May 18, 2014

Nicholas Wade and Creativity v. Intelligence

Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance tries to sidestep the controversial subject of intelligence and focus more upon creativity. Clearly, most of the creativity in the world in recent centuries has come out of the west.

To some extent this is an optical illusion because we have the individual names of almost all Western artists and scientists since maybe 1500. Since we don't have the names of many of the artists involved in Gothic Cathedrals in the Middle Ages, it's easy for pundits to overlook them. Similarly, we only have a vague notion of who was chief architect of the Shah Jahan's Taj Mahal in the 17th Century.

But, most of the rest of the world was indeed stultifying after 1500, with Japan as an exception that was making steady progress.

The problem with creativity, is that we feel that we know it when we see it, but it's hard to quantify in the present, much less predict in the future. