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Hereditarianism and Religion

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In its essence the traditional notion of general intelligence may be a secularised version of the Puritan idea of the soul. … perhaps Galtonian intelligence had its roots in a far older kind of religious thinking. (John White, Personal space: The religious origins of intelligence testing)

In chapter 1 of Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology, Dorothy Nelkin identifies the link between the founder of sociobiology E.O. Wilson’s religious beliefs and the epiphany he described when he learned of evolution. A Christian author then used Sociobiology to explain and understand the origins of our own sinfulness (Williams, 2000). But there is another hereditarian-type research program that has these kinds of assumptions baked-in—IQ.

Philosopher of education John White has looked into the origins of IQ testing and the Puritan religion. The main link between Puritanism and IQ was that of predestination. The first IQ-ists conceptualized IQ—‘g’ or general intelligence—to be innate, predetermined and hereditary. The predetermination line between both IQ and Puritanism is easy to see: To the Puritans, it was predestined whether or not one went to Hell before they even existed as human beings whereas to the IQ-ists, IQ was predestined, due to genes.

John White (2006: 39) in Intelligence, Destiny, and Education notes the parallel between “salvation and success, damnation and failure”:

Can we usefully compare the saved/damned dichotomy with the perceived contribtion of intelligence or the lack of it to success and failure in life, as conventionally understood? One thing telling against this is that intelligence testers claim to identify via IQ scores a continuous gamut of ability from lowest to highest. On the other hand, most of the pioneers in the field were … especially interested in the far ends of this range — in Galton’s phrase ‘the extreme classes, the best and the worst.’ On the other hand there were the ‘gifted’, ‘the eminent’, ‘those who have honourably succeeded in life’, presumably … the most valuable portion of our human stock. On the other, the ‘feeble-minded’, the ‘cretins’, the ‘refuse’ those seeking to avoid ‘the monotony of daily labor’, democracy’s ballast, not always useless but always a potential liability’.

A Puritan-type parallel can be drawn here—the ‘cretins and ‘feeble-minded’ are ‘the damned’ whereas ‘the extreme classes, the best and worst’ were ‘the saved.’ This kind of parallel can still be seen in modern conceptualizations of the debate and current GWASs—certain people have a certain surfeit of genes that influence intellectual attainment. Contrast with the Puritan “Certain people are chosen before they exist to either be damned or saved.” Certain people are chosen, by random mix-ups of genes during conception, to either be successful or not, and this is predetermined by the genes. So, genetic determinism when speaking of IQ is, in a way, just like Puritan predestination—according to Galton, Burt and other IQ-ists in the 1910s-1920s (ever since Goddard brought back the Binet-Simon Scales from France in 1910).

Some Puritans banned the poor from their communities seeing them asdisruptors to Puritan communities.” Stone (2018: 3-4) in An Invitation to Satan: Puritan Culture and the Salem Witch Trials writes:

The range of Puritan belief in salvation usually extended merely to members of their own communities and other Puritans. They viewed outsiders as suspicious, and people who held different beliefs, creeds, or did things differently were considered dangerous or evil. Because Puritans believed the community shared the consequences of right and wrong, often community actions were taken to atone for the misdeed. As such, they did not hesitate to punish or assault people who they deemed to be transgressors against them and against God’s will. The people who found themselves punished were the poor, and women who stood low on the social ladder. These punishments would range from beatings to public humiliation. Certain crimes, however, were viewed as far worse than others and were considered capital crimes, punishable by death.

Could the Puritan treatment of the poor be due to their beliefs of predestination? Puritan John Winthrop stated in his book A Model of Christian Charity thatsome must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection.” This, too, is still around today: IQ sets “upper limits” on one’s “ability ceiling” to achieve X. The poor are those who do not have the ‘right genes’. This is, also, a reason why IQ tests were first introduced in America—to turn away the poor (Gould, 1996; Dolmage, 2018). That one’s ability is predetermined in their genes—that each person has their own ‘ceiling of ability’ that they can reach that is then constrained by their genes is just like the Puritan predestination thesis. But, it is unverifiable and unfalsifiable, so it is not a scientific theory.

To White (2006), the claim that we have this ‘innate capacity’ that is ‘general’ this ‘intelligence’ is wanting. He takes this further, though. In discussing Galton’s and Burt’s claim that there are ‘ability ceilings’—and in discussing a letter he wrote to Burn—White (2006: 16) imagines that we give instruction to all of the twin pairs and that, their scores increase by 15 points. This, then, would have a large effect on the correlation “So it must be an assumption made by the theorist — i.e. Burt — in claiming a correlation of 0.87, that coaching could not successfully improve IQ scores. Burt replied ‘I doubt whether, had we returned a second time, the coaching would have affected our correlations” (White, 2006: 16). Burt seems to be implying that a “ceiling of ability” exists, which he got from his mentor, Galton. White continues:

It would appear that Galton nor Burt have any evidence for their key claim [that ability ceilings exist]. The proposition that, for all of us, there are individually differing ceilings of ability seems to be an assumption behind their position, rather than a conclusion based on telling grounds.

I have discussed elsewhere (White, 1974; 2002a: ch. 5) what could count as evidence for this proposition, and concluded that it is neither verifiable nor falsifiable. The mere fact that a child appears not able to get beyond, say, elementary algebra is not evidence of a ceiling. The failure of this or that variation in teaching approach fares no better, since it is always possible for a tracher to try some different approach to help the learner get over the hurdle. (With some children, so neurologically damaged that they seem incapable of language, it may seem that the point where options run out for the teacher is easier to establish than it is for other children. But the proposition in question is supposed to applu to all of us: we are all said to have our own mental ceiling; and for non-brain-damaged people the existence of a ceiling sems impossible to demonstrate.) It is not falsifiable, since for even the cleverest person in the world, for whom no ceiling has been discovered, it is always possible that it exists somewhere. As an untestable — unverifiable and unfalsifiable — proposition, the claim that we each have a mental ceiling has, if we follow Karl Popper (1963: ch. 1), no role in science. It is like the proposition that God exists or that all historical events are predetermined, both of which are equally untestable. As such, it may play a foundational role, as these two propositions have played, in some ideological belief system of belief, but has no place in empirical science. (White, 2006: 16)

Burt believed that we should use IQ tests to shoe-horn people into what they would be ‘best for’ on the basis of IQ. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why Binet constructed what would then become the modern IQ test. Binet, influenced by Galton’s (1869) Hereditary Genius, believed that we could identify and help lower-‘ability’ children. Binet envisioned an ‘ideal city’ in which people were pushed to vocations that were based on their ‘IQs.’ Mensh and Mensh (1991: 23) quote Binet on the “universal applications” of his test:

Of what use is a measure of intelligence? Without doubt, one could conceive many possible applications of the process in dreaming of a future where the social sphere would be better organized than ours; where everyone would work according to his known apptitudes in such a way that non particle of psychic force should be lost for society. That would be the ideal city.

So, it seems, Binet wanted to use his test as an early aptitude-type test (like the ones we did in grammar school which ‘showed us’ which vocations we would be ‘good at’ based on a questionnaire). Having people in Binet’s ‘ideal city’ work based on their ‘known aptitudes’ would increase, not decrease, inequality so Binet’s envisioned city is exactly the same as today’s world. Mensh and Mensh (1991: 24) continue:

When Binet asserted that everyone would work to “known” aptitudes, he was saying that the individuals comprising a particular group would work according to the aptitudes that group was “known” to have. When he suggested, for example, that children of lower socioeconomic status are perfectly suited for manual labor, he was simply expressing what elite groups “know,” that is, that they themselves have mental aptitudes, and others have manual ones. It was this elitist belief, this universal rationale for the social status quo, that would be upheld by the universal testing Binet proposed.

White (2006: 42) writes:

Children born with low IQs have been held to have no hope of a professional, well-paid job. If they are capable of joining the workforce at all, they must find their niche as the unskilled workers.

Thus, the similarities between IQ-ist and religious (Puritan) belief comes clear. The parallels between the Puritan concern for salvation and the IQ-ist belief that one’s ‘innate intelligence’ dictated whether or not they would succeed or fail in life (based on their genes); both had thoughts of those lower on the social ladder, their work ethic and morals associated with the reprobate on the one hand and the low IQ people on the other; both groups believed that the family is the ‘mechanism’ by which individuals are ‘saved’ or ‘damned’—presuming salvation is transmitted based one’s family for the Puritans and for the IQ-ists that those with ‘high intelligence’ have children with the same; they both believed that their favored group should be at the top with the best jobs, and best education, while those lower on the social ladder should also get what they accordingly deserve. Galton, Binet, Goddard, Terman, Yerkes, Burt, and others believed that one was endowed with ‘innate general intelligence’ due to genes, according to the current-day IQ-ists who take the same concept.

White drew his parallel between IQ and Puritanism without being aware that one of the first anti-IQ-ists—and American Journalist named Walter Lippman—who also been made in the mid-1920s. (See Mensh and Mensh, 1991 for a discussion of Lippman’s grievances with the IQ-ists). Such a parralel between Puritanism and Galton’s concept of ‘intelligence’ and that of the IQ-ists today. White (2005: 440) notes “that virtually all the major players in the story had Puritan connexions may prove, after all, to be no more than coincidence.” Though, the evidence that White has marshaled in favor of the claim is interesting, as noted many parallels exist. It would be some huge coincidence for there to be all of these parallels without them being causal (from Puritanistic beliefs to hereditarian IQ dogma).

This is similar to what Oyama (1985: 53) notes:

Just as traditonal though placed biological forms in the mind of God, so modern thought finds many ways of endowing the genes with ultimate formative power, a power bestowed by Nature over countless milennia.

Natural selection” plays the role that God did before Darwin, which was even stated by Ernst Mayr (Oyama, 1985: 85).

But this parallel between Puritanism and hereditarianism doesn’t just go back to the early 20th century—it can still be seen today. The assumption that genes contain a type of ‘information’ before activated by the physiological system for its uses still pervades our thought today, even though many others have been at the forefront to change that kind of thinking (Oyama, 1985, 2000; Jablonka and Lamb, 1995, 2005; Moore, 2002, 2016; Noble, 2006, 2011, 2016).

The links between hereditarianism and religion are compelling; eugenic and Puritan beliefs are similar (Durst, 2017). IQ tests have now been identified as having their origins in eugenic beliefs, along with Puritan-like beliefs have being saved/damned based on something that is predetermined, out of your control just like your genetics. The conception of ‘ability ceilings’—using IQ tests—is not verifiable nor is it falsifiable. Hereditarians believe in ‘ability ceilings’ and claim that genes contain a kind of “blueprint” (which is still held today) which predestines one toward certain dispositions/behaviors/actions. Early IQ-ists believed that one is destined for certain types of jobs based on what is ‘known’ about their group. When Binet wrote that, the gene was yet to be conceptualized, but it has stayed with us ever since.

So not only did the concept of “IQ” emerge due to the ‘need’ to ‘identify’ individuals for their certain ‘aptitudes’ that they would be well-suited for in, for instance, Binet’s ideal city, it also arose from eugenic beliefs and religious (Puritan) thinking. This may be why IQ-ists seem so hysterical—so religious—when talking about IQ and the ‘predictions’ it ‘makes’ (see Nash, 1990).

Herrnstein’s Syllogism

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1. If differences in mental abilities are inherited, and
2. if success requires those abilities, and
3. if earnings and prestige depend on success,
4. then social standing will be based to some extent on inherited differences among people. (Herrnstein, 1971)

Richard Herrnstein’s article I.Q. in The Atlantic (Herrnstein, 1971) caused much controversy (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994: 10). Herrnstein’s syllogism argued that as environments become more similar and if differences in mental abilities are inherited and that success in life requires such abilities and if earning and prestige depends on success which is required by inheritable mental abilities then social standing will be based, “to some extent on inherited differences among people.” Herrnstein does not say this outright in the syllogism, but he is quite obviously talking about genetic inheritance. One can, however, look at the syllogism with an environmental lens, as I will show. Lastly, Herrnstein’s syllogism crumbles since social class is predictive of success in life when both IQ and social class are equated. So since family background and schooling explains the IQ-income relationship (a measure of success) then Herrnstein’s argument falls.

Note that Herrnstein came to measurement due to being a student of William Sheldon’s somatotyping. “Somatotyping lured the impressionable and young Herrnstein into a world promising precision and human predictability based on the measurement of body parts” (Hilliard, 2012: 22).

