970s there was a book out titled something like: How To Live Good, But Cheap. I still have a copy of it somewhere. It was basically a guide for hippies of the day for living without money. The real harsh truth is that a book for those with very high IQs could be titled: How To Live Good While The Mundanes Work Hard. Mundanes being those with 110 IQ and lower.

  95. It is a pity that Mr. Christoffel Smit is not smart enough to find a good job or to be an enterpreneur. I know loads of Indians making a killing in South Africa, and many more Africans and African Americans earning in the six digits (US dollars) … Mr Christoffel Smit should take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for his inability to find competent work and stop blaming the Government for his problems. Some one should with an IQ should certainly be able to find their butt with their two hands.

  96. I always enjoy your outspokenness, Eric.

    But your argument has severe flaws; have you by any chance actually *read* Gould’s book you excoriate? I find Gould’s works became both pedantic and overly prolix as he aged, but I can particularly recommend the essay “Carrie Buck’s Daughter” from “The Flamingo’s Smile” (a compendium of early works). Read his old stuff, you don’t have to agree with it to gain benefit from the experience.

    Your reasoning about the usefulness of intelligence numbers is entirely circular; your means of definition predicates your conclusion. In this way you are much like Samuel Morton, late of the Academy of Natural Sciences, who built the Morton Skull Collection and “proved” that skull capacity was predictive of intelligence, race, and moral righteousness.

    As for the mystical 85% number (percent heritability of IQ) that everyone’s asking about, it originally comes from the fake science of Cyril Burt, and has been repeated so many times that it has taken on the force of gospel. It’s a matter of religious faith among IQ people, even though (to my knowledge) there has never been a properly controlled, validated, repeatable experiment to prove it… every time someone claims they have, you find that they are applying magical fudge factors to compensate for the changes in test methodology and environment over time. No one knows anything more than that intelligence, as recognized by other humans (not neccessarily as measured by tests, though) has a high degree of heritability. 85% is the most popular number pushed by racist political extremists and the advocates of color-line genocide, so I prefer not to use it even as a theoretical estimate.

    Incidentally, I have two kids. One is my genetic child, the other adopted at birth. My wife is a career scientist with two college degrees, and is American of Scots ancestry. I have an extremely high IQ (according to tests, anyway), I’m literally a former rocket scientist, currently head of research and development at a medium-sized company, and of Norman English descent. My adopted child’s birth parents were ghetto dwellers with menial jobs in the large city just north of me; a black man with a 6th grade education who had been abandoned as a child and an Italian-American woman from a family plagued by alcoholism and many other forms of substance abuse.

    Both my kids are honor students. Both could recite the alphabet at age two. Both could read at age six and write readable prose by age seven. My adopted child is more physically graceful, more musically talented, smaller, shy, and likes to write and paint; my genetic child is better at “pure” mathematics, physically untalented (though quite trainable if he wants to learn a physical skill), gregarious, and likes to read and draw.

    So: let’s look at the data I just presented. I am performing a real-world experiment, though necessarily limited by my means. I have real-world results that say race is unrelated to any ability to “succeed” or “prosper” as these terms are used in real life. You, on the other hand, have performed no experiments (I hope it is obvious that being aquainted with folk from several races is essentially meaningless since you cannot possibly evaluate their upbringing without having been physically present for the formative years of their lives) and base your comments entirely on suspect logic and other people’s reports. I think my opinion is more informed than yours, and I say Loyola’s Jesuits were right: “Give them to me for the first seven years, and they are mine forever”. People are programmable and useful programs are not predicated on the capabilities of the processor, but on the cleverness of the program and its’ suitedness to the environment in which it functions.

    I realise my sample size makes my experiment too limited to apply to a larger group, but, Eric, think like a geek: a truly shitty program running on a 64-bit linux box is *not* better than a truly awesome program running on a crappy old DOS 286.

  97. This article is misleading. IQ tests are SPEED BIASED. Please, I’m not here to offend anyone’s cultural beliefs, or degrade the role of g for human intellegence. I haven’t arranged an argument to mislead the public. My research as an undergraduate has directed me towards some interesting developments in cognitive science, and I think it is good that the common man be educated on these developments.

