“a bias toward knowing what I’m talking about”

That’s Ta-Nehisi Coates’ credo as stated in the post disembowling Andrew Sullivan that John linked to below.

In that piece, Ta-Nehisi writes of his having mostly avoided the race-intelligence pit o’ fail, because he does not to his own satisfaction know enough about the technical arguments there.  As John says, that doesn’t prevent Ta-Nehisi from accurately diagnosing the moral bankruptcy of Sullivan’s thinking.

But his framing of the post did drive me back to one of the best web sources of insight on issues of method and meaning in statistical reasoning, the invaluable Cosma Shalizi, proprietor of the Three Toed Sloth blog.  Given that Ta-Nehisi provided an implicit shout out for such sources, I thought I’d dig back into Cosma’s work to provide some context.

Back in 2007, when William Saletan decided to trumpet the “work” of notorious race/IQ “scientist” J. Philippe Rushton, in seeming ignorance of Rushton’s long and well documented record as an associate and aider-and-abetter of overtly racist segregationists,* Cosma wrote a series of long and very carefully reasoned posts explaining what’s goes terribly wrong with most writing about IQ and anything — not just race.  For an overview of the problems with concept of “g” — a general intelligence trait — see this honking elephant of a post.  I can recommend two much shorter and nicely wicked dialogues on the question of intelligence and plasticity — or, really, on the ease with which really bad thinking slips into such questions.

The point of all this, worked through in some detail in the third of his four posts on the subject, is that studies of intelligence that assert “truths” about connections between some conception of the heritability of IQ and race do so from a position of what may most kindly be assumed to be simple incompetence — though in some cases a presumption of malice seems justified.

As Cosma himself warned his readers, any honest confrontation with the methodological hell that is IQ research leads one into a quagmire.  I think I’ve pointed you towards close to 20,000 words (and figures) of his attempt to navigate the mire.  So, if you want to skip the some thousands of words towards which I’ve pointed you, here are his conclusions in nice, compact form:

  1. The most common formulae used to estimate heritability are wrong, either for trivial mathematical reasons (such as the upward bias in the difference between monozygotic and dizygotic twins’ correlations), or for substantive ones (the covariance of monozygotic twins raised apart neglects shared environments other than the family, such as maternal and community effects).
  2. The best estimate I can find puts the narrow heritability of IQ at around 0.34 and the broad heritability at 0.48.
  3. Even this estimate neglected heteroskedasticity, gene-environment interactions, gene-environment covariance, the existence of shared environment beyond the family, and the possibility that the samples being used are not representative of the broader population.
  4. Now that people are finally beginning to model gene-environment interactions, even in very crude ways, they find it matters a lot. Recall that Turkheimer et al. found a heritability which rose monotonically with socioeconomic status, starting around zero at low status and going up to around 0.8 at high status. Even this is probably an over-estimate, since it neglected maternal effects and other shared non-familial environment, correlations between variance components, etc. Under such circumstances, talking about “the” heritability of IQ is nonsense. Actual geneticists have been saying as much since Dobzhansky at least.
  5. Applying the usual heritability estimators to traits which are shaped at least in part by cultural transmission, a.k.a. traditions, is very apt to confuse tradition with genetics. The usual twin studies do not solve this problem. Studies which could don’t seem to have been done.
  6. Heritability is completely irrelevant to malleability or plasticity; every possible combination of high and low heritability, and high and low malleability, is not only logically possible but also observed.
  7. Randomized experiments, natural experiments and the Flynn Effect all show what competent regressions also suggest, namely that IQ is, indeed, responsive to purely environmental interventions.

In other words:  Sullivan is not just wrong; he is not only trafficking in just the all-dressed-up-for-the-21st-century version of the slave-holder’s self justification — as Ta-Nehisi so clearly demonstrated; he is not playing the honest broker, merely seeking research to settle vexing questions; he is writing in what can at this point only be chosen ignorance of what those with actual understanding of the methods and pitfalls of social science have been trying to tell him for lo-these-many years.

I know that I sometimes praise Sullivan for his moral acuities:  his strong stand against torture, his long advocacy of civil equality in the GBLT arena, his belated and partial recognition of the flaws of the Republican party.  But when you stack up his role in creating myths about health care in the Clinton years, and his championing of this kind of stuff, I don’t see how you can count his career as a net positive for the society.

