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

2550 words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The arguments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Gender Identity is Personal Identity

1500 words

It has been common in recent years to claim that gender identity (GI) doesn’t exist. For example, one religious argument that GI doesn’t exist is that since God made only men and women, then we should not “overrule the work of God.” However, to claim that GI doesn’t exist is patently ridiculous. It’s ridiculous since GI is merely a subset of personal identity (PI). PI exists, so GI exists too, since GI is a subset of PI. I will provide an argument for the claim that GI is PI and if GI is PI, then GI exists.

The origins of the nature-versus-nurture debate

In his book Genes, Determinism, and God, Denis Alexander cited what may be the first instance of the nature versus nurture dichotomy. A 13th century novel called Silence was discovered in 1911, and in it is perhaps the first discussion of nature versus nurture. In the story, the kind of England married the daughter of the king of Norway which the ended a long war they were in. The king of England then passed a law stating that family inheritances cannot be passed on to women. After passing this law, the king was rescued by a knight from a dragon. So the king offered the knight an estate and a lady of his choosing, who turned out to be the king’s nurse. They then got married and then had a daughter who was unable to inherit their money due to the law the king previously passed. So the knight and the nurse named their child Silentius, and then tasked two of their servants to raise the child as a boy.

Alexander then quotes the book in which nature, nurture, and reason are personified and then duel over the ultimate identity of Slientius. Nature states that Silentius is a girl, and that she should return to her appropriate gender role. Nurture and reason then convince Silentius that it would be better go continue being a boy, since they could be put to death if her identity was discovered.

Alexander (2074: 39) quotes what Nature and Nurture said to Silentius in the novel:

This is a fine state of affairs,
You conducting yourself like a man,
running about in the wind and scorching sun
when I used a special mold for you,
When I created you with my own hands,
When I heaped all the beauty I had stored up upon you alone! (2502-9)

But nurture will have none of it:

Nature, leave my nursing alone,
or I will put a curse on you!
I have completely dis-natured her. (2593-5)

Silentius is then brought to the king’s court, where the queen falls in love with Silentius since she sees Silentius as a man. The queen then eventually grows to hare Silentius and tries to have Silentius killed. So the queen sends Silentius to try to capture Merlin, since it is said that he could not be captured since he acted like a beast. Silentius then cooked him some meat and gave him some wine and captured him. So Nurture influenced Merlin to become like a beast and not eat cooked food, so when Silentius gave Merlin cooked food, Merlin then gave into his nature and rejected the nurturing of himself as a beast. Now that Nature had won out with Merlin, now it was Silentius’ turn to have nature win out with them.

With Nature’s final triumph, the time is ripe for unmasking Silence. On his way to Eban’s palace, Merlin laughs at various people for no apparent reason. Attacked by people as a false prophet and pressed by King Eban, Merlin is forced to reveal the reasons behind his laugh: he laughs at a group of lepers begging for alms because they are standing on buried treasures; at a man burying his child with a priest by his side because the child is in fact the priest’s. Finally, he laughs at a nun in the Queen’s entourage because that nun is only a woman in clothing, just as Silence is only dressed up as male. The ‘nun’ turns out to be the Queen’s lover in disguise, while, marvelled by all, Silence reveals why ‘she’ becomes ‘he’. The romance ends with a classic happy ending: the Queen is punished by death, and Silence, now changing her name to Silentia, becomes the new queen. (The Boy Who Was a Girl: The Romance of Silence)

So Nature won out from Nurture two times in this story, once regarding Silentius and then again regarding Merlin. So, contrary to popular belief that Francis Galton was the one to pit nature and nurture against each other, (one of) the earliest instances of the dueling aspects of Nature and Nurture was from that 13th century French novel. Obviously, Silentius’ GI was that of a man since that is how they were raised. But then, ultimately, Nature won out and Silentius went back to living as a women.

Now, this is just a story and of course nature vs nurture is a false dichotomy, but it is interesting to note the earliest instances of the nature-nurture debate. In any case, it’s also a good illustration of how GI is PI.

The argument that gender identity is personal identity

The argument is simple—PI is the unique numerical identity identity of a person over time. On a bodily account of PI, persons are identical to their bodies. On the brain account, we are identical to our brains. We are not identical to our bodies (Lowe’s 2010 argument), nor are we identical to our brains (Gabriel’s 2017 argument). So I am not my body nor am I my brain. So what am I? I am an immaterial self (Lund’s 2005 argument) and I am not reducible to the brain or nervous system (aspects that are studiable by science) (Hasker’s 2010 argument). So I hold to the simple view of personal identity.

Noonan (2019a: 27-28; also see Noonan, 2019b) writes:

Persistence of body and brain or psychological continuity and connectedness are criteria of personal identity only in the sense of evidence: they are not what personal identity consists in. Indeed, there is nothing (else) that personal identity consists in: personal identity is an ultimate unanalysable fact, distinct from everything observable or experienceable that might be evidence for it. Persons are separately existing entities, distinct from their brains, bodies and experiences. On the best-known version of this view, a person is a purely mental entity: a Cartesian pure ego, or spiritual substance. This is in fact the form in which the view is adopted by its contemporary defenders, among whom the most prominent are Chisholm and Swinburne. Following Parfit, I shall call this the simple view.

Mental entities are “private, non-material objects” (Sussman, 1975) so persons are purely mental entities which are not reducible nor identical to brains or bodies. GI is one’s personal conception of self and GI is a subset of PI. So if PI exists, then so does GI. Now here is the argument that gender identity is a form of personal identity.

P1: PI refers to the unique characteristics and qualities that define an individual as a distinct entity.
P2: GI is a core aspect of one’s self-concept and self-expression which deeply influences their personal experiences and relationships.
P3: If an aspect of a person’s self-concept and self-expression deeply influences their personal experiences and relationships, then it is a key component of their PI.
C: Thus, GI is a form of PI.


P1: If PI is the set of characteristics that define an individual, then GI is a form of PI.
P2: If GI is a fundamental aspect of a person’s self-concept and self-expression, then GI is a form of PI.
P3: GI is a fundamental aspect of a person’s self-concept and self-expression.
C: So GI is a form of PI.

Both of these arguments are valid and sound, therefore GI is a form of PI. So if PI exists then it follows that GI exists. So claims to the contrary that GI doesn’t exist are therefore false.


I have shown that GI exists and I have successfully argued that it is a form of PI. This then refutes claims that GI doesn’t exist. I discussed one of the first instances of the nature versus nurture dichotomy from a 13th century French novel called Silence, where Nature, Nurture, and Reason are personified, in an attempt to get people to go with their “natures” over their nurtures. In the story, Nature eventually wins out. Though in real life, this doesn’t work out due to the interaction between nature and nurture, genes and environment. So this instance is one of the first instances of the debate, which predates Galton by almost 500 years.

I then discussed what PI is and of course rejected the brain, body and physical views of PI. This is because we are partly immaterial, that is, the self is an immaterial substance or mental entities. I then, finally, presented two arguments that GI is a form of PI. PI clearly exists, so if PI exists then GI exists. It’s that simple.

A Critical Analysis of Kershnar’s Argument in Moral Value and Racial Differences

1800 words

In the year 2000, philosopher Stephen Kershnar published a paper titled Intrinsic Moral Value and Racial Differences (Kershnar, 2000). In the article, he argues that whites and Asians have greater per capita moral value than blacks, since ceteris paribus, autonomy is proportional to intelligence and moral value is proportional to intelligence. In this article, I will show how Kershnar’s argument is flawed.

Kershnar’s argument

(P1) Other things equal, intrinsic moral value is proportional to autonomy.
(P2) Other things equal, autonomy is proportional to intelligence.
(C1) Hence, other things equal, intrinsic moral value is proportional to intelligence. [(PI), (P2)]
(P3) Whites and Asians have greater per capita levels of intelligence than blacks.
(C2) Hence, other things equal, whites and Asians have greater per capita intrinsic moral value than blacks. [(Cl), (P3)]
(P4) Other factors do not offset this difference in per capita moral value.
(C3) Hence, all things considered, whites and Asians have greater per capita intrinsic moral value than blacks. [(C2), (P4)]

The inference in C1 is transitive property of equality where if A = B and B = C then A = C. Intrinsic moral value is proportional to autonomy (A = B) (P1), while autonomy is proportional to intelligence (B = C) (P2), so intrinsic moral value (A) is proportional to intelligence (C), so A = C justifying the inference. It also uses a form of proportional reasoning to show the A = C (intrinsic moral value = intelligence). P3 and C1 are then used to derive C2 through deduction. He then assumes the truth of P4, which then establishes C3, which states that, ceteris paribus, whites and Asians have greater per capita moral value than blacks, so C2 and P4 are used to derive the conclusion in C3.

Critical discussion of Kershnar’s argument is scant, being that over the 23 years since the paper was published, there are a mere 7 citations of the paper, 3 of which are from Kershnar himself. The implication of the argument is that the United States should deprioritze aid to Africa, since rendering aid there would be useless based on their average “intelligence.” He, of course, relies on IQ differences between blacks, whites, and Asians as grounds for his argument here. He brings up the myth of “general intelligence”. In any case, he states that differences in IQ being due to genetic or environmental factors doesn’t matter—since lowered IQ due to environmental factors result in “a lowered level of intelligence that results from environmental deprivation correlates with less autonomy, other things equal, every bit as much as a lowered level of intelligence that results from genetic factors” (Kershnar, 2000: 217). This claim, of course, is nonsense, as IQ isn’t a measure at all, nevermind a measure of “general intelligence.” Thus, C1 and P3 can be rejected, which would mean that, also, C2 then doesn’t follow.

Kershnar’s argument is basically saying that whites and Asians have more inherent value or worth than whites and Asians. Conclusion C2 which is derived from P3 is false and if is further based on a misunderstanding between the nature of IQ scores and so-called “intelligence.” Nevermind the fact that Asians are a selected population. Now I will discuss each premise.

Premise 1: This premise claims that intrinsic moral value (IVM) is proportional to autonomy. It is a reductionist view, which equates morality with autonomy. Numerous other factors also contribute to autonomy, and autonomy and moral value cannot be reduced to a single number. Nevermind the fact that IVM and autonomy aren’t measurable variables.

Premise 2: Like P1, P2 also assumes a reductionist view of of autonomy which equates it with “intelligence.” I don’t doubt that cognitive ability is related to autonomy, however, Kershnar’s claim that autonomy is proportional to intelligence is outright false, and so P2 must be rejected.

Conclusion 1: Even IF P1 and P2 are accepted (and I see no reason why we should accept them), it does not follow that IMV is proportional to “intelligence.” Many other factors contribute to IMV than merely “intelligence.” Thus, P2 and C1 are not entirely true.

