Home » HBD

Category Archives: HBD

How Mind-Body Dualism and Developmental Systems Theory Refute Hereditarianism

2500 words

The concept of hereditarianism has been a topic of intense debate for decades. Ever since Francis Galton’s inquiries into what makes “genius”, to the advent of twin studies in the 1920s, hereditarian ideas have been espoused in the literature as having explanatory power. Hereditarianism is the theory that genes cause and influence psychological traits and differences in them between people and even groups.

The main claim is that genetics is the main influence and cause of psychological traits like IQ/intelligence. Hereditarians claim that intelligence is greater than 0 percent genetically caused (Warne, 2021) or that a “substantial proportion (20% or more) of differences in psychological traits within and among human populations is caused by genes” (Winegard, Winegard, and Anomaly, 2020). So hereditarianism is true if intelligence is greater than 0 percent genetically caused or if 20 percent of more of the differences in psychological traits are genetically caused. However, the concepts of mind-body dualism (MBD) and developmental systems theory (DST) offer a very powerful challenge to this kind of genetic reductionism/determinism.

MBD is the philosophical theory that the mind and the body are distinct entities. Basically, the mental is irreducible to the physical. If the mental is irreducible to the physical, then the mental can’t be explained in physical terms. Facts about the mind can’t be stated using a physical vocabulary and the mind can’t be described in material terms using words that only refer to material properties. This refutes psychological genetic reductionism; it is impossible for human psychology to be genetically caused/influenced and so this holds for differences between groups and individuals as well.

Developmental systems theory (DST) further establishes that since human development is dynamic and interactive, then genes, environment, behavior and other developmental resources all interact to form the phenotype and shape development. Thus, DST refutes the view, too, that genes cause the development of traits and of the organism as a whole. The hereditarian programme is inherently reductionist, and it attempts to reduce human life and it’s particularities to genes and biology.

The possibility that hereditarianism could reinforce social inequalities is high. From Jensen to Murray and Herrnstein, it has been stated for decades that we need to do something about the lower classes and their having children. Hereditarianism basically would then be removing undesirable people from society based on the false premise that genes have anything to do with their psychology or the undesirable social traits they have.

Hereditarians claim that their research is objective, that they are merely interested in the search for truth. Modern hereditarian thinking can be traced back to Francis Galton. The presupposition that human psychology can be quantitative has its origins with Francis Galton and is directly derived from his eugenic ideas (Michell, 2021). So hereditarian ideas and eugenics are inherently linked. It is the case that genetic determinist ideas like hereditarianism deflect away from actionable positions that could reduce disease far more than eugenic proposals (Holtzman, 1998).

Hereditarianism could be used as justification to accept current existing inequities and inequalities. For if these differences between people are inborn and the result of their genes, then there would be some harsh realities that we as a society would need to accept. People are of course genetically different and these genetic differences then somehow cause group (class) and individual differences. However, contra Murray (2020), social class differences do not lie in the genes and genetics can’t be used as justification to maintain a ruling class, limiting a group’s ability to have children, and minimize social safety nets (Holtzman, 2002).

Why is hereditarianism alluring?

I think it’s simple—it gives us quite simplistic answers on the nature of group, individual, and societal differences. If differences within and between these things reduce to genes, then we can say that the causes are due to genes and they thusly have certain consequences attached to them. This, again, shows how eugenic and hereditarian ideas are married to each other.

It is alluring because it is simplistic and reductionist, deterministic. It posits that differences within and between individuals, groups, and societies come down to genes. Of course individuals, groups, and societies have different gene frequencies—that is the correlation. But the folly is to assume that the genetic differences between them drive the trait (used loosely) differences between them. That is something that has yet to be explained—there is no mechanism of action.

The genetic determinism that is steeped into society also plays a role. If genes largely determine one’s intelligence, then it provides predictability and stability. It suggests a fixed level of ability that simply isn’t malleable due to how genes are thought to work by the hereditarian. This then offers a level of understanding to the hereditarian—the causes of ability and differences in them between people, groups, and societies are due to genetic differences between them, even if we don’t know exactly how these differences manifest themselves genetically. This is why they have to use twin, family, and adoption studies along with GWASs and PGS. This lends them the deterministic tilt they need in order to show that society is stratified due to the genetic differences between groups and individuals.

This assumption, though, is quite clearly false since societies are genetically stratified (the fact that needs to be explained, which the hereditarian tries to argue are due to genetic differences), social stratification maintains this genetic stratification, social stratification causes cognitive stratification, and tests reflect priori cognitive stratification. Thus, the structure of society bakes-in these stratifications, giving the illusion of genetic differences being the causes of differences between people (Richardson, 2017, 2021).

Genetic determinism and reductionism then lead to a kind of “gene worship.” For if differences are mainly due to genes, then the gene is powerful, powerful enough to be causal in the sense that genes dictate certain outcomes that would then manifest in social life and then dictate the course of a society or group of people.

How do MBD and DST combine to refute hereditarian ideas?

MBD and DST combine to refute hereditarianism quite easily. Hereditarianism has two main assumptions:

A1: Genes are the main determinate of differenced in traits and of psychological differences.

A2: Genes and environment can be teased apart using certain methods which shows the proportion of influence each has on a trait.

Assumption 1: This assumption is easily dispatched due to the irreducibility of the mental. Accepting the irreducibility of the mental undermines the hereditarian assumption that genes can account for most of the variation in IQ and other psychological traits. Hereditarianism is a physicalist theory and so relies on the assumption that the mental can be reduced to the physical, whether it be genes, brain physiology or the brain itself. But if the mental is irreducible (and it is), then the hereditarian programme becomes highly questionable and thusly outright false, since no hereditarian has articulated a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit for any psychological trait, IQ included. Since hereditarianism seeks to reduce psychology to genes, then the irreducibility of the mental challenges that assumption, and it ensures that a hereditarian psychology just isn’t possible. So of the mental is irreducible, then it implies that the hereditarian hypothesis is false, since psychology can’t be explained by the physical since it is immaterial. So attempting to explain and measure psychological traits based on genetic assumptions is bound to fail. And there is also the measurement and quantification issue—the irreducibility of the mental challenges the claim that psychology can be measured and quantitative since it isn’t physical.

Assumption 2: Ever since Susan Oyama published The Ontogeny of Information in 1985, simplistic and reductive accounts of genetics and the nature traits have been called into question based on an interactive view of developmental resources. Hereditarians privilege genetic factors above other developmental resources, as if they are special resources. But unlike hereditarian theories, DST proponents argue against any a priori privileging of any developmental resources. So this suggests that genetic factors lack superiority—either inherent or predetermined—over other developmental resources. Genes are on par with other developmental resources (called the causal parity thesis, CPT), and so, this hereditarian assumption is also false.

Thus the combination of MBD and DST combined to refute the simplistic assumptions of the hereditarian. Both combined challenge the reductive and deterministic assumptions of hereditarianism. They do this by calling into question the measurability of psychological traits while advocating for a holistic, non-reductionist perspective which acknowledges the irreducible interplay between all developmental resources.

The arguments against hereditarianism from MBD and DST

Now that I have described hereditarianism and what it sets out to do, along with how MBD and DST refute hereditarianism, I will provide two arguments. The first will conclude that genes aren’t special nor privileged developmental resources. The second will then combine both arguments from MBD and DST to successfully show that the hereditarian dream is a logical impossibility.

P1: If genes are special or privileged developmental resources, then they possess a unique or superior causal role in shaping development compared to other factors.
P2: If causal parity exists, then no developmental resource possesses a unique or superior causal role in shaping development.
P3: If genes do not possess a unique or superior causal role in shaping development, then they are not special or privileged developmental resources.
P4: Casual parity exists.
C: Thus, genes are not special or privileged developmental resources.

Premise 1: This premise asserts that if genes are special, then they must have a distinct role—compared to other resources—in explaining and shaping development. Genes would need to show a unique influence in shaping developmental outcomes. This is a main assumption of hereditarianism and perhaps the most important one, because if the assumption is false then hereditarianism cannot possibly be true.

Premise 2: However, since DNA sequences (genes) do nothing on their own until activated by and for the physiological system, then we can safely state that no single resource would be over and above another in doing any explaining. Development is interactive, rather than individual; these resources work together rather than in isolation.

Premise 3: This premise builds on the idea that if genes lack a superior, or unique causal role in shaping development, then they cannot be privileged or special resources. The absence of exclusive causal influence diminishes—and outright refutes—the claim that genes are special or unique developmental resources with a privileged role in development.

Premise 4: This premise is derived from DST literature, where development is understood as a complex and multifaceted event, influenced by many interactive and irreducible factors. It highlights a need for a holistic, rather than reductionist approach to understanding development.

Conclusion: This conclusion is derived from the claim that if causal parity exists (P4), then no developmental resource possesses a unique or superior causal role, so genes can’t considered special or privileged when it comes to development. P2 emphasizes the equal importance of the interacting of developmental resources, which challenges the claim that any of those resources can be isolated as a causal, privileged factor. P3 challenges the assumption that genes can alone determine how traits develop which then reinforces the interactivity between the resources. P4 then asserts that causal parity exists, and so no developmental resource, including genes, should be privileged. This directly refutes a sometimes unstated assumption of hereditarianism.

P1: If hereditarianism is true, then mental abilities can be explained by genetic factors and can be accurately measured. (Assumption of hereditarianism)
P2: If mental abilities are irreducible to the physical, then they cannot be explained by genetic factors. (From MBD)
P3: If no developmental resource is privileged in biological systems, then genetic factors alone cannot determine any trait, including psychological traits. (From DST)
C1: If mental abilities are irreducible to the physical, then hereditarianism is false. (Modus tollens, P2)
C2: If no developmental resource is privileged in biological systems, then hereditarianism is false. (Hypothetical syllogism, C1, P3)

Premise 1: This is an accepted and accurate depiction of hereditarianism and is how hereditarianism is understood in the literature.

Premise 2: This draws on MBD and the irreducibility of the mental. I have been using dualistic arguments for years to argue against the concept of hereditarianism. Mental abilities cannot be reduced to anything physical, and therefore refutes the main assumption of hereditarianism, that genes can determine psychological traits and differences in them between people, groups and societies.

Premise 3: This is derived from DST. Any kind of development is due to the interactive and irreducible nature of development. It asserts that there is no privileged level of causation between resources, which then refutes the claim that genes should be looked at to explain any differences—any that we deem “good and bad”—between people.

Conclusion 1: This conclusion follows using modus tollens. If the consequent in the conditional statement in P1 is false (“If mental abilities are irreducible to the physical”), then the antecedent (“hereditarianism”) must also be false. If mental abilities cannot be explained by genetic factors (asserted in P2), then it contradicts the main assumption of hereditarianism (P1). Therefore if mental abilities are irreducible to the physical, then hereditarianism is false.

Conclusion 2: If mental abilities are irreducible to the physical (C1), and no developmental resource is privileged in biological systems (P3), then it follows that hereditarianism is false. This conclusion stems from the entailment of hereditarianism which relies on privileging genetic factors over and above other factors. But if no developmental resource holds privilege, then hereditarianism is false, since it quite clearly assumes the superiority of genes in trait determination. Thus the conclusion challenges hereditarianism based on the premise that no developmental resource is privileged, and since hereditarians privilege genes, then hereditarianism is false.


The two main assumptions of hereditarianism quite clearly do not hold when inspected using a MBD and DST lense. Thus, since hereditarianism is false, then believing it to be true would be socially destructive. And these socially destructive policies were an outcome of the IQ test then they were brought to America, using the assumption that genes were the primary cause for differences in IQ scores. Here’s the argument:

P1: If hereditarianism is false, then it does not accurately represent the complex nature of human traits and abilities.
P2: If we believe in a false representation of human traits and abilities, then it can lead to discriniminatory practices and unjust societal outcomes.
P3:, Hereditarianism is false.
C: Thus, if we believe hereditarianism to be true when it is false, then it can lead to socially destructive outcomes.

This is why I have argued that IQ tests should be banned. Nevertheless, hereditarianism and along with it IQism are proven false, using conceptual arguments. The dissimilarity between psychological traits and physical objects shows that psychology can’t be measured, so there can’t be a science of the mind. For these reasons, hereditarian ideas should be directly discounted and ignored, since their assumptions are clearly false.


The Concept of Genotypic IQ is False and Socially Destructive

2050 words


The concept of “genotypic IQ” (GIQ) refers to a theoretical genetic potential of IQ. Basically, GIQ is one’s IQ without any corresponding environmental insults, and of course it is due the interaction of many genes each with small effect (which is the justification for GWAS). This, though, is like the concept of true score. “A true score is the hypothetical average of a thousand parallel testings of someone’s intellectual abilities.” Nevertheless, this concept of GIQ is used by hereditarians to proclaim that “genotypic intelligence is deteriorating” (Lynn, 1998) and this is due to “dysgenic fertility“, which is “a negative correlation between intelligence and the number of children” (Lynn and Harvey, 2008: 112), while “genotypic IQ” is “Genotypic intelligence is the genetic component of intelligence and it is this that has been declining” (Lynn and Harvey, 2008: 113) or is the IQ they have if they have access to optimal environments. I will argue in this article why the concept of GIQ is nonsense.

What is GIQ?

So GIQ is the so-called genetic component of intelligence. This, of course, is based on the assumption that genes are causative for IQ. This is based on the assumption that, however weakly, heritability can tell us anything about genetic causation (it can’t).

Lynn (2015) talks about the GIQs of Africans, pygmies, and aborigines. He also claims that the IQ of African Americans is “solely genetically determined“, since it hasn’t changed in some 80 years. This claim, though, is false (Dickens and Flynn, 2006). Nevertheless, the claim of GIQ arises due to the assumption—which hasn’t been tested, nor can it—that IQ and other psychological traits are caused/influenced by genes. I have argued at length that this claim is false.

It seems that the only people discussing this concept are the usual suspects (Lynn, 2015, 2018; Woodley of Menie, 2015; Madison, Woodley of Menie, and Sanger, 2016; Kirkegaard, Lasker, and Kura, 2019; Piffer, 2023). The decline in so-called genotypic IQ is used as a cudgel to try to argue that “dysgenic effects” of low IQ women having more children is leading to this effect. Weiss (2021: 35) puts it like this:

If women with a low IQ give birth to their children earlier than women with a high IQ, the mean genotypic IQ of the population will also decrease (Comings 1996), even if the number of children in both population strata should be the same. If the number of children across the IQ distribution is not equal (Blake 1989), the next generation will have a different IQ distribution.

Quite obviously, the hereditarian claim of GIQ is that some individuals—and of course groups—are genetically more intelligent than others. Nevertheless, a women “with a low IQ” doesn’t have a low IQ due to genetics; if we think about the nature of IQ and the types of items on the test, we then come to the conclusion that these tests aren’t a test of one’s genetic potential for learning ability (as many have claimed), but it’s merely what one has been exposed to and learned.

We have also used this concept of GIQ to attempt to show that these genes we have found to be associated with IQ have been in decline. Cretan (2016)—in a paper titled “Was Cro-Magnon the Most Intelligent Modern Human?“—tries to argue that GIQ has decreased since Neolithic times, and that the decrease in height and brain size since then is expected, since they are moderately correlated. However, the so-called brain size increase seems to be an artifact (Deacon, 1990a, 1990b). Cretan (2016: 158-159) writes:

Genotypic” intelligence changes across millennia because the genetic variants, or alleles, that enable people to develop higher intelligence change their frequencies due to mutation and selection. Evolution by mutation and selection implies that at a certain selection pressure favoring higher intelligence, the genotypic intelligence of a population remains constant. At selection pressures below this break-even point, intelligence will decrease; at higher selection pressure, intelligence will increase. In the complete absence of selection, genotypic IQ will not remain constant.

As we can see, this concept of GIQ and the so-called decrease in it has been sounding hereditarian alarm bells for decades. People like Lynn and Jensen push eugenic ideals on the basis of low intelligence people having more children, pushing for a negative eugenic practice to prevent people with low IQ from having children. Jensen, in his infamous 1969 paper, was pretty much explicit with these aims, and then in 1970 he stated that heritability can tell use one’s genetic standing when it comes to intelligence. Richard Lynn, in his review of Cattell’s Beyondism, called for “realistically phasing out” certain populations, but that it wasn’t eugenic:

“Is there a danger that current welfare policies, unaided by eugenic foresight, could lead to the genetic enslavement of a substantial segment of our population?” – Jensen, 1969: 95How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?

“What the evidence on heritability tells us is that we can, in fact, estimate a person’s genetic standing on intelligence from his score on an IQ test.” – Jensen, 1970, Can We and Should We Study Race Difference?

“What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of “phasing out” of such peoples.” [Lynn]

This is an example of negative eugenics—preventing those who were thought to have undesirable traits from breeding. William Shockley—who was Arthur Jensen’s inspiration—talked about paying people to undergo sterilization. This was called the voluntary sterilization bonus plan:

Shockley is proposing varying bonuses to anyone with an IQ under 100 who agrees to be sterilized upon reaching child-bearing age. He would pay volunteers $1,000 for every IQ point below 100, with “$30,000 put into a trust fund for a 70-IQ moron, potentially capable of producing 20 children.”

Under the plan, bonuses would also go to potential parents based on the “best scientific estimates” of their having such “genetically carried disabilities as hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea and so on,” with taxpayers getting no money to participate.

This is another example of negative eugenics, but there is of course also positive eugenics—encouraging those with desired traits to have more children. In his article Bright New World, Moen (2016) discusses this kind of positive eugenics, while endorsing the claim of GIQ. Moen proposed that women should be paid modest sums of cash to have children with high IQ sperm donors, not their husbands:

Here I would like to suggest an alternative way to raise global IQ: giving prospective mothers modest monetary incentives to have children that genetically belong not to their husbands (or to ordinary sperm donors) but to high-IQ sperm donors.

These are the kinds of views and ultimate consequences that derive from such thinking that there is GIQ. Since we know that IQ can’t be genetic, there can be no GIQ. If there can be no GIQ, then such proposals like these negative and positive eugenic ideas that I just cited would merely just be getting rid of people that are not socially desireable—mainly the lower class, along with blacks since they are more likely to be lower class and have lower IQs (due to knowledge exposure and differential access to cultural and psychological tools). This concept of GIQ has, since the advent of IQ tests in America, been used to sterilize people in the name of eugenics. The moral wrongness of eugenics is why we should reject this concept, nevermind the irreducibility arguments. Eugenic policies discriminate against people based on arbitrary criteria and violate their reproductive rights.

