The Problem of Charles Murray

Charles “The Bell Curve” Murray is back with a three-part essay series on edcuation, published in The Wall Street Journal:

  • Part I: The world is full of stupid people.
  • Part II: Too many stupid people go to college.
  • Part III: We should spend more money on the tiny fraction of people who are smart.

(You can also find them on the American Enterprise Institute site, if the WSJ links rot.)

Charles Murray bugs me, because he makes my life more difficult. Not because he’s a bold iconoclast challenging the hidebound educational establishment, but because his writing on these topics has a smugly patrician and crypto-racist air that contaminates everything that even comes close to sounding related to one of his ideas. When, like the proverbial blind pig, he stumbles onto the occasional good idea (we do scant gifted education in this country, and it’s a shame), he wrecks it for the rest of us.

I have, on occasion, said some things about American education that are broadly similar to some of the things Murray says. The way he says them, though, makes me feel icky. Consider this gem from part I:

Now take the girl sitting across the aisle who is getting an F. She is at the 20th percentile of intelligence, which means she has an IQ of 88. If the grading is honest, it may not be possible to do more than give her an E for effort. Even if she is taught to read every bit as well as her intelligence permits, she still will be able to comprehend only simple written material. It is a good thing that she becomes functionally literate, and it will have an effect on the range of jobs she can hold. But still she will be confined to jobs that require minimal reading skills. She is just not smart enough to do more than that.

I mean, you can just hear the condescension dripping from his keyboard, puddling at his feet, and staining the floorboards. Even leaving aside his dogged insistence that IQ is a reliable measurement of anything, this just sounds creepy. “Even if she is taught to read every bit as well as her intelligence permits”– you can see the marks where he edited out “the poor little thing,” for length reasons.

And the maddening thing is, he’s rooting around blindly in a truffle-rich environment. There are good arguments to be made along some of these lines: There are a fair number of students in the educational system who would be better served by some sort of vocational training than by pushing them through high school and into college (though the Dean Dad does a nice job of explaining where he’s wrong about two-year colleges. But the fact that Murray is making these arguments makes it harder for anybody who actually has credibility to make them, once he’s oozed all over them.

Even when he takes a relatively inoffensive idea like “We should set aside more money for educating the best and brightest students,” in Part III, he has to sneak in a slimy little aside:

The gifted should not be taught to be nonjudgmental; they need to learn how to make accurate judgments. They should not be taught to be equally respectful of Aztecs and Greeks; they should focus on the best that has come before them, which will mean a light dose of Aztecs and a heavy one of Greeks. The primary purpose of their education should not be to let the little darlings express themselves, but to give them the tools and the intellectual discipline for expressing themselves as adults.

It’s absolutely maddening. He’s “Uncle Al” with a think-tank job. I realize it’s the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, and not a publication with an intellectual reputation to protect, but honestly, why do people keep promoting this slime?

Feh. Now I need a shower– I’ve got Charles Murray all over my hands.

Comments

  1. #1 dr. dave
    January 19, 2007

    Thanks for tackling this. I read those articles linked from the Chronicle’s “A&L Daily” page, and came away with the same icky feeling, but without the energy to muster up a rebuttal. It’s possible to advocate beter gifted education without coming off as downright EUGENECIST about it.

  2. #2 quitter
    January 19, 2007

    Careful, you’re insulting Razib’s hero. He still believes the Bell Curve is Right despite being pre and post-debunked by the Mismeasure of Man.

  3. #3 just a guy
    January 19, 2007

    It’s possible to advocate beter gifted education without coming off as downright EUGENECIST about it.

    that’s odd, I didn’t see any mention of selective breeding in any of the three articles.

  4. #4 Chris Goedde
    January 19, 2007

    I didn’t bother to read the articles, but from what Chad wrote it strikes me that the other problem is that Murray has a hold of the wrong end of the stick. The trouble isn’t with the students, it’s with a society that values credentialism over education.

  5. #5 razib
    January 19, 2007

    Careful, you’re insulting Razib’s hero.

    charles is a friend/acquaintance of mine, yes. but just an FYI, that interview was done by matt mcintosh, not myself.

    smugly patrician and crypto-racist air

    and just for the record, i believe charles is a conventional middle-class midwesterner in origin (iowa). and he has two biracial daughters from his first marriage.

  6. #6 Pi Guy
    January 19, 2007

    My father is president of a two-year technical college near Tacoma. When he was visiting over the holidays, he said something about the nature of the education system that seemed so obvious that I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard it before (and I’d spent 5 years teaching prior to going into induxtry).

    He attended a lecture where the speaker (I believe that he said that she was the local school superintendent) said that the problem is that we treat the learning content as the variable and time as the constant. The result is that having a HS diploma doesn’t really say anything about what one knows except that they showed relatively regularly over a period of 12 or 13 years. She asserts that this exactly the opposite of how it should be. Instead, she suggests that, instead, we should treat the content as the constant and, within some reasonable limits, time as the variable.

    This has a number of consequences, chief among them, that it offers a means of dealing rather effectively with the kids who are gifted as well as those less so. If they’re gifted, don’t make them keep showing up. Move them on and let them grow. If they require more time, let them have it.

    While this might be a bit off-topic, I’m curious to know what others think of this.

  7. #7 natural cynic
    January 19, 2007

    Pi Guy: If they’re gifted, don’t make them keep showing up. Move them on and let them grow. If they require more time, let them have it.

    Absolutely right on an intellectual level; very impractical on a social level. H.S. as it is in our society is a social center and this kind of a proposal would almost necessarily wreck many of the social functions such as interating with your age cohort and it would ttally mess up any emphasis on sports [which, on the whole, is probably a good thing]. This would not go over with the general populace, but should be a good idea for a magnet school.

  8. #8 Laura
    January 19, 2007

    You linked to Dean Dad’s critique of the two-year school idea, but he also goes on to discuss the problems with funneling “average Joes” into a “master craftsman” track:

    Murray also misconstrues craftsmen. The reason they’re well paid is that they’re unionized. The unions are hard to break into, and not at all shy about flexing their muscle to keep uncertified competition away. If a flood of new people arrived on the scene, we’d either see a lot of unemployed new people or the salaries drop like stones. On top of that, it takes brains to be a good electrician or HVAC technician or carpenter. If we funnel the intellectually-weak – assuming, for a moment, that we can isolate that category – into skilled trades, most of them won’t cut it there, either.

    I’m also not sure how he expects “market forces” to counter the wealthy using college as a way of getting their less than brilliant and less than motivated kids the right connections, etc. Or stop less-than-wealthy people from wanting a piece of that action for their own kids.

    The problem isn’t that Murray is tarnishing a good idea (and if he actually had a good idea, it wouldn’t be negated simply by his having it). The problem is that his argument is weakly conceived and sloppily executed, even though he does have a point about much of college (and often much of high school) being a waste of time and money.

  9. #9 a quantum diaries survivor
    January 19, 2007

    Hi Chad,

    very, very well said.

    This post was such a pleasure to read for me that I had my wife read it too / she is a teacher of latin and greek, and we discussed your prose. I will never master English well enough to come near it, but I do my best.

    As for the contents, I did not have the guts of reading Murray’s articles. I have on my shelves “the bell curve” but never made it past a rapid browsing… Thanks for taking the pains of looking inside it for us. Somebody has to do the dirty jobs…

    Cheers,
    T.

  10. #10 sanzio
    January 19, 2007

    Natural Cynic: Absolutely right on an intellectual level; very impractical on a social level.

    I agree. Many schools are being asked to teach a social and intellectual curriculum in order to create “well rounded students.” While the efficacy of these programs vary the reality is that education in the US requires some degree of both.

    Perhaps this is part of the problem facing our education system. As a social curriculum is integrated does it supplant the intellectual curriculum? Ideally a strong family/community network would provide the social skills necessary to cope with life, but what if this network does not exist?

    Very interesting post.

  11. #11 quitter
    January 19, 2007

    Razib said:

    and just for the record, i believe charles is a conventional middle-class midwesterner in origin (iowa). and he has two biracial daughters from his first marriage.

    Wow midwesterners aren’t ever racist? I’ll have to remind my crazy racist midwestern grandfather that he’s screwing up the works, at the next seance anyway. And Murray’s “bi-racial” marriage was to a Thai woman. Not all brown people are included as dumb by design in the Bell Curve. We’re talking about racism against blacks not asians. Nice try though, good distraction.

  12. #12 Julie Stahlhut
    January 19, 2007

    If they’re gifted, don’t make them keep showing up. Move them on and let them grow. If they require more time, let them have it.

    This deceptively simple formula could reduce a tremendous amount of human guilt, depression, underemployment, underachievement, and boredom. Yes, we’d have to figure out how to put reasonable limits on it — people shouldn’t be spending nine years in high school — but really, is there any other reason for the way things are now other than someone else’s convenience and a lot of not-necessarily-optimal historical contingency?

  13. #13 Eric Johnson
    January 19, 2007

    I don’t understand how Mr. Murray makes your life more difficult. I can understand how the ideas he expresses in this series of editorials can be viewed as elitist and offensive by some, but I think that says more about their social and political leanings than it does about the quality or substance of his arguments. I have not read The Bell Curve, so perhaps my view of these editorials is naive, but it seems that nobody here is presenting much of an argument against what seem to me to be the main points of his articles, namely:

    1. There is such a thing as absolute, objective, quantifiable intelligence (whether what we call IQ measures it or not, and whether it can even be described by a scalar period)
    2. That intelligence is a relatively fixed quantity in any individual
    3. That the distribution of intelligence is described by a normal distribution curve.
    4. That the current political/cultural climate mandates an egalitarian approach to education that ill-serves all but the 40% or so around the middle of the curve.
    5. That those on the lower end of the intelligence spectrum would be better served by an educational system that was less disparaging of ‘practical’ (i.e. ‘vocational’) learning
    6. That the economic, cultural, and intellectual ‘health’ is in the hands of the relative few in the rightmost tail of the curve and that we should be doing more to ensure the vitality of this population in particular
    7. That an egalitarian approach to choosing what to teach is detrimental. This seems to be a stab at the so-called multi-cultural, morally relativist, academic left’s (straw-man) view that diversity is strength

    Now I’ve seen hints of objections to point number two in my list (which doesn’t represent all of the assumptions or arguments that Mr. Murray’s editorials contain), but I haven’t seen anybody attack any of the core arguments on the basis of substance. It’s obvious to me that those who have read The Bell Curve read much more into his arguments than what I see, and it seems like this is tainting their ability to treat this series of articles with anything but contempt.
    I’d like to see somebody attack the ideas themselves, rather than the perceived tone in which they were presented. I’m not an academic by profession, I’m a computer programmer, and I wonder if these ideas would be less resonant if I spent more of my day in the company of academics. In short, in my limited experience, the basic ideas Mr. Murray is presenting (as I understand them and listed above) seem almost self-evident.

  14. #14 just a guy
    January 19, 2007

    Wow midwesterners aren’t ever racist?

    i believe the note about murray’s origin was in response to the adjective “patrician”.

    it is a fact, of course, that the distribution of IQ in African-Americans is lower than that of Europeans-Americans, for whatever reason (invalidity of the IQ test, environmental factors, genetic factors–choose your hypothesis, or mix and match). if noting that makes one a “racist”, then any hope for rational discussion is lost.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    January 19, 2007

    If we had schools with money, teachers who cared, teachers who knew their material, books which were engaging instead of inaccurate, “educational TV” which was not an abomination, classroom computers which did not go to waste, boys and girls who were not going hungry and a few other things I could name, we’d have a lot more “gifted children” on our hands.

    I’m a recovering “gifted child”. I had that stigma stuck to me all the way from K to 12; the miracle is not that I got into a wonderful college, but rather that I made any friends. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that I did not constantly denigrate everyone around me for being unable to, say, do algebra or dissect a sonnet. In fact, at every opportunity I told my classmates, “If you read some Larry Gonick books and watched a few James Burke documentaries, there wouldn’t be a gap between us.” Later, I developed a motto: “Yes, I am an elitist. I love my elite so much, I think everybody should belong to it.”

    David Brin once asked,

    How did you acquire your present opinions?