  1. If differences in mental abilities are inherited

Premise 1 is simple: “If differences in mental ability are inherited …” Herrnstein is obviously talking about genetic transmission, but we can look at this through a cultural/environmental lens. For example, Berg and Belmont (1990) showed that Jewish children of different socio-cultural backgrounds had different patterns of mental abilities, which were clustered in certain socio-cultural groups (all Jewish), showing that mental abilities are, in large part, culturally derived. Another objection could be that since there are no laws linking psychological/mental states with physical states (the mental is irreducible to the physical—meaning that mental states cannot be transmitted through (physical) genes) then such genetic transmission of psychological/mental traits is impossible. In any case, one can look at cultural transmission of mental abilities and disregard genetic transmission of psychological traits and the argument fails.

We can accept all of the premises of Herrnstein’s syllogism and argue an environmental case, in fact (bracketed words are my additions):

1. If differences in mental abilities are [environmentally] inherited, and
2. if success requires those [environmentally inherited] abilities, and
3. if earnings and prestige depend on [environmentally inherited] success,
4. then social standing will be based to some extent on [enviromnentally] inherited differences among people.

The syllogism hardly changes, but my additions change what Herrnstein was arguing for—environmental, not genetic differences cause success and along with it social standing among groups of people.

The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994) can, in fact, be seen as an at-length attempt to prove the validity of the syllogism in an empiric matter. Herrnstein and Murray (1994: 105, 108-110) have a full discussion of the syllogism. “As stated, the syllogism is not fearsome” (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994: 105). They go on to state that if intelligence (IQ scores, AFQT scores) is only a bit influenced by genes and if success is only a bit influenced by intelligence then only a small amount of success is inherited (genetically). Note that their measure of “IQ” is the AFQT—which is a measure of acculturated learning, measuring school achievement (Roberts et al, 2000; Cascio and Lewis, 2005).

How much is IQ a matter of genes?“, Herrnstein and Murray ask. They then discuss the heritability of IQ, relying, of course, on twin studies. They claim that the heritability of IQ is .6 based on the results of many twin studies. But the fatal flaw with twin studies is that the EEA is false and, therefore, genetic conclusions should be dismissed outright (Burt and Simons, 2014, 2015; Joseph, 2015; Joseph et al, 2015; Fosse, Joseph, and Richardson, 2015; Moore and Shenk, 2016). Herrnstein (1971) also discusses twin studies in the context of heritability, attempting to buttress his argument. But if the main vehicle used to show that “intelligence” (whatever that is) is heritable is twin studies, why, then, should we accept the conclusions of twin research if the assumptions that make the foundation of the field are false?

Block (1995) quotes Murray’s misunderstanding about heritability in an interview Murray had while making tours for The Bell Curve:

When I – when we – say 60 percent heritability, it’s not 60 percent of the variation. It is 60 percent of the IQ in any given person.” Later, he repeated that for the average person, “60 percent of the intelligence comes from heredity” and added that this was true of the “human species,” missing the point that heritability makes no sense for an individual and that heritability statistics are population-relative.

So Murray used the flawed concept of heritability in the wrong way—hilarious.

So the main point of Herrnstein’s argument is that environments become more uniform for everyone, then the power of heredity will shine through since the environment is uniform—the same—for everyone. But even if we could make the environment “the same”. What does this even mean? How is my environment the same, even if the surroundings are the same, say, if I would react or see something differently than you do on the same thing? The subjectivity of the mental disproves the claim that environments can be “more uniform.” Herrnstein claimed that if no variance in environment exists, then the only thing that can influence success is heredity. This is not wrong, but how would it be possible to equalize environments? Are we supposed to start from square one? Give up the wealth and status of the rich and powerful and “equalize environments” and, according to Herrnstein and the ‘meritocracy’, those who had earnings and prestige, which depended on success which depended on inherited mental abilities would still float to the top.

But what happens when both social class and IQ are equated? What predicts life success? Stephen Ceci reanalyzed the data from Terman’s Termites (the term coined for those in the study) and found something quite different from what Terman had assumed. There were three groups in Terman’s study—group A, B, and C. Groups A and C comprised the top and bottom 20 percent of the full sample in terms of life success. So at the start of the study, all of the children “were about equal in IQ, elementary school grades, and home evaluations” (Ceci, 1996: 82). Depending on the test used, the IQs of the children ranged between 142 to 155, which then decreased by ten points during the second wave due to regression and measurement error. So although group A and C had equivalent IQs, they had starkly different life outcomes. (Group B comprised 60 percent of the sample and enjoyed mediocre life success.)

Ninety-nine percent of the men in the group that had the best professional and personal accomplishments, i.e., group A were individuals who came from professional or business-managerial families that were well educated and wealthy. In contrast, only 17% if the children from group C came from professional and business families, and even these tended to be poorer and less well educated than their group A peers. The men in the two groups present a contrast on all social indicators that were assesssed: group A individuals preferred to play tennis, while group C men preferred to watch football and baseball; as children, the group A men were more likely to collect stamps, shells, and coinds than were the group C men. Not only were the fathers of the group A men better educated than those of group C, but so were their grandfathers. In short, even though the men in group C had equivalent IQs to group A, they did not have equivalent social status. Thus, when IQ is equated and social class is not, it is the latter that seems to be deterministic of professional success. Therefore, Terman’s findings, far from demonstrating that high IQ is associated with real-world success, show that the relationship is more complex and that the social status of these so-called geniuses’ families had a “long reach,” influencing their presonal and professional achievments throughout their adult lives. Thus, the title of Terman’s volumes Genetic studies of Genius, appears to have begged the question of the causation of genius. (Ceci, 1996: 82-83)

Ceci used the Project Talent dataset to analyze the impact of IQ on occupational success. This study, unlike Terman’s, looked at a nationally representative sample of 400,000 high-school students “with both intellectual aptitude and parental social class spanning the entire range of the population” (Ceci, 1996: 85). The students were interviewed in 1960, then about 4,000 were again interviewed in 1974. “For all practical purposes, this subgroup of 4,000 adults represents a stratified national sample of persons in their early 30s” (Ceci, 1996: 86). So Ceci and his co-author, Henderson, ran several regression analyses that involved years of schooling, family and social background and a composite score of intellectual ability based on reasoning, math, and vocabulary. They excluded those who were not working at the time due to being imprisoned, being housewives or still being in school. This then left them with a sample of 2,081 for the analysis.

They looked at IQ as a predictor of variance in adult income in one analysis, which then showed an impact for IQ. “However, when we entered parental social status and years of schooling completed as additional covariates (where parental social status was a standardized score, mean of 100, SD = 10, based on a large number of items having to do with parental income, housing costs, etc.—ranging from low of 58 to high of 135), the effects of IQ as a predictor were totally eliminated” (Ceci, 1996: 86). Social class and education were very strongly related to predictors of adult income. So “this illustrates that the relationship between IQ and adult income is illusory because the more completely specified statistical model demonstrates its lack of predictive power and the real predictive power of social and educational variables” (Ceci, 1996: 86).

The considered high, average, and low IQ groups, about equal size, while examining the regressions of earnings on social class and education within the groups.

Regressions were essentially homogeneous and, contrary to the claims by those working from a meritocratic perspective, the slope for the low IQ group was steepest (see Figure 4.1). There was no limitation imposed by low IQ on the beneficial effects of good social background on earnings and, if anything, there was a trend toward individuals with low IQ actually earning more than those with average IQ (p = .09). So it turns out that although both schooling and parental social class are powerful determinants of future success (which was also true in Terman’s data), IQ adds little to their influence in explaining adult earnings. (Ceci, 1996: 86)

The same was also true for the Project Talent participants who continued school. For each increment of school completed, there was also an effect on their earnings.

Individuals who were in the top quartile of “years of schooling completed” were about 10 times as likely to be receiving incomes in the top quartile of the sample as were those who were in the bottom quartile of “years of schooling completed.” But this relationship does not appear to be due to IQ mediating school attainment or income attainment, because the identical result is found even when IQ is statistically controlled. Interestingly, the groups with the lowest and highest IQs both earned slightly more than average-IQ students when the means were adjusted for social class and education (unadjusted meansat the modal value of social class and education = $9,094, $9,242, and $9,997 for low, average, and hhigh IQ groups, whereas the unadjusted means at this same modal value = $9,972, $9,9292, and $9,9278 for the low, average, and high IQs.) (Perhaps the low IQ students were tracked into plumbing, cement finishing and other well-paying jobs and the high-IQ students were tracked intothe professions, while average IQ students became lower paid teachers. social workers, ministers, etc.) Thus, it appears that the IQ-income relationship is really the result of schooling and family background, and not IQ. (Incidentally, this range in IQs from 70 to 130 and in SES from 58 to 135 covers over 95 percent of the entire population.) (Ceci, 1996: 87-88)

Ceci’s analysis is just like Bowles and Nelson’s (1974) analysis in which they found that earnings at adulthood were more influenced by social status and schooling, not IQ. Bowles and Nelson (1974: 48) write:

Evidently, the genetic inheritance of IQ is not the mechanism which reproduces the structure of social status and economic privilege from generation to generation. Though our estimates provide no alternative explanation, they do suggest that an explanation of intergeneration immobility may well be found in aspects of family life related to socio-economic status and in the effects of socio-economic background operating both directly on economic success, and indirectly via the medium of inequalities in educational attainments.

(Note how this also refutes claims from PumpkinPerson that IQ explains income—clearly, as was shown, family background and schooling explain the IQ-income relationship, not IQ. So the “incredible correlation between IQ and income” is not due to IQ, it is due to environmental factors such as schooling and family background.)

Herrnstein’s syllogism—along with The Bell Curve (an attempt to prove the syllogism)—is therefore refuted. Since social class/family background and schooling explains the IQ-income relationship and not IQ, then Herrnstein’s syllogism crumbles. It was a main premise of The Bell Curve that society is becoming increasingly genetically stratified, with a “cognitive elite”. But Conley and Domingue (2015: 520) found “little evidence for the proposition that we are becoming increasingly genetically stratified.”

IQ testing legitimizes social hierarchies (Chomsky, 1972; Roberts, 2015) and, in Herrnstein’s case, attempted to show that social hierarchies are an inevitability due to the genetic transmission of mental abilities that influence success and income. Such research cannot be socially neutral (Roberts, 2015) and so, this is yet another reason to ban IQ tests, as I have argued. IQ tests are a measure of social class (Ceci, 1996; Richardson, 2002, 2017), and such tests were created to justify existing social hierarchies (Mensh and Mensh, 1991).

Thus, the very purpose of IQ tests was to confirm the current social order as naturally proper. Intelligence tests were not misused to support hereditary theories of social hierarchies; they were perfected in order to support them. The IQ supplied an essential difference among human beings that deliberately reflected racial and class stratifications in order to justify them as natural.9 Research on the genetics of intelligence was far from socially neutral when the very purpose of theorizing the heritability of intelligence was to confirm an unequal social order. (Roberts, 2015: S51)

Herrnstein’s syllogism seems valid, but in actuality, it is not. Herrnstein was implying that genes were the casue of mental abilities and then, eventually, success and prestige. But one can look at Herrnstein’s syllogism from an environmentalist point of view (do note that the hereditarian/environmentalist debate is futile and continues the claim that IQ tests test ‘intelligence’, whatever that is). When matched for IQ—in regard to Terman’s Termites—family background and schooling explained the IQ-income relationship. Further analyses showed that this, again, was the case. Ceci (1996) showed again, replicating Terman’s and Bowles’ and Nelson’s (1974) analyses that social class and schooling, not IQ, explains income’s relationship with IQ.

The conclusion of Herrnstein’s argument can, as I’ve already shown, be an environmental one—through cultural, not genetic, transmission. Such arguments that IQ is ‘genetic’ and, thusly, certain individuals/groups will tend to stay in their social class, as Pinker (2002: 106) states: “Smarter people will tend to float into the higher strata, and their children will tend to stay there.” This, as has been shown, is due to social class, not ‘smarts’ (scores on an IQ test). In any case, this is yet another reason why IQ tests and the research behind them should be banned: IQ tests attempt to justify the current social order as ‘inevitable’ due to genes that influence mental abilities. This claim, though, is false and, therefore—along with the fact that America is not becoming more genetically stratified (Conley and Domigue, 2015)—Herrnstein’s syllogism crumbles. The argument attempts to justify the claim that class has a ‘genetic’ component (as Murray, 2020, attempts to show) but subsequent analyses and arguments have shown that Herrnstein’s argument does not hold.

Mary Midgley on ‘Intelligence’ and its ‘Measurement’

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Mary Midgley (1919-2018) is a philosopher perhaps most well-known for her writing on moral philosophy and rejoinders to Richard Dawkins after his publication of The Selfish Gene. Before her passing in October of 2018, she published What Is Philosophy For? on September 21st. In the book, she discusses ‘intelligence’ and its ‘measurement’ and comes to familiar conclusions.

