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Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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Why can’t we talk about IQ?

By: Jason Richwine
August 9, 2013 05:01 AM EDT

“IQ is a metric of such dubiousness that almost no serious educational researcher uses it anymore,” the Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox wrote back in May. It was a breathtakingly ignorant statement. Psychologist Jelte Wicherts noted in response that a search for “IQ test” in Google’s academic database yielded more than 10,000 hits — just for the year 2013.

But Cox’s assertion is all too common. There is a large discrepancy between what educated laypeople believe about cognitive science and what experts actually know. Journalists are steeped in the lay wisdom, so they are repeatedly surprised when someone forthrightly discusses the real science of mental ability.

If that science happens to deal with group differences in average IQ, the journalists’ surprise turns into shock and disdain. Experts who speak publicly about IQ differences end up portrayed as weird contrarians at best, and peddlers of racist pseudoscience at worst.

I’m speaking from experience. My Harvard Ph.D. dissertation contains some scientifically unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. For four years, the dissertation did what almost every other dissertation does — collected dust in the university library. But when it was unearthed in the midst of the immigration debate, I experienced the vilification firsthand.

For people who have studied mental ability, what’s truly frustrating is the déjà vu they feel each time a media firestorm like this one erupts. Attempts by experts in the field to defend the embattled messenger inevitably fall on deaf ears. When the firestorm is over, the media’s mindset always resets to a state of comfortable ignorance, ready to be shocked all over again when the next messenger comes along.

At stake here, incidentally, is not just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but also how science informs public policy. The U.S. education system, for example, is suffused with mental testing, yet few in the political classes understand cognitive ability research. Angry and repeated condemnations of the science will not help.

What scholars of mental ability know, but have never successfully gotten the media to understand, is that a scientific consensus, based on an extensive and consistent literature, has long been reached on many of the questions that still seem controversial to journalists.

For example, virtually all psychologists believe there is a general mental ability factor (referred to colloquially as “intelligence”) that explains much of an individual’s performance on cognitive tests. IQ tests approximately measure this general factor. Psychologists recognize that a person’s IQ score, which is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, usually remains stable upon reaching adolescence. And they know that IQ scores are correlated with educational attainment, income, and many other socioeconomic outcomes.

In terms of group differences, people of northeast Asian descent have higher average IQ scores than people of European lineage, who in turn have higher average scores than people of sub-Saharan African descent. The average score for Hispanic Americans falls somewhere between the white and black American averages. Psychologists have tested and long rejected the notion that score differences can be explained simply by biased test questions. It is possible that genetic factors could influence IQ differences among ethnic groups, but many scientists are withholding judgment until DNA studies are able to link specific gene combinations with IQ.
Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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How can I be sure all of this reflects mainstream thinking? Because, over the years, psychologists have put together statements, reports, and even books aimed at synthesizing expert opinion on IQ. Many of these efforts were made in explicit response to the periodic media firestorms that engulfed people who spoke publicly about cognitive science. It’s worth reviewing some of those incidents and detailing the scholarly responses — responses that are invariably forgotten before the next furor begins. I’ll place my own experience in that context.

Let’s start 25 years ago, with the publication of The IQ Controversy, a book by Mark Snyderman and Stanley Rothman. The authors surveyed more than 1,000 experts in the field of cognitive science to develop a picture of what the mainstream really looks like. It was very similar to the description I’ve supplied above.

Snyderman and Rothman then systematically analyzed television, newspaper, and magazine coverage of IQ issues. They were alarmed to find that the media were presenting a much different picture than what the expert survey showed. Based on media portrayals, it would seem that most experts think IQ scores have little meaning, that genes have no influence on IQ, and that the tests are hopelessly biased.“Our work demonstrates that, by any reasonable standard, media coverage of the IQ controversy has been quite inaccurate,” the authors concluded.

In conducting the expert survey and contrasting the results with media depictions of IQ research, one would think Snyderman and Rothman had performed a valuable service. Surely public discussion of IQ would now be more firmly grounded in science?

