May 22, 2008

Updated: Latest IQ brouhaha

Update: Here's Bruce's article.

Okay, everybody, it's time to all act as if we're shocked, shocked to hear that rich kids have higher IQs than poor kids on average. From the U.K. Guardian:

Student union rejects academic's IQ claims

· Paper suggests class is key to academic ability

· Findings dismissed as wrong and irresponsible

Polly Curtis, education editor

Elite universities are failing to recruit working-class students because IQ is, on average, determined by [I think they mean "correlated with"] social class, according to an academic.

Bruce Charlton, a reader in evolutionary psychiatry at Newcastle University, claims that the greater proportion of students from higher social classes at highly selective universities is not a sign of admissions prejudice but rather the result of simple meritocracy.

Student union leaders responded angrily to his claim, which was also dismissed by a minister.

Charlton's paper, reported today in Times Higher Education, says: "The UK government has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social-class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes.

"Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented. Nevertheless, the accusation has been used to fuel a populist 'class war' agenda. Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes."

He argues: "The highly unequal class distributions seen in elite universities compared with the general population are unlikely to be due to prejudice or corruption in the admissions process. On the contrary, the observed pattern is a natural outcome of meritocracy. Indeed, anything other than very unequal outcomes would need to be a consequence of non-merit-based selection methods."

The National Union of Students described the paper as "wrong-headed, irresponsible and insulting".

Gemma Tumelty, NUS president, said: "Of course, social inequality shapes people's lives long before they leave school, but the higher education sector cannot be absolved of its responsibility to ensure that students from all social backgrounds are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential ... many talented individuals from poor backgrounds are currently not given the same opportunities as those from more privileged backgrounds. This problem will not be addressed as long as academics such as Bruce Charlton are content to accept the status quo and do nothing to challenge the inherent class bias in education."

So, it's all Bruce's fault. Him and James Watson's.

Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union for acedemic [They don't call it The Grauniad for nothing!] staff, said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life. However, research has shown that students from state schools outperform their independent contemporaries when they reach university."

Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, told the Times Higher Education that Charlton's arguments had a definite tone of "people should know their place".

Here's Bruce's homepage. I don't think his article is online yet.

Here's something Steven Pinker told me when I interviewed him in 2002 and it's truer than ever:

Q: Aren't we all better off if people believe that we are not constrained by our biology and so can achieve any future we choose?

A: People are surely better off with the truth. Oddly enough, everyone agrees with this when it comes to the arts. Sophisticated people sneer at feel-good comedies and saccharine romances in which everyone lives happily ever after. But when it comes to science, these same people say, "Give us schmaltz!" They expect the science of human beings to be a source of emotional uplift and inspirational sermonizing.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

34 comments:

Audacious Epigone said...

The journal BGC edits can be found in blogform here.

BGC said...

Hi! - Bruce Charlton (author of the article)

I have posted it online at:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2008/05/social-class-iq-differences-and.html

Readers will see that this argument is merely basic scientifically-uncontroversial psychology and simple maths...

John Craig said...

One of the more interesting aspects of the IQ nature/ nurture "controversy" to emerge over the past forty years is that only notoriously abrasive and difficult people seem willing to speak honestly about it. (This is not a comment on Mr. Sailer.)
William Shockley, who gained fame as the inventor of the transistor, also gained everlasting infamy as one of the first to speak openly of the genetic origin of the racial gap in IQ. He was also outspoken about the tendency of IQ to show a reversion towards the mean, in fact was once quoted as saying,
"My own children are good examples of that." (What kind of father says this?)
James Watson, of double helix fame, has also more recently gained a measure of infamy with his recent unguarded comments about race and IQ. He, too, has a reputation as a hard man to get along with. I just happened to be watching a show ("Lord of the Ants") on PBS a couple nights ago about the great sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, and at one point Wilson said that Watson was the most difficult personality he ever had to deal with. (They later became friends.)
Larry Summers, who blurted out a few un-PC comments about women and science, was notoriously abrupt and rude in faculty meetings at Harvard. Yet he was far more perspicacious, or at least honest, about gender differences than were his colleagues in Cambridge.
David Duke has been far more outspoken -- and honest -- about racial differences in intelligence (and other traits) than most. Yet Duke actually shows many of the traits of a sociopath (compulsive gambling and womanizing, alienating just about everybody who ever worked with him, using moneys which had been donated to his cause for personal expenses, etc.). And Duke's background (an alcoholic mother and absent father) makes it easier to believe he is in fact a sociopath.
Are these the kinds of personalities it takes to speak honestly about the heritability of IQ? What does this say about how cowed (and weak) most of us are? What does it say about the stranglehold that political correctness has on our public discourse? What does it say about the success that those who enforce PC values have had in brainwashing people into believing that anybody capable of honest empirical observation is evil?
Mr. Sailer, perhaps you can break this trend. (Then again, I don't know you personally, though I'd guess from your sense of humor that you don't fit this abrasive mold.)

