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McNamara’s Morons

2650 words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most of McNamara’s Morons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Oppression of the High IQs

1250 words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

An Argument for Banning IQ Tests

1650 words

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

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

In 1987 in The Washington Times, Jay Matthews reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The formalized argument is here:

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

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

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

Why the hereditarian-environmentalist debate is frivolous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gould and Binet

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

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

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

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

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

Environmentalism perpetuates hereditarianism

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construct Validity

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

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

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

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

Social class and IQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

As can be seen, even IQ-ists today cannot agree upon a definition—indeed, even Ian Deary admits that “There is no such thing as a theory of human intelligence differences—not in the way that grown-up sciences like physics or chemistry have theories” (quoted in Richardson, 2012). (Also note that attempts of validity are circular, relying on correlations with other, similar tests; Richardson and Norgate, 2015; Richardson, 2017b.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herrnstein and Murray (1994: 1) write that:

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

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

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

Howe (1997: 6) writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1500 words

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The History and Construction of IQ Tests

4100 words

The [IQ] tests do what their construction dictates; they correlate a group’s mental worth with its place in the social hierarchy. (Mensh and Mensh, 1991, The IQ Mythology, pg 30)

We have been attempting to measure “intelligence” in humans for over 100 years. Mental testing began with Galton and then shifted over to Binet, which then became the most-well-known IQ tests today—Stanford-Binet and the WAIS/WISC. But the history of IQ testing is rife with unethical conclusions derived from their use, along with such conclusions they drew actually being carried out (i.e., the sterilization of “morons”; see Wilson, 2017’s The Eugenic Mind Project).

History of IQ testing

Any history of ‘intelligence’ testing will, of course, include Francis Galton’s contributions to the creation of psychological tests (in terms of statistical analyses, the construction of some tests, among other things) to the field. Galton was, in effect, one of the first behavioral geneticists.

Galton (1869: 37) asked “Is reputation a fair test of natural ability?“, to which he answered, “it is the only one I can employ.” Galton, for example, stated that, theoretically or intuitively, there is a relationship between reaction time and intelligence (Khodadi et al, 2014). Galton then devised tests of “reaction time, discrimination in sight and hearing, judgment of length, and so on, and applied them to groups of volunteers, with the aim of obtaining a more reliable and ‘pure’ measure of his socially judged intelligence” (Richardson, 1991: 19). But there was little to no relationship between Galton’s proposed proxies for intelligence and social class.

In 1890, Galton, publishing in the journal Mind coined the term “mental test (Castles, 2012: 85), while Cattell then got Galton to move to Columbia and got him permission to use his “mental tests” to all of the entering students. This was about two decades before Goddard brought the test to America—Galton and Cattell were just getting America warmed up for the testing process.

Yet others still attempted to create tests that were purported to measure intelligence, using similar kinds of parameters as Galton. For instance, Miller, 1962 provides a list (quoted in Richardson, 1991: 19):

1 Dynamotor pressure How tightly can the hand squeeze?

2 Rate of movement How quickly can the hand move through a distance of 30 cms?

3 Sensation areas How far apart must two points be on the skin to be recognised as two rather than one?

4 Pressure causing pain How much pressure on the forehead is necessary to cause pain?

5 Least noticeable difference in weight How large must the difference be between two weights before it is reliably detected?

6 Reaction-time for sound How quickly can the hand be moved at the onset of an auditory signal?

7 Time for naming colours How long does it take to name a strop of ten colored papers?

8 Bisection on a 10 cm line How accurately can onr point to the centre of an ebony rule?

9 Judgment of 10 sec time How accurately can an interval of 10 secs be judged?

10 Number of letters remembered on once hearing How many letters, ordered at random, can be repeated exactly after one presentation?

Individuals differed on these measures, but when they were used to compare social classes, Cattell stated that they were “disappointingly low” (quoted in Richardson, 1991: 20). So-called mental tests, Richardson (1991: 20) states, were “not [a] measurement for a straightforward, objective scientific investigation. The theory was there, but it was hardly a scientific one, but one derived largely from common intuition; what we described earlier as a popular or informal theory. And the theory had strong social implications. Measurement was devised mainly as a way of applying the theory in accordance with the prejudices it entailed.”

It wasn’t until 1903 when Alfred Binet was tasked to construct a test that identified slow learners in grade-school. In 1904, Binet was appointed a member of a commission on special classes in schools (Murphy, 1949: 354). In fact, Binet constructed his test in order to limit the role of psychiatrists in making decisions on whether or not healthy children—but ‘abnormal’—children should be excluded from the standard material used in regular schools (Nicolas et al, 2013). (See Nicolas et al, 2013 for a full overview of the history of intelligence in Psychology and a fuller overview of Binet and Simon’s test and why they constructed it. Also see Fancher, 1985 and )

The way Binet constructed his tests were in a way to identify children who were not learning what the average child their age knew. But the tests must distinguish between the lazy from the mentally deficient. So in 1905, Binet teamed up with Simon, and they published their first IQ test, with items arranged from the simplest to the most difficult (but with no standardization). A few of these items include: naming objects, completing sentences, comparing lines, comprehending questions, and repeating digits. Their test consisted of 30 items, which increased in difficulty from easiest to hardest and the items were chosen on the basis of teacher assessment and checking the items and seeing which discriminated which child and that also agreed with the constructors’ presuppositions.