*My only Rushton story:  I was in the room at a mid-’80s AAAS meeting when Rushton was just breaking on the scene with his attention grabbing assertion that intelligence was inversely correlated with penis size, which was in turn specifically correlated with particular races.  It was a day that made me proud to be a science writer, as the great SF Chronicle¹ science editor David Perlman got up in that session and just roasted Rushton.  None of this, “some say, others disagree” transcription-monkey reporting.  Just a thing of beauty and a great lesson in the need to build and pay attention to one’s bullship filter.  That is, of course, exactly what Saletan failed to do.

¹Yes. That paper, which, like lots of Bay Area folk, we regularly referred to as the SF Comical, did/does have some truly first class writers and   reporters, among whom Perlman is one of the best.

Image: Adriaen Pietersz.van de Venne, Fools Have the Most Fun, 1661

73 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Saletan demonstrated his fuckheadedness even before he gave a grand performance with Rushton; his writings on abortion ignore the fact that the forced birth movement is against contraception in general, which is why they relentlessly attack Planned Parenthood, who have this wild-eyed soshulist notion that sex is a pleasurable activity in and of itself, without having to go through the entire make a baby thing, and if you’re not ready financially or emotionally to make a baby, you should have the tools to avoid doing so.

  2. 2
    Gex says:

    He takes a strong stand in things that matter to him. Gay issues? If he weren’t gay he would be with the Catholic Church on this issue. Torture? He feels better when he gets to boast how his culture is superior to everyone else’s and the torture thing takes all the fun out of it.

    He’s a typical conservative in other words. Any net positive for society that comes from conservative thought is an externality they haven’t accounted for or it wouldn’t happen.

  3. 3
    Calouste says:

    I know that I sometimes praise Sullivan for his moral acuities: his strong stand against torture, his long advocacy of civil equality in the GBLT arena

    I have a bridge to sell to you if you believe that Sullivan would support GBLT rights if he were straight instead of gay.

  4. 4

    that intelligence was inversely correlated with penis size, which was in turn specifically correlated with particular races.

    LOL WTF?

  5. 5
    beltane says:

    I was in the room at a mid-’80s AAAS meeting when Rushton was just breaking on the scene with his attention grabbing assertion that intelligence was inversely correlated with p&n@s size

    I hate to break it to Rushton, but he simply cannot hide behind his tiny p$n*s. The world is full of men who are dumb as rocks and hung like field mice.

  6. 6
    beltane says:

    In moderation for a block-quote? I feel as inadequate as J. Philippe Rushton.

  7. 7
    MikeJ says:

    Twice in one day Cosma Shalizi was mentioned on a blog I read. Weird.

  8. 8
    cthulhu says:

    Rushton was among a vanguard of psycho- and socio-biologists that, to this day, have an unfortunate disproportionate influence primarily because the lay press finds their work “interesting” even if they are generally marginalized among scientists. Oh, and I definitely remember the penis size study. When I first heard about it, I assumed the person telling me had unknowingly found something from the Onion.

    I will say that I do, however, know of one colleague who did move out of IQ research because of the increasing controversy but, frankly, I thought that was a good move from a science standpoint.

  9. 9
    Comrade Mary says:

    Thanks, Tom. That’s a beautiful summary of Shalizi for people who haven’t had the opportunity to dig into the research.

    My only Rushton story: I was at the University of Western Ontario in 89-90 finishing up a psych degree. (I’d gone there to work with one specific prof — not Rushton.) I was aware that Rushton was on the faculty, but I never seemed to run across him in the psych department, even though his office was steps away from my supervisor’s office.

    One day I was wandering through the underground area of the arts building, going from caf to bookstore, when I noticed someone familiar walking toward me. I couldn’t place him on first glance, so I kept staring — rather rudely, I admit, because I was convinced I knew who it was and my mind was failing me.

    Only after the increasingly nervous looking man had passed me did I realize it was Rushton. I wonder what he thought I was thinking as I stared and stared at him down that long hallway without ever confronting him.

  10. 10
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    Meh. Sullivan is a hack and always has been. What does it say when the best thing about his blog is other ppl’s windows?

  11. 11
    Tim F. says:

    FYI: research published in Science magazine this year shows that you can erase most of the racial and class achievement gap in students by teaching higher on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.