simon newman said...

Since the UK scrapped the meritocratic Grammar School system, I wouldn't be surprised if high IQ students from poor backgrounds were underrepresented at elite UK Universities. That said, my impression when I was at Oxford (as a Grammar school kid from Northern Ireland) was that the rich 'public' (ie private) school students were at least as smart as and certainly better educated than the affirmative action 'comprehensive' state-school students, who were admitted on lower grades.

Born Again Democrat said...

Here is one true statment in the critique, even though it doesn't nullify the main thesis:

"many talented individuals from poor backgrounds are currently not given the same opportunities as those from more privileged backgrounds"

What with legacies, and the degree to which the Ivies draw from blue state areas, it is obvious that a lot of talented red state people don't get in -- though more than a few apply.

Then there is the inescapable problem of available resources. Though I was a talented math guy, as I later found out, in high school if I wanted to learn, say, calculus, I was going to have to invent it myself. Even my math teacher could not point me in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

This is the bit I like:

Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union for acedemic staff, said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life. However, research has shown that students from state schools outperform their independent contemporaries when they reach university."

There is no equivocation about students on average, so what she is saying that expensive private education does nothing, in fact its actually counter-productive! Once they are all at the same university, state students do better. I do hope thats not due to some, you know, innate advantage they have.

I would be interested to about this research she mentions.

testing99 said...

Pinker's error is that "sophisticated people" are not that sophisticated. Their ideas of comedies are things that conform to their tastes and ideals. Meanwhile, things that make money are "schmaltzy" because ordinary people watch them to escape the dreariness of ordinary life, not for status and stimulation.

I am less than impressed with data that shows upper class Brits have higher IQs than lower class ones. Having met a number of both, I'd put them in the same box of low IQ.

I'd like to see another study with public data sets and description of methodology.

As a practical matter, "establishing" that one set of people are "stupid" is a scheme for eternal resentment and transfer payments from the "smart" to the "stupid" or endless pogroms against "smart" people ala Indonesia or Malaysia.

Marc said...

Are these the kinds of personalities it takes to speak honestly about the heritability of IQ? What does this say about how cowed (and weak) most of us are?

I don't think it has as much to do with being cowed and weak as it does with just wanting to get along with others and ahead in life. Most people aren't going to ruin relationships and sabotage their careers over an issue that, while it is of great importance to the long-term well being of this and other countries, is not of much importance to their own, short-term well-being.

dearieme said...

Plenty of people SAY that they don't believe in IQ, don't believe that intelligence is partly heritable, and so on. But are there any people who actually live their lives in accord with these dicta?

Anonymous said...

john craig said

Mr. Sailer,[...]I'd guess from your sense of humor that you don't fit this abrasive mold.

Don't kid yourself, Johnny.

Sailer is as abrasive as they come.

n/a said...

banalneocon:

I am less than impressed with data that shows upper class Brits have higher IQs than lower class ones. Having met a number of both, I'd put them in the same box of low IQ.


Which box do Israelis go in?

Anonymous said...

I am less than impressed with data that shows upper class Brits have higher IQs than lower class ones. Having met a number of both, I'd put them in the same box of low IQ.