It didn’t happen. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve was published in 1994, and real science was hard to find in the media circus that ensued. Herrnstein and Murray’s central claim about IQ differences shaping class divisions continues to be the subject of reasoned debate among social scientists. But non-experts in the media questioned whether IQ is even a valid concept. Intelligence research – psychometrics — is a pseudoscience, they said. The tests are meaningless, elitist, biased against women and minorities, important only to genetic determinists. And even to discuss group differences in IQ was called racist.

In short, the media did everything Snyderman and Rothman had warned against six years earlier. As a consequence, the interesting policy implications explored by Herrnstein and Murray were lost in the firestorm.

The American Psychological Association (APA) tried to set the record straight in 1996 with a report written by a committee of experts. Among the specific conclusions drawn by the APA were that IQ tests reliably measure a real human trait, that ethnic differences in average IQ exist, that good tests of IQ are not culturally biased against minority groups, and that IQ is a product of both genetic inheritance and early childhood environment. Another report signed by 52 experts, entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” stated similar facts and was printed in the Wall Street Journal.

“These may be harbingers of a shift in the media’s treatment of intelligence,” an optimistic Charles Murray wrote at the time.“There is now a real chance that the press will begin to discover that it has been missing the story.”
Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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He was wrong. The APA report fell down the memory hole, and the media’s understanding of IQ again fell back to that state of comfortable misinformation that Snyderman and Rothman had observed years earlier.

So when Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard University, speculated in 2005 that women might be naturally less gifted in math and science, the intense backlash contributed to his ouster.

Two years later, when famed scientist James Watson noted the low average IQ scores of sub-Saharan Africans, he was forced to resign from his lab, taking his Nobel Prize with him.

When a Harvard law student was discovered in 2010 to have suggested in a private email that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component, the dean publicly condemned her amid a campus-wide outcry. Only profuse apologies seem to have saved her career.

In none of these cases did an appeal to science tamp down the controversy or help to prevent future ones. My own time in the media crosshairs would be no different.

So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.

Because a large number of recent immigrants are from Latin America, I reviewed the literature showing that Hispanic IQ scores fall between white and black scores in the United States. This fact isn’t controversial among experts, but citing it seems to have fueled much of the media backlash.

And what a backlash it was. It started back in May when I coauthored an unrelated study that estimates the fiscal cost of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Opponents seeking to discredit that study pointed to my dissertation, and the firestorm was lit. Reporters pulled the dissertation quotes they found “shocking” and featured them in news stories about anti-immigration extremism. Well-established scientific findings were treated as self-evidently wrong — and likely the product of bigotry.

The professional commentators eagerly ran with that theme. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post called me a “fringe character.” Will Wilkinson of the Economist decried my “repugnant prejudice.” The New York Daily News published an unsigned editorial describing me as “the most twisted sort of intellectual” who is “peddling offensive tripe.” The Guardian’s Ana Marie Cox, whose quote began this article, called me a “bigot” and a “more subtle and dangerous kind of extremist.”

As with all the past incidents, most reporters learned nothing about IQ and seemed indifferent to any lessons for public policy. The works of mainstream scholars designed to educate lay people — The IQ Controversy, the APA report,“Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” etc.— were nowhere to be found.
Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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Not all the media coverage was divorced from real science. Journalists such as Robert VerBruggen and Michael Barone wrote insightful reaction pieces. And the science-oriented blogosphere, which is increasingly the go-to place for expert commentary, provided some of the best coverage.

But it’s difficult to have a mature policy conversation when other journalists are doing little more than name-calling. It’s like convening a scientific conference on the causes of autism, only to have the participants drowned out by anti-vaccine protesters.

For too many people confronted with IQ issues, emotion trumps reason. Some are even angry that I never apologized for my work. I find that sentiment baffling. Apologize for stating empirical facts relevant to public policy? I could never be so craven. And apologize to whom — people who don’t like those facts? The demands for an apology illustrate the emotionalism that often governs our political discourse.