Arguments against GIQ

Now that I have described what GIQ is and how it has been used in the past in the name of eugenics, here are a few arguments to invalidate the concept.

P1: If IQ is solely determined by one’s genetic makeup, then IQ scores should remain stable through one’s lifetime.
P2: IQ scores do not remain relatively stable through one’s lifetime.
C: Thus, IQ is not solely determined by one’s genetic makeup.

P1: If IQ is solely determined by genetics, then individuals with high IQ parents should also have high IQ scores.
P2: If individuals with high IQ parents also have high IQ scores, then adoption should not affect their IQ scores.
P3: Adoption does affect the IQ scores of individuals with high IQ parents.
C: Thus intelligence is not solely determined by genetics.

This argument contradicts the main claim of GIQ, since adoption has been shown to raise IQ (see Capron and Duyme, 1989; Locurto, 1990; Flynn, 1993; Duyme, Dumaret, and Tomkiwicz, 1999; Kendler et al, 2015; see Nisbett et al, 2012 for review).

P1: If the concept of GIQ were true, then one’s IQ would be determined by their genetics.
P2: Genes don’t determine traits, nevermind psychological ones.
C: Therefore, the concept of GIQ is false.

P1: If psychological traits are reducible to genetics, then environment plays no role in shaping IQ and the concept of GIQ is true.
P2: The environment plays a significant role in shaping IQ, as adoption studies show.
C: Therefore psychological traits are not reducible to genetics and the concept of GIQ is false.


P1: If psychological traits are irreducible, then the concept of GIQ is false.
P2: Psychological traits are irreducible.
C: Therefore, the concept of GIQ is false.

Both of these argument draw on the irreducibility of the mental arguments I’ve been making for years. If the mental is irreducible to the physical, then the concept of GIQ can’t possibly be true.

P1: Either the concept of GIQ is true and implies that IQ is determined by genes alone, or the concept of GIQ is false and other factors other than genes contribute to IQ.
P2: If the concept of GIQ is true and implies genetic determinism, then it ignores the significant impact that environmental factors have on IQ and may perpetuate discrimination against those with low IQ.
P3: If the concept of GIQ is false and other factors other than genes contribute to IQ, then efforts should be focused on addressing these other factors rather than assuming that genes are the sole determinant of IQ.
C: Thus, either the concept of GIQ perpetuates discriminatory attitudes if true, or it distracts from addressing the true determinants of IQ if false.

P1 is logically true, while P2 and P3 are supported by scientific evidence, so the argument is plausible.

The concept of GIQ assumes that IQ is largely determined by genetics, and that individuals have different genetic potentials for IQ. There is no clear, consistent definition of intelligence. The factors that contribute to IQ are complex and multifaceted. So any attempt at reducing one’s IQ to their genes or to make predictions about one’s IQ from their genes along is inherently flawed and oversimplified. Thus, the concept of GIQ is not a valid or useful way of understanding intelligence, and so attempts to use it to make policy or social decisions would be misguided. So this argument challenges the concept of GIQ, since there is no accepted definition of intelligence. That’s more than enough to discount the concept entirely.


I have described the concept of GIQ that many hereditarians in the literature have espoused. It is described as one’s genetic potential for IQ sans environmental insults. The usual suspects are arguing for a GIQ. However as can be seen historically, this concept had led to destructive consequences for groups of people and individuals who are deemed less intelligent. It has been argued that those who have low IQs should not have children and that either people should be paid to not have children and get sterilized or to influence high IQ mother’s to have children not with their husbands but high IQ sperm donors. Eugenics is morally wrong so we should not do that, nevermind the fact that genes don’t work how hereditarians need them to. Nevertheless, I have given a few arguments that the concept of GIQ is misleading at worst and socially destructive at best. This is yet another reason why we should ban IQ tests.

Thus, the concept of GIQ is merely false eugenic nonsense.

Prenatal Testing to Screen for Diseases is Eugenic: The Eugenic Nature of Prenatal Testing

2350 words


The concept of eugenics has a long history. Back in 2018, I surveyed the history of eugenics throughout antiquity to the modern day in different countries. It seems that the Greeks were the first to employ the concept. Both Aristotle and Plato wanted the state go be in charge of the birthing process, which is a classical definition of eugenics. People have even been sterilized in recent history, as recent as 20 years ago in California.

After the defeat of the Nazis in WW2, though, such eugenic ideas have never left. They have just changed form. We are in the new millennium and so we have new technologies that may allow us to screen for certain disseases and terminate then early on in the process. In this article, I will argue that using such technologies to prevent the births of such people are eugenic. I will give a few arguments and then I will connect them.

The “new eugenics”, same as the old eugenics

“New eugenics” refers to the use of advanced genetic technologies to improve or enhance genetic traits of humans or to selectively breed humans with desired traits while discouraging or preventing the reproduction of those with undesired traits. This tracks with “classical eugenics”, which was a socio-political movement in the late 18th to early 19th century which aimed at improving the human gene pool through encouraging the selective breeding of those with desirable traits while discouraging or preventing the reproduction of those with undesired traits, through coercion such as forced sterilization and euthanasia of individuals who have undesired traits like mental illness, physical disabilities or criminal tendencies. So as can be seen, both the old and new eugenics both involve the same basic practice of selective breeding of humans based on their genetic traits. Thus, both forms of eugenics are reductive in nature.

Both kinds of eugenics are morally wrong. By “morally wrong” I mean that it is not in accordance with accepted ethical principles and values. So calling eugenics “morally wrong” indicates that it is ethically unacceptable to most people, since it goes against the fundamental principles of human dignity, social justice, and human autonomy.

It’s a violation of human dignity and autonomy (Zaluski, 2010) since it makes decisions about a person’s life and reproductive choices based on their genetic makeup rather than their own desires and preferences. It can also stigmatize certain groups while perpetuating existing socio-economic inequalities by reinforcing the dominance of certain groups while marginalizing others. So it can result in further stigmatization and discrimination of certain groups based on their perceived genetic traits which would then lead to a loss of social cohesion along with a decrease in societal well-being. Selective breeding can also lead to a loss of genetic diversity in humans, which could then have further negative effects on our species’ ability for long-term survival and adaptation. And there are concerns involving the new eugenics like gene editing and PGD while there of course could be unintended, unforseen consequences and side effects while new forms of inequality and discrimination could emerge.

So here is the argument that eugenics is morally wrong.

P1: If a practice involves the selective breeding of humans based on their genetic traits, it is permissible only if it respects the autonomy and dignity of all individuals involved.
P2: Eugenics involves the selective breeding of humans based on their genetic traits.
P3: Eugenics does not respect the autonomy and dignity of all individuals involved.
C: Therefore, eugenics is morally wrong.

Premise 1 can be defended by the idea that every human has inherent value and deserves to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their genetic makeup. Premise 2 is an accepted feature of both the old and the new eugenics. Premise 3 can be supported on the basis that eugenic practices involve the imposition of genetic traits on individuals without their consent, and it could also lead to the stigmatization and marginalization of those with so-called undesired genetic traits which would violate the fundamental ethical principles of human dignity and autonomy. So from (1), (2), and (3), and Conclusion follows that eugenics is morally wrong since it involves the selective breeding of humans based on their genetic traits while failing to respect the autonomy and dignity of all individuals involved.

Eugenics won’t work because genetic reductionism is false

Genetic reductionism is the view that genes are the primary determinants of human traits. It is the view that complex traits and behaviors can be reduced to and explained by genetic and biological factors while non-genetic and environmental factors are insignificant determinants. In the eugenic view—and in the view of most people—traits are primarily genetically caused, and by using genetic engineering and similar new-age tools, we can then guide out evolution and prune out both genes that lead to undesired traits and, in effect, people too. However, genetic reductionism is false. It is false because there is no privileged causal role in development of any of the developmental resources, genes included (Noble, 2012). So it then follows that eugenics can’t work, since eugenics is genetically reductionistic, and genetic reductionism is false. So the practice of eugenics is unlikely to work and may lead to unintended consequences. Here’s the formalized argument:

P1: If eugenics is based on the assumption that genetic traits are the primary determinants of human traits, then eugenics is genetically reductionistic.
P2: Eugenics is based on the assumption that genetic traits are the primary determinants of human traits.
P3: Genetic reductionism is false.
C: Therefore, eugenics cannot work.

Just like eugenics is genetically reductionistic, so is hereditarianism and that’s also why hereditarianism cannot work. And many hereditarians, like Lynn, Jensen, Shockley, and Cattell held eugenic views (just like Murray and Herrnstein, but they were much more careful with their language, though the underlying ideas are the same) and they are, of course, genetic reductionists. It is, after all, with the advent of IQ tests that eugenics had it’s start in America, and that’s one of the reasons why IQ tests should be banned, since they can and have led to morally wrong policies.

New genetic technologies are eugenic

I have given a pro- and anti-argument for the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) back in 2018. PGD is a procedure which allows parents to screen embryos for genetic abnormalities before implatiation during IVF. This process is often based on the desire to avoid certain traits or to select for certain desirable traits. As I argued above, the new boss is the same as the old boss—the new eugenics has similar end-goals as the old eugenics. PGD doesn’t involve coercion or forced sterilization like the old eugenics, yet it still has intended goals which are similar to the old eugenics by creating “genetically better” people by selecting for certain genes while avoiding others, under the assumption of genetic causation of socially-desired and undesired traits. This can then lead to the homogenization of our species, since people with certain traits could become more common while others without them become rarer. This can also lead to the discrimination of those who do not have the desired traits. Thus, PGD is a form of new eugenics and it is eugenic because it has the same end-goals as the old eugenics.

P1: If PGD isn’t a form of new eugenics, then it does not involve a selective breeding process based on genetic traits that can lead to a homogenization of the human population and discrimination against those who do not possess the desired traits.
P2: PGD does involve a selective breeding process based on genetic traits that can lead to a homogenization of the human population and discrimination against those who do not possess the desired traits.
C: Therefore, PGD is a form of new eugenics.

I have already provided an argument which establishes that eugenics is morally wrong. Now here are a few more arguments which establish PGD as a eugenic practice.

P1: If prenatal testing is used to screen for diseases to abort babies, then it is selectively terminating those with undesirable genetic traits.
P2: If selective termination of those with undesirable genetic traits is practice then it is a eugenic practice.
C: Thus, if prenatal testing is used to screen for diseases to abort babies, then it is a eugenic practice.

P1: If prenatal testing is not a eugenic practice, then it is not selectively terminating those with undesirable genetic traits.
P2: Prenatal testing is selectively terminating those with undesirable genetic traits.
C: Therefore prenatal testing is a eugenic practice.

P1: If a practice is eugenic, then it involves the selective breeding or termination of individuals with undesirable genetic traits.
P2: Prenatal testing involves the selective termination of individuals with undesirable genetic traits.
C: Therefore, prenatal testing is a eugenic practice.

As can be seen, it is quite obvious that the new eugenics is the same as the old eugenics and the goals shared are very similar. Thus, the only distinction between old and new eugenics is that for the new eugenics there is no state coercion for the use of the new genetic technologies to screen for undesired traits like diseases. In this regard, it is used negatively, but there is though the chance that it will be used positively. By “negative” and “positive” I’m referring to negative and positive eugenics.

Now, I can connect the arguments I’ve made and argue that eugenics is morally wrong and that it rests on the false premise of genetic reductionism.

P1: If prenatal testing is used to screen for diseases to abort babies, then it is a eugenic practice.
P2: If selective breeding or termination of individuals with undesirable genetic traits is a eugenic practice, then eugenics is based on the false premise of genetic reductionism.
P3: Eugenics that is based on the false premise of genetic reductionism ignores the complex interplay between genetics, environmental factors and other developmental resources and fails to fully appreciate the inherent worth and value of every human being.
C: Therefore, using prenatal testing to screen for diseases to abort babies is a form of eugenics that is based on the false premise of genetic reductionism and is morally wrong.

IQ, embryo selection and PGS

While we have already begun to implement such tools and methods in the public, a recent study concluded that testing embryos for complex traits like height and IQ is “premature”, with the top-scoring PGS embryos gain would be approximately equal to 2.5cm in height and 2.5 IQ points (Karavani et al, 2019). But these values were derived from PGS which were derived from GWAS, so it’s just based on correlation. Most authors of course assume that “intelligence” is “highly polygenic”, they need not only correlation, but a mechanism (Munday and Savalescu, 2021). Unfortunately, the eugenic dreams of IQ-ists to increase IQ through these methods won’t work. Since one’s IQ is a function of the type of psychological and cultural tools they are exposed to from birth, and the items on the test are biased towards a certain social class, there are known ways to increase IQ that don’t have anything to do with genetically reductionist GWAS/PGS/PGD pipe dream. The argument can be made like this:

P1: The potential gain of embryo screening for traits such as height and cognitive ability is not significant.
P2: The gain due to embryo screening for height and cognitive ability is small, with an average gain of only ≈2.5 cm for height and ≈2.5 IQ points for cognitive ability.
C: Therefore, there is no significant case for using preimplantation genetic diagnosis to select embryos for implantation based on height or cognitive ability.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that even if the so called gains were significant and that PGS were causal that we should use PGD to select those traits


Although it has been said that common arguments against genetic reductionism rest on a strong version of genetic reductionism/determinism, and so the arguments “are therefore unsound” (Resnick and Vorhaus, 2006). The kinds of arguments, assumptions and considerations in this discussion of genetic modification and PGD assume, also, any kind of genetic determinism of traits.

At the end of the day, methods like PGD can lead to the destruction of fetuses on the basis of its genetic constitution. Eugenic selection could also have unintended consequences in the future since genetic variance could be reduced which would impinge on one’s ability to choose a partner, so it would lead to a limitation in partners for future people. Irrespective of the moral arguments made here, I think that the open future argument makes the best case against genetic modification of humans. This will yet again be another argument from human autonomy. Not only will we be impinging on one’s individual autonomy, but we don’t even know what kind of traits could be desirable from a survival point of view in the future. So that’s another reason to not genetically modify embryos or to select certain embryos over others.

P1: Future people have a moral right to choose (or not) the characteristics of their own genome.
P2: Genetic modification of an embryo involves making choices about the characteristics of the future person’s genome.
C: Therefore genetic modification of an embryo is morally impermissible since it violates the moral right of the future person to choose (or not choose) the characteristics of their own genome.

While genetic reductionism is a form of biological determinism, there is also what is called epigenetic determinism. Any kind of reducing X to deterministic proclivities is false. Nevertheless, I have distinguished between the old and the new eugenics, and showed that the only difference between them is that in the new eugenics, there is no state-sponsored coercion or forced sterilization occurring. (Although that, sadly still happens today.) Since genetic reductionism is false, then any attempt to “defend eugenics” (Anomaly, 2018; Wilson, 2019; Veit et al, 2021) are doomed to fail. But genetic engineering “is objectionable because it represents a bid for mastery and dominion that fails to appreciate the gifted character of human powers and achievements” (Sandell, 2007).

Devestating Objections to the Rushton-Lynn Cold Winters Theory

3500 words


Cold winters theory (CWT) attempts to explain the variation in IQ scores between countries. According to the theory, what explains a suite of observed differences is differential evolution by natural selection in different environments. Due to the exodus out of Africa, this led to the colonization of new biomes with novel things that early Man would not have been accustomed to. Thus, they would then need to be able to adapt their actions and behavior to their new environment. Since they were in novel environments, early man would then need to acquire new skills to survive. So those who could not, had a lower chance to reproduce, and so, there was selection-for and selection-against certain traits. So, over time, this led to differences in the phenotype between groups that evolved in different environments, and the driver of this was natural selection. Hereditarians have said as much, and this theory is a cornerstone to their thinking. The observed differences, in order to be of any use to hereditarians, must be due to evolution, particularly due to evolution by natural selection.

However, although natural selection isn’t itself a mechanism (Fodor, 2008; Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, 2010), it is generally understood that natural selection actually decreases genetic variation in a trait (Howe, 1997: 70; Richardson, 2017: 46) . Thus, if the differences in IQ between races were due to natural selection, then there would be decreased, not increased, variability in IQ/intelligence between races.

Emil Kirkegaard has a good overview of the history of this theory. Nevertheless, I myself have made critiques of CWT, which rely on the fact that it makes no risky, novel predictions (contra Lynn). In this article, I will mount some more arguments against CWT, and I will further show how the logic for the theory crumbles due to the use of shoddy reasoning and the use of ad hoc hypotheses to save the theory from falsification. I will conclude that the CWT has no scientific value and is nothing more than a just-so story that explains what it purports to explain while not successfully predicting novel evidence.

Cold winter theory – Lynn

One of the earliest instance of CWT can be found in Wallace (1864). In his article, he states things that contemporary hereditarians would then argue. In 1987, Richard Lynn argued that the selective pressures of cold winters explains the high IQs of “Mongoloids” (Asians) (Lynn, 1987). Lynn states that the higher IQs of Asians can be explained by the selective pressures of cold environments. He posits adaptations that evolved in Asians, which cold winter environments then selected-for. In 1991, Richard Lynn argued that surviving in novel environments that our species didn’t evolve in led to selective pressures which increased the IQs of “Caucasoids” and “Mongoloids.” The two groups had to survive in cognitively demanding environments and, due to the cold, needed to create shelters, make clothes and fire along with hunting game. So this explains why the two groups have evolved greater intelligence than Africans. Although Ian Deary is himself an IQ-ist, he rightly states that Lynn’s theory is nothing more than a just-so story:

Another review of the thorny issue which Lynn deals with in the first paper may be judged worthwhile if there is a wealth of convincing new evidence, or a Flynn-like (1987) fine-toothcombing of the past evidence. Neither of these objectives is achieved. Therefore, the Pandora’s box has been opened once more, some may say, to no great purpose. What of Lynn’s evolutionary account of the origins of intelligence test score differences between groups? It puts me in mind of Kipling’s Just So stories. When one is more used to examining factor analyses or anova tables the type of evolutionary evidence that is offered here is difficult to evaluate. One suspects that there is an infinite number of more or less plausible historical accounts of the causes of racial differences in IQ test scores, and that all would leave aside uncomfortable facts (like the intelligence needed to exist in hot arid climates). The issue addressed in Lynn’s first paper is difficult enough, but the evidence is far too sparse to be telling the story of how the eskimo got his/her flat nose. (Deary, 1991: 157)

Thus, if this relationship were to hold, then those who experienced the harshest, coldest conditions should have the highest IQs. However, this is not what we see. Arctic people have IQs around 91, and so, this seems to be a piece of evidence against CWT. Lynn, though, has an ad hoc hypothesis for why they don’t have higher IQs—they had a small population size and so high IQ generic mutations didn’t have a large chance to appear and then become stabilized in the genome like they did for Asians (population size for Arctic people 56,000; for Asians 1.4 billion; Lynn, 2006: 157). So due to geographic isolation along with a small population size, Arctic people did not have the chance to gain higher IQs. This is nothing more than an ad hoc hypothesis—an ad hoc hypothesis is produced “for this”, and a hypothesis is ad hoc if it cannot be independently verified. It’s a case of special pleading, as Scott McGreal’s argues.