    The thing that offends me most about Murrayism is the effort to reify a problem rather than understand it. It is a statistical trick that argues that we should stop trying to understand differential success or look for a solution, that black people are just dumber and they should stay underfoot because they deserve it there. It is the opposite of intellectual inquiry. it is an effort to invalidate inquiry, make it appear futile and lock in place systems that are quite comfortable for their defenders precisely because they are so unfair. It is so much more outrageous because actual scientists have already solved problems that these guys would declare intractable and permanent, yet I never hear a peep from Sullivan about that. He and Pat Buchanan really are a few of the only true conservatives left.

  12. 12
    Lysana says:

    @Calouste:

    I have a bridge to sell to you if you believe that Sullivan would support GBLT rights if he were straight instead of gay.

    And considering his focus on issues that have the most benefit to cisgender GLs, such as marriage equality, that’s pretty well demonstrated right there.

  13. 13
    giltay says:

    My go-to reference on this is The Mismeasure of Man, 2nd edition by Stephen Jay Gould. It is highly excellent, and I do not recommend not reading it. Gould lays out a history of intelligence testing (going back to craniometry), how it has been informed by racism and reification throughout, and what parts of the debate are attributable to sloppy thinking and which to deliberate fraud.

    It’s 15 years old, but nearly all the arguments still apply today: we’re still making the same mistakes for the same reasons.

  14. 14
    Marc says:

    TNC is a good deal more compassionate towards Sullivan than the posters here are. It may be fruitful to read what he (TNC) says at the end of his second post. People are complex: we all have a mix of traits and ideas, not all positive. Sullivan is clearly in the wrong here, as he is on some other hobbyhorses (who is the Real Mother of Trig Palin?) And yet I don’t share the conviction that reading him is worthless. And neither does TNC.

  15. 15
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Marc:

    And yet I don’t share the conviction that reading him is worthless. And neither does TNC.

    The difference being that Coates is paid to be nice to that Tory asshole

  16. 16

    @Villago Delenda Est:who have this wild-eyed soshulist notion that sex is a pleasurable activity in and of itself, without having to go through the entire make a baby thing, and if you’re not ready financially or emotionally to make a baby, you should have the tools to avoid doing so

    Its more than that.

    It’s only practical to acknowledge that we are biological creatures with survival drives. The intelligent repose is to come up with safe ways to channel what people can’t help doing anyway.

    Which illustrates the sick pointlessness of the right wing approach: harsh penalties for even basic drives like procreation. People can’t manage the narrow channels. Then these jerks feel vindicated in thinking people are “sinful.”

  17. 17
    dmbeaster says:

    @Comrade Mary:

    Only after the increasingly nervous looking man had passed me did I realize it was Rushton. I wonder what he thought I was thinking as I stared and stared at him down that long hallway without ever confronting him.

    That you could determine his penis size just from your stare.

  18. 18
    Bill Murray says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: probably not true anymore since Sullivan left The Atlantic

  19. 19
    Samara Morgan says:

    that studies of intelligence that assert “truths” about connections between some conception of the heritability of IQ and race do so from a position of what may most kindly be assumed to be simple incompetence—though in some cases a presumption of malice seems justified.

    what does that even mean? IQ is heritable..so is race. there are very probably “connections”…linkages? do you mean linkage?
    what are you bioluddites going to do when fMRI and neurochemical panels produce measurable between group differences that demonstrate covariance of heritable traits?

  20. 20
    Samara Morgan says:

    Do you know what intelligence IS inversely correlated with?
    religiosity.

  21. 21
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Tim F.: the MAJOR reason kids fail is POVERTY.
    More black and hispanic kids are POOR.
    i would have thought that was obvious.

    i dont understand why anyone even talks about that sad old crappy book.
    the rest of the universe has moved on….except for Ballon-Juice i guess.

    do you what is great? the childcare initiative that Pelosi is ramrodding is based on the Heckman Equation.

  22. 22
    Maus says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Do you know what intelligence IS inversely correlated with?
    religiosity.

    You make a good argument against that (fully non-scientific and retarded) assumption.

  23. 23
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Do you know what intelligence IS inversely correlated with?
    religiosity.

    And yet you claim high religiosity and intelligence. Fail!

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Beat me to it. You bastard.

  25. 25
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: high fives instead. great minds and all.

  26. 26
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Okay, fine, but after after the Grinch, which is about to start. I have my priorities straight.

  27. 27
    Brachiator says:

    I think that some psychological researchers like to make a fetish go IQ because it feeds their ego. There is huge money to be made in predicting the best racehorse or quarterback or soccer player, and although there are any number of simplistic assertions about race and athletics, as far as I can find, there is nobody looking for some magical “a” which demonstrates heritable general athleticism. And even the intelligence tests that football combines rely on fail as even adequate predictors of performance.