    The widespread tendency — documented by generations of sophomore psych majors — is for people to attribute their own beliefs to logical appraisal of the evidence. In contrast, opponents are seen as having acquired their opinions because of propaganda, venal advantage or flaws in their personal character. (It’s what your opponents believe about you, folks.) In other words (unsurprisingly) we all tend to want to think better of ourselves and to denigrate our foes. We are rational and virtuous; we use reason. They are stupid or corrupt.

    I think that tied in with this is a tendency to forget all the influences which educated us. Why did we turn out so well — learned, inquiring, skeptical, articulate? It is so very easy to believe that one is specially blessed with reasoning abilities which triumph over others — that I am a skeptic and a rationalist, because the Invisible Pink Unicorn touched me with His magic horn. Isn’t it pleasing to be a man apart, a philosopher-king who drank Wisdom from the orbiting teapot? Evidence to the contrary is easy to ignore.

    We pay a price for this vanity: it yields us callousness and condescension. In the end, it assures that intellectualism is self-limiting.

  16. #16 quitter
    January 19, 2007

    There is such a thing as absolute, objective, quantifiable intelligence (whether what we call IQ measures it or not, and whether it can even be described by a scalar period)

    No.

    That intelligence is a relatively fixed quantity in any individual

    No.

    That the distribution of intelligence is described by a normal distribution curve.

    Yes.

    That the current political/cultural climate mandates an egalitarian approach to education that ill-serves all but the 40% or so around the middle of the curve.

    Depends on what state you live in.

    That those on the lower end of the intelligence spectrum would be better served by an educational system that was less disparaging of ‘practical’ (i.e. ‘vocational’) learning

    Questionable, especially given the history of warehousing kids – essentially this is an excuse to give up on people.

    That the economic, cultural, and intellectual ‘health’ is in the hands of the relative few in the rightmost tail of the curve and that we should be doing more to ensure the vitality of this population in particular

    Haven’t met many politicians eh? They’re not that bright, and they don’t pay that much attention to those who are. I’d rather everybody have basic competence and logic skills so that such a statement may one day be true.

    That an egalitarian approach to choosing what to teach is detrimental. This seems to be a stab at the so-called multi-cultural, morally relativist, academic left’s (straw-man) view that diversity is strength.

    High school is for basic skills for everybody, if you want to take exceptional kids out, fine. It’s always been an error, however, to leave kids out. Historically, it’s just a nightmare, teachers direct kids they don’t like to the lower tiers, the tests are biased (and IQ is not a constant), rates of intellectual development vary etc.

    Read the Mismeasure of Man first before believing too much in the validity of any standardized test as an adequate measure of what to do with kids or what to expect from them.

    Just a guy:

    if noting that makes one a “racist”, then any hope for rational discussion is lost.

    Well, based on the history of science trying to identify whatever race is down on its luck as inferior I do believe that blaming the lower scores of American blacks on IQ is fundamentally racist, elitist and classic bad science. Whether Murray himself is racist or not, I don’t know, but a bias is quite clear.

    Further these are fundamentally flawed comparisons between the so-called races in our country, given the level of mixing between whites in blacks in this country over the last 400 years doesn’t qualify them us as a distinct “race”, nor would the tiny amount of genetic variability between humans provide a good explanation considering the poor hereditability of IQ and the far superior explanations of class, institutional/persistent racism (just read about stereotype threat sometime) and environment.

    Making a jump from a difference in performance on these tests and the intellectual inferiority of a whole class of people based on bad science, bad biology, and in rejection of clear causes that bias the measurement is bad science and it is ultimately racist.

  17. #17 just a guy
    January 19, 2007

    Making a jump from a difference in performance on these tests and the intellectual inferiority of a whole class of people

    whoa, whoa, I don’t think Murray (or any serious scientist) would claim that any class of people is intellectually inferior. He would probably say that African-Americans are underrepresented among the population of high-IQ people (above, say, 120). it’s a statistical problem– if the mean of distribution A is a little lower than that of distribution B, then at any high cutoff there will be an underrepresentation of people from distribution A.

  18. #18 Eric Johnson
    January 19, 2007

    quitter,
    If intelligence isn’t a scalar and isn’t relatively fixed in a given individual, then what do the axes of the normal curve represent? I’m going to assume you misunderstood what I meant. I was presenting Mr. Murray’s arguments and assumptions, as I understood them, in an axiomatic format, to make them easier to refute one-by-one. These aren’t my assertions, and aren’t appropriately answered with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

    I have indeed read nearly all of Gould’s popular books, including Mismeasure, which is precisely why I included the caveat in the first point (intended to be bullet points, but the html tags were stripped out). I personally don’t think that intelligence can be quantified with a scalar quantity, but it seems to me that intelligence can be quantified (by a vector, tensor, imaginary number, something).

    I don’t know if I agree with your characterization of politicians as the keepers of society’s intellectual, cultural, or (maybe except this one to a degree) economic vitality either. I view politics as it is practiced in this country as almost entirely reactive as opposed to proactive.

    Can you elaborate on your ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Questionable’ and ‘Depends’ answers? Again, I’m looking for real arguments either that I have misunderstood Mr. Murray’s point, or that his points are flawed (and why they are so).
    Thanks

  19. #19 bigTom
    January 19, 2007

    I didn’t find his (Murray’s) quote about the girl offensive, just where he set the bar. If he had used 2%tile instead of 20%tile the statement would have made sense. We ought to be able to get at least 98% of a cohort to have more than basic reading ability.

  20. #20 Clark
    January 19, 2007

    If they’re gifted, don’t make them keep showing up. Move them on and let them grow. If they require more time, let them have it.

    I skipped a grade, and somehow, I managed to enjoy childhood, despite being the only junior in my driver’s ed class. It can be a challenge, but moving up a grade doesn’t have to be a terribe experience. (In my case, it was early on, and that probably helped quite a bit.)

    I lived in Brazil for a few years, where they have a system much more like this suggestion. I don’t know of anyone that was ever moved up a grade (I don’t think), but nearly everyone in the population repeated something somewhere sometime. A good student in something like the 50-85% range would probably repeat 1 year. Making it through without ever repeating every year was considered an impressive accomplishment and a sign of real intelligence. Even repeating 2 years along the way wasn’t such a terrible thing. In the US if someone was held back, it would be the End Of The World for that kid. He would probably be crushed. But if the system made it a common thing, people would adapt. (Though it would be a very hard adjustment) Kids could study hard, do alright on their tests and come home and tell their parents that they were moving on to 8th grade the next year, and they could be proud of that accomplishment.

  21. #21 Walt
    January 20, 2007

    just a guy, Eric Johnson: Look, Murray is a famous person, and his positions are well-known. He didn’t just land on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal out of nowhere. Chad’s post is addressed to people who know this context. We don’t need to speculate what Murray really means: we already know.

  22. #22 Bailey Hankins
    January 20, 2007

    I don’t know who this Charles Murray guy is, but I certainly didn’t detect any condescension dripping from his words at all. This would seem to be your projection. I find it amazing that no rational discussion of intelligence is possible. Facts must be denied, lies must be promoted as truth.

    You wouldn’t deny that West Africans hold over 95% of the top 100 times in the 100 meter dash. You hopefully wouldn’t deny that there was such a thing as distance and time. Is the 100 meter dash culturally biased?

    No, when it comes to athletic facts, we just say that West Africans are the fastest. Just in general. We aren’t being ridiculous and saying that everyone from West Africa is fast.

    The funny thing is, if you test intelligence instead of foot speed, people go berserk. No intelligence test has ever been devised on which Africans outscore Caucasians. Somehow, Asians seem to be immune to the “cultural bias” and outscore Caucasians. This is all very consistent, over all kinds of intelligence tests.

    A quick review of Nobel Prize winners reveal exactly the same pattern, yet people like you just can’t muster the intellectual honesty to speak the truth: Caucasians are smarter than Africans.

    I bet you think that is a racist statement, don’t you?

    Do you think the NBA is racist? I bet you don’t. Do you think the 100 meter dash was rigged to help Africans win? No, that would be absurd. But you still think that IQ tests are sheer fantasy.

    Admit it, you think that forcing “diversity” into intellectual areas will somehow magically change reality, don’t you. You would line up Caucasians and Asians for the 100 meter dash, and cry foul when they get blown away by the West Africans.

    Stop being an idiot Liberal and face facts. Stop projecting evil traits onto others just because you are too weak to stand up for the truth.

  23. #23 Chad Orzel
    January 20, 2007

    I got absolutely buried in work and meetings yesterday, so I didn’t have a chance to respond to comments as they came in, so here are a bunch of replies grouped together.

    Pi Guy: He attended a lecture where the speaker (I believe that he said that she was the local school superintendent) said that the problem is that we treat the learning content as the variable and time as the constant. The result is that having a HS diploma doesn’t really say anything about what one knows except that they showed relatively regularly over a period of 12 or 13 years. She asserts that this exactly the opposite of how it should be. Instead, she suggests that, instead, we should treat the content as the constant and, within some reasonable limits, time as the variable.

    That’s a really interesting suggestion. It would essentially amount to handling all educational levels in the same manner as a Ph.D.– it might take four years, it might take ten, but you don’t get the degree until you know enough to write and defend a thesis.

    I suspect the logistics would be pretty difficult to work out on a mass scale, though.

    Natural Cynic: H.S. as it is in our society is a social center and this kind of a proposal would almost necessarily wreck many of the social functions such as interating with your age cohort and it would ttally mess up any emphasis on sports [which, on the whole, is probably a good thing]. This would not go over with the general populace, but should be a good idea for a magnet school.

    Interestingly, an article came across my RSS feeds this week that suggested that students who start college early (at 13 or 14) tend to end up happy and well-adjusted. I didn’t read it in any great detail (and now I can’t find it), but it might cut against the social argument for age-grouped schooling.

    I’m a little ambivalent about this. As any nerd will tell you, high school can be pretty unpleasant for those on the wrong end of the social scale (though not usually as bad as last night’s lurid CSI re-run), and it’s not clear that forcing these students to suffer is serving a useful purpose. On the other hand, though, people who weren’t forced to learn some conventional social skills at some point are kind of hard to deal with…

    This is one of the areas where I’m mad at Murray for poisoning the well, though. I think a lot of the bullying and related issues that happens in public schools are due to students who aren’t particularly well served by being in school themselves, and would get greater benefits from a more focussed vocational program. And moving them out of the conventional schools would have benefits for the better students left behind. It’s sort of hard to seriously advocate that sort of thing, though, when the most enthusiastic proponents are people like Murray.

    Eric Johnson: There is such a thing as absolute, objective, quantifiable intelligence (whether what we call IQ measures it or not, and whether it can even be described by a scalar period)

    I know, let’s call it “M Theory”…

    Seriously, the whole argument pretty much goes off the rails right here. Everything claim Murray makes follows from this, and I don’t think this is in any way certain. Dave Munger is probably a better person to talk about that, though.

    Without this point, the rest of Murray’s arguments go nowhere.

    I’ll post some more comments in a bit, but the dog is bugging me to take her for a walk, and I need a break before I respond to Bailey Hankins.

  24. #24 p-ter
    January 20, 2007

    there is such a thing as absolute, objective, quantifiable intelligence (whether what we call IQ measures it or not, and whether it can even be described by a scalar period)…Seriously, the whole argument pretty much goes off the rails right here. Everything claim Murray makes follows from this, and I don’t think this is in any way certain

    I’ve never understood the position that intelligence doesn’t exist, or isn’t measurable, or whatever. 5 million years ago, there was the ancestor of humans and chimps; over that time there’s been a massive divergence in cognitive abilites, one of which is intelligence. This implies that intelligence is both heritable and variable within populations (or at least was heritable and variable in that ancestral population). Whether IQ is the best measure of intelligence, who knows, but it certainly exists, has a genetic basis, and has a distribution in the populations (and if there are enough variables that contribute to it, the distribution then approaches Gaussian).

  25. #25 Chad Orzel
    January 20, 2007

    I’ve never understood the position that intelligence doesn’t exist, or isn’t measurable, or whatever.

    The problem isn’t with the claim that intelligence exists, it’s with the claim that it’s “absolute, objective [and] quantifiable.” Which is inevitably quickly turned into an implicit claim that it is quantifiable by means of a single normally distributed number, which is then used to argue that large swaths of the population are uneducable.