Richardson (2000: 32) discusses how IQ tests are constructed:

In this regard, the construction of IQ tests is perhaps best thought of as a reformatting exercise: ranks in one format (teachers’ estimates) are converted into ranks in another format (test scores, see figure 2.1).

In The Development of Intelligence in Children, Binet and Simon (1916: 309) discuss how teachers assessed students:

A teacher , whom I know, who is methodical and considerate, has given an account of the habits he has formed for studying his pupils; he has analysed his methods, and sent them to me. They have nothing original, which makes them all the more important. He instructs children from five and a half to seven and a half years old; they are 35 in number; they have come to his class after having passed a prepatory course, where they have commenced to learn to read. For judging each child, the teacher takes account of his age, his previous schooling (the child may have been one year, two years in the prepatory class, or else was never passed through the division at all), of his expression of countenance, his state of health, his knowledge, his attitude in class, and his replies. From thes diverse elements he forms his opinion. I have transcribed some of these notes on the following page.

In reading his judgments one can see how his opinion was formed, and of how many elements it took account; it seems to us that this detail is interesting; perhaps if one attempted to make it precise by giving coefficients to all of these remarks, one would realize still greater exactitude. But is it possible to define precisely an attitude, a physiognomy, interesting replies, animated eyes? It seems that in all this the best element of diagnosis is furnished by the degree of reading which the child has attained after a given number of months, and the rest remains constantly vague.

Binet chose the items used on his tests for practical, not theoretical reasons. They then learned that some of their tests were harder, and others were easier, so they then arranged their tests by age levels: how well the average child for that age could complete the test in question. For example, if the average child could complete 10/20 for their age group, then they were average for that age. Then, if they scored below that, they were below average and above that they were higher than average. So the “mental age” for the child in question was calculated with the following formula: IQ=MA/CA*100. So if one’s MA (mental age) was 13 and their chronological age was 9, then their IQ would be 144.

Before Binet’s death in 1911, he revised his and Simon’s previous test. Intelligence, to Binet, is “the ability to understand directions, to maintain a mental set, and to apply “autocriticism” (the correction of one’s own errors)” (Murphy, 1949: 355). Binet measured subnormality by subtracting mental age from chronological age. (If mental and chronological age are equal, then IQ is 100.) To Binet, relative retardation was important. But William Stern, in 1912, thought that relative retardation was not important, but relative retardation was, and so he proposed to divide the mental age by the chronological age and multiply by 100. This, he showed, was stable in most children.

Binet termed his new scale a test of intelligence. It is interesting to note that the primary connotation of the French term l’intelligence in Binet’s time was what we might call “school brightness,” and Binet himself claimed no function for his scales beyond that of measuring academic aptitude.

In 1908, Henry Goddard went on a trip to Europe, heard of Binet’s test, and brought home an original version to try out on his students at the Vineland Training School. He translated Binet’s 1908 edition of his test from French to English in 1909. Castles (2012: 90) notes that “American psychology would never be the same.Goddard was also the one who coined the term “moron” (Dolmage, 2018) for any adult with a mental age between 8 and 13. In 1912, Goddard administered tests to immigrants who landed at Ellis Island and found that 87 percent of Russians, 83 percent of Jews, 80 percent of Hungarians, and 79 percent of Italians were “feebleminded.” Deportations soon picked up, with Goddard reporting a 350 percent increase in 1913 and a 570 percent increase in 1914 (Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 26).

Then, in 1916, Terman published his revision of the Binet-Simon scale, which he termed the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale, based on a sample of 1,000 subjects and standardized for ages ranging from 3-18—the tests for 16-year-olds being were for adults, whereas the tests for 18-year-olds were for ‘superior’ adults (Murphy, 1949: 355). (Terman’s test was revised in 1937, when the question of sex differences came up, see below, and in 1960.) Murphy (1949: 355) goes on to write:

Many of Binet’s tests were placed at higher or lower age levels than those at which Binet had placed them, and new tests were added. Each age level was represented by a battery of tests, each test being assigned a certain number of month credits. It was possible, therefore, to reckon the subject’s intelligence quotient, as Stern had suggested, in terms of the ratio of mental age to chronological age. A child attaining a score of 120 months, but only 100 months old, would have an IQ of 120 (the decimal point omitted).

It wasn’t until 1917 that psychologists devised the Army Alpha test for literate test-takers and the Army Beta test for illiterate test-takers and non-English speakers. Examples for items on the Alpha and the Beta can be found below:

1. The Percheron is a kind of

(a) goat, (b) horse, (c) cow, (d) sheep.

2. The most prominent industry of Gloucester is

(a) fishing, (b) packing, (c) brewing, (d) automobiles.

3. “There’s a reason” is an advertisement for

(a) drink, (b) revolver, (c) flour, (d) cleanser.

4. The Knight engine is used in the

(a) drink, (b) Stearns, (c) Lozier, (d) Pierce Arrow.