Premise 3: This claim is just straight-up false. There is no reason to claim that differences in IQ scores are differences in “intelligence.” While Kershnar does assume that IQ is a measure of g, and also tries to argue that even if the observed IQ differences are due to either genetic or environmental factors that it doesn’t hurt his overall argument, it actually does. Due to what we know about the nature of IQ test construction and the ability to build in or out what the test constructors desire, we therefore cannot and should not accept the claim in premise 3. Furthermore, there are philosophical arguments (Spencer, 2014; Hardimon, 2017) that while race exists and is a social construct of a biological reality, we cannot be justified in claiming that, over and above physical differences, genes contribute to socially-desired/-valued traits. Even if there were differences in “intelligence” between races, this would not justify the claim that differences in Intelligence and autonomy translate to IMV. The rejection of P3 makes his argument crumble.

Conclusion 2: This conclusion is outright racist. It is racist since it assumes that intelligence is directly related to moral worth. The claim that certain racial groups have more intrinsic value than others has been, in the past, used to justify morally repugnant actions such as Jim Crow, slavery and segregation. C2 isn’t false because it’s racist—that’s merely a descriptive claim about C2—but it is false since it is based on false premises (C1 and P3). So C2 must be rejected.

Premise 4: This premise is straight up ridiculous. It is false because it assumes that other factors don’t off-set IMV. IMV is influenced not only by individual characteristics or traits, but also by social and cultural contexts and factors such as education and upbringing.

Conclusion 3: C3 is derived from C2 and P4. As already discussed, C2 is outright racist but it being racist isn’t why it’s false, it’s false since it is based on false premises. P4, again assumes that no other factors influence per capita IMV.

Refuting Kershnar’s argument

Now that I have analyzed Kershnar’s premises, I will now provide an argument against Kershnar’s argument.

P1: Autonomy isn’t solely determined by cognitive ability.
P2: IMV isn’t solely determined by cognitive ability or autonomy.
P3: The claim that whites and Asians have greater per capita intrinsic moral value than blacks based on differenced in cognitive ability is unfounded and outright discriniminatory.
C: Thus, the argument that whites and Asians have a greater per capita IMV than blacks is invalid and so Kershnar’s argument isn’t sound.

P1 states that autonomy isn’t solely determined by cognitive ability. There are many other factors that determine autonomy, like socio-environmental factors which are independent of cognitive ability. P2 asserts that other factors contribute to an organism’s moral value. The idea that cognitive ability is related to one’s moral value has been used in the past to justify discriminatory policies and forced sterilization of people found to be “low IQ.” This is one reason why IQ tests should be banned, since they have been used to justify discriminatory policies and sterilization in the past. Further, infants, children, people with cognitive disabilities and animals are considered to have moral value, even though they don’t have the same cognitive capacities as adult humans. P3 claims that Kershnar’s overall claim that whites and Asians have greater per capita IMV than blacks is unfounded, along with the fact that it is outright discriniminatory. Here is an argument for P3:

P1: If claims of IMV based solely on differences in cognitive ability are justified, then discriniminatory beliefs and practices are also justified.
P2: Discriniminatory beliefs and practices are not justified.
C: So claims of IMV based solely on cognitive ability aren’t justified.

Thus, the conclusion of the original argument against Kershnar’s argument follows—like in my argument to ban IQ tests, if we belief the hereditarian hypothesis is true and it is false, then it will lead to certain discriniminatory policies and beliefs. Since Kershnar’s argument is, basically, an argument using hereditarianism for our moral values, then this, too, is another reason why IQ tests should be banned. Nevertheless, Kershnar’s argument isn’t sound and it is refuted.


An implication of Kershnar’s argument is that we should not give aid to African countries (I argue that we should) and that, if we saved Europeans and Africans, that it would be more morally praiseworthy to have saved Europeans over Africans (Engelbert, 2015). Engelbert’s (2015: 186) note 16 also talks about the “repugnancy” and “absurdity” of Kershnar’s argument.

On the absurdity point: Kershnar’s argument that more intelligent beings possess greater autonomous agency is based almost entirely upon thought experiments involving comparisons between humans and non-human animals, or between humans with normal cognitive abilities and those with serious disorders that inhibit mental functioning. Thus, the notion of “intelligence” he utilizes bears little resemblance to the use of the term in psychometrics (from which he draws his claim that racial groups differ in “intelligence”). Kershnar provides no reason for thinking that autonomy, understood in the way moral philosophy uses the term, is proportional to intelligence in the psychometric sense. On the repugnancy point, it’s also worth noting that Kershnar’s extrapolation of comparisons between “human beings and pigs” (2000, p. 222) to comparisons between Whites and Blacks is full of troubling implications.

Nevertheless, Kershnar’s argument is outright racist, but that doesn’t mean that it’s false. I have outlined the reasons why it’s false, his assumptions are hardly argued for (like the claim that autonomy is proportional to “intelligence”), and so, Kershnar’s argument must be rejected. I also have provided a counterargument against Kershnar’s, which thusly invalidates it. Now here is one final argument against Kershnar’s:

P1: All human beings have inherent moral value and worth regardless of their cognitive ability and race.
P2: Autonomy is a fundamental principle of moral value.
P3: Autonomy isn’t solely determined by cognitive ability but also by factors like cultural background, personal experience, and social context.
C: Thus, it is morally wrong to claim that whites and Asians have greater IMV than blacks based solely on cognitive ability, since it violates the principle of non-discrimination.

At the end of the day, Kershnar’s argument seems to be deployed in order to deny aid to African countries. However, giving aid to African countries will decrease their birthrate, as empirically shown in other countries. C3 in Kershnar’s argument is both scientifically and morally flawed. For reason—among the others laid out above—Kershnar’s argument is unsound and must be rejected. Kershnar’s argument applies hereditarian “science” to moral worth of racial groups, which is another reason why the argument doesn’t work, since hereditarianism isn’t a valid science.

An Argument for the Existence of Mind and Intentional Consciousness

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Consciousness and mind are uniquely human attributes. They allow us to reason and act intentionally. But what establishes the claim that consciousness and mind exist if they are immaterial? I have a few arguments for the claim, and I will also add a semi-updated version of the argument I made against animal mentality. So I will combine the argument that humans possess a mind (that is, that the mind is real and has referents) with the argument that nonhuman animals lack propositional attitudes and so they lack language and intentional states, and so they lack minds like humans. So the conclusion will be guaranteed—minds exist and only humans are in possession of them. First I will provide the argument that the mind exists since the existence of consciousness implies the existence of a nonphysical entity. After defending the premises, I will then shift to the argument that the problem of mental causation isn’t a problem for dualism. Then I will argue that only humans have minds and, due to the nature of intentionality and normativity of psychological traits, nonhuman animals lack minds like humans since they lack the prerequisites that entail having a mind.

An argument for the existence of mind

P1: Consciousness is a real, undeniable phenomenon that cannot be fully explained by physical or material processes.
P2: If consciousness cannot be fully explained by physical or material processes, then it must be a nonphysical phenomenon.
C1: Thus consciousness is a nonphysical phenomenon.
P3: The existence of a nonphysical phenomenon requires the existence of a nonphysical entity that can support or generate such phenomena.
C2: So the existence of consciousness implies the existence of a nonphysical entity.
C3: This nonphysical entity is the mind, so the mind exists.

Call this the argument from consciousness. Consciousness is a subjective, first-personal experience that everyone has and which cannot be reduced to physical or material processes. It is an experiential fact that each and every one of us is aware of their experiences and their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions; these cannot be explained by material or physical brain processes, due to the explanatory gap argument.

Premise 1: Of course we can study NCCs (neural correlates of consciousness), and this is what neuroscience does, but that’s not the same as studying the mind. The actualization of mind is not the same as that of digestion; gastroenterologists can study the physiological process of digestion, but neuroscientists can’t study the mind, since the mind isn’t merely brain physiology or brain/CNS (central nervous system activity) activity.

Premise 2: We can study material and physical processes, like brain states/physiology/CNS, using scientific inquiry. But if consciousness cannot be fully explained by physical or material processes, then it must be explained by the existence of a nonphysical entity and this also suggests that consciousness is an irreducible, nonphysical phenomenon.

Conclusion 1 then logically follows from P1 and P2.

Premise 3: Like P2, if consciousness is a nonphysical phenomenon, then it must be explained by a nonphysical entity since physical accounts cannot fully account for consciousness.

Conclusion 2 then logically follows from P3 and P4, and then conclusion 3 then follows from C2. So the argument is established on the grounds that consciousness exists and cannot be explained by material or physical processes, and if something exists which cannot be explained by physical or material processes then this implies the existence of a nonphysical entity that can support or generate such consciousness, and this nonphysical entity is referred to as MIND.

The limitations of material and physical explanations entail that the mind isn’t a physical process or a function of physical processes. The Knowledge Argument concludes that everything can’t be explained by physical or material processes, which would then strengthen the overall argument for the existence of an immaterial substance that explains consciousness. So there is a knowledge gap between physical explanations and subjective, individual explanations, and this is what the Knowledge Argument gets at. (Morch’s explanatory knowledge argument against physicalism establishes that some facts are nonphysical, which establishes the existence MIND.)

If the mind is immaterial, then how does it interact with the physical brain?

This question has been said to be a knockdown argument against dualism. If M and P are two different substances, how can they be said to interact? How, then, can the mind cause things to happen in the physical world? This is known as the problem of mental causation. How can mental events have any causal efficacy on physical events?we then need to establish between event causation and intentional causation (Lowe, 2001, 2009).

Intentional causation is mental causation (fact causation), and bodily causation is physical causation. Mental causation doesn’t reduce to physical causation, and this is because mental causation is intentional whereas physical causation isn’t. We have voluntary control over our actions, and so, we can intend to do things. So in Lowe’s (2006, 2010, 2012) non-Cartesian substance dualism (NCSD), persons or selves are distinct from their physical bodies and parts of their physical bodies. NCSD can better explain mental causation than the alternative materialist/physicalist theories, and so it can’t explain the intentionality of mental causation. The self is not the body, mental states aren’t physical states/processes (nor are they reducible to physical states/processes). The intentional content of mental states explains their uniqueness in contrast to physical states and event causation (Lowe, 1999).

P1: If M events cause P events, then mental causation isn’t a problem for dualism.
P2: Mental events do cause physical events.
C: So mental causation isn’t a problem for dualism.

