Pharyngula

Who’s smarter than who?

Oh, no, I’m torn — I’m an atheist who thinks IQ tests are over-rated and over-interpreted, and here’s a Danish study that claims that atheists have IQs that average 5.8 points higher than theists’.

Actually, I’m lying and I’m not really torn at all. I don’t buy it. I think IQ tests are loaded with bias that favors a particular kind of thinking, the kind that signals success in academia, engineering, medicine, and so forth, and doesn’t necessarily reflect any specific biological property. It’s fair to say that atheist values parallel the values rewarded by IQ tests, but the simple-minded interpretation that it reflects an actual measure of greater intelligence is unwarranted. Unless, of course, you accept the tautology that intelligence is whatever it is that an IQ test measures.

I do confess that I suspect there may also be a selection effect: simple-minded people are going to be attracted to simple-minded answers, and you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it”. Also, in the absence of a strong godless tradition in the US, your pool of atheists is going to be populated with people who have put a lot of thought into their beliefs, while the pool of theists is going to contain people who have thought about their ideas and a much larger group of people who have simply blindly accepted indoctrination.

Anyway, it’s a much more complicated situation than can be encapsulated in a magic IQ number.

Comments

  1. #1 Reginald Selkirk
    July 25, 2007

    Who’s smarter than who?

    I’m smart enough (OK, pedantic enough) to know that it should be “Who’s smarter than whom?”

  2. #2 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 25, 2007

    I thought IQ tests were a measure of the ability of the person to particular problems. That was always my interpretation of said tests. An intelligent person should possess the capacity to solve difficult problems. An intelligent person need not be able to recite the Aeneid in its original Latin from memory. Ergo the distinction between the knowledgeable and the intelligent.

    Just my input.

  3. #3 Salt
    July 25, 2007

    “you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it””

    And just what if He did?

  4. #4 Rey Fox
    July 25, 2007

    That doesn’t make it any more complex.

  5. #5 Christian Burnham
    July 25, 2007

    We’re also 7.3 points better looking than theists.

  6. #6 Bob L
    July 25, 2007

    “The Danish professor is a highly controversial academician who has previously provoked outrage by concluding that White people are generally more intelligent than Black people, and in 2002 that men have a higher average intelligence than women”

    Seems to be a pattern here. Pofessor Nyborg is a white, male, atheist I assume.

  7. #7 Ben
    July 25, 2007

    Off topic, but I think capitalizing ‘he’ looks asinine.

    The only IQ test I ever did ended up having a lot of questions on it that I would later study theorems about while taking my math degree. I remember some questions about Euler paths and the Fibonacci sequence. It is a vague memory though.

  8. #8 MartinM
    July 25, 2007

    And just what if He did?

    Gets us nowhere, any more than a magic trick is solved by declaring ‘the magician did it!’

  9. #9 Jeff
    July 25, 2007

    I’ve always felt that IQ tests weren’t really fair either. I mean, if one has never been exposed to Algebra, would you expect them to automatically be able to solve an algebraic equation?

  10. #10 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 25, 2007

    If any of you get a chance, try taking a “Black IQ Test.” I haven’t been able to find a real one online, but my undergraduate psych professor posed some of the questions on the overhead. They were absolutely ridiculous-looking, and none of the answers seemed to follow from the questions. But the black students absolutely, hands-down did better than the vast majority of white students. It was a small example of how IQ test conclusions are also influenced by culture and not necessarily intelligence factors.

  11. #11 Sonja
    July 25, 2007

    There are two dimensions required to make an atheist. One is intelligence. The other is fearlessness – the willingness to think about things that are not accepted by your family or society.

  12. #12 H. Humbert
    July 25, 2007
  13. #13 Blake Stacey
    July 25, 2007

    Reginald Selkirk:

    I’m smart enough (OK, pedantic enough) to know that it should be “Who’s smarter than whom?”

    I actually don’t know which way the pedant should swing on this matter. (Get it — pedant, pendant? Oh, sirrah, what a jolly wordsmith you reveal yourself to be!) Suppose I wanted to ask, egotistically, “Who is smarter than I am?” The grammar of this question clearly “sounds right,” whatever its psychological baggage. I could save breath by leaving out the latter verb and saying, elliptically, “Who is smarter than I?”

    See, the pronoun following than has to be in the nominative, doesn’t it?

    Grammatical pedantry is fucked up, man.

  14. #14 Vyoma
    July 25, 2007

    I agree with your opinion of IQ tests. I was under the impression that they were mainly designed to see how well children would perform in “standard” scholastic subjects and weren’t a very good indicator of intelligence per se outside of a very narrow interval of 15% of the norm arbitrarily set at 100 pts (and what is one of those points really worth, anyhow, if not a predictor of academic task performance?) I was also under the impression that IQ changes with age because of the way scores are calculated.

  15. #15 Evolving Squid
    July 25, 2007

    Off topic, but I think capitalizing ‘he’ looks asinine.

    Not only does it look asinine, I would say it’s almost certainly incorrect. Shouldn’t god be an “it” ?

    Tom, I found this:

    http://wilderdom.com/personality/intelligenceChitlingTestShort.html

    Unfortunately, that test is wholly cultural in nature. I could easily concoct a Canadian version, or a Venezuelan version.

    I’ve taken at least a dozen IQ tests, and have never seen one so culturally biased as that one. I’m willing to wager that Colin Powell wouldn’t do any better on that test than I would.

    Typically, the tests have involved “which number best continues this sequence”, “which shape best belongs in the missing space”, “which word doesn’t belong” (but the words were not cultural in an obvious way), and so forth.

    While I agree that IQ tests are little more than a general guideline, I don’t agree that they are inherently culturally biased although certainly there are some that are designed that way.

  16. #16 raven
    July 25, 2007

    “you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it””

    And just what if He did?

