Thursday, April 16, 2009

IQ and "conventional wisdom"   posted by Razib @ 4/16/2009 11:19:00 PM

Several people have emailed me (and emails and forward are appreciated by the way) about two articles in The New York Times about IQ. IQ Harmed by Epilepsy Drug in Utero, which Steve's already commented on. And the most emailed article currently, Nicholas Kristof's How to Raise Our IQ. Some of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning might have noticed that I long ago stopped talking much about psychometrics. Why? I'd rather not waste my time trying to convince smart people that they are actually smarter than stupid people. If I had a penny every time someone with an elite college education in the hard sciences explained that "they don't believe in IQ".... Of course, on the other hand these aren't the huge majority of people. Many who were nerds or of high intelligence know that there's a qualitative difference between themselves and the herd, in particular those from families with several siblings where psychometric variance is rather obvious. How much more "shared" can environment exactly get?

But in any case, many of the intelligent refuse to assent to the position that intelligence actually exists, and that it can be measured. A few conversations aren't going change opinions here, as the opinions aren't based on empirical data. Rather, it's a theory to which one is socialized (and which socialization can reverse, but this requires a great deal of time investment which isn't going to happen with most people). My own experience with the crowd that runs with Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky is that 1) they tend toward the retarded end of social intelligence 2) are invariably accepting of, or open to, the reality of g. In other words, my assumption is that most people who "don't believe in intelligence," don't for reasons of socialization, because they know the rewards built into the incentive structure of human groups for conformity. Of course, there is "believe," and then there is believe. The same people who don't believe in intelligence are proud of their GRE scores, convinced that Republicans and religious people have lower IQs, and outraged when the mentally deficient, as measured on IQ tests, are executed. This probably reflects some mental modularity. People might say they don't believe in IQ, but the decisions they make are to some extent informed by the assumption that intelligence exists, and individuals vary. This shouldn't be a surprise, our executive functions have only a loose control over the different subfunctions which define our cognition. Ironically it might reflect the limits of the conscious rationalin enforcing its well on subconsciously operating modules. The long arm of intelligence reaches only so far into the crevasses of one's mind.

So the best way to increase the intelligence of your offspring? Fuse your gametes with someone intelligent! You don't even have to believe in intelligence to do this, as many who do just this don't. The main issue isn't that people won't be a position to fuse their gametes with individuals in the same range as themselves in terms of intelligence. Rather, it's that they won't let the fusion come to fruition!

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