The fact of the matter about CWT, is that the conclusion was known first (higher IQs in certain geographic areas), and then a form of reverse reasoning was used in order to attempt to ascertain the causes of the observed differences between groups. This is known as reverse engineering, where reverse engineering is defined as “a process of figuring out the design of a mechanism on the basis of an analysis of the tasks it performs” (Buller, 2005: 92). This is also one of Smith’s (2016: 227-228) just-so story triggers:

1) proposing a theory-driven rather than a problem-driven explanation, 2) presenting an explanation for a change without providing a contrast for that change, 3) overlooking the limitations of evidence for distinguishing between alternative explanations (underdetermination), 4) assuming that current utility is the same as historical role, 5) misusing reverse engineering, 6) repurposing just-so stories as hypotheses rather than explanations, and 7) attempting to explain unique events that lack comparative data.

Lynn (1990) attempted to integrate gonadotropin levels, testosterone and prostate cancer into the theory, stating that by having fewer children and showing mote care to them, non-African populations then shifted to a K strategy, which then led to a concomitant decrease in testosterone and subsequently aggressive tendencies (Rushton, 2000: 263). However, this is based on the false assumption that testosterone is directly responsible for aggression, meaning that as testosterone increases so does aggression. They have the cause and effect backwards, though—aggression leads to an increase in testosterone, so Lynn’s explanation fails.

Rushton then comes along and champions Lynn’s “contributions to science” (Rushton, 2012), while also praising Lynn’s theory as explain why northerly populations evolved higher IQs and larger brains than southerly populations (Rushton, 2005), while making the grandiose claim that “documenting global race differences in intelligence and analysing how these have evolved may be his crowning achievement” (Rushton, 2012: 855). Rushton wrote an Amazon review of Lynn’s book, and then again in the white nationalist magazine VDare. Of course Rushton would go to bat for Lynn, since Lynn’s theory is a cornerstone of Rushton’s r/K selection theory, which is where we will now turn.

Cold winter theory – Rushton

Starting in 1985, Rushton began arguing that there was a suite of dozens of traits that the races differed on (Rushton, 1985). He collated his arguments in his first book, Race, Evolution, and Behavior (Rushton, 1995), and he argued that what explained the differences in these traits between his races were the selective factors that influenced and dictated survival in those environments. Rushton and Jensen (2005: 265-266; cf Andrade and Redondo, 2019) argued that there are genetically-driven differences in IQ scores between races (blacks and whites, in this instance), and one of the largest reasons for these differences was the different types of environments the two races were exposed to:

Evolutionary selection pressures were different in the hot savanna where Africans lived than in the cold northern regions Europeans experienced, or the even colder Arctic regions of East Asians. These ecological differences affected not only morphology but also behavior. It has been proposed that the farther north the populations migrated out of Africa, the more they encountered the cognitively demanding problems of gathering and storing food, gaining shelter, making clothes, and raising children successfully during prolonged winters (Rushton, 2000). As these populations evolved into present-day Europeans and East Asians, the ecological pressures selected for larger brains, slower rates of maturation, and lower levels of testosterone—with concomitant reductions in sexual potency, aggressiveness, and impulsivity; increases in family stability, advanced planning, self-control, rule following, and longevity; and the other characteristics listed in Table 3.

So this is where Rushton’s r/K selection comes in. He proposed that “some groups of people are more K selected than others” (Rushton, 1990: 137). So if some groups are more K selected than others, then some groups would have different trait values when compared to others, and this seems to support Rushton’s theory. However, Rushton’s theory can be explained environmentally, without appealing to genetics (Gorey and Cryns, 1995) and it also has not been independently replicated (Peregrine, Ember and Ember, 2003).

Devestating Objections to CWT

Objection 1: The fact of the matter is, when it comes to CWT, this is a perfect example of ideas and beliefs that shift with the time based on current observations. Aristotle argued that since the ancient Greeks had the middle geographic position between Asia and the rest of Europe, they were spirited and intelligent and therefore continued to be free while those who inhabited cold places like Europe lacked intelligence and skill, they had spirit while those in Asia were intelligent while being skilful in temperament, while also being subject to slavery. It was the Greeks who were right in the middle—they were just right, like Goldilocks—to have both all of the good and none of the bad traits they associated with those in other geographic locales. Meloni (2019: 42) cited one Roman officer who stated that recruitment of individuals from cold climates “as they had too much blood and, hence, inadequate intelligence. Instead, he argued, troops from temperate climates be recruited, as they possess the right amount of blood, ensuring their fitness for camp discipline (Irby, 2016).” This is solid evidence that who is or is not “intelligent” can and has changed with the times, along with other explanations of differences between people. This, then, proves the contingency of the concept of “more intelligent people”, and that people will marshal any kind of evidence for their pet theories at the time they have observed them and work backwards to form an argument, a kind of inference to best explanation. Thus, an evolutionary psychologist or IQ-ist transported back to antiquity would have formulated a different theory of intelligence, which obviously would have been at-odds with what they try to argue for today.

Objection 2: In 2019, I contrasted the CWT with the vitamin D hypothesis. I argued that there was one successful novel prediction made by the VDH—namely the convergent evolution of skin color in hominids that left Africa (Chaplan and Jablonski, 2009: 452), which was successfully predicted by Chaplan and Jablonski (2000). I wrote:

If high ‘intelligence’ is supposedly an adaptation to cold temperatures, then what is the observation that disconfirms a byproduct hypothesis? On the other hand, if ‘intelligence’ is a byproduct, which observation would disconfirm an adaptationist hypothesis? No possible observation can confirm or disconfirm either hypothesis, therefore they are just-so stories. Since a byproduct explanation would explain the same phenomena since byproducts are also inherited, then just saying that ‘intelligence’ is a byproduct of, say, needing larger heads to dissipate heat (Lieberman, 2015). One can make any story they want to fit the data, but if there is no prediction of novel facts then how useful is the hypothesis if it explains the data it purports to explain and only the data it purports to explain?

It is possible to think up any kind of story to explain any observation to give it an air of scientific objectivity. Of course it is possible to argue that other climates can select higher intelligence, as Anderson (1991), Graves (2002), and Flynn (2019) have argued. Sternberg, Grigorenko, and Kidd (2005) have also argued that it is possible to think of any kind of explanation/story for any kind of observed data. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is this: There is no reason to accept the CWT, since there is no independent evidence for the theory in question.

Objection 3: If the Lynn-Rushton CWT were correct, then we would observe lower variation in IQ scores between whites and Asians, since it is well-accepted that natural selection reduced genetic variation in traits that are important for survival (Howe, 1997: 70; Richardson, 2017: 46). In the hereditarian conception, of course intelligence is important for survival, and so if the hereditarian argument for CWT is true, then we should observe lower variance in IQs in whites and Asians compared to blacks, but we don’t see this. (Also see Bird, 2020 for an argument against the hereditarian hypothesis, showing that there is no natural selection in blacks and whites on cognitive performance.)

Objection 4: Hereditarians have relied on the concept of heritability for decades. If T is highly heritable, then T has a genetic component and what explains the variance in T is genetics, not environment. Many critiques of the heritability concept have been mounted (eg Moore and Shenk, 2016), and they spell trouble for the hereditarian CWT and the hereditarian hypothesis as a whole. But these estimates are derived from highly confounded studies, and so the “laws” derived from them are anything but.

Objection 5: Rushton and Lynn posit that Asians are K- while Africans are r-selected. Rushton rightly stated that Africans endure endemic and infectious disease, which he wrongly stated was an r trait. He also stated that cold winters shaped K traits in Asians and European populations. However, based on the (accepted at the time) tenets of r/K selection, it would actually be Africans that are K and Asians that are r, since groups that move out of environments they evolved in and into new ones are freed from density-dependent control (Anderson, 1991: 59).

Objection 6: The irreducibility of the mental to the physical means that psychology can’t be an object of selection since it is not physical. Intelligence is posited as a psychological trait, so it cannot be selected. This is a devestating objection to not only the CWT but to most hereditarian hypotheses which reduce mental states to brain states or genes. Such irreducibility arguments make hereditarianism untenable.

Arguments against CWT

With all this being said, here are a few arguments derived from the discussions above. It is well-established that the CWT hardly had any evidentiary basis. It’s merely the argument of ideologues.

P1: If CWT were true, then there would be independent evidence for it.
P2: There is no independent evidence for the CWT.
P3: The correlation between race and IQ is better explained by social and environmental factors than by the CWT.
P4: The evidence cited in support of the CWT, including Lynn’s national IQ data, is fraudulent and lacks scientific rigor.
C: Therefore, the CWT is false.

Premise 1: This is a basic tenet of scientific explanation. Independent evidence refers to evidence not used in the construction of the hypothesis. The only evidence for CWT is the observation of differences in IQ between people that inhabit different geographic locations. So if CWT were true, it is entailed that there should be independent, novel evidence to support the hypothesis. It is evidence that isn’t based on the original assumptions or data used to construct the hypothesis. If there is, then that raises the probability that the state of affairs that is proposed is true. Independent, novel evidence is important, since it helps confirm or disconfirm a theory or hypothesis by providing additional support from sources that were not originally taken into account. Evidence is novel when it is not already known or expected based on prior knowledge or previous observations. So novel evidence would, in this instance, refer to evidence that supports the theory and is distinct from the evidence that is used to support it. So in order for CWT to be scientifically valid, there would need to be independent evidence that shows a direct causal link between intelligence and cold winters.

Premise 2: This is a denial of the claim that there is independent evidence that supports CWT, on the accepted definition of “novel, independent evidence.”

Premises 3 and 4: These two premises are linked—access to education along with nutrition better explains the relationship between latitude and IQ. There is also the fact that Lynn’s “national IQs” are fraudulent (Sear, 2022). Thus, there is no evidentiary reason to accept Lynn’s IQs (the only reason is bias and that it “explains” the differing civilizational states of different races). It’s merely working backwards (returning to reverse engineering) since they have their conclusion in mind and then construct an argument to prove their already-held conclusion.

So the Conclusion follows—CWT is false since there is no independent, novel evidence for it. Therefore the only reason to believe it is bias in thinking against groups of people.

P1: The CWT suggests that differences in average IQ scores between racial groups can be largely explained by differences in the coldness of the winter climates that these groups evolved in.
P2: All of the evidence used to support the CWT is based on previously existing data, such as Lynn’s national IQ data or historical temperature records.
P3: There is no new independent evidence that supports the CWT beyond this existing data.
C: Thus, there is no novel, independent evidence for the CWT.


P1: If there is new independent evidence for the CWT, then the CWT can be independently supported.
P2: There is no novel independent evidence for CWT beyond the existing data.
C: So the CWT cannot be supported by new independent evidence.

These arguments are valid and I hold them to be sound, based on the discussion in this article and my previous articles on the matter of CWT and the prediction of novel facts of the matter.


We don’t need evolutionary stories to explain IQ differences between countries (Wicherts, Borsboom, and Dolan, 2010). Lynn’s national IQ data is highly suspect and should not be used (Sears, 2022). High intelligence would be useful in all environments. The Rushton-Lynn CWT states that those who migrated to more northerly, colder biomes needed to plan ahead for the winter, and they would also need to plan and create hunting parties to procure food. This, of course, is ridiculous. Because you need to plan ahead to survive anywhere. Moreover, Will et al (2021) state that their:

analyses detected no such association of temperature with brain size. … These results suggest that brain size within Homo is less influenced by environmental variables than body size during the past 1.0 Ma.

This is of course a huge strike against the Rushton-Lynn CWT. Anthropological evidence also conflicts with the CWT (MacEachern, 2006).

Since I have shown that the evidentiary bases of the CWT doesn’t hold, then it isn’t logical to hold the belief that the CWT is true. Views like this are expressed in Rushton (2000: 228-231)Jensen (1998: 170, 434-436) and Lynn (2006: Chapters 15, 16, and 17). Since the main proponents of the model hold eugenist ideas, then it can be posited that they have underlying alterior motives for pushing this theory. Even a claim that there is “molecular genetic evidence” for CWT fails, due to, again, the irreducibility of the mental.

Nevertheless, there is no novel, independent evidence for the belief that cold winters shaped our minds and racial differences in psychological traits after the exodus out of Africa. There can be no evidence for it since we lack time machines and we can’t deconfound correlated traits. So these considerations point to the conclusion that the CWT is a mere story based on data which was then used to work backwards from an already-held conclusion. Thus, CWT is false.

Rushton, Lynn, Kanazawa (2008, 2012), (Kanazawa assumed a flat earth in his 2008 paper; Wicherts et al, 2012) Hart (2009), and Winegard, Winegard, and Anomaly (2020) therefore, are nothing more than just-so storytellers since they lack novel evidence for their assertions. So the so-called argument for evolutionary differences in intelligence/IQ rests on a house of cards that is simple to push over. The six objections laid out in this article are devestating for the CWT. There never was any evidentiary support for CWT—the kind that scientific hypotheses need in order to be valid, it’s merely an ideological series of statements, not an actual scientific hypothesis.

The Distinction Between Psychological and Racial Hereditarianism

2000 words


The hereditarian hypothesis posits that genetic/biological factors are responsible for IQ (“intelligence”) and other psychological traits. The claim is basically, IQ is heritable. It is heritable on the basis of twin, family and adoption studies, along with results from GCTA, GWAS and other newer tools that were created in order to lend credence to the twin, family and adoption estimates.

I have distinguished before between what I call “psychological hereditarianism” and “racial hereditarianism.” In this article, I will distinguish between the two more, and while psychological hereditarianism isnt necessarily racist, it can be used for racist aims.

Psychological hereditarianism

Psychological hereditarianism is the belief that psychological differences between people are due largely to genetic or biological factors rather than environmental ones. Claims such as this have been coming from twin studies for decades, and it has been commonly said that such studies have proven that aspects of our psychological constitution are genetically heritable, that is genetically transmitted.

Four kinds of studies exist which lend credence to psychological hereditarianism—family studies, twin studies, adoption studies, and GWAS.

Family studies

Family studies examine the similarities in individuals of the same family when it comes to their cognitive abilities (scores on IQ tests). These studies show that those who share more genes have similar scores than those who don’t. To the hereditarian, this is evidence for their hypothesis that genetic factors contribute to psychological traits and differences in them. Correlations are used to measure the strength of the relationship. An expected value of 50 percent (.5 correlation) between siblings is expected, as they share half of their genes. The correlation that is expected between unrelated individuals is 0, since they presumably don’t share genes (that is, they’re not from the same family).

However, there is one huge issue for family studies—environmental confounding. While people in the same families of course share the same genes, they also share the same environments. So family studies can’t be used as evidence for the psychological hereditarian hypothesis. Behavioral geneticists agree that these studies can’t be used for the genetic hypothesis for psychological traits, but they disagree with the implications of this claim for the next thing I will discuss.

Twin studies

Twin studies again use the correlation coefficient and compare twins raised together or “apart”, to then argue that genes play a substantial role in the etiology of psychological traits like “IQ.” These studies have found that identical twins have more similar cognitive abilities than fraternal twins, which to the twin researchers points to the conclusion that genetic factors contribute to substantially to psychological traits like IQ and other traits. However, the main limitation of such studies comes down to twins reared together. It is assumed that identical and fraternal twins share equally similar environments. This claim, as admitted by twin researchers themselves, is false (Joseph, 2014; Joseph et al, 2015). They then pivot to two arguments—Argument A and Argument B (Joseph et al, 2015)—but A is merely circular and B needs to be shown to be true by twin researchers, that is, they need to rule out and identify trait-relevant factors.

Limitations of twin studies include: not being generalizable to the general population; they’re based on many of the same (false) assumptions that were originally formulated on the 1920s at the advent of twin studies; the findings are misunderstood and blown out of proportion; they lead to volunteer/recruitment bias; and it doesn’t allow the disentangling of G and E since they interact (Sahu and Prasuna, 2016). The “advantages” of these studies aren’t even advantages, since it is conceptually impossible to tease out the relative contributions of G and E to a trait. Nevertheless, twin studies don’t show that psychological hereditarianism is true, and perhaps the most famous twin study of all—the MISTRA—hid the data of its fraternal twins (the controls). Joseph (2022) has an in depth critique of the MISTRA and why conclusions from it should be outright rejected.

Adoption studies

The issues with adoption studies are large, as large as the issues with twin studies. Assignment of adoptees to homes isn’t random, they look for homes that are closer to the homes of the biological mother. This restriction of range reduces the correlation between the adopted children and adopted parent. Adoptees also experience the womb of their biological mother’s (obviously). The adoptive parents are also given information about the adoptee’s family, and this along with conscious and unconscious treatment of the adoptee may help in making the adopted child different (see Richardson and Norgate, 2006; Moore, 2006; Joseph, 2014). Basically, the additive gene model is false, and adoptions don’t simulate a random design.


The larger issue at hand here is how the aforementioned have been used to search the genome for the genes that lead to the high heritabilities of IQ. This has then led to the creation of polygenic scores. These studies examine the association between genes and IQ in large samples of individuals. These studies compare the genomes of people who have a certain trait, and they then look for correlations between the genes and the traits in that population. GWASs may miss rare genes with large effects. These studies only merely show associations between genes and traits, not causation. Another issue is population stratification—which is “differences in allele frequencies between cases and controls due to systematic differences in ancestry” (Freedman et al, 2004). GWAS, then, are compromised by this stratification, and attempts to correct for it have been found wanting (Richardson, 2017; Richardson and Jones, 2019; Richardson, 2022). There is also the fact that larger sample sizes won’t help the endeavor of proving that genes contribute to psychological traits—since large databases contain arbitrary correlations, then by increasing the sample size this then highly increases the chance for spurious correlations (Claude and Longo, 2017). At the end of the day, the associations found are weak and could possibly even be meaningless (Noble, 2018). There is also the fact that PGS ignore development and epigenetics (Moore, 2023). Basically, genes don’t work how hereditarians need them to.

The fact of the matter is, these research methods continue to push the false dichotomy of nature vs nurture (the first instance of which appeared in a 13th century French novel on gender). There is also the fact that the “laws of behavioral genetics” rest on twin, family and adoption studies. So if the assumptions of these studies are false, then there is no reason why we should accept the conclusions from them. There are no “laws” in biology, especially not the “laws of behavioral genetics.”