    I’m highly skeptical of any argument starting from “there’s this critically important thing that we don’t have a good model, but we know there must be such a model, so let’s act like we have one and move on.” It’s one of the big reasons why I’m dubious about string theory, and they’re on solid ground compared to some of the claims made about intelligence.

    And now, the icky part:
    Bailey Hankins: A quick review of Nobel Prize winners reveal exactly the same pattern, yet people like you just can’t muster the intellectual honesty to speak the truth: Caucasians are smarter than Africans.

    I bet you think that is a racist statement, don’t you?

    I wouldn’t necessarily jump immediately to “racist,” but I wouldn’t have a problem with calling it idiotically naive. If you think that you’ve found an objective measure of intelligence in a prize that’s existed for little more than a century– a century in which people of African descent were systematically denied access to education for fifty-odd years in the developed world, to say nothing of the impoverishment of Africa itself– well, let’s just say that you might be surprised by what happens when you respond to those fascinating email offers in your inbox.

    Do you think the NBA is racist?

    Because of the dress code thing? No, I think that playing the race card on that issue is a childish overreaction by a bunch of spoiled millionaires who are used to being coddled to an unreasonable degree.

    Oh, wait, you meant because most of the players are black? Do I think that’s racist? If you mean “Do I think that the NBA is systematically excluding talented white players?” then the answer is no.

    Do I think that the racial distribution of NBA players is actually a reflection of an objective and absolute underlying distribution of basketball ability? The answer there is also no, because I’m aware of the tendency for sports to be dominated by members of the economic underclass, who use sports as a route out of poverty for those who are denied access to the educational and financial resources available to the upper classes. And I’m aware that the economic underclass in the United States is overwhelmingly black, particularly in the urban areas where most basketball players come from.

    In that sense, is the racial distribution of NBA players a result of racism? In an indirect way, probably. I wouldn’t call it “racist,” but you’d have to be a complete fool to believe that it isn’t at least somewhat reflective of the racial problems of our society in general.

    Things get complicated, once you leave the confines of your Happy Ayn Rand World.

  26. #26 doublehelix
    January 20, 2007

    The notion that intelligence doesn’t exist is absurd. Many states in the U.S. recognize intelligence by refusing to execute those who are “mentally retarded”. How do those who deny the concept of intelligence (and variation in intelligence) reconcile themselves with this?

    If you have ever implicitly or otherwise described someone as “smart” or “dumb”, then you believe that intelligence exists. IQ tests provide an _externally valid_ measure of the subjective evaluations we make every day.

    Leftists deny that interindividual variation is in any way fixed or immutable because it threatens their faith in an ultimately egalitarian society. Trouble is, science is slowly eroding the support for that point of view. It is obvious that many commenters here have yet to realize how empirically unsound their leftist views are.

  27. #27 The Cheerful Oncologist
    January 20, 2007

    Chad, I had the exact opposite reaction to Murray’s articles than you did. I found the following quotes to be particularly cogent:

    Today’s simple truth: Half of all children are below average in intelligence. We do not live in Lake Wobegon.

    [T]he problem is not that we have not been taught enough, but that we are not smart enough.

    [E]ven the best schools under the best conditions cannot repeal the limits on achievement set by limits on intelligence.

    I am among the most emphatic of those who think that the importance of IQ in living a good life is vastly overrated.

    I totally disagree, however, with Murray’s opinion of who is qualified to go to college:

    There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education.

    Ridiculous! The only reason one should not go to college is if one does not desire to go to college. Whether the end result is a PhD or just flunking out, I can’t believe that the experience would not be of value, no matter what one’s I.Q. is.

    Not being an educator, professor, or even an amateur expert on childhood development or intelligence I realize that my opinions don’t come with any aureole of authority, but I believe that after a certain amount of basic education students should be encouraged to pursue whatever honest living they are interested in and can perform with acceptance (if not delight) for decades. Whether this journey is down the path of rigorous intellectual discipline or not will depend upon the intelligence of the traveler. Happiness lies within reach for all who pursue it – and that fact has nothing to do with education or intelligence.

  28. #28 Andrew Wade
    January 20, 2007

    The notion that intelligence doesn’t exist is absurd. Many states in the U.S. recognize intelligence by refusing to execute those who are “mentally retarded”. How do those who deny the concept of intelligence (and variation in intelligence) reconcile themselves with this?

    They’re not measuring what they think they’re measuring? And no-one here is arguing that intelligence doesn’t exist. Some of us may be arguing that intelligence is poorly characterized by a single number.

    If you have ever implicitly or otherwise described someone as “smart” or “dumb”, then you believe that intelligence exists. IQ tests provide an _externally valid_ measure of the subjective evaluations we make every day.

    How do you know IQ tests are a valid measure of intelligence? Sure there’s some correlation, but there’s some correlation between intelligence and height as well. That doesn’t make height a valid measure of intelligence.

  29. #29 doublehelix
    January 20, 2007

    IQ tests have external validity because they accurately real-world performance, including socio-economic status.

    Yes, ‘g’, as measured by IQ, is a theoretical construct. Nonetheless, whatever it is is highly heritable, and it successfully predicts things like income, and scholastic performance, I begin to think there’s something to it.

  30. #30 Andrew Wade
    January 20, 2007

    IQ tests have external validity because they accurately real-world performance, including socio-economic status.

    What do you mean by validity? I thought you meant that IQ accurately measures intelligence. You appear to be arguing that because IQ has some of the same correlates as intelligence, it must be measuring intelligence. That’s just not so.

  31. #31 Blake Stacey
    January 20, 2007

    Today’s simple truth: half of all theoretical physicists have below-average intelligence. They do not teach at Lake Wobegon University.

  32. #32 doublehelix
    January 20, 2007

    IQ tests measure the construct called g. The score on the IQ test has external validity. By this I mean that IQ is correlated with many extra-test variables, e.g., educational achievement, wealth, socioeconomic status, criminal history (or lack thereof). External validity, the test-retest reliability of IQ tests, and the high heritability of IQ, all suggest that g is a trait of brains. My original point was that IQ scores grossly reflect intuitive understanding of people’s intelligence– e.g., very low IQ is identical to mental retardation, as commonly understood. I would also proffer the point that many people can recognize high intelligence as well– without using an IQ test.

  33. #33 p-ter
    January 20, 2007

    The problem isn’t with the claim that intelligence exists, it’s with the claim that it’s “absolute, objective [and] quantifiable.” Which is inevitably quickly turned into an implicit claim that it is quantifiable by means of a single normally distributed number

    that’s what statisticians spend their lives doing–turning complex things into normally distributed random variables :)

  34. #34 Andrew Wade
    January 20, 2007

    IQ tests measure the construct called g. The score on the IQ test has external validity. By this I mean that IQ is correlated with many extra-test variables, e.g., educational achievement, wealth, socioeconomic status, criminal history (or lack thereof).

    Ah, thank you. I misunderstood what you meant by external validity.

    External validity, the test-retest reliability of IQ tests, and the high heritability of IQ, all suggest that g is a trait of brains.

    Hmm, I don’t know about that that.

    My original point was that IQ scores grossly reflect intuitive understanding of people’s intelligence– e.g., very low IQ is identical to mental retardation, as commonly understood.

    I’d agree with that, sure.

  35. #35 Colugo
    January 20, 2007

    Recall that Andrew Sullivan is proud of his endorsement of The Bell Curve; he wrote that Murray and Herrnstein “speak truth to power.”

    Thomas Sowell wrote the definitive refutation to The Bell Curve.

  36. #36 Bailey Hankins
    January 20, 2007

    So I should expect to see a flood of Nobel prize winners from West African descent in the future, eh? LOL! I’ll be waiting for that. I’ll also keep waiting for an all-White NBA team. Neither will happen.

    Genetic variation — read up on that. Blacks don’t dominate the NBA because they all grew up in the ghetto and had no opportunities. That is more Liberal hogwash, and rather racist if you ask me. Will impoverished Mexicans take over the NBA next? No. Genetically, blacks simply have more athletic potential, and at the highest levels this makes all the difference. Way more white kids play high school basketball than black kids. Way, way more.

    Like some Ohio fundamentalist, you seem to want to deny genetic variation. Do you believe in evolution?

    Whites simply have more intellectual potential than Blacks, and Asians perhaps even more than Whites. As you go higher, to the best of the best, the exclusion becomes quite noticable.

    Sowell tries to use the “Flynn Effect” to explain it all away, but he forgets to mention that the GAP remained exactly the same between whites and blacks. The Flynn Effect is no great mystery. IQ type questions became part of our culture. Studies show that the tests are somewhat coachable, just like coaching can help your 100 meter dash times. It doesn’t disprove anything at all, so Sowell’s argument is utterly empty.

  37. #37 MaryKaye
    January 20, 2007

    There’s a bit of chatter going on about this topic at Brad DeLong’s website as well. I don’t know if this observation has been made yet or not. And, maybe it’s even ‘off topic’ at this point… But I believe it is DeLong who observes, “…The only thing you need to know about Murray’s 1994 Bell Curve book is that he and his coauthor Herrnstein suppressed all education variables from the right-hand-side of their regressions because the results when education variables were included weren’t what Murray and Herrnstein wanted them to be. With education suppressed as a factor determining accomplishment, it’s hard to see how the 1994 book can inform anybody about the benefits of education vs. inherited genetically-influenced smarts….”[my apologies that it's not in block quote form]. If true that’s pretty damning in my book. When it comes to issues of education and intelligence I look elsewhere than Charles Murray.

  38. #38 anon on the hudson
    January 21, 2007

    IQ research doesn’t seem to have any deep intellectual content. I’m still waiting for the true beleivers-Charles Murray, Steve Sailer and others-to tell us what deep theoretical structures underlie IQ and race /Bell Curve research.

    What does seem very clear,after reading the writings of the race and IQ true believers is this:their main interest is find a biological justification gross economic inequality. I find this appalling.

    If some people are intellectually handicapped, these would be the members of our society that would need goverment assistance to protect them wage and possibly chattel slavery.

    Here is the direct hit on the Bell curve “science”:the underlying biologicalmodel is massively flawed. The epigentics revolution in biology shows quite powerfully that there is a complicated interactions-not very well understood-with genes and higher levels of biological organization which are interacting with things outside the human body.

    If we as a society make the decision that every child should have an educational enriched environment, then the we have to figure out a way to pay for it.

    Here some of my ideas how this type of educational system could have been subsidized:

    1)the 500 billion already spent on the Iraq War could have been spent on an enriched educational system for many more children

    2)the 3.5 billion that goes to Israel every year-for decades this has been going on-could have spent on an on enriched educational system for many more American children.

    3)the millions now being spent torturing Cuba and Venezuela could have been spent on an enriched educational system for American children.

    I think you folks get the idea.

    anon on the hudson

  39. #39 SmellyTerror
    January 21, 2007

    My original point was that IQ scores grossly reflect intuitive understanding of people’s intelligence– e.g., very low IQ is identical to mental retardation, as commonly understood.

    The devil is in the detail.

    Consider the problem when comparing distinct groups. Imagine giving an IQ test – in English – to someone who doesn’t understand English. Obviously, they score poorly, but in this case we can clearly see the reason.

    As we move to more subtle variations between groups, we have to consider more and more reasons and mitigating factors for variation in score. How can we judge how much of the difference is due to non-intelligence factors? At what point do the precise purmutations of test results become meaningless noise?

    So yeah, it can give a gross estimate, and for two very similar people it can provide a good comparison. But when it’s used to compare different groups in a society who by definition have different viewpoints and must have different reactions to the test questions, it ceases to be so clear cut. In fact, it has not been shown how it can be valid at all. Couldn’t variation of test results just as easily be used to prove the overall difference in a group’s response to questions, rather than underlying intelligence? Why do we assume that the response is constant, and that only intelligence is variable?

    Spending entire careers to find a testing matrix that one part of the society is good at answering, and then applying that test to other parts of the society is a flawed method of comparison. If you had set out to prove a preconceived spread of intelligence, that’s how you’d go about it.

  40. #40 Chris' Wills
    January 21, 2007

    Please forgive the interruption, but I understood that originally intelligence was measured for various abilities.