So this is based on Lowe’s distinction between event and agential causation. Agential causation means that an agent can cause events that mere physical event causation cannot and agential causation cannot be reduce to event causation. Agents aren’t events nor are they processes, al they are entities with powers that can enact causal chains. So mental events which are caused by agents can cause physical events sans violating any laws of nature, and this doesn’t require that mental events are identical to or reducible to physical events. Thus if mental events can cause physical events—which we have experiential and empirical evidence that they do—then the problem of mental causation does not pose a problem for dualism.

Premise 2 now needs defense. Mental events like thoughts, beliefs and desires can cause bodily movements. If you desire to go to the store and buy something, then your desires are directing your actions; the mental intention to move the body is then carried out. Also, experiencing pain (a mental event) can cause a reaction, which would then cause the avoidance of the source of the pain. Furthermore, we also deliberate on what to do, while considering different outcomes and options and then act based on our mental states at the time. Lastly, if mental events did not cause physical events, then we wouldn’t be able to hold people responsible for their intentional actions. So P2 is true and the conclusion then follows that mental causation isn’t a problem for dualism.

Then we have Krodel’s (2013) counterfactual argument for mental causation which can be formed like this:

If the mind were different, then the physical world would have been different, al M events cause P events in the world. Krodel (2013: 3) puts it like this:

My headache caused me to take an aspirin. This claim sounds as natural as any. A dualist too can make it. More importantly, a dualist can provide a rigorous argument for it. Nothing depends on the specifics of headaches and our reactions to them, so let m be some actually occurring mental event and b it’s actually occurring later behavioral effect (‘putative behavioral effect’, if you like, to quell any suspicion of begging the question). The argument has a complicated part with the conclusion that if m had not occurred, then b would not have occurred, and a simple part with the conclusion that m caused b. Let us start with the complicated part:

(1) If none of m’s physical bases had occurred, then b would not have occurred.
(∼∪P → ∼B)

(2) If m had not occurred, then none of m’s physical bases would have occurred.
(∼M → ∼∪P)

(3) If none of m’s physical bases had occurred, then m would not have occurred.
(∼∪P → ∼M)

(4) If m had not occurred, then b would not have occurred.
(∼M → ∼B)

It can also be put like this:

P1: If a mental event didn’t occur, then a physical event wouldn’t have occurred.
P2: If a mental event didn’t occur, then a different physical event would have occurred.
C: So the mental event causally contributed to the physical event.

So mental events make the difference to the counterfactual dependence of the physical events on the mental causes. So the mental event is causally relevant to the instantiation of the physical event, even if the mental event isn’t causally necessary. So again, the problem of mental causation isn’t a problem for dualism.

The argument for the uniqueness of human intentional consciousness

This is going to be a long argument, so bear with me.

P1: Humans are capable of intentional action, which involves the use of reason and purpose to achieve goals.
P2: Intentional action requires a mental capacity to represent and reason about the world.
P3: This mental capacity is what we refer to as MIND.
C1: Thus, humans possess a mind. (modus ponens, P1, P2, P3)
P4: Humans have intentional consciousness which involves being aware of thoughts, beliefs, and desires along with the ability to form and pursue goals.
P5: Intentional consciousness requires the ability to represent and reason about mental states.
P6: The possession of a mind is necessary for intentional consciousness.
C2: So humans have intentional consciousness (modus ponens, P6, C1).
P7: To be able to think, an organism must have a full range of propositional attitudes like beliefs, desires, intentions, and knowledge.
P8: Having a full range of propositional attitudes rests on having language.
P9: Nonhuman animals lack language.
P10: Nonhuman animals lack a full range of propositional attitudes.
P11: Since a full range of propositional attitudes is necessary for thinking, then nonhuman animals can’t think.
C3: So nonhuman animals lack MIND. (modus tollens, P3, P10, P11)
P12: Nonhuman animals have phenomenal consciousness, that is, there is something it is like to be a certain animal.
P13: Phenomenal consciousness does not require the ability to represent and reason about mental states.
P14: Intentional consciousness is a higher level of consciousness that requires both phenomenal consciousness and the ability to reason about and represent mental states.
C4: Therefore, no nonhuman animal possesses intentional consciousness. (modus tollens, C2, P12, P14)

P1-P6 establish that humans possess a mind and intentional consciousness and that nonhuman animals lack intentional consciousness. P7-P11 build on this and introduce the ideas that in order to think, an organism needs to have a full range of propositional attitudes, and since a full range of propositional attitudes rests on having language, and nonhuman animals lack language, then nonhuman animals can’t think which then leads to the conclusion that nonhuman animals lack MIND because thinking is a necessary component of MIND. P12-P14 state the distinction between phenomenal and intentional consciousness, and show that nonhuman animals have phenomenal consciousness but not intentional consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness does not require the ability to represent and reason about mental states, which is necessary for intentional consciousness.

So, minds exist and humans have them, humans have intentional consciousness (since humans can reason to achieve goals), nonhuman animals lack mind (since they lack language and therefore propositional attitudes) and nonhuman animals lack intentional consciousness (since they have phenomenal consciousness and no nonhuman animal can have intentional consciousness).


I have argued that humans have consciousness and that consciousness isn’t reducible to physical or material processes. Consciousness is a nonphysical phenomenon and since it is nonphysical, then only an immaterial, nonphysical thing can support or generate nonphysical consciousness and this immaterial thing is the mind. Mental causation isn’t a problem for dualism, since mental events can and do cause physical events. Krodel’s counterfactual argument for mental causation was provided to help establish the claim. Lastly, I argued that humans are capable of intentional action and so they possess minds, while arguing that humans have intentional consciousness nonhuman animals lack mind and so nonhuman animals lack intentional consciousness. This is due to the fact that nonhuman animals lack language and so they lack propositional attitudes and therefore intentional states.

So the ultimate conclusion here is that humans are special, a part of our constitution is nonphysical and irreducible (MIND), and so nonhuman animals don’t share MIND since they lack language and propositional attitudes, so they lack intentional consciousness.

Arguments Against Measurement Invariance

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Measurement invariance (MI) is a concept used in psychology, sociology, and education research which purports to describe the property that is being measured across different groups and/or contexts (eg Boorsboom, 2006), while measurement noninvariance (MNI) means that “a construct has a different structure or meaning to different groups or on different measurement occasions in the same group, and so the construct cannot be meaningfully tested or construed across groups or across time” (Putnick and Borstein, 2017). MI assumes that psychological constructs are measurable and that the same construct can be measured across different groups and contexts.

But MI doesn’t need to be a concrete physical reality to show that the construct that’s supposedly being measured is the same between cultures/contexts, so the story goes. Furthermore, establishing MI is important in showing that a construct is a valid one—that is, if a so-called measure is construct valid. But upon further examination of MI, the concept seems to be highly flawed. It assumes that psychological constructs are fixed, objective and can be measured with the same precision as physical objects. However, this assumption runs counter to the arguments I’ve been making for years about the immateriality of mind and psychological processes along with the limits of scientific inquiry.

In this article, I will provide an argument against the concept of MI and defend it’s premises, arguing that MI is an unrealistic, invalid concept due to the assumptions both implicit and explicit in the concept. Further, if a test is measurement invariant, then scores are comparable between groups and any differences between the groups can be said to be down to true differences in the hypothesized construct that is supposedly being measured. But if this construct is a psychological one, then there is no measurement occurring. But it is important to note that even if a test is so-called measurement invariant, that does not mean that a test is free from bias.

Arguing against measurement invariance

So MI is concerned with operationalizing and measuring certain indicators. However, since MI assumes that the underlying psychological construct that is purported to be measured exists, is objective, and a stable entity that can be measured accurately can be seen to be a form of reification, just like the concept of “general intelligence.” Although I reject MI due to its conceptual and theoretical assumptions as I will argue below, it is worth noting that Wicherts (2016; cf Shuttleworth-Edwards, 2016) showed that not all IQ tests are measurement invariant—that is, some are measurement noninvariant. Wicherts states that “psychological test scores need to be valid and reliable“—though I am not aware of any IQ test that is indeed construct valid (Richardson and Norgate, 2015).

Construct validity (CV) is also related to the overarching arguments I will mount. CV refers to whether or not a test or measure accurately assessed what it is purported it does. So when it comes to. CV for “intelligence” and other psychological traits, how can CV be established if there is no physicality to the construct—if they are immaterial? Further, the neurosciences have attempted to show CV for IQ, but this fails too.

I’m not really worried about whether or not IQ tests results are or are not measurement invariant. I am, however, concerned with the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings and assumptions of MI. It is these assumptions and theoretical underpinnings, I will argue, that invalidate the concept of MI. Long-time readers will know that I argue against the materiality (and so argue for) of psychological traits. Since MI is concerned with operationalizing and measuring certain indicators that supposedly relate to the constructs in question, the arguments I am about to give and have given in the past completely invalidate MI. These arguments are conceptual, and so empirical evidence is irrelevant to them. MI assumes that psychological constructs are measurable—that is, there is a physical basis for psychological constructs. Though, metaphysical/philosophical arguments refute this claim.

Now I will give the arguments against MI.

P1: MI assumes that the same construct is being measured in the same way across different groups and contexts.
P2: The meaning of a construct may differ between different cultural and social groups.
P3: Differences in cultural and social meaning can affect the reliability and validity of the measurement instruments which are used to assess the construct.
C: Thus, it may be inappropriate to assume that measures of psychological constructs are invariant across different cultural and social groups.

Premise 1: P1 is definitional, and is the accepted definition of MI in the literature.

Premise 2: Cultural and social differences can influence the meaning of a construct. A construct like self-esteem may be interpreted differently in individualistic and collectivist cultures, where an individualistic culture would look at self-esteem as an individual attribute while a collectivist culture would look at it as a relational attribute (eg between Western and East Asian cultures) (Heine and Hamamura, 2007). Further, aggressiveness and assertiveness could also be valued differently in individualistic and collectivist cultures (Church, 2000).

Premise 3: So-called measurement instruments that are used to assess psychological constructs could be influenced by cultural and social differences. A psychological test developed and “validated” in one culture may not be “valid” due to differences in culture, language, or norms (van de Vijver and Leung, 1997). Furthermore, differences in item content or even response styles may also lead to measurement bias which could then affect the reliability and validity of the so-called measurement instruments which then could affect the reliability and validity of the so-called measures.

So the conclusion here logically follows from the premises: so it could be inappropriate to assume that measures of psychological constructs are comparable between groups.