    The issue is far too complex to discuss in detail here, but there is evidence mounting that GLIAL CELLS are, at least, just important to both learning and thinking as NEURONS are. Creativity, (arguably what intelligence IS, and historically what has been responsible for all of humankinds most influential achievements), is believed to be attributatble to higher glial mass. People with severe artistic giftedness from Michael Jackson to Van Gogh to Albert Einstein, have not attained their status by luck, as is commonly perputated. We are born with differing glial concentrations and myelin thickness (responsible for determining IQ). While higher IQ individuals are capable of learning the most elementary bits of information more quickly (words, names, numbers), a higher glial concentration makes it easier to actually draw connections between those bits. Simplified further, the rate you learn by the senses and the rate you think at, is determined by a combination of both IQ and glial cells.

    Unfortunately, there are many political reasons to support IQ. Capitalist economies benefit from the concept of IQ, because it makes the laymen feel more comfortable with his status. (I can respect people doing ANY task, as long as they are in a state of doing it well) Pharmucuteical companies make billions from selling drugs they introduce for ’emotional’ problems. These drugs just make people smarter, by increasing the rate of synaptic transmission (of course you’ll feel better, you’ve gotten smarter!). Of course, if the public had this interpretation of what emotional prescriptions really do, it may very well create be a HUGE problem. In addition to these, there are ‘possible’ reasons which I won’t dwell into.

    With the Neuro-Glia model of intelligence things would be a somewhat different:

    1) Intelligence will become more closely synonymous with, although by no means exlusive to, creativity.

    2) Intelligence will be viewed as a less general ability, and represent an ability to achieve or accomplish a single or few broader goal(s). Obviously, this goal will be meaningful enough to effect a person’s life personally. (finishing a college degree, a long phenomenal streak on the job, mastery of musical instruments, an unusually developed trade skill – carpentry, painting, rapid development of social skills).

    3) For many individuals, glial cells would not make any difference to their intelligence – the new model would have no effect.

    4) High glial individuals will often hit a peak as they are exiting from adolescents (usually between 18-26 years old), which will represent a point where they are ‘smarter’ than their high IQ peers. It may represent a point where a person with less knowlege (a slower learner), out-connects someone with a broader information, who simply hasn’t been able to make as many meaningful connections at that point.
    These are your classical child prodigies.

    Unfortunately, creativity has never been viewed as an important human factor in capitalist societies, replaced by the boring, and in my mind monopolized, IQ (regurgitation ability). OH, but all this ISN’T TO SAY THAT IQ ISN’T IMPORTANT, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT……….IT’S JUST NOT EVERYTHING.

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  99. In 1915, Dr. G.W. Ferfuson took 1000 school children in Virginia, divided them into five racial categories, and tested them for mental aptitude. On average Negroes scored 69.2 percent as high as whites. 3/4 Negroes(1/4 white) scored 73.0 percent as high as whites. 1/2 Negroes scored 81.2 percent as high as whites. 1/4 Negroes (3/4 white) scored 91.8 percent as high as whites… Results of the Army Beta test given by the U.S. army to over 386,000 illiterate soldiers in WW1 showed Negro draftees to be “inferior to whites on all types of tests used in the army”. Additionally, tests were conducted on Negroes, Mulattoes, and Quadroons. It was found that “the lighter groups made better scores”. The fact that half blacks score intermediate between blacks and whites has been shown by Sandra Scarr and others…Now, it isn’t hard to imagine the consequences of a caucasian or east asian population becoming completely submerged in the blood of a foreign people. If this doesn’t fill us with fear and foreboding, there is something dreadfully wrong with our instincts…

  100. I’m confused about the American vs African IQ remark.

    “..it gets worse: the average IQ of African blacks is lower still, not far above what is considered the threshold of mental retardation in the U.S. And yes, it’s genetic…”

    How can the gene pools of American blacks versus African blacks have changed so much in 400 years? Doesn’t the fact that there is such a difference between the groups prove IQ is social? Or is it Eric’s implication that slavery and life in America has left only the most intelligent blacks alive?

    There are only three ways an isolated gene pool can change:
    (1) genetic drift (random fluctuations in dna bouncing around a population’s ‘average genome’),
    (2) selection (federally enforced or otherwise: includes artificial, natural, and sexual selection), and
    (3) bottlenecks (like a comet killing everything on the planet except for the island of Hawaii, or exiling all homosexuals to Antarctica: a small sample with mean and variance different from the overall population is suddenly all that’s left of the overall population).