Racial hereditarianism

Racial hereditarianism, on the other hand, is the belief that there are inherent, genetic differences in cognitive ability and other psychological traits between racial and ethnic groups. One—most often unstated—claim is that one group of people are inferior to another (as can be evidenced by the labels of the categories used by Terman), and it has been used to justify discriminatory policies and forced sterilization of people found to have lower IQs. Genetic inheritance explains the how and why of some races having higher IQs than others.

The most famous racial hereditarians are Lynn, Rushton, and Jensen. Over the last 50+ years, these authors have dedicated their lives to proving that certain racial groups have higher IQs than others for genetic reasons. These differences aren’t due just to environment or culture, they say, there is a significant genetic component to the differences in scores between racial and ethnic groups. Since IQ is related to success in life—that is, since IQ is needed for success—then what explains average life outcomes between racial and ethnic groups are their IQs and the ultimate cause is their genes which ultimately cause their IQ scores. Due to the strength of genetic factors on IQ, they say (like Jensen), social programs are doomed to fail.

The argument against psychological hereditarianism and racial hereditarianism

The argument against these is simple—the mental is irreducible to the physical and so, while there are of course correlations between “traits” like IQ and genes, that doesn’t mean they’re causal and due to the irreducibility of the mental to the physical, we can’t find what they need us to find in order to prove their theses.

P1: If racial hereditarianism is true, then cognitive differences between racial groups are primarily due to genetic factors.
P2: There is no empirical (or logical) evidence that supports the claim that cognitive differences between racial groups are primarily due to genetic factors.
C: Thus, racial hereditarianism is false.

P1: If psychological hereditarianism is true, then individual differences in psychological traits are due primarily to genetic factors.
P2: There is no empirical (or logical) evidence that supports the claim that individual differences in psychological traits are primarily due to genetic factors.
C: Thus, psychological hereditarianism is false.

The irreducible complexity of mental states/psychological traits means that it’s impossible for them to be caused or influenced by genetics meaning that both psychological and racial hereditarianism are false. Both psychological and racial hereditarianism, as their unstated assumptions, rely on a type of physicalism to where mental states can be reduced to genes or the brain/brain states. Both kinds are a physicalist theory of mind, and since physicalism is false so are psychological and racial hereditarianism. This is yet more evidence that hereditarianism is false and so it strengthens the argument for banning IQ tests.


Both forms of hereditarianism I’ve discussed here are false, and ultimately they are false since the mental is reducible to the physical. Both of them, however, are inherently reductionist and attempt to reduce people to their genes or their brains. They have, in the past, led to the sterilization of certain people deemed “unfit.” Of course, the hereditarian hypothesis isn’t necessarily racist, though it can be used for racist aims. It can also be used for classist aims. It can be launched at whatever a society deems “unfit”, and then they can try to correlate biological factors with what they deem “unfit.” The very notion that certain races are superior or inferior on intelligence is a form of racism. Such ideas have been used in the recent past in order to justify discriminatory policies against people. So while the psychological hereditarian hypothesis may not be racist (it could be classist, though), how it has been articulated and then even put into practice is inherently racist. In any case, here’s the argument that the hereditarian hypothesis is a racist hypothesis.

P1: If the hereditarian hypothesis is true, then differences in IQ and other traits among racial and ethnic groups are primarily due to genetic factors rather than environmental or social factors.
P2: Differences in IQ and other traits among racial and ethnic groups are not primarily due to genetic factors, but rather environmental or social factors.
C1: Therefore, the hereditarian hypothesis is not true.
P3: If the hereditarian hypothesis is not true, then it cannot be used to make claims about inferiority or superiority.
P4: The hereditarian hypothesis has, historically been used to make claims about the innate superiority or inferiority of certain racial groups, thereby justifying discriniminatory policies and harmful stereotypes.
C2: Therefore, the hereditarian hypothesis is a racist hypothesis.

I’ve shown how P1 and P2 are true exhaustively, so C1 follows from those 2 premises. P3 follows from the conclusion in C1, and P4 is a historical fact. So C2 follows. So by referring to the hereditarian hypothesis as a racist hypothesis, I mean that the hypothesis has been entangled with racist and discriniminatory policies since it’s inception.

So I have articulated a distinction between psychological and racial hereditarianism, where psychological hereditarianism is about the genetic transmission of psychological traits and where racial hereditarianism is the belief that there are inherent racial differences in psychological traits due to genetic differences between groups. While there are of course genetic differences between groups and individuals, it doesn’t follow that said genetic differences cause differences in psychological traits, which is the main claim of hereditarianism. The issue of the reducibility of the mental isn’t an empirical matter, it’s a conceptual one. So the hereditarian hypothesis, therefore, is refuted on conceptual, a priori grounds.

Contra Hereditarians, Temperature is not Like IQ, nor are Thermometers like IQ Tests

2550 words

The invention of the thermometer made it possible to objectify the attribute of temperature, to quantify it, and to measure it with a high degree of reliability. With some important qualifications, the situation is similar in the case of intelligence tests. … To object to this procedure by arguing that the IQ cannot be regarded as being interchangeable with intelligence, or that intelligence cannot really be measured, or that IQ is not the same as intelligence, is to get bogged down in semantic morass. It is equivalent to arguing that a column of mercury in a glass tube cannot be regarded as synonymous with temperature, or that temperature cannot really be measured with a thermometer. – Jensen, 1973: 343, 345; Can we and should we study race differences?

In assessing the methodological role of IQ tests in each of the research programmes, thermometers provide an instructive analogy, for the relationship of thermometers to thermodynamics is rather similar to that of IQ tests to theories of intelligence. (Urbach, 1974: 104)

‘if the measurement of temperature is scientific (and who would doubt that it is?) then so is that of intelligence.’ (Eysenck, quoted in Nash, 1990: 131)

If psychology can’t be measured then that is a huge barrier in the way of psychology actually becoming a science like all of the other sciences it tried to mimic. Psychology has been trying to become a legitimate science for years now. There is of course the so-called replication crisis in psychology (Baker, 2016; Oberauer and Lewandowsky, 2019), but psychologists say that this doesn’t extend to “intelligence”. However, I have argued that psychologists are mistaken. If psychological traits exist (and they do), and if they are a product of immaterial minds (they are), then how could they be measured by empirical methods? That’s the troubling issue for psychology—if psychometrics isn’t measurement (Uher, 2021), and if psychological traits aren’t quantitative (Michell, 1997) and if psychological phenomena aren’t manipulable nor controllable (Trendler, 2009), then how can psychology be an empirical science (Smedslund, 2016)?

Why the Berka-Nash measurement objection matters and what it means for temperature and IQ

This objection is simple—something can be said to be measurable if and only if there is a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit (Berka, 1983; Nash 1990). Where a specified measured object is the thing or phenomenon to be measured, an object of measurement refers to the property that is measured, and the measurement unit refers to a standardized unit which is used to quantify the specified measured object. Since there are, by admission of psychologists, no measurement units in psychology (specifically for IQ, as admitted by Haier (2014, 2018) then it seems that a science of psychology—a science of the mind—is impossible.

In the past, IQ-ists have claimed that their discipline is a science and if temperature can be measured, why can’t intelligence? Nash (1990: 131) puts this succinctly:

First, the idea that the temperature scale is an interval scale is a myth and, second, a scale zero can be established for an intelligence scale by the same method of extrapolation used in defining absolute zero temperature. In this manner Eysenck (p. 16) concludes, ‘if the measurement of temperature is scientific (and who would doubt that it is?) then so is that of intelligence.’ It should hardly be necessary to point out that all of this is special pleading of the most unabashed sort. In order to measure temperature three requirements are necessary: (i) a scale, (ii) some thermometric property of an object and, (iii) fixed points of reference. Zero temperature is defined theoretically and successive interval points are fixed by the physical properties of material objects. As Byerly (p. 379) notes, that ‘the length of a column of mercury is a thermometric property presupposes a lawful relationship between the order of length and the temperature order under certain conditions.’ It is precisely this lawful relationship which does not exist between the normative IQ scale and any property of intelligence.

Basically, what is the property that IQ tests measure? The answer to the question, it seems, is elusive. Contrary to popular belief of IQ-ists, they do not have any refuge by attempting an argument from analogy on IQ tests and thermometers. IQ tests measure intelligence, says the IQ-ist, just like thermometers measure temperature. However, there is no property measured by IQ tests while the property measured by thermometers is thermal expansion—which is a physical property. Thus, contra Eysenck and Jensen, their attempted analogy fails. The construct of temperature was validated in a non-circular manner independent of the original measurement tool used to measure it (see Chang, 2007). The same cannot be same for IQ.

In a wonderful discussion about the measurement of temperature and how it is nothing at all like “intelligence” (and by identity, how the thermometer is nothing like the IQ test), Evans and Waites (1981: 181) write in their book IQ and Mental Testing: An Unnatural Science and its Social History:

The comparison between IQ test development and thermometer development would be appropriate if the history of thermometers had been quite different from what actually took place. Suppose that it was as follows. A crude thermometer was devised. Further thermometers were then invented, and accepted as satisfactory provided that they yielded results which correlated reasonably well with those obtained from the original device. Research into the relationship between heat and other things produced roughly similar results when different thermometers were used, and when this was not the case, a variety of ad hoc explanations were put forward to account for this. It was not considered necessary to investigate the anomalies further because the rough similarities were considered to be much more significant than the anomalies. In this hypothetical case, we have a very good analogy with the development of IQ tests and with research into such topics as the heritability of IQ, and the relationship between IQ and educational achievement. The reason why there is such a sharp contrast between IQ psychology and what actually took place in the theory of heat and thermometer development follows from our discussion of contemporary psychobiology in Chapter 4. It proved extremely productive to conceive of heat as a unidimensional measurable quantity; it is not productive to conceive of human intelligence in this way.

IQ-ists have claimed for decades that IQ (“intelligence”) is basically identical to temperature. Going back to Nash above, there was a scale, a thermometric property of an object, and a fixed point of reference, along with a lawful relationship between the length of mercury in a thermometer and the temperature, say, outside. There is a theory that is used to validate temperature and thermometers and there is no such sinilar theory for IQ and it’s relation to “intelligence”; there is no validating theory for it like there is for temperature.

The kinetic theory of gases validates temperature and thermometers. The length of a column of mercury increases or decreases due to the surrounding temperature of the environment that the thermometer is in. As the mercury in the thermometer is heated (meaning, when the temperature in the environment increases), this results in an increase of the kinetic energy of the mercury particles. So as this kinetic energy increases, the mercury particles move faster and faster while colliding with each other which then causes the mercury in the thermometer to increase. Meanwhile, as the temperature in the environment deceases, the average kinetic energy of the molecules decreases which then causes the mercury to contract and subsequently decrease in the thermometer. This relationship is quite clearly lawlike and a physical relationship.

The arguments

Now here are a few more arguments that psychology can’t be measured.

P1: Scientific measurement requires a consistent and standardized way of observing or quantifying an object or phenomenon.
P2: Psychological traits cannot be observed or quantified in a consistent or standardized way.
C: So psychological traits cannot be measured scientifically.

P1: If psychological traits are a meaningful object of scientific measurement, then they must be observable or measurable in a consistent and standardized way.
P2: Psychological traits cannot be observed or quantified in a consistent and standardized way.
C: So psychological traits aren’t a meaningful object of scientific investigation.

P1: If X is a specified measured object, or phenomenon, then X can be measured using a standardized measurement unit.
P2: Psychological traits cannot be measured using a standardized measurement unit.
C: So psychological traits aren’t a specified measured object or phenomenon. 

P1: If temperature and IQ were similar, then there would be a theory of cognitive processes similar to the kinetic theory of gases.
P2: There is no theory of cognitive processes similar to the kinetic theory of gases.
C: Thus, temperature and IQ are not similar (MT, P1, P2)
P3: There was a theory of temperature developed in the past.
P4: There was no theory of cognitive processes developed in the past.
C2: So temperature and IQ are not similar and there is no theory of cognitive processes similar to the kinetic theory of gases. (MT, C1, P3, P4)

P1 sets up the conditional relationship between IQ and temperature being similar, and a theory of cognitive processes. P2 states that there is no theory of cognitive processes that is akin to the kinetic theory of gases. The conclusion then follows that IQ and temperature are not similar. P3 and P4 are then deployed to show that while there was a theory developed to account for and explain temperature, there was no such theory for human intelligence (“IQ”) , per Ian Deary: “There is no such thing as a theory of human intelligence differences—not in the way that grown-up sciences like physics or chemistry have theories” (quoted in Richardson, 2012).

So it is therefore false, contra the protestations from Jensen, Eysenck, and Urbach, that IQ is similar to temperature, since temperature is a physical property. If you ask any IQ-ist “What property is being measured by IQ tests?”, they won’t be able to provide a satisfactory answer. That’s because there is no theory behind what the tests are “measuring”. Temperature is a fundamental aspect of the physical world. It is a physical property. Since science only deals with physical properties and phenomena, then it can deal with temperature. Since psychological traits are immaterial, they are therefore immeasurable since they lack a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit.

P1: If temperature and IQ were similar, then they would share similar properties and characteristics.
P2: Temperature is a physical property that can be measured using various devices.
P3: IQ is a psychological construct, and can’t be measured using physical instruments.
C: So temperature and IQ do not share similar properties and characteristics.

P1 is based on the idea that if temperature and IQ were similar as had been asserted for years by hereditarians, then they would have theories explaining then along with the underlying mechanisms for them. This has occurred for temperature, but not for IQ. So the premise suggests that temperature and IQ are not similar. P2 is based on the idea that there is a well-established theory of temperature, but not IQ (see Richardson and Norgate, 2015 for examples of real, valid measures of unseen functions and mechanistic relations between variables). There is no overarching theory of IQ that can explain all aspects of it in the same way that the kinetic theory of gases explains temperature. P3 and P4 are based on historic facts: as alluded to above, the kinetic theory of temperature explains the behavior of molecules which then explains the expansion of mercury in a thermometer (it explains the expansion and contraction of materials and temperature); while there is no single theory that can be considered to be such an explanation for IQ. Therefore, temperature and IQ are not similar, and attempts to treat them as similar are unwarranted.

Now here is the master argument, which I call the physical properties and theories argument, which establishes that temperature is measurable since it is a physical property with an established theory while the same isn’t true for IQ.

P1: Physical quantities are measurable.
P2: Temperature is a physical quantity.
C: Thus, temperature is measurable. (MP, P1, P2).
P3: Psychometric intelligence (“IQ”) is a hypothetical construct.
P4: Hypothetical constructs are unobservable.
P5: If something is unobservable, then it is immeasurable and so it cannot be quantified.
C2: Psychometric intelligence is unobservable and so it is immeasurable thus it can’t be quantified (MT, P1, P3, P4, P5).
P6: The validity of a measurement is based on a well-established theory.
P7: There is a well-established theory of temperature.
C3: Therefore, measurements of temperature are valid. (MP, P6, P7)
P8: There is no well-established theory of cognitive processes.
P9: Psychometric intelligence is (supposedly) a measure of cognitive processes.
C4: Thus, measurements of psychometric intelligence lack validity. (HS, P6, P7, P8,P9)


As can be seen, even if we accept claims from IQ-ists (and we definitely don’t have to), then what they try to argue for still fails. Over the decades, quite a few authors have attempted an argument by analogy—that if the measurement of temperature was a valid scientific method, then so was the measurement of intelligence using IQ tests. However I have provided a few (more) arguments for the claim that IQ is nothing like temperature since temperature is a physical property and psychological traits (IQ) have no theory so they therefore cannot be measurable (along with numerous other arguments). The fact of the matter is, contra Jensen, Eysenck and Urbach, thermometers and temperature are not related—that is, they are not identical with—IQ tests and IQ/intelligence, since one is physical and based on actual physical measurements with a theory and a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit. The same, obviously, cannot be said for IQ. Thus, the claims put forth by Jensen, Eysenck and Urbach fail. Measurement by fiat—like “intelligence”—aren’t theoretically justified (Berka, 1983: 131). I have, yet again, shown that IQ is not a physical measurement, and so, IQ isn’t a physical property, and that there is no specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit for IQ. Therefore, temperature is NOT to IQ like thermometers are NOT to IQ tests.

The scale for temperature measurement was originally defined by stipulation with regard to the mercury thermometer. In this case, the notion of temperature can be interpreted only for materials within the range of their values between the point of thawing and the boiling point of mercury. Since an empirical law exists, according to which one may view temperature (under a constant pressure) in this range as a function of volume, we can measure the temperature of materials indirectly, on the ground of laws, by means of a gas thermometer, i.e., by virtue of establishing the volume which will be occupied by a definite standard amount of gas (under the specified pressure) in contact with the measured material. Should we now use a derived measurement by stipulation, we might decide that temperature will also exist outside the range of the original measurement of the functions of volume. Within the framework of measuring temperature by means of a mercury thermometer, the use of a gas thermometer represents a derived measurement on the basis of laws, while outside this framework it represents a derived measurement by means of stipulation. (Berka, 1983: 130)

Strengthening my Argument to Ban IQ Tests

2500 words

Over three years ago I provided an argument with the ultimate conclusion that IQ tests should be banned. The gist of the argument is that if we believed the hereditarian hypothesis is true and we make policy ascription based on the hereditarian hypothesis and the results that were derived from IQ tests, then a policy could be enacted that would harm a group, and if the policy were enacted, then it would do harm to a group. Thus we should ban whatever led to the policy in question, and so if IQ tests led to the policy in question then IQ tests should be banned. In this article, I will strengthen each premise and then I will provide another argument for why IQ tests should be banned. Here’s the argument:

(P1) The Hereditarian Hypothesis is false
(P2) If the Hereditarian Hypothesis is false and we believed it to be true, then policy A could be enacted.
(P3) If Policy A is enacted, then it will do harm to group G.
(C1) If the Hereditarian Hypothesis is false and we believed it to be true and policy A is enacted, then it will do harm to group G (HypotheticaSyllogismP2, P3).
(P4) If the Hereditarian Hypothesis is false and we believed it to be true and it would harm group G, then we should ban whatever led to policy A.
(P5) If Policy A is derived from IQ tests, then IQ tests must be banned.
(C2) Therefore, we should ban IQ tests (Modus Ponens, P4P5).