P1: If MI is a valid concept, then the same construct should be measured in the same way across groups/contexts.
P2: If cultural and social differences can affect the meaning and measurement of a construct, then the same construct cannot be measured in the same way across groups/contexts.
P3: Cultural or social differences can affect the meaning of a construct.
C: So MI isn’t a valid concept. (Hypothetical syllogism)

If psychological constructs can have different meanings across cultural and social groups, and if these differences can affect the “measurement” of the so-called construct, then it is impossible to achieve MI as defined in P1. While it is important to note that MI would then need to be redefined or applies with caution and awareness of cultural and social factors relevant to the so-called measurement, it is also important to note that different cultures convey different meaning to concepts. This argument is a sound one.

Premise 1: Again, this is definitional and a widely-accepted definition of MI.

Premise 2: Different cultures have different psychological and cultural tools, which then affect how those who find themselves in that culture think and behave (eg Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Nisbett, 2003; Heine, 2008). The implication here is obviously that psychological constructs have different meanings based on cultural, national, and social context. So the references provided show a valid concern which challenges a main assumption of MI.

Premise 3: Along with the references to Markus and Kitayama, Nisbett, and Heine, it has also been observed that cultural differences in beliefs and values could affect how people respond to personality tests, and that language can affect the interpretation of so-called psychological scales. So P3 is well-evidenced.

So the conclusion logically follows and what I wrote above in the preceding paragraph below the argument is the same.

P1: Psychological constructs are fundamentally subjective and culturally situated.
P2: MI assumes the possibility of objective and universal measurement of psychological constructs.
C: Therefore, MI is completely invalid.

Premise 1: Psychological constructs are abstract, subjective constructs which reflect the subjective experiences, values, and beliefs of individuals and communities. They are, furthermore, also shaped by cultural and social contexts which could affect the meanings and associations of particular constructs (Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Nisbett, 2003; Heine, 2008). So this implies that psychological constructs cannot be measured in a consistent and objective way across cultural and social contexts, since they are inherently subjective and culturally situated.

Premise 2: This, again, is definitional. So based on the well-accepted definition of MI, psychological constructs are universal and can be measured in a consistent and objective way across cultures. But P1 directly contradicts this—psychological constructs are subjective and culturally situated.

Conclusion: So based on P1 and P2, MI is invalid. If psychological constructs are fundamentally subjective and culturally situated, and if MI assumes the possibility and objective measurement of these constructs, then MI is fundamentally (conceptually and theoretically) flawed and so it cannot be applied in a meaningful way. So MI is an invalid concept.

The conceptual arguments I have given against MI challenge the assumptions and underlying theoretical framework of MI. So, the next and final argument I will provide will prove that the nature and immateriality of psychological traits means that MI is an invalid concept.

P1: If construct validity requires that the same construct is being measured in the same way across contexts and groups, and if psychological traits are immaterial and so immeasurable, then MI is an invalid concept.
P2: Psychological traits are immaterial and so immeasurable.
P3: Construct validity requires that the same construct is being measured in the same way across contexts and groups.
C: So MI is an unrealistic and invalid concept.

Premise 1: CV requires that the same construct is being measured across all groups and contexts (Kane, 2006). If we can it ensure that we are measuring the same construct across all groups and contexts, then we cannot establish construct validity. So if psychological traits are immaterial and immeasurable, and we cannot ensure that we are measuring the same construct across different groups and contexts, then the concept of MI is unrealistic and therefore invalid.

Premise 2: This premise is of course widely-debated in philosophy of mind (Chalmers, 1996), and I have provided numerous arguments that establish the immateriality and immeasurability of psychological traits (hereherehere and here). So since psychological traits are immaterial and not directly observable or measurable, then they pose a huge and insurmountable obstacle for the psychometric claims that mentality can be measured.

Premise 3: This premise establishes that for the same construct to be measured across groups and contexts, then it needs to be established that the same construct is indeed being measured. However, see the discussion of the conclusion below.

Conclusion: Since psychological traits are immaterial and so immeasurable, and construct validity requires that the same construct is being measured across all groups and contexts, then MI isn’t a valid concept.


I have discussed what MI is and what is required for MI in the literature. I then gave four arguments which conclude that MI isn’t a valid concept. This is because different cultures have different psychological and cultural tools, and so different concepts would have different meaning in different cultures and nations, which does indeed have empirical support.

Most importantly, the immateriality of psychological traits means that they are not directly observable or measurable, and therefore, this is yet another reason why the concept of MI is invalid. For X to be measured, X needs a specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit (Berka, 1983; Nash, 1990). I have termed this “the Berka/Nash measurement objection.” For if those three conditions do not hold, then one cannot logically state that they are measuring anything. Furthermore—regarding standardized tests—they exist to assess social function (Garrison, 2009: 5). Psychometricians also assume that what they are measuring is quantitative, without showing that it is. That “something” is being measured that we don’t know due to the the fact that tests and questionnaires obtain numerical values is patently ridiculous. Psychometricians design that test first and then attend it to ascertain what it measures (Nash, 1990).

Now, while I think I have refuted the concept of MI, of course this will continue to be used in psychometric research. However, just because a thing is continously used and just because a whole field continues even when there are lethal conceptual objections against it doesn’t mean that they are in the clear. The fact of the matter is, psychometrics isn’t measurement (Uher, 2021), and no experiment can establish that it is—psychometricians need to grapple with the conceptual arguments, first. MI just isn’t a valid concept due to the arguments and reasons I have given.

Strengthening my Argument to Ban IQ Tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hereditarianism is not a Valid Science

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For years I have been arguing that hereditarianism just isn’t tenable due to the fact that the mental is irreducible to the physical. Since the mental is irreducible to the physical, then hereditarianism cannot possibly be true. I have given many conceptual arguments (here, here, here and here) which argue for (a form of) dualism, and so if dualism is true, then hereditarianism can’t possibly be true.

Here is another argument against hereditarianism:

P1: If hereditarianism is a valid science, then it must be based on a physicalist and reductionist theory of mind.
P2: The mental is irreducible to the physical.
P3: Hereditarianism is based on a physicalist and reductionist theory of mind.
C: Thus, hereditarianism is not a valid science.

Premise 1: The whole hereditarian programme assumes that psychology reduces to genes, which we can see from GWA studies of “intelligence” and other psychological traits. It’s a programme that attempts to show that differences in genes in populations lead to differences in psychological traits. However, this is merely a conceptual confusion.

Since hereditarianism attempts to reduce psychological traits to genes, then it necessarily is a physicalist and reductionist theory of mind. Hereditarianism assumes that actions and behaviors can be reduce to genes, and that we can use the methods they propose to discover these relationships. Hereditarianism, though, is said to be a scientific hypothesis and so it needs testable and falsifiable theories. But, the assumption that psychology reduces to genes is a conceptual one, and so, hereditarianism attempts to make the mind-body problem a scientific problem when it in all actuality is a conceptual argument, to which empirical evidence is irrelevant to.

Hereditarian theorists claim that standardized tests are measurement tools, and so we can then measure and quantify intelligence by administering these tests. However, there is no specified measured object, object of measurement and measurement unit for IQ (Nash, 1990), and for there to be, IQ and whatever other psychological trait the hereditarian claims to be measuring need to have those three things articulated. On another note, hereditarianism would seem to fall prey to a version of what Deacon (1990: 201) calls the numerology fallacy:

Numerology fallacies are apparent correlations that turn out to be artifacts of numerical oversimplification. Numerology fallacies in science, like their mystical counterparts, are likely to be committed when meaning is ascribed to some statistic merely by virtue of its numeric similarity to some other statistic, without supportive evidence from the empirical system that is being described.

Nonetheless, it is clear that when the hereditarian says that the mental can be measured and reduced to genes or brain structure/physiology, they are making a conceptual—not empirical—claim, and so hereditarianism would then fail on conceptual grounds. This is beside the point that (again, conceptually) that there is no a priori privileged level of causation, meaning the gene isn’t a privileged cause over and above other developmental variables (Noble, 2012) and the fact that the conceptual model of heritability and the gene used in hereditarian heritability studies is conceptually flawed (Burt and Simon, 2015). The fact of the matter is, no empirical data can refute these two arguments; these two powerful arguments then combine to refute hereditarianism, making hereditarianism logically untenable.

Hereditarianism must be a physicalist, reductionist account of the mind, and as I have argued for before, this was inevitable. Hereditarianism seeks to either reduce mind to genes or brain structure/physiology, as evidenced by for example Jung and Haier’s (2007) P-FIT model.

Premise 2: I won’t spend much time on this since I have exhaustively argued this claim. But basically, since hereditarianism relies on a physicalist and reductionist account of the mind, then mind either reduces to genes or brain structure/physiology. However, this claim fails conceptually.

Premise 3: This premise states that hereditarianism is a physicalist and reductionist theory of mind. This is evidenced by the fact that since the 80s hereditarians like Richard Haier were attempting to reduce mind (IQ, thinking) to brain physiology using EEG.

Conclusion: It then follows that hereditarianism is not a valid science. No matter how many experiments are carried out by hereditarians, this won’t prove their ideas. The ultimate claim of hereditarianism—and of mind-brain, psychophysical reduction—is a conceptual, not scientific, one.

There is also the fact that the main evidence marshaled for hereditarianism relies on heritability estimates which derive mostly from twin studies. Here’s the argument:

P1: If hereditarianism is a valid science, then it must be based on reliable and valid evidence.
P2: Hereditarianism relies mainly on heritability estimates.
P3: Heritability estimates cannot account for GxE interactions, assume additivity, and can’t account for the complex interactions between G and E.
C: Therefore, hereditarianism cannot be considered a valid science.

Science is based on observation and empirical evidence. Since the advent of twin studies, hereditarianism has relied on heritability estimates, which is a statistical measure of the variance in a trait which can be “explained” by genetic factors. Heritability estimates also assume a heterogeneous environment and that G and E don’t interact. So it then follows that if hereditarianism relies mainly on heritability estimates, then it cannot be a valid science. It doesn’t inform us what the causes of a trait or differences in them are, nor the relative influence of G and E on a trait (Moore and Shenk, 2016). There is also the fact that from these heritability estimates that they have then used and championed GWA studies to find the genes that are causal for differences in IQ scores. However, they would then need to answer the challenge in this article on PGS and I don’t see how anyone can answer it. Nevertheless, “heritability studies attempt the impossible” because “the conceptual biological model on which heritability studies depend—that of identifiably separate effects of genes vs. the environment on phenotype variance—is unsound” (Burt and Simon, 2015).

That hereditarians have shifted to brain imaging and the neurosciences (eg Kirkegaard and Fuerst, 2023) in attempting to validate hereditarianism means I can use the explanatory gap argument to put these newer claims to rest (which is basically the same as the argument I made here against the possibility of science being able to study first-personal subjective states):

P1: Mental states have a first-personal subjective aspect which cannot be captured by third-personal brain sciences.
P2: All physical states can be described in terms of their physical relations relations and properties.
C: So mental states cannot be reduced to third-personal descriptions of brain activity.