‘Intelligence’ is not a ‘thing’ like, say, temperature and weight (though it is reified as one). Thermometers measure temperature, and this was verified without relying on the thermometer itself (see Hasok Chang, Inventing Temperature). Temperature can be measured in terms of units like kelvin, celsius, and Fahrenheit. The temperature is the available kinetic energy of heat; ‘thermo’ means heat while ‘meter’ means to measure, so heat is what is being measured with a thermometer.

Scales measure weight. If energy balance is stable, so too will weight be stable. Eat too much or too little, then weight gain or loss will occur. But animals seem to have a body set weight which has been experimentally demonstrated (Leibel, 2008). In any case, what a scale measures is the overall weight of an object which is done by measuring how much force exists between the weighed object and the earth.

The whole concept of ‘intelligence’ is hopelessly unreal.

Prophecies [like those of people who work on AI] treat intelligence as a quantifiable stuff, a standard, unvarying, substance like granulated sugar, a substance found in every kind of cake — a substance which, when poured on in larger quantities, always produces a standard improvement in performance. This mythical way of talking has nothing to do with the way in which cleverness — and thought generally — actually develops among human beings. This imagery is, in fact, about as reasonable as expecting children to grow up into steamrollers on the ground that they are already getting larger and can easily be trained to stamp down gravel on roads. In both cases, there simply is not the kind of continuity that would make any such progress conceivable. (Midgley, 2018: 98)

We recognize the divergence of interests all the time when we are trying to find suitable people for different situations. Thus Bob may be an excellent mathematician but is still a hopeless sailor, while Tim, that impressive navigator, cannot deal with advanced mathematics at all. which of them then should be considered the more intelligent? In real life, we don’t make the mistake of trying to add these people’s gifts up quantitatively to make a single composite genius and then hope to find him. We know that planners wanting to find a leader for their exploring expedition must either choose between these candidates or send both of them. Their peculiar capacities grow out of their special interests in topics, which is not a measurable talent but an integral part of their own character.

In fact, the word ‘intelligence’ does not name a single measurable property, like ‘temperature’ or ‘weight’. It is a general term like ‘usefulness’ or ‘rarity’. And general terms always need a context to give them any detailed application. It makes no more sense to ask whether Newton was more intelligent than Shakespeare than it does to ask if a hammer is more useful than a knife. There can’t be such a thing as an all-purpose intelligence, any more than an all-purpose tool. … Thus the idea of a single scale of cleverness, rising from the normal to beyond the highest known IQ, is simply a misleading myth.

It is unfortunate that we have got so used today to talk of IQs, which suggests that this sort of abstract cleverness does exist. This has happened because we have got used to ‘intelligence tests’ themselves, devices which sort people out into convenient categories for simple purposes, such as admission to schools and hospitals, in a way that seems to quantify their ability. This leads people to think that there is indeed a single quantifiable stuff called intelligence. But, for as long as these tests have been used, it has been clear that this language is too crude even for those simple cases. No sensible person would normally think of relying on it beyond those contexts. Far less can it be extended as a kind of brain-thermometer to use for measuring more complex kinds of ability. The idea of simply increasing intelligence in the abstract — rather than beginning to understand some particular kind of thing better — simply does not make sense. (Midgley, 2018: 100-101)

IQ researchers, though, take IQ to be a measure of a quantitative trait that can be measured in increments—like height, weight, and temperature. “So, in deciding that IQ is a quantitative trait, investigators are making big assumptions about its genetic and environmental background” (Richardson, 2000: 61). But there is no validity to the measure and hence no backing for the claim that it is a quantitative trait and measures what they suppose it does.

Just because we refer to something abstract does not mean that it has a referent in the real world; just because we call something ‘intelligence’ and say that it is tested—however crudely—by IQ tests does not mean that it exists and that the test is measuring it. Thermometers measure temperature; scales measure weight; IQ tests….don’t measure ‘intelligence’ (whatever that is), they measure acculturated knowledge and skills. Howe (1997: 6) writes that psychological test scores are “an indication of how well someone has performed at a number of questions that have been chosen for largely practical reasons” while Richardson (1998: 127) writes that “The most reasonable answer to the question “What is being measured?”, then, is ‘degree of cultural affiliation’: to the culture of test constructors, school teachers and school curricula.

But the word ‘intelligence’ refers to what? The attempt to measure ‘intelligence’ is a failure as such tests cannot be divorced from their cultural contexts. This won’t stop IQ-ists, though, from claiming that we can rank one’s mind as ‘better’ than another on the basis of IQ test scores—even if they can’t define ‘intelligence’. Midgley’s chapter, while short, gets straight to the point. ‘Intelligence’ is not a ‘thing’ like height, weight, or temperature. Height can be measured by a ruler; weight can be measured by a scale; temperature can be measured by a thermometer. Intelligence? Can’t be measured by an IQ test.

McNamara’s Morons

2650 words

The Vietnam War can be said to be the only war that America has lost. Due to a lack of men volunteering for combat (and a large number of young men getting exemptions from service from their doctors and many other ways), standards were lowered in order to meet quotas. They recruited those with low test scores who came to be known as ‘McNamara’s Morons’—a group of 357,000 or so men. With ‘mental standards’ now lower, the US now had men to fight in the war.

This decision was made by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Lyndon B. Johnson. This came to be known as ‘McNamara’s Folly’—the title of a book on the subject (Hamilton, 2015). Hamilton (2015: 10) writes: “A total of 5,478 low-IQ men died will in the service, most of them in combat. Their fatality rate was three times as high as that of other GIs. An estimated 20,270 were wounded, and some were permanently disabled (including an estimated 500 amputees).

Hamilton spends the first part of the book describing his friendship with a man named Johnny Gupton who could neither read nor write. He spoke like a hillbilly and used hillbilly phrasing. According to Hamilton (2010: 14):

I was surprised that he knew nothing about the situation he was in. He didn’t understand what basic training was all about, and he didn’t know that America was in a war. I tried to  explain what was happening, but at the end, I could tell that he was still in a fog.

Hamilton describes an instance in which they were told that on their postcards they were to send home, they should not write anything “raunchy” like the sergeant said “Don’t be like that trainee who went through here and wrote ‘Dear Darlene. This is to inform you that Sugar Dick has arrived safely…’(Hamilton, 2015: 16). Hamilton went on to write that Gupton did not ‘get’ the joke while “There was a roar of laughter” from everyone else. Gupton’s postcard, since he could not read or write, was written by Hamilton but he did not know his address; he could not state the name of a family member, only stating “Granny” while not able to state her full name. He could not tie his boots correctly, so Hamilton did it for him every morning. But he was a great boot-shiner, having the shiniest boots in the barracks.

Writing home to his fiancee, Hamilton (2015: 18) wrote to her that Gupton’s dogtags “provide him with endless fascination.”

Gupton had trouble distinguishing between left and right, which prevented him from marching in step (“left, right, left, right”) and knowing which way to turn for commands like “left face!” and “right flank march!” So Sergeant Boone tied an old shoelace around Gupton’s right wrist to help him remember which side of his body was the right side, and he placed a rubber band on the left wrist to denote the left side of the body. The shoelace and the rubberband helped, but Gupton was a but slow in responding. For example, he learned how to execute “left face” and “right face,” but he was a fraction of a second behind everyone else.

Gupton was also not able to make his bunk to Army standards, so Hamilton and another soldier did it for him. Hamilton stated that Gupton could also not distinguish between sergeants and officers. “Someone in the barracks discovered that Gupton thought a nickel was more valuable than a dime because it was bigger in size(Hamilton, 2015: 26). So after that, Hamilton took Gupton’s money and rationed it out to him.

Hamilton then describes a time where he was asked by a Captain what they were doing and the situation they were in—to which he gave the correct responses. A Captain then asked Gupton “Which rank is higher, a captain or a general?” to which Gupton responded, “I don’t know, Drill Sergeant.” (He was supposed to say ‘Sir.’) The captain talking to Hamilton then said:

Can you believe this idiot we drafted? I tell you who else is an idiot. Fuckin’ Robert McNamara. How can he expect us to win a war if we draft these morons? (Hamilton, 2015: 27)

Captain Bosch’s contemptuous remark about Defense Secretary McNamara was typical of the comments I often heard from career Army men, who detested McNamara’s lowering of enlistment standards in order to bring low-IQ men into the ranks. (Hamilton, 2015: 28)

Hamilton heard one sergeant tell others that “Gupton should absolutely never be allowed to handle loaded weapons on his own(Hamilton, 2015: 41). Gupton was then sent to kitchen duty where, for 16 hours (5 am to 9 pm), they would have to peel potatoes, clean the floors, do the dishes etc.

Hamilton (2015: 45) then describes another member of “The Muck Squad” but in a different platoon who “was unfazed by the dictatorial authority of his superiors.” When an officer screamed at him for not speaking or acting correctly he would then give a slightly related answer. When asked if he had shaved one morning, he “replied with a rambling of pronouncements about body odor and his belief that the sergeants were stealing his soap and shaving cream(Hamilton, 2015: 45). He was thought to be faking insanity but he kept getting weirder; Hamilton was told that he would talk to an imaginary person in his bunk at night.

Murdoch was then told to find an electric floor buffer to buff the floors and he “wandered around in battalion headquarters until he found the biggest office, which belonged to the battalion commander. He walked in without knocking or saluting or seeking permission to speak, and asked the commander—a lieutenant colonel—for a buffer“. When in the office, he “proceeded to play with a miniature cannon and other memorabilia on the commander’s desk…(Hamilton, 2015: 45). Murdoch was then found to have schizophrenia and was sent on home medical discharge.

Right before their tests of physical fitness to see if they qualified, young-looking sergeants shaved their heads and did the tests for them—Gupton got a 95 while Hamilton got an 80, which upset Hamilton because he knew he could have scored 100.

Hamilton ended up nearly getting heatstroke (with a 105-degree fever) and so he was separated from Gupton. He eventually ended up contacting someone who had spent time with Gupton. He did not “remember much about Gupton except that he was protected by a friendly sergeant, who had grown up with a “mentally handicapped” sister and was sensitive to his plight(Hamilton, 2015: 51). Gupton was only given menial jobs by this sergeant. Hamilton discovered that Gupton had died at age 57 in 2002.

Hamilton then got sent to Special Training Company because while he was out with his fever he missed important days so his captain sent him to the Company to get “rehabilitation” before returning to another training company. They had to do log drills and a Physical Combat Proficiency Test, which most men failed. You needed 60 points per event to pass. The first event was crawling on dirt as fast as possible for 40 yards on your hands and knees. “Most of the men failed to get any points at all because they were disqualified for getting up on their knees. They had trouble grasping the concept of keeping their trunks against the ground and moving forward like supple lizards(Hamilton, 2015: 59).

The second event was the horizontal ladder—imagine a jungle gym. Think of swinging like an ape through the trees. Hamilton, though as he admits not being strong, traversed 36 rungs in under a minute for the full 60 points. When he attempted to show them how to do it and watch them try, “none of the men were able to translate the idea into action” * (Hamilton, 2015: 60).

The third event was called run, dodge, and jump. They had to zig-zag, dodge obstacles, and side-step people and finally jump over a shallow ditch. To get the 60 points they had to make 2 trips in 25 seconds.

Some of the Special Training men were befuddled by one aspect of the course: the wooden obstacles had directional arros, and if you failed to go in the right direction, you were disqualified. A person of normal intelligence would observe the arrows ahead of time and run in the right direction without pausing or breaking stride. But these men would hesitate in order to study the arros and think about which way to go. For each second they paused, they lost 10 points. A few more men were unable to jump across the ditch, so they were disqualified. (Hamilton, 2015: 60-61)

Fourth was the grenade throw. They had to throw 5 training grenades 90 feet with scoring similar to that of a dartboard where the closer you are to the bull’s eye, the higher your score. They had to throw it from one knee in order to simulate battle conditions, but “Most of the Special Training men were too weak or uncoordinated to come close to the target, so they got a zero” * (Hamilton, 2015: 61). Most of them tried throwing it in a straight line like a baseball catcher rather than an arc like a center fielder to a catcher trying to throw someone out at home plate. “…the men couldn’t understand what he was driving at, or else they couldn’t translate it into action. Their throws were pathetic little trajectories” (Hamilton, 2015: 62).

Fifth was the mile-run—they had to do it in eight minutes and 33 seconds but they had to  have their combat boots on. The other men in his group would immediately sprint, tiring themselves outs, they could not—according to Hamilton—“grasp or apply what the sergeants told them about the need to maintain a steady pace (not too slow, not too fast) throughout the entire mile.

Hamilton then discusses another instance in which sergeants told a soldier that there was a cat behind the garbage can and to pick up a cat. But the cat turned out to be a skunk and he spent the next two weeks in the hospital getting treated for possible rabies. “He had no idea that the sergeants had played a trick on him.”