What causes so many in the media to react emotionally when it comes to IQ? Snyderman and Rothman believe it is a naturally uncomfortable topic in modern liberal democracies. The possibility of intractable differences among people does not fit easily into the worldview of journalists and other members of the intellectual class who have an aversion to inequality. The unfortunate — but all too human — reaction is to avoid seriously grappling with inconvenient truths. And I suspect the people who lash out in anger are the ones who are most internally conflicted.

But I see little value in speculating further about causes. Change is what’s needed. And the first thing for reporters, commentators, and non-experts to do is to stop demonizing public discussion of IQ differences. Stop calling names. Stop trying to get people fired. Most of all, stop making pronouncements about research without first reading the literature or consulting people who have.

This is not just about academic freedom or any one scholar’s reputation. Cognitive differences can inform our understanding of a number of policy issues — everything from education, to military recruitment, to employment discrimination to, yes, immigration. Start treating the science of mental ability seriously, and both political discourse and public policy will be better for it.

Jason Richwine is a public policy analyst in Washington, D.C.

© 2013 POLITICO LLC

http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm...

Since: Jan 13

Returning with a vengeance

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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One cannot point out why the Third World is the way it is.

We couldn't sneak the amnesty by...

Signed,

Juan McCain, Chuck Schumer, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan

Since: Apr 13

Zanesville, OH

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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Amazing Bob, you wasted 4 pages of cut and paste that amounts to one attempting to defend his erroneous dissertation. Talk about low IQ individuals, you and he are two birds of a feather.

“Bee Hive Jive”

Since: Apr 10

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#7
Aug 11, 2013
 

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IQ scrutinizing has gone the way of the dodo bird.
I never believed that testing one's supposedly mental capacity proves the intelligence of a person.
A person with a high intelligent level may freeze up doing a test....
A person with average intelligence may score higher because they perform well on tests.
Go figure.
Intelligence does no good if a person doesn't possess common sense.

“Bee Hive Jive”

Since: Apr 10

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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St of Circumstance wrote:
Amazing Bob, you wasted 4 pages of cut and paste that amounts to one attempting to defend his erroneous dissertation. Talk about low IQ individuals, you and he are two birds of a feather.
All dissertations are challenged, revised and challenged again, so they are not erroneous in the eyes of the challengers.
Big Johnson

Columbus, OH

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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BizzyBee wrote:
IQ scrutinizing has gone the way of the dodo bird.
I never believed that testing one's supposedly mental capacity proves the intelligence of a person.
A person with a high intelligent level may freeze up doing a test....
A person with average intelligence may score higher because they perform well on tests.
Go figure.
Intelligence does no good if a person doesn't possess common sense.
Double digits, eh? Tough break!
Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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#10
Aug 11, 2013
 

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St of Circumstance wrote:
Amazing Bob, you wasted 4 pages of cut and paste that amounts to one attempting to defend his erroneous dissertation. Talk about low IQ individuals, you and he are two birds of a feather.
Taking things a little too personal aren't we Kosmik? I didn't know you had subsaharan ancestors? Maybe if you had some chinks in your lineage you wouldn't take things so personally.

“Paper Or Plastic?”

Since: Nov 11

Albakoikee

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#11
Aug 11, 2013
 
BizzyBee wrote:
IQ scrutinizing has gone the way of the dodo bird.
I never believed that testing one's supposedly mental capacity proves the intelligence of a person.
A person with a high intelligent level may freeze up doing a test....
A person with average intelligence may score higher because they perform well on tests.
Go figure.
Intelligence does no good if a person doesn't possess common sense.
Haven't you read about some of the idiotic stunts mensa members have pulled, blowing up garden sheds, burning their houses down, etc.?
boo hoo

Columbus, OH

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#12
Aug 11, 2013
 
Come off it! We can't discuss IQ in Detroit....or Camden...or Birmingham....or well, Oakland...New Orleans...and...Monrovia.

Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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#14
Aug 11, 2013
 
They cannot kill a Spook wrote:
<quoted text>
It is a good indicator when averaged across a group with similar conditions and genetics. Sure there are the occasional anomalies, individuals with higher success of that group but lower individual IQ and vice versa, but as a group it is a great indicator.
Look at the Central American and Mexican trash. Don't see too many that are worth a pinch of shit. Yet go to Chile and Colombia and they are a much better Hispanic than the beaner.
There are many ways to spin this. I will grant that testing doesn't necessarily capture the essence of someone's abilities. For example, someone who's insanely intelligent but has trouble reading might not score well on a test. Personal habits and discipline also matter and maybe sub-Saharans don't score well because they are not disciplined people. But then again, that's what you need to thrive in this society ... mental discipline. If you don't have that, go back to the African bush.

But at the end of the day, there are people who are smarter and there are dumber people and anybody who tries to tell you there aren't if full of crap.
FKA Reader

Olathe, KS

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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I just wanted to get everybody excited that she is finished licking her wounds (and eating her pizza) and has finally returned to the board.

--Bobby
Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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rowdy01 wrote:
<quoted text>
Haven't you read about some of the idiotic stunts mensa members have pulled, blowing up garden sheds, burning their houses down, etc.?
Often times the weirder you are, the smarter you tend to be.
FKA Reader

Olathe, KS

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#17
Aug 11, 2013
 
Bobby here.

I just wanted to get everybody excited that she finished licking her wounds (and eating her pizza) and has finally returned to the board.

Fooled ya.

--Bobby
Reality Speaks

Columbus, OH

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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They cannot kill a Spook wrote:
<quoted text>
It is a good indicator when averaged across a group with similar conditions and genetics. Sure there are the occasional anomalies, individuals with higher success of that group but lower individual IQ and vice versa, but as a group it is a great indicator.
Look at the Central American and Mexican trash. Don't see too many that are worth a pinch of shit. Yet go to Chile and Colombia and they are a much better Hispanic than the beaner.
with all due respect.

people know what people know.....period.

all people can learn, and at any age.

society has a duty to teach our children to be teachers. Succession planning.

We the people of all nations need to educate our children.

We all witness here in the USA what occurs when education is skipped, figurative & literally.

Education solves many many of societies problems. Schools and church need be part of children's lives.

America has failed due to simple specific principals. God, Country, Core. yes I am aware corps, I meant core=all.

God is demonized as a political platform that 1/2 the country votes for and supports.

What do we expect? We allowed what has occurred to occur. Guilty we all are.

Since: Apr 13

Zanesville, OH

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#19
Aug 11, 2013
 

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Enzyte Bob wrote:
<quoted text>
Taking things a little too personal aren't we Kosmik? I didn't know you had subsaharan ancestors? Maybe if you had some chinks in your lineage you wouldn't take things so personally.
You need to learn the definition of projection.

4 freaking pages of one who is taking the disinterest in his joke of a dissertation personally, lump you in with him and all you can do is try to redirect the exposure of your low IQ.
Enzyte Bob

Olathe, KS

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#20
Aug 11, 2013
 
St of Circumstance wrote:
<quoted text>
You need to learn the definition of projection.
4 freaking pages of one who is taking the disinterest in his joke of a dissertation personally, lump you in with him and all you can do is try to redirect the exposure of your low IQ.
I don't know what my IQ is, nor do I care. However, I do know what my brother's IQ is, and it's reasonably high. I also know that I am quicker mentally than he is.

If your subsaharan ancestors bring your IQ down to the double digits, then you need to come to terms with it. Maybe you wouldn't be sending out online death threats if you were at peace with yourself and more realistic about your aspirations, such as refuse collector or community organizer.

Hell, we have a C-student in the White House who undoubtedly has some subsaharan blood which proves that even double digits can aspire to do great things in this country.

Since: Apr 13

Zanesville, OH

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Aug 11, 2013
 

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BizzyBee wrote:
<quoted text>
All dissertations are challenged, revised and challenged again, so they are not erroneous in the eyes of the challengers.
I think you mean in those who's are challenged.

The man admitted that his sat collecting dust as the collective evidence far outweighed his claims.

Now he's found a forum to represent what was and has been long dismissed as flawed.

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