    Genetic drift wouldn’t do it, and if it did it would disprove America as cause anyway.

    The initial ‘harvesting’ of slaves certainly counts as the third type, population bottleneck, but that would mean that slavers back in the day happened to pick the Africans with the highest IQ’s to take with them as slaves, a scenario which seems unreasonable to me.

    The remaining culprit is selection: that only the smartest Africans were able to survive slavery, and so only they were alive to pass on their ‘smartness’ genes, whereas in Africa, smart and stupid survived and procreated equally. Is this the explanation implied by the article?

    Positive selection means for a trait, negative means against. To result in a significant statistical difference in as little as 16 generations (taking generation time = 25 years, time since population divergence = 400 years), positive selection on the genes that determine intelligence would need to be immensely strong, especially if intelligence is a complex polygenic trait (we don’t have a single smarts-on, smarts-off type of gene like Mendel’s pea plants did for color, and the more genes that are involved, the slower selection usually is).

    Logically then, if we accept the premises
    (i) that today there is a significant difference in IQ between African and American blacks, AND
    (ii) that 400 years ago all blacks were members of the same population,
    then we are left with exactly two possible conclusions:
    (A) IQ has a significant cultural component, OR
    (B) the positive selection pressure on the genes that govern IQ is significantly stronger in America than it is in Africa.

    I personally don’t believe that America is such a breeding ground for geniuses (are American whites so much smarter than European whites?), or that slavery kept only the intelligent alive. I think that the environmental conditions since the population divergence have probably favored physical strength or health. I would be interested in seeing a strength study on American blacks versus African blacks. Physical strength is a trait that is accepted as genetic with much less controversy than that surrounding IQ, and shows both heritability and variation (the two requirements for selection). Furthermore, I think it is reasonable to assume that if slavery put such a strong selection pressure on intelligence, it put at least similar pressure on physical strength. If American blacks aren’t stronger than African blacks, then there probably hasn’t been selection pressure significant enough to appear in the last 16 generations for any genetic trait, ruling out conclusion (B).

    Please note that in addition to the three ways an isolated gene pool can change mentioned above, a gene pool can also change if it is not not isolated and another population intermingles with it, like killer bees mixing with honey bees. This is called gene flow. Is it Eric’s contention then that higher American black IQ is due to a gene flow between American populations that has not taken place in Africa? I do not know the statistics on racial interbreeding in America as opposed to Africa, but its contribution to the black and white IQ gene pools, if such a pool exists, would be horrendously difficult to test for.

  101. Take a look around you. It would appear that people with high physical strength (let’s call that “s”) and low g more often than not find a way to substitute s for g than people with high g and low s – usually the latter end up hurt if they think they’ve found a way. So s is, in a strict functional sense, more powerful than g.
    Yet I wouldn’t consider s to measure any kind of intelligence – even though it IS correlated with success.

  102. >It would appear that people with high physical strength (let’s call that “s”) and low g more often than not find a way to substitute s for g

    Nonsense. A person with high g can talk a person with low g but high s into lifting things for him :-).

  103. From original post:

    «Recently g and IQ have been shown to correlate with measurable physiological variables such as the level of trace zinc in your hair […]»

    That’s because not wearing your tin-foil hat will let the radiowaves degrade your IQ.

  104. Regarding the potential correlation between high intelligence (“g”) levels and secularism: wouldn’t it be common sense (perhaps another ability inherent with, and proportionate to, general intelligence) that when Christianity or other forms of organized worship are presented to us and laid at our feet from birth, and when this happens along with the development (or lack thereof) of an inferior intelligence level, the people to whom the religion was introduced are going to stick with it and firmly believe every last little dogmatic detail rather than actively seek what they consider to be “truth”? Wouldn’t it make sense that people who, either through genetic inheritance or the rearing environment or any combination of both, have a desire to explore and discover things on their own accord can also be assumed to have higher levels of “g”? To assume is to rebut everything that legitimate science stands for; then again, my comment isn’t the original tinder but rather fuel for the already-burning flame.

  105. I note that American Negroes score higher than African Negroes. I do not see how this supports the idea that a history of slavery had a negative effect on their IQ tests.