5. The Stanchion is used in

(a) fishing, (b) hunting, (c) farming, (d) motoring. (Heine, 2017: 187)


Mensh and Mensh (1991: 31) tell us that

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

Meanwhile, while Binet was devising his Binet scales at the beginning of the 20th century, Spearman was devising his theory of g over in Europe. Spearman noted in 1904 that children who did well or poorly on certain types of tests did well or poorly on all of them—they were correlated. Spearman’s discovery was that correlated scores reflect a common ability, and this ability is called ‘general intelligence’ or ‘g’ (which has been widely criticized).

In sum, the conception of ‘intelligence tests’ began as a way to attempt to justify the class/race hierarchy by constructing the tests in a way to agree with the constructors’ presuppositions of who is or is not intelligent—which will be covered below.

Test construction

When tests are standardized, a whole slew of candidate items are pooled together and used in the construction of the test. For an item to be used for the final test, it must agree with the a priori assumptions of the test’s constructors on who is or is not “intelligent.”

Andrew Strenio, author of The Testing Trap states exactly how IQ tests are constructed, writing:

We look at individual questions and see how many people get them right and who gets them right. … We consciously and deliberately select questions so that the kind of people who scored low on the pretest will score low on subsequent tests. We do the same for middle or high scorers. We are imposing our will on the outcome. (pg 95, quoted in Mensh and Mensh, 1991)

Richardson (2017a: 82) writes that IQ tests—and the items on them—are:

still based on the basic assumption of knowing in advance who is or is not intelligent and making up and selecting items accordingly. Items are invented by test designers themselves or sent out to other psychologists, educators, or other “experts” to come up with ideas. As described above, initial batches are then refined using some intuitive guidelines.

This is strange… I thought that IQ tests were “objective”? Well, this shows that they are anything but objective—they are, very clearly, subjective in their construction which leads to what the constructors of the test assumed—their score hierarchy. The test’s constructors assume that their preconceptions on who is or is not intelligent is true and that differences in intelligence are the cause for differences in social class, so the IQ test was created to justify the existing social hierarchy. (Nevermind the fact that IQ scores are an index of social class, Richardson, 2017b.)

Mensh and Mensh (1991: 5) write that:

Nor are the [IQ] tests objective in any scientific sense. In the special vocabulary of psychometrics, this term refers to the way standardized tests are graded, i.e., according to the answers designated “right” or “wrong” when the questions are written. This definition not only overlooks that the tests contain items of opinion, which cannot be answered according to universal standards of true/false, but also overlooks that the selection of items is an arbitrary or subjective matter.

Nor do the tests “allocate benefits.” Rather, because of their class and racial biases, they sort the test takers in a way that conforms to the existing allocation, thus justifying it. This is why the tests are so vehemently defended by some and so strongly opposed by others.

When it comes to Terman and his reconstruction of the Binet-Simon—which he called the Stanford-Binet—something must be noted.

There are negligible differences in IQ between men and women. In 1916, Terman thought that the sexes should be equal in IQ. So he constructed his test to mirror his assumption. Others (e.g., Yerkes) thought that whatever differences materialized between the sexes on the test should be kept and boys and girls should have different norms. Terman, though, to reflect his assumption, specifically constructed his test by including subtests in which sex differences were eliminated. This assumption is still used today. (See Richardson, 1998; Hilliard, 2012.) Richardson (2017a: 82) puts this into context:

It is in this context that we need to assess claims about social class and racial differences in IQ. These could be exaggerated, reduced, or eliminated in exactly the same way. That they are allowed to persist is a matter of social prejudice, not scientific fact. In all these ways, then, we find that the IQ testing movement is not merely describing properties of people—it has largely created them.

This is outright admission from the test’s constructors themselves that IQ differences can be built into and out of the test. It further shows that these tests are not “objective”, as they claim. In reality, they are subjective, based on prior assumptions. Take what Hilliard (2012: 115-116) noted about two white South African groups and differences in IQ between them:

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

The SAT suffers from the same problems. Mensh and Mensh (1991: 69) note that “the SAT has been weighted to widen a gender scoring differential that from the start favored males.” They note that, since the SAT’s inception, men have score higher than women, but the gap was due primarily to men’s scores on the math subtest “which was partially offset until 1972 by women’s higher scores on the verbal subtest.” But by 1986 men outscored women on the verbal portion, with the ETS stating that they created a “better balance for the scores between sexes” (quoted in Mensh and Mensh, 1991: 69). What they did, though, was exactly what Terman did: they added items where the context favored men and eliminated those that favored women. This prompts Hilliard (2012: 118) to ask “How then could they insist with such force that no cultural biases existed in the IQ tests given blacks, who scored 15 points below whites?

When it comes to test bias, Mensh and Mensh (1991: 51) write that:

From a functional standpoint, there is no distinction between crassly biased IQ-test items and those that appear to be non-biased. Because all types of test items are biased (if not explicitly, then implicitly, or in some combination thereof), and because the tests’ racial and class biased correspond to the society’s, each element of a test plays its part in ranking children in the way their respective groups are ranked in the social order.

This, then, returns to the normal distribution—the Gaussian distribution or bell curve.