Premise 1: The truth or falsity of this premise would divide people. On the one hand, there are proponents of the hereditarian hypothesis who believe that the hereditarian hypothesis is true, and so by banning their main “measurement tool”, then we would be censoring “the truth of human biodiversity.” But what entails “the hereditarian hypothesis”? The hereditarian hypothesis can also be called the generic theory of intelligence. It’s main claim is that the observed differences in IQ between groups and individuals are largely attributed to genetic factors. For example, Rushton and Jensen (2005) claim to take the middle ground in arguing that it’s 50/50 genes and environment that lead to the IQ phenotype. But Rushton and Jensen (2005: 279) claim that the 50/50 estimate of heritability is too low—80 percent G and 20 percent E is what we should assume:

A conundrum for theorists of all persuasions, however, is that there is too little evidence of any environmental effects. The hereditarian model of Black–White IQ differences proposed in Section 2 (50% genetic and 50% environmental), far from precluding environmental factors, requires they be found. Although evidence in Sections 3 to 11 provided strong support for the genetic component of the model, evidence from Section 12 was unable to identify the environmental component. On the basis of the present evidence, perhaps the genetic component must be given greater weight and the environmental component correspondingly reduced. In fact, Jensen’s (1998b, p. 443) latest statement of the hereditarian model, termed the default hypothesis, is that genetic and cultural factors carry the exact same weight in causing the mean Black–White difference in IQ as they do in causing individual differences in IQ, about 80% genetic–20% environmental by adulthood.

I have spent the better part of 3 years since publishing my original article to ban IQ tests arguing against the falsity of the hereditarian hypothesis on many grounds. The hereditarian hypothesis largely relies on heritability estimates derived from twin and adoption studies (and now shifting to neuroscience, like they have been since the 80s) and this is where the “laws of behavioral genetics” came from, but the “laws” fail. Important for the hereditarian position is the claim that science can study the mind. However, science is third-personal while mind is first-personal and subjective. Thus it follows that what is third-personal cannot study what is first-personal. Most important for the hereditarian position is the irreducibility of the mental—for if the claim is that the hereditarian hypothesis is true, then the mental would need to reduce to the physical. Humans have minds which means we have the ability for intentional states and propositional attitudes which implies that humans aren’t fully physical. If the argument there holds then science can’t study what’s immaterial, so there is a part of our constitution that can’t be studied by science. So at the end of the day, the hereditarian hypothesis is a physicalist position on the mind-body problem, but empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments so the hereditarian position can’t help us understand the mind-body problem since it is an empirical position based on a supposed relationship between mind (“IQ”) and genes/brain/brain structure. Finally, the claim that there is a “general intelligence” is false; we don’t need a nonexistent, reified thing to explain the intercorrelations on IQ scores between individuals and groups. IQ tests are mere knowledge tests—and since knowledge is class-dependent, then different classes have different psychological and cultural tools, and so they would have different knowledge. Basically, IQ is an arbitrary notion especially due to the fact that tests can and have changed in the past for different social groups like men and women (Rosser, 1989), and two white South African groups (Hilliard, 2012) while Kidder and Rosner (2002) showed unconscious bias in the SAT favoring whites due to how the questions were selected. All of these considerations combine to show that the hereditarian hypothesis is false and that we should not accept conclusions from anyone who uses the hereditarian hypothesis as a guide.

Premise 2: But if we believed the hereditarian hypothesis to be true even when it’s false, then we may harm a group. For example, Jensen espoused some eugenic-type ideas in his infamous 1969 paper, stating:

“Is there a danger that current welfare policies, unaided by eugenic foresight, could lead to the genetic enslavement of a substantial segment of our population?” – Jensen, 1969: 95How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?

“What the evidence on heritability tells us is that we can, in fact, estimate a person’s genetic standing on intelligence from his score on an IQ test.” – Jensen, 1970, Can We and Should We Study Race Difference?

“… the best thing the black community could do would be to limit the birth-rate among the least-able members, which of course is a eugenic proposal.” – A Conversation with Arthur Jensen, American Reinnasance, 1992

What Jensen wrote in his 1969 paper is similar to what Herrnstein and Murray (1994: 548) wrote:

We can imagine no recommendation for using the govemment to manipulate fertility that does not have dangers. But this highlights the problem: The United States already has policies that inadvertently social-engineer who has babies, and it is encouraging the wrong women. If the United States did as much to encourage high-IQ women to have babies as it now does to encourage low-lQ women, it would rightly be described as engaging in aggressive manipulation of fertility. The technically precise description of America’s fertility policy is that it subsidizes births among poor women, who are also disproportionately at the low end of the intelligence distribution. We urge generally that these policies, represented by the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies, be ended.

While these propositions don’t directly stem from hereditarian ideas, they are a direct consequence of such thinking. Like Shockley and Cattell’s beliefs and how their a priori racist ideas influenced the “science” they performed. So premises 2 and 3 presume a causal link between the hereditarian hypothesis, policy A and harm to group G. One specific example that immediately comes to mind is the sterilization or “morons”, “idiots”, and “imbeciles” in the 1900s even continuing up until the late 1970s. Perhaps the most famous case of this was the case of Carrie Buck, to which a judge famously stated, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Premise 3 clearly has historical support.

Conclusion 1: So, since I’ve argued that P2 and P3 are true, then it follows that C1 is true as well. In the original article, I showed that blacks were disproportionately affected by IQ test rulings. Along with the fact that low IQ people were sterilized, this provides yet more support for the premises and the conclusion of this part of the argument.

Premise 4: I have already given the example above about the eugenics movement of the 1900s in America sterilizing thousands of people for having low IQs (this also occurred around the world). The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment also lends credence to this premise. The US Public Health Service conducted a study from 1932 to 1972 on black Americans where they were observed with syphilis but they weren’t treated after penicillin became available. Segregation laws were based on the belief that the races were inherently different and shouldn’t mix. So in an attempt to prevent mixing, segregation was based on a false belief that blacks were inferior to whites. This is what Darby and Rury (2018) refer to as “the color of mind.”

The Color of Mind [the idea that”blacks were not equal to whites in intelligence, character, or conduct”] has served to rationalize racially exclusionary school practices and unequal educational opportunities, and the effects of these..have worked to sustain this racial ideology

Premise 5: Furthermore, government policies such as redlining and discriniminatory housing policies have led to segregation and inequalities/inequities in education (Rothstein, 2017). These example lend credence to the claim in P4 and P5—policies and practices derived from IQ or other standardized tests can be harmful if they contribute to existing inequalities and disparities. It is quite clear that IQ tests have been used to justify discriminatory polices in the past. Historical and recent considerations point to the fact that IQ tests can and have been used to perpetuate harm on individuals and groups (with the best example being the eugenics movement sterilizing low IQ people, sometimes without their knowledge). The other considerations that weren’t directly related to IQ tests like Tuskegee and Japanese Americans in WW2 show that beliefs that are false that are held to be true can and do lead to devestating consequences for groups of people. The arbitrariness of IQ can also be seen with the death penalty—there are literally life or death consequences riding on the results of a biased test. Moreover, IQ tests have been used to bar immigrants into America in the 1920s (Gould, 1981; Allen, 2006; Richardson, 2011).

Even if IQ tests haven’t been used to enact harmful policies in the past (they quite obviously have), potential future harm is enough. For example, IQ tests are biased in virtue of their item content. So if, say, an employer decides to use IQ tests to select job applicants, they will be necessarily biased by race and class. (Even though IQ tests don’t really have any predictive power for job performance, and whatever relationship between school performance is built in due to the relationship between the items on the tests.)

Thus, the conclusion of the argument that we should ban IQ tests follows. I have argued for the truth of premises 4 and 5 so it then follows that we should ban IQ tests. The argument is valid and I hold it to be sound. So we should ban IQ tests. Nevertheless, here is another argument that we should ban IQ tests:

P1: If IQ tests are not culturally biased and do not perpetuate social inequalities, then they should not be banned.
P2: IQ tests are culturally biased and perpetuate social inequalities.
P3: If IQ tests are culturally biased and perpetuate social inequalities, then IQ tests should be banned.
C: Therefore IQ tests should be banned.


I defended the premises in my original argument more in depth, giving more examples go each premise to justify and strengthen the overall argument. I then gave a new argument stating that since IQ tests at culturally biased, and perpetuate social inequalities then they should be banned. I will now close with a final argument that we should ban IQ tests (hypothetical syllogism):

P1: If IQ tests are biased and have a negative impact on people’s lives, then they should be banned.
P2: If IQ tests are banned, then they will no longer have a negative impact on people’s lives.
C: Therefore, if IQ tests are biased and have a negative impact on people’s lives, then IQ tests should be banned to eliminate  that harm.

All you need to do to see the goal of IQ-ists is to merely read what they write. IQ-ists like Jensen and Lynn have outright stated that we should in Jensen’s case limit the birthrate of the “least-able” while there is a danger that “current welfare policies unaided by eugenic foresight” could lead to a “genetic enslavement” of a substantial portion of the population. While in Lynn’s case, he was much more coy about it that we need to “phase out” such cultures (but he claimed it isn’t genocidal, though the term “phase out” of course tells you his real aims). Nevertheless, IQ-ists like Jensen, Lynn, Shockley, and Cattell have told us exactly what their views are. And their views are derived from, ultimately, heritability estimates derived from research with false assumptions. There is also the case that Pygmalion seems to be in the genes—the act of classifying one based on their polygenic score could have feedback effects based on how they view themselves and how society views them: “Through possible mechanisms of stigma and self-fulfilling prophecies, our results highlight the potential psychosocial harms of exposure to low-percentile polygenic scores for educational attainment” (Matthews et al, 2021).

I don’t even think it makes sense to claim that genes contribute to the ontogeny and differences in psychological traits between individuals. Genes only contribute to physical traits. Genes also don’t work how hereditarians need them to work. This is yet another reason why we should reject the hereditarian hypothesis and, along with it, stop using and banning IQ tests. The claim that genes contribute to the differences in psychological traits between people is not only false, but it has caused much harm since the argument has been mounted. Hereditarians have a ton of work to do on the conceptual front if they ever hope to have a sound basis for their beliefs. I’ve argued for a long time that it’s just not possible.

I don’t think we need a moratorium on these matters, such as behavioral genetics. I will be much more specific:

We need to outright cease and ban behavioral genetic research and IQ testing since they lead to avoidable harms. Since these things are based on flawed assumptions, and since these hardly have an evidentiary basis, the only recourse we should take on the matter is to outright ban them. The arguments given here definitively show that to be the case. If someone tells you who they are, then you listen to them. The main actors in the hereditarian sphere have told us who they are and what they stand for for decades, so we should listen to them and ban behavioral genetic and IQ tests. It’s only right to do so.

The Myth of “General Intelligence”

5000 words


“General Intelligence” or g is championed as the hallmark “discovery” of psychology. First “discovered” by Charles Spearman in 1904, noting that schoolchildren who scored highly on one test scored highly on others and vice versa for lower-scoring children, he assumed that due to the correlation between tests, that there must be an underlying physiological basis to the correlation, which he posited to be some kind of “mental energy”, stating that the central nervous system (CNS) explained the correlation. He proclaimed that g really existed and that he had verified Galton’s claim of a unitary general ability (Richardson, 2017: 82-83). Psychometricians then claim, from these intercorrelations of scores, that what is hidden from us is then revealed, and that the correlations show that something exists and is driving the correlation in question. That’s the goal of psychometrics/psychology—to quantify and then measure psychological traits/mental abilities. However, I have argued at length that it is a conceptual impossibility—the goal of psychometrics is an impossibility since psychometrics isn’t measurement. Therefore, claims that IQ tests measure g is false.

First, I will discuss the reification of g and it’s relation to brain properties. I will argue that if g is a thing then it must have a biological basis, that is it must be a brain property. Reductionists like Jensen have said as much. But it’s due to the reification of g as a concrete, physical thing that has people hold such beliefs. Second, I will discuss Geary’s theory that g is identical with mitochondrial functioning. I will describe what mitochondria does, and what powers it, and then discuss the theory. I will have a negative view of it, due to the fact that he is attempting to co-opt real, actual functions of a bodily process and attempt to weave g theory into it. Third, I will discuss whether or not psychological traits are indeed quantifiable and measurable, and whether or not there is a definition psychometricians can use to ground their empirical investigations. I will argue negatively for all three. Fourth, I will discuss Herrnstein and Murray’s 6 claims in The Bell Curve about IQ and provide a response to each in turn. Fifth, I will discuss the real cause of score variation, which isn’t reduction to a so-called assumed existence of a biological process/mechanism, but which is due to affective factors and exposure to the specific type of knowledge items on the test. Lastly, I will conclude and give an argument for why g isn’t a thing and is therefore immeasurable.

On reifications and brain properties

Contrary to protestations from psychometricians, they in fact do reifiy correlations and then claim that there exists some unitary, general factor that pervades all mental tests. If reification is treating the abstract as something physical, and if psychometrics treat g as something physical, then they are reifying g based on mere intercorrelations between tests. I am aware that, try as they might, they do attempt to show that there is an underlying biology to g, but these claims are defeated by the myriad arguments I’ve raised against the reducibility of the mental to the physical. Another thing that Gould gets at is that psychometricians claim that they can rank people—this is where the psychometric assumption that because we can put a number to their reified thing, that there is something being measured.

Reification is “the propensity to convert an abstract concept (like intelligence) into a hard entity (like an amount of quantifiable brain stuff)” (Gould, 1996: 27). So g theorists treat g as a concrete, physical, thing, which then guides their empirical investigations. They basically posit that the mental has a material basis, and they claim that they can, by using correlations between different test batteries, we can elucidate the causal biological mechanisms/brain properties responsible for the correlation.

Spearman’s theory—and IQ—is a faculty theory (Nash, 1990). It is a theory in which it is claimed that the mind is separated into different faculties, where mental entities cause the intellectual performance. Such a theory needs to keep up the claim that a cognitive faculty is causally efficacious for information processing. But the claim that the mind is “separated” into different faculties fails, and it fails since the mind is a single sphere of consciousness, it is not a complicated arrangement of mental parts. Physicalists like Jensen and Spearman don’t even have a sound philosophical basis on which to ground their theories. Their psychology is inherently materialist/physicalist, but materialism/physicalism is false and so it follows that their claims do not hold any water. The fact of the matter is, Spearman saw what he wanted to see in his data (Schlinger, 2003).

I have already proven that since dualism is true, then the mental is irreducible to the physical and since psychometrics isn’t measurement, then what psychometricians claim to do just isn’t possible. I have further argued that science can’t study first-personal subjective states since science is third-personal and objective. The fact is the matter is, hereditarian psychologists are physicalist, but it is impossible for a purely physical thing to be able to think. Claims from psychometricians about their “mental tests” basically reduce to one singular claim: that g is a brain property. I have been saying this for years—if g exists, it has to be a brain property. But for it to be a brain property, one needs to provide defeaters for my arguments against the irreducibility of the mental and they also need to argue against the arguments that psychometrics isn’t measurement and that psychology isn’t quantifiable. They can assume all they want that it is quantifiable and that since they are giving tests, questionnaires, likert scales, and other kinds of “assessments” to people that they are really measuring something; but, ultimately, if they are actually measuring something, then that thing has to be physical.

Jensen (1999) made a suite of claims trying to argue for a physical basis for g,—to reduce g to biology—though, upon conceptual examination (which I have provided above) these claims outright fail:

g…[is] a biological [property], a property of the brain

The ultimate arbiter among various “theories of intelligence” must be the physical properties of the brain itself. The current frontier of g research is the investigation of the anatomical and physiological features of the brain that cause g.

…psychometric g has many physical correlates…[and it] is a biological phenomenon.

As can be seen, Jensen is quite obviously claiming that g is a biological brain property—and this is what I’ve been saying to IQ-ists for years: If g exists, then it MUST be a property of the brain. That is, it MUST have a physical basis. But for g proponents to show this is in fact reality, they need to attempt to discredit the arguments for dualism, that is, they need to show that the mental is reducible to the physical. Jensen is quite obviously saying that a form of mind-brain identity is true, and so my claim that it was inevitable for hereditarianism to become a form of mind-brain identity theory is quite obviously true. The fact of the matter is, Jensen’s beliefs are reliant upon an outmoded concept of the gene, and indeed even a biologically implausible heritability (Richardson, 1999; Burt and Simons, 2014, 2015).

But Jensen (1969) contradicted himself when it comes to g. On page 9, he writes that “We should not reify g as an entity, of course, since it is only a hypothetical construct intended to explain covariation am ong tests. It is a hypothetical source of variance (individual differences) in test scores.” But then 10 pages later on pages 19-20 he completely contradicts himself, writing that g is “a biological reality and not just a figment of social conventions.” That’s quite the contradiction: “Don’t reifiy X, but X is real.” Jensen then spent the rest of his career trying to reduce g to biology/the brain (brain properties), as we see above.

But we are now in the year 2023, and so of course there are new theoretical developments which attempt to show that Spearman’s hypothesized mental energy really does exist, and that it is the cause of variations in scores and of the positive manifold. This is now where we will turn.

g and mitochondrial functioning

In a series of papers, David Geary (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) tries to argue that mitochondriaal functioning is the core component in g. At last, Spearman’s hypothetical construct has been found in the biology of our cells—or has it?

One of the main functions of mitochondria is to oxidative phosphorylation to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). All living cells use ATP as fuel, it acts as a signaling molecule, it is also involved in cellular differentiation and cell death (Khakh and Burnstock, 2009). The role of mitochondrial functioning in spurring disease states has been known for a while, such as with cardiovascular diseases such as cardiomyopathy (Murphy et al, 2016, Ramaccini at al, 2021).

So due to the positive manifold, where performance in one thing is correlated with a performance in another, Geary assumes—as Spearman and Jensen did before him—that there must be some underlying biological mechanism which then explains the correlation. Geary then uses established outcomes of irregular mitochondrial functioning to then argue that the mental energy that Spearman was looking for could be found in mitochondrial functioning. Basically, this mental energy is ATP. I don’t deny that mitochondriaal functioning plays a role in the acquisition of disease states, indeed this has been well known (eg, Gonzales et al, 2022). What I deny is Gary’s claim that mitochondrial functioning has identity with Spearman’s g.

His theory is, like all other hereditarian-type theories, merely correlative—just like g theory. He hasn’t shown any direct, causal, evidence of mitochondrial functioning in “intelligence” differences (nor for a given “chronological age). That as people age their bodies change which then has an effect on their functioning doesn’t mean that the powerhouse of the cell—ATP—is causing said individual differences and the intercorrelations between tests (Sternberg, 2020). Indeed, environmental pollutants affect mitochondrial functioning (Byun and Baccarelli, 2014; Lambertini and Byun, 2016). Indeed, most—if not all—of Geary’s hypotheses do not pass empirical investigation (Schubert and Hagemann, 2020). So while Geary’s theory is interesting and certainly novel, it fails in explaining what he set out to.