    Dexterity, language, mathematics, artistry etc and then a silly person decided to average these, possibly, orthogonal measures and call it IQ.

    It is this lumping together different skills and assigning one number that causes the problem.

    It also doesn’t help that many of, the self named, elite denigrate the value of practical skills whilst lauding academic/artistic craftsmanship.

    I would guess that EQ is another useful measure amongst many possible.

    The idea was that if someone was not very good at maths but good with their hands it might be sensible to give them advance traing in a practical subject rather than try and teach them advanced mathematics.

    It could also be used to identify areas where additional education was required (compare measure against test scores, if measure implied that test score should be higher than it was find out why and rectify).

    In my mind, no one number can ever be a measure of a person; especially when trying to decide if someone is good or evil.

  41. #41 doublehelix
    January 21, 2007

    Occam’s razor helps cut through these thorny problems. I believe in ‘g’ because it is a simpler biological theory to explain variation in achievement between people (in this culture) than the theory of multiple intelligences proposed by H. Gardner et al. Besides, it has been demonstrated that scores on different intelligence tests as well as simple reaction time tests are correlated. In other words, it is likely that an individual with high mathematical or verbal intelligence will also have high intelligence in the other domain. This suggests that there is an underlying neural characteristic common to both. What Murray et al. are claiming is that g is that quality.

    Anon on the Hudson’s tone suggests that there should be absolutely NO LIMIT to the resources spent to improve the educational achievement of subaverage children. I have no problem with hope, but I do have a problem with those who would FORCIBLY TAKE my resources to spend on a “problem” for which (in my opinion) there is no solution. Sure, many would decry that as inhumane, cruel, pessimistic. But consider the fate of societies that have followed the model that central economic planning and massive wealth redistribution will permanently eliminate poverty. That’s what Anon has in mind, and I would rather NOT participate in that utopia.

    In so far as epigenetics is concerned, Anon is correct that the environment does influence gene expression. But he/she forgets a very important concept from epigenetics: That organisms “choose” their environments. As Matt Ridley said, Nature via Nurture. So sure, the environment matters. But, save for massive governmental intervention (which I would morally oppose), the vast vast majority of people will be confined to environments that are to a large extent of their own making.

  42. #42 Chad Orzel
    January 21, 2007

    Occam’s razor helps cut through these thorny problems.

    Occam’s razor is not science. The scientific method does not consist of looking at the world, constructing multiple theories which might explain the observed facts, and then choosing the simplest.

    Occam’s razor is meta-science at best, and not a decisive argument in any way. Sometimes, the more complicated theory is the right one.

    In so far as epigenetics is concerned, Anon is correct that the environment does influence gene expression. But he/she forgets a very important concept from epigenetics: That organisms “choose” their environments. As Matt Ridley said, Nature via Nurture. So sure, the environment matters. But, save for massive governmental intervention (which I would morally oppose), the vast vast majority of people will be confined to environments that are to a large extent of their own making.

    So, not only are poor people to blame for the fact that they’re poor, stupid people are to blame for the fact that they’re stupid. Charming.

  43. #43 Jesse
    January 21, 2007

    IQ tests measure the construct called g. The score on the IQ test has external validity. By this I mean that IQ is correlated with many extra-test variables, e.g., educational achievement, wealth, socioeconomic status, criminal history (or lack thereof). External validity, the test-retest reliability of IQ tests, and the high heritability of IQ, all suggest that g is a trait of brains.

    The fundamental problem with IQ fundamentalists is that they can’t see that this set of facts doesn’t add up to evidence that g is either immutable or anything to do with innate intelligence.

    Suppose I design a test that amounts to me looking at your skin color, and I assign a score that is higher the whiter your skin. Call this “w”. W is clearly heritable and has high test-retest reliability. In today’s America, it will be correlated with a variety of “extra-test” variables: Education, earnings, wealth, criminal history.

    Does this mean that w “is a trait of brains”? No, of course not. W is a trait of skin. One can argue about whether in some other society with a different history and different policies W would continue to be correlated with extra-test variables. Personally, I see no reason to think that it would be, and I see the set of correlations described above as a culturally contingent fact. But the existence of quantifiable, reliable, heritable W scores with high external validity tells us nothing about the answer to this. g scores are no different–there is nothing in the evidence about IQ that demonstrates that it is not culturally/historically contingent, and some very strong circumstantial evidence (the Flynn effect, e.g.) that it is.

    Murray simply refuses to confront this issue, and is therefore not worth paying attention to. Moreover, even if we grant that IQ really is a direct function of genes, he assumes in his op ed a lot of facts not in evidence. Most glaringly, there’s really no basis in the literature for the claim that somewhat low IQs within the normal range of variation impose hard ceilings on how much someone can learn.

  44. #44 doublehelix
    January 21, 2007

    Chad, you’re right: Occam’s razor is not science. Instead of grandstanding, why don’t you address my point: that organisms create their environments, and the choices of this “extended phenotype” feed back on the organism to influence gene expression?

    Do you deny that the qualities of, say, a neighborhood, rich or poor, black or white, are *to some extent* created by the individuals who reside in them? That the choices people make every day determine *to some extent* what that place looks like? Seems like what you’re reacting to is the notion that poverty is not fully equivalent to “victim”.

    I don’t understand Jesse’s points. g is posited to be a trait of brains because it is behavioral variables that we measure. IQ is correlated with reaction time. Most cognitive psychologists would point to the central nervous system as the most likely substrate of variation in this variable.

    Insofar as the external validity of IQ is contingent upon society, this I have no problem with. We live in an increasingly complex, knowledge based society (one that is created by the behavior of its inhabitants, which in turn is the product of genes*environment). Cognitive ability will determine an individual’s status within the society. If the society were different and had different contingencies (i.e., one in which intelligence was orthogonal to status), well, that society would have to populated by very different individuals to create such a socieity. You or I perhaps would not exist in such a society. Thus, the thought experiment is not valid.

  45. #45 p-ter
    January 21, 2007

    IQ research doesn’t seem to have any deep intellectual content. I’m still waiting for the true beleivers-Charles Murray, Steve Sailer and others-to tell us what deep theoretical structures underlie IQ and race /Bell Curve research.

    Be careful what you wish for. If you don’t really want to read the entire review (on the neurobiology of intelligence), the salient points have been summarized here.

    The epigentics revolution in biology shows quite powerfully that there is a complicated interactions-not very well understood-with genes and higher levels of biological organization which are interacting with things outside the human body.

    of course organisms respond to their environment (epigenetics is just a possible mechanism for how that interaction works). This has never rendered genetics meaningless, nor will it.

  46. #46 p-ter
    January 21, 2007

    Jesse–

    re: intelligence, genetics, and the nervous system. click through the link in #45.

  47. #47 anon on the hudson
    January 21, 2007

    The Bell Curve true beleivers assume the reach of genes extends all the up to higher levels of biologoical organization.

    This is false. After the protiens are made, thousands of higher level process and structures-interacting in- no doubt thousands of ways-take over. Serious biologist understand this obvious fact

    The vaulting ambition of the Bell Curve true beievers has 0 to do with deep theoretical science. Their vaulting ambition is to provide a biological justification gross economic inequaity.

    Just read the nonsense about organisms choosing their own environment.

    We now know from the deciphering of the of the one domensional code of the genome that the one-to-one correspondence between gene(s) and phenotypes/complex traits is not scientifically credible anymore(outside of a few diseaes)

    Here is what I beleive is the most fudamental point in this discussion:THERE IS NO SOCIETAL NEED TO GIVE ANY CHILD AN IQ TEST..ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE OBVIOUS INTENTIONS OF CHARLES MURRAY.

    AS SOCIOLOGIST WILLIAM JULIUS WLSON POINTED OUT ON TV 12 YEARS ON A SUNDAY MORNING TV DEBATE WITH THE CREEPY LOOKING CHARLES MURRAY:COMBINE THE BELL CURVE WITH CHARLES MURRAYS PREVIOUS BOOK ABOUT THE SOCIAL WELFARE STATE AND SOMETHING HORRIFIC AND APALLING EMERTGES:A JUSTIFICATION FOR BRUTAL WAGE AND POSSIBLE CHATTEL SLVERY.

    NO ONE SHOULD HAVE ANY DOUBT THAT THIS IS THE DIRECTION ECONOMIC REACTIONARIES SUCH AS CHARLES MURRAY AND STEVE SAILER WOULD HAVE THIS SOCIETY SLIDE TOWARDS.

    THE WHOLE BELL CURVE ARGUMENT IS AN ATTEMP TO THER MORAL BARRIERS AGAINST GROSS ECONIMIC INEQUALITY.

    AS I Pointed out previously,there are no deep and interesting theoretical structures involved in IQ testing “science” and race and IQ “science”

    Anon on the Hudson

  48. #48 anon on the hudson
    January 21, 2007

    There is nothing deep and scientifically interesting about finding brain structures that supposedly determine whether someone has to spend the rest of their lives in extreme poverty. The “science” is illegetimate from square one.

    One can probably found thousands of uninteresting correlations between different traits and intelligence.

    Hey, maybe someone can do resesarch into correlation betwenn knee cap thickness and low intelligence.

    All you folks out there with thick knee caps, watch out for the mad calibrators.

  49. #49 Brad DeLong
    January 21, 2007

    At least as of a decade ago, it looked as if the extra economic benefits from schooling were if anything greater for those who were relatively weak in ability, at least as measured by IQ-like test scores. We may reach the point someday where additional schooling is not providing significant benefits to large fractions of our population, but there are no signs that we are there yet:

    Orley Ashenfelter and Cecilia Rouse (1998), “Income, Schooling, and Ability: Evidence from A New Sample of Identical Twins,” _Quarterly Journal of Economics_

  50. #50 A quantum diaries survivor
    January 21, 2007

    Hi Chad,
    sorry but I disagree with your comment on Occam’s Razor. Here is what I wrote in a post on my blog today, to answer your comment:

    “[...] while I usually concur with Chad’s opinions, I am not sure I agree with him on this one. Occam’s razor does not consist in constructing multiple theories, but rather to advise succintness in construction of a scientific theory. It is often quoted as a lex parsimoniae:

    “entia non sum multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”,

    that is, entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity. In this sense, I believe William of Ockham gave a real contribution to the scientific method.

    Whether we should include the above law in the corpus of principia outlining the way science should be done, it is open to discussion. The scientific method is based on rational reasoning, on the systematic observation of the physical world through repeatable experiments, and on the creation of theories which agree with observed empirical facts and are liable to be disproven. Is there room for Occam’s razor ?

    Sure, one cannot prefer a theory to another based uniquely on their relative parsimony. But the lex parsimoniae is indeed a strong guidance in the formulation of theories, so much so that scientists have interiorized it deep in the headquarters of their logical reasoning, no less than other fundamenta such as the time-ordering of cause and effect. They can construct exotic theories and they sometimes do, but they keep a restrained attitude even then. It is built in their genes.

    Of course, I am talking about real scientists here, not about philosophers who come to like so much a theoretical construct to believe it must represent reality against all odds. They have abandoned the scientific method long ago. You know who I am talking about!

    Long live Occam’s razor. These are not times when we can lighten our baggage to travel faster: these are times when we need as much rigor as we can give to ourselves in the investigation of the physical world.”

    Cheers,
    T.

  51. #51 Chad Orzel
    January 21, 2007

    I wouldn’t say that Occam’s razor is unscientific, but it is not by any stretch a decisive principle of science. It’s like mathematical elegance– a hint that you’re on the right track, but not conclusive evidence of the rightness of the theory.

    If the only tool you have to distinguish between two theories is that one is simpler than the other (or that one is more mathematically elegant than the other) then you need better experiments.

    (There’s an anecdote about some famous physicist– for some reason, I think it was Bethe, but it might’ve been Feynman or Fermi or one of those people– who was presented with a bunch of experiments that some people were claiming as evidence of a new particle discovery. Each time they showed him a bubble chamber picture that they said showed their new particle, he had an alternate explanation– stray fields, particles not detected in the picture, all sorts of things.

    (Finally, in frustration, they said “Look, we’ve shown you a dozen pictures, and you’ve given a dozen different explanations of the track. We have a single, simple theory that explains all of them.”