The normal distribution is assumed. Items are selected to conform with the normal curve after the fact by trying out a whole slew of items for which Jensen (1980: 147-148) states that “items must simply emerge arbitrarily from the heads of test constructors.” Items that show little correlation with the testers’ expectations are then removed from the final test. Fischer et al (1996), Simon (1997), Richardson (1991; 1998; 2017) also discuss the myth of the normal distribution and how it is constructed by IQ test-makers. Further, Jensen brings up an important point about items emerging “arbitrarily from the heads of test constructors.” That is, test constructors have their idea in their head on who is or is not ‘intelligent’, they then try out a whole slew of items, and, unsurprisingly, they get the type of score distribution they want! Howe (1997: 20) writes that:

However, it is wrongly assumed that the fact that IQ scores have a bell-shaped distribution implies that differing intelligence levels of individuals are ‘naturally’ distributed in that way. This is incorrect: the bell-shaped distribution of IQ scores is an artifical product that results from test-makers initially assuming that intelligence is normally distributed, and then matchinig IQ scores to differing levels of test performance in a manner that results in a bell-shaped curve.

Richardson (1991) notes that the normal distribution “is achieved in the IQ test by the simple decision of including more items on which an average number of the trial group performed well, and relatively fewer on which either a substantial majority or a minority of subjects did well. Richardson (1991) also states that “if the bell-shaped curve is the myth it seems to be—for IQ as for much else—then it is devastating for nearly all discussion surrounding it.” Even Jensen (1980: 71) states that “It is claimed that the psychometrist can make up a test that will yield any kind of score distribution he pleases. This is roughly true, but some types of distributions are much easier to obtain than others.

The [IQ test] items are, after all, devised by test designers from a very narrow social class and culture, based on intuitions about intelligence and variation in it, and on a technology of item selection which builds in the required degree of convergence of performance. (Richardson, 1991)

Micceri (1988) examined score distributions from 400 tests administered all over the US in workplaces, universities, and schools. He found significant non-normal distributions of test scores. The same can be said about physiological processes, as well.

Candidate items are administered to a sample population, and to be selected for the final test, the question must establish the scoring norm for the whole group, along with subtest norms which is supposed to replicate when the test is then released for general use. So an item must play the role in creating a distribution of scores that places each subgroup (of people) in its predetermined place on the (artifact of test construction’s) normal curve. It is then how Hilliard (2012: 118) notes:

Validating a newly drawn-up IQ exam involved giving it to a prescribed sample population to determine whether it measured what it was designed to assess. The scores were then correlated, that is, compared with the test designers’ presumptions. If the individuals who were supposed to come out on top didn’t score highly or, conversely, if the individuals who were assumed would be at the bottom of the scores didn’t end up there, then the designers would scrap the test.

Howe (1997: 6) states that “A psychological test score is no more than an indication of how well someone has performed at a number of questions that have been chosen for largely practical reasons. Nothing is genuinely being measured.Howe (1997: 17) also noted that:

Because their construction has never been guided by any formal definition of what intelligence is, intelligence tests are strikingly different from genuine measuring instruments. Binet and Simon’s choice of items to include as the problems that made up their test was based purely on practical considerations.

IQ tests are ‘validated’ against older tests such as the Stanford-Binet, but the older tests were never validated themselves (see Richardson, 2002: 301.) Howe (1997: 18) continues:

In the case of the Binet and Simon test, since their main purpose was to help establish whether or not a child was capable of coping with the conventional school cirriculum, they sensibly chose items that seemed to assess a child’s capacity to succeed at the kinds of mental problems that are encountered in the classroom. Importantly, the content of the first intelligence test was decided by largely pragmatic considerations rather than being constrained by a formal definition of intelligence. That remains largely true of the tests that are used even now. As the early tests were revised and new assessment batteries constructed, the main benchmark for believing a new test to be adequate was its degree of agreement with the older ones. Each new test was assummed to be a proper measure of intelligence if the distributions of people’s scores at it matched the pattern of scores at a previous test, a line of reasoning that conveniently ignored the fact that the earlier ‘measures’ of intelligence that provided the basis for confirming the quality of the subsequent ones were never actually measures of anything. In reality … intelligence tests are very different from true measures (Nash, 1990). For instance, with a measure such as height it is clear that a particular quantity is the same irrespective of where it occurs. The 5 cm difference between 40 cm and 45 cm is the same as the 5 cm difference between 115 cm and 120 cm, but the same cannot be said about differing scores gained in a psychological test.


This discussion of the construction of IQ tests and the history of IQ testing can lead us to one conclusion: that differences in scores can be built into and out of the tests based on the prior assumptions of the test’s constructors; the history of IQ testing is rife with these same assumptions; and all newer tests are ‘validated’ on their agreement with older—still non-valid!—tests. The genesis of IQ testing beginning with social prejudices, constructing the tests to agree with the current hierarchy, however, does indeed damn the conclusions of the tests—that group A outscores group B does not mean that A is more ‘intelligent’ than B; it only means that A was exposed to more of the knowledge on the test.

The normal distribution, too, is a result of the same item addition/elimination to get the expected scores—the scores that then agree with the constructors’ racial and class biases. Bias in mental testing does exist, contra Jensen (1980). It exists due to carefully selected items to distinguish between different racial groups and social classes.