Quantifiable, measurable, definable, g?

The way that g is conceptualized is that there is a quantity of it—where one has “more of it” than other people, and this, then, explains how “intelligent” they are in comparison to others—so implicit in so-called psychometric theory is that whatever it is their tests are tests of, something is being quantified. But what does it mean to quantify something? Basically, what is quantification? Simply, it’s the act of giving a numerical value to a thing that is measured. Now we have come to an impasse—if it isn’t possible to measure what is immaterial, how can we quantify it? That’s the thing, we can’t. The g approach is inherently a biologically reductionist one. Biological reductionism is false. So the g approach is false.

Both Gottfredson (1998) and Plomin (1999) make similar claims to Jensen, where they talks about the “biology of g” and the “genetics of g“. Plomin (1999) claims that studies of twins show that g has a substantial heritability, while Gottfredson (1998) claims that heritability of IQ increases to up until adulthood where it “rises to 60 percent in adolescence and to 80 percent by late adulthood“, citing Bouchard’s MISTRA (Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart). (See Joseph 2022 for critique and for the claim that the heritability of IQ in that study is 0 percent.) They, being IQ-ists, of course assume a genetic component to this mystical g. However, there arguments are based on numerous false assumptions and studies with bad designs (and hidden results), and so they must be rejected.

If X is quantitative, then X is measurable. If X is measurable, then X has a physical basis. Psychological traits don’t have a physical basis. So psychological traits aren’t quantitative and therefore not measurable. Geary’s attempt at arguing for identity between g and mitochondrial functioning is an attempt at a specified measured object for g, though his theory just doesn’t hold. Stating truisms about a biological process and then attempting to liken the process with the construct g just doesn’t work; it’s just a post-hoc rationalization to attempt to liken g with an actual biological process.

Furthermore, if X is quantitative, then there is a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit for X. But this is where things get rocky for g theorists and psychometricians. Psychometry is merely pseudo-measurement. Psychometricians cannot give a specified measured object, and if they can’t give a specified measured object they cannot give an object of measurement. They thusly also cannot construct a measurement unit. Therfore, “the necessary conditions for metrication do not exist” (Nash, 1990: 141). Even Haier (2014, 2018) admits that IQ test scores don’t have a unit that is like inches, liters, or grams. This is because those are ratio scales and IQ is ordinal. That is, there is no “0-point” for IQ, like there is for other actual, real measures like temperature. That’s the thing—if you have a thing to be measured, then you have a physical object and consequently a measument unit. But this is just not possible for psychometry. I then wonder why Haier doesn’t follow what he wrote to its logical conclusion—that the project of psychometrics is just not possible. Of course the concept of intelligence doesn’t have a referent, that is, it doesn’t name a property like height, weight, or temperature (Midgley, 2018:100-101). Even the most-cited definition of intelligence—Gottfredson’s—still fails, since she contradicts herself in her very definition.

Of course IQ “ranks” people by their performance—some people perform better on the test than others (which is an outcome of prior experience). So g theorists and IQ-ists assume that the IQ test is measuring some property that varies between groups which then leads to score differences on their psychometric tests. But as Roy Nash (1990: 134) wrote:

It is impossible to provide a satisfactory, that is non-circular, definition of the supposed ‘general cognitive ability’ IQ tests attempt to measure and without that definition IQ theory fails to meet the minimal conditions of measurement.

But Boeck and Kovas (2020) try to sidestep this issue with an extraordinary claim, “Perhaps we do not need a definition of intelligence to investigate intelligence.” How can we investigate something sans a definition of the object of investigation? How can we claim that a thing is measured if we have no definition, and no specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit, as IQ-ists seem to agree with? Again, IQ-ists don’t take these conclusions to their further logical conclusion—that we simply just cannot measure and quantify psychological traits.

Haier claims that PGS and “DNA profiles” may lead to “new definitions of intelligence” (however ridiculous a claim). He also, in 2009, had a negative outlook on identifying a “neuro g” since “g-scores derived from different test batteries do not necessarily have equivalent neuro-anatomical substrates, suggesting that identifying a “neuro-g” will be difficult” (Haier, 2009). But one more important reason exists, and it won’t just make it “difficult” to identify a neuro g, it makes it conceptually impossible. That is the fact that cognitive localizations are not possible, and that we reify a kind of average in brain activations when we look at brain scans using fMRI. The fact of the matter is, neuroreduction just isn’t possible, empirically (Uttal, 2001, 2014, 2012), nor is it possible conceptually.

Herrnstein and Murray’s 6 claims

Herrnstein and Murray (1994) make six claims about IQ (and also g):

(1) There is such a thing as a general factor of cognitive on which human beings differ.

Of course implicit in this claim is that it’s a brain property, and that people have this in different quantities. However, the discussion above puts this claim to bed since psychological traits aren’t quantitative. This, of course comes from the intercorrelations of test scores. But we will see that most of the source of variation isn’t even entirely cognitive and is largely affective and due to one’s life experiences (due to the nature of the item content).

(2) All standardized tests of academic aptitude or achievement measure this general factor to some degree, but IQ tests expressly designed for that purpose measure it most accurately.

Of course Herrnstein and Murray are married to the idea that these tests are measures of something, that since they give different numbers due to one’s performance, there must be an underlying biology behind the differences. But of course, psychometry isn’t true measurement.

(3) IQ scores match, to a first degree, whatever it is that people mean when they use the word intelligent or smart in ordinary language.

That’s because the tests are constructed to agree with prior assumptions on who is or is not “intelligent.” As Terman constructed his Stanford-Binet to agree with his own preconceived notions of who is or is not “intelligent”: “By developing  an exclusion-inclusion criteria that favored the  aforementioned groups, test developers created a norm “intelligent” (Gersh, 1987, p.166) population “to differentiate subjects of known superiority from subjects of known inferiority” (Terman, 1922, p. 656)” (Bazemoore-James, Shinaprayoon, and Martin 2017). Of course, since newer tests are “validated”(that is, correlated with) older, tests (Richardson, 199120002002, 2017Howe, 1997), this assumption is still alive today.

(4) IQ scores are stable, although not perfectly so, over much of a person’s life.

IQ test scores are malleable, and this of course would be due to the experience one has in their lives which would then have them ready to take a test. Even so, if this claim were true, it wouldn’t speak to the “biology” of g.

(5) Properly administered IQ tests are not demonstrably biased against social, economic, ethnic, or racial groups.

This claim is outright false and can be known quite simply: the items on IQ tests derive from specific classes, mainly the white middle-class. Since this is true, it would then follow that people who are not exposed to the item content and test structures wouldn’t be as prepared as those who are. Thus, IQ tests are biased against different groups, and if they are biased against different groups it also follows that they are biased for certain groups, mainly white Americans. (See here for considerations on Asians.)

(6) Cognitive ability is substantially heritable, apparently no less than 40 percent and no more than 80 percent.

It’s nonsense to claim that one can apportion heritability into genetic and environmental causes, due to the interaction between the two. IQ-ists may claim that twin, family, and adoption studies show that IQ is X amount heritable so there must thusly be a genetic component to differences in test scores. But the issue with heritability has been noted for decades (see Charney, 2012, 2016, 2022; Joseph, 2014, Moore and Shenk, 2016, Richardson, 2017) so this claim also fails. There is also the fact that behavioral genetics doesn’t have any “laws.” It’s simply fallacious to believe that nature and nurture, genes and environment, contribute additively to the phenotype, and that their relative contributions to the phenotype can be apportioned. But hereditarians need to keep that facade up, since it’s the only way their ideas can have a chance at working.

What explains the intercorrelations?

We still need an explanation of the intercorrelations between test scores. I have exhaustively argued that the usual explanations from hereditarianism outright fail—g isn’t a biological reality and IQ tests aren’t a measure at all because psychometrics isn’t measurement. So what explains the intercorrelations? We know that IQ tests are comprised of different items, whether knowledge items or more “abstract” items like the Raven. Therefore, we need to look to the fact that people aren’t exposed to certain things, and so if one comes across something novel that they’ve never been exposed to, they thusly won’t know how to answer it and their score will then be affected due to their ignorance of the relationship between the question and answer on the test. But there are other things irrespective of the relationship between one’s social class and the knowledge they’re exposed to, but social class would still then have an effect on the outcome.

IQ is, merely, numerical surrogates for class affiliation (Richardson, 1999; 2002; 2022). The fact of the matter is, all human cognizing takes place in specific cultural contexts in which cultural and psychological tools are used. This means, quite simply, that culture-fair tests are impossible and, therefore, that such tests are necessarily biased against certain groups, and so they are biased for certain groups. Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive development and his concepts of psychological and cultural tools is apt here. This is wonderfully noted by Richardson (2002: 288):

IQ tests, the items of which are designed by members of a rather narrow social class, will tend to test for the acquisition of a rather particular set of cultural tools: in effect, to test, or screen, for individuals’ psychological proximity to that set per se, regardless of intellectual complexity or superiority as such.

Thinking is culturally embedded and contextually-specific (although irreducible to physical things), mediated by specific cultural tools (Richardson, 2002). This is because one is immersed in culture immediately from birth. But what is a cultural tool? Cultural tools include language (Weitzman, 2013) (it’s also a psychological tool), along with “different kinds of numbering and counting, writing schemes, mnemonic technical aids, algebraic symbol systems, art works, diagrams, maps, drawings, and all sorts of signs (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996; Stetsenko, 1999)” (Robbins, 2005). Children are born into cultural environments, and also linguistically-mediated environments (Vasileva and Balyasnikova, 2019). But what are psychological tools? One psychological tool (which would also of course be cultural tools) would be words and symbols (Vallotton and Ayoub, 2012).

Vygotsky wrote: “In human behavior, we can observe a number of artificial means aimed at mastering one’s own psychological processes. These means can be conditionally called psychological tools or instruments… Psychological tools are artificial and intrinsically social, rather than natural and individual. They are aimed at controlling human behavior, no matter someone else’s or one’s own, just as technologies are aimed at controlling nature” (Vygotsky, 1982, vol. 1, p. 103, my translation). (Falikman, 2021).

The source of variation in IQ tests, after having argued that social class is a compound of the cultural tools one is exposed to. Furthermore, it has been shown that the language and numerical skills used on IQ tests are class-dependent (Brito, 2017). Thus, the compounded cultural tools of different classes and racial groups then coalesce to explain how and why they score the way they do. Richardson (2002: 287-288) writes

that the basic source of variation in IQ test scores is not entirely (or even mainly) cognitive, and what is cognitive is not general or unitary. It arises from a nexus of sociocognitive-affective factors determining individuals’ relative preparedness for the demands of the IQ test. These factors include (a) the extent to which people of different social classes and cultures have acquired a specific form of intelligence (or forms of knowledge and reasoning); (b) related variation in ‘academic orientation’ and ‘self-efficacy beliefs’; and (c) related variation in test anxiety, self-confidence, and so on, which affect performance in testing situations irrespective of actual ability.

Basically, what explains the intercorrelations of test scores—so-called g—are affective, non-cognitive factors (Richardson and Norgate, 2015). Being prepared for the tests, being exposed to the items on the tests (from which are drawn from the white middle-class) explains IQ score differences, not a mystical g that some have more of than others. That is, what explains IQ score variation is one’s “distance” from the middle-class—this follows due to the item content on the test. At the end of the day, IQ tests don’t measure the ability for complex cognition. (Richardson and Norgate, 2014). So one can see that differing acquisition of cultural tools by different cultures and classes would then explain how and why individuals of those groups then attain different knowledge. This, then, would license the claim that one’s IQ score is a mere outcome of their proximity to the certain cultural tools in use in the tests in question (Richardson, 2012).

The fact of the matter is, children do not enter school with the same degree of readiness (Richardson, 2022), and this is due to their social class and the types of things they are exposed to in virtue of their class membership (Richardson and Jones, 2019). Therefore, the explanation for these differences in scores need not be some kind of energy that people have in different quantities, it’s only the fact that from birth we are exposed to different cultures and therefore different cultural and psychological tools which then causes differences in the readiness of children for school. We don’t need to posit any supposed biological mechanism for that, when the answer is clear as day.


As can be seen from this discussion, it is clear that IQ-ist claims of g as a biological brain property fail. They fail because psychometrics isn’t measurement. They fail because psychometricians assume that what they are “measuring” (supposedly psychological traits) have a physical basis and have the necessary components for metrication. They fail because the proposed biology to back up g theory don’t work, and claiming identity between g and a biological process doesn’t mean that g has identity between that biological process. Merely describing facts about physiology and then attempting to liken it to g doesn’t work.

Psychologists try so very hard for psychology to be a respected science, even when what they are studying bares absolutely no relationship to the objects of scientific study. Their constructs are claimed to be natural kinds, but they are merely historically contingent. Due to the way these tests are constructed, is it any wonder why such score differences arise?

The so-called g factor is also an outcome of the way tests are constructed:

Subtests within a battery of intelligence tests are included n the basis of them showing a substantial correlation with the test as a whole, and tests which do not show such correlations are excluded. (Tyson, Jones, and Elcock, 2011: 67)

This is why there is a correlation between all subtests that comprise a test. Because it is an artificial creation of the test constructors, just like their normal curve. Of course if you pick and choose what you want in your battery or test, you can then coax it to get the results you want and then proclaim that what explains the correlations are some sort of unobserved, hidden variable that individuals have different quantities of. But the assumption that there is a quantity of course assumes that there is a physical basis to that thing. Physicalists like Jensen, Spearman, and then Haier of course presume that intelligence has a physical basis and is either driven by genes or can be reduced to neurophysiology. These claims don’t pass empirical and conceptual analysis. For these reasons and more, we should reject claims from hereditarian psychologists when they claim that they have discovered a genetic or neurophysiological underpinning to “intelligence.”

At the end of the day, the goal of psychometrics is clearly impossible. Try as they might, psychometricians will always fail. Their “science” will never be on the level of physics or chemistry, and that’s because they have no definition of intelligence, nor a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit. They know this, and they attempt to construct arguments to argue their way out of the logical conclusions of those facts, but it just doesn’t work. “General intelligence” doesn’t exist. It’s a mere creation of psychologists and how they make their tests, so it’s basically just like the bell curve. Intelligence as an essence or quality is a myth; just because we have a noun “intelligence” doesn’t mean that there really exists a thing called “intelligence” (Schlinger, 2003). The fact is the matter is, intelligence is simply not an explanatory concept (Howe, 1997).

IQ-ist ideas have been subject to an all-out conceptual and empirical assault for decades. The model of the gene they use is false, (DNA sequences have no privileged causal role in development), heritability estimates can’t do what they need them to do, how the estimates are derived rest on highly environmentally-confounded studies, the so-called “laws” of behavioral genetics are anything but, they lack definitions and specified measured objects, objects of measurement and measurement units. It is quite simply clear that hereditarian ideas are not only empirically false, but they are conceptually false too. They don’t even have their concepts in order nor have they articulated exactly WHAT it is they are doing, and it clearly shows. The reification of what they claim to be measuring is paramount to that claim.

This is yet another arrow in the quiver of the anti-hereditarian—their supposed mental energy, their brain property, simply does not, nor can it, exist. And if it doesn’t exist, then they aren’t measuring what they think they’re measuring. If they’re not measuring what they think they’re measuring, then they’re showing relationships between score outcomes and something else, which would be social class membership along with everything else that is related with social class, like exposure to the test items, along with other affective variables.

Now here is the argument (hypothetical syllogism):

P1: If g doesn’t exist, then psychometricians are showing other sources of variation for differences in test scores.

P2: If psychometricians are showing other sources of variation for differences in test scores and we know that the items on the tests are class-dependent, then IQ score differences are mere surrogates for social class.

C: Therefore, if g doesn’t exist, then IQ score differences are mere surrogates for social class.

On Asian Immigration to the United States, Hyper-Selectivity, and Hereditarian Musings on Asian Academic Success

5500 words


Hereditarians champion Asians (specifically East Asians) as proof of their gene-centric worldview—that their genetic constitution allows their stellar performance in educational and life outcomes. However, scholars have noted for decades that Asians are a specially selected group—using what is known as “hyper-selectivity” or “educational selectivity.” Immigrants that are more likely to have a college degree compared to those in their native country and their host nation; they bring over different kinds of class tools that then help their progeny in the next generation. This selectivity gives the children of immigrants—whether it be 1.5 generation (children that emigrated during adolescence) or second generation children—a better “starting point”, and, along with the cultural tools, allows them to succeed in America. In this article, I will describe the process of immigration of certain Asian groups to America, and then I will argue that what explains their success today is not genes as hereditarians try to argue, but the selectivity of the population in question and then I will argue against the hereditarian position.

Although they seem dissimilar, educational and hyper-selectivity share some common ground. Immigrant selectivity describes the fact that those who emigrate are not a random sample of the population from which they derive, but they have better educational accolades than those that stayed behind (Borjas, 1987; Borjas, Kauppinen, and Poutvaara, 2018; Sporlein and Kristen, 2019). There is then the concept of negative selection, too (contrasted with positive selection, which is what educational and hyper-selectivity are). There is both a positive and negative selection occurring, and immigrants are indeed a self-selected group with selection also occurring for unobserved traits (Aydemir, 2003). Indeed, migrants to less equal countries like the US are positively selected (Parry et al, 2017) and those that do migrate are more skilled, ambitious, and motivated (Cattaneo, 2007). Immigrants are in general more educated than those who do not migrate, but this differs depending on country of origin (Feliciano, 2005) while economic migrants are favorably self-selected (Chiswick, 1999).

From immigrant yellow peril to model minority

Asian immigration to the United States has been occurring in large numbers since the 1860s. During that time, Chinese immigrants wanted to escape the horrid situation in China and try their luck in the California gold rush and they had aspirations to return to China after they had made some money. They mostly came from the Guangdong province in China (Jorae, 2009). This was the first wave of Asian immigration to America. Between 1882 and 1943 the US government severely restricted the immigration of the Chinese into America since they were emigrating to work on the transcontinental railroad, and they passed the legislation so native-born Americans could get the jobs (Zellar, 2003; Gates, 2017). (It’s also worth noting that immigrant labor between 1880s and 1920s was a necessary condition for the industrial revolution; Hirschman and Mogford, 2009.) The first exclusionary act was the act of May, 6 1882, and it had lasting negative effects until at least the 1940s (Long et al, 2022). Chinese immigrants then began a “revolving door system” where young workers replaced older workers (Chew, Leach, and Liu, 2018). In 1885, the first Chinese-only school was opened. So in 1892 the second piece of legislation—the Geary Act—was passed, which was a further exclusionary tactic. Porteus and Babcock (1926: 37) noted how by 1888 that the Chinese in Hawaii “had infiltrated every trade and occupation in the islands.” It was then in 1942 where FDR repealed these two legislations on the Chinese.