    (“Yes,” was the reply, “and the difference is that each of my dozen different explanations is right, and your single simple explanation is wrong.” And he was right.)

  52. #52 Richard
    January 21, 2007

    What’s “slimy” about that aside? Seriously, I would like to know. Because you’re unable to challenge the factual basis underlying Murray’s essays, i.e. decades of peer reviewed research, your argument is nothing but emotional outbursts – “icky”, “crypto-racist”, “slimy”, “oozed”, “now I need a shower”.

  53. #53 Tommaso Dorigo
    January 22, 2007

    I know Feynman’s story Chad, but it proves my point – entia non sunt multiplicanda: it is the particle they were claiming which was what Occam’s razor would have slashed, and it was precisely by applying Occam’s principle that Feynman ended up being right: his explanation were more economical, since they relied on known effects.

    Cheers,
    T.

  54. #54 Theodore Wilson
    January 22, 2007

    Murray doesn’t know how to set the mean for his bell curve. Japan with a much more complicated language has achieved literacy levels in their blue-collar workforce that puts America to shame. The science doesn’t seem to support that 20% of us can’t match that. We are not that different. Yet, America has produced an order of magnitude more Nobel Laureates. You just can’t bridge these two competing facts with the theory of IQ. There are deep social and racial issues here that Murray is glossing over.

    Obviously, there is still a discussion about what constitutes intelligence in the scientific community. The fact that Murray uses IQ as a de facto term in public media makes this article a rhetorical push for his professional opinions not just social policy. Yea, and I do find it sick that this resurfaces after Murray’s main opponent is literally dead. His poor little girl example doesn’t mention dyslexia. Should these kinds of handicaps not receive other forms of education? That’s what I think most people here are finding viscerally repulsive. There is this huge beast of biology that is just getting worked out but taking it to make social policy is a huge leap. And by Occam’s razor, yep, we can say that Murray is doing it in the Wall Street Journal for class based racist reasons.

    And on the other end. Am I only the only one whom felt that he implied that only smart people should learn about the Greeks? This is material that humanity has inherited and should not just be given to the >120′s. This goes for all general eds. The population should know why the statement “Science has proven ______” is bunk science and rhetoric so they can assess advertising and politicians.

  55. #55 richard
    January 22, 2007

    Japanese isn’t a more complicated language. The Japanse have higher average IQ’s, their blue collar workforce is smarter than the United State’s.

  56. #56 CaptainBooshi
    January 22, 2007

    I don’t know about Japanese not being a more complicated language. English and Japanese are so different they almost can’t be compared (note I said almost). Japanese grammar is certainly simpler than English grammar, but on the other hand, just to be considered literate, you need to know over a 1000 different symbols, most of which can indicate different words in different situations, and an additional two different alphabets besides that, and all three are used together in the same sentences. To be well-read you have to know 2000-3000 symbols.

    Also, where did you read that the japanese have higher average IQ’s? I thought that in general, comprehensive IQ data was only available for the US, and the Japanese-American population in the US can’t be considered representative of those living in Japan.

  57. #57 CaptainBooshi
    January 22, 2007

    I would also like to note that I personally believe that the subject of intelligence and where it comes from is not well understood enough to draw any conclusions right now.

    Also, I think that the idea that a person creates their environment is bull. A person only influences their environment, at best, when they’re an adult. Kids don’t even get that, and what happens as a kid will affect you your whole life, although it will not define you unless you let it.

  58. #58 Chad Orzel
    January 22, 2007

    I know Feynman’s story Chad, but it proves my point – entia non sunt multiplicanda: it is the particle they were claiming which was what Occam’s razor would have slashed, and it was precisely by applying Occam’s principle that Feynman ended up being right: his explanation were more economical, since they relied on known effects.

    This is a nice illustration of the reasonwhy Occam’s razor is not a decisive scientific principle, though: Prior to the experimental confirmation, you could perfectly well argue that either side had the more economical explanation. The people doing the experiment thought that a single particle was a simpler experiment, while Feynman (was it Feynman? I can’t recall the source) thought that using known effects was simpler.

    In hindsight, we can easily say that the correct explanation was also the simpler one, but that’s because we know it was correct. Relative simplicity is very much in the eye of the beholder, though, and does not provide a useful basis for determining which theory is correct.

    I don’t object to Occam’s razor as a sort of useful heuristic, but it’s not decisive. You can say of two theories “Well, this one seems simpler, so I think it’s on the right track,” but that doesn’t prove anything. It might be a good way to determine which of two expensive and complicated sets of experiments would be better to undertake (the simpler theory stands a better chance of being confirmed), but experiments are the only real way to distinguish between theories.

  59. #59 Toaster Sunshine
    January 22, 2007

    The primary purpose of their education should not be to let the little darlings express themselves, but to give them the tools and the intellectual discipline for expressing themselves as adults.

    This is the part that bothers me most. First, to call gifted students “little darlings” is slimely patronizing. And as for expressing themselves as “adults”, also patronizing. It implies that the immature perspective has no merit and that the uninhibited free expression of self that is unique to children has not place in an adult and intelligent world. I was one of the kids in school considered gifted, being ranked eligible for Honors and Advanced Placement classes, and yet I still, even being older, sometimes run around my apartment jumping up and down and yelling “BUBBLY/BUBBLY/BLUBBLY/BUBBLY/BUBBLY!!!” for the sheer joy of it. I guess that such actions would get me classified as not having ever been worth the effort.

  60. #60 Roman Werpachowski
    January 22, 2007

    “If they’re gifted, don’t make them keep showing up. Move them on and let them grow. If they require more time, let them have it.”

    In Poland, people quite often have to repeat a year in grammar or high school. It can be managed and often lets people get an honest education instead of just drifting through, learning nothing.

  61. #61 Bailey Hankins
    January 22, 2007

    My, my, those bleeding hearts just can’t pump blood up to the brain it would seem. Whose “fault” is it that I do not play in the NBA? It must be someone’s fault. Whose fault is it that I haven’t won a Nobel Prize? Certainly, according to you bleeding hearts, I had the potential to do both, simultaneously even with correct education and training. After all, every human being has infinite potential just waiting to be realized!

    Like I suspected, you truly do not believe in Evolution. You prefer Lamark to Darwin, but even more, you prefer New Age nonsense and Liberal political correctness to reality. You shut your eyes tightly, fingers in ears, shouting out what has to be in your narrow little world, calling those who face facts “true believers”!

    Civilizations rose in all parts of the world, except one. It’s that big continent just southwest of Europe, if you have a globe. If you are so far gone that you believe Egypt was a native African civilization, then there is no help for you. Be serious.

    Not only did no civilizations arise from the indigenous peoples of Africa, but they cannot even sustain the civilizations that were put in place by others. Zimbabwe is a good example, and South Africa is now crumbling as well. But there is no need to look so far away, just look at inner city Detroit, and other urban areas that are actually run by blacks. Billions of dollars in infrastructure is inherited, and quickly falls into ruins, even with trillions in welfare and services pouring into the inner cities from taxes collected in the suburbs.

    Let’s not make excuses. These inner cities are just like the cities in Africa, crime and disease ridden, in notorious states of disrepair.

    I guess if you don’t believe it is IQ, then the only thing you bleeding hearts are left with is that they are just lazy and evil. No wait! It’s all the White Man’s fault! The White Man, even after he leaves you with huge thriving cities, is still oppressing you! Even when the White Man pays to feed you, house you, cloth you, and educate you for free – he is still oppressing you! If he leaves you to your own devices in your native lands, he is still oppressing you!

    I think we can see who the “true believers” are.

    The trouble with you bleeding hearts is that you want me to have a bleeding pocketbook to fund your nonsense. I’ll hand over the loot just as soon as you tell me whose fault it is that I’m too short, too slow, and can’t jump high enough to play in the NBA. Whose fault is it? Who do I blame?

    You know what, I blame YOU. If only you had *cared* enough about White kids with dreams of playing in the NBA, you would have poured money into my coaching. Better yet, you could have forced the NBA to lower the goals, and handicapped faster players with heavier shoes.

    If only you really *cared* about me, a downtrodden White kid who was cut from the basketball team very early on, I could have realized my true potential.

    Shame on you all.

  62. #62 Jamie Bowden
    January 22, 2007

    What a cute little troll…can we keep him?

    I suspect when Chad gets back you may find yourself disemvoweled, which is a shame, as I find you highly amusing, but unlike Uncle Al, who’s merely unruly, you’re outright insulting, and missing the point on purpose so you can light your strawman on fire after firing off your little salvo of ad hominems.

  63. #63 Bailey Hankins
    January 22, 2007

    Oh, I quiver with fear.

    Intelligence is genetic.
    Intelligence is measurable.
    Intelligence matters.

    Chad believes that “minorities” (except Jews and Asians) are excluded and disadvantaged, and that all things being equal there would be no measurable difference in intelligence between population groups. He believes this on faith alone, because the science says that he is dead wrong.

    Others are far more absurd, claiming that intelligence can’t be measured at all. Even dumber, others claim that if you cannot give them a precise description of how intelligence works at the molecular level, then you can’t truly measure intelligence at all. I guess it is equally stupid to time the 100 meter dash not knowing the molecular details of every human cell.

    In 1986, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone remarked that the average American intellectual standard is lower than the average Japanese standard because of the blacks and Hispanics in the U.S.

    Of course he was completely correct in reality, but oh my, he was oh so politically incorrect!

    We even have to teach other nations not to casually observe the obvious truth. Personally I’m sick of it. Occam’s razor isn’t necessary in this slam dunk situation.

  64. #64 Gav
    January 22, 2007

    Anecdote /= data and all that but I recall about 40 years ago helping out a psychologist friend to see how far practising doing IQ tests could improve ones score. With just a few hours work spread over a few weeks we found we were able consistently maintain scores > 150. Although the trend was consistently upwards we didn’t appear to get noticeably more intelligent – it all seemed rather silly and we soon got bored with it.

    Incidentally the criminal responsibility thing that was mentioned by one commentator above – the key issue here isn’t intelligence but capacity to make decisions which ain’t the same thing.

  65. #65 Bailey Hankins
    January 22, 2007

    Well there you go. I wonder why nobody ever thought of that? All we need to do is sit down with these inner city kids for a few hours and they will all have 150+ IQs!

    We can scrap the hundreds of billions wasted on Head Start and all that other nonsense.

    OK, in reality, studies have shown that all tests are coachable to varying degrees … but the GAP remains the same.

    Liberal Logic:

    Blacks fail intellectually because they are excluded from educational opportunities and disadvantaged while white kids are tutored and coached up to their full potential.

    Blacks succeed athletically because they are excluded from sporting opportunities and disadvantaged while white kids go to expensive sports camps and are given all the best coaching. Er, and this, uh, well … the man is keeping them down, and sports is their only hope!

    I guess the intellect is the only out for white kids who just can’t cut it being NBA stars.

  66. #66 Chad Orzel
    January 22, 2007

    What a cute little troll…can we keep him?

    For now.
    He’s getting very close to earning lossy compression, but I have stuff to do this evening, and probably won’t get around to it.

    Chad believes that “minorities” (except Jews and Asians) are excluded and disadvantaged, and that all things being equal there would be no measurable difference in intelligence between population groups. He believes this on faith alone, because the science says that he is dead wrong.

    That’s certainly an interpretation of what I wrote. I wouldn’t call it good, or accurate, or even particularly interesting, but it’s an interpretation.

    Don’t go setting up that psychic hotline just yet, though. Your mind-reading needs a little work.

    And do try to keep a civil tone. You’re free to express whatever opinions you like, however distasteful I may find them, but keep away from personal attacks.

  67. #67 Anon on the Hudson
    January 22, 2007

    There are very likely lots of traits that would correlate with IQ. With a few exceptions- people with trivial scientific interests- no one would find these meaningless correlations worthy of scientific investigation.

    So why the interest in race and IQ? What leaps out at you from the posts being made here by the Bell Curve true beleivers is this:it is is the presumed social and economic consequences of race and IQ “scientific research” that matters.Nothing else matters. Your genes-should-determine-to a very large degree-your economic well being.