It was true that most of us were unimpressive physical specimens—overweight or scrawny or just plain unhealthy-looking, with unappealing faces and awkward ways of walking and running.

[…]

Sometimes trainees from other companiees, riding by in trucks, would hoot at us and shout “morons!” and “dummies!” Once, when a platoon marched by, the sergeant led the men in singing,

If I had a low IQ,
I’d be Special Training, too!

(It was sung to the tune of the famous Jody songs, as in “Ain’t no use goin’ home/Jody’s got your girls and gone.”)

Hamilton states that there was “One exception to the general unattractiveness” who “was Freddie Hensley.” He was consumed with “dread and anxiety”, always sighing. Freddie ended up being too slow to pass the rifle test with moving targets. Hamilton had wondered “why Freddie had been chosen to take the rifle test, but it soon dawned on me that he was selected because he was a handsome young man. Many people equate good looks with competence, and ugliness with incompetence. Freddie didn’t look like a dim bulb(Hamilton, 2015: 72).

Freddy also didn’t know some ‘basic facts’ such as thunder precedes lightining. “As Freddy and I sat together on foot lockers and looked out the window, I passed the time by trying to figure out how close the lightning was. … I tried to explain what I was doing, and I was not surprised that Freddy could not comprehend. What was surprising was my discovery that Freddy did not know that lightning caused thunder. He knew what lightning was, he knew what thunder was, but he did not know that one caused the other” (Hamilton, 2015: 72).


The test used while the US was in Vietnam was the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualifying Test) (Maier, 1993: 1). As Maier (1993: 3) notes—as does Hamilton—men who chose to enlist could choose their occupation from a list whereas those who were forced had their occupation chosen for them.

For example, during the Vietnam period, the minimum selection standards were so low that many recruits were not qualified for any specialty, or the specialties for which they were qualified had already been filled by people with higher aptitude scores. These people, called no-equals, were rejected by the algorithm and had to be assigned by hand. Typically they were assigned as infantrymen, cooks, or stevedores. Maier (1993: 4)

Most of McNamara’s Morons

came from economically unstable homes with non-traditional family structures. 70% came from low-income backgrounds, and 60% came from singleparent families. Over 80% were high school dropouts, 40% read below a sixth grade level, and 15% read below a fourth grade level. 50% had IQs of less than 85. (Hsiao, 1989: 16-17)

Such tests were constructed from their very beginnings, though, to get this result.

… the tests’ very lack of effect on the placement of [army] personnel provides the clue to their use. The tests were used to justify, not alter, the army’s traditional personnel policy, which called for the selection of officers from among relatively affluent whites and the assignment of white of lower socioeconomic status go lower-status roles and African-Americans at the bottom rung. (Mensh and Mensh 1991: 31)


Reading through this book, the individuals that Hamilton describes clearly had learning disabilities. We do not need IQ tests to identify such individuals who clearly suffer from learning disabilities and other abnormalities (Sigel, 1989). Jordan Peterson claims that the military won’t accept people with IQs below 83, while Gottfredson states that

IQ 85 is a second important minimum threshold because the U.S. military sets its minimum enlistment standards at about this level. (2004, 28)

The laws in some countries, such as the United States, do not allow individuals with IQs below 80 to serve in the military because they lack adequate trainability. (2004, 18)

What “laws” do we have here in America ***specifically*** to disallow “individuals with IQs below 80 to serve in the military”? ** Where are the references? Why do Peterson and Gottfredson both make unevidenced claims when the claim in question most definitely needs a reference?

McNamara’s Folly is a good book; it shows why we should not let people with learning/physical/mental disabilities into the war. However, from the descriptions Hamilton gave, we did not need to learn their IQ to know that they could not be soldiers. It was clear as day that they weren’t all there, and their IQ score is irrelevant to that. The people described in the book clearly have developmental disabilities; how is IQ causal in this regard? IQ is an outcome, not a cause (Howe, 1997).

Both Jordan Peterson and Linda Gottfredson claim that the military will not hire a recruit with an IQ score of 80 or below; but they both just make a claim and attempting to validate the claim by searching through military papers does not validate the claim. In any case, IQ scores are not needed to learn that an individual has a learning disability (like how those described in the book clearly had). The unevidenced claims from Gottfredson and Peterson should not be accepted. In any case, one’s IQ is not causal in regard to their inability to, say, become a soldier as other factors are important, not a reified number we call ‘IQ.’ Their IQ scores were not their downfalls.

* Note that if one does not have a good mind-muscle connection then they won’t be able to carry-out novel tasks such as what they went through on the monkey bars.

1/20/2020 Edit ** I did not look hard enough for a reference for the claims. It appears that there is indeed a law (10 USC Sec. 520) that states that those that get between 1 and 9 questions right (category V) are not trainable recruits. The ASVAB is not not a measure of ‘general intelligence’, but is a measure of “acculturated learning” (Roberts et al, 2000). The ‘IQ test’ used in Murray and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve was the AFQT, and it “best indicates poverty” (Palmer, 2018). This letter relates AFQT scores to the Weschler and Stanford-Binet—where the cut-off is 71 for the S-B and 80 for Weschler (both are category V). Returning to Mensh and Mensh (1991), such tests were—from their very beginnings—used to justify the current military order, having lower-class recruits in more menial jobs.

The Oppression of the High IQs

1250 words

I’m sure most people remember their days in high school. Popular kids, goths, preppies, the losers, jocks, and the geeks are some of the groups you may find in the typical American high school. Each group, most likely, had another group that they didn’t like and became their rival. For the geeks, their rivals are most likely the jocks. They get beat on, made fun of, and most likely sit alone at lunch.

Should there be legal protection for such individuals? One psychologist argues there should be. Sonja Falck from the University of London specializes in high “ability” individuals and states that terms like “geek”, and “nerd” should be hate crimes and categorized under the same laws like homophobic, religious and racial slurs. She even published a book on the subject, Extreme Intelligence: Development, Predicaments, Implications (Falck, 2019). (Also see The Curse of the High IQ, see here for a review.)

She wants anti-IQ slurs to be classified as hate crimes. Sure, being two percent of the population (on a constructed normal curve) does mean they are a “minority group”, just like those at the bottom two percent of the distribution. Some IQ-ists may say “If the bottom two percent are afforded special protections then so should the top two percent.”

While hostile or inciteful language about race, religion, sexuality, disability or gender identity is classed as a hate crime, “divisive and humiliating” jibes such as ‘smart-arse’, ‘smart alec’, and ‘know-it-all’ are dismissed as “banter” and used with impunity against the country’s high-IQ community, she said.
According to Dr Falck, being labelled a ‘nerd’ in the course of being bullied, especially as a child, can cause psychological damage that may last a lifetime.
Extending legislation to include so-called ‘anti-IQ’ slurs would, she claims, help stamp out the “archaic” victimisation of more than one million Britons with a ‘gifted’ IQ score of 132 or over.
Her views are based on eight years of research and after speaking to dozens of high-ability children, parents and adults about their own experiences.
Non-discrimination against those with very high IQ is also supported by Mensa, the international high IQ society and by Potential Plus UK, the national association for young people with high-learning potential. (UEL ACADEMIC: ANTI-IQ TERMS ARE HATE CRIME’S ‘LAST TABOO’)

I’m not going to lie—if I ever came across a job application and the individual had on their resume that they were a “Mensa member” or a member of some other high IQ club, it would go into the “No” pile. I would assume that is discrimination against high IQ individuals, no?

It seems like Dr. Falck is implying that terms such as “smart arse”, “geek”, and “nerd” are similar to “moron” (a term with historical significance coined by Henry Goddard, see Dolmage, 2018), idiot, dumbass and stupid should be afforded the same types of hate crime legislation? Because people deemed to be “morons” or “idiots” were sterilized in America as the eugenics movement came to a head in the 1900s.

Low IQ individuals were sterilized in America in the 1900s, and the translated Binet-Simon test (and other, newer tests) were used for those ends. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina sterilized thousands of low IQ individuals in the 1900s—around 60,000 people were sterilized in total in America before the 1960s, and IQ was one way to determine who to sterilize. Sterilization in America (which is not common knowledge) continued up until the 80s in some U.S. states (e.g., California).

There was true, real discrimination against low IQ people during the 20th century, and so, laws were enacted to protect them. They, like the ‘gifted’ individuals, comprise 2 percent of the population (on a constructed curve by the test’s constructors), low IQ individuals are afforded protection by the law. Therefore, states the IQ-ist, high IQ individuals should be afforded protection by the law.

But is being called a ‘nerd’, ‘geek’, ‘smarty pants’, ‘dweeb’, ‘smart arse’ (Falck calls these ‘anti-IQ words‘) etc is not the same as being called terms that originated during the eugenic era of the U.S.. Falck wants the term ‘nerd’ to be a ‘hate-term.’ The British Government should ‘force societal change’ and give special protections to those with high IQs. People freely use terms like ‘moron’ and ‘idiot’ in everyday speech—along with the aforementioned terms cited by Falck.

Falck wants ‘intelligence’ to be afforded the same protections under the Equality Act of 2010 (even though ‘intelligence’ means just scoring high on an IQ test and qualifying for Mensa; note that Mensans have a higher chance for psychological and physiological overexcitability; Karpinski et al, 2018). Now, Britain isn’t America (where we, thankfully, have free speech laws), but Falck wants there to be penalities for me if I call someone a ‘geek.’ How, exactly, is this supposed to work? Like with my example above on putting a resume with ‘Mensa member’ in the “No” pile? Would that be discrimination? Or is it my choice as an employer who I want to work for me? Where do we draw the line?

By way of contrast, intelligence does not neatly fit within the definition of any of the existing protected characteristics. However, if a person is treated differently because of a protected characteristic, such as a disability, it is possible that derogatory comments regarding their intelligence might form part of the factual matrix in respect of proving less favourable treatment.

[…]

If the individual is suffering from work-related stress as a result of facing repeated “anti-IQ slurs” and related behaviour, they might also fall into the definition of disabled under the Equality Act and be able to bring claims for disability discrimination. (‘Anti-IQ’ slurs: Why HR should be mindful of intelligence-related bullying

How would one know if the individual in question is ‘gifted’? Acting weird? They tell you? (How do you know if someone is a Mensan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.) Calling people names because they do X? That is ALL a part of workplace banter—better call up OSHA! What does it even mean for one to be mistreated in the workplace due to their ‘high intelligence’? If there is someone that I work with and they seem to be doing things right, not messing up and are good to work with, there will be no problem. On the other hand, if they start messing up and are bad to work with (like they make things harder for the team, not being a team player) there will be a problem—and if their little quirks means they have a ‘high IQ’ and I’m being an IQ bigot, then Falck would want there to be penalties for me.

I have yet to read the book (I will get to it after I read and review Murray’s Human Diversity and Warne’s Debunking 35 Myths About Human Intelligence—going to be a busy winter for me!), but the premise of the book seems strange—where do we draw the line on ‘minority group’ that gets afforced special protections? The proposal is insane; name-calling (such as the cited examples in the articles) is normal workplace banter (you, of course, need thick skin to not be able to run to HR and rat your co-workers out). It seems like Mensa has their own out there, attempting to afford them protections that they do not need. High IQ people are clearly oppressed and discriminated against in society and so need to be afforded special protection by the law. (sarcasm)

This, though, just speaks to the insanity on special group protection and the law. I thought that this was a joke when I read these articles—then I came across the book.

An Argument for Banning IQ Tests

1650 words

In 1979, a California judge ruled that the proliferation of IQ testing in the state was unconstitutional. Some claimed that the ruling discriminated against minority students while others claimed that the banning would be protecting them from testing which is racially and culturally biased. The Judge in Larry P. v Riles (see Wade, 1980 for an exposition) sided with the parents, stating that IQ tests were both racially and culturally biased and therefore it was unconstitutional to use them to place minority children into EMR classes (educable mentally retarded).

While his decision applied to only one test used in one state (California), its implications are universal: if IQ tests are biased against a particular group, they are not only invalid for one use but for all uses on that group. Nor is bias a one-dimensional phenomenon. If the tests are baised against one or more groups, they are necessarily biased in favor of one or more goups — and so invalid. (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 2)

In 1987 in The Washington Times, Jay Matthews reported:

Unbeknownst to her and most other Californians, a lengthy national debate over intelligence tests in public schools had just ended in the nation’s most populous state, and anti-test forces had won.

Henceforth, no black child in California could be given a state-administered intelligence test, no matter how severe the student’s academic problems. Such tests were racially and culturally biased, U.S. District Court Judge Robert F. Peckham had ruled in 1979. After losing in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, the state agreed not to give any of the 17 banned IQ (intelligence quotient) tests to blacks.