    You must mean, what if They did. Gods usually come in groups. Zeus, Odin, Cthulhu, Vishnu, Osiris, etc. and entourages.

    I suppose we would have to change the signs on all the churches and put up some more temples. And maybe build some pyramids and stuff them full of mummies.

    It is probably worthwhile waiting for some proof first.

  17. #17 Peter Ashby
    July 25, 2007

    Sonja:
    “There are two dimensions required to make an atheist. One is intelligence. The other is fearlessness – the willingness to think about things that are not accepted by your family or society.”

    That may be true in the US but here in Europe, and especially the UK it is easier and easier to be an atheist and many people are simply not religious due to their upbringing. They have not actively chosen to be atheists, but are simply not bothered enough to be theists. I don’t see this as a bad thing, they seem just as likely to tell the JW’s at the door to sod off as I am (though the last lot I kept talking for about 40min). The various ‘missions’ we get from your televangelists (Cerullo is advertising his latest on tv at the moment) attract the already committed and have not affected the downward slide of belief. There is one school of thought that says modern life is simply too comfortable and we have little need to appeal to a deity to help us.

    I am also so tempted to post the article to a christian usenet group I frequent…

  18. #18 Paul
    July 25, 2007

    I’m smart enough (OK, pedantic enough) to know that it should be “Who’s smarter than whom?”

    “Blake is smarter than who (is)? Blake is smarter than you (are)!”

    “Who is smarter than who (is)? Blake is smarter than Reginald (is)!”

    “Who is smarter than you (are)? Blake is smarter than you (are)!”

  19. #19 Greg Peterson
    July 25, 2007

    There might be a sort of corrolary, though, to this line of thought: If one is talking to a theist, there is no reason to think the person is unintelligent; but if one is talking to an idiot, one is typically justified in assuming she is a theist.

  20. #20 raven
    July 25, 2007

    They have not actively chosen to be atheists, but are simply not bothered enough to be theists.

    Actually my unofficial and maybe wrong impression is that in most of the US, the main religion is apathetic agnosticism. Most people spend more time thinking about what is for lunch than whether god is really a republican.

  21. #21 SmellyTerror
    July 25, 2007

    Uh, guys? I might be wrong, but I think that when Salt aswered PZ’s: “you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it”

    …with the fairly incoherant: “And just what if He did?”

    …he was just trying to say that “he did it” was a (very-slightly) simpler statement than “god did it”, since it has one fewer letter.

    I gather it was a joke, a form of language designed to generate amusement, and not intended to be taken as a statement regarding the nature of god.

  22. #22 w00t
    July 25, 2007

    Ha! My IQ is 122!

    Beat that, suckers.

  23. #23 Blake Stacey
    July 25, 2007

    According to The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, it’s all cool and froody:

    Than is both a subordinating conjunction, as in She is wiser than I am, and a preposition, as in She is wiser than me. As subject of the clause introduced by the conjunction than, the pronoun must be nominative, and as object of the preposition than, the following pronoun must be in the objective case. Since the following verb am is often dropped or “understood,” we regularly hear than I and than me. Some commentators believe that the conjunction is currently more frequent than the preposition, but both are unquestionably Standard. The eighteenth-century effort to declare the preposition incorrect did succeed in giving trouble, not least because it called the than whom structure into question, but it too is again in good order: He is a fine diplomat, than whom we would be hard-pressed to find a better.

    Looks like either way is legit. In this particular case, there’s no real ambiguity involved in the choice between nominative and objective cases. Contrast this with the stanza from the Beatles’ “If I Fell,”

    If I give my heart to you,
    I must be sure
    From the very start
    That you would love me more than her.

    The last line should be an ellipsis of “that you would love me more than she did,” but instead sounds like an ellipsis of “that you would love me more than you love her.” Maybe it’s only the possibility of hot girl-on-girl action which makes me detect a grammatical ambiguity, but I think the point is clear: sometimes, pronoun cases must be chosen with care, while at other times we can relax.

  24. #24 Thanny
    July 25, 2007

    RE: #6

    Either white people, on average, are more intelligent than black people, on average, or the converse is true. The probability that the average intelligence is exactly the same is too small to consider, though the difference in average may certainly be small enough to fit within the margin of error of the testing done.

    The same is true of men and women, atheists and theists, and any other two classifications you can think of.

    If the facts do conclude that whites score higher than blacks, men than women, and atheists than theists, it doesn’t mean the person who did the research is a misogynistic racist who hates religious people. Given the demographics of scientists alone, odds say that whoever ends up doing that research will be a white male atheist.

    The main problem here, as I see it, is that some people are so concerned about social equality that they deny any reality that could be perceived to justify such social inequality.

    But that’s counterproductive, because it implicitly accepts that a factual inequality would justify a social inequality. The rational and moral approach is to acknowledge that people are different. By any criterion you can think of to divide one group of people from another, there will be differences in the averaged qualities of those two groups. Social equality is something we want because it’s right, regardless of how different people are.

    I have no doubts that the average intelligence of atheists in a given culture is higher than the average intelligence of theists in that same culture. I’m perfectly willing to be proven wrong, but I’ve seen enough evidence to make up my mind until new information is provided.

  25. #25 Glenn
    July 25, 2007

    Grammatical pedantry is fucked up, man.

    How true! Another Blake’s Law!

  26. #26 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 25, 2007

    While I agree that IQ tests are little more than a general guideline, I don’t agree that they are inherently culturally biased although certainly there are some that are designed that way.

    I do agree with that. I looked at that test and, despite it being published in what looked like a journal, it looks wholly biased and borders on racism. The test given to my class (this was some years ago, btw) was much different and wasn’t based purely on cultural influence. There was something odd about the logic of it, even.

  27. #27 other bill
    July 25, 2007

    Didn’t PZ just post about physicists talking about biology?