    Sullivan is a sad case. He consistently demonstrates a failure to comprehend scientific principles, and often falls back on his typical nonsense that science is simply another form of philosophy, or theology. And yet he pretends to be able to make reliable conclusions about any scientific issue.

  28. 28
    THE says:

    Since this is a related thread, I’ll repeat my link here.
    I think a possible way to resolve questions about IQ and heritability might be to identify the actual genes that influence IQ.

    To that end:
    I noticed that the Cognitive Genomics Lab at BGI (formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute) is currently undertaking a study of IQ-intelligence and genetics, determined through cognitive testing and Genome-Wide Association Studies.

    They are looking for volunteers.(GoogleTechTalks Video Presentation)

  29. 29
    jeff says:

    I have gotten into long online arguments with some of the top race realist theorists. It’s not pretty. My tactic was to argue their assumptions, while also making a rear attack on their motivations. The problem with this tactic is that they drag you into discussions of the statistical apparatuses of their work and refuse to let me “grant” them anything for the sake of argument. Finally, they complain about professional courtesy and demand to be shielded from non-science-PhDs–ironically, this complaint was always made by PhDs whose doctorates were in Psychology or some such thing.

    Long story short, I won’t argue with them again. I also won’t go to a cocktail party where they are also invited. Surprisingly, these men are very much accepted by the academic community. No names, but I’m not talking about Rushton or the non-academic Sailer.

  30. 30
    gelfling545 says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Actually, I believe that Mr. Coates would pride himself (in my opinion, quire justifiably) in making his arguments stand on their merits rather than resorting to the ad hominem.

  31. 31
    Ecks says:

    @Samara Morgan: Your reading comprehension skills need work. to say “OMG what happens if we actually measure a group heritable group difference” is so far beside the point as to defy belief. I can do a genetic analysis right now and show that Black people have, on average, darker skin than White people. Woop de do. Who cares? I can show that men do slightly better on mental rotation tasks than women. What does that mean? Nothing. If you have a job that requires mental rotations you still have to test for individual ability because there will be a ton of women who are better at it than a lot of men. And, further, these things are mutable. Take someone who’s not great at it, train them up, and they’ll get a lot better. The fact that you can sometimes measure statistical group mean differences on some of these things is just meaningless in any real world application you can think of.

    BTW, you know what intelligence *IS* correlated with? How well we do in school. After that, not much of anything. There’s a small correlation with income (that’s largely conflated with the educational opportunities you’re given), and that only holds up to a certain threshold that isn’t very high. You want to know where someone is going to end up in life, and have a half a clue about being right? Tell me who their mommy and daddy are, and tell me how tall and good looking they are (halo effects are a bitch). Oh, and then you if you want to refine the prediction a bit further, tell me how good their work habits are.

    ETA: IQ tests are pretty much only good for the one purpose they were originally invented for: Predicting educational achievement.

  32. 32
    Comrade Mary says:

    @dmbeaster: Heh. You may very well think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

    Obligatory.

  33. 33
    Joel says:

    Small world. I reckon that Cosma Shalizi – there aren’t many of those in the world – is the older brother of a certain friend of mine. (Brief click through confirms this).

  34. 34
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Comrade Mary: Great, now I will have to spend the rest of the evening listening to the Modern Lovers. It could be a lot worse.

  35. 35
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Coates is paid to be nice to that Tory asshole

    Aside from the fact that they don’t work together anymore, you really do a disservice to Coates as a writer and thinker, and I wish you’d reconsider this narrative.

    Read Coates on the American Civil War, and you read someone who’s really, deeply, struggling to understand and humanize a group of people who were determined that people like he and I were naught but animals that could talk. You see him writing about the connections between slave and owner with both a fierceness at the injustices, and an eye to grasping how the most human of us fell into accepting and perpetuating such horrors.

    His attempt to accept Sully at his word isn’t just idle talk, or an attempt to avoid slandering a (former) label-mate — it really is who he is, now, and why he writes in the fashion he does. And for he, and I, these aren’t academic questions or statements — they strike to the heart of how we grew up, our early and life-long identities. And every time we try to respond with wisdom and dignity, it takes — well, I speak for myself, but I suspect it’s true of Coates, too, that it takes a bit of the deepest part of us to make common cause with someone saying what Sully does.