So if minds reduce to genes or brains, then we would be able to explain M in terms of P.

P1: If all mental phenomena can be fully explained in terms of physical phenomena, then there is no need for non-physical mental entities or processes.
P2: There are mental phenomena that cannot be fully explained in terms of physical phenomena.
C: Therefore, there are non-physical mental entities or processes.

If physicalism were true, then we would have no need to posit mental entities. But since there are mental phenomena that cannot be fully explained in terms of physical phenomena, then we should accept the existence of non-physical mental phenomena, which would therefore mean that dualism is true and that merely studying brain physiology and processes doesn’t mean that we are studying the mind.


Hereditarianism is hardly a scientific theory. It’s not a scientific theory since M doesn’t reduce to P. It’s not a scientific theory since science can’t study first-personal subjective states. The hereditarian hypothesis cannot be tested in a meaningful way—so it is therefore ad hoc. Hereditarianism should be laid to rest with other hypotheses like phlogiston. Hereditarianism makes no testable predictions. The hereditarian hypothesis is a scientific theory if and only if mind reduces to brain. But the mind doesn’t reduce to the brain. So, again, the hereditarian hypothesis isn’t a scientific theory and, therefore, the mind cannot be studied by science.

Hereditarianism should take it’s place in the annals of failed hypotheses. Hereditarians should stop claiming that hereditarianism is a scientific theory/hypothesis because it very clearly is not.

Empirical Evidence is Irrelevant to Conceptual Arguments

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Empirical arguments rely on scientific data—data derived from the five senses. Conceptual arguments don’t rely on empirical evidence—they rely on thinking about concepts. So then we can say that it’s about a priori vs. a posteriori knowledge. A posteriori knowledge is empirical/scientific knowledge while a priori knowledge is conceptual/logical knowledge. An argument about concepts would be analyzing the concepts which make up a proposition while an empirical argument would be an argument derived from our senses and what we observe. In this article, I will articulate the distinction between empirical and conceptual argument and then provide arguments why empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual objections. This, then, has implications for things like the reducibility of the mental to the physical.

Empirical argument

An empirical argument is one in which scientific data is paramount to it and observations and using our five senses are key to gaining knowledge. A related inquiry is what philosopher of mind Markus Gabriel calls rampant empiricism in his book I am not a Brain. Rampant empiricism is the philosophical claim that all knowledge can be derived from our five senses. However the claim that all knowledge derives from sense experience is a philosophical—conceptual—claim, and can’t be corrected with sense experience. In my article Against Scientism, I articulated an argument against the claim that scientism is true:

Premise 1Scientism is justified.
Premise 2If scientism is justified, then science is the only way we can acquire knowledge.
Premise 3We can acquire knowledge through logic and reasoning, along with science.
Conclusion: Therefore scientism is unjustified since we can acquire knowledge through logic and reasoning.

While empirical evidence and argument do, of course, hold value—as evidenced with scientific inquiry—it is quite clear that we can nevertheless gain knowledge through thinking about concepts, through a priori reasoning. That is, we can acquire knowledge through logic and reasoning, so there is more than one way to gain knowledge. So evidence is empirical if it is derived through one of the five senses, that is if it is accessible to sense experience.

Empirical evidence is concerned with the physical world. That is, what we can see and measure. It is based on observation, experience, and measurement of physical quantities. So, for example, if X isn’t quantifiable, then X can’t be measured, therefore X wouldn’t be subject to empirical verification so it would be subject to conceptual argumentation.

Conceptual argument

A conceptual argument is an argument that doesn’t rely on empirical evidence—it is a priori (Bojanic, Laquinto, and Torrengo, 2018). It merely relies on logic and reasoning to gain knowledge. However, “logic without empirical supports can only be used to prove conceptual truths” (Icefield, 2020). Such arguments are based on abstract concepts, ideas, and principles, and claims are established based on a logical analysis of concepts.

Conceptual arguments are based on a priori knowledge such as mathematical proofs, conceptual definitions and logical principles. Knowledge like this can be established through reasoning and reasoning alone without appeal to empirical evidence. Since a priori knowledge is knowledge gained without appeal to empirical evidence, or observation, empirical evidence is thusly irrelevant to conceptual arguments. Concepts are general meanings of linguistic predicates, and so philosophy itself is an a priori, conceptual discipline, which relies on deduction.

Conclusions in an a priori, conceptual argument are established with logic and reasoning without appealing to empirical data. Such examples are, of course, the relationship between the mind and body, and the nature of causation. There could be no scientific experiments which would establish which theory in philosophy of mind would be true, nor could there be a scientific experiment which would establish the nature of causation.

For many, philosophy is essentially the a priori analysis of concepts, which can and should be done without leaving the proverbial armchair. We’ve already seen that in the paradigm case, an analysis embodies a definition; it specifies a set of conditions that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for the application of the concept. For proponents of traditional conceptual analysis, the analysis of a concept is successful to the extent that the proposed definition matches people’s intuitions about particular cases, including hypothetical cases that figure in crucial thought experiments.

A related attraction is that conceptual analysis explains how philosophy could be an a priori discipline, as many suppose it is. If philosophy is primarily about concepts and concepts can be investigated from the armchair, then the a priori character of philosophy is secured (Jackson 1998). (SEP, Concepts)

The argument against empirical evidence being relevant to conceptual arguments

I have articulated a few arguments for the claim that empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

P1: If empirical evidence is relevant to conceptual arguments, then empirical evidence can be used to support or refute conceptual claims.

P2: Empirical evidence cannot be used to support or refute conceptual claims.

C: Thus, empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

Conceptual claims are based on a priori truths and so we can know things without experience, whereas empirical evidence is based on experience and observations and so they cannot refute conceptual claims. There is, though, no kind of empirical evidence that can refute conceptual claims from philosophical analysis.

P1: If empirical evidence is relevant to conceptual arguments, then all conceptual arguments would be subject to empirical verification.

P2: There are conceptual arguments that are not subject to empirical verification.

C: Therefore, empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

A few conceptual arguments that aren’t subject to empirical verification include: Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini’s (2009, 2010) argument against natural selection, the argument against the reducibility of the mental, the Berka/Nash measurement objection, a theory/definition of “intelligence“, the argument against localization of cognitive functions in the brain (Uttal, 2001, 2012, 2014), the argument against animal mentality (Davidson, 1982), the argument against machine intentionality/mindedness, the argument against the possibility of science being able to study subjective states, and Gettier’s argument against knowledge as justified true belief (Chalmers and Jackson, 2001). These all have one thing in common: There can never be any empirical evidence that would validate or invalidate these arguments, and so falsification would be irrelevant. One would disprove the arguments not by empirical means—if they could—but by dealing with the logic/concepts of the arguments. These arguments deal with abstract, theoretical concepts which cannot be observed or tested empirically; they rely on logical reasoning like deduction and using inferences and not observation and measurement ; many involve normative judgments; and they are subject to interpretation. While empirical evidence is concerned with the directly observable, measurable physical world.

Furthermore, arguments like those in Gourionouva and Mansvelder (2019) fall prey to the facts: that there is no definition or theory of “intelligence”; that twin studies don’t show genetic influence (Joseph, 2014) since the “laws” of behavioral genetics don’t hold; and last but not least that neuroimaging studies don’t and can’t do what they set out to do (Uttal, 2001, 2012, 2014), since neuroreductionism is false along with the fact that neuroscience assumes mind is physical and reducible to the CNS.

P1: Empirical evidence relies on the observation and measurement of physical phenomena.

P2: Conceptual arguments are based on abstract concepts and logical deduction.

P3: Abstract concepts cannot be observed or measured through empirical means.

C: Thus, empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

P1 asserts that empirical evidence is based on observation and measurement of physical phenomena. P2 establishes that conceptual arguments are based on logical deduction and abstract concepts which aren’t observable or measurable empirically. P3 follows from the definition of abstract concepts and logical deduction and how they aren’t directly observable or measurable phenomena. So the conclusion necessarily and logically follows from the premises—it’s impossible to directly measure or observe abstract concepts or logical deductions which are the basis of conceptual arguments, so empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

P1: If a proposition is conceptual, then it is not based on empirical evidence.

P2: If a proposition is not based on empirical evidence, then it is not subject to empirical testing.

P3: So if a proposition is conceptual, then it is not subject to empirical testing.

P4: If a proposition is not subject to empirical testing, then empirical evidence is irrelevant to assessing the truth or validity of the proposition.

C: Thus, if a proposition is conceptual, then empirical evidence is irrelevant to assessing the truth or validity of the proposition.

This argument builds on the others, and using hypothetical syllogism, successfully concludes that if a proposition is conceptual then it isn’t subject to empirical verification. Thus, taken together, empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments, and so falsification, too, is irrelevant. Since falsification is irrelevant, then testability of the conceptual argument is, too, irrelevant. Conceptual arguments are irrefutable using the methods of scientific inquiry and can only be refuted using philosophical inquiry.

P1: If empirical evidence is relevant to an argument, then the argument must be testable using empirical methods.

P2: Conceptual arguments aren’t testable using empirical methods.

C: So empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

This argument is simple: If empirical evidence is relevant to an argument, but conceptual arguments aren’t testable through empirical methods, then empirical evidence isn’t relevant to conceptual arguments. This is due to the distinction between empirical and conceptual arguments/evidence.

Now I can use destructive dillema to argue that empirical evidence is irrelevant to the mind-body problem.

P1: If an argument is conceptual, then it is based on abstract concepts and logical deduction.

P2: If an argument is based on abstract concepts and logical deduction, then it cannot be observed or measured through empirical means.

P3: If an argument cannot be observed or measured through empirical means, then empirical evidence is irrelevant to that argument.

P4: The mind-body problem is a conceptual argument.

C: Therefore, empirical evidence is irrelevant to the mind-body problem.

If the mind-body problem is a conceptual argument (P4), then it is based on abstract concepts and logical deduction (P1), so it cannot be observed or measured through empirical means (P2), thus empirical evidence is irrelevant to the mind-body problem (P3), ultimately meaning that the mind-body problem—along with the mental and first-personal subjective states—cannot be studied by science. This of course—as I have been arguing for years—has implications for the so-called hereditarian hypothesis and any kind of genetic or neuroimaging studies they attempt and assert that shows that the mental is reducible to genes or brain physiology. Indeed, a priori philosophical conceptual analysis shows that consciousness cannot be reduced to any material features—meaning it is outside of the bounds of scientific explanation, just like first-personal subjective states (Chalmers and Jackson, 2001).