    So you see Ladies and Gentleman, the science of race and IQ research is quite trivial. If there were no economic and sicial welfare consequnces attached to race and IQ “science”, there would be 0 interest in race and IQ “science”.

    Have a look at the link provided by the owner of the gene expression blog in response to my question about the “scientific depth” of race and IQ “science”.

    The authors of this “scientific” study blather on about the great urgency of continuing with this line of research because of its great social and economic consequences.

    The basketball analogy is fradulent because the main issue is how low or high this society will set the economic and social welfare bottom of this society.

    There need to be very strong barriers against brutal wage slavery and chattel slavery.

    Race and IQ research “Science” is an attempt by economic reactionaries-who have trivial scientific agendas-to break down the barriers that now exist against brutual wage and chattel slavery.

    Brad Delong’s alternative number crunchng is somewhat interestting but largely beside the point.

    You’ve been warned.

    anon on the Hudson

  68. #68 Texas reader
    January 22, 2007

    Murray is not the only abomonination being publicized by the WSJ, I have seen TWO editorials now by people who are described as part of The Discovery Institute. And no, religion and science were not the subjects.

    The WSJ is one of the best newspapers in the world, but the editorial pages should be shredded.

  69. #69 Bailey Hankins
    January 22, 2007

    It is all of little consequence, since our white collar jobs are being exported. Other countries can produce workers with targeted educations in medicine, computer science, engineering, law, and either ship them over here or have the work shipped over there.

    Even with the highest IQ score and the best degree money can buy, you can’t compete with someone who earns less in a year than you have to pay in taxes.

    The middle class is on its last legs, with two people working and still falling behind, and nothing but more offshoring, downsizing, and continuing suicidal immigration levels in sight.

    The truth is that we don’t really need many college graduates at all. We don’t need blue collar workers either. The rest of the world will supply us with everything.

  70. #70 p-ter
    January 22, 2007

    Have a look at the link provided by the owner of the gene expression blog in response to my question about the “scientific depth” of race and IQ “science”.

    I’ll second that. It’s a freely available, very well-written review article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, so have a look.

    There are very likely lots of traits that would correlate with IQ. With a few exceptions- people with trivial scientific interests- no one would find these meaningless correlations worthy of scientific investigation.

    Where are all these “meaningless correlations”? Give a citation or something. I’ll cite the correlation between low IQ and risk for schizophrenia as one that’s kind of interesting to me.

  71. #71 michael o'connor
    January 23, 2007

    Lacking a scientific eduation and just coming across this conversation today, with some timidity I would ask -

    Hasn’t the identical twins raised apart studies empirically established that a significant percentage of mental ability (however measured)is inherited?

    Don’t we all remember (if male) that in grade and high school most of us regardless of economic backround (black, white, brown etc.) desiring girls, status, scholarships had high motivation to succeed in sports and that if we made it to college on an athletic scholarship we would be (in general) equally motivated to make Xmillion a year in the pros? If so, doesn’t it seem odd that blacks are so disproportionally successful in professional sports if some of that success isn’t explained (in part) by the inheritance of certain physical abilities?

  72. #72 Bailey Hankins
    January 23, 2007

    Michael, to be a good Liberal you will need to dispense with simple, honest observations and learn to filter what you see through an “Evil White Man” filter.

    If blacks succeed at sports, it is out of desperation because the Evil White Man gives them no other opportunities.

    If blacks don’t succeed in school, it is because the Evil White Man has culturally biased each and every test to favor Whites Only … well, except for Asians, and a few exceptional blacks, who are all really Uncle Toms.

    The Evil White Man controls everything, and is very racist and evil.

    To be popular in college, well, actually, to not be shunned in college, and to have a chance at becoming a tenured professor, or getting the hot Liberal Arts girls, you simply MUST adopt this world view.

    Charles Murray is an Evil White Man. He only writes books full of irrefutable scientific facts to hurt the feelings of minorities, except for Jews and Asians. He is even more racist for Jews and Asians than he is for Evil White People like himself.

  73. #73 doublehelix
    January 23, 2007

    Chad doesn’t seem to have a problem with the notions that 1) IQ is real; 2) IQ is heritable; and 3) that IQ matters. He doesn’t dispute any of these postulates. What bothered him about the article was its tone, and “crypto-racist” air. Well, unless I am mistaken about Chad’s views on IQ itself, then he too must adopt a racist point of view, because IT IS A FACT that the races differ significantly in terms of their mean IQ.

    I think the evidence in favor of biological differences between the races (including and beyond their brains) is overwhelming, and the implications of that are not pleasant to consider. However, for those who would deny this, they have a very complicated task in front of them: Namely, to explain why it is that cultures differ… without using the infinitely regressing argument that culture is completely “learned”.

  74. #74 Gav
    January 23, 2007

    Bailey Hankins said:
    “Well there you go. I wonder why nobody ever thought of that? All we need to do is sit down with these inner city kids for a few hours and they will all have 150+ IQs!”

    It’s just possible that people did think about it and decided it was a silly idea because working to increase IQ scores as an end in itself is pretty futile.

    “OK, in reality, studies have shown that all tests are coachable to varying degrees … but the GAP remains the same.”
    Aha – now we’re moving some way out of the domain of anecdote. Evidence of gap remaining same after coaching please?

    “Liberal Logic: .”Blacks fail intellectually because they are excluded from educational opportunities and disadvantaged while white kids are tutored and coached up to their full potential”

    This is interesting. In this country blacks form less than 1% of the population (according to the 2001 census) and a disproportionate number of these are professionals so it’s rather difficult to identify a race-related issue of intellectual failure. However we still have a cycle of deprivation / cycle of disadvantage debate here. It’s been bubbling along for at least the last 30 years or so – social inclusion / exclusion is the current fad. Given our demographic profile it’s largely about white people.

    So in our particular circumstances your sentence would translate as “Liberal Logic: some whites fail intellectually because they are excluded from educational opportunities and disadvantaged while other white kids are tutored and coached up to their full potential”. What’s so liberal about this logic?

  75. #75 Chad Orzel
    January 23, 2007

    Chad doesn’t seem to have a problem with the notions that 1) IQ is real; 2) IQ is heritable; and 3) that IQ matters.

    Huh?
    Boy, it’s a good thing for you that they don’t have telepathy sections on IQ tests.

    I don’t recall giving a detailed discussion of my views on IQ, but I wouldn’t say you’re off to a great start in trying to divine them.

    Regarding your postulates, I’d say that IQ is “real” only in the sense that IQ tests tend to give similar results for the same individuals, so whatever it is that IQ tests measure is fairly consistent. I’ll agree that there appears to be some correlation between IQ test scores within families, which may or may not mean it’s measuring a heritable quantity.

    I do not in any way agree with the claim that IQ “matters,” though. It’s not at all clear that it measures anything really important, and the fact that scores can be improved with practice and/or coaching suggests that it’s not actually measuring any fixed and objective quantity. And you don’t need to know too many Mensans to make the observation that high IQ scores aren’t exactly a guarantee that somebody has any practical skills, or the common sense of the average rutabega.

  76. #76 Anon on the hudson
    January 23, 2007

    Putting aside the fact that genetic determinism is going through a somewhat rapid death among biological researchers-there is definitely a very strong trend away from it these days- there is a very serious moral question involved all in scientific research.

    If the knowlege gained in a particular scientific research program is to be used to make particular groups and indviduals worse off,that is to say, if the scientific knowledge is to be used to harm particular groups and individuals, then the certain scientific research programs are morally illegitmate and should not be pursued.

    This should be obvious in a decent,humane civilized society.

    It is immoral to engage in IQ AND RACE research because the intent is to make certain members of our society worse off.

    This is the more fundamental issue. EVEN more fundamental than the fact BELL CURVE/IQ AND RACE RESEARCH HAS A MASSIVELY FLAWED CONEPTUAL FOUNDATION(genetic determinism-true in a very small percentage of mono and polygenetic diseases and the central dogma)

    There are no legitmate scientific interests in race and IQ research. Race and scientific reserch is a means to an end which is:to use science to justify gross economic and social inequality. This should be obvious from reading the posts of the Bell Curve true believers.

    ANON ON THE HUDSON

  77. #77 anon on the hudson
    January 23, 2007

    Michael O’Connor

    Identical twins-identical at the one dimensional linear DNA code level-if seperated and raised in different can have very different outcomes in terms of disease. This is very well established fact in the medical literature

    anon on the hudson

  78. #78 anon on the hudson
    January 23, 2007

    Chad Orzel

    Lisa Randall and a female professor of mathematics made a similar point a few years back on nightline. The show focused on the remarks of Brad Delong’ PHD supervisor Lawrence Summers concerning the inate mathematical abilities of women.

    Randall and this other woman-professor of mathematics at George Mason university pointed out that achieving a high score on a IQ text has no significance when it comes to doing origin scientific research where problems are very often not clearly defined. Or to put it another way, it is very unlikely that IQ scores have any relevance to the to the topic scientific originality and creativity.

    Richard Feymann had a very low opinion-and a much lower IQ score than the worlds greatest scientific “genius” Marilynn Van ?????-of IQ tests.

    Anon on the Hudson

    Charles Murray is a sleeze bag. He is employed by a think tank-AEI-devoted to economic and political systems where wealth is highly concentrated in the hands of the few.

    anon on the hudson

  79. #79 Bailey Hankins
    January 23, 2007

    “Aha – now we’re moving some way out of the domain of anecdote. Evidence of gap remaining same after coaching please?”

    http://www.justfuckinggoogleit.com/

    The above line can provide you with endless examples, as well as other jewels, such as the endless harrassment, threats, and intimidation that go on to silence honest researchers:

    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/2005suppressingintelligence.pdf

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence#World-wide_scores

    Accusations of “political correctness”
    It is asserted by some that misguided political correctness has led to large-scale denial of recent developments in the human sciences, including research regard group differences in cognitive ability.[166] Steven Pinker argues a fear of the implications of the science of human nature (“mind, brain, genes, and evolution”) has led to the perception that these are dangerous ideas. Pinker states regarding recent discussions regarding group differences:

    Whether or not these hypotheses hold up … proponents of ethnic and racial differences in the past have been targets of censorship, violence, and comparisons to Nazis. Large swaths of the intellectual landscape have been reengineered to try to rule these hypotheses out a priori (race does not exist, intelligence does not exist, the mind is a blank slate inscribed by parents). The underlying fear, that reports of group differences will fuel bigotry, is not, of course, groundless.[167]

    Gottfredson accuses others of maintaining a “double standard” for research that finds unpopular results and a “stiff professional tax on scholars whose work on race or intelligence discomfits reviewers for non-scientific reasons they need not articulate”[168] Gottfredson further argues that high quality of work is no protection from this bias, citing the example of Arthur Jensen as both one of the most eminent[169] and one of the most vilified psychologists[170], hence the word Jensenism.

    Accusations of racism
    A racist motivation is frequently ascribed to some researchers who work on questions of race and intelligence. Both historical and contemporary researchers have been described as racists[171], and some critics hold that it is racist to assert that there are cognitive or behavioral differences between ethnic groups. For example, psychologist Jerry Hirsch has claimed that Arthur Jensen has “avowed goals” that were “as heinously barbaric as were Hitler’s and the anti-abolitionists” (Hunt 1998).

