Derbtown

Why We Can’t Talk About IQ

August 15, 2013

View as Single Page
Why We Can’t Talk About IQ

Human nature is in the news: intelligence and prejudice.

First, disgraced conservative analyst Jason Richwine published a piece on Politico.com under the rather plaintive title “Why Can’t We Talk About IQ?

(In case you’ve lost track of all the political-incorrectness defenestrations, Richwine’s was the one before Paula Deen’s. His was in May; hers, in June. July was Riley Cooper. A target for the August Two Minutes Hate has not yet been selected. You will be informed.)

The occasion of Richwine’s disgrace was the unearthing, back when the immigration debate was hot, of his 2009 Harvard Ph.D. dissertation titled “IQ and Immigration Policy.” The dissertation used some known facts about IQ differences between American whites and Hispanics to argue for IQ-selective immigration.

“This is how we are: jumbles of superstition, emotion, self-deception, and social conformism, with reason and science trotting along behind trying to keep up.”

Second, Geoffrey Wodtke, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, has done a study which, according to a reporter, claims to show that “Smart people are just as racist as their less intelligent peers—they’re just better at concealing their prejudice.”

I’m sorry to say that my reaction to both items was a cynical “Duh!”

I mean no disrespect to Jason Richwine. He has behaved admirably, refusing to kneel to the Red Guards. From the Politico piece:

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?

It’s only that Jason, who can hardly be more than thirty, has not yet grasped an important thing about humanity at large: that most of our thinking is magical, superstitious, religious, social, and egotistical. Very little of it is empirical. I myself am as stone-cold an empiricist as you’ll meet in a month of Sundays; yet every day when I walk my dog there is a certain tree I have to pat as we pass it. (It’s on the wrong side of the road. The family joke is that I shall one day be hit by a truck while crossing the road to pat my lucky tree.)

Hence Jason’s puzzlement that 25 years after Snyderman and Rothman, 19 years after The Bell Curve and the follow-up “Mainstream Science on Intelligence” declaration, the public discourse even in quality outlets is dominated by innumerate journo-school graduates parroting half-remembered half-truths from Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, the greatest work of Cultural Marxist propaganda yet produced.

That’s how we are. That’s the shape of human nature. Alan Cromer explained it in his 1993 book Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science. Not many people can think empirically much of the time. At the aggregate level, where the lowest common denominator takes over and social acceptance is at the front of everyone’s mind, empiricism doesn’t stand a chance unless it delivers some useful technology.

Nor is it quite the case that “emotion trumps reason.” What mostly trumps reason is the yearning for respectability, leading us to conform to ambient dogmas—in the present-day West, the dogmas of Cultural Marxism, which waft around us like a noxious vapor.