This critique in IQ testing I have mounted is not an ‘environmentalist’ critique, either. It is a methodological one.

Jews, IQ, Genes, and Culture

1500 words

Jewish IQ is one of the most-talked-about things in the hereditarian sphere. Jews have higher IQs, Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending (2006: 2) argue due to “the unique demography and sociology of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe selected for intelligence.” To IQ-ists, IQ is influenced/caused by genetic factors—while environment accounts for only a small portion.

In The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence, Lynn (2011) discusses one explanation for higher Jewish IQ—that of “pushy Jewish mothers” (Marjoribanks, 1972).

“Fourth, other environmentalists such as Majoribanks (1972) have argued that the high intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jews is attributable to the typical “pushy Jewish mother”. In a study carried out in Canada he compared 100 Jewish boys aged 11 years with 100 Protestant white gentile boys and 100 white French Canadians and assessed their mothers for “Press for Achievement”, i.e. the extent to which mothers put pressure on their sons to achieve. He found that the Jewish mothers scored higher on “Press for Achievement” than Protestant mothers by 5 SD units and higher than French Canadian mothers by 8 SD units and argued that this explains the high IQ of the children. But this inference does not follow. There is no general acceptance of the thesis that pushy mothers can raise the IQs of their children. Indeed, the contemporary consensus is that family environmental factors have no long term effect on the intelligence of children (Rowe, 1994).

The inference is a modus ponens:

P1 If p, then q.

P2 p.

C Therefore q.

Let p be “Jewish mothers scored higher on “Press for Achievement” by X SDs” and let q be “then this explains the high IQ of the children.”

So now we have:

Premise 1: If “Jewish mothers scored higher on “Press for Achievement” by X SDs”, then “this explains the high IQ of the children.”
Premise 2: “Jewish mothers scores higher on “Press for Achievement” by X SDs.”
Conclusion: Therefore, “Jewish mothers scoring higher on “Press for Achievement” by X SDs”  so “this explains the high IQ of the children.”

Vaughn (2008: 12) notes that an inference is “reasoning from a premise or premises to … conclusions based on those premises.” The conclusion follows from the two premises, so how does the inference not follow?

IQ tests are tests of specific knowledge and skills. It, therefore, follows that, for example, if a “mother is pushy” and being pushy leads to studying more then the IQ of the child can be raised.

Looking at Lynn’s claim that “family environmental factors have no long term effect on the intelligence of children” is puzzling. Rowe relies heavily on twin and adoption studies which have false assumptions underlying them, as noted by Richardson and Norgate (2005), Moore (2006)Joseph (2014), Fosse, Joseph, and Richardson (2015)Joseph et al (2015). The EEA is false so we, therefore, cannot accept the genetic conclusions from twin studies.

Lynn and Kanazawa (2008: 807) argue that their “results clearly support the high intelligence theory of Jewish achievement while at the same time provide no support for the cultural values theory as an explanation for Jewish success.” They are positing “intelligence” as an explanatory concept, though Howe (1988) notes that “intelligence” is “a descriptive measure, not an explanatory concept.” “Intelligence, says Howe (1997: ix) “is … an outcome … not a cause.” More specifically, it is an outcome of development from infancy all the way up to adulthood and being exposed to the items on the test. Lynn has claimed for decades that high intelligence explains Jewish achievement. But whence came intelligence? Intelligence develops throughout the life cycle—from infancy to adolescence to adulthood (Moore, 2014).

Ogbu and Simon (1998: 164) notes that Jews are “autonomous minorities”—groups with a small number. They note that “Although [Jews, the Amish, and Mormons] may suffer discrimination, they are not totally dominated and oppressed, and their school achievement is no different from the dominant group (Ogbu 1978)” (Ogbu and Simon, 1998: 164). Jews are voluntary minorities, and voluntary minorities, according to Ogbu (2002: 250-251; in Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth) suggests five reasons for good test performance from these types of minorities:

  1. Their preimmigration experience: Some do well since they were exposed to the items and structure of the tests in their native countries.
  2. They are cognitively acculturated: They acquired the cognitive skills of the white middle-class when they began to participate in their culture, schools, and economy.
  3. The history and incentive of motivation: They are motivated to score well on the tests as they have this “preimmigration expectation” in which high test scores are necessary to achieve their goals for why they emigrated along with a “positive frame of reference” in which becoming successful in America is better than becoming successful at home, and the “folk theory of getting ahead in the United States”, that their chance of success is better in the US and the key to success is a good education—which they then equate with high test scores.

So if ‘intelligence’ is a test of specific culturally-specific knowledge and skills, and if certain groups are exposed more to this knowledge, it then follows that certain groups of people are better-prepared for test-taking—specifically IQ tests.

The IQ-ists attempt to argue that differences in IQ are due, largely, to differences in ‘genes for’ IQ, and this explanation is supposed to explain Jewish IQ, and, along with it, Jewish achievement. (See also Gilman, 2008 and Ferguson, 2008 for responses to the just-so storytelling from Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending, 2006.) Lynn, purportedly, is invoking ‘genetic confounding’—he is presupposing that Jews have ‘high IQ genes’ and this is what explains the “pushiness” of Jewish mothers. The Jewish mothers then pass on their “genes for” high IQ—according to Lynn. But the evolutionary accounts (just-so stories) explaining Jewish IQ fail. Ferguson (2008) shows how “there is no good reason to believe that the argument of [Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending, 2006] is likely, or even reasonably possible.” The tall-tale explanations for Jewish IQ, too, fail.