    I wish there was more respect for that effort, and less of the reflexive cynicism.

  36. 36
    eemom says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    you…..you are a Grinch man??

    [melt]

    I solemnly promise to never disrespect The Clash again. What else may I do to prove my undying devotion??

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @eemom: Who isn’t? I love the Grinch. So much so that, yesterday, before I left my parents’ house, my Mom told me about that it was on tonight and called five minutes before it to remind me. of course, that might say more about my mother than my love for the Grinch. Suffice it to say, I believe I would find it difficult to deal with X-mas if I did not watch the show during the season. Also too, the movie is an abomination. At least, I presume it is; I have refused to watch it. Also also too too, I really am a Max fan.

  38. 38
    Keith G says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill:

    I wish there was more respect for that effort, and less of the reflexive cynicism.

    I applaud your efforts at staking out an alleged moral high ground, but sometimes a silly man must be called out as a silly man. And Sully is worse than a silly man.

    He is trafficking in ideas that are used daily to oppress others. Is support of same give a cover of respectability to some of the most vile existing in our society.

    I do wonder what is the back story of TNC treating this odious man with such gentle key strokes. None the less, that is Coates choice. It does not need to be the choice of others.

  39. 39
    Keith G says:

    Seems I was blocked from editing out typos with 2 min left on the clock. Strange.

    Sorry for sloppiness.

  40. 40
    Samara Morgan says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: religiousity != faith.
    religiosity is measured by variables like church/mosque/synagogue/chapel attendance and tithing.

  41. 41
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Ecks: /shrug
    well….. we are going to be able to measure group heritable differences and covariance of traits. we can do it now with fMRI and gene sequencing.
    then what will you guys do? you wont be able to claim bad stats or fuzzy psychometrics.
    and you betcha the hbd guys will run with whatev they can.
    so you best have a better defense when they come at you with the hard data.

    why are hbd guys mostly conservative?

  42. 42
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Maus: you didnt know that?
    read something

  43. 43
    Chet says:

    what are you bioluddites going to do when fMRI and neurochemical panels produce measurable between group differences that demonstrate covariance of heritable traits?

    Note that any form of sampling is going to produce variance between sampled groups?

  44. 44
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    religiosity is measured by variables like church/mosque/synagogue/chapel attendance and tithing.

    and you wonder why we call you out

  45. 45
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill: The problem is, quite frankly, that he takes Sully at his word. Sully is nothing more than a shill. has never been more, never will be more than. His “thoughts” have always been easily debunked. And yet look at where we are now. TNC is having to slap down this stupidity.

  46. 46
    Ecks says:

    @Samara Morgan: I have no idea what hbd means, and I’m rather perplexed by your insinuation that I’m conservative. It’s almost like you have a tendency to pull things out of your ass and act like they’re true. Aaaaalmost.

    But your reading comprehension still sucks. I didn’t say you’d never find group differences. I specifically said they do, in fact, exist. Genes and environment both affect people, we’ve known that FOREVER. I’m taller than my brother – genes baby. I’m taller than almost everyone alive in the 14th century – diet baby. I score higher on IQ tests than a LOT of people – I did well at school baby.

    The reason people have been desperately interested in showing racial differences in IQ isn’t because they’re fascinated by biosocial race differences – there hasn’t been a similar cottage industry arguing that Asians have different sized spleens, for instance. It’s because people have this strange idea that if you can show that Blacks aren’t as smart then it justifies treating them worse. After all, if you score a few points lower on the IQ scale then you’re basically cattle, right? Not that we admit that out loud, but it’s kinda there in the subtext, right.

    No brain scan you can do is going to discover that one group of people is worth less than another, though. Or that they are going to be less successful in life, more violent, or that you could in any way look at any one member of that group and know something important about them by the color of their skin. There’s a huge gap between finding an average difference between two groups, and knowing anything important about two members of that group.

    So you can tell me that your brilliant study shows that Africans have a 42% chance of 15% more grey matter in their anterior post ventromedial ascending descending system, and you can be absolutely right. I never said you wouldn’t find anything like that. But it still doesn’t answer the “so what” question. It makes no meaningful contribution to how we should treat members of that group.

    My prediction: You’re going to reply back to this saying “well you’re dumb and conservative and [insert-random-new-trait-here], because I’m going to get an even bigger brain scanner and then I’ll find a difference you can’t deny!”. And why do I think you’ll say this? Because you’ve already shown that you have lousy reading comprehension skills, and so will just repeat the same point again and again, no matter how badly the point is debunked. You’re like an aplysia with a prod. Every time you’re poked you execute the same reflexive flinch, except in your case it’s a sneer and an unthinking repetition of the same talking point.