But perceptions on the Chinese began to change. From being known as “the yellow peril” in the late 19th to early 20th century, a Gallup poll in 1942 stated that the Chinese were “hardworking, honest, brave, religious, intelligent, and practical” while in that same poll, the Japanese were described as “treacherous, sly, cruel, and warlike.” This of course speaks to the xenophobic attitudes of Americans at the time, and further speaks to the kind of “villain of the week” mentality.

The second wave of Asian immigration was the Japanese and the became the new source of cheap labor after the Chinese in the early 20th century. They were treated as the Chinese were treated previously, and due to a “gentleman’s agreement” between Japan in America in 1908, Japan limited migration of Japanese to America to non-laborers (Hirschman and Wong, 1987: 6). But the immigration act of 1924—the Johnson Reed Act—even barred Asian immigration from countries from which it previously allowed. Nevertheless, previous attitudes on the Chinese and Japanese show one important thing—that racist ideals toward a group of people can and do change over the years.

When it comes to the Taiwanese, they had already secured a spot in America by having a large amount of Taiwanese immigrants that who had college degrees before 1965. After the Hart-Cellar act was passed they stayed in the country and then sponsored their highly educated family members to America, and so this is an explanation for why there is hyper-selectivity (Model, 2017).

From a “peril” and “treacherous and warlike” to “hardworking, honest and intelligent” in mere decades. Americans in the early 20th century, in fact, looked at Asians back then as blacks are looked at today, with similar claims made about genital and brain size to Asians back then.

Asians are said to be “model minorities” today, due to their educational attainment and higher incomes. Lee and Zhou (2015: 31-32) state three things about “model minority” status:

(1) It overlooks the fact that Asians aren’t a monolith and comprise many different ethnic groups that don’t have the same model outcomes.

(2) It has been used to claim that “race doesn’t matter” in America since Asians can apparently make it in America despite non-white status.

(3) It pits Asian Americans against other minorities.

It has been said that the model minority stereotype “masks a history of discrimination“, “holds Asian Americans back at work” and that it “hurts us all.” I will explain higher educational attainment below, but when it comes to higher incomes, Asian families are more likely to live in extended (auxiliary) families which contribute to the income of the household (Reyes, 2019). Asian American families have an average of 3.5 people, which makes them larger than the average US family. As Jennifer Lee notes:

High household incomes among Asian Americans can also be explained by “the fact that some live in multi-generational homes with more than one person earning an income,” said Jennifer Lee, a sociology professor at the University of California at Irvine, and co-author of the book “The Asian-American Achievement Paradox.” “You have parents, grandparents, an aunt, some children.”

Nevertheless, the history of Asians in America—whether it’s when they first arrived and the racism they faced or today being seen as “model minorities”, is suggestive as to why they are so successful in America today. They are so successful because it’s not merely any kind of people of the country in question that emigrate, it’s a specific kind of people with specific outlooks and qualifications. This, in effect, then explains the how and why of Asian academic achievement.

Hyper-selectivity and the Asian American experience

Hyper-selectivity refers to the “higher percentage of college graduates among immigrants compared to non-migrants from their country of origin, and a higher percentage of college graduates compared to the host country” (Lee and Zhou, 2015: 15). This selective process began in the 1960s, and the federal policies themselves select a particular kind of entrant into the country (Juun, 2007; Ho, 2017; Model, 2017). Asians in America can be said to be a “middleman minority” (Hirschman and Wong, 1987), where a “middleman minority” refers to “minority entrepreneurs who mediate between the dominant and subordinate group” (Douglas and Saenz, 2008; see also Bonacich, 1973). It is an occupational pattern rather than a status (Lou, 1988). Lee and Rong (1988) seek explanations of Asian educational success in terms of family structure, along with middleman and niche theories of migration.

Some would uphold a culturalist thesis—that what explains exceptional educational outcomes for Asians would be their culture. For example, Asian Americans study about one hour more per day than whites (Tang, 2021), though one 2011 analysis found that Asians spent more time studying and doing homework—Asians spent 13 hours per week studying while whites only studies for 5. Asian Americans spend significantly more time studying than other racial groups (Ramey and Shao, 2017). When it comes to homework, black students spent 36 minutes on homework, “Hispanic” students spent 50 minutes, white students spent 56 minutes, and Asians spent 2 hours and 14 minutes doing homework, while they also spent more time on other supplementary educational tasks (Dunachik and Park, 2022). Asian American parents were also more likely to spend 20 minutes with their children helping with their homework (Garcia, 2013).

Some would state that this is due to an “Asian culture”, but reality tells a different story. The hyper-selectivity of Asians explains this, and their successes cannot be reduced to their culture. Lee and Zhou (2017) state that “Asian immigrants to the United States are hyper-selected, which results in the transmission and recreation of middle-class specific cultural frames, institutions, and practices, including a strict success frame as well as an ethnic system of supplementary education to support the success frame for the second generation.Yiu (2013) notes that Chinese in Spain have much lower educational attainment and ambitions in comparison to other ethnies in Spain. Merely twenty percent of Chinese youth were enrolled in post-secondary school, while 40 percent of all youths and 30 percent of all immigrants were (Yiu, 2013).

Context matters. And the ambitions of a group of people would then depend on national context. This is what Noam (2014) found for the Chinese in the Netherlands—where Chinese Americans accept the cultural values of high educational attainment, Chinese Dutch oppose them:

In the United States and
the Netherlands the second-generation Chinese approach their ethnocultural values regarding education in dissimilar ways—either accepting or opposing them—yet they both adjust them to their national context.

What is termed the “immigrant paradox” is stronger in Asian and African than other immigrants (Crosnoe and Turley, 2017). Tran et al (2018) note how likely a certain immigrant group would be to have a higher degree in comparison to those in their country of origin:

Among the population age twenty-five and older, first-generation immigrants reported significantly higher percentages of having a bachelor’s degree or higher than their nonmigrant counterparts in respective home countries. This achievement gap is most striking between Chinese nonmigrants and Chinese immigrants in the United States, but also substantial for the other three groups. Only 3.6 percent of nonmigrant Chinese reported having a college education, but 52.7 percent of immigrant Chinese held a bachelor’s degree. This hyper-selectivity ratio of 17:1 between immigrant and nonmigrant means that Chinese immigrants were disproportionately well educated relative to non-migrants. This ratio is about 8:1 for Asian Indians. This gap is also quite stark among Nigerians. Immigrant Nigerians (63.8 percent) were six times more likely than their nonmigrant counterparts to report having a bachelor’s degree or more (11.5 percent). Their hyper-selectivity ratio is about 6:1. Similarly, 23.5 percent of immigrant Cubans reported having a college degree relative to only 14.2 percent of nonmigrant Cubans, a gap of 9 percent. Among Armenians, the corresponding gap is about 10 percent.

Genetic and cultural hypotheses have been contrasted in an attempt to explain why Asian Americans excel over and above whites. Sue and Okazaki (1990) take a structuralist interpretation—they argue that Asians believe that education is paramount for social mobility. Lynn (1991) rejects Sue and Okazaki’s relative functionalism hypothesis, though it should be noted that hereditarian beliefs about genes and IQ are highly suspect and, frankly, do not work. There is also the fact that, as Sue and Okazaki (1990: 48), note that “Lynn failed to take into account the fact that the Japanese samples tended to have higher socioeconomic standing and a higher representation of urban than rural children than did the American samples from which the norms were constructed.” (Also see Sautman, 1994 and Yee, 1992: 111.) Sue and Okazaki showed that Asians differed from white Americans on one question—they were more likely than white Americans to believe that success in life was related to school success, and this is consistent with the Lee and Zhou account.

In Lynn’s (1991) reply to Sue and Okazaki, he notes that their relative functionalism hypothesis has to be dismissed, but he did not discount the role of motivation, staying longer in school and doing more homework. He then—in typical Lynn style—claims that these traits have high heritability and so a genetic hypothesis should not be discounted. Sue and Okazaki (1991) responded, discussing Lynn’s views on CWT, Asian adoptees, and what he says about their relative functionalism hypothesis. In any case, Lynn’s reply is in no way satisfactory, since his belief that genes contribute to IQ scores (that IQ is genetically mediated) is false. Nevertheless, Flynn showed that when IQ is held constant, that when compared with whites, that “Asian’s achievements exceed those of Whites by a huge amount.”

PumpkinPerson claims, using the Coleman report (Coleman, 1966) that “the incredible scores of Oriental Americans is not at all explained by selective immigration” and that he “decided to compare them in the first grade before environment has had much time to cause differences.” I will take both if these claims in turn.

(1) This is false. While selection wasn’t really a thing for Chinese immigrants, it has been noted that the children of Chinese immigrants during the Exclusion period had “greater human capital than those of unrestricted immigrants, despite restricted immigrants having lower skill” which “suggests particularly strong intergenerational transmission of skill among Chinese immigrants of the exclusion era” (Chen, 2015). It is a truism that the Chinese of this time period were not selected in the nature that Asian immigrants are today, but discrimination did lead to their assimilation (Chen and Xie, 2020). Indeed, second-generation Chinese Americans attending American schools had good schooling (Djang, 1935: 101). And for Japanese Americans, Hirschman and Wong (1986: 9) point out:

Another important feature of Asian immigration was the educational selectivity of different streams of immigrants. While the educational composition of recent Asian immigrants has been extraordinary (Chen 1977; North 1974; Pernia 1976), this was not always the case. Most of the early Asian immigrants to the United States, like their counterparts from Europe, arrived with only minimal educational qualifications. The important exception was early Japanese immigrants. Data from the 1960 Census show that Japanese immigrants, above age 65 in 1960, had a median eight years of schooling-comparable to the figure for the white population of the same age (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1963a, 1963c). This finding is corroborated by earlier studies which report a very selective pattern of Japanese immigration to the United States, particularly to the mainland (Ichihashi 1932; Kitano 1976; Petersen 1971; Strong [1934] 1970).

(2) The home environment before first-grade does have a large effect on outcomes (e.g., Brooks-Gunn et al, 1996). Of course exposure to different kinds of things in the household would explain certain outcomes later in life, such as test scores.

In the book Temperament and Race, Porteus and Babcock (1926: 119-120) discussed the racial rankings of grades by one researcher, with the following chart, showing similar findings to Coleman:

They also discussed the Thorndike Examination of High School Graduates in Hawaii from 1922-1923, that the Chinese and Japanese scored below whites but this could be seen as them not having full English proficiency. Chun (1940: 35) showed that “Anglo Saxons” has Binet IQs of 100, and IQs of 87 and 85 for the Chinese and Japanese respectively, and this is similar to what Porteus and Babcock (1926) showed for Chinese and Japanese too. This also could be due to low English proficiency. Chun (1940) also shows that there were a large amount of schools for the Chinese as well. Coupled with the fact that immigrants aren’t a random sample of the population from which they derive, selection therefore explains these values. It’s quite clear that the Chinese had good education since the 1880s with the introduction of Chinese schools on the mainland and in Hawaii, and along with the fact that Japanese immigrants had education on par with whites at the time, of course the selectivity of the population along with the education they got clearly mattered.

When it comes to Asian immigration post-1965, “The new preference system allowed highly skilled professionals, primarily doctors, nurses, and engineers from Asian countries, to immigrate and eventually to sponsor their families” (Hirschman 2015), while the Act resulted in a majority of nurses that came from Asia (Rockett et al, 1989; Masselink and Jones, 2015). Erika Lee notes in The Making of Asian America (2017: 287):

As in the past, Asian immigrants are highly regulated by immigration laws, but the emphasis of U. S. Laws in admitting family-sponsored immigrants and professional, highly skilled individuals has meant that the majority of New arrivals from to join family already here and bring a different set of educational and professional skills than earlier immigrants.”

Hsin and Xie (2014) showed that, rather than “cognitive ability” and sociodemographics, higher academic effort explains the Asian-White achievement gap. They argue that beliefs in academic effort along with immigrant status explains the relationship. Teachers have higher, more positive expectations for Asian students, and that such positive stereotypes will further influence their excelling, which is a pygmalion effect (Hsin and Xie, 2014). And so, the Asian-White achievement gap can be explained by higher academic effort, not IQ or SES, it’s driven by the Asian-White difference in academic effort. I don’t see an issue using teacher ratings, since teacher ratings have shown an even higher correlation between the accuracy of teacher’s assessments and IQ, at .65 as one study notes (Hoge and Coladarci, 1989) while a newer analysis showed a correlation of .80 (Kaufmann, 2019). Lee (2014) described why Asians have higher academic effort in comparison to Americans:

differences in the cultural frame and the resources used to support it help to explain why the children of some Asian immigrant groups get ahead, despite their socioeconomic disadvantage.

However, Hsin and Xie (2014) do note a suite of negative effects:

Studies show that Asian-American youth are less psychologically adjusted (32) and socially engaged (33) in school than their white peers. They may experience more conflict in relationships with parents because of the high educational expectations their parents place on them (32). Asian-American youth are under pressure to meet extraordinarily high standards because they consider other high achieving coethnics, rather than native-born whites, to be their reference group (7).

Even low-SES Asians have a high drive to succeed in academics, having work ethic similar to the white and Asian middle-class, and one attempted explanation is due to Confucian values (Liu, and Xie, 2016). Though Lee and Zhou (2020) have successfully argued against this claim, stating that second generation Chinese in Spain do not have such high educational attainment in Spain (Yiu, 2013), refuting the reduction of educational attainment to Confucian beliefs of Asians, since other Asian immigrants that do not share such Confucian beliefs are also hyper-selected. And while Asian American parents do hold higher educational expectations for their children in comparison to white American parents (Kao, 1995), this too is consistent with the Lee and Zhou account.

In a series of papers, Sakamoto (2017) and Sakamoto and Wang (2020) try to argue against the hyper-selectivity thesis. Sakamoto and Wang, I think, underestimate the importance of hyper-selectivity in explaining Asian educational achievements. They argue that cultural factors explain Asian American success, while Zhou and Lee (2017) argue that it’s due to selective migration patters that favor highly-able immigrants. Sakamoto and Wang claim that cultural factors explain the most about Asian achievement, but Zhou and Lee state that cultural factors alone cannot account for their achievement—cultural factors like Confucianism. While individual effort does play a role, as Hsin and Xie (2014) argue, of course cultural and structural factors also play a role, the argument given by Sakamoto and Wang can be refuted by the following argument:

(1) If selective migration is a significant factor in explaining the success of Asian Americans, then class background can’t be the sole explanation of their success. (2) Selective migration is a significant factor that explains the success of Asian Americans. (3) But Sakamoto and Wang claim that class background is basically the only reason for higher Asian American achievement. Since (3) contradicts (2) and (2) is true, then we can reject (3). Thus, the argument in Sakamoto and Wang does not refute the argument in Zhou and Lee.

Further, not all Asian immigrants enjoy the same level of success, since other Asian immigrants (like South Asians) are less likely to have selective migratory patterns than East Asians. Therefore, this shows that selective migration, and not culture, is paramount in explaining Asian American academic achievement. Hyper-selectivity on its own does not set the stage for Asian American achievement, but it does set the stage for the remaking of cultural practices which then forster educational success. Culture does matter, but not in the way that most conceptualize it. Sakamoto and Wang do not refute Zhou and Lee, since Zhou and Lee (2017: 8) provide evidence that “culture has structural roots and that cultural patterns emerge from structural circumstances of contemporary immigration.”

Hereditarian explanations of Asian educational achievement

For decades, hereditarians have argued that Asian educational achievements in contrast to whites’ are due to their “cognitive ability” (“IQ”), which is genetically mediated, on the basis of heritability estimates. For instance, hereditarians use data from transracial adoptees to try to argue that genetic differences cause differences in IQ between Asians and whites and then whites and blacks. However, this can be explained by adoptions’ beneficial effects for IQ and the Flynn effect (Thomas, 2017).

Hereditarians claim that since they argue for East Asian superiority, that they therefore are not racists. Sautman (1994: 80) noted how since hereditarians claim that they since they speak of East Asians being superior to whites, they therefore show a lack of bias in their assessment of racial differences:

In clustering East Asians and whites as genetically-favored and Africans, Southeast Asians and others as disfavored, Western race theorists use East Asians as a “racial wedge” against other non-whites. They argue that highlighting East Asian, not white, superiority shows an absence of bias. Thus, a criminologist who legs putatively higher crime rates of US blacks to r-strategy reproduction, underscores that he is “not a member of the least criminal racial group” (i.e. East Asians). A professor of management writes that whites will feel more comfortable in recognizing black inferiority if they know that East Asians outscore whites on IQ tests. a British journalist has queried “If they [East Asians] can be cleverer than we are, why can’t we be cleverer than some other group?”

This is just as Hilliard (2012: 86) remarks:

[Herrnstein, Murray and Rushton] used this representation of whites as more cognitively advanced than blacks but less than Asians to silence those critics who insisted that the race researchers’ findings were ethnically self-serving. Rushton thus posed the question, “If my work was motivated by racism, why would I want Asians to have bigger brains than whites?” … it became useful to tout the Asians’ cognitive superiority but only so long as whites remained above blacks in the cognitive hierarchy.

The phrase “Mongoloid idiot” was coined, due to supposed similarities between Asians and people with Down syndrome. Along with being a sexual danger to white women, this then corresponded with how they were perceived—race scientists concluded that they had smaller brains than whites. This is noted in Lieberman’s (2001) Table 1 on the ever-changing skull size differences between the races.

The hierarchy changed right as East Asia began to modernize and have an economic boom (Lieberman, 2001). So we go from racism against East Asians, naming syndromes after them, saying they have small brains and large penises, to model minorities, high IQ, larger brains, lower sexual drive and booming economies. This speaks to the contextual-dependence of such claims, and that attitudes toward certain groups do indeed change over time.

To attempt to explain IQ and other differences between races, Lynn proposed that the harshness of cold winters shaped the cognitive skills of Europeans and East Asians over millenia, and that this explains why Asians score higher than whites and whites over blacks (Lynn, 1991, 2006a: 135-136, 2019; Rushton, 1997: 228-230, 2012). Many issues with these just-so stories and evolutionary theories (r/K theory) have been levied, showing that they merely “explain” observations, with no novel predictions, nevermind the anthropological misunderstandings from Lynn, Rushton, Jensen, and Kanazawa. Lynn (1991) attempted to show that children from Hong Kong showed higher reaction times and had higher IQs than British children, which he interpreted as having a neurological basis. Though, due to omissions and misinterpretations of data, we cannot accept Lynn’s conclusions (Thomas, 2011).