So the reported Brit IQ of @100, thats being expressed where exactly? Not in higher or lower class Brits, so where? Or is that 100 figure wrong?

Anonymous said...

john craig,
You raise a very good question. For me personally, I'm the opposite of abrasive. I'm a woman, too, so I may be different. As a teenager I was constantly told I was the sweetest person, once even told I was the sweetest person this one individual ever met, compared to "Mary" of the "Little House" series, etc. I do have a huge mischievous streak, though :) When I am about to say something a little "hot" about I.Q. etc., I cannot suppress a smile to save my life. From reading this blog, I think I'm not alone. BTW, Born Again Democrat, I made the smart aleck comment in another thread about being "verklempt" and my blood sugar going up due to your take on Barack Obama. I was laughing when I wrote that as I usually am when I visit this site. No animosity. Schmaltz will get you savagely ridiculed at this site :)
Emily
Emily

John Craig said...

Marc -- Point well taken, though the fact that those of us on the nature side of the nature/nurture argument have to stay in the closet does seem a little pathetic (and I include myself in that number).
Anonymous who told me not to kid myself -- I'm guessing you're Mr. Sailer.

Dan Kurt said...

re: "Hi! - Bruce Charlton (author of the article)"

Read your entry linked here "Death can be cured!" and under #[5] Stevenson I. The phenomenon of claimed memories of previous lives: possible interpretations and importance. 2000;54:652–9 [Birthmarks are proof of reincarnation], I see you making fun of the late Psychiatrist. Now, I have little or no use for shrinks but that particular one perhaps is on to something. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is some evidence for reincarnation. In the popular book Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence For Past Lives (Hardcover) by Thomas Shroder [Simon & Schuster (August 5, 1999) ISBN-10: 068485192X,
ISBN-13: 978-0684851921] the author presents for the layman some of Ian Stevenson's evidence. If you have the time ( perhaps after you are fired for telling the truth on IQ ) reading the Shroder book would be enlightening.

Dan Kurt

James B. Shearer said...

I found BGC's article confusing as he appears to be ignoring regression to the mean entirely. The difference in average IQ between upper and lower class children will be less than the difference in average IQ between upper and lower class parents because of regression to the mean. I believe this means his conclusions are substantially overstated.

Anonymous said...

Sally Hunt, who, judging by her quote, would seem to hold very odd ideas about the value of education, has her own blog.

Anonymous said...

There is a thread developing here at The Scotsman. The attacks on it are the usual Frankenstein's monster of denigration, anecdote and include what I suspect are the fitful, twitching re-animated remains of Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure book - and the truly bizzare claim that Bruce Charlton is some sort of neo-con shill!

Born Again Democrat said...

Emily:

"Schmaltz will get you savagely ridiculed at this site"

See me outside. luke.lea@gmail.com

John of London said...

This needs a few points about the English class system (Scotland has its own). 7% of children go to private schools, of which the most prestigious are called Public Schools. 13 Members of the Shadow Cabinet (the Conservative government-in-waiting)went to the top one (Eton). It has been well known for ever that Oxford and Cambridge, in particular, admitted mostly public schoolboys. There was until recently no secret about this; individual colleges had links with individual public schools. the bias continues for a number of reasons. Candidates are assessed by people from that background, who see similarity to themselves as "merit". Public schools have more resources to prepare pupils for Oxbridge entrance exams than state schools; and their teachers are more likely to know the ropes wrt Oxbridge admission.
In England the manual and clerical working classes are socially distinct, and clerical workers are often referred to as lower middle class altho earning no more than manual workers. It is would-be students from this lower middle class who are actually discriminated against; but their protests were cleverly outflanked by unachievable demands to get a representative proportion of manual workers' children in to university. This, of course, suits the public school elite, because it ain't gonna happen. The reason most manual workers' children don't do very well academically is because for various reasons they don't particularly want to. This makes it extra tough for those who do. There is also a working-class fear of the debt involved in going to university.
IMO, it doesn't much matter if Oxford and Cambridge don't take many state-school pupils. why would the latter want to go to places dominated by public schoolboys, anyway? THe problem in Britain is the excessive influence of public-school-and-Oxbridge grads in most institutions.