  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Samara Morgan: Look, child, when science establishes something people are willing to accept it. When someone uses shoddy statistical methods to support a vile right wing social agenda and wingers glom onto it to justify their actions, it can raise people’s hackles. No one on this thread or any of the others is denying that some elements of intelligence are inherited. If you look at the main post, you will see that it explicitly cites someone who makes that statement. Further, your bullshit about how to you a bell curve is nothing more than a Gaussian distribution and you don’t understand why people here get upset by it gee is must be a shibboleth to the juicitariat is exactly that, bullshit. Intellectual dishonest is truly the hallmark of your posts.

  48. 48
    cthulhu says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    well….. we are going to be able to measure group heritable differences and covariance of traits. we can do it now with fMRI and gene sequencing.
    then what will you guys do? you wont be able to claim bad stats or fuzzy psychometrics.

    I can tell you what they will find (are finding): some statistically significant differences that none-the-less explain very little of the total variance. In behavioral research, you’re doing great if you can manage correlations of .30 leaving, well only 90% of the variance unexplained…

  49. 49
    gwangung says:

    In behavioral research, you’re doing great if you can manage correlations of .30 leaving, well only 90% of the variance unexplained…

    That’s going to sail completely over her pointed little head….

  50. 50
    mclaren says:

    Charles Murray is not a geneticist. He’s a political scientist. Andrew Sullivan has no degrees in the hard sciences.

    Why is anyone even talking about what these people claim about population genetics?

    These characters have as much credibility when discussing population genetics as a physicist has when he starts discussing the aesthetics of modern art — which is to say, zero.

  51. 51
    cthulhu says:

    I think it is also interesting that the policy response to these supposed “differences” is that we must immediately stop wasting our money on things like Headstart, etc. Well, if there are truly uncontrollable and random disabilities in IQ, the humane response would be to make up the difference in other ways; this is something as society we often do. I realize the libertarians hate the ADA but most people seem to think it is a good idea. So even if you truly believe in the data, you don’t have to be callous. And yet these people so regularly are.

  52. 52
    cthulhu says:

    Oh and I don’t recall for sure, but was it Rushton who once defended one of his many pseudo-scientific publications with the point that, sure, blacks were worse than whites but Asians were better than whites so, ipso facto, my work ain’t racist. So there!

  53. 53
    mclaren says:

    The IQ-heritability/race horseshit is of a piece with the “cut taxes on the billionaire job creators” horseshit and the “support our troops” horseshit and the reflexive applause for thug cops.

    It’s all the same mindset. The people who have power and/or tons ‘o money in our society have power and/or tons ‘o money because they’re the Right People. And they’re the Right People because they’re [fill in the blank: smarter, more entrepeneurial, more patriotic, tougher and more manly] than the rest of the crawling reptiles in America, who barely deserve the appellation “homo sapiens.”

    Same-old same-old. This bullshit has been going on since the Pharaoh got praised for his allegedly godlike wisdom, since the Aztec god-kings duped their population into bowing down and trembling while they cut out babies’ hearts to sacrifice to Tlaloc for a fertile harvest. The people in power are in power because they’re BETTER THAN YOU.

    Democracy and the scientific method have bounced right off this mindless primate belief system.

  54. 54
    Porlock Junior says:

    @mclaren:

    These characters have as much credibility when discussing population genetics as a physicist has when he starts discussing the aesthetics of modern art—which is to say, zero.

    Or, one might say, a solid-state physicist discussing the heritability of IQ.

    Just expanding your set of examples.

    PS: Or has the name “Shockley” been mercifully forgotten outside the lists of Nobel Prize winners? (Cf. Phillip Lenard) Sic transit gloria mundi. [sarcastic snuffling]

  55. 55
    wilfred says:

    it is an effort to invalidate inquiry, make it appear futile and lock in place systems that are quite comfortable for their defenders precisely because they are so unfair.

    Assaults on inquiry are far more common in the humanities – I doubt the sciences have anything to equal Campus Watch, for example. Ax grinding is as rampant in academia as anywhere else and it wasn’t so long ago that race-based argument was deemed useful if it led to any meaningful advance in treatment of certain diseases. IQ and race correlations have been demonstrated to be spurious, but that shouldn’t preclude honest inquiry into other race-based relationships, especially when the intention to ameliorate certain medical conditions is clear.