Lynn (2006b) repeats the same claims he has since he started to collate studies on national “IQs” (see Richardson, 2004). Beginning in 2002, Lynn and Vanhanen attempted to collate a mass of IQ studies around the world and then show the “intelligence of nations” (Lynn and Vanhanen, 2002; Lynn and Becker, 2019). Though, ignoring the fact that Lynn cherry-picked Chinese IQ studies that fit his a priori beliefs, “‘National IQ’ datasets do not provide accurate, unbiased or comparable measures of cognitive ability worldwide” (Sear, 2022; also see Moreale and Levendis, 2012; Ebbeson, 2020).

On that same note, the Chinese are notorious for cheating on standardized tests, they are cheating on the SAT, GRE, and other examinations, and they pay up to $6000 to have people take tests for them. There was, also, a large UCLA cheating ring which was recently busted. There is also the fact that the OECD allows China to administer the PISA in select regions, so the claim cannot be made that PISA results are representative of China. There is also the fact that the Chinese have what is called a “hukuo system” which is a tool for controlling migration from rural to urban areas. And so, even though some children may for example attend school in Shanghai, when it comes to for hukuo, they must return to their province of origin. It’s clear that the Chinese game standardized tests. They are cheating the PISA system by being selective on the students they administer the test to in Shanghai by doing hukuo.

Lynn (2010) argued that it was unnecessary to contribute the success of East Asians to Confucian values (this is true), and that IQ explains East Asian success in math and science. Though, what does explain their success is their selectivity, not their IQ. Lynn (2006a: 89) claimed that “The Chinese and Japanese who emigrated to the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century were largely peasants who came to do unskilled work on the construction of the railways and other building work.” While this is true to a point, it’s irrelevant and skirts around the fact that, as Hirschman and Wong noted, Japanese immigrants had educational parity with whites before the 1960s and the fact that Chinese laborers were indeed selected and this also affected their children in a positive manner.

In a now-retracted paper, Rushton (1992) opined that one “theoretical possibility” to explain why Asians have more “K” traits compared to “r” traits (see Anderson, 1991 for critique), is that evolution is progressive and that Asians are “more “advanced”” than are other groups. But the fact of the matter is, evolution isn’t progressive. Nevertheless, Rushton (1995) attempted to defend his arguments from Yee (1992) by saying the same old, bringing up Lynn’s study on reaction time and IQ (refuted by Thomas) along with Jensen’s (refuted by Sautman). He brings up the “evidence” from transracial adoption studies (see Thomas, 2017). Rushton then brings up brain size, talking about the larger brains of Asians (see above from Lieberman on how this seems to change with the times). Rushton then discusses “other variables”, like his crime data (refuted by Cernovsky and Littman, 2019), testosterone, and twinning (see Allen et al, 1992). This is all beside the point that Gorey and Cryns (1995) showed that any behavioral differences between Rushton’s three races can be explained by environment while Peregrine, Ember, and Ember (2003) showed no cross-cultural statistical support for Rushton’s theory.

To the hereditarian, Asians are upheld to say that they are not racists, since why would a racist state that Asians are “better” than whites? This, though, gives hereditarians cover. Nevertheless, the arguments used by hereditarians for Asian academic achievement and IQ fail, since they rely on numerous false assumptions and arguments.


Immigration in the past was mixed between positive and negative selection, but today is largely positive (Abramitzky and Boustan, 2017). In recent years, Asian immigrants were more highly selected than non-Asian immigrants (Huang, 2022). Asians have been the largest percentage of immigrants since 2009 (National Academy of Science, 2018). Lynn (2006a: 97) claims that “environmentalists do not offer any explanation for the consistently high IQ of East Asians, and it is doubtful whether any credible environmental explanation can be found.” But this claim fails since hyper-selectivity explains Asian educational achievements over whites.

The study of race differences, then, is completely political (Jackson, 2006). Since science is a social activity, then one’s political leanings and values would influence the science they seek out to do (Barnes, Zieff, and Anderson, 1999). This is wonderfully illustrated by the claims of hereditarians about Asians who are just using them as a cover to peddle racist inferiority tropes about blacks.

I have described how Asians have come in waves to America over the past 150 years. I have also shown how most immigrants today, and specifically Asians, are positively selected. I have further described a process of selection in certain Asians during the early 1900s. The hyper-selectivity thesis explains Asian American achievement, due to what hyper-selectivity is and the processes that they go through. I then explained how hereditarians attempt to use Asians as a cover for their racism, but their arguments are invalid and rely on numerous false assumptions. Having said all of that, here are the arguments:

The hyper-selectivity thesis does not ignore challenges faced by working class and lower-income Asians, it merely highlights unique characters of the Asian American experience which allow them to overcome economic barriers and then achieve high levels of academic and economic success. It also does not ignore the role of racism and discrimination, but it suggests that even in the face of this, they have unique characteristics due to their selectivity that still enable them to highly achieve. And it is supported by a large body of empirical and theoretical evidence which shows the robustness of the phenomenon across different contexts and time periods. Thus, the thesis is of value to understanding the Asian American experience in the United States. Furthermore, we can reject the genetic hypothesis of Lynn, as Sue and Okazaki have successfully argued. Having said all that, I have formalized the arguments made in this article.

P1: If the unique cultural and socioeconomic resources of Asian American immigrants have allowed them to achieve high levels of success, then hyper-selectivity is true.

P2: Empirical evidence shows that Asian immigrants and their children have achieved high levels of success, outperforming other racial and ethnic groups in the US in education and income.

C: Thus, the hyper-selectivity thesis is true.

P1: If Asian American immigrants possess unique cultural and socioeconomic resources which allow them to receive high levels of success, then hyper-selectivity is true.

P2: If Asian American immigrants have achieved high levels of success in the US, then they possess unique cultural and socioeconomic resources.

C: Thus, if Asian American immigrants have high levels of success in the US, then hyper-selectivity is true.

Now let me connect these two arguments:

P1: If hyper-selectivity is true, then the academic achievements of Asian Americans is not due solely to socioeconomic Status.

P2: If the academic achievements of Asian Americans isn’t solely due to socioeconomic status, then the achievement gap between groups cannot be fully explained by socioeconomic status (but it can be explained by effort, not cognitive ability).

P3: Hyper-selectivity is true (see arguments above).

C: Thus the achievement gap between Asians and other races cannot be fully explained by socioeconomic status (1, 2, and 3)

P4: (Using addition) Overwhelming evidence shows that Asian Americans outperform other races in America, regardless of socioeconomic status.

C2: So hyper-selectivity remains the best explanation of Asian American academic success, despite critics who state it’s solely due to socioeconomic status (2, 3, and 4 using addition).

On the So-Called “Laws of Behavioral Genetics”

2400 words

In the year 2000, psychologist Erik Turkheimer proposed three “laws of behavioral genetics” (LoBG hereafter):

● First Law. All human behavioral traits are heritable.
● Second Law. The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes.
● Third Law. A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families. (Turkheimer, 2000: 160)

In March of 2021, I asked Turkheimer how he defined “law.” He responded: “With tongue in cheek. In fact, it’s a null hypothesis: an expected result when nothing in particular is going on.

In 2015, Chabris et al (2015) proposed a 4th “law”, that a typical behavioral trait is associated with many variants which each explain a small amount of behavioral variability. They state that the “4th law” explains the failure of candidate gene studies and also the need for higher sample sizes in GWA studies. (It seems they are not aware that larger sample sizes increase the probability of spurious correlations—which is all GWA studies are; Claude and Longo, 2016; Richardson, 2017; Richardson and Jones, 2019) Nice ad hoc hypothesis to save their thinking.

One huge proponent of the LoBG is JayMan, who has been on a crusade for years pushing this nonsense. He added a “5th law” proposed by Emil Kirkegaard, which states that “All phenotypic relationships are to some degree genetically mediated or confounded.”

But what is a “law” and are these “laws of behavioral genetics” laws in the actual sense? First I will describe what a “law” is and if there even are biological laws. Then I will address each “law” in turn. I will then conclude that the LoBG aren’t real “laws”, they are derived from faulty thinking about the relationship between genes, traits, environment and the system and how the “laws” were derived rest on false assumptions.

What is a law? Are there biological laws?

Laws are “true generalizations that are “purely quantitative” … They have counterfactual force” (Sober, 1993: 458). Philosopher of mind Donald Davidson argued that laws are strict and exceptionless (Davidson, 1970; David-Hillel, 2003). That is, there must be no exceptions for that law. Sober (1993) discusses Rosenberg’s and Beatty’s arguments against laws of biology—where Rosenberg states that the only law in biology is “natural selection.” (See Fodor, 2008 and Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini, 2009, 2010 for the argument against that claim and for arguments against the existence of laws of selection that can distinguish between causes and correlates of causes.) It has even been remarked that there are “so few” laws in biology (Dhar and Giuliani, 2010; also see Ruse, 1970).

Biology isn’t reducible to chemistry or physics (Marshal, 2021), since there are certain things about biology that neither chemistry or physics have. If there are laws of biology, then they will be found at the level of the organism or its ecology (Rull, 2022). In fact, it seems that although three laws of biology have been proposed (Trevors and Sailer Jr., 2008), they appear to be mere regularities, including McShea and Brandon’s (2010) first law of biology; all “laws of biology” seem to be mere laws of physics (Wayne, 2020). The “special sciences”, it seems, “are not fit for laws” (Kim, 2010). There seem to be, though, no uncontroversial laws or regularities in biology (Hamilton, 2007).

Now that I have described what laws are and have argued that there probably aren’t any biological laws, what does that mean for the LoBG? I will take each “law” in turn.

“Laws” of behavioral genetics

(1) All human behavioral traits are heritable.

JayMan gives derivations for the “laws”, and (1) and (2) have their bases in twin studies. We know that the equal environments assumption is false (Charney, 2012; Joseph, 2014; Joseph et al, 2015), and so if the EEA is false then we must reject genetic claims from twin study proponents. Nevertheless, the claim that these “laws” have any meaning gets pushed around a lot.

When it comes to the first law, the claim is that “ALL human behavioral traits are heritable”—note the emphasis on “ALL.” So this means that if we find only ONE behavioral trait that isn’t heritable, then the first law is false.

Reimann, Schilke, and cook (2017) used a sample of MZ and DZ twins and asked questions related to trust and distrust. They, of course, claim that “MZ and DZ twins share comparable environments in their upbringing“—which is false since MZ twins have more comparable environments. Nevertheless, they conclude that while trust has a heritability or 30%, “ACE analyses revealed that the estimated heritability [for] distrust is 0%.” This,therefore, means, that the “1st law” is false.

This “first law”, the basis of which is twin, family, and adoption studies, is why we have poured countless dollars into this research, and of course people have their careers (in what is clear pseudoscience) to worry about, so they won’t stop these clearly futile attempts in their search for “genes for” behavior.

(2) The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than genes.

This claim is clearly nonsense, and one reason why is that the first “law” is false. In any case, there is one huge effect on, children’s outcomes due to birth order and how, then, parental attitudes–particularly mothers—affect child outcomes (Lehmann, Nuevo-Chiquero, and Vidal-Fernandez, 2018).

Why would birth order have an effect? Quite simply, the first-born child will get more care and attention than children who are born after, and so variations in parental behavior due to birth order can explain differences in education and life outcomes. They conclude that “broad shifts in parental behavior appear to set later-born children on a lower path for cognitive development and academic achievement, with lasting impact on adult outcomes.” Thus, Murray’s (2002) claim that birth order doesn’t matter and JayMan’s claim that “that the family/rearing environment has no effect on eventual outcomes” is clearly false. Thus, along with this and the falsity of the “1st law”, the “2nd law” is false, too.

(3) A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families.

This “law” covers the rest of the variance not covered in the first two “laws.” It was coined due to the fact that the first two “laws” had variance left that wasn’t “explained” by them. So this is basically unique experience. This is what behavioral genetics call “non-shared environment.” Of course, unique experiences (that is, subjective experiences) would definitely “shape who we are”, and part of our unique experiences are cultural. We know that cultural differences can have an impact on psychological traits (Prinz, 2014: 67). So the overall culture would explain why these differences aren’t “accounted for” in the first two “laws.”

Yet, we didn’t need the LoBG for us to know that individual differences are difference-makers for differences in behavior and psychology. So this means that what we choose to do can affect our propensities and then, of course, our behavior. Non-shared environmental effects are specific to the individual, and can include differing life events. That is, they are random. Non-shared environment, then, is parts of the environment that aren’t shared. Going back to Lehmann, Nuevo-Chiquero, and Vidal-Fernandez (2018) above, although children to grow up in the same family under the same household, they are different ages and so they also experience different life events. They also experience the same things differently, due to the subjectivity of experience.

In any case, the dichotomy between shared and non-shared environment is a dichotomy that upholds the behavioral geneticists main tool—the heritability estimate—from which these “laws” derive (from studies of twins, adoptees, and families). So, due to how the law was formulated (since there were still portions “unaccounted for” by the first two “laws”), it doesn’t really matter and since it rests on the first two false “laws”, therefore the third “law” is also false.

(4) Human behavioral traits are associated with many genes of small effect which contribute to a small amount of behavioral variability.

This “law” was formulated by Chabris et al (2015) due to the failure of molecular genetic studies which hoped to find genes with large effects to explain behavior. This “law” also “explains why the results of “candidate-gene” studies, which focus on a handful of genetic variants, usually fail to replicate in independent samples.” What this means to me is simple—it’s an ad-hoc account, meaning it was formulated to save the gene-searching by behavioral geneticists since the candidate gene era was a clear failure, as Jay Joseph noted in his discussion of the” 4th law.”

So here is the time line:

(1) Twin studies show above-0 heritabilities for behavioral traits.

(2) Since twin studies show high heritabilities for behavioral traits, then there must be genes that will be found upon analyzing the genome using more sophisticated methods.

(3) Once we started to peer into the genome after the completion of the human genome project, we then came to find candidate genes associated with behavior. Candidate gene studieslook at the genetic variation associated with disease within a limited number of pre-specified genes“, they refer to genes “believed to be” associated with a trait in question. Kwon and Goat (2000) wrote that “The candidate gene approach is useful for quickly determining the association of a genetic variant with a disorder and for identifying genes of modest effect.” But Sullivan (2020) noted that “Historical candidate gene studies didn’t work, and can’t work.” Charney (2022) noted that the candidate gene era was a “failure” and is now a “cautionary tale.”

Quite clearly, they were wrong then, and the failure of the candidate gene era led to the ad-hoc “4th law.” This has then followed us to the GWAS and PGS era, where it is claimed that we aren’t finding all of the heritability that twin studies say we should find with GWAS, since the traits under review are due to many genes of small effect. It’s literally just a shell game—when one claim is shown to be false, just make a reason why what you thought would be found wasn’t found, and then you can continue to search for genes “for” behavior. But genetic interactions create a “phantom heritability” (Zuk et al, 2011), while behavioral geneticists assume that the interactions are additive. They simply outright ignore interactions, although they pay it lip service.

So why, then, should we believe behavioral geneticists today in 2023 that we need larger and larger samples to find these mythical genes “for” behavior using GWAS? We shouldn’t. They will abandon GWAS and PGS in a few years when the new kid on the block shows up that they can they champion and claim that the mythical genes “for” behavior will finally be found.

(5) All phenotypic relationships are to some degree genetically mediated or confounded.

This claim is something that comes up a lot—the claim of genetic confounding (and mediation). A confound is a third variable that influences both the dependent and independent variable. The concept of genetic confounding was introduced during the era where it was debated whether or not smoking caused lung cancer (Pingault et al, 2021). (Do note that Ronald Fisher (1957), who was a part of this debate, claimed that smoking and lung cancer were both “influenced by a common cause, in this case individual genotype.

However, in order for the genetic confounding claim to work, they need to articulate a mechanism that explains the so-called genetic confounding. They need to articulate a genetic mechanism which causally explains X and Y, explains X independent of Y and explains Y independent of X. So for the cop-out genetic confounding claim to hold any water: G confounds X and Y iff there is a genetic mechanism which causally explains X and Y, causally explains X independent of Y and Y independent of X.


The “laws of behavioral genetics” uphold the false dichotomy of genes and environment, nature and nurture. Though, developmental systems theorists have rightly argued that it is a false dichotomy (Homans, 1979; Moore, 2002; Oyama, 2002; Moczek, 2012) and that it is just not biologically plausible (Lewkowicz, 2012). In fact, the h2 statistics assumes that G and E are independent, non-interacting factors, so if the claim is false then—for one of many reasons—we shouldn’t accept their conclusions. The fact that G and E interact means that, of course, we should reject h2 estimates, and along with it, the entire field of behavioral genetics.

Since the EEA is false, h2 equals c2. Furthermore, h2 equals 0. So Polderman’s (2015) meta analysis doesn’t show that for all traits in the analysis that h2 equals 49%. (See Jay Joseph’s critique.) Turkheimer (2000: 160) claimed that the nature-nurture debate is over, since everything is heritable. However, the debate is over because developmental systems approach has upended the false dichotomy of nature vs nurture, since all developmental resources interact and are therefore irreducible to development.

However, for the field to continue to exist, they need to promulgate the false dichotomy, since their heritability estimates depend on it. They also need to hold onto the claim that twin, family and adoption studies can show the “genetic influence” on traits to justify the continued search for genes “for” behavior. Zuk and Spencer (2020) called the nature-nurture “debate” “a zombie idea, one that, no matter how many times we think we have disposed of it, springs back to life.” This is just like Oyama (2000) who compared arguing against gene determinism like battling the undead (Griffiths, 2006).

Jay Joseph proposed a 5th “law” in 2015 where he stated:

Behavior genetic Laws 1-4 should be ignored because they are based on many false assumptionsconceptsand models, on negative gene finding attempts, and on decades of unsubstantiated gene discovery claims.

The “laws” should quite obviously be ignored. Since the whole field of behavioral genetics is based on them, why not abandon the search for “genes for behavior”? At the end of the day, it seems like there are no “laws” of behavioral genetics, since laws are strict and exceptionless. So why do they keep up with their claims that their “laws” tell us anything about human behavior? Clearly, it’s due to the ideology of those who hold that the all-important gene causes traits and behavior, so they will do whatever it takes to “find” them. But in 2023, we know that this claim is straight up false.