I have articulated the distinction between empirical and conceptual arguments, and provided valid and sound arguments which distinguish between both types of argument. The nonidentity between how the types of argument work and gather support for premises shows why empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

Quite clearly, there is evidence that isn’t empirical and so it isn’t subject to empirical verification/falsification/testing. This is because logical concepts/argumentation/reasoning are subject to falsification from the scientific method. For one to be able to successfully reject conceptual arguments, they need to grapple with the logic and reasoning of the arguments. No empirical evidence would be able to show that a proposition is false, since empirical evidence wasn’t used for the proposition.

The most powerful arguments against so-called hereditarianism are conceptual, and no matter what kinds of studies the hereditarian conjures up, none of them will refute the arguments against the possibility of psychophysical reductionism. So if consciousness (mind) cannot be reductively explained by the scientific method, then hereditarianism fails and therefore, there cannot be a science of the mind.

Since empirical arguments rely on observation or experimentation, and conceptual arguments rely on logic and reasoning, they have different bases of evidence. Empirical arguments are concerned with observable phenomena, while conceptual arguments are concerned with abstract concepts. Empirical arguments rely on the scientific method and data collection, while conceptual arguments rely on philosophical frameworks, logic, and reasoning.

The validity of a conceptual argument relies on the logic of its inferences along with the consistency and coherence of its logical framework and the soundness of the logic underlying the premises of the argument. The distinction and non-identity between the two types of evidence allows us to rightly state that, for these reasons why empirical evidence is irrelevant to conceptual arguments.

The AR Gene, Aggression and Prostate Cancer: Yet Another Hereditarian Reduction-to-Biology Fails

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Due to the outright failure in linking testosterone to differences in racial genetics, prostate cancer (PCa) and aggression, those who would still claim genetic or biological causation for differences in PCa incidence and aggression/crime which would then be linked to race needed to search other avenues for their long-awaited discovery and mechanism for the proposed relationships. This is where the AR (androgen receptor) gene comes in. The AR gene allows the creation of androgen receptors, and this is where androgen “dock”, if you will, allowing the physiological system to use it to carry out what it needs to. In this article, I will discuss the AR gene, CAG repeats, aggression, PCa, a just-so story and finally what may explain the differences in PCa acquisition and aggression between races, not appealing to genes.

Though, hereditarianism is concerned with the so-called biological/genetic transmission of socially-desired traits and also genetic causation of socially-undesired traits, due to the fall of the testosterone-causes-aggressive-behavior paradigm, surely some other biological mechanism could explain why blacks have higher rates of aggression, crime and PCa along with testosterone? Surely, if testosterone isn’t driving the relationship, it would somehow be implicated with it, through some other mechanism in some other kind of way? This is where the androgen receptor gene (AR gene) comes into play. So since CAG repeat length is assumed to be related to androgen receptor sensitivity, and since one report states that lower CAG repeats are associated with aggression (Simmons and Roney, 2011), this is where the hereditarian looks to next for their proposed relationships between testosterone, aggression and PCa. Simmons and Roney also, similarly to Rushton’s r/K, claim that “shorter AR-CAG repeats would have been beneficial for males inhabiting tropical regions because this genetic trait would have encouraged an androgenic response, reportedly along with higher testosterone levels” (Oubre, 2020: 293). Just-so stories all the way down.

Racial differences in AR gene and aggression/PCa

Such claims that the AR polymorphism followed racial lines and was correlated with PCa incidence began to appear in the late 1990s (eg, Giovannuci et al, 1997; Pettaway, 1999). It has been shown that the number of CAG repeats on the AR gene is related to heightened activity on the androgen receptor, and that blacks are more likely to have fewer CAG repeats on the AR gene (Sartor et al, 1997; Platz et al, 2000; Bennett et al, 2002; Gilligan et al, 2004; Ackerman et al, 2013). (But also see Gilligan et al (2004), Lange et al, (2008), and Sun and Lee (2013) for contrary evidence to these claims.) African populations have shorter CAG repeats than non-African populations on the AR gene (Samtal et al, 2022), and since carriers or short CAG repeats had a higher incidence of PCa (Weng et al, 2017; Qin et al, 2022), then this would be the next-best spot to look after the testosterone/PCa/aggression hypothesis failed so spectacularly. But since “Androgen receptor (AR) mediates the peripheral effects of testosterone” (Tirabassi et al, 2015), this has been a new haven for the hereditarian to go to and look for their relationship between aggression and biology.

Fewer CAG repeats has been linked to self-reported aggression (Mettman et al, 2014; Butovskaya et al, 2015; Fernandez-Castillo and Cormand, 2016). Though unfortunately for hereditarian theorists, they also need to look elsewhere, since the number of CAG repeats wasn’t related to aggressive behavior in men nor in women (Valenzuela et al, 2022). Vermeer (2010) found no relationship between CAG repeats and adolescent risk-taking, depression, dominance, or self-esteem. These findings are contrary to other claims, such as this from Geniole et al (2019): “Testosterone thus appears to promote human aggression through an AR-related mechanism“. Rajender et al (2008) showed that rapists and murders had fewer CAG repeats than controls (18.44 repeats, 17.59 repeats, and 21.19 repeats respectively). This is significant due to what was referenced above about testosterone modulating human aggression through an androgen receptor mechanism. Butovskaya et al (2012) also found no relationship between the AR gene and any of the aggression subscales they used.

Since shorter CAG repeats on the AR gene were also related to the severity of PCa incidence (Giovannuci et al, 1997), then what explains the 2 times higher incidence of PCa in blacks compared to whites and 3 to 4 times higher incidence in Asians (Hinata and Fujisawa, 2022; Yamoah et al, 2022) should be related to AR gene and CAG repeats. (Though shorter CGN repeats don’t increase PCa risk in whites and blacks; Li et al, 2017.) However, when blacks and whites had similar preventative care, differences almost entirely vanished (Dess et al, 2019; Yamoah et al, 2022). Lewis and Cropp (2020) have a good review of PCa incidence in blacks. Thus, external—not internal—factors influenced mortality rates, and even though there may be some biological factors that cause either a higher incidence of PCa or survival once it metastatizes, that doesn’t preclude the possibility of inequities on healthcare which cause this relationship (Reddick, 2018). But how can we explain this in an evolutionary context, either recently or in the deep past? Don’t worry, the just-so storytellers have us covered.

Just-so stories and androgen receptors

Urological surgeon William Aiken (2011), publishing in the prestigious journal Medical Hypotheses “speculated” that slaves thsg survived the Middle Passage were more sensitive to androgens, which would then protect them from the conditions they found themselves in on the slave ships during the Passage. This, he surmised, is why African descendants are way disproportionately represented in sprinting records and why, then, blacks have a higher incidence of PCa than whites. Aiken (2011: 1122) explains the “reasoning” behind his hypothesis:

This hypothesis emerged from an exploration of the possible interplay between historical events and biological mechanisms resulting in the similarity in the disproportionate racial and geographic distributions in seemingly unrelated phenomena such as sprinting ability and prostate cancer. The hypothesis is equally a synthesis of the interpretations of observations of a disparate nature such as the high incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer amongst men of African descent in the Americas while West Africans residing in urban West African centre’s have a lower prostate cancer incidence and mortality [2], the 3-fold greater prostate cancer incidence in Afro-Trinidadians compared to Indo Asian-Trinidadians despite exposure to largely similar environmental conditions [5], the improvement in athletic sprinting performance observed when athletes take anabolic steroids [3], the observation that both sprinting ability and prostate cancer are related to specific hand patterns which in turn are related to antenatal exposure to high testosterone levels [6,7], the observation that prostate cancer is androgen-dependent and undergoes involution when testosterone is inhibited or withdrawn [4], the observation that West Africans born in West Africa are under-represented amongst the elite sprinters [1] despite their relatively large populations and despite West Africa being the region of origin of the ancestors of today’s elite sprinters and finally the observation that prostate cancer is related to androgen receptor responsiveness which in turn is related to its CAG-repeat length [8].

One of Aiken’s predictions is that black Americans and Caribbean blacks should have lower shorter CAG repeats than the populations of descent in Africa. Unfortunately for him, West Africans seem to have shorter CAG repeats than descendants of the Middle Passage (Kittles et al, 2001). Not least, neither of the two predictions he proposed to explain the relationship are risky or novel. By risky prediction I mean a hypothesis that would disprove the overarching hypothesis should the relationship not hold under scrutiny. By novel fact I mean a predicted fact that’s not used in the construction of the hypothesis. Quite clearly, Aiken’s hypothesis doesn’t meet this criteria, and so it is a just-so story.

But such fantastical, selection-type stories have been in the media relatively recently. Like Oprah’s and Dr. Oz’s assertions that blacks that survived the Middle Passage did so in virtue of their ability to retain salt during the voyage which then, today, leads to higher incidences of hypertension. This is known as the slavery hypertension hypothesis (Lujan and DiCarlo, 2018) and is, of course, also a just-so story. Just like the just-so story cited above, those Africans who took the voyage across the sea had some kind of advantage which explained why they survived and, consequently, explained relationships between maladies in their descendants. These types of stories—no matter how well-crafted—are nothing more than stories that explain what they purport to explain with no novel evidence that would raise the probability of the hypothesis being true.


Aggression is related to crime, in that it is surmised that more aggressive individuals would then commit more crimes. I’ve noted the failure of hereditarian explanations over the years, so what do I think best explains the relationship between aggression and crime and, ultimately, criminal activity? Well, since crime is an action, it is therefore irreducible. I would propose a kind of situationism in explaining this.

Situational action theory (SAT) (eg Wilkstrom, 2010, 2019) is a cousin of situationism, and is a kind of moral action theory, placing the agent in situations (environments) which then would lead to criminal action as a discourse to take. “The core principle of SAT is that crime is ultimately the outcome of certain ‘kinds of people’ being exposed to certain ‘kinds of situations’” (Messner, 2012). For instance, a good example of this would be for black Americans. Mazur’s (2016) honor culture hypothesis states that blacks who are constantly vigilant for threats to their status and self have higher rates of testosterone in virtue of the fact that aggression increases testosterone.

So this would then be an example of the kind of relationship that SAT would look for. So SAT and the honor culture hypothesis are interactionist in that they recognize the interaction between the agent and the environment (situations) the agent finds themselves in. Violence is merely situational action (Wikstrom and Treiber, 2009), so to explain a violent crime, we need to know the status of the agent and the environment that the crime occurred in, along with the victim and motivating factors for the action in question. The fact of the matter is, actions are irreducible and what is irreducible isn’t physical, so physical (biological) explanations won’t work here. Further, the longer that people stay in criminogenic environments, the more likely they are to commit crime, due to the situations they find themselves in. Thus, a kind of analytic criminology should be employed to discover how and why crimes occur (Wikstrom and Kroneberg, 2022). Considerations in biology should not be looked at when talking about actions and their causes.