Prinz (2014: 68) notes that Cochran et al have “a seductive story” (aren’t all just-so stories seductive since they are selected to comport with the observation? Smith, 2016), while continuing (pg 71):

The very fact that the Utah researchers use to argue for a genetic difference actually points to a cultural difference between Ashkenazim and other groups. Ashkenazi Jews may have encouraged their children to study maths because it was the only way to get ahead. The emphasis remains widespread today, and it may be the major source of performance on IQ tests. In arguing that Ashkenazim are genetically different, the Utah researchers identify a major cultural difference, and that cultural difference is sufficient to explain the pattern of academic achievement. There is no solid evidence for thinking that the Ashkenazim advantage in IQ tests is genetically, as opposed to culturally, caused.

Nisbett (2008: 146) notes other problems with the theory—most notably Sephardic over-achievement under Islam:

It is also important to the Cochran theory that Sephardic Jews not be terribly accomplished, since they did not pass through the genetic filter of occupations that demanded high intelligence. Contemporary Sephardic Jews in fact do not seem to haave unusally high IQs. But Sephardic Jews under Islam achieved at very high levels. Fifteen percent of all scientists in the period AD 1150-1300 were Jewish—far out of proportion to their presence in the world population, or even the population of the Islamic world—and these scientists were overwhelmingly Sephardic. Cochran and company are left with only a cultural explanation of this Sephardic efflorescence, and it is not congenial to their genetic theory of Jewish intelligence.

Finally, Berg and Belmont (1990: 106) note that “The purpose of the present study was to clarify a possible misinterpretation of the results of Lesser et al’s (1965) influential study that suggested that existence of a “Jewish” pattern of mental abilities. In establishing that Jewish children of different socio-cultural backgrounds display different patterns of mental abilities, which tend to cluster by socio-cultural group, this study confirms Lesser et al’s position that intellectual patterns are, in large part, culturally derived.” Cultural differences exist; cultural differences have an effect on psychological traits; if cultural differences exist and cultural differences have an effect on psychological traits (with culture influencing a population’s beliefs and values) and IQ tests are culturally-/class-specific knowledge tests, then it necessarily follows that IQ differences are cultural/social in nature, not ‘genetic.’

In sum, Lynn’s claim that the inference does not follow is ridiculous. The argument provided is a modus ponens, so the inference does follow. Similarly, Lynn’s claim that “pushy Jewish mothers” don’t explain the high IQs of Jews doesn’t follow. If IQ tests are tests of middle-class knowledge and skills and they are exposed to the structure and items on them, then it follows that being “pushy” with children—that is, getting them to study and whatnot—would explain higher IQs. Lynn’s and Kanazawa’s assertion that “high intelligence is the most promising explanation of Jewish achievement” also fails since intelligence is not an explanatory concept—a cause—it is a descriptive measure that develops across the lifespan.

The Burakumin and the Koreans: The Japanese Underclass and Their Achievement

2350 words

Japan has a caste system just like India. Their lowest caste is called “the Burakumin”, a hereditary caste created in the 17th century—the descendants of tanners and butchers. (Buraku means ‘hamlet people’ in Japanese which took on a new meaning in the Meiji era.) Even though they gained “full rights” in 1871, they were still discriminated against in housing and work (only getting menial jobs). A Burakumin Liberation League has formed, to end discrimination against Buraku in 1922, protesting to end job discrimination by the dominant Ippan Japanese. Official numbers of the number of Buraku in Japan are about 1.2 million, but unofficial numbers bring it up to 6000 communities and 3 million Buraku.

Note the similarities here with black Americans. Black Americans got their freedom from American slavery in 1865. The Burakumin got theirs in 1865. Both groups get discriminated against—the things that the Burakumin face, the blacks in America have faced. De Vos (1973: 374) describes some employment statistics for Buraku and non-Buraku:

For instance, Mahara reports the employment statistics for 166 non-Buraku children and 83 Buraku children who were graduated in March 1859 from a junior high school in Kyoto. Those who were hired by small-scale enterprises employing fewer than ten workers numbered 29.8 percent of the Buraku and 13.1 percent of the non-Buraku children; 15.1 percent of non-Buraku children obtained work in large-scale industries employing more than one thousand workers, whereas only 1.5 percent of Buraku children did so.

Certain Japanese communities—in southwestern Japan—have a belief and tradition in having foxes as pets. Those who have the potential to have such foxes descends down the family line—there are “black” foxes and “white” foxes. So in this area in southwestern Japan, people are classified as either “white” or “black”, and marriage between these artificial color lines is forbidden. They believe that if someone from the “white” family marries someone from the “black” family that every other member of the “white” family becomes “black.”