  28. #28 Brownian
    July 25, 2007
    Tom, I found this:
    “>http://wilderdom.com/personality/intelligenceChitlingTestShort.html

    Unfortunately, that test is wholly cultural in nature. I could easily concoct a Canadian version, or a Venezuelan version.

    Ooh, ooh! Let’s make a Canadian one. I’ve got the Albertan question all ready:

    Oil revenues are:
    a) God’s way of telling us to privatise health care;
    b) Proof of Alberta’s business acumen and sophistimication;
    c) Too high–more tax cuts for the oil companies!
    d) Ontario and Quebec suck.

    My apologies to the non-Canadians, but I live in Redneckia, CA, and if I don’t let off a little steam once in awhile I’m going to poach my brain.

  29. #29 speedwell
    July 25, 2007

    I once read that the IQ was the ratio of the functional age of the child to the chronological age, expressed as a percent, so a six-year-old functioning like an average nine-year-old could be said to have an IQ of 150. If I’m 40 and I have an IQ of 160, does that mean I function like I’m 64?

  30. #30 Interrobang
    July 25, 2007

    Brownian —

    You forgot an answer:

    Oil revenues are:

    e) Proof positive that when times are bad, Albertans are the worst bunch of Socialists ever, and when times are good, Albertans are the worst bunch of National Socialists ever.

    (Interrobang, former bad-times Albertan now living in Ontario)

  31. #31 aiabx
    July 25, 2007

    The same is true of men and women, atheists and theists, and any other two classifications you can think of.

    Except that atheism is a choice that can be made, and the willingness to make that choice is based on the ability to reason rather than accept by faith. Atheism is self-selected by the same criteria that IQ tests are set up to measure. It’s like saying Mensa members have higher IQ’s than non-members.

  32. #32 Mithrandir
    July 25, 2007

    Either white people, on average, are more intelligent than black people, on average, or the converse is true. The probability that the average intelligence is exactly the same is too small to consider, though the difference in average may certainly be small enough to fit within the margin of error of the testing done.

    This would be true of the quantities “intelligence of white people” and “intelligence of black people” were independent. They are not; both quantities are highly dependent on both groups consisting of human beings, and therefore to justify the suggestion that there is a difference, one would have to demonstrate that there is some specific factor causing it.

    I suppose in a technical sense what you say is true, but it is also likely to be true that the difference in average is not only so small as to be within the test’s margin of error, but is small enough to flip one way or the other as individual blacks and whites are born and die (for example, perhaps at the moment average black intelligence is lower than whites’, but the birth of someone like George Washington Carver or the death of someone like Stephen Hawking will flip it the other way, and so on).

    Or most likely, there is a significant difference in IQ scores between the groups which is more than adequately explained by inequality of socioeconomic and nutritional status.

  33. #33 sailor
    July 25, 2007

    “Either white people, on average, are more intelligent than black people, on average, or the converse is true. The probability that the average intelligence is exactly the same is too small to consider, though the difference in average may certainly be small enough to fit within the margin of error of the testing done.”

    Really? Would you expect he same unequality for weight and height? If not why?

  34. #34 nicole
    July 25, 2007

    Maybe it’s only the possibility of hot girl-on-girl action which makes me detect a grammatical ambiguity…

    No, it’s not that. I’ve noticed that for years, and in fact, every time I hear the song I can only get the wrong reading without effort. But, a degree in linguistics will do that to a person.

  35. #35 Jim Lemire
    July 25, 2007

    OT, but what’s up with the ad for “e Hard Bodies”? Is SB going soft porn?

  36. #36 Epistaxis
    July 25, 2007

    Unfortunately, that test is wholly cultural in nature. I could easily concoct a Canadian version, or a Venezuelan version.

    Well, let’s cut to the chase and reduce the test to one question:

    My ancestors lived in:
    a) Africa
    b) the Americas
    c) Asia
    d) Europe
    Correct answer: (a).

    Seriously, though. Even if this result is statistically sound, it doesn’t suggest any causal relationship between atheism and intelligence. It doesn’t distinguish between the “atheism is the more intelligent point of view” hypothesis and the “intelligent people are more likely to go to college, and college turns people into atheists” hypothesis, for example. I don’t think 5.8 points is much of a difference anyway.

    But the worst thing we could do is brush him off as a crank (or write off the test as both racially and religiously biased) without looking at the data because everyone already knows there’s no variation in intelligence between any social or ethnic groups, even though that seems to be a common reaction.

    What is it with Denmark and politically incorrect social science?

  37. #37 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 25, 2007

    So not too long ago there was a study published that argued a correlation between high IQ as a child and becoming a vegetarian as an adult. Which brings up an interesting viewpoint on me: vegetarian as an adult and atheist. So does it in any way follow, statistically, that atheists are more likely to be vegetarians (for vice-versa)? Just an interesting little twist I want to throw out there.

  38. #39 Norman Doering
    July 25, 2007

    Obviously, intelligence is “multi-dimensional” and we have idiot savants that can compose symphonies but can’t make the right change at the grocery store, or savants like “Rain Man” Kim Peek who could memorize phone books and count cards in Vegas but can’t live a normal life.

    The trick would be to identify the mental abilities that either allow one to see past religious bullshit, or, if we’re wrong, to see how it’s not bullshit like Rob Knop seems to claim with all his incomprehensible and fuzzy talk of metaphors and art.

    Another thing you’d have to worry about is honesty, not everyone who claims to be religious will be, not when atheism has such bad social consequences outside of the scientific/academic world.

    Certainly there should be some sort of mental and/or emotional faculty that sets believers and non-believers apart? The problem is trying to pin it down.

  39. #40 Jud
    July 25, 2007

    Blake Stacey wrote: “Grammatical pedantry is fucked up, man.”

