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Responding to Jared Taylor on the Raven Progressive Matrices Test

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I was on Warski Live the other night and had an extremely short back-and-forth with Jared Taylor. I’m happy I got the chance to shortly discuss with him but I got kicked out about 20 minutes after being there. Taylor made all of the same old claims, and since everyone continued to speak I couldn’t really get a word in.

A Conversation with Jared Taylor

I first stated that Jared got me into race realism and that I respected him. He said that once you see the reality of race then history etc becomes clearer.

To cut through everything, I first stated that I don’t believe there is any utility to IQ tests, that a lot of people believe that people have surfeits of ‘good genes’ ‘bad genes’ that give ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ charges. IQ tests are useless and that people ‘fetishize them’. He then responded that IQ is one of, if not the, most studied trait in psychology to which JF then asked me if I contended that statement and I responded ‘no’ (behavioral geneticists need to work to ya know!). He then talked about how IQ ‘predicts’ success in life, e.g., success in college,

Then, a bit after I stated that, it seems that they painted me as a leftist because of my views on IQ. Well, I’m far right (not that my politics matters to my views on scientific matters) and they made it seem like I meant that Jared fetishized IQ, when I said ‘most people’.

Then Jared gives a quick rundown of the same old and tired talking points how IQ is related to crime, success, etc. I then asked him if there was a definition of intelligence and whether or not there was consensus in the psychological community on the matter.

I quoted this excerpt from Ken Richardson’s 2002 paper What IQ Tests Test where he writes:

Of the 25 attributes of intelligence mentioned, only 3 were mentioned by 25 per cent or more of respondents (half of the respondents mentioned `higher level components’; 25 per cent mentioned ‘executive processes’; and 29 per cent mentioned`that which is valued by culture’). Over a third of the attributes were mentioned by less than 10 per cent of respondents (only 8 per cent of the 1986 respondents mentioned `ability to learn’).

Jared then stated:

“Well, there certainly are differing ideas as to what are the differing components of intelligence. The word “intelligence” on the other hand exists in every known language. It describes something that human beings intuitively understand. I think if you were to try to describe sex appeal—what is it that makes a woman appealing sexually—not everyone would agree. But most men would agree that there is such a thing as sex appeal. And likewise in the case of intelligence, to me intelligence is an ability to look at the facts in a situation and draw the right conclusions. That to me is one of the key concepts of intelligence. It’s not necessarily “the capacity to learn”—people can memorize without being particularly intelligent. It’s not necessarily creativity. There could be creative people who are not necessarily high in IQ.

I would certainly agree that there is no universally accepted definition for intelligence, and yet, we all instinctively understand that some people are better able to see to the essence of a problem, to find correct solutions to problems. We all understand this and we all experience this in our daily lives. When we were in class in school, there were children who were smarter than other children. None of this is particularly difficult to understand at an intuitive level, and I believe that by somehow saying because it’s impossible to come up with a definition that everyone will accept, there is no such thing as intelligence, that’s like saying “Because there may be no agreement on the number of races, that there is no such thing as race.” This is an attempt to completely sidetrack a question—that I believe—comes from dishonest motives.”

(“… comes from dishonest motives”, appeal to motive. One can make the claim about anyone, for any reason. No matter the reason, it’s fallacious. On ‘ability to learn’ see below.)

Now here is the fun part: I asked him “How do IQ tests test intelligence?” He then began talking about the Raven (as expected):

“There are now culture-free tests, the best-known of which is Raven’s Progressive Matrices, and this involves recognizing patterns and trying to figure out what is the next step in a pattern. This is a test that doesn’t require any language at all. You can show an initial simple example, the first square you have one dot, the next square you have two dots, what would be in the third square? You’d have a choice between 3 dots, 5 dots, 20 dots, well the next step is going to be 3 dots. You can explain what the initial patterns are to someone who doesn’t even speak English, and then ask them to go ahead and go and complete the suceeding problems that are more difficult. No language, involved at all, and this is something that correlates very, very tightly with more traditonal, verbally based, IQ tests. Again, this is an attempt to measure capacity that we all inherently recognize as existing, even though we may not be able to define it to everyone’s mutual satisfaction, but one that is definitely there.

Ultimately, we will be able to measure intelligence through direct assessment of the brain, that it will be possible to do through genetic analysis. We are beginning to discover the gene patterns associated with high intelligence. Already there have been patent applications for IQ tests based on genetic analysis. We really aren’t at the point where spitting in a cup and analyzing the DNA you can tell that this guy has a 140 IQ, this guy’s 105 IQ. But we will eventually get there. At the same time there are aspects of the brain that can be analyzed, repeatedly, with which the signals are transmitted from one part of the brain to the other, the density of grey matter, the efficiency with which white matter communicates between the different grey matter areas of the brain.