Graham Asher said...

England is much more meritocratic than people think - and more brash and competitive. Although there is an irritating class system, the class system manifests itself more in snobbery than actual barriers that might prevent people from rising and falling according to their merits. There's a strong correlation here between IQ and how much money you have, and a slightly weaker, but still strong one between IQ and social class. Bruce Charlton is obviously right, but these sort of things are unfortunately not spoken about in polite society.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear things are well in Rotten old England---I mean Jolly Old England. No wonder so many came here from that gloomy, godforsaken pit.

Anonymous said...

One of the more interesting aspects of the IQ nature/ nurture "controversy" to emerge over the past forty years is that only notoriously abrasive and difficult people seem willing to speak honestly about it. (This is not a comment on Mr. Sailer.)

The shoe fits me to a T!

Svigor

Anonymous said...

"many talented individuals from poor backgrounds are currently not given the same opportunities as those from more privileged backgrounds"

The downside of privilege is it saps motivation (put more diplomatically, the poor have more reason to be hungry). But, we aren't meant to mention this I suppose.

Svigor

none of the above said...

Svigor:

Poorer people may have more urgent need for money, but they also are likely to need less to feel successful. If you grew up poor, then reaching the middle class is unambiguous success--you can proudly say that you're the first kid in your family to graduate college and become a schoolteacher or whatever. If you grew up in a wealthier, more successful family, success is harder to achieve. If you're the schoolteacher in the family full of doctors, it's going to be hard not to feel a bit like a failure.

none of the above said...

john craig:

I think there's a certain detachment from social norms that's necessary to think clearly about areas in which your society is crazy. I wouldn't be surprised if that was related to being pretty hard to live with, day to day.

I find that it takes a real effort of will to think about socially unacceptable stuff. I wonder if the habit of doing that makes you more abrasive, or if being abrasive makes the habit easier to form.

john craig said...

None of the Above --

I honestly don't think it takes that much effort to think clearly about the role of genetics in determining IQ, a simple perusal of the (scientific) literature will convince most open-minded people of the nature side of the argument. My point was rather about the willingness of people to speak publicly about it. There's so much social pressure to squelch any finding that might lead to un-PC conclusions that only someone who is spoiling for a fight is going to point out publicly that the emperor has no clothes. And it seems that the people who are spoiling for a fight on this subject are usually people whose nature it is to enjoy, or at least not mind, verbal fisticuffs, i.e., abrasive types. It's an unfortunate state of affairs when the opposition is so powerful that most (not all, but most) of the spokesmen for our side are are by nature misfits.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the habit of doing that makes you more abrasive, or if being abrasive makes the habit easier to form.

In my experience, it's a bit of both.

I think I'm mostly a critical thinker (and racially aware) because I was raised by one. Sure, my nature is receptive, but if I hadn't had thinking for myself drummed into me in my youth, I doubt I'd be where I am today politically.

Svigor

Anonymous said...

John Craig 5/24/2008

I agree. Thinking about this stuff isn't that hard. Internally, I suspect support for the PC cult is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Having the brass to bring it up (and not wilt in the face of a little opprobrium) is another matter entirely. Externally the power is significant.

Funny thing is, once I bring out people's "inner racist" they often won't STFU about it. :)

I'm sure I've pointed out that study before; the one where 9 shills can get 1 rube to say the sky is green the vast majority of the time, but once 1 shill defects so does the rube? I see that study as an encapsulation of the dynamic at work in the culture war. I'll dig it up if anyone wants it.

Svigor

none of the above said...

I've noticed that a lot of people have sort of socially unacceptable default assumptions or observations. Plenty of folks will more-or-less acknowledge that the group IQ rankings are no surprise--nobody's shocked to hear that Jews do way better than blacks, say. But not so many seem to have thought deeply about the implications of those issues. It's kind of hard to think deeply along those lines.