But one year later in 1980, there was another court case, Parents in Action on Special Ed, and the court found that IQ tests were not discriminatory. However, that misses the point because all of the items on IQ and similar tests are carefully chosen out of numerous trial items to get the types of score distributions that they want.

Although the ban on standardized testing for blacks in California was apparently lifted in the early 90s, Fox News reported in 2004 that “Pamela Lewis wanted to have her 6-year-old son Nicholas take a standardized IQ test to determine if he qualifies for special education speech therapy. Officials at his school routinely provide the test to kids but as Lewis soon found out, not to children who are black, due to a statewide policy that goes back to 1979.The California Associatiotn of School Psychologists wants the ban on IQ tests for black children lifted, but they are not budging.


There is an argument somewhere here, and I will formalize.

Judge Peckham sided with the parents in the case Larry P v. Riles, stating that since IQ tests were racially and culturally biased, they should not be given to black children. He stated that we cannot truly measure nor define intelligence. But he also found that IQ tests were racially and culturally biased against blacks. Thus, the application of IQ testing was funneling more black children into EMR classrooms. All kinds of standardized tests have their origins in the IQ testing movement of the 1900s. There, it was decided which groups would be or would not be intelligent and the tests were then constructed on this a priori assumption.

Let’s assume that hereditarianism is true, like Gottfredson (2005) does. Gottfredson (2005: 318) writes that “We might especially target individuals below IQ 80 for special support, intellectual as well as material. This is the cognitive ability (“trainability”) level below which federal law prohibits induction into the American military and below which no civilian jobs in the United States routinely recruit their workers.” This seems reasonable enough on its face; some people are ‘dumber’ than others and so they deserve special treatment and education in order to maximize their abilities (or lack thereof). But hereditarianism is false and rests on false pretenses.

But if it were false and we believed it to be true—like the trend seems to be going today, then we can enact undesirable social policies due to our false belief that hereditarianism is true. Believing in such falsities, while using IQ tests to prop and back up our a priori biases, can lead to social policies that may be destructive for a group that the IQ test ‘deems’ to be ‘unintelligent.’

So if we believe something that’s not true (like, say, the Hereditarian Hypothesis is true and that IQ tests test one’s capacity for intellectual ability), then destructive social policy may be enacted that may further harm the low-scoring group in question. The debate between hereditarians and environmentalists has been on-going for the past one hundred years, but they are arguing about tests with the conclusion already in mind. Environmentalists give weight and lend credence to the claim that IQ tests are measures of intelligence where environmental factors preclude one to a low score whereas hereditarians claim that they are measures of intelligence but genes significantly influence one’s ability to be intelligent.

The belief that IQ tests test intelligence goes hand-in-hand with hereditarianism: since environmentalists lend credence to the Hereditarian Hypothesis by stating that environmental factors decrease intellectual ability, they are in effect co-signing the use for IQ tests as tests of ability. If we believe that the Hereditarian or Environmentalist Hypotheses are true, we are still presuming that these tests measure intellectual ability, and that this ability is constrained either by genes, environment or a combination of the two.

So, if a certain policy could be enacted and this certain social policy could have devastating consequences for a social group’s educational attainment, say, then why shouldn’t we ban these tests that put a label on individuals that follow them for many years? This is known as the Pygmalion effect. Rosenthal and Jacob (1965) told teachers at the beginning of the new academic year that this new test would predict which students would ‘bloom’ intellectually throughout the year. They told the teachers that their most gifted students were chosen on the basis of a new test, but they were just randomly selected from 18 classrooms while their true scores did not show that they were ‘intellectual.’ Those who were designated as ‘bloomers’ showed a 2 point increase in VIQ, 7 in reasoning, and 4 points in FSIQ. The experiment shows that a teacher’s thoughts on the abilities of their students affect their academic output—that is, the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. (Also see Boser, Wilhelm, and Hanna, 2014.)

So if a teacher believes their student to be less ‘intelligent’, then, most likely, the prophecy will be fulfilled in virtue of the teacher’s expectations of the student (the same can be said about maternal expectations too, see also Jensen and McHale, 2015). This then could lead them to getting placed into EMR classes and being labled for life—which would screw up one’s life prospects. For instance, Ercole (2009: 5) writes that:

According to Schultz (1983), the expectations teachers have of their students inevitably effects the way that teachers interact with them, which ultimately leads to changes in the student’s behavior and attitude. In a classic study performed by Robert Rosenthal, elementary school teachers were given IQ scores for all of their students, scores that, unbeknownst to the teachers, did not reflect IQ and, in fact, measured nothing. Yet just as researchers predicted, teachers formed a positive expectation for those students who scored high on the exam vs. those who scored low (Harris, 1991). In response to these expectations, the teachers inevitably altered their environment in four ways (Harris, 1991): First, the teaching climate was drastically different depending on if a “smart” child asked questions, or offered answers, vs. if a “dumb” child performed the same behaviors. The former was met with warm and supportive feedback while the latter was not. Second, the amount of input a teacher gave to a “smart” student was much higher, and entailed more material being taught, vs. if the student was “dumb”. Third, the opportunity to respond to a question was only lengthened for students identified as smart. Lastly, teachers made much more of an effort to provide positive and encouraging feedback to the “smart” children while little attention/feedback was given to the “dumb” students, even if they provided the correct answer.

Conclusion

This is one of many reasons why such labeling does more harm than good—and always keep in mind that such labeling begins and ends with the advent of IQ testing in the 1900s. In any case, teachers—and parents—can influence the trajectory of students/children just by certain beliefs they hold about them. And believing that IQ=intelligence and that low scorers are somehow “dumber” than high scorers is how one gets ‘labeled’ which then follows them for years after the labeling.

Even though it is not explicitly stated, it is implicitly believed that the hereditarian hypothesis is true, thus, believing it is while also believing that IQ tests test intelligence is a recipe for disaster in the not-so-distant future. I only need to point to the utilities of IQ testing in the 1900s at Ellis Island. I only need to point to the fact that American IQ tests have their origins in eugenic policies and that such policies were premised on the IQ test assumption, which many American states and different countries throughout the world got involved in (Wahlsten, 1997; Kevles, 1999; Farber, 2008; Reddy, 2008; Grennon and Merrick, 2014). Many people supported sterilizing those with low IQ scores (Wilson, 2017: 46-47).


The formalized argument is here:

(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 (Hypothetical Syllogism, P2, 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, P4, P5).

The Frivolousness of the Hereditarian-Environmentalist IQ Debate: Gould, Binet, and the Utility of IQ Testing

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Hereditarians have argued that IQ scores are mostly caused by genetic factors with environment influencing a small amount of the gap whereas environmentalists argue that the gaps can be fully accounted for by environmental factors such as access to resources, the educational attainment of parents and so on. However, the debate is useless. It is useless not only due to the fact that it props up a false dichotomy, it is uselss because the tests get the results the constructors want.

Why the hereditarian-environmentalist debate is frivolous

This is due to the fact that when high-stakes tests were first created (eg the SAT in the mid-1920s) they were based on the first IQ tests brought to America. All standardized tests are based on the concept of IQ—this means that, since the concept of IQ is based on presuppositions of the ‘intelligence’ distribution in society and high-stakes standardized tests are then based on that concept, then they will be inherently biased as a rule. The SAT is even the “first offshoot of the IQ test” (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 3). Such tests are not even objective as is frequently claimed, “high-stakes, standardised testing has functions to mask the reality of structural race and class inequalities in the United States” (Au, 2013: 17; see also Knoester and Au, 2015).

The reasoning for the uselessness of the debate between hereditarians and environmentalists is simple: The first tests were constructed with the results the test constructors wanted to get; they assumed the distribution of test scores would be normal and create the test around that assumption, adding and removing items until they get the outcome they presupposed.

Sure, someone may say that “It’s all genes and environment so the debate is useless”, though that’s not what the debate is actually about. The debate isn’t one of nature and nurture, but it is a debate about tests created with prior biases in mind to attempt to justify certain social inequalities between groups. What these tests do is “sort human populations along socially, culturally, and economically determined lines” (Au, 2008: 151; c.f. Mensh and Mensh, 1991). And it’s these socially, culturally, and economically determined lines that the tests are based off. The constructors assume that people at the bottom must be less intelligent and so they build the test around the assumption.

If the test constructors had different presuppositions about the nature and distribution of “intelligence” then they would get different results. This is argued by Hilliard (2012:115-116) in Straightening the Bell Curve where she shoes that South African IQ test constructors removed a 15-20 point difference between two white South African groups.

A consistent 15-20 point IQ differential existed between the more economically privileged, better educated, urban-based, English-speaking whites and the lower-scoring, rural-based, poor, white Afrikaners. To avoid comparisons that would have led to political tensions between the two white groups, South African IQ testers squelched discussion about genetic differences between the two European ethnicities. They solved the problem by composing a modified version of the IQ test in Afrikaans. In this way, they were able to normalize scores between the two white cultural groups.

This is, quite obviously, is admission from test constructors themselves that score differences can, and have been, built into and out of the tests based on prior assumptions.

It has been claimed that equal opportunity depends on standardized testing. This is a bizarre claim because standardized testing has its origins with Binet’s (and Goddard’s, Yerkes’ and Terman’s) IQ tests.

It is paradoxical to maintain that IQ tests, which are inherently biased, can promote equal opportunity. The tests do what their construction dictates; they correlate a group’s mental worth with its place in the social hierarchy. (Mensh and Mensh, 1991, The IQ Mythology, pg 30)

They wrote that in response to Gould who believed that there was some use for IQ tests since his son was identified as learning disabled through IQ testing (even though IQ is irrelevant to the definition of learning disabilities; Siegal, 1989).

Testing, from its very beginnings, has been used to attempt to justify the current social order. They knew that certain classes and races were already less intelligent than other classes and races and so they created their tests to line-up with their biases.

Hereditarians may attempt argue that the test bias debate was put to bed by Jensen (1980) in his Bias in Mental Testing, though he largely skirts around the issue and equivocates on certain terms. Environmentalists may attempt to argue that access to different resources and information causes such test score differences—and while this does seem to be the case (eg Ceci, 1990; Au, 2007, 2008), again, the debate rests on false assumptions from people over 100 years ago.

There are at least 4 reasons for the test score gap:

(1) Differences in genes cause differences in IQ scores;

(2) Differences in environment cause differences in IQ scores;

(3) A combination of genes and environment cause differences in IQ scores; and

(4) Differences in IQ scores are built into the test based on the test constructors’ prior biases.

Hereditarians argue for (1) and (3) (eg Rushton and Jensen, 2005) while environmentalists argue for (2) (eg Klineberg, 1928) and test critics argue for (4) (eg Mensh and Mensh, 1991; Au, 2008). Knowing how and why such tests were originally created and used will show us that (4) is the correct answer.

Egalitarians may claim that IQ tests can be looked at as egalitarian devices and be used for good, such as identifying at-risk, lower-“ability” children. But such claims then end up justifying hereditarian arguments.

Like IQ tests, the hereditarian-environmentalist debate is immersed in mythology. In fact, this debate has revolved around IQ testing for so long that the myths surrounding each are not only intertwined but interdependent.

According to its image, the nature-nurture debate pits conservatives against liberals. One part of this image reflects reality; part is mythical; environmentalistsm has not only liberal and radical supporters, but many conservative ones as well.

One facor that sustains the deabte’s liberal-versus-conservative image is that many environmentalists have condemned the hereditarians’ claims of genetic intelligence differentials between races and classes as a justification for class and racial inequality. At the same time, however, environmetalists present their own thesis — which accepts the claim of class and racial intelligence differentials but attributes the alleged differentials to environment rather than heredity — as an alternative to hereditarianism. But is their thesis in fact an alternative to hereditarianism? Or does it instead — irrespective of the mentions of many environmentalists — result in an alternative justification for class and racial inequality? (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 10-11)

Gould and Binet

One of the most famous environmentalists is Stephen Jay Gould. In the 1970s, he compared craniometry in the 19th century to IQ testing in the 20th—seemingly to discredit the notion—but he ended up, according to Mensh and Mensh (1991: 13), disassociating psychometrics from its beginnings, and then “proceeded to a defense of IQ testing” which may seem strange given the title of the book (The Mismeasure of Man), but “by saying that “man” has been mismeasured, it suggests that man can also be properly measured.”

Binet himself said many contradictory things regarding the nature of the tests that he constructed. His test was designed to “separate natural intelligence and instruction” since it is “the intelligence we seek to measure” (Binet, quoted in Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 19). Gould then attempted to explain this away stating that Binet removed items in which one’s experience would bias test outcomes, but it seems that Gould forgets that all knowledge is acquired. Gould—and others—attempt to paint Binet as an antihereditarian, but if one reads Binet’s writings they will come to find out that he did indeed express many hereditarian sentiments. (Binet seems to contradict himself often enough, writing, for example, “Psychologists do not measure…we classify“, quoted in Richardson, 2004. But Binet and his contemporaries did indeed classify—they classified at-risk, low-“ability” children into their ‘correct’ educational setting based on their ‘intelligence’.)