I’m quite confident that there will come a time where you can just strap on a set of electrodes and have someone think about something—or even not think about anything at all—and we will be able to assess the power of the brain directly through physical assessment. People are welcome to imagine that this is impossible, or be skeptical about that, but I think we’re defintely moving in that direction. And when the day comes—when we really have discovered a large number of the genetic patterns that are associated with high intelligence, and there will be many of them because the brain is the most complicated organ in the human body, and a very substantial part of the human genome goes into constructing the brain. When we have gotten to the bottom of this mystery, I would bet the next dozen mortgage payments that those patterns—alleles as they’re called, genetic patterns—that are associated with high intelligence will not be found to be equally distributed between people of all races.”

Then immediately after that, the conversation changed. I will respond in points:

1) First off, as I’m sure most long-time readers know, I’m not a leftist and the fact that (in my opinion) I was implied to be a leftist since I contest the utility of IQ is kind of insulting. I’m not a leftist, nor have I ever been a leftist.

2) On his points on definitions of ‘intelligence’: The point is to come to a complete scientific consensus on how to define the word, the right way to study it and then think of the implications of the trait in question after you empirically verify its reality. That’s one reason to bring up how there is no consensus in the psychological community—ask 50 psychologists what intelligence is, get numerous different answers.

3) IQ and success/college: Funny that gets brought up. IQ tests are constructed to ‘predict’ success since they’re similar already to achievement tests in school (read arguments here, here, and here). Even then, you would expect college grades to be highly correlated with job performance 6 years after graduation from college right? Wrong. Armstrong (2011: 4) writes: “Grades at universities have a low relationship to long-term job performance (r = .05 for 6 or more years after graduation) despite the fact that cognitive skills are highly related to job performance (Roth, et al. 1996). In addition, they found that this relationship between grades and job performance has been lower for the more recent studies.” Though the claim that “cognitive skills are highly related to job performancelie on shaky ground (Richardson and Norgate, 2015).

4) My criticisms on IQ do not mean that I deny that ‘intelligence exists’ (which is a common strawman), my criticisms are on construction and validity, not the whole “intelligence doesn’t exist” canard. I, of course, don’t discard the hypothesis that individuals and populations can differ in ‘intelligence/intelligence ‘genes’, the critiques provided are against the “IQ-tests-predict-X-in-life” claims and ‘IQ-tests-test-‘intelligence” claims. IQ tests test cultural distance from the middle class. Most IQ tests have general knowledge questions on them which then contribute a considerable amount to the final score. Therefore, since IQ tests test learned knowledge present in some cultures and not in others (which is even true for ‘culture-fair’ tests, see point 5), then learning is intimately linked with Jared’s definition of ‘intelligence’. So I would necessariliy state that they do test learned knowledge and test learned knowledge that’s present in some classes compared to others. Thusly, IQ tests test learned knowledge more present in some certain classes than others, therefore, making IQ tests proxies for social class, not ‘intelligence’ (Richardson, 2002; 2017b).

5) Now for my favorite part: the Raven. The test that everyone (or most people) believe is culture-free, culture-fair since there is nothing verbal thusly bypassing any implicit suggestion that there is cultural bias in the test due to differences in general knowledge. However, this assumption is extremely simplistic and hugely flawed.

For one, the Raven is perhaps one of the most tests, even more so than verbal tests, reflecting knowledge structures present in some cultures more than others (Richardson, 2002). One may look at the items on the Raven and then proclaim ‘Wow, anyone who gets these right must be ‘intelligent”, but the most ‘complicated’ Raven’s items are not more complicated than everyday life (Carpenter, Just, and Shell, 1990; Richardson, 2002; Richardson and Norgate, 2014). Furthermore, there is no cognitive theory in which items are selected for analysis and subsequent entry onto a particular Raven’s test. Concerning John Raven’s personal notes, Carpenter, Just, and Shell (1990: 408) show that John Raven—the creator of the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test—used his “intuition and clinical experience”  to rank order items “without regard to any underlying processing theory.

Now to address the claim that the Raven is ‘culture-free’: take one genetically similar population, one group of them are foraging hunter-gatherers  while the other population lives in villages with schools. The foraging people are tested at age 11. They score 31 percent, while the ones living in more modern areas with amenities get 72 percent right (‘average’ individuals get 78 percent right while ‘intellectually defective’ individuals get 47 percent right; Heine, 2017: 188). The people I am talking about are the Tsimane, a foraging, hunter-gatherer population in Bolivia. Davis (2014) studied the Tsimane people and administered the Raven test to two groups of Tsimane, as described above. Now, if the test truly were ‘culture-free’ as is claimed, then they should score similarly, right?