Prostate cancer

I have discussed this in the past: What best explains the incidences in PCa between races is diet. For instance, blacks have lower rates of vitamin D than other races (Guiterrez et al, 2022; Thamattoor, 2021). People with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to acquire PCa, and those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were more likely to have aggressive PCa (Xie et al, 2017). Since consuming high IUs of vitamin D seems to stave off PCa (Khan and Parton, 2004; Naier-Shalliker et al, 2021), and since there seems to be a dose-response relationship between vitamin D consumption and PCa mortality (Song et al, 2018) along wkth vitamin D seeming to reverse low-grade PCa (Samson, 2015), it stands to reason that the higher incidences of PCa in blacks in comparison to whites are due to socio-environmental dietary factors. We don’t need any assumed biological/genetic factors in order to explain the relationship when we know the etiology of PCa.


Due to the old, 1980s and 1990s explanations from hereditarians on the etiology of PCa and aggression with its link to race and testosterone, researchers had to look to other avenues in order to find the “biological etiology” between the relationships. They then pivoted to the AR gene and CAG repeats to explain the relationship between PCa and testosterone when the original testosterone-causes-PCa-and-aggression claim was refuted (Tricker et al, 1996; Book, Starzyk, and Quinsey, 2001; O’Connor et, 2002; Stattin et al, 2004; Archer, Graham-Kevan, and Davies, 2005Book and Quinsey, 2005; Michaud, Billups, and Partin, 2015; Boyle et al, 2016).

But as can be seen, again, the relationships between the proposed explanations in order to continue pushing their biological/genetic theories of PCa and aggression linked with testosterone and race also fails. Rushton’s r/K theory, for instance, implicated testosterone as a “master switch” (Rushton, 1999). Attempted reductions to biology were also seen in (the now-retracted) Rushton and Templer (2012) (see responses here and here). Reductions to biology quite clearly fail, but that doesn’t deter the hereditarian from pushing the racist theory that genes and biology explain the poor outcomes of blacks.

Vygotsky’s Socio-Historical Theory of Learning and Development, Knowledge Social Class, and IQ

4050 words

Three of the main concepts that Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky is known for is cultural and psychological tools, private speech, and the zone of proximal development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between what a learner can do with and without help—the gap between actual and potential development. Vygotsky’s socio-historical theory of learning and development states that human development and learning take place in certain social and cultural contexts. When one thinks about how knowledge acquisition occurs, quite obviously, one can surmise that knowledge acquisition (learning) and human development take place in specific cultural and social contexts and so knowledge is culture-dependent (Richardson, 2002).

In this article, I will discuss the intersection of culture and Vygotsky’s concepts of private speech, cultural and psychological tools, and the zone of proximal development along with how these relate to IQ. Basically, the argument will be that what one is exposed to in childhood and during development will dictate how one performs on a test, and that the ZPD predicts school performance better than “IQ.”

What is culture and where does it come from?

This question is asked a lot by “HBDers” and I think it is a loaded question. It is a loaded question because they are fishing for a specific kind of answer—they want you to answer that culture derives from a people’s genetic constitution. This, though, fails. It fails because of how culture is conceptualized. Culture is simply what is socially transmitted by groups of people. It is physically visible (public) though the meaning of each cultural thing is invisible—it is private to the people who espouse the certain culture.

The basic source culture is values, beliefs, and norms. Cultures lay down strict norms of what is OK and what isn’t, like for example the foods they eat and along with it beliefs and attitudes shared by the social group. So a basic definition of culture would be: beliefs and ways of life that a social group shares—it is a human activity which is socially transmitted. Knowing this, we can see how learning and in some ways development, can be culturally-loaded. Since a culture dictates not only what is learned, but also how to think in a certain culture, we can then begin to see how different cultures lead people to think in different ways and along with it how different cultures lead to differences in not only knowledge but the acquisition of that knowledge.

UNESCO defines culture as “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, that encompasses, not only art and literature but lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs” (UNESCO, 2001). (What is Culture?)

the term “culture” can refer to the set of norms, practices and values that characterize minority and majority groups (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Culture)

Material culture consists of tangible objects that people create: tools, toys, buildings, furniture, images, and even print and digital media—a seemingly endless list of items. … Non-material culture includes such things as: beliefs, values, norms, customs, traditions, and rituals (Culture as Thought and Action)

Since society consists of individuals who then become a group living in a certain region, then it stands to reason that learning and human development are due to these kinds of cultural and social interactions between individuals which make up a certain society and therefore culture. The types of things that allow me to survive, learn, and grow in one culture won’t allow me to survive, learn, and grow to the same degree in another culture.

Now that I’ve touched on what culture is, where does it come from? Why are there different cultures? Quite simply, cultures are different because people are different and although different cultures are comprised of individuals, these individuals themselves comprise a group. These groups of people live in different environments/ecologies (physical environment), and so considerations of these ecologies lead not only to a group to begin to construct a society that is necessarily in-tune with the environment, it also leads to “mental environments” between the people that comprise the group in question. So then we can say that culture comes from the way that groups of people live their lives.

If we think about culture as thought and action, then we can begin to get at what culture really is. Values and beliefs influence our thought, attitudes, and behavior. “Culture influences action…by...shaping a repertoire or “toolkit” of habits, skills, and styles from which people construct “strategies of action“” (Swidler, 1986). Action is distinct from behavior, in that action is future- or goal-directed whereas behavior is due to antecedent conditions. That is, actions are done for reasons, to actualize a goal of the agent that is performing the action. Crudely, culture can be then said to be what a group of people does. Culture is “human-created environment, artifacts, and practices” (Vasileva and Balyasnikova, 2019).

How culture, then, comes into play in Vygotsky’s socio-historical theory of learning and development is now clear—the ways that people interact with others in a specific culture then dictates the knowledge that they acquire which then shapes their mental abilities. This theory is a purely developmental theory. The socio-historical theory makes three claims: Social interaction plays a role in learning, knowledge acquisition, and development; language is an essential cultural/psychological tool in learning, and learning occurs within the zone of proximal development (ZPD). How that I have shown how I will be using the term “culture”, it is clear that what it means for Vygotsky’s theory of human learning and development is relevant. Now I will discuss cultural and psychological tools and then turn to those three aforementioned tenets that make up the theory.

Psychological and cultural tools

Psychological tools are symbols, signs, text and language, to name a few. They are internally oriented, but in their external appearance take their form in the aforementioned ways. Language and mathematics are two kind of psychological tools, but we can also rightly say they they are cultural tools as well (in the case of language).

Cultural tools are tools specific to a culture which allows an individual to navigate that culture. Cultural tools don’t determine thinking but they do constrain it, since the “information about the expected or appropriate actions in relation to a particular performance in a community. This is indirectly social in that it is not interpersonal, though it nevertheless stems from the social context” (Gauvain, 2001:129). Language can be seen as both a cultural and psychological tool; humans are born into culturally- and linguistically-mediated environments, and so they are immediately immersed in culture from the day they are born (Vasileva and Balyasnikova, 2019).

Cultural tools include historically evolved patterns of co-action; the informal and institutionalized rules and procedures governing them; the shared conceptual representations underlying them; styles of speech and other forms of communication; administrative, management and accounting tools; specific hardware and technological tools; as well as ideologies, belief systems, social values, and so on (Vygotsky, 1988).(Richardson, 2002: 288)

Robbins (2005: 146) writes:

Another important concept within sociocultural theory, which we can highlight through Rogoff’s (1995, 1998) contextual or community focus of analysis, is the use of cultural tools (both material and psychological) in the development of understanding. As Lemke (2001) points out, we grow and live within a range of different contexts, and our lives within these communities and institutions give us tools for making sense of, and to, those around us. Vygotsky described psychological tools as those that can be used to direct the mind and behaviour, while technical tools are used to bring about changes in other objects (Daniels, 2001). Commonly cited examples of cultural tools include language, different kinds of numbering and counting, writing schemes, mnemonic technical aids, algebraic symbol systems, art works, diagrams, maps, drawings, and all sorts of signs (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996; Stetsenko, 1999).

So cultural tools, then, become “internalized in individuals as the dominant ‘psychological tools’” (Richardson, 2002: 288).

Social interaction plays a role in learning

This seems quite intuitive. As a human develops, they begin to take cues from their overall environment and those that are rearing them. They are immersed in a specific culture immediately from birth. They then begin to internalize certain aspects of the environment around them, and then begin to internalize the specific cultural and psychological tools inherent to that specific culture.

Tomasello (2019: 13) states that his theory is that “uniquely human forms of cognition and sociality emerge in human ontogeny through, and only through, species-unique forms of sociocultural activity” and so it is not only Vygotskian, but neo-Vygotskian. So children are in effect scaffolded by the culture they are immersed in, which is how “more knowledgeable others” (MKO) affect the learning trajectory of the child. A MKO is an individual who has a better understanding of, or a higher ability than, the learner. So MKOs aren’t merely for teaching children, they are strewn throughout the world teaching less knowledgeable others. These MKOs guide individuals in their ZPD, since the MKO would have greater access to certain knowledge that the LKO wouldn’t, they would then be able to guide the LKO in their learning, able to provide instruction to the LKO so they could then perform a certain task. Learning to play baseball, right a bike, lift weights, are but a few ways that MKOs guide the development and task-acquisition of children—these are perfect examples of the concept of “scaffolding.”

Although Vygotsky never used the term “scaffolding”, it’s a direct implication of his socio-historical theory of learning and development. The concept of scaffolding has been argued to be related to the ZPD, but see Shabani, Khatib, and Ebadi (2010) and Xi and Lantolf (2021) for criticism of this relationship. However, it has been experimentally shown that the concept of scaffolding along with the ZPD can be used to extend a student’s ZPD for critical thinking (Wass, Harland, and Mercer, 2011). That is, the students can better reach their potential and therefore become independent learners.

What this means is that culture is significant in learning, language is necessary for culture, and people learn from others in their communities. Interacting with other people while developing, and even after, are how humans develop. Since we are a social species, it stands to reason that these concepts like MKOs and the significance of the cultural context in the acquisition of certain skills and learning play a significant role in the development of all children and even adults. Thus, each stage of the development of a child builds upon a previous stage, and so, play could also be seen as a form of learning—a form of sociocultural learning. Imaginative play, then, allows the self-regulation of children and also challenges them just enough in their ZPD.