    I presume “man” is there so the sentence doesn’t end with the preposition “up”? (You inveterate pedant, you.)

  40. #41 Diego
    July 25, 2007

    Even if IQ tests are testing something real I would wonder if the 5 points difference could be explained more by fluctuations or sampling biases than anything else. Correct me if I’m wrong but five points doesn’t seem like much of a difference and I believe that the same individual can vary over a few points from one testing to the next.

  41. #42 Dan
    July 25, 2007

    I spent the bulk of my formative years in the energy conservation days of the 1970’s, so I tend to keep my IQ at a comfortable 65.

    Every little bit helps, you know.

  42. #43 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 25, 2007

    I spent the bulk of my formative years in the energy conservation days of the 1970’s, so I tend to keep my IQ at a comfortable 65.

    Every little bit helps, you know.

    Let me be the first to thank you for keeping your neuron footprint as low as possible.

  43. #44 Adam
    July 25, 2007

    To some degree, I think IQ differences between groups of people might not have anything to do with the composition of the group, but rather the environment they are in. For example, if group A tends to be nutrient-deficient and grow up in an unenriched environment, their IQ will almost certainly be less than another group with good nutrition and an enriched environment.

    Humans tend to be pretty good and segregating themselves and others. Perhaps people of certain religious beliefs aren’t exposed to a range of educational options. Maybe their diet is such that it impacts their brain development.

    I’m reminded of the Pirah tribe that has no concept of large numbers. That’s an extreme case, but if someone isn’t exposed to a concept, it’s going to be difficult to be tested on it. Perhaps IQ tests are subtly testing what ideas someone has been exposed to while growing up.

  44. #45 CalGeorge
    July 25, 2007

    My partner has an IQ of 150. It’s a lot of fun to be around a person that smart.

  45. #46 fardels bear
    July 25, 2007

    Thanny’s statement that “some people are so concerned about social equality that they deny any reality that could be perceived to justify such social inequality” is just nonsense.

    The idea that the “reality” of black/white differences in IQ scores can be measured and exists outside of the “social inequalities” is ridiculous. I, for one, am quite sick of psychometricians like Jensen and Herrnstein and Rushton claiming they are Galileo finding “reality” in IQ scores that exist outside the social world. IQ and race are constituted by society, not by the natural world.

  46. #47 Phila
    July 25, 2007

    OT, or perhaps not, I’ve found the best Creationist argument ever:

    Bible-thumper: There’s no way if you wrap citric acid, cola, and carbonation in aluminum foil and stick in in the fridge for a million years it’s ever going to evolve into a Coke!

    QED.

  47. #48 Ken Mareld
    July 25, 2007

    IQ tests are really useful for finding out who are good test takers. They may provide information for who will succeed in an academic environment. They provide little information as to who will ‘succeed’ in life. That white, atheist, males show a slightly higher test score means nothing. Or Asians tend to score higher. Meaningless.
    The Ainu of Japan, a ‘repressed minority’, tend to show lower scores than the rest of the Japanese population, when they are in the United States, the IQ test scores show no difference from other Japanese. (Sorry I have no reference for this.)
    I’m dumb when it comes to the difference between a C flat and a B sharp (music), but I KNOW when the Secretary of State is lying to me about WMD’s in IRAQ. Now the meme is that Iraqi insurgents are Al Qaeda ( or whatever the hell the spelling is). They think of themselves as patriots.
    My point is that small IQ differences are of no meaning in the real world

  48. #49 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 25, 2007

    Has anyone been able to find the original study? In order to answer Diego (#41) I think it would be pertinent to address the methodology used in the study itself.

    However, if they used the common Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, based off my understanding of that particular scoring system, a 5 to 6 point difference can be largely significant depending on where on the scale it rests (eg how many standard deviations from 100). But without the original paper, my guess is simply a guess and nothing more.

  49. #50 Arnosium Upinarum
    July 25, 2007

    Ken Mareld, on “the difference between a C flat and a B sharp”? I believe its the same as the difference between E-sharp and an F-flat.

  50. #51 Tom Adam
    July 25, 2007

    @raven, #20

    http://www.apatheticagnostic.com

    started in Canada, eh.

  51. #52 Graculus
    July 25, 2007

    My ancestors lived in:
    a) Africa
    b) the Americas
    c) Asia
    d) Europe
    Correct answer: (a).

    True, no matter what culture or skin tone you have.

  52. #53 Older
    July 25, 2007

    Woot:

    Easily, dude.

  53. #54 Older
    July 25, 2007

    “Either white people, on average, are more intelligent than black people, on average, or the converse is true. The probability that the average intelligence is exactly the same is too small to consider, though the difference in average may certainly be small enough to fit within the margin of error of the testing done.”

    In the US, the distinction between these two groups is largely social, so, yeah, the “average” is probably the same. If a truely unbiased test could ever be located.

  54. #55 Kristine
    July 25, 2007

    “you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it” And just what if He did?

    Oh, my not-God! That made me suddenly (and with stricken, quivering fear) think of something:

    What if 2 + 2 really does equal 5?

    I can’t unthink it! I cannot unthink it! My paradigm has collapsed! Aaaauuughh! WHO AM I?
    😉

  55. #56 Sonja
    July 25, 2007

    Peter Ashby #17:
    I agree and in fact I have a snobbery that atheists that were raised by atheist parents may not necessarily have the critical thinking skills as those that figured it out for themselves (especially if it was figured out while being raised in a home surrounded by religious propoganda).

    Of course atheists raised by atheist parents may have terrific critical thinking skills (no offense meant to PZ and Skatje), they would just need to demonstrate it (as Skatje does on her blog).

    The most bizarre cases are the fundamentalists that were raised by the atheist parents (e.g. Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s one son).