  106. It’s funny how when this argument comes up, people conveniently forget all other environmental factors that may probably influence the so called ‘g’ in much more profound ways than just genes, such as nutrition, availability of basic resources such as water, availability of proper medications, to only name a few. Humans are still basically only animals and any lack of the aforementioned requisites only guarantees a suboptimal ‘g’ or whatever you wanna call it.

    Following your logic (or lack thereof), 15% African American responsible for 50% of crimes in North America as a cause of their inferior ‘g’, would make the entire African continent a complete war zone of gratuitous violence, and even more so in the past than in present days. Evidence points to the contrary since violence in Africa is due to a wide range of socio-economic causes. Eric, stick to hacking or if you really want to dig into this, research this state of affairs with less bias. You can start with a book titled “The Bottom Billion”, amazon is your friend for other recommended readings.

  107. Ah man! More of this pseudo-science non-sense. This topic has already been studied to death in academia. The very notion of the existence of “race” (as a hereditary concept) is defunct, let alone the notion of racial superiority.

    The notion of racial intelligence is used mostly by the followers of the defunct and discredited “clash of civilizations” theory.

    The Ashkenazi Jews’ super intelligence theorem is particularly popular with Israeli apologists. One of the interesting facts regarding this idea was the fact that it seems Ashkenazi Jews in Israel seem to test lower in IQ tests than the Ashkenazi Jews in the diaspora. The fact is also reflected in the rate of Nobel prizes won by Ashkenazi Jews in sciences. Despite the fact that Ashkenazi Jews tend to win an unusual number of nobel prizes in sciences, almost all winners tend to be diaspora Jews and not Israeli Ashkenazi Jews.

    The same applies to oriental Asians. Korearns/Chinese/Japanese, leaving outside of their respective countries tend to score higher on IQ tests than their relatives in the country.

    The explanation offered was that cultural submersion tends to make people more prone to superstition and less open-minded. Hence, a Chinese person living in China is much more prone to accept authority rather than to challenge conventional thought. This is as true in politics as it is in the sciences.

    Raymond seems to be arguing that low IQ test score is a cause for poverty (in places like Africa and among African Americans). This is completely turned up on its head. IQ test scores can be increased due to “nurture” factors. This has long been proven. Wealth tends to lead to higher IQ scores, not the other way around. The majority of wealth in practically every place in the world (including the US) tends to be inherited. This is especially true for the means of production and capital, which are almost always inherited. They are not a sign for intelligence.

    Just think of it this way: Paris Hilton, who is in her 20s now, is many times richer than Einstein ever was. Who do you think was smarter?

  108. “The explanation offered was that cultural submersion tends to make people more prone to superstition and less open-minded. Hence, a Chinese person living in China is much more prone to accept authority rather than to challenge conventional thought. This is as true in politics as it is in the sciences.”

    An even better explanation? Smarter people are more likely to seek out opportunites available in diaspora, as they are more adaptable to a foreign society and culture. And it doesn’t require believing that “cultural submersion” retards people.

  109. Don’t ask me how I ran across this one (aside from FBI, CIA, IBM, and a few others, you are one of the few 3 letter words that get me what I want to find on Google). But it was an interesting read. As were the responses. I thought, since that last one was August of last year, I’d add another….

    The article made me think of something else I read recently about intelligence – and marriage habits. (Ashkenazi Jews seem to have been an exception). I saw a graph on areas where cousin marriages (extreme endogamy) are high here. Cousin marriages tend to cause problems, including lowered intelligence (especially when this goes on for multiple generations). And, well… look at it.

    So, I’m thinking intelligence may a good correlation with exogamy vs endogamy (and the cultures involved). Admittedly, some of the commenters above have also made valid points about pre-natal (and post-natal) nutrition and other possible contributors to low intelligence. But I’m adding a new one, and I’d bet that it is a fairly heavy contributor to low-intelligence in ‘races’.

  110. That certainly was interesting.

    To me, it begs for an answer to a question that we don’t have the capability to answer (as far as I know). I want to know the differences in the statistical spread of a strong will, and how that relates to ones practical ability to adapt to life, particularly in combination with a healthy dose of g. Just thinking through problems doesn’t seem like enough to bring about large scale changes in the world, but solving them mentally is certainly a start. In the measuring of g, you’re essentially removing will as a factor by making everyone complete the test, but it seems like it plays a vital role in the real world.