Wrong. She found that reading was the best predictor of performance on the Raven. Children who attend school (presumably) learn how to read (with obviously a better chance to learn how to read if you don’t live in a hunter-gatherer environment). So the Tsimane who lived a more modern lifestyle scored more than twice as high on the Raven when compared to those who lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. So we have two genetically similar populations, one is exposed to more schooling while the other is not and schooling is the most related to performance on the Raven. Therefore, this study is definitive proof that the Raven is not culture-fair since “by its very nature, IQ testing is culture bound” (Cole, 1999: 646, quoted by Richardson, 2002: 293).

6) I doubt that we will be able to genotype people and get their ‘IQ’ results. Heine (2017) states that you would need all of the SNPs on a gene chip, numbering more than 500,000, to predict half of the variation between individuals in IQ (Davies et al, 2011; Chabris et al, 2012). Furthermore, since most genes may be height genes (Goldstein, 2009). This leads Heine (2017: 175) to conclude that “… it seems highly doubtful, contra Robert Plomin, that we’ll ever be able to estimate someone’s intelligence with much precision merely by looking at his or her genome.” 

I’ve also critiqued GWAS/IQ studies by making an analogous argument on testosterone, the GWAS studies for testosterone, and how testosterone is produced in the body (its indirectly controlled by DNA, while what powers the cell is ATP, adenosine triphosphate (Kakh and Burnstock, 2009).

7) Regarding claims on grey and white matter: he’s citing Haier et al’s work, and their work on neural efficiency, white and grey matter correlates regarding IQ, to how different networks of the brain “talk” to each other, as in the P-FIT hypothesis of Jung and Haier (2007; numerous critiques/praises). Though I won’t go in depth on this point here, I will only say that correlations from images, correlations from correlations etc aren’t good enough (the neural network they discuss also may be related to other, noncognitive, factors). Lastly, MRI readings are known to be confounded by noise, visual artifacts and inadequate sampling, even getting emotional in the machine may cause noise in the readings (Okon-Singer et al, 2015) and since movements like speech and even eye movements affect readings, when describing normal variation, one must use caution (Richardson, 2017a).

8) There are no genes for intelligence (I’d also say “what is a gene?“) in the fluid genome (Ho, 2013), so due to this, I think that ‘identifying’ ‘genes for’ IQ will be a bit hard… Also touching on this point, Jared is correct that many genes—most, as a matter of fact—are expressed in the brain. Eighty-four percent, to be exact (Negi and Guda, 2017), so I think there will be a bit of a problem there… Further complicating these types of matters is the matter of social class. Genetic population structures have also emerged due to social class formation/migration. This would, predictably, cause genetic differences between classes, but these genetic differences are irrelevant to education and cognitive ability (Richardson, 2017b). This, then, would account for the extremely small GWAS correlations observed.

9) For the last point, I want to touch briefly on the concept of heritability (because I have a larger theme planned for the concept). Heritability ‘estimates’ have both group and individual flaws; environmental flaws; genetic flaws (Moore and Shenk, 2017), which arise due to the use of the highly flawed CTM (classical twin method) (Joseph, 2002; Richardson and Norgate, 2005; Charney, 2013Fosse, Joseph, and Richardson, 2015). The flawed CTM inflates heritabilities since environments are not equalized, as they are in animal breeding research for instance, which is why those estimates (which as you can see are lower than the sky-high heritabilities that we get for IQ and other traits) are substantially lower than the heritabilities we observe for traits observed from controlled breeding experiments; which “surpasses almost anything found in the animal kingdom” (Schonemann, 1997: 104).

Lastly, there are numerous hereditarian scientific fallacies which include: 1) trait heritability does not predict what would occur when environments/genes change; 2) they’re inaccurate since they  don’t account for gene-environment covariation or interaction while also ignoring nonadditive effects on behavior and cognitive ability; 3) molecular genetics does not show evidence that we can partition environment from genetic factors; 4) it wouldn’t tell us which traits are ‘genetic’ or not; and 5) proposed evolutionary models of human divergence are not supported by these studies (since heritability in the present doesn’t speak to what traits were like thousands of years ago) (Bailey, 1997). We, then, have a problem. Heritability estimates are useful for botanists and farmers because they can control the environment (Schonemann, 1997; Moore and Shenk, 2017). Regarding twin studies, the environment cannot be fully controlled and so they should be taken with a grain of salt. It is for these reasons that some researchers call to end the use of the term ‘heritability’ in science (Guo, 2000). For all of these reasons (and more), heritability estimates are useless for humans (Bailey, 1997; Moore and Shenk, 2017).

Still, other authors state that the use of heritability estimates “attempts to impose a simplistic and reified dichotomy (nature/nurture) on non-dichotomous processes.” (Rose, 2006) while Lewontin (2006) argues that heritability is a “useless quantity” and that to better understand biology, evolution, and development that we should analyze causes, not variances. (I too believe that heritability estimates are useless—especially due to the huge problems with twin studies and the fact that the correct protocols cannot be carried out due to ethical concerns.) Either way, heritability tells us nothing about which genes cause the trait in question, nor which pathways cause trait variation (Richardson, 2012).