Binet stated that special education needed to be tailored to different groups, but he did not, of course, assume that those who would need the special education would come from the general population: they would come from lower-income areas and then constructed his test to fit his assumption.

Since all IQ-test scores are relative, or inherently depedent on each other, it is illogical to contend, as Gould did, that one test use is beneficial and the others are not. To be logical one must acknowledge that if the original test use was positive, as Gould maintained, then the others would be too. Conversely, if other test uses were negative, as Gould suggested in this instance (although not in others), then something was wrong with the original use, that is, intrinsically wrong with the test. (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 23)

Mensh and Mensh then discuss Gould’s treatment of Yerkes’ Army qualification tests. They were administered in “Draconian traditions”, but Gould did not reject the tests. He instead did not criticize the earlier tests, but criticized the tests post-Goddard (after 1911). Because Gould “accepted the fallacious premise of mental measurement, he could overlook his technical criticism and, paradoxically, accept the figures he had apparently rejected; although the product of deviant methods, they nonetheless ranked races and classes in the same way as those produced by approved methods” (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 29). Gould called the figures “rotten to the core” but then called them “pure numbers”, claiming that they could even be used to “promote equality of opportunity” (Gould, 1996: 228). In essence, Gould was arguing that Yerkes should have taken to an environmentalist (that a group’s intelligence is educationally-determined) and not a hereditarian position (that a group had not acquired a high level of educational attainment since they had lower intelligence).

Environmentalism perpetuates hereditarianism

It may seem counter-intuitive, but claims from environmentalists perpetuate hereditarianism in virtue of accepting the hereditarian claim that there are intelligence differences between classes, races, men and women. Otto Klineberg held the belief that IQ tests were used to justify the current racial hierarchy between blacks and whites, but unbeknownst to him, his environmentalist position perpetuates the hereditarian dogma (Klineberg, 1928).

Klineberg conducted his study with the exemplary aim of rebutting the selective migration thesis, but the study itself reinforced from an environmentalist standpoint the hereditarians’ claims that whites are superior in intelligence to blacks and that IQ tests and measures of school performance are measures of intelligence. (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 91)

Conclusion

For these reasons, the hereditarian/environmentalist IQ debate is useless as score differences can be—and have been—built into the tests which IQ testers used as justification that certain groups were less “intelligent” than others. For if the constructors had different presuppositions (say they believed Europeans were inferior in “intelligence” compared to other races) then they would construct the tests to show that assumption.

Such tests are premised on subjective assumptions about ‘intelligence’ (whatever that is) and its distribution among groups. But the hereditarian-environmentalist debate becomes ridiculous once one knows how and why IQ tests (the basis for high-stakes standardized testing which is in use today) were created and used for. Binet even held hereditarian views, contra claims from environmentalists.

But, as has been argued, the debate is meaningless—no meaningful dialogue can be had as the test constructors’ assumptions about intelligence and its distribution are built into  the test. Even when arguing against hereditarianism, environmentalist hypotheses still lend credence to the hereditarian position. For these reasons, the debate should cease.

Response to “A Critique of Ken Richardson: Initial Impressions and Social Class”

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I am now going on my fifth year blogging. In that time, my views have considerably shifted to what I would term HBD racial realism (reductionism of the Neo-Darwinian type which is refuted by a holistic perspective of the organism) to a more holistic, systems approach of the organism and how it interacts with its environment—the gene-environment system.

Many long-time readers may know that I used to be a staunch hereditarian especially when it came to IQ. However, back in the Spring of 2017, I read DNA is Not Destiny (Heine, 2017) and Genes, Brains, and Human Potential (Richardson, 2017a) (in the same month, no less). Heine had me questioning my views while Richardson completely changed them. I would say that the biggest catalysts were chapters 4 and 5 on genes, what they are and how they work in concert with the physiological system were imperative to my view changes. Further, learning more about the history of IQ testing also further lead to these view changes. (See my article “Why Did I Change My Views?” for more information.)

This then leads me to someone on Twitter by the name of “ModernHeresy” who, back in October, asked me which books best represent my views on IQ:

I replied, Genes, Brains, and Human Potential (Ken Richardson), On Intelligence (Stephen Ceci) and Inventing Intelligence (Elaine Castles). He then said that he thinks that Jensen et al are right about IQ, but that he will give Richardson’s book an honest chance. Well, I was heavily biased against anti-hereditarian arguments before I read Richardson’s book almost 3 years ago, and now look at me.

In any case, ModernHeresy (MH) had responded to some of Richardson’s arguments in his latest book in a video titled “A Critique of Ken Richardson: Initial Impressions and Social Class“. It seems like a well-researched video with four topics that I will also cover today. MH covers Goddard’s use of the Binet-Simon scales in turning away prospective immigrants who scored lower; the construct validity argument; IQ as a measure of social class; and IQ ‘predicts’ only through test construction. I will respond to each point per section.

Goddard

Goddard was the man who translated Binet’s original test and brought it to America, translating it to English in 1910. He was the director of the Vineland Training School of Feebleminded Boys and Girls in Vineland, New Jersey and he believed that one’s intellectual potential was biologically determined. Goddard used his translated-Binet to attempt to turn away those who he deemed “feebleminded” or “morons” (indeed, he was the one to coin the term; see Castles, 2012; Wilson, 2017; Dolmage, 2018). Goddard is of Kallikak family fame—a pseudonymous name for a family of “feebleminded people”, see Smith and Wehmeyer (2014) for an exposition on how Goddard was wrong about the Kallikaks and telling Deoborah Kallikaks true identity. To Goddard’s credit, though, he did recant some of his views in 1928 stating that “feeblemindedness” was not incurable, as he once thought.

MH then cites Snyderman and Herrnstein (1983) stating that they “thoroughly review the congressional record and testimony is almost no evidence that intelligence tests had any influence over the content or the passage of the 1924 immigration act.” MH then goes on to say that the claim that IQ testing had anything to do with the 1924 immigration act had its roots in the 70s, specifically in Leon Kamin’s The Science and Politics of IQ, which Gould then reiterated in both versions of Mismeasure of Man. (See here for a defense from Kamin and also see Dorfman.) MH then says that

Richardson’s book was published in 2017 this is completely inexcusable and I would argue an indication that Richardson’s work has a lot of its roots and arguments that originated in the 1970s and the formulation of these arguments have basically ignored or at best extremely selectively referenced any work in the almost 50 years since that have challenged them.

This is ridiculous. Snyderman and Herrnstein did nothing of the sort. Gelb et al (1986) write:

The historical record clearly documents that mental testing played a part in the national immigration debate between 1921 and 1924, though certainly in a less direct manner than Snyderman and Herrnstein purportedly sought to uncover.

[…]

In their distorted and simplistic account of the period, Snyderman and Herrnstein failed to account for the interconnections between psychometric, eugenic and political communities. While some historians of psychology have exxagerated the influence of the mental testers on the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, Snyderman and Herrnstein’s attempt to exonerate the early testers contains flaws at least as serious as any of those they criticize. Important mental testers of the 1910s and 1920s were willing to use their fledgling science to promote immigration restriction. One cannot examine the relevant historical material without concluding that prominent testers promoted eugenic and racist interests and sought to, and in some degree succeeded in, providing those interests with a mantle of scientific respectability.

While Ford (1985) writes that “If the long-standing acceptance of racial, ethnic, and sexual bias with intellectual circles prior to 1924 is considered, Snyderman and Herrnstein’s conclusion becomes invalid.” We know that there is racial, ethnic, and sex bias which are built into the test to get the score distributions the researchers want (Mensh and Mensh, 1991; Hilliard, 2012).

Dolmage (2018: 119) states that “Whenever [Henry Laughlin] testified [to the U.S. Congress], he brought charts, graphs, pedigree charts, and the results of hundreds of IQ tests as evidence of “the immigrant menace. Laughlin plastered the Congress committee room with charts and graphs showing ethnic differences in rates of institutionalization for various degenerative conditions, and he presented data about the mental and physical inferiority of recent immigrant groups.” So, IQ tests were, quite clearly, used to stifle immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe (though this was not specifically on Goddard, this was due directly to his bringing the Binet-Simon test to America and translating it into English).

MH then cites Richardson’s (2002) paper What IQ Tests Test, stating that Richardson cited Leila Zenderland’s (1998) book Measuring Minds, a biography of Goddard. MH cites a passage from Zenderland on Goddard:

While Goddard believed that most of these immigrants were indeed mentally weak, he wondered about the cause. “Are these immigrants of low mentality cases of hereditary defect”, Goddard now asked pointedly, “or cases of apparent mental defect by deprivation?” If the former, they still posed a threat to posterity; if the latter, then Americans need have no fears about the succeeding generations. While Goddard knew of no data to settle this “vital question”, he himself believed it “far more probably that their condition is due to environment than it is due to heredity. Their “environment has been poor” and “seems to account for the result,” he decided.

Such conclusions could hardly be said to support those calling for more restrictive legislation.

MH then says “As we will see later, Richardson cites sources that if read in their entirety frequently contradict his claims.” This is ridiculous. In his 2002 paper, he does indeed cite Zenderland 6 times, but here’s the thing: five of the citations are about Binet; one for the claim that IQ tests are ‘intelligence’ tests like Galton claimed. As I showed above, IQ testing was indeed used to attempt to curtail the number of immigrants into America.

MH then claims that, due to a quote with ellipses in Richardson’s 2002 paper that he was being deceptive not giving the whole quote and that he was

trying to dig up stuff where spearman or Charles Murray or somebody is admitting that something he’s arguing against has major weaknesses. So he finds that quote and thinks ‘Hm pervasive. That makes it sound as if there is a lot of evidence for this, I don’t like that. But I like the part where he says the evidence is circumstantial and the reality remains arguable. So I’ll just cut that part out. Who’s actually going to check this? The vast majority of my readers wouldn’t be caught dead owning The Bell Curve, much less actually reading it in any detail. Besides, I put ellipses, it’s all legal and above board.’

I personally have read The Bell Curve a few times and I’m familiar with the quote; I don’t think that the ellipses, in any way, diminishes Richardson’s point.

Construct Validity

I’ve written in-depth on this subject so I will be quick here. MH states that “it cannot be claimed that IQ tests have construct validity in the strict definitional sense.” He “partially agrees with the criticism” but he only “partially agrees” due to the “correlations” with regard to job performance and scholastic achievement.

Back in September, I wrote an article on test construction, item bias and item analysis. More recently, I wrote on the history of IQ testing and how tests are constructed with the presuppositions of the test’s constructors. Finally, in my most recent article on the ‘meaasurment’ of ‘intelligence’ I noted that first, IQ-ists need to provide a definition for intelligence, then they need to prove that IQ tests measure intelligence (they assume the tests measure what needs to be defined); then, after all is said and done, can IQ-ists then posit about “genetic” causes of intelligence and other psychological traits and variation between racial and ethnic groups. I have also created a syllogism in the modus tollens form showing that IQ tests cannot be construct valid:

Premise 1If the claim “IQ tests test intelligence” is true, then IQ tests must be construct valid.
Premise 2IQ tests are not construct valid.
ConclusionTherefore, the claim “IQ tests test intelligence” is false. (modus tollens, P1, P2)

IQ ‘predicts’ things through test construction; it’s not really a ‘prediction’, in any case. Since IQ tests are related to other kinds of achievement tests—indeed, they are different versions of the same test—the claim that IQ is a predictor of future success is therefore circular (Richardson, 2017b). Indeed, all of the claims that IQ specifically are predictive can be explained by other, less ‘mystical’ ways.

Social class and IQ

MH states that a problem for the “IQ as a measure of social class” argument is the fact that “most of the IQ variation in society is within families … about 70 percent of IQ variation is due to with-in family differences.” MH then quotes Richardson stating that correlations between .6 and .7 have been reported between IQ and maternal encouragement, for example, then stating that Richardson did “not mention the strong caveats Mackintosh presents following his summaries of these studies.” MH then quotes Mackintosh stating that while the correlations between a developing child’s IQ and variables like parental involvement and attitudes and the presence of books, toys and games in the home “the establishment of these correlations alone will never prove that one is direct cause of the other.” MH then states that there are two possibilities: how the child acts can influence elicits certain responses from the parent or that parents influence child development at least as much through their actions toward their children along with the genes they pass on to them.