  56. #57 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 25, 2007

    Ken Mareld, on “the difference between a C flat and a B sharp”? I believe its the same as the difference between E-sharp and an F-flat (Arnosium Upinarum, #50).
    Actually, I think the difference between a C flat and a B sharp is the same as the difference between a B natural and a C natural.

  57. #58 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 25, 2007

    I had a bad closing tag it seems in the above:

    Ken Mareld, on “the difference between a C flat and a B sharp”? I believe its the same as the difference between E-sharp and an F-flat (Arnosium Upinarum, #50).

    Actually, I think the difference between a C flat and a B sharp is the same as the difference between a B natural and a C natural.

  58. #59 Vitis01
    July 25, 2007

    I think I remember a stat professor saying something about if the variation within a group is much larger than the variation between the groups (z-test??) then you may have a hard time justifying that your test says anything significant. That seems like it would definitely be the case for a Black/White evaluation of IQ as well as theist/atheist.

  59. #60 wildcardjack
    July 25, 2007

    I’ve never bothered with an IQ test. I tend to blow the curve on any standardized test.

    My university mandated that all engineering students pass the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering exam before handing out diplomas.

    The average student studies like mad, looks stressed out and confused the few days leading up, and only about 2/3 of the body passes.

    I cracked open the test prep book the night before, didn’t sleep, finished early, passed with a 79.

    I have been amazed by the lack of depth of memory in so many of my classmates. I don’t think that IQ is tied to religion so much as religion is tied to the clarity of memory and the ability to accurately recall reality.

  60. #61 Oxytocin
    July 25, 2007

    Wow, lot of people commenting on the IQ test as if they knew a lot about it. As a hospital-based psychologist, I administer the gold-standard IQ test regularly. It it a standardized, normalized, psychometric tool that is quite useful and predictive of all sorts of interesting things. I’m in the middle of a trip right now, so I can’t say more about it, but Psychology develops its tools in the same way as any other science. I don’t know why people think they have opinions about them without actually knowing anything. And to the writer above, I don’t know of any empirically tested IQ test that includes algebra, or any complex math for that matter. Anyway, just had to write some comments on this.

  61. #62 frau im mond
    July 25, 2007

    Blake Stacey wrote: “Grammatical pedantry is fucked up, man.”

    I presume “man” is there so the sentence doesn’t end with the preposition “up”? (You inveterate pedant, you.)

    But in this case, “up” and “fucked” form a compound adjective; how fucked up is that? 🙂

  62. #63 Watson and son
    July 25, 2007

    The tools of psychology in the hands of Burtt and others led to generations of children being given a cheap and poor education in England. They failed the test -which led to their being directed to the bottom of a heap few ever succeeded in climbing The test clearly is not safe in psychologists hands.

  63. #64 J Daley
    July 25, 2007

    The real question is, who has better grammar than whom

  64. #65 John Danley
    July 25, 2007

    It is because the IQ tests are irreducibly complex.

  65. #66 J Daley
    July 25, 2007

    Whoops, ought to read the comments before adding my own.

    Anyway, #18 is wrong. “Who” is used as subject, “whom” as object.

    “Who is smarter than whom”

    “Subject verb adjective conjunction object”

  66. #67 Caledonian
    July 25, 2007

    And yet again we see why people shouldn’t stray beyond their fields of expertise.

  67. #68 cory
    July 25, 2007

    I don’t even believe that IQ testz ur a gud prediktor of sukcess in sience….

  68. #69 Caledonian
    July 25, 2007

    In the US, the distinction between these two groups is largely social, so, yeah, the “average” is probably the same. If a truely unbiased test could ever be located.

    If accusations of bias are leveled at the test if it shows a difference, how would you identify an unbiased test for the comparison?

  69. #70 Mike
    July 25, 2007

    A few years ago, in college, I worked for a Psychology professor who was teaching a grad class on I.Q. testing methodology and the tests themselves. I agreed to be a test subject for some of his grad students after I told him what I thought of IQ tests. Each student gave me a different test, some were oral, some written, some a combination of the two and a couple of them had physical parts to them, such as arranging blocks to form a square or a tetahedron. I took at least ten different tests.

    One of the grad students actually became angry because I didn’t miss enough questions for her to rank/grade me. I think I missed one on that test (the question was What is 6! if I remember correctly. I spat out the answer before thinking, and then corrected myself. At which, she grinned like she caught me).

    After that test, she went into the professor’s office and spoke with him at some length. Then he came out into the main part of his office where I was typing up notes or copy editing some article, and asked me if would speak to his class on my thoughts about IQ tests.

    Since most of his students really did believe that IQ tests measured intellegence, I agreed to speak to them at the next class meeting.

    I’ve got to admit that I was pretty nervous, but I told them that I thought IQ tests measured one thing and one thing only: previous exposure to the things being tested. Anyone without access to the background of factorials is unlikely to know what 6! means. Anyone who hasn’t had to compare *, ***, #, and o will not know which is unlike the others. Anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the written Shakespeare will think certain quotes from Shakespeare are cliches. “Out, out, damn spot… To be, or not to be.”

    When I told them that IQ tests are simply recognition of cultural knowledge, many of them were upset. But, I guess, that since I obviously had the highest IQ they had seen, it meant that I must be right. I know it didn’t sit well with them, and produced a lot of cognitive dissonance.

    Eventually, the prof put in his two cents and added, “What IQ tests really do is allow the state and schools to label people. Is a child that has an IQ of 45 (and therefore able to collect social security) really that different from a child with an IQ of 46 (and therefore unable to collect social security).”

    Or something along those lines–I don’t remember if it was 45 and 46 or 55 and 56.

    My point was cultural aculturation, his labelling. Does it really matter?

  70. #71 Gilles
    July 25, 2007

    Well… I’m not very intelligent. I don’t understand algebra, physics nor chemistry, I speak only two languages, I only have a MA degree. But, when I look at the universe (I mean the part visible from my living-room window, the mountains, the Sun, the stars, the Moon passing bye, etc.) it seems impossible that all this was created in an instant by the will-power of one being.