Private speech

“Private speech” is when a child talks to themselves while they are performing a task (Alderson-Day and Fernyhough, 2015). It is one’s “inner speech”, their own “voice” in their heads. It is the act of talking to one’s self as they perform a task, and this is ubiquitous around the world, implying that it is a hallmark of human cognizing (Vissers, Tomas, and Law, 2020). This is basically the “voice” you head in your head as you live your daily life. It is, of course, a natural consequence of thinking and talking. Speech acts are a natural process of think acts, as Vygotsky argued, which is similar to Davidson’s (1982) argument against the possibility of animal mentality since for organisms to be thinking and rational they must be able to express numerous thoughts and interpret the speech of others. This kind of speech, furthermore, has been shown to been related to working memory and cognitive reflexivity (Skipper, 2022).

The zone of proximal development

The ZPD is what a learner can and cannot do without help. Vygotsky originally developed it to oppose the concept of “IQ” (Neugeurela, Garcia, and Buescher, 2015; Kazemi, Bagheri, and Rassei, 2020; Offori-Attah, 2021). This concept is perhaps the most-used and discussed concept that Vygotsky forwarded. Central to this concept, which is a part of Vygotsky’s overall theory of child development, is imitation. Imitation is a goal-directed activity, and so it is an action. There is intention behind the imitation because the imitator is copying what the MKO is doing. But Vygotsky was using “imitation” in a way that is not normally used. To be able to imitate, one has to be able to be able to do carry out the imitation of what they are seeing from the MKO. So Vygotsky’s concept of the ZPD is that a child can learn something that he doesn’t know how to do by imitating an MKO, having the MKO guide them through to complete the task. It has been argued that ZPD can improve a learner’s thinking ability, along with making learning more relevant and efficient to the learner since it gives the learner the ability to learn from instruction and having a MKO guide them to compete a task, which then becomes internalized (Abdurrahman, Abdullah, and Osman (2019).

So the ZPD indicates what a child can do independently, and then they are given harder, guided problems which they then imitate and further internalize. MKOs are able to recognize where a child is in their development and can help them then complete harder tasks. The ZPD is related to learning not only in school but also in play (Hakkarainen and Bredikyte, 2008). For instance, the Strong Museum of Play states that “Learners develop concepts and skills through meaningful play. Play supports physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development.” Children definitely learn from play, and this interactive kind of learning also has them better understand their body, since play is in part a physical activity (a guided, goal-directed, intention). Play is” developmentally beneficial (Eberle, 2014; UNICEF, 2018), and it is beneficial and related to the ZPD since a child can learn to do something either from a peer or coach that knows how to do the action they want to learn and then internalize. An individual that is playing is an active participant in their own learning. Play, in effect, creates the ZPD (Hakkarainen and Bredikyte, 2014). Though Vygotsky’s conception of “play” is different than used in common parlance. Play

is limited to the dramatic or make-believe play of preschoolers. Vygotsky’s play theory therefore differs from other play theories, which also include object-oriented exploration, constructional play, and games with rules. Real play activities, according to Vygotsky, include the following components: (a) creating an imaginary situation, (b) taking on and acting out roles, and (c) following a set of rules determined by specific roles (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). (Scharer, 2017: 63)

Further, “symbolic play may scaffold development because it facilitates infants’ communicative success by promoting them to ‘co-constructors of meaning’” (Creaghe and Kidd, 2022). “Play creates a zone of proximal development of the child. In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself” (Vygotsky, 1978, 102 quoted in Gray and Feldman, 2004: 113).

The scaffolding occurs due to the relationship between play, the ZPD and what an individual then internalizes and then becomes embedded in their muscle memory. This is where MKOs come into play. When one is first learning to work out, they may seek out a personal knowledgeable in the mechanics of the human body to learn how to lift weights. Through instruction, they then begin to learn and then internalize the movements in their heads, and then they can just perform the lift well after successive attempts of doing a certain motion. Or take baseball. Baseball coaches would be the MKOs, and they then teach children to play baseball and they learn how to hit pitches, catch balls, throw and how to be a part of a team. Through the action of play, then, one can reach their ZPD and even extend it.

ZPD and IQ

Further, Vygotsky showed that the whether or not one has a large or small ZPD better “predicts” performance than does “IQ” and he also noted that those who scored higher on IQ tests “did so at the cost of their zone of proximal development“, since they exhaust their ZPD earlier leaving a smaller ZPD.

Vygotsky reported that not only did the size of the children’s ZPD turn out to correlate well with their success in school (large ZPD children were more successful than small ZPD children) but that ZPD size was actually a better predictor of school performance than IQ. (Poehner, 2008: 35; cf Smirni and Smirni, 2022)

It has even been experimentally demonstrated that children with high IQs have a smaller ZPD, children with low IQs have a larger ZPD (Kusmaryono and Kusmaningsih, 2021). It has also been shown that those who received ZPD scaffolding instruction improved more and even outperformed the other group on subsequent IQ tests after a first test was administered (Stanford-Binet and Mensa) (Ghelot, 2021). The responsiveness to remediation, and not “IQ” was a better predictor of school performance (Amini, Hassaskhah, and Sibet, 2017) and the degree of responsiveness wasn’t related to high or low IQ, since some learners had a high responsiveness and low score while others had a high score but low responsiveness (Poehner, 2017: 156). Those who took a test in one year and did not get better in subsequent years, Vygotsky argued, merely meant that they were not pushed outside of what they already know. So children with large ZPD were more likely to be successful irrespective of IQ while children with small ZPD were less likely to be successful, irrespective of IQ. Though the concepts of ZPD and IQ are seen as not contradictory, but related (Modarresi and Jeddy, 2021), quite clearly since “IQ” isn’t a measure of learning ability it merely shows what one has learned and so has been exposed to while the ZPD shows how one would do into the future due to how large their ZPD is. It shows not only where someone has reached, but also shows where they can reach. Thus, instead of the (undeserved) emphasis of IQ, we should therefore put the ZPD in its place, since it is a dynamic (relational) assessment and not a standardized test (Din, 2017).

What’s class got to do with it?

Since children acquire knowledge and beliefs based on their class background (what they are exposed to in their daily lives as they grow), then it follows that children will be differentially prepared for taking certain kinds of tests. So if the content on the tests is biased toward a group, then it is biased against a group. It is biased against a group since they are not exposed to the relevant material and kinds of thinking needed to be able to perform the test in a sufficient manner. Knowing what we now know about the acquisition of cultural and psychological tools, we can state that “high IQ may simply be an accident of immersion in middle-class cultural tools (aspects of literacy, numeracy, cultural knowledge, and so on) … the environment is made up of socially structured devices and cultural tools, and in which development consists of the acquisition of such cultural tools” (Richardson: 1998: 163-164). It is due to these considerations that culture-fair IQ tests are an impossibility, since people are encompassed in different cultures (what amount to learning environments where they acquire knowledge and cultural and psychological tools) are therefore an impossibility since abilities are cultural devices—culture-free tests are therefore an illusion (Cole, 2002; Richardson, 2002).

So if there are different cultural groups, then they by definition have different cultures. If they have different cultures, then they have different experiences (of course), and so, they acquire different kinds of knowledge and along with it cultural and psychological tools. It is then we can then rightly state that therefore different cultural groups would then be differentially prepared for doing certain tasks. And so, if one’s culture is more dominant and if one culture’s way of thinking is more prevalent, then it follows that people will be prepared for a certain test at different stages of being able to perform the tasks or answer the questions. Social status, also, isn’t merely just related to material things, it also influences how we think and act (Richardson and Jones, 2019) and so emotional and motivational—affective—factors would therefore play a role in one’s test score, since they are constructed from a narrow range of test items, constructed to get the results that were a priori to the test constructors. So since one’s class is related to affective factors, since IQ tests reflect mere class-specific items, it follows that the “affective state is one of the most important aspects of learning” (Shelton-Strong and Maynard, 2018). It is then, by using the concepts of cultural and psychological tools (which occur in social relations) that we can then rightly state that IQ tests are best looked at as mere class surrogates.


Basically, “in order to understand the individual, one must first understand the social relations in which the individual exists” (Wertsch, 1985: 63). Vygotsky’s theory is one in which the mind is formed and constructed through social and cultural interactions with those who are already immersed in the culture that the individual’s mind is developing in. And so, by using the concepts of cultural and psychological tools, we can then see how and why different classes are differentially prepared for taking tests, which is then reflected in the score outcomes. Since growing individuals learn what they are exposed to and they learn from those who are already immersed in the culture at large, then it follows that individuals learn culturally-specific forms of learning and thusly acquire different “tool sets” in which they then navigate the social world they are in. The concepts of private speech, cultural and psychological tools, MKO, scaffolding and the ZPD all coalesce to a theory of learning and development in which the learner is an active participant in their development, and so, these things also combine to show how and why groups score differently on IQ tests.

Knowledge is the content of thought, and the ability to speak is how we convey thoughts to others and how we actualize the thoughts we have into action. Thus all higher human cognitive functioning is social in nature (van der Veer, 2009). Though it is wrongly claimed that IQ is shown to be a measure of learning potential, it is rightly said that the ZPD is social in nature (Khalid, 2015). IQ doesn’t show one’s learning potential, it merely shows what one was or was not exposed to in regard to the relevant test items (Lavin and Nakano, 2017). Culture is a fluid and dynamic experience (Rublik, 2017) in which one is engrossed in the culture they are born into, and so, by understanding this, we can then understand why different groups of people score differently on IQ tests, without the need for genes or biological processes.

Though there have been good criticisms of Vygotsky’s socio-historical theory of learning and development. Though much of Vygotsky’s theorizing has led to predictions and do have some empirical support (Morin, 2012). One argument against the ZPD is that it doesn’t explain development or how it really occurs. If you think about development from a Vygotskian perspective, we see that it is as much of a cultural and social activity than is mere individual learning. By learning from people more knowledgeable than themselves, they are then able to learn how to do something, and through repetition, able to do it on their own without the MKO.

The fact of the matter is, IQ tests aren’t as good as either teacher assessment (Kaufman, 2019) or the ZPD in predicting where a learner will end up. It is for these reasons (and more) we should stop using IQ tests and we should us the relational ZPD. (One can also look at the ZPD as related to considerations from relational developmental systems theory as well; Lerner, 2011, 2013; Lerner, Johnson, and Buckingham, 2015; Ettekal et al, 2017; Bell, 2019). It is for these reasons that standardized tests should not be used anymore, and we should use tests of dynamic assessment. The empirical research on the issue bears out this claim.

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