MH then invokes the “sociologists fallacy” which is the tendency to think of a correlation between a social variable and a phenotype as causal without thinking that genetics mediates the relationship between the social variable and the phenotype in question—which is known as “genetic confounding”, where genes confound the relationship between two variables. However, for the “genetic confounding” claim to have any weight, there must be a mechanism that produces psychological variation, so in lieu of that, the “genetic confounding” claim, and along with it the “sociologist’s fallacy” charge are irrelevant until a mechanism is identified.

Other aspects of social class can, as well, differ between siblings such as teacher quality, teacher treatment, school quality and so on—all of which influence IQ (Ceci, 1990). Furthermore, Richardson never claimed that social class accounts for all of the variations in IQ. Richardson (2002) writes:

It suggests that all of the population variance in IQ scores can be described in terms of a nexus of sociocognitive-affective factors that differentially prepares individuals for the cognitive, affective and performance demands of the test—in effect that the test is a measure of social class background, and not one of the ability for complex cognition as such.

Richardson’s main claim (and which he successfully argues for) is that variation in the sociocognitive affective preparedness nexus accounts for the variation in IQ. IQ is “in effect” (to use Richardson’s words) a measure of social class since social class is a significant determinant of the variables that make up the sociocognitive affective preparedness nexus.

MH then cites Korenman and Winship (1995) who write that:

incredible as it may seem, our sibling analysis suggest that, even though Herrnstein and Murray’s parental SES index is poorly measured and narrowly conceived, it appears in most cases adequate for producing unbiased estimates of the effect of AFQT scores on socioeconomic outcomes.

MH then states that the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualifying Test) “is really just an IQ test” but, as Mensh and Mensh (1991) note, such tests were biased from their beginnings due to how they were constructed and how items were chosen to go along with the presupposed biases of the test’s constructors.

MH then brings up the Wilson Effect, which “is the observation that the heritability of IQ increases by age and by adulthood, the effect of the home environment has almost zero contribution to individual differences in IQ on average” (MH). The Wilson Effect, too, is an artifact of test construction. Richardson (2000: 36) writes:

Another assumption adopted in the construction of tests for IQ is that, as a supposed physical measure like height, it will steadily “grow” with age, tailing off at around late puberty. This property was duly built into the tests by selecting items which a steady proportion of subjects in each age group passed. Of course, there are many reasons why intelligence, however we definne it, may not develop like this. More embarrassing, though, has been the undesired, and unrealistic, side effect in which intelligence appeared to improve steadily up to the age of around eighteen years, and then start to decline. Again, this is all a matter of item selection, the effect easily being reversed by adding items on which older people perform better and reducing those on which younger people perform better. […] That [IQ score differences] are allowed to persist is a matter of prior assumption, not scientific fact. In all these ways, then, we find that the IQ-testing movement is not merely describing properties of people: rather, the IQ test has largely created them.”

In response to the claim that Richardson has never “operationalized” social class, this claim is false. In his most recent paper, Richardson and Jones (2019) cite a whole slew of more recent research to buttress Richardson’s (2002) sociocognitive affective nexus, noting that social class is more about money, cars and things, but also is how we think and feel. Richardson and Jones (2019: 39) write:

Finally, different social conditions also lead to different affective orientations, such as self-confidence and achievement expectancies, that impact on school learning and test performances (Frankenhuis & de Weerth, 2013; Odgers, 2015; Schmader, Johns, & Forbes, 2008). The effects of test anxiety on cognitive performance are well known, and have been estimated to affect up to 15%–20% of school children (Chin, Williams, Taylor, & Harvey, 2017). In addition, feelings of social rejection effect test performances and self-regulation (Stillman & Baumeister, 2013).

In sum, whatever else CA and EA scores measure, they at least partly reflect a socio-psychological population structure in ways probably unrelated to any general cognitive or learning ability.

MH then quotes Richardson citing Hoge and Coladarci (1989) who states that teacher judgments have a higher correlation between teacher’s assessment and future success in life. MH states that since the teachers were presumably well-acquainted with the children and their academic aptitudes that this explains the higher correlation than IQ tests have with future success of students in their life.

… the marginal time cost is small, nearly every child is already in school, but if you’re a parent being told your child needs to be placed in remedial classes, what are you more likely to trust? The judgment of a single random teacher or an IQ test standardized on thousands of children from a representative sample of the population with a test-retest reliability of .9?

The claim that teacher’s judgments can be done in a “fraction of the time” compared to IQ tests is indeed true. I have noted that this is how these tests were constructed originally in the early 1900s, and early test constructors related teacher’s judgments on ‘intelligence’ to their subjective presuppositions, constructing the test on the basis of teacher’s judgments and their own biases.

What explains professional success? IQ or social class? Ceci (1990: 87) notes that “the effects of IQ as a predictor of adult income were totally eliminated … when we entered parental social status, and years of schooling as covariates.” Ceci goes on to write that since education and social class were signficant and positive indicators of adult income “this indicates that the relationship between IQ and adult income is illusory … Thus, it appears that the IQ-income relationship is really the result of schooling and family background, not IQ.” (pg 87). So it one’s social standing (access to schooling and family background) that mediates the IQ-income relationship.

Mensh and Mensh (1991) note that Gould held contradictory views on IQ testing. He noted the racist and social origins of the testing movement, but accepted IQ tests for their utility for certain uses—most likely because they helped to identify his son that had a learning disability. IQ tests are not objective scientific instruments; indeed, how can a human mind (in all of its subjectivity) create an unbiased test? That IQ tests are standardized on thousands of people are irrelevant; the IQ test constructors can build what they want into and out of the test, so claiming that a parent should trust a (biased) IQ test over the judgment of “a single teacher” who has had years of teaching experience is superior—as Hoge and Coladeri (1989) do indeed show.

Lastly, MH cites brain imaging/head measuring studies showing correlations between IQ and the measures (Rushton and Ankney, 2009), while also purportedly showing that this holds among siblings as well (Lee et al, 2019). Schonemann et al (2000) show that brain size does not predict general cognitive ability within families, while pre-registered studies show lower correlations between .12 and .24 (Pietschnig et al, 2015; Nave et al, 2018).

Indeed, a parent’s belief about their child’s GPA (grade point average) remain even “after controlling for siblings’ average grades and prior differences in performance, parents’ beliefs about sibling differences in academic ability predicted differences in performance such that youth rated by parents as relatively more competent than their sibling earned relatively higher grades the following year” (Jensen and McHale, 2015: 469). More arguments showing why these things would differ within families can be found in Richardson and Jones (2019). MH then cites a table of motor vehicle fatalities in Australian army personnel under 40, noting that the death rate in motor vehicle accidents sharply increased the lower one’s IQ score (O’Toole, 1990). I don’t contest the data, I contest MH’s interpreation of it: am I supposed to accept IQ as causal in regard to motor vehicle fatalities? That one is just dumber than average which then causes such fatalities? Or is the social class explanation much stronger—in that one’s access to resources and education influences their IQ scores? MH finally discusses reaction time (RT) in the context of its relationship to IQ. But Richardson’s (2002: 34) sociocognitive affective nexus, too, explains the relationship:

… low-IQ subjects regularly produce RTs equal to those of high-IQ subjects, but with less consistency over trials. This lack of consistency may well reflect poor self-confidence and high test anxiety and their effects on information processing, incursions of extraneous cognitions, sensory distractions and so on.

All in all, MH is implying that IQ’s correlations with brain imaging/skull measurement, the relationship between motor vehicle fatalities and the relationship between RT and IQ all point to the claim that IQ measures intelligence and not social class. This is a strange claim. For the structure and items on IQ (and similar) tests reflect that of the middle class. Indeed, the Flynn Effect rising as the middle-class increases is yet more evidence that IQ is a measure of social class. MH then claims that assuming that IQ=intelligence explains these things better than the assumption that IQ=social class. However, there has been much sociological research into how social class affects health and, along with it would affect scores on achievement tests (which are inherently biased by race, class, and sex; Mensh and Mensh, 1991; Au, 2007, 2008). IQ tests do not measure learning (what many IQ-ists use as a stand-in for ‘intelligence’); what IQ tests do is “sort human populations along socially, culturally, and economically determined lines” (Au, 2008: 151; c.f., Mensh and Mensh, 1991).

Conclusion

I think the video was well-researched and well-cited (to a point, he didn’t discuss all of the critiques that Snyderman and Herrnstein received on their Immigration Act paper), but he failed to prove his ultimate claim: that IQ tests measure intelligence and not social class. Goddard was one of the most well-known eugenicists in the 19th century, and his views had a devastating social impact, not only on European immigrants vying to emigrate to America, on the populace of ‘morons’ and those who were ‘feebleminded’ in America: they were sterilized as they were deemed ‘unfit’ to have and care for children (Wilson, 2017). IQ tests are not construct valid (which MH agrees with) but he still is possessed by the delusion that success at jobs is causally related to IQ (see Richardson and Norgate, 2015). The ‘sociologist’s fallacy’ claim and the genetic confounding claim both fail as you need to identify a causal (genetic) mechanism that is responsible for variation in psychological traits. The observation that IQ score heritability increases as children age is, too, built into the test through item selection. The claim that Richardson does not operationalize social class is false (see Richardson and Jones, 2019). Neuroimaging analyses show lower relationships between brain size and IQ when they are pre-registered; his citation to vehicle fatalities and IQ is irrelevant as is the part about RT and IQ—as social class, too explains the outcomes.

IQ most definitely is a measure of social class, as an analysis of the items on the test will show (see Mensh and Mensh, 1991; Richardson, 2002; Castles, 2012) and not a ‘measure’ of ‘intelligence.’

“Definitions” of ‘Intelligence’ and its ‘Measurement’

1750 words

What ‘intelligence’ is and how, and if, we can measure it has puzzled us for the better part of 100 years. A few surveys have been done on what ‘intelligence’ is, and there has been little agreement on what it is and even if IQ tests measure ‘intelligence.’ Richardson (2002: 284) noted that:

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

As can be seen, even IQ-ists today cannot agree upon a definition—indeed, even Ian Deary admits that “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). (Also note that attempts of validity are circular, relying on correlations with other, similar tests; Richardson and Norgate, 2015; Richardson, 2017b.)

Linda Gottfredson, University of Delaware sociologist and well-known hereditarian, is a staunch defender of JP Rushton (Gottfredson, 2013) and the hereditarian hypothesis (Gottfredson, 2005, 2009). Her ‘definition’ of intelligence is one of the most-oft cited ones, eg, Gottfredson et al (1993: 13) notes that (my emphasis):

Intelligence is a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings-“catching on,” “ making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do.

So ‘intelligence’ is “a very general mental capability”, its main ‘measure’ IQ tests (knowledge tests), but ‘intelligence’ “is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts.” Here’s some more hereditarian “reasoning” (which you can contrast with the hereditarian “reasoning” on race—just assume it exists). Gottfredson also argues that ‘intelligence’ or ‘g’ is learning ability. But, as Richardson (2017a: 100) notes, “it will always be quite impossible to measure ability with an instrument that depends on learning in one particular culture“—which he terms “the g paradox, or a general measurement paradox.

Gottfredson (1997) also argues that the “active ingredient” in IQ testing is the “complexity” of the items—what makes one item more difficult than another, such as a 3×3 matrix item being more complex than a 2×2 matrix item and giving some examples of analogies which she believes to show a type of higher, more complex cognition in order to figure out the answer to the problem. (Also see Richardson and Norgate, 2014 for further critiques of Gottfredson.)

The trouble with this argument is that IQ test items are remarkably simple in their cognitive demands compared with, say, the cognitive demands of ordinary social life and other activities that the vast majority of children and adults can meet adequately every day.

For example, many test items demand little more than rote reproduction of factual knowledge most likely acquired from experience at home or by being taught in school. Opportunities and pressures for acquiring such valued pieces of information, from books in the home to parents’ interests and educational level, are more likely to be found in middle-class than in working-class homes. So the causes of differences could be causes in opportunities for such learning.

The same could be said about other frequently used items, such as “vocabulary” (or word definitions); “similarities” (describing how two things are the same); “comprehension” (explaining common phenomena, such as why doctors need more training). This helps explain why differences in home background correlate so highly with school performance—a common finding. In effect, such items could simply reflect the specific learning demanded by the items, rather than a more general cognitive strength. (Richardson, 2017a: 91)

IQ-ists, of course, would then state that there is utility in such “simple-looking” test items, but we have to remember that items on IQ tests are not selected based on a theoretical cognitive model, but are selected to give the desired distributions that the test constructors want (Mensh and Mensh, 1991). “… those items in IQ tests have been selected because they help produce the expected pattern of scores. A mere assertion of complexity about IQ test items is not good enough” (Richardson, 2017a: 93). “The items selected for inclusion [on Binet’s test] were those that in the judgment of the teachers distinguished bright from dull students” (Castles, 2012: 88). It seems that all hereditarians do is “assert” or “assume” things—like the equal environments assumption (EEA), the existence of race, and now, the existence of “intelligence”. Just presuppose what you want and, unsurprisingly, you get what you wanted. The IQ-ist then triumphs that the test did its job—sorting high- and low-quality thinkers on the basis of their IQ scores. But that’s exactly the problem: prior assumptions on the nature of ‘intelligence’ and its distribution dictate the construction of the tests in question.