    That’s stating the obvious, of course, but intention is harder to detect. I don’t see how this helps:

    though in some cases a presumption of malice seems justified.

    Presumptions without evidence helps how, exactly? Again, in the post 9/11 humanities there have been lots of presumptions – Campus Watch being the chief purveyor.

    In any case, you want wacky? Try the Slavery Hypothesis. I was subjected to it in a graduate seminar on research methodology and never forgot it.

  56. 56
    LosGatosCA says:

    And now for something completely repetitious – the obligatory Andrew Sullivan is a completely self-centered ass and is only a 99% a waste of time reading, but why wade through the daily detritus to find the 1%.

    I’ll wait about 45 days for the next bit of his tomfoolery to become an embarrassment to him, unbeknownst to his completely un-self-aware self-proclaimed personage.

  57. 57
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Ecks: i didnt say you are a conservative…hbd is human biodiversity. razib khan and steve sailor are hbd guys.
    i once was a GNXP co-blogger, so i know those guys pretty well. Science goes out the window when their conservative principles are threatened.
    They are universally horribly racist– they do not talk crude white superiority as race and IQ– they are far more subtle.
    They talk about the superiority of “white” culture– jailtime, absentee babydaddies, etc.

    Sully links razib khan regularily– he an John Derbyshire are both horrible racists.

    if you are anything, i suspect you are a left bioluddite.
    but i could be wrong.

  58. 58
    THE says:

    Samara, did you notice that Steven Pinker is listed as one of the collaborators and advisors on the Cognitive Genomics Lab project I linked above?

  59. 59
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Ecks: there is a socio-political spectrum on this…at one end you have the left bioluddites that say IQ is meaningless because the psychometric tools we use to study it are flawed, and IQ is plastic, etc, and at the other end you have hereditarians like Dawkins and Watson that deplore the politicization of the study of intelligence…that doesnt mean they are racists– they just say racist things sometimes.
    what sully links is somewhat true, IQ and race are taboo subjects.

    but if it breaks up sully and TNC, im all for that.
    sully is an oakeshott spouting freed market priest ridden conservative shill.
    more power to TNC.

    that stupid old book by Murray has no real power–sure it confirms racist conservatives secret core beliefs– but you probably cant change those anyways.
    Because of the biology of belief and red/blue genetics.

  60. 60
    Samara Morgan says:

    @THE: yes spock, i heart steven always.

  61. 61
    Samara Morgan says:

    @cthulhu: sure that is now– but im talking about in future.
    science advances.
    cant stop the signal.

    look at what fMRI reveals about gender determination (another hot topic) for example.
    the brains of homosexuals differ in function and morphology from the brains of straights. Mens brains are different from womens brains in both form and function.
    i think ALL avenues of approach should be open to study, in the pursuit of unpicking the mechanisms of intelligence and consciousness.
    so does Dr. Watson.
    And people scream racist at me all the time here. He gets that a lot too.

    sully says research is being repressed because IQ/race is a taboo subject. this is true, don’t you think?
    but sully also links horrible stealth racists like razib khan, who actually is invested in using science to promote conservative eumemes like black inferiority.

  62. 62
    Samara Morgan says:

    @THE: i think sully is secretly a closet racist. but he wont admit it, even to himself.
    Overt racism is taboo in contemporary America.
    What sully and the Derb and razib exhibit is covert racism.

  63. 63
    Samara Morgan says:

    @cthulhu: and we cant explain the variance YET. like function and morphology of homosexual human brains. Is it environment? what environment? is it the neurohormonal cascade? is it a “gay germ” in utero? does it happen at puberty or in utero?
    needs more research.
    ;)
    what people like Dr. Watson are saying is we cant do the research on intelligence we need to do.
    sure sully links this, links that old Murray book because his biological substrate inclines him to be a stealth racist.
    he is not a scientist, he is a political creature.

  64. 64
    THE says:

    I admit there’s a couple of reasons why the genetics of IQ interest me, and race isn’t really one of them.

    I really would like to know what the biological basis of IQ variation is. It seems to me that if we knew that, we could ensure that every human achieved their maximum cognitive potential. Whether that meant closer attention to environmental factors; or even if it meant biochemical intervention in childhood, say.

