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February 18, 2003

Discussion on intelligence

Over @ Matthew Yglesias' blog they are talking about IQ & the new brain scan results. I'm going to be a bit busy with a coding project, so I invite (on Matthew's behalf) all the heathens at Gene Expression to jump into the fray and enlighten those baptised by the True Faith of NoGeneralIntelligenseism....

(thanks to Charlie Murtaugh for mentioning GNXP so that I saw this commentary in my logs-normally I don't venture into those corners of the blogosphere where Yglesias & Co. reside)

Posted by razib at 12:26 PM




For what it's worth, I don't consider myself to be a NoGeneralIntelligenser. All I was trying to say is that society is still going to want to have measures of performance no matter how good our measurements of innate general intelligence get. Simply put, in a vast variety of situations innate general intelligence isn't the only thing that matters.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias at February 18, 2003 12:29 PM


i was talking about your message boards :)

someone with such a high IQ as you must I assume see the self-evident reality of "general intelligence" :) philosophers are trained to think after all....

additionally, i think everyone tends to oversimplify in any conversation about g and its relationship to performance in the real world. i think that is must be remembered that a high level of g is probably a prerequisite for some professions, but no guarantee of success and prominence (i would not be surprised if an IQ of 140 is necessary to be a good professional mathematician, but that the correlation with research productivity & eminence shows a weaker tendency beyond the critical threshhold).

Posted by: razib at February 18, 2003 12:30 PM


I sometimes forget (maybe I spend too much time here) just how clueless otherwise educated and imtelligent people are about this subject. As the saying goes, it's not what they don't know, it's what they DO know that just ain't so...

Posted by: jimbo at February 18, 2003 01:58 PM


Matthew -

Your comment on your blog is contradictory - if such a test was a good measure of g, than people who scored high on it must also score high on any other g-loaded test. (otherwise it wouldn't be a good measure - I mean, an IQ test that can't predict your performance on another IQ test is by definition a pretty piss-poor test...) You seem to be saying that you don't beleive that such a test could possibly be a true measure of g. From this it would follow that you don't believe that g is a physical attribute that can measured - which is another way of saying that g doesn't really exist...

And as for the feasibility of such tests, I'm seem to remember some people who had a pretty good one that involved EKG readings. (MRIs are kinda prices for routine IQ testing,,,) As far as I know, the "testless test" has been around for quite some time now. Any GNXPers have any better info on this?

Posted by: jimbo at February 18, 2003 02:12 PM


Jimbo:
"...I'm seem to remember some people who had a pretty good one that involved EKG readings."

EKG measures the heart's electrical activity so I presume you must mean EEG which measures the brain's activity. EEG is actually a crappy test for most things- it was designed to look for signs of seizures but can often miss them even in patients who've had the test. It would surprise the hell out of me if they were useful to predict IQ. O/W I agree with your post.

Posted by: -R at February 18, 2003 02:58 PM


You're right - it was EEG, but, looking it up "The G factor" (pg 152), it seems that people have gotten better results with "average evoked potential" tests that measure response to auditory stimulus...

Posted by: jimbo at February 18, 2003 03:11 PM


*sigh* thrown to the wolves:

This is the sort of thing I've come to expect out of the Gene Expressors (who tend to the sort of unhealthy obsession that I mention above)*

* people with an unhealthy obsession about the intellectual capacity of blacks tended to be those most interested in the genetic basis of intelligence....Still, though, granting the ugliness of some participants' motives shouldn't suffice to end the discussion

Maybe I'll talk about this more later when I've got time, but that anything I think or say is somehow "unhealthy" is not true. Politically I'm Center-Left. Socially, I have always had more friends of non-white (or partially white) ethnicity. I'm truly baffled. If someone can find a quote of mine that indicates the slightest bit of hate, or tell me why an interest in anything is somehow unhealthy feel free. (Seriously, Stephen Jay Gould studied snails for a living, is that an "unhealthy obsession", or is it only unhealthy when you're interested in people? Nothing hurts me more than to be called something I know I'm not.

Posted by: Jason at February 20, 2003 01:19 PM


I didn't mean that you were a racist -- I actually even edited my original post to make it clear that people interested in heritable g "tended" (past tense) to be racialists. And you in particular I don't know enough to judge, Jason, but old Godless C? I would tag him with the moniker any day, and have. But you can't tell me that GNXP, all together, "tends toward" an obsession with race and IQ, healthy or not, and I do think it unhealthy. It is unlikely to shed any light on present or future social policy, regardless of the answers, and will more likely than not simply make things worse.

Posted by: Charlie Murtaugh at February 20, 2003 05:02 PM


Sorry, change above to: "... you can't tell me that GNXP, all together, doesn't 'tend toward' an obsession ..."

Posted by: Charlie Murtaugh at February 20, 2003 05:04 PM


"...obsession with race and IQ, healthy or not, and I do think it unhealthy. It is unlikely to shed any light on present or future social policy, regardless of the answers, and will more likely than not simply make things worse."

Is it just me, or is this a fairly explicit statement of the notion that "there are forbidden topics of which we dare not speak?"

Perhaps it's just my own prejudice, but as one degreed in physics, working in engineering, and indulging in sports like rock climbing and skydiving, I feel pretty strongly that refusing to face the facts of reality is an excellent way of making ourselves less successful at living... and perhaps even making ourselves dead, in the worst of cases. In any event, Charles, I'm afraid I won't grant you the right to decide what I am allowed to consider. Sorry.

Posted by: Troy at February 23, 2003 01:38 AM