  71. #72 phleabo
    July 25, 2007

    Anyway, #18 is wrong. “Who” is used as subject, “whom” as object.

    #18 is perfectly correct. While “whom” is the object case form of “who,” it’s rapidly falling out of use and will likely disappear, apart from use by people who like correcting other people’s grammar.

    And leaving the likely demise of the “whom” form aside, even native speakers of English often have difficulty selecting the “correct” pronoun when the copula is elided (or moved from its base generated position, if you swing the GB way). So, the sentence “Jill is taller than me,” sounds fine to most speakers, to the point where the “correct” version “Jill is taller than I,” sounds a bit high style. “Jill is taller than me am,” however, with the copula included, sounds quite awful.

    I’d also imagine that “whom” tends to appear more often following prepositions like “to” and “for,” at least in conversational speech. I could probably back that up with numbers, but that’d involve digging out a transcribed speech corpus and actually checking, and I’m a lazy shit.

  72. #73 speedwell
    July 25, 2007

    Actually, I think the difference between a C flat and a B sharp is the same as the difference between a B natural and a C natural.

    Actually, no… but the fact that I know why and you don’t bears directly on the fact that I aced music theory as a classical piano major and you (probably) didn’t. This merely serves to support the contention of several commenters that experience and IQ can be thought of as different facets of the same thing, if I’m understanding the contention correctly.

  73. Actually, no… but the fact that I know why [the difference between a C flat and a B sharp is not the same as the difference between a B natural and a C natural] and you don’t bears directly on the fact that I aced music theory as a classical piano major and you (probably) didn’t.

    You’re right formally, theoretically, and notationally/representationally, speedwell, but they may be speaking about the difference between the sounds to a listener, which—in a tempered scale—would end up being the same sounds, or zero difference.

    Before I got into this debate between you, as weenie as it sounds, I’d want to agree on a definition of what everyone means by “different”; else, we’re just talking past each other.

  74. #75 Azkyroth
    July 25, 2007

    Wouldn’t this squabbling about the proper usage of “whom” be better spent on, for instance, clarifying the proper usage of “thee” and “thou?”

  75. #76 Caledonian
    July 26, 2007

    Mike:

    When I told them that IQ tests are simply recognition of cultural knowledge, many of them were upset. But, I guess, that since I obviously had the highest IQ they had seen, it meant that I must be right. I know it didn’t sit well with them, and produced a lot of cognitive dissonance.

    1) Smarter people are not only exposed to more words, concepts, and facts, they’re better at remembering and using them.

    2) There are IQ tests that eschew measuring knowledge, despite the high reliability of that strategy, in favor of highly abstracted conceptual questions, in order to avoid cultural issues. Your objections simply do not apply in such cases.

    3) High IQ scores and idiocy are not at all incompatible, as you’ve elegantly demonstrated for us.

  76. #77 s. taylor
    July 26, 2007

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence

    You can see that the characteristics of the religiosity affects the IQ scores. Which as you say IQ is a number about how well you score on IQ tests not intelligence.

    Regardless, check out the 2006 study, you’ll see that “belief in interaction with the supernatural” is the most impairing religious characteristic for an IQ score.

  77. #78 Kseniya
    July 26, 2007

    LOL @ Azkyroth 🙂

    Yup, RavenT is right, without knowing what kind of difference we’re talking about, we don’t know what we’re talking about. The note that sits a tritone above middle C may serve one function as the Gb in a C7b5 chord, and quite another as the F# in a C69#11 chord, but it’s still the same damned key on the keyboard.

    Hey, I wonder if there’s ever been an enharmonic flame-war on Pharyngula? I’m guessing not. I suppose we should keep it that way, but ooh how often does an opportunity to set historical precedent come along?

    K8^B

  78. #79 Tatarize
    July 26, 2007

    So the same people who can reason that there isn’t some kind of freak skydaddy who loves the smell of burnt goat are also more likely to determine which number is next in the series?

    Go figure.

    //doesn’t believe in intelligence (not IQ actually intelligence)

  79. #80 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 26, 2007

    speedwell (#73), perhaps notationally there are significant differences but I was stressing more along the lines of the response from our auditory system. If we’re stressing notational differences, then you are correct. It is just like there is no difference in the pronunciation of the bold vowels in the following words despite we write them with different vowels: abut, collect, and suppose.

    But on an aside, saying one passed music theory, in my opinion, is on par with someone saying they passed underwater basket weaving. A useless art and talent is a useless art and talent 😉 /playful sarcasm\

  80. #81 Kseniya
    July 26, 2007

    Sigh. The next thing you know, he’ll be dissing underwater classical piano.

  81. #82 reason
    July 26, 2007

    #36..
    well in my particular case the answer is all of the above. (You should be precise about which ancestors and perhaps limit “lived” to “were born”.)

  82. #83 ken
    July 26, 2007

    Which brings up an interesting viewpoint on me: vegetarian as an adult and atheist. So does it in any way follow, statistically, that atheists are more likely to be vegetarians (for vice-versa)?

    High IQ folks are more likely to hold just about any quirky belief or behavior. As I recall, the MMPI personality test has scales like “sociopath” and “deviant” built in. The scorer is actually supposed to make corrections if a subject has a certain IQ. In other words, you could have an average IQ guy and a high IQ guy give the same answers on the part of the test that purports to measure deviancy, but the high IQ guy would not get tagged as a deviant, whereas the average IQ guy would.

  83. #84 Tatarize
    July 26, 2007

    >>Wouldn’t this squabbling about the proper usage of “whom” be better spent on, for instance, clarifying the proper usage of “thee” and “thou?”