    Accusations have also been aimed at the Pioneer Fund, which according to the Southern Poverty Law Center “has funded most American and British race scientists, including a large number cited in The Bell Curve”[172] The Pioneer fund has been criticized as having a eugenic and racist political agenda [173], and a claimed racist and Nazi-sympathizer history.[174] Pioneer Fund grantees include the current head J. Phillipe Rushton, Arthur Jensen, Linda Gottfredson, Richard Lynn, Hans Eysenck, Thomas Bouchard, David Lykken, Henry Garrett, William Shockley, Philip Vernon, and Audrey Shuey. Critics of the fund include the SPLC, IQ critic William H. Tucker, and historian Barry Mehler and his Institute for the Study of Academic Racism. The Pioneer fund has been characterized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being a “hate group,” using the definition “attack[ing] or malign[ing] an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics”. According to Keith Booker, president of the Wilmington (Del) chapter of the NAACP, the Pioneer Fund “supports only research that tends to come out with results that further the division between races… by justifying the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another… this research is being done in the name of white supremacy”[175] Tucker have argued that some of the prominent researchers advancing genetic explanations have also opposed affirmative action and school integration.(Tucker 2002) Prominent critic Ulric Neisser, who was the chairman of the APA’s 1995 task force on intelligence research regards the fund as helping “change the face of social science” and as being “a weak plus”.[176]

    Researchers who accept grants from the Pioneer Fund have been subject to criticism regarding bias. Anti-racist Searchlight Magazine notes Pioneer head J. Phillipe Rushton has given a speech at an American Renaissance meeting that Searchlight describes as a “veritable ‘who’s who’ of American white supremacy.” [20]. In the early 1990s, the University of Delaware imposed a “prohibition on the receipt of funding (by a faculty member) from the Pioneer Fund, amidst accusations that the Fund had a “history of supporting racism, anti-semitism and other discriminatory practices”.[21] Grantee Linda Gottfredson fought a two-year battle with the university before it rescinded its prohibition, arguing that a ban on funding restricted academic freedom.[22] Although there is no direct evidence that the Pioneer Fund has biased the research one critic notes:

    The real question is not did the Pioneer Fund make you alter your scientific findings but why did the Pioneer Fund fund you? … It’s not so much a question of whether or not they influence an individual scientist but rather the scientists they choose to fund in the first place.[177]

    Robert A. Gordon, criticized for accepting grants from the Pioneer Fund, replied to media criticisms of grant-recipients: “Politically correct disinformation about science appears to spread like wildfire among literary intellectuals and other nonspecialists, who have few disciplinary constraints on what they say about science and about particular scientists and on what they allow themselves to believe.”[178]

    Threats and harassment
    Researchers studying race and intelligence have also been subject to threats and harassment. Gottfredson 2005a has summarized the history of harassment and violence against Arthur Jensen and others.

    For a long time Jensen received death threats, needed body guards while on his campus or others, had his home and office phones routed through the police station, received his mail only after a bomb squad examined it, was physically threatened or assaulted dozens of times by protesters disrupting his talks in the United States and abroad, regularly found messages like “Jensen Must Perish” and “Kill Jensen” scrawled across his office door, and much more. Psychologists Richard Herrnstein and Hans Eysenck also had such experiences during the 1970s for defying right thinking about intelligence–Eysenck, for example, being physically assaulted by protesters during a public lecture at the London School of Economics.

  80. #80 p-ter
    January 23, 2007

    the fact that scores can be improved with practice and/or coaching suggests that it’s not actually measuring any fixed and objective quantity

    The fact that something can change doesn’t mean it’s not objective. I can go tanning and change my skin color, but that doesn’t mean skin color isn’t an objective quantity. Or I can go on a diet and lose a lot of weight, but that doens’t mean weight isn’t an objective quantity. It just means there’s an environmental component to them as well.

    Check the references in the review I linked (there’s a large part on defining intelligence, and also one on the genetics of intelligence). There’s a lot of research on intelligence; before you dismiss this entire body of work (I was inclined to do so before I read up on it), you should at least consider the possibility that the objections you raise have already been addressed.

  81. #81 Bailey Hankins
    January 23, 2007

    “Randall and this other woman-professor of mathematics at George Mason university pointed out that achieving a high score on a IQ text has no significance when it comes to doing origin scientific research where problems are very often not clearly defined. Or to put it another way, it is very unlikely that IQ scores have any relevance to the to the topic scientific originality and creativity.”

    It’s true, the Nobel Prize is much more relevant to scientific originality and creativity … whoopsie!

    “Richard Feymann had a very low opinion-and a much lower IQ score than the worlds greatest scientific “genius” Marilynn Van ?????-of IQ tests.”

    Feynman took a test in high school and scored a 125. It correctly indicated that he was highly gifted. The idea that all top physicists are “Little Man Tate” mutants with 200+ IQs comes from the movies, not scientific research.

    It’s nice that you agree with Murray. Feynman belonged in a gifted program. Those with 80 IQs do not. They need remedial classes.

    Charles Murray is a sleeze bag. He is employed by a think tank-AEI-devoted to economic and political systems where wealth is highly concentrated in the hands of the few.

    anon on the hudson

  82. #82 Gav
    January 23, 2007

    Bailey Hankins – that’s a splendid rant but all I asked for was evidence of gap remaining same after coaching please.

    Perhaps your googling skills are better than mine.

  83. #83 anon on the hudson
    January 23, 2007

    No one should support the violation of Jensens and his comrades the right of free speech. The source of funding for this kind of reserch is irrelevant.

    I don’t consider the SPLC to be an authority on anything. SPLC is a money making racket for the very greedy Morris Dees. This is a whole other story.

    Charles Murray’s idea of remedial education:encouraging teenagers with a certain score on a IQ test to recieve training wiping tables at Mcdonalds

    anon on the Hudson

  84. #84 Bailey Hankins
    January 23, 2007

    Statistical breakdown, gap remains:
    http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:Xcu2MSaYZtsJ:www.wjh.harvard.edu/~winship/cfa_papers/briggs_jebs.pdf+%22sat+coaching%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=8

    Endless links on the general subject of coaching, although most avoid a racial breakdown because it would look racist:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22sat+coaching%22&hl=en&lr=&start=10&sa=N

    But you don’t need links. All you have to do is to observe is the academic panic to deny genetic racial differences in intelligence. If coaching had been found to eliminate the gap, we wouldn’t be having this “discussion” — the study doesn’t exist.

    Tests like the SAT were meant to judge academic fitness. The SAT correlates very highly with most IQ tests. Unfortunately, the SAT tends to eliminate minorities.

    Where racism is absent in admissions, Jewish and Asian students dominate the at very highest levels, making up over 50% of all Ivy league students. This is OK, despite the fact that these two groups account for less than 6% of the population. No racism is charged.

    It is only when White students dominate at the major colleges outside of the Ivy league that racism is used to deny them access to education, for the sake of “diversity” (racism).

    It was not scientest, or the tests, nor Evil White Men who introduced racism into the educational equation — it was Liberal racists.

  85. #85 anon on the hudson
    January 23, 2007

    Bailey Hankins

    I completley agree with the last three paragraphs in your last post.

    There is a double standard

    anon on the hudson

  86. #86 Uncle Al
    January 23, 2007

    Jwsh Nbl Lrts r ttrl prpndrnt wth nl mlln Jws n th plnt. mlln Blcks fll frc wth mlln mr n th S. Hw hs nt-Smtsm sccdd s prl?

    http://www.masada2000.org/nobel.html
    http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/race/black/ppl-186/tab1.html

    Gntcll-lnkd ntllgnc mplfd b xtrnl slctn prssr s bvs. Th lwst % f Jws’ p-shftd bll crv ws clppd ff b Htlr’s cmps, t. Wt! Lt’s strt frc-fdng Blcks chlnt nd ksh vrnshks t dscvr f th dffrnc s n th fd. Pt d fs frcn nybd?

    Hd Strt hs prvn tht t cmltv $ blln fr-th-wll tht gnrnc s dcbl bt stpdt s frvr. Th Dprtmnt f dctn n ts wn crrpt stds cnnt fnd n vl n yrs f Hd Strt.

    nl nc n S hstr hv th Gftd bn cddld. Th S wnt bllstc s Sptnk rbtd th rth mplyng hgh grnd nclr thrts. Ntnl Dfns Prgrm pshd ntllctll Gftd Chldrn nd Spcl Prgrss n dctn prgrms n Nw Yrk Ct. Th bslt dmbst sbhmn drg n ncl l’s clsss brkrs ntrntnl trd n Mnhttn. g wh drv n mblnc ftr hgh schl s n th Pntgn sttng plc (tddct). f y dn’t fr th Gftd, y shld.

  87. #87 doublehelix
    January 23, 2007

    Chad’s reservations were primarily about the tone of Murray’s editorials, not with the actual propositions of the article– namely, that 1/2 of the population is below average in terms of intelligence. If IQ test scores are indexed to an individual’s intelligence, on the average, than what is the problem? Is Garrison Keillor really on to something– could more than 1/2 of a population be *above average*??

    In so far as heritability is concerned, there’s a lot more evidence that you apparently are aware of that supports the notion that IQ (intelligence) is quite heritable. Most estimates that I’m aware of range from .4 – .8. This is based on, among other things, studies of identical and fraternal twins reared together and apart from each other. Those estimates of heritability, as they go, are pretty darn high. And I also recommend for Chad and Anon on the Hudson the Nature Neuroscience review on intelligence and the brain. This will provide many citations for the facts I am offering now. Educate yourselves about the science before being so harshly dismissive.

    Secondly, if you consider youselves to be empirical, I would think twice before ascribing racist or otherwise motivations to those who study the biological bases of intelligence. You simply do not know the reason why people study what they study, and neither do I. Similarly for those who would condemn research which shows an effect of genes on the environment an individual lives in, and on behavioral genetics in general. Educate yourself about the subject before being so reactionary.

  88. #88 Chad Orzel
    January 24, 2007

    Congratulations to Uncle Al for posting the second comment ever to earn lossy compression on Uncertain Principles. He also had the first, for an earlier cheery little number about the Holocaust.

    I say again, I’m happy to host lively comment discussions, but keep your comments within the bounds of civility and good taste. Comments touting the evolutionary benefits of mass murder will suffer the consequences.

  89. #89 anon on the hudson
    January 24, 2007

    But we do know the motivation of IQ researchers. IQ researchers have made it very clear that the policy implications of IQ research are enormous.

    If there are no policy implications of IQ research there would be no scientific interest in IQ research because IQ research is patently uninteresting in and of itself.

    Not all scientific research is morally legitimate.

    I never made any claims about IQ researchers being racists. I just think they are a bunch of economic reactionaries.

    I wouldn’t take the twin studies too seriously. As Brad Delong has pointed out there is econometric research that shows that environmental variables can change outcomes. Murray and Herstien completely supress educational variables.

    So even the “scientific” framework that Murray would have us debate the IQ issue, his argument is very weak.

    The Bell Curve true believers arguemnt is much weaker at theoretical foundation level. The case for genetic determinism becomes weaker with each passing year.

    anon on the hudson

  90. #90 Jamie Bowden
    January 24, 2007

    Chad just posted a basic statistics lesson less than two weeks ago. Chad’s average reader is more than capable of realizing that when discussing ‘average’ intelligence, we’re talking about median, not mean, and yet, somehow, the notion that half the population is too stupid to remember to breathe and would suffocate if it weren’t automatic is still being bandied about.

    While anecdotal experience leads me to believe that’s being optimistic, I suspect that perhaps that’s only because most people forget they have a brain at all when you put a computer in front of them (ie, it’s a professional hazard).

  91. #91 p-ter
    January 24, 2007

    IQ research is patently uninteresting in and of itself.

    Intelligence is interesting because it has implications for what makes us human (we seem to have more of it than other species). It’s also an excellent predictor of future success in the world– if we could find ways to increase intelligence, it would certainly be interesting to consider. Intelligence is also a factor in a number of diseases (mental retardation, obvioualy, as well as things like schizophrenia).

    People on this thread seem to want to dismiss an entire field of research (besides the review I posted before, please read this paper and the some references therein to get a feel it) based on little more than mild discomfort with some people who are interested in it and some already-addressed technical issues.

    Maybe next time someone says anything about physics, I’ll mutter something about how the atomic bomb killed a lot of people. Oh, and doesn’t the Heisenberg uncertainty principle mean we can’t measure, like, anything? :)

  92. #92 p-ter
    January 24, 2007

    The case for genetic determinism becomes weaker with each passing year.

    Genetic determinism is a straw man. The fact that genetic variation plays a role in various traits does not mean that a trait (like skin color, or intelligence, or weight) is “determined” by those genes. They play a role.

    You know those commercials for whatever cholesterol drug that say cholesterol comes from two sources– your family (genetics) and the food you eat (your envrionment)? Most traits are like that.

  93. #93 anon on the hudson
    January 24, 2007

    I’m not trashing the entire field of psychology. I’m just trashing race and IQ research.

    Race and IQ research is completely motivated by
    a certain political and economic agenda.

    The research does have malignant consequences for millions of human beings.

    The potetnial consequences that a particular avenue of scientific research can have on millions of human beings most be taken into account. This shouldn’t be a controversial point.