Discrimination against the Buraku in Japan is so bad, that a 330 page list of Buraku names and community placements were sold to employers. Burakumin are also more likely to join the Yakuza criminal gang—most likely due to such opportunities they miss out on in their native land. (Note similarities between Buraku joining Yakuza and blacks joining their own ethnic gangs.) It was even declared that an “Eta” (the lowest of the Burakumin) was 1/7th of an ordinary person. This is eerily familiar to how blacks were treated in America with the three-fifths compromise—signifying that the population of slaves would be counted as three-fifths in total when being apportioned to votes for the Presidential electors, taxes and other representatives.

Now let’s get to the good stuff: “intelligence.” There is a gap in scores between “blacks”, “whites”, and Buraku. De Vos (1973: 377) describes score differences between “blacks”, “whites” and Buraku:

[Nomura] used two different kinds of “intelligence” tests, the nature of which are unfortunately unclear from his report. On both tests and in all three schools the results were uniform: “White” children averaged significantly higher than children from “black” families, and Buraku children, although not markedly lower than the “blacks,” averaged lowest.


According to Tojo, the results of a Tanaka-Binet Group I.Q. Test administered to 351 fifth- and sixth-grade children, including 77 Buraku children, at a school in Takatsuki City near Osaka shows that the I.Q. scores of the Buraku children are markedly lower than those of the non-Buraku children. [Here is the table from Sternberg and Grigorenko, 2001]


Also see the table from Hockenbury and Hockenbury’s textbook Psychology where they show IQ score differences between non-Buraku and Buraku people:


De Vos (1973: 376) also notes the similarities between Buraku and black and Mexican Americans:

Buraku school children are less successful compared with the majority group children. Their truancy rate is often high, as it is in California among black and Mexican-American minority groups. The situation in Japan also probably parallels the response to education by certain but not all minority groups in the United States.

How similar. There is another group in Japan that is an ethnic minority that is the same race as the Japanese—the Koreans. They came to Japan as forced labor during WWII—about 7.8 million Koreans were conscripted to the Japanese, men participating in the military while women were used as sex slaves. Most are born in Japan and speak no Korean, but they still face discrimination—just like the Buraku. There are no IQ test scores for Koreans in Japan, but there are standardized test scores. Koreans in America are more likely to have higher educational attainment than are native-born Americans (see the Pew data on Korean American educational attainment). But this is not the case in Japan. The following table is from Sternberg and Grigorenko (2001).


Just as Koreans do better than white Americans on standardized tests (and IQ tests), how weird is it for Koreans in Japan to score lower than ethnic Japanese and even the Burakumin? Sternberg and Grigorenko (2001) write:

Based on these cross-cultural comparison, we suggest that it is the manner in which caste and minority status combine rather than either minority position or low-caste status alone that lead to low cognitive or IQ test scores for low-status groups in complex, technological societies such as Japan and the United States. Often jobs and education require the adaptive intellectual skills of the dominant caste. In such societies, IQ tests discriminate against all minorities, but how the minority groups perform on the tests depends on whether they became minorities by immigration or choice (voluntary minorities) or were forced by the dominant group into minorities status (involuntary minorities). The evidence indicates that immigrant minority status and nonimmigrant status have different implications for IQ test performance.

The distinction between “voluntary” and “involuntary” minority is simple: voluntary minorities emigrate by choice, whereas involuntary minorities were forced against their will to be there. Black Americans, Native Hawaiians and Native Americans are involuntary minorities in America and, in the case of blacks, they face similar discrimination to the Buraku and there is a similar difference in test scores between the high and low castes (classes in America). (See the discussion in Ogbu and Simons (1998) on voluntary and involuntary minorities and also see Shimihara, (1984) for information on how the Burakumin are discriminated against.)

Ogbu and Simons (1988) explain the school performance of minorities using what Ogbu calls a “cultural-ecological theory” which considers societal and school factors along with community dynamics in minority communities. The first part of the theory is that minorities are discriminated against in terms of education, which Ogbu calls “the system.” The second part of the theory is how minorities respond to their treatment in the school system, which Ogbu calls “community forces.” See Figure 1 from Ogbu and Simons (1998: 156):


Ogbu and Simon (1998: 158) write about the Buraku and Koreans:

Consider that some minority groups, like the Buraku outcast in Japan, do poorly in school in their country of origin but do quite well in the United States, or that Koreans do well in school in China and in the United States but do poorly in Japan.

Ogbu (1981: 13) even notes that when Buraku are in America—since they do not look different from the Ippan—they are treated like regular Japanese-Americans who are not discriminated against in America as the Buraku are in Japan and, what do you know, they have similar outcomes to other Japanese:

The contrasting school experiences of the Buraku outcastes in Japan and in the United States are even more instructive. In Japan Buraku children continue massively to perform academically lower than the dominant Ippan children. But in the United States where the Buraku and the Ippan are treated alike by the American people, government and schools, the Buraku do just as well in school as the Ippan (DeVos 1973; Ito,1967; Ogbu, 1978a).

So, clearly, this gap between the Buraku and the Nippon disappears when they are not stratified in a dominant-subordinate relation. It’s because IQ testing and other tests of ability are culture-bound (Cole, 2004) and so, when Burakumin emigrate to America (as voluntary minorities), they are seen as and treated like any other Japanese since there are no physical differences between them and their educational attainment and IQs match the other non-Burakumin Japanese. The very items on these tests are biased towards the dominant (middle-)class—so when the Buraku and Koreans emigrate to America they then have the types of cultural and psychological tools (Richardson, 2002) to do well on the tests and so, their scores change from when they were in their other country.