In sum, I was glad to appear and discuss (however shortly) with Jared. I listened to it a few times and I realize (and have known before) that I’m a pretty bad public speaker. Either way, I’m glad to get a bit of points and some smaller parts of the overarching arguments out there and I hope I have a chance in the future to return on that show (preferably to debate JF on IQ). I will, of course, be better prepared for that. (When I saw that Jared would appear I decided to go on to discuss.) Jared is clearly wrong that the Raven is ‘culture-free’ and most of his retorts were pretty basic.

(Note: I will expand on all 9 of these points in separate articles.)

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3 Comments

  1. szopeno says:

    RR,
    I think that your example for Raven’s was pretty weak. I mean sure, you have shown that Raven’s are not completely culture-free. However, the fact is that in modern western societies most of people goes to the schools and learn reading. Therefore, for such societies factors which might influence Raven’s might be effectively equalized.

    Also, I would argue that in modern western countries any test constructed to test intelligence would necessarily measure school achievements AND general knowledge, since intelligence would also reflect the ability to memorize and retrieve the learned information. Also, in every society where people can get and fall from middle class based not solely on luck, the test of intelligence will also test for social class.

    Hence I would argue that while IQ tests might not be good tests to measure between populations (i.e. between Tsimani and Poles) they are good enough proxies for intelligence within modern, western societies – with exception of exceptionally poor and deprived classes (in the papers on adoption effects on IQ most of effects was only for the poorest children).

    Also, twin studies are not the only methods used to estimate heritability, which you surely know. And the quoted link about flaws in CTM suspiciously does not quote the research on identical people (not twins) showing that whatever causes the “identical environment” it is not the similarity of such people.

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    • RaceRealist says:

      I think that your example for Raven’s was pretty weak. I mean sure, you have shown that Raven’s are not completely culture-free. However, the fact is that in modern western societies most of people goes to the schools and learn reading. Therefore, for such societies factors which might influence Raven’s might be effectively equalized.

      I am aware. Though I didn’t cite that paper for any other reason other than to show that Jared’s absolute claim (that the Raven is ‘culture-free’), not that it had anything to do with score differences in developed nations. There are other explanations for score differences in the Raven which I will discuss soon.

      Also, I would argue that in modern western countries any test constructed to test intelligence would necessarily measure school achievements AND general knowledge, since intelligence would also reflect the ability to memorize and retrieve the learned information. Also, in every society where people can get and fall from middle class based not solely on luck, the test of intelligence will also test for social class.

      But the tests are still constructed to ‘predict’ school achievement since they test for specific knowledge which is related to academic achievement. It’s literally a case of circular logic to believe that since IQ ‘predicts’ ‘job performance’ (which is contested), that this proves that it’s also testing ‘intelligence’ when both types of tests are normed in the same type of way. The test of ‘intelligence’ occurs the way they do due to genetic stratification and social class stratification which then produce these GWAS correlations which supposedly correlate with ‘genes for’ IQ, when it’s just correlating with the genetic differences between social classes which are irrelevant to cognitive ability and educational attainment.

      Hence I would argue that while IQ tests might not be good tests to measure between populations (i.e. between Tsimani and Poles) they are good enough proxies for intelligence within modern, western societies – with exception of exceptionally poor and deprived classes (in the papers on adoption effects on IQ most of effects was only for the poorest children).

      I could see this, if there were a way to make the ‘puzzles’ more ‘fair’, except this would be tough and also fall prey to test construction, though the fact of the matter is, we’re dealing with the Raven as it is now, which is the most enculturated IQ test out there. On adoption, this, again, shows the case for the “IQ is a proxy for social class” hypothesis, as well.

      Also, twin studies are not the only methods used to estimate heritability, which you surely know. And the quoted link about flaws in CTM suspiciously does not quote the research on identical people (not twins) showing that whatever causes the “identical environment” it is not the similarity of such people.

      I am aware, and other heritability estimates using other methods also show very different heritabilities than from the flawed CTM. Are you talking about the equal environments assumption (EEA)? It has been addressed in depth.

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  2. ron burgundy says:

    the rpm is the worst IQ test there is in terms of its correlation with other IQ tests.

    IQ tests do not measure anything deliberately except the factor which all tests are supposed to have in common, g. if there is no g, then IQ tests measure nothing.

    steve shoe doesn’t believe g is a thing but he still thinks IQ test are valuable. he describes them as data compression. this is a distinction without a difference when the compression results in a single number. shoe has autism, so he can’t tell when he is making a purely verbal distinction or a real one.

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