    Success in this society is largely determined by this society’s political and economic organization. It has nothing to do fixed unalterable gentic programs.

    When p-ter uses the world intelligence he means fixed an unalterable at birth(genetic determinism)

    Here is what I find particulary nasty about IQ testing. If a teacher knows a kid’s IQ score, there is a very high probability that the teacher will pass a judgement on the kid’s intellectually capability. And you can be goddam sure this bias will translate into subtle and not so signals to the kid in the classroom who has the wrong IQ score. So for example,maybe there is a kid who has an interest in black holes and cool technological stuff but is not an A student in his algebra class. There is a danger that this kid gets written off by the teachers in the school sytem….possibly tracked into an academic track he or she finds dull. While on the other hand, the kid the high IQ score but who struggles in algebra gets the special attetnion from the teacher(s) becasue they believe someone with a high IQ score is worth saving.

    There are probably a lot of variations on this scenario in American school systems. It would be much better if IQ tests were not given to children.

    A lot of the justification for tracking kids with IQ tests revolves around the issue of scarce resources such as $$$$$$$$$. Well, this not a scientific question. This is an issue about American society’s priorities.

    If more money is needed in the educational system for the “dummies”, look no further than the half a trillion dollars that has already been spent on the Iraq War

    It is intesting to note that Charles Murray is employed at AEI which was home for many years to the very neocons who infest the Bush/Chenny administration and who are dragging this country possibly into WWW3.

    IQ and Race “science” does not exist in a social/political and economic vacum.

    It is not morally legitimate to do IQ and race research

    School systems should not be allowed to give kids IQ tests.

    anon on the hudson

  94. #94 Gav
    January 24, 2007

    Bailey Hankins – I tried your first link and got “Sorry, no content found for this URL”.

    As regards “Endless links on the general subject of coaching, although most avoid a racial breakdown because it would look racist:”, as “most” would not be relevant to your assestion that the gap persists could you provide just one that gives a racial breakdown please?

  95. #95 p-ter
    January 24, 2007

    he means fixed an unalterable at birth(genetic determinism)

    absolutely not. when I talk about the genetics of weight, I don’t assume weight is fixed and unalterable at birth. Nor, when I speak about the genetics of heart disease do I mean we already know that if you’re going to die of a heart attack at birth. You’re setting up a straw man.

    I know you’re not trashing psychology. You’re trashing IQ research, which is, believe it or not, a field. read my links.

    People will continue to study intelligence, for the reasons I’ve noted. People will continue to study race, for medical reasons (different groups respond better or worse to treatment X, or have a higher incidence of disease Y). So the data to study IQ and race will be out there floating around, and eventually someone will put it together (for whatever reason, and towards whatever conclusion). such is life.

  96. #96 anon on the hudson
    January 24, 2007

    I read the UCLA study and Robert Plomin’s research long before you put the link in.

    I’m no totally certain about this, but it may be the case that one of the researchers of the UCLA study no longer does research on race, IQ and genes. If it wasn’t one of the authors of the UCLA study it have been someone else well known in th field.

    He was spoken to by some of some his fellow biologists who made the same argument that I have made here about how moral considerations must be taken into account when deciding to pursue a particular line of scientific research

    I’m not completely certain if this true. I think I might have read about this about a year ago.

    I believe that both genetic determinism and environmental determinism are both false.

    anon on the hudson

  97. #98 Gav
    January 24, 2007

    Thanks Bailey Hankins. What the paper appears to show is that “multicollinearity” makes it hard to draw any robust conclusions. As an aside, a high degree of co-linearity is more or less what you’d expect from the cycle of disadvantage model so the findings aren’t remarkable in that respect.

    You might well be right regarding your assertion by the way, but this paper doesn’t appear to support it.

  98. #99 Bailey Hankins
    January 24, 2007

    Come on, it is certainly clear that coaching doesn’t work miracles for minorities. Several studies that show up on the first page of the Google search link I posted don’t show much advantage for any group through coaching.

    It is now academic suicide to point out the truth, so I’m not surprised it is hard to find a study entitled “EVEN COACHING DOESN’T CHANGE A THING FOR MINORITIES!”

    Many of the studies show that in reality, it isn’t all a bunch of rich priviledged white kids being coached. When coaching was actually studied, such correlations do not exist.

    Some still claim that lingering “racism” is somehow to blame, but all they can do to support their arguments is point to the fact that blacks score lower than whites. In no district, anywhere, do blacks outscore whites. Amazingly enough, the same holds true for asians and whites. The asians always score higher. The ashkenazi jews always outscore other whites, every time. The sephardi do not. Same culture, different genes.

    Really, if you aren’t convinced by the endless stream of empirical data, simple observation, history — all of which point to the same conclusion — I will never find a link that will satisfy you.

    It doesn’t mean that there are no smart blacks, or even black geniuses. It doesn’t mean that blacks can’t win a Nobel Prize. It only means that it is less likely, statistically.

    Let’s just let every person stand on their own individual merit. Everything else is a form of racism.

  99. #100 michael o'connor
    January 26, 2007

    “anon” I sympathize with aspects of your position. Certainly some “facts” could have significant and destructive social consequences to a group that has been systematically crushed by this society. And if these “facts” are actually biased opinions buttressed by faulty science the injustice is compounded. Even if certain information is true probably most of us would not want it disseminated – recipes for anthrax, how to build the bomb etc.

    There is a necessary tension between the values of freedom and equality in our society and since no ultimate value can be rationally justified we take up our various positions on this sliding scale thanks to nature/nurture.

    But in a supposed liberal democracy, it’s existence predicated on the marketplace of ideas there is a strong presumption for following any idea down the rabbit hole and the satisfaction of curiosity is it’s own ultimate value and damn the consequences. But this attitude has had a big techological payoff in physical and psychic security for some of us.

    By the way, I did not mean the identical twins raised apart were similar in every way but that in general they were much more IQ etc and MMPI etc similar then siblings raised in the same family. As a graduate of the U. of Minnesota it struck me as a fairly liberal institution but Bailey’s mention of Pioneer funding for Lykkens and Bouchard did surprise me.

    Irrelevant Observation – What amazing ways bias effects history. Probably Hitler would have won the war if he wasn’t anti-Semitic since it was the European Jewish physicists who fled to America who alerted FDR and did the pivotal research.

  100. #101 anon on the hudson
    January 27, 2007

    here is one way to think of the issue.

    Assuming that certain genes have been found to correlate-THAT’S CORRELATE-with IQ. We have then genes caorrealting with IQ and a very inermediate black box of higher order structures interacting and interacting with the environment and a core on an IQ test.

    I think thereis a have a major logical fallacy here with the genetic reductionist position.

  101. #102 CW
    January 28, 2007

    From Alexandre Borovik (http://www.maths.manchester.ac.uk/~avb/pdf/abilities2006.pdf):

    When talking to a non-mathematician, mathematical abilities can be usefully compared to musical abilities: in their developed form they appear highly specific, but are in fact quintessentially human, and so are widely spread on the population at large|in all social and ethnic groups. Like music, mathematics is a personality-building activity, it shapes the way the learner thinks and sees the world. As with music, mathematics has a profound educational impact even where someone no longer uses their mathematical training in later life. Like music, success in mathematics depends on systematic, cumulative learning, and each new skill needs to be built on a solid foundation laid at earlier stages.

    Though mathematics is often thought to be a “cold” subject, this is a profound misunderstanding; like music, it involves a high level of motivation and emotional involvement on the part of the learner. Understanding is of course vital; but it is a profound mistake to interpret this fact by trying to minimise “difficulties”: boredom and lack of challenge present far greater dangers when seeking to nurture mathematical talent. A degree of challenge and frustration are crucial.

    Everyone has the ability to learn mathematics, although some children learn and make connections quicker than others. There are much more mathematically able children than most people are prepared to believe, and everyone has some mathematical abilities. Mathematical abilities in a child are often dormant and remain unnoticed both by the child and his or her teachers. They can be lost forever if not discovered and supported at the appropriate time in the child’s (or young person’s) development. Again, a comparison can be made with music, where a dissonant musical toy can seriously damage a child’s perception of pitch.

    Different mathematical traits appear at different ages. Developing pupils’ mathematical abilities require tapping into these abilities at appropriate times; a comparison can be made with language learning: almost every 7 year old child can master a foreign language with ease, for an adult it could be an impossible task. Similarly, there are periods in a child’s development when he or she is more perceptive to formal procedures and algorithms, or can be excited by the discovery of a new mathematical activity: generalisation. The synchronisation of the cognitive development of a child with mathematics teaching is a challenge since every child will be different!

    ..as if it wasn’t obvious enough what shoddy cover IQ provides for neglect…

  102. #103 hoary puccoon
    February 1, 2007

    Unless you equate the g factor with all intelligence, as a matter of fact, most of the population IS above average. Almost everyone has some measure on which they do better than average, and people will, if given the opportunity, gravitate into fields that emphasize their strengths. For instance, a friend’s stepson, who has a fairly severe learning disability, makes a good living as a musician. Murray’s emphasis on the g factor as “the” measure of intelligence inevitably ignores the one aspect of IQ testing that holds promise for people who don’t score well overall.
    As far as being sleazy, I’ve met Charles Murray. When I confronted him on a statement that seemed to me flat-out racist (without, however, calling him a racist or any other degoratory term) he lit into me unmercifully. Instead of addressing my point, he trashed me to my face, in public. So, on the sleaze factor, I’ll have to vote with Chad.

  103. #104 michael o'connor
    February 2, 2007

    Does “intelligence” exist? All I see is the observation, evaluation, of the performance of a particular mental activity and (if we can find them) the neural correlates of that activity. I don’t see “intelligence”. But that reification creates many conscious and unconscious wrong assumptions.

  104. #105 anon on the hudson
    February 5, 2007

    Great post Alexander Borivick.

    Your post really gets to the heart of what of what I find so rotten about Charles Murray.

    I have a great fear that an enormous number of potential mathematicians and physicists have their scientific careers terminated at around ten-12 years of age.

    The are really no deep scientific issues in race and IQ research. In America, there are deeply entrenched economically reactionary institutions-WSJ-that are looking for a biological justification for gross economic ineqaulity.

    The fundamental issue in American society is: how will America spend it’s tremendous wealth. Will America spend it’s tremendous wealth developing the intellectual potential of it’s native born population or spent it on protecting an economic and politial system that allows a minority of the American population to accumulate a level of wealth that has made certain individuals in the corprate world demigods on the planet earth.

    IQ researchers are very open about why they belive IQ research is so important: $$$$$$$$$$$ are scarce and there are better ways to spend America’s wealth than on the “dummies”. Much better to spend America’s wealth commiting mass murder around the world to protect the interests of American corporations than to invest in native born-I am a nativist just like the vast majority of humans on planet earth- American population.

    Now you know why Charles Murray receives a paycheck from AEI.

    It is intersting to note that the same think tanks-AEI-and newspapers-WSJ- that promote the views-genetic reductionism- of the Bell Curve true believersare also promoting the job theft/scab labour H1-B visa program. Sometimes things really are connected in non-trivial ways.

    anon on the hudson

  105. #106 M Pearlstein
    February 27, 2012

    Murray & Hernstein’s arguments in The Bell Curve haven’t been debunked. As Steven Pinker wrote in the New York Times article “My Genome, My Self” Jan 2009:

    “To study something scientifically, you first have to measure it, and psychologists have developed tests for many mental traits. And contrary to popular opinion, the tests work pretty well: they give a similar measurement of a person every time they are administered, and they statistically predict life outcomes like school and job performance, psychiatric diagnoses and marital stability.”

    In other words, the exact claims of Murray and Herrnstein. And do groups differ on average? Yes, that is in fact not controversial. (see Philip L Roth’s 2001 meta analysis in Personal Psychology, Volume 54, Issue 2, pages 297–330, June 2001).

    The hard question is what causes these differences. When privately polled in the 1980′s relatively few academics seemed to think these were purely environmental, compared to those who thought they are due to both environmental and genetic variation (see Snyderman Rothman survey).

    Also, see Robert Weinberg’s biology lecture at MIT. You can find this on Professor Steve Hsu’s website under “forbidden thoughts”.

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