Mensh and Mensh (1991: 30) state that “The [IQ] tests do what their construction dictates; they correlate a group’s mental worth with its place in the social hierarchy.” That is, who is or is not “intelligent” is already presupposed. There has been ample admission of such presumptions affecting the distribution of scores, as some critics have documented (e.g., Hilliard, 2012’s documentation of test norming for two different white cultural groups in South Africa and that Terman equalized scores on his 1937 revision of the Stanford-Binet).

Herrnstein and Murray (1994: 1) write that:

That the word intelligence describes something real and that it varies from person to person is as universal and ancient as any understanding about the state of being human. Literate cultures everywhere and throughout history have had words for saying that some people are smarter than others. Given the survival value of intelligence, the concept must be still older than that. Gossip about who in the tribe is cleverest has probably been a topic of conversation around the fire since fires, and conversation, were invented.

Castles (2012: 83) responds to these assertions stating that “the concept of intelligence is indeed a “brashing modern notion.” 1” Herrnstein and Murray, of course, are in the “Of COURSE intelligence exists!” camp, for, to them, it conferred survival advantages and so, it must exist and we can, therefore, measure it in humans.

Howe (1997), in his book IQ in Question, asks us to imagine someone asking to construct a vanity test. Vanity, like ‘intelligence’, has no agreed-upon definition which states how it should be measured nor anything that makes it possible to check that we are measuring the supposed construct correctly. So the one who wants to assess vanity needs to construct a test with questions he presumes tests vanity. So if the questions he asks relates to how others perceive vanity, then the ‘vanity test’ has been successfully constructed and the test constructor can then believe that he’s measuring “differences in” vanity. But, of course, selecting items on a test is a subjective matter; there is no objective way for this to occur. We can say, with length for instance, that line A is twice as long as line B. But we could not, then, state that person A is twice as vain as person B—nor could we say that person A is twice as intelligent as person B (on the basis of IQ scores)—for what would it mean for someone to be twice as vain as someone else, just like what would it mean for someone to be twice as intelligent as someone else?

Howe (1997: 6) writes:

The measurement of intelligence is bedeviled by the same problems that make it virtually impossible to measure vanity. It is of course possible to construct intelligence tests, and the tests can be useful in a number of ways for assessing human mental abilities, but it is wrong to assume that such tests have the capability of measuring an underlying quality of intelligence, if by ‘measuring’ we have in mind the same operations that are involved in the measurement of a physical quality such as length. A psychological test score is no more than an indication of how well someone has performed at a number of questions that have been chosen for largely practical reasons. Nothing is genuinely being measured.

But if “A psychological test score is no more an indication of how well someone has performed at a number of questions that have been chosen largely for practical reasons”, then it follows that knowledge exposure explains outcomes in psychological test scores. Richardson (1998: 127) writes:

The most reasonable answer to the question “What is being measured?”, then, is ‘degree of cultural affiliation’: to the culture of test constructors, school teachers and school curricula. It is (unconsciously) to conceal this that all the manipulations of item selection, evasions about test validities, and searches for post hoc theoretical underpinning seem to be about. What is being measured is certainly not genetically constrained complexity of general reasoning ability as such,

Mensh and Mensh (1991: 73) note that “In reality — which is precisely the opposite of what Jensen claims it to be — test discrimination among individuals within any group is the incidental by-product of tests constructed to discriminate between groups. Because the tests’ class and racial bias ensures that some groups will be higher and others lower in the scoring hierarchy, the status of an individual member of a group is as a rule predetermined by the status of that group.

In sum, what these tests test is what the test constructors presume—mainly, class and racial bias—so they get what they want to see. If the test does not match their presuppositions, the test gets discarded or reconstructed to fit with their biases. Thus, definitions of ‘intelligence’ will always be, as Castles (2012: 29), “intelligence is a cultural construct, specific to a certain time and place.” The definition from Gottfredson doesn’t make sense, as the “test-taking smarts” is the main “measure” of ‘intelligence’, and so intelligence’s “main measure” is the IQ test—which presupposes the distribution of scores as developed by the test constructors (Mensh and Mensh, 1991). Herrnstein and Murray’s definition does not make sense either, as the concept of “intelligence” is a modern notion.

At best, IQ test scores measure the degree of cultural acquisition of knowledge; they do not, nor can they, measure ‘intelligence’—which is a cultural concept which changes with the times. The tests are inherently biased against certain groups; looking at the history and construction of IQ testing will make that clear. The tests are middle-class knowledge tests; not tests of ‘intelligence.’

The “World’s Smartest Man” Christopher Langan on Koko the Gorilla’s IQ

1500 words

Christopher Langan is purported to have the highest IQ in the world, at 195—though comparisons to Wittgenstein (“estimated IQ” of 190), da Vinci, and Descartes on their “IQs” are unfounded. He and others are responsible for starting the high IQ society the Mega foundation for people with IQs of 164 or above. For a man with one of the highest IQs in the world, he lived on a poverty wage at less than $10,000 per year in 2001. He has also been a bouncer for the past twenty years.

Koko is one of the world’s most famous gorillas, most-known for crying when she was told her cat got hit by a car and being friends with Robin Williams, also apparently expressing sadness upon learning of his death. Koko’s IQ, as measured by an infant IQ test, was said to be on-par or higher than some of the (shoddy) national IQ scores from Richard Lynn (Richardson, 2004; Morse, 2008). This then prompted white nationalist/alt-right groups to compare Koko’s IQ scores with that of certain nationalities and proclaim that Koko was more ‘intelligent’ than those nationalities on the basis of her IQ score. But, unfortunately for them, the claims do not hold up.

The “World’s Smartest Man” Christopher Langan is one who falls prey to this kind of thinking. He was “banned from” Facebook for writing a post comparing Koko’s IQ scores to  that of Somalians, asking why we don’t admit gorillas into our civilization if we are letting Somalian refugees into the West:

“According to the “30 point rule” of psychometrics (as proposed by pioneering psychometrician Leta S. Holingsworth), Koko’s elevated level of thought would have been all but incomprehensible to nearly half the population of Somalia (average IQ 68). Yet the nation’s of Europe and North America are being flooded with millions of unvetted Somalian refugees who are not (initially) kept in cages despite what appears to be the world’s highest rate of violent crime.

Obviously, this raises the question: Why is Western Civilization not admitting gorillas? They too are from Africa, and probably have a group mean IQ at least equal to that of Somalia. In addition, they have peaceful and environmentally friendly cultures, commit far less violent crime than Somalians…”

I presume that Langan is working off the assumption that Koko’s IQ is 95. I also presume that he has seen memes such as this one floating around:

kokooiq

There are a few problems with Langan’s claims, however. (1) The notion of a “30-point IQ point communication” rule—that one’s own IQ, plus or minus 30 points, denotes where two people can understand each other; and (2) bringing up Koko’s IQ and the comparing it to “Somalians.”

It seems intuitive to the IQ-ist that a large, 2 SD gap in IQ between people will mean that more often than not there will be little understanding between them if they talk, as well as the kinds of interests they have. Neuroskeptic looked into the origins of the claim of the communication gap in IQ, found it to be attributed to Leta Hollingworth and elucidated by Grady Towers. Towers noted that “a leadership pattern will not form—or it will break up—when a discrepancy of more than about 30 points comes to exist between leader and lead.Neuroskeptic comments:

This seems to me a significant logical leap. Hollingworth was writing specifically about leadership, and in childen [sic], but Towers extrapolates the point to claim that any kind of ‘genuine’ communication is impossible across a 30 IQ point gap.

It is worth noting that although Hollingworth was an academic psychologist, her remark about leadership does not seem to have been stated as a scientific conclusion from research, but simply as an ‘observation’.

[…]

So as far as I can see the ‘communication range’ is just an idea someone came up with. It’s not based on data. The reference to specific numbers (“+/- 2 standard deviations, 30 points”) gives the illusion of scientific precision, but these numbers were plucked from the air.

The notion that Koko had an “elevated level of thought [that] would have been all but incomprehensible to nearly half the population of Somalia (average IQ 68)” (Langan) is therefore laughable, not only for the reason that a so-called communication gap is false, but for the simple fact that Koko’s IQ was tested using the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scales (CIIS) (Patterson and Linden,1981: 100). It seems to me that Langan has not read the book that Koko’s handlers wrote about her—The Education of Koko (Patterson and Linden, 1981)—since they describe why Koko’s score should not be compared with human infants, so it follows that her score cannot be compared with human adults.

The CIIS was developed “to a downward extension of the Stanford-Binet” (Hooper, Conner, and Umansky, 1986), and so, it must correlate highly with the Stanford-Binet in order to be “valid” (the psychometric benchmark for validity—correlating a new test with the most up-to-date test which had assumed validity; Richardson, 1991, 2000, 2017; Howe, 1997). Hooper, Conner, and Umansky (1986: 160) note in their review of the CIIS, “Given these few strengths and numerous shortcomings, salvaging the Cattell would be a major undertaking with questionable yield. . . . Nonetheless, without more research investigating this instrument, and with the advent of psychometrically superior measures of infant development, the Cattell may be relegated to the role of an historical antecedent.” Items selected for the CIIS—like all IQ tests—“followed a quasi-statistical approach with many items being accepted and rejected subjectively.” They state that many of the items on the CIIS need to be updated with “objective” item analysis—but, as Jensen notes, items emerge arbitrarily from the heads of the test’s constructors.

Patterson—the woman who raised Koko—notes that she “tried to gauge [Koko’s]
performance by every available yardstick, and this meant administering infant IQ tests
” (Patterson and Linden, 1981: 96). Patterson and Linden (1981: 100) note that Koko did better than human counterparts of her age in certain tasks over others, for example “her ability to complete logical progressions like the Ravens Progressive Matrices test” since she pointed to the answer with no hesitation.

Koko generally performed worse than children when a verbal rather than a pointing response was required. When tasks involved detailed drawings, such as penciling a path through a maze, or precise coordination, such as fitting puzzle pieces together. Koko’s performance was distinctly inferior to that of children.

[…]

It is hard to draw any firm conclusions about the gorilla’s intelligence as compared to that of the human child. Because infant intelligence tests have so much to do with motor control, results tend to get skewed. Gorillas and chimps seem to gain general control over their bodies earlier than humans, although ultimately children far outpace both in the fine coordination required in drawing or writing. In problems involving more abstract reasoning, Koko, when she is willing to play the game, is capable of solving relatively complex problems. If nothing else, the increase in Koko’s mental age shows that she is capable of understanding a number of the principles that are the foundation of what we call abstract thought. (Patterson and Linden, 1981: 100-101)

They conclude that “it is specious to compare her IQ directly with that of a human infant” since gorillas develop motor skills earlier than human infants. So if it is “specious” to compare Koko’s IQ with an infant, then it is “specious” to compare Koko’s IQ with the average Somalian—as Langan does.

There have been many critics of Koko, and similar apes, of course. One criticism was that Koko was coaxed into signing the word she signed by asking Koko certain questions, to Robert Sapolsky stating that Patterson corrected Koko’s signs. She, therefore, would not actually know what she was signing, she was just doing what she was told. Of course, caregivers of primates with the supposed extraordinary ability for complex (humanlike) cognition will defend their interpretations of their observations since they are emotionally invested in the interpretations. Patterson’s Ph.D. research was on Koko and her supposed capabilities for language, too.

Perhaps the strongest criticism of these kinds of interpretations of Koko comes from Terrace et al (1979). Terrace et al (1979: 899) write:

The Nova film, which also shows Ally (Nim’s full brother) and Koko, reveals a similar tendency for the teacher to sign before the ape signs. Ninety-two percent of Ally’s, and all of Koko’s, signs were signed by the teacher immediately before Ally and Koko signed.

It seems that Langan has never done any kind of reading on Koko, the tests she was administered, nor the problems in comparing them to humans (infants). The fact that Koko seemed to be influenced by her handlers to “sign” what they wanted her to sign, too, makes interpretations of her IQ scores problematic. For if Koko were influenced what to sign, then we, therefore, cannot trust her scores on the CIIS. The false claims of Langan are laughable knowing the truth about Koko’s IQ, what her handlers said about her IQ, and knowing what critics have said about Koko and her sign language. In any case, Langan did not show his “high IQ” with such idiotic statements.