  111. Yes, IQ is highly controversial, but only because people are afraid of the truth, as they often are. Remember Laozi: True words are not beautiful, beautiful words are not true.
    I had to accept this myself: I suffered through school, getting bullied for being a slow learner and kind of dumb; I finally had to drop out because of the emotional and psychological stress it caused me. — But the bullies were right: I am indeed dumb, as a Stanford Binet test showed: a score of 68! It came as a shock, and I lost all confidence in myself — initially wanted to become a programmer, dabbled in C, Linux/BSD and Perl but now I’ve finally stopped: with an IQ so low, there is certainly no hope for me at ever becoming great at anything intellectual. It must be so.

    I wish society would accept that IQ is highly heritable, and sterilize people with IQs < 100, or at least create incentives for people with a low IQ not to breed. I am certainly not grateful for my low intelligence, it would have been better if my mother had aborted me.



    P. S. Pardon my english, it is far from perfect due to it not being my mother tongue and my low IQ of 68.

  112. What do you think about the solution given by Marilyn Vos Savant to the Monty Hall problem?

  113. Way late to the party here,

    But as a half breed (white/black), I will angrily agree that there is some mental factor that correlates to success of individuals, which then ultimately results in success amongst a group of people with similar genes (humans are all genetically similar but 0.001 degrees (angle) over 10 mm is nothing but over 100 Km it’s a huge gap at the end).

    I like the fact that you directly applied it to individuals I have never once seen anyone advocate that IQ exists without trying to use it against black people in some way shape or form. Since about 16% of Southern African population would have an IQ equal or greater than 95 which is current day terms is about 150-200 million people (2015), based this on the fact that 16% of a population are about 1 SD above the mean (the average in Southern African is somewhere about 80).

    Personally it seems obvious even if there are environmental aspects that we blacks are less intelligent in reference to the modern world, it runs through my mind on a regular basis at work whether or not that mistake I made is simply because I’m less intelligent (seriously this question messes with your mind when you spend so much time worrying about it).

    I then think perhaps it would be a good idea for Southern Africans to use soft propaganda or some means to encourage positive breeding, with media becoming common in Southern Africa it wouldn’t be hard to apply it, even at school levels, conditioning young blacks so when they grow up if they know they are less intelligent that they probably shouldn’t breed and encourage all black women to breed with intelligent black men, perhaps even go as far as surrogates and less intelligent couples raising smarter children from better gene pools (who we would then encourage to have excess children for adoption) etc, whatever it takes without directly forcing people (it has to be a persons choice after all), it sounds harsh but nobody wants to be stupid so why should we not try to alleviate some of the pain? Propaganda is a powerful tool

    Then I may even live to see a day when Southern Africans those people who look like me actually succeeding past simply low level economies (raw materials and some manufacturing/agriculture), you hear economists talking about the prospects of Africa but in reality it just isn’t happening it’s always “In the future”.

    Anyway back to the ol’ intelligence and crime I think you should revise it to “violent crime” since I see in tourist areas that petty theft and fraud etc are VERY common despite the average IQ of that area being say about 100 (Rome in Italy for example). however Russia is relatively intelligent but appears to have higher crime than most western European countries (I could be wrong this is based on perception).

    Lamens rant,


  114. “There are African black geniuses and Ashkenazic Jewish morons.”

    No, that’s wrong. There are smart africans, but there can never be a black genius. Can you picture a black Dante or Goethe? Of course not. Even the Igbo are no geniuses, they are only tradesman.

    Genius is a privilege of white european gentiles and Ashkenazi Jews. However, Jews have lower variance than white gentiles. According to Charles Murray, Jews have an STDV of only 13 while gentile whites have a STDV of 16.67. In other words, there are fewer dumb Jews pulling down the Ashkenazi IQ average because gentile whites produce the broad spectrum of absolute
    geniuses or absolute morons (well, the biggest morons are african bushmen, of course).

    1. >Genius is a privilege of white european gentiles and Ashkenazi Jews.

      False by direct observation. One of the people I regularly game with on Friday nights is a genius who is black and (improbably, given the dispersion statistics) female. The most scary-bright programmer I’ve ever met is ethnically Chinese.

  115. Over twelve years after it was written, I find myself reading this entry again in the course of going over a very recent discussion on privilege.