    I think the price of having far-below average IQ is considerable in our society, even things like being able to use an ATM, or a smart phone, or a computer. These things require a level of cognitive skill to figure out, and some people find it too challenging – So they are permanently disadvantaged in our competitive high-tech society — Forced to rely on others or forced to avoid certain activities altogether.

  65. 65
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    @Keith G:

    I do wonder what is the back story of TNC treating this odious man with such gentle key strokes.

    …it’ really like you’ve never read Coates before now, have you?

    The entire point of my post was to say “this is how he treats a lot of points, racism and otherwise.” A cursory read of his column would have shown that, and I gave direct evidence therein — evidence discussed just after this post on the Front Page here, no less.

    That you’ve taken my “read the man and understand” approach and assumed it’s about your Tone (along with @arguingwithsignposts) tells me a lot about how this discussion around Sullivan keeps happening.

    Anyway, I just wanted to clarify this, since, misunderstandings see to fly around this point.

  66. 66
    MomSense says:

    “intelligence was inversely correlated with penis size”

    YES!! As a woman who regularly deals with males(I have three sons) I have been saying this for years. Women are a lot more intelligent than men and now I know why!

    When it comes to intelligence I am of the Forest Gump school. “Stupid is as stupid does”. Shame on Sully for promoting this crap.

  67. 67
    El Cid says:

    @Tim F.:

    The thing that offends me most about Murrayism is the effort to reify a problem rather than understand it.

    WE DON’T NEED NONE A YER DAMN FANCY PANTS THINKY THINK SCIENCE ROUND HERE! JUST LETTING BARNEY FRANK AND JIMMY CARTER ROB BANKS TO GIVE FREE HOMES TO ACORN AND THE IQ’S WILL GO UP!

  68. 68
    Samara Morgan says:

    @THE: well you are an optimizer, a tinkerer.
    im a flaming transhumanist.
    we need to be able to reverse engineer the fucking “spark” if we are ever going to get readwrite control of the legacy code.

  69. 69
    Samara Morgan says:

    hei Levenson.
    ax the juicitariat if they think there should be “controls ” on scientific research.
    that is the real question.

    science is, quite often, going to produce results people dont like.
    disagree? come up with a better model.

  70. 70
    Tlazolteotl says:

    It was a day that made me proud to be a science writer, as the great SF Chronicle¹ science editor David Perlman got up in that session and just roasted Rushton.

    So what was the gist? That would make for some good reading.

  71. 71
    THE says:

    @Samara Morgan:
    I’m a transhumanist too Samara. But I’m not sure the world is ready for that jump yet. It’s like eugenic genetic engineering. It will be used for repairing obvious deficiencies, long before we get more adventurous.

    It’s a question of acquiring experience, the requisite technology, and the mental attitudes to make the jump.

    By the way it doesn’t surprise me in the least that China is playing a leading role on this research. I have spoken to you of this before. USA is conflicted on this stuff. China is not. The tradition of alchemically-sustained, wise immortals runs deep with her. Our transhumans are her Xiān 仙.

  72. 72
    cthulhu says:

    @Samara Morgan: Listen, I’ve actually done fMRI studies and with carefully controlled stimuli and even dosed pharmacologic interventions, the noise is tremendous. I’ll grant that it is a hot paradigm at the moment but I’ll let you in on a little secret: the statistical methods underpinning the whole enterprise are a bit suspect.

    As for the gene side of things, for any one phenotypical behavior, there’s going be dozens of ways to genetically get there because there are likely different combinations of protein production that yield the same or similar effects. For example, in a particular brain area, are you not making enough serotonin or is it getting cleared out of the synpaptic cleft too fast?

    As to the gay thing, I expect that as time goes on, the “inheritability” of “gayness” will decrease. With less negative social pressure there will be more experimentation and then were are your definitions? Sure, there is likely something biological to it but why would any one care? It doesn’t much matter to me even if people were to consciously choose to be gay and I expect more and more people will come to the same conclusion.

    And really, what is the goal of correlating IQ to anything? What exactly do you want to accomplish?

    This discussion reminds me of listening to Alan Leshner tell a large group of drug dependence researchers that we just need to find that “one switch in the brain for addiction.” I could not believe the Director of NIDA (at the time) could take such a simplistic view, even metaphorically. I was both bemused and horrified.

  73. 73
    Maus says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    im a flaming transhumanist. we need to be able to reverse engineer the fucking “spark” if we are ever going to get readwrite control of the legacy code.

    Your analogies are embarrassing to read.

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