I think the difficulty has to do with the general problem of deception. Think about living in a society where being part of the religion is critical to your place in that society. Lots of people in that society quietly harbor doubts, may even rather doubt that there's any such thing as God. Those quiet doubts are not so hard to hide, and most religions view them as weakness rather than evil.

But if you spend a lot of time thinking along those lines, and develop a pretty complete worldview that sees religion as silly and the church as worthy of only contempt, you've got a much bigger set of ideas and reactions to hide. It's like the difference between not letting the boss know you think his wife is hot, and not letting the boss know you're sleeping with his wife. The deception required is much greater, and the stakes are high enough to make it pretty stressful to try.

john craig said...

"Plenty of folks will more-or-less acknowledge that the group IQ rankings are no surprise--nobody's shocked to hear that Jews do way better than blacks, say. But not so many seem to have thought deeply about the implications of those issues. It's kind of hard to think deeply along those lines."

None of the above:
I understand your point, and I appreciate your analogy of lusting after the boss's wife vs. actually sleeping with her. But I think there's an inherent contradiction in your first paragraph. The reason most folks aren't shocked to hear of the IQ difference between Jews and blacks is prcisely because of the wider implications of those issues. People aren't shocked to hear that Jews have higher than average IQs because so many of the Forbes 400, so many successful writers, so many heads of corporations, etc, are Jewish. (I will admit that most people aren't aware of the role that Jewish cohesiveness plays in this success.) And the reason people aren't shocked to hear that blacks have lower than average IQs because they are familiar with crime rates, the history of Africa, the existence of affirmative action, etc. All this stuff is evidence we are pretty much hit over the head with every day. What seems to me to require the larger amount of effort is to willfully blind oneself to it, and then strenuously deny it. Ask yourself this: who went through more mental gymnastics and contortions, the townspeople who convinced themselves that the emperor was wearing a beautiful outfit, or the little boy who pointed out that he had no clothes? Now, admittedly, a lot of those townspeople must have just been paying lip service in order to get along, but it seems that these days in our global village a lot of townspeople have actually convinced themselves that differences in native intelligence don't exist.

john craig said...

Svigor:
I like (and feel reassured by) your description of the PC cult as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." But the brainwashing itself goes pretty deep, too. As exhibit A I'd offer that whenever I bring up the subject to acquaintances, and give the standard proof on the subject of IQ heritability (separated twin studies, adoptive children studies, reversion towards different means, the entire history of the world) they will tend to get the same sheepish expression on their faces that they might get if, say, they were discussing their personal masturbatory habits. The mere fact that they are embarrassed to have to to discuss the role of genetics, the fact that this subject is disturbing, is proof of the powerful hold that the MSM has. (Would anybody get that same sheepish expression when discussing, say, gender differences in muscular strength? No, most people would probably look impatient and perhaps annoyed that anyone would want to even discuss such an obvious fact.)
Your point about the brass required is well taken too. I happen to know Jared Taylor personally (we both ran track at the same secondary school in Japan). He's actually gone to Queen Latifah's studio on one occasion, Howard University on another, to deliver his racialist message. I just can't imagine the balls it takes to do that. (He, btw, has a gentlemanly demeanor, and is an exception to the trend I noted above of only abrasive types arguing our point of view.)

Truth said...

(I will admit that most people aren't aware of the role that Jewish cohesiveness plays in this success.) And the reason people aren't shocked to hear that blacks have lower than average IQs..."

So you surmise (or rationalize) that Jewish 'success' is highly determinant upon factors that have nothing to do with IQ, but black "failure" isn't?

john craig said...

I was referring public perceptions about average IQs. I said that both average IQ and ethnic cohesiveness play a role in Jewish success. And I never said that blacks' relative socioeconomic status was due solely to IQ; I said that people are not shocked to hear of the difference in average IQ because they are already well aware of all the other factors I mentioned. These other factors, btw, are caused by a number of reasons, but one of them is surely IQ. (I know of no one on the nature side of the nature/nurture argument who denies the strong role that environment plays; the people on the nurture side, however, prefer to completely deny any role to genetics.)