    One claim I’m having trouble fleshing out is _The Bell Curve’s_ “undeserved trashing”. When I search on this, I find plenty of ink, but it’s practically all consider-the-source stuff – critiques and praises all come from the usual suspects. The best case I can build for TBC being flawed is that it was not submitted for peer review before it was published, but the obvious counter to that is that the peer review community is itself arguably biased. OTOH, that doesn’t mean TBC is well-founded; it just means I can’t know for sure.

    There appear to be other studies that suggest some of the same findings, but nailing down their provenance is very hard, given what tools I have at hand – I’m not even sure I can find all the relevant studies.

    Eric, is there a source you have in mind for how well TBC holds up, that wouldn’t immediately appear to me?

    1. >Eric, is there a source you have in mind for how well TBC holds up, that wouldn’t immediately appear to me?

      Not much in the underlying psychometric science has changed since the 1994 statement of support I linked to, except that estimates of IQ heritability now cluster at the high end of the range considered plausible back then. Basically, better-controlled twin studies keep lowering the ceiling on environmental contribution.

      Charles Murray, ome of TBC’s coauthors. recently published an Open letter to the Virginia Tech community that punctures a lot of myths.

  116. Wow, I just came across this, I cannot believe you had the guts to say this in 2003.

    One of the major problems with this topic is the blatantly dishonest way people that should know better argue about it.
    In every scientific field the theories that dominate are the ones that do a better job at explaining finding then the alternative. They don’t have to be perfect, or even that good, they just have to be better than the alternative.

    Evolution, especially when originally proposed by Darwin was by no means without holes but it was a lot better than an imaginary being creating the earth a couple thousand years ago. The arguments that rely on nurture or racism, or patriarchy often fail the basic criteria of being falsifiable, let alone a credible alternative to hereditary arguments.

    IQ test are a great and reliable measure but they are not necessary, and neither is for example a test showing men to be more violent than women. Even without knowing any genes that might cause men to be more violent, a genetic explanation is more likely by logical reasoning.

    The notion that races are on average not equal in intelligence is supported by looking at universities. Here we have places filled with liberals, as opposed to sports. So one should expect blacks to be more successful, yet they are not. Instead we have a basketball teams filled with blacks owned by people like Donald Sterling, and universities dominated by atheist Asians. The implication being that not only are universities more racist against blacks, they are more racist then Donald Sterling, and in favor of Asians.

    Those liberals in universities are mostly atheist, a group which until recently was the most hated group in America. If one is to assume discrimination has so much effect in the US then it seems absurd atheist should hold such sway in academia. But Atheist are also the richest people in the US. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Ballmer, Buffet, Zuckerburg, Bezos, Ellison, all atheist. The same holds for Europe when it comes to academia, sports and wealth.

    But lets come back to sports, because the notion that a group of racially suppressed people should dominate the kind of jobs that pay millions, grant them the status of national heroes and celebrities is absurd.

    We shouldn’t just be focused on providing evidence supporting our point of view, as no matter how much we bring the opposition can always demand more. We should be actively demanding the opposition be held to the same standards. As it stands we have somewhat flawed hereditary arguments being ignored in favor of unfalsifiable bullcrap any 10 year old with access to worldstarhiphop can easily spot trough.

    On even more disturbing note. I see that technology is steadily making low IQ jobs obsolete while creating more demand for high IQ people. This didn’t used to be like that, assembly line manufacturing being a good example. We cannot have a stable society when a good deal of the people cannot provide any useful labour. Even with basic income, dumb people who have to much time on their hands are a horrifying prospect.

    The main reason why in 2016 I can have laser eye surgery, or hair implants. But I can’t change the IQ of my future child for the better are people who believe evolution stopped at the neck. We are at a technological level where serious research can be done on improving the intelligence of all humans. Not doing so morally despicable, especially since improving intelligence is useful even if I am wrong about race differences. Essentially smart people make smart decision and thus would be better equipped to deal with any problem.

  117. High heritability of IQ does not necessarily imply that group differences are genetic in origin as anyone well informed on this topic should know. It does make it more likely however

    1. > High heritability of IQ does not necessarily imply that group differences are genetic

      A worthwhile point that definitely ought not be ignored.

      Obviously differences between populations could be driven by environmental factors, such as one population having a higher lead exposure, even while within a given population there is a high degree of heritability. From what I understand those hypotheses have been (and continue to be) explored. And yet, my impression is that the environmental/cultural explanation has not proved to be sufficient.

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