    Actually it’s the same difference. ‘Who’ is a subject of the sentence whereas ‘whom’ is the object.

    I pick up the ball and throw it to whom?
    Who threw the ball to me?
    Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
    Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for whom?

    Who went to the store?
    He went to the store with whom?

    Just correcting people is not helpful. I didn’t get it until I had it explained.

    Subject verb object.
    Subject verb whom.
    Who verb object.

  84. #85 speedwell
    July 26, 2007

    LOL, guys. Yes, I know that you meant that on an equal-temperament scale, the “difference” is no difference, at least to the ear. But it may a great deal of difference if your instrument is justly tuned, and it certainly makes a great deal of difference to the person who actually writes the music notiation.

  85. #86 speedwell
    July 26, 2007

    “Notation.” I spell perfectly (talk about your “useless talent”), which leads me to trust my keyboarding skills too much…

  86. #87 Kseniya
    July 26, 2007

    Speedwell: Yes, it’s apparent that you know, which is why you saying “Actually, no…” without qualification was not entirely correct. 😉

    (Would “notiation” be the act of forming a notion?)

    Tatarize: Thou hast explained it well! So these:

        ??? ??? ??? ????    (Who gave it to you?)
        ?? ???? ??? ????? (You gave it to whom?)
        ??? ??? ? ?????    (Who went with you?)
        ?? ??? ? ????       (You went with whom?)

    are correct. (Blech. Some things are simpler in English.)

    But is this correct? “Surely thou joketh!”

    Respectfully thine,

  87. #88 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 26, 2007

    Would “notiation” be the act of forming a notion?

    Nah. It looks more like the act of forming a “not”. But the question is if it’s a windsor “not” or a kosher “not” 😉

    Sorry. I understand that homophonous puns can be rather grating to some, but I for one find them to be great!

  88. #89 speedwell
    July 26, 2007

    “Notiation” is the act of engaging in petty battles that have disproportionate political consequences. (From the Battle of Notium (Ephesus), a Spartan naval victory in the Peleponnesian War)

    So there.

  89. #90 Kseniya
    July 26, 2007

    Speed: LOL, and touche! =^D

    Shawn: I sheepishly admit that I enjoy them for the most part.

    My dad has a friend whose wife’s maiden name was “Knott”. She chose not to hyphenate. It would have been a Who’s On First lifetime for her (and their kids) had she done so. *grin*

  90. Heh–speedwell wins the thread :).

  91. #92 kmarissa
    July 26, 2007

    Thank you, Kseniya, for giving me horrible Russian class flashbacks. And I had just about succeeded in erasing the entirety of the genitive plural ending from my brain.

    Surely you know that the preferred method of speaking Russian is to just kind of trail off at the end of the sentence, so you don’t have to figure out the grammatical endings.

  92. #93 Thanny
    July 26, 2007

    #33:

    “The same is true of men and women, atheists and theists, and any other two classifications you can think of.”

    I find that reading something in its entirety prevents me from asking questions that have already been answered. Especially when it’s the very next sentence beyond the part that might be quoted in the question.

    #46:

    I believe the proper response to such postmodern nonsense is “horse puckey”. Our brains are constructed by genes. All else being equal, some people are more intelligent than others, and that difference is genetic. Race is not a cultural construct, either. The superficial differences between races are no less genetic than the superficial difference between blondes and brunettes. Only a fool would rule out, a priori, the possibility that groups in reproductive isolation could have genetic differences that aren’t merely skin deep. Only a wicked fool would consider such differences justification for unequal treatment in society.

  93. #94 Caledonian
    July 26, 2007

    I think IQ tests are loaded with bias that favors a particular kind of thinking,

    Yes, yes it is. We call that kind of thinking ‘analytical’. And it’s a very large part of what we mean by ‘intelligence’.

    ***

    Sure, people have different heights, but it’s obviously because of environmental factors like nutrition. Under the right circumstances, people’s height can change slightly, so clearly training and education can cause people to become as tall or as short as we like. I don’t believe in things like yardsticks, because they’re obviously biased and don’t reveal that all people are really the same height inside, as I’m sure an unbiased test would.

    Right? Right?

  94. #95 Brownian
    July 26, 2007

    “Race is not a cultural construct, either…Only a fool would rule out, a priori, the possibility that groups in reproductive isolation could have genetic differences that aren’t merely skin deep.”

    The American Anthropological Association disagrees with you. One of the reasons that this idea has been widely-held by both anthropologists and geneticists is because genetic differences within races are much greater than between races. Most of the differences we see are, for the most part, superficial. Further, these differences are not usually due to certain genes being present in one group and absent in others, but that the frequencies of such genes vary from group to group. For instance, Caucasoids have a higher frequency of A blood types and a lower frequency of B blood types than Negroids for whom the frequencies are reverse. However, there is nothing about either blood type that is exclusive to either ‘race’.

    Gene frequencies along human populations tend to transition relatively smoothly once geographic boundaries have been removed. There is a historical and geographic basis for the groups we describe as races, but from a phenotypic and genotypic standpoint they’re about as arbitrary as calling one frequency on the electromagnetic spectrum ‘red’ and another ‘orange’ and deciding all the frequencies in between are intermediates.

  95. #96 Gav
    July 26, 2007

    Tatarise – I thou thee

    Than who-whom is grammar.
    Logic will not help you.
    Reason will not help you.
    The Bible will not help you [online keyword search of King James version give no hits for “than who” and no hits for “than whom”]

    Google will not help you [“than who” 792k hits “than whom” 137k hits; Dr Myers wins the popular vote for what that’s worth]
    Appeal to authority will not help you. Fowler just says “The OED statement on the prepositional use is that, with the special exception of t[han] whom, which is preferred to t[han] who unless both are avoided, “it is now considered incorrect”” without further comment [Modern English Usage, 1928].