Note the striking similarities between black Americans and Buraku and Korean-Japanese—all three groups are discriminated against in their countries, all three groups have lower levels of achievement than the majority population, two groups (the Buraku and black Americans, there is no IQ data for Koreans in Japan that I am aware of) show the same gap between them and the dominant group, the Buraku and black Americans got their freedom at around the same times but still face similar types of discrimination. However, when Buraku and Korean-Japanese people emigrate here to America, their IQ scores and educational attainment match that of other East Asian groups. To Americans, there is no difference between Buraku and non-Buraku Japanese people.

Koreans in Japan “endure a climate of hate“, according to The Japan Times. Koreans are heavily discriminated against in Japan. Korean-Japanese people, in any case, score worse than the Buraku. Though, as we all know, when Koreans emigrate to America they have higher test scores than whites do.

Note, though, IQ scores for “voluntary minorities” that came to the US in the 1920s. The Irish, Italians, and even Jews were screened as “low IQ” and were thusly barred entry into the country due to it. For example, Young (1922: 422) writes that:

Over 85 per cent. of the Italian group, more than 80 per cent. of the Polish group and 75 per cent. of the Greeks received their final letter grades from the beta or other performance examination.

While Young (1922) shows the results of an IQ test administered to Southern Europeans in certain areas (one of the studies was carried out in New York City):




These types of score differentials are just like what these lower castes in Japan and America show today. Though, as Thomas Sowell noted in regard to the IQs of Jews, Polish, Italians, and Greeks:

Like fertility rates, IQ scores differ substantially among ethnic groups at a given time, and have changed substantially over time— reshuffling the relative standings of the groups. As of about World War I, Jews scored sufficiently low on mental tests to cause a leading “expert” of that era to claim that the test score results “disprove the popular belief that the Jew is highly intelligent.” At that time, IQ scores for many of the other more recently arrived groups—Italians, Greeks, Poles, Portuguese, and Slovaks—were virtually identical to those found today among blacks, Hispanics, and other disadvantaged groups. However, over the succeeding decades, as most of these immigrant groups became more acculturated and advanced socioeconomically, their IQ scores have risen by substantial amounts. Jewish IQs were already above the national average by the 1920s, and recent studies of Italian and Polish IQs show them to have reached or passed the national average in the post-World War II era. Polish IQs, which averaged eighty-five in the earlier studies—the same as that of blacks today—had risen to 109 by the 1970s. This twenty-four-point increase in two generations is greater than the current black-white difference (fifteen points). [See also here.]

Ron Unz notes that Sowell says about the Eastern and Southern European immigrants IQs: “Slovaks at 85.6, Greeks at 83, Poles at 85, Spaniards at 78, and Italians ranging between 78 and 85 in different studies.” And, of course, their IQs rose throughout the 20th century. Gould (1996: 227) showed that the average mental age for whites was 13.08, with anything between 8 and 12 being denoted a “moron.” Gould noted that the average Russian had a mental age of 11.34, while the Italian was at 11.01 and the Pole was at 10.74. This, of course, changed as these immigrants acclimated to American life.

For an interesting story for the creation of the term “moron”, see Dolmage’s (2018: 43) book Disabled Upon Arrival:

… Goddard’s invention of [the term moron] as a “signifier of tainted whiteness” was the “most important contribution to the concept of feeble-mindedness as a signifier of racial taint,” through the diagnosis of the menace of alien races, but also as a way to divide out the impure elements of the white race.

The Buraku are a cultural class—not a racial or ethnic group. Looking at America, the terms “black” and “white” are socialraces (Hardimon, 2017)—so could the same reasons for low Buraku educational attainment and IQ be the cause for black Americans’ low IQ and educational attainment? Time will tell, though there are no countries—to the best of my knowledge—that blacks have emigrated to and not been seen as an underclass or ‘inferior.’

The thesis by Ogbu is certainly interesting and has some explanatory power. The fact of the matter is that IQ and other tests of ability are bound by culture, and so, when the Buraku leave Japan and come to America, they are seen as regular Japanese (I’m not aware if Americans know about the Buraku/non-Buraku distinction) and they score just as well if not better than Americans and other non-Buraku Japanese. This points to discrimination and other environmental causes as the root of Buraku problems—noting that the Buraku became “full citizens” in 1871, 6 years after black slavery was ended in America. That Koreans in Japan also have similarly low educational attainment but high in America—higher than native-born Americans—is yet another point in favor of Ogbu’s thesis. The “system” and “community forces” seem to change when the two, previously low-scoring, high-crime group comes to America.

The increase in IQ of Southern and Eastern European immigrants, too, is another point in favor of Ogbu. Koreans and Buraku (indistinguishable from other native Japanese), when they leave Japan, are seen as any other Asians immigrants, and so, their outcomes are different.

In any case, the Buraku of Japan and Koreans who are Japanese citizens are an interesting look into how a group is treated can—and does—decrease test scores and social standing in Japan. Might the same hold true for blacks one day?