    Regarding B# and C, F# and Gb, and the rest; while these pairs map onto the same notes on the keyboard even sopranos and viola players know they’re not really the same. JSB is the godfather of the great enharmonic lie and the dodecacaphonists of the last century are his spawn.

  96. #97 Kseniya
    July 26, 2007

    …even sopranos and viola players know…

    A Molly Hatchet award for the best music joke of the month! 😀

    Blues musicians and microtonalists know what you’re getting at, though, Gav. Yes indeed.

    kmarissa: I apologize for triggering memories of academic trauma. Your pain is my pain. Regarding “trailing off,” my native Russian friends admit to me that many Russians don’t execute declension consistently or correctly, much as many native English speakers blow off the who/whom distinction (and to a lesser degree the she/her I/me distinction demonstrated by the Beatles song quoted above). From this I conclude that proper Russian is, like strictly proper English, somewhat stuffy-sounding to the trained ear (an ear I certainly do not myself possess).

  97. #98 kmarissa
    July 26, 2007

    Kseniya, that’s very encouraging to hear. Unfortunately, before I can relax my Russian into a more colloquial form, it has to at least be coherent. That’s stumbling block #1. 😉

  98. #99 Sven DiMilo
    July 26, 2007

    I find that the whole who/whom thing yields easily to a simple test: substitute the plural pronouns “they” for “who” and “them” for “whom.”
    Thou would never say “They are smarter than they.” That object needs to be a “whom.” I hope this proves as useful to thee as it has for moi.

  99. #100 Caledonian
    July 26, 2007

    but from a phenotypic and genotypic standpoint they’re about as arbitrary as calling one frequency on the electromagnetic spectrum ‘red’ and another ‘orange’ and deciding all the frequencies in between are intermediates.

    This isn’t quite as useful as example as I’m sure you’d like, since there’s good evidence that human color naming conventions reflect fundamental physiological aspects of color perception. But your point is acknowledged.

  100. #101 Brownian
    July 26, 2007

    I’m familiar in a general way with Berlin and Kay’s work on the universality colour terms, Caledonian, but it didn’t occur to me until after I’d made my comment. D’oh! There are better examples.

    But then again, perhaps this is a good example. Even though the electromagnetic spectrum is continuous, we tend to label it in discrete terms. Berlin and Kay’s research suggest that, cross-culturally, we agree on which is the ‘most’ red and the ‘most’ blue, and give those colours names. (Teal, for instance, isn’t recognised as it’s own colour in very many societies, I think.)

    Forensic anthropologists, by their profession, need to recognise the social construction of race, even though there isn’t strong genetic support for such concepts. For example, when trying to identify a body from skeletal remains, one has to be aware of the likely social perception of that individual when they were alive. Thus, a skeleton which has a majority of traits associated with European ancestry and a few associated with African ancestry might very likely belong to an individual considered black in the US (consciously or not, North Americans still tend to ascribe to the one drop rule). If a similar skeleton was found in South Africa, authorities might be more inclined to investigate whites who went missing at the time of death.

    Feel free to correct me anyone; my knowledge of this subject may be a little out-of-date.

  101. #102 H Lime
    July 26, 2007

    Well, insofar as “speed” is the arbitrary thing that we value because some individuals’ legs are longer, or muscles more powerful, I suppose that “speed” might be less valuable to people who aren’t runners.

    Athiests don’t have to be relativists. You might simply be smarter, and there’s very little doubt that’s a good thing.

    Lime

  102. #103 bullfighter
    July 27, 2007

    #95: “The American Anthropological Association disagrees with you. One of the reasons that this idea has been widely-held by both anthropologists and geneticists is because genetic differences within races are much greater than between races.”

    Surely, you must realize that that argument is a logical fallacy. Small systematic differences can be important even against a lot of noise. You cannot ignore race in clinical studies of hypertensia, diabetes, or alcoholism. It should then be clear that whether you can ignore race in various other studies is itself an empirical, scientific question. Postulating, without evidence, that no racial differences exist with respect to some characteristic is an act of faith, not of reason. (As is its mirror image – postulating, without evidence, that a significant racial difference does exist.)

  103. #104 Ellis
    July 27, 2007

    >IQ tests are really useful for finding out who are good test takers. They may provide information for who will succeed in an academic environment. They provide little information as to who will ‘succeed’ in life.

    High IQ is correlated with all sorts of things that most people would consider to be a part of a “successful” life.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ#Positive_correlations_with_IQ

  104. #105 The Physicist
    July 27, 2007

    Atheist IQ test.

    Give me a word that rhymes with “atheist”.

  105. #106 Sven DiMilo
    July 27, 2007

    Give me a word that rhymes with ‘atheist’.

    nonconstubtion?

  106. #107 Caledonian
    July 27, 2007

    ‘Bigamist’.

  107. #108 DSM
    July 27, 2007

    Yes, “evolution did it” is a much better explanation.

  108. Give me a word that rhymes with “atheist”.

    ??????

  109. #110 The Physicist
    July 27, 2007

    Nice tries, but know trophy yet, bigamist is close but it lacks the the long “a”. I really like the “nonconstubtion?”, I like people with a sense of humor.

  110. #111 The Physicist
    July 27, 2007

    Know = no

  111. #112 The Physicist
    July 27, 2007

    Know = no

  112. #113 wEz
    July 31, 2007

    “…you really can’t get much more simple-minded than “god did it”.

    Funny PZ, I was thinking along the same line as far as people saying “evolution did it”.

    “…and a much larger group of people who have simply blindly accepted indoctrination.”

    Yep it sadly exists. But it also exists from your end (imagine that) and its called public edumacation. And the aforementioned indoctrination you speak of is pretty severe.

    And to think I actually bought into that bullshit once. But i’m sure PZ doesn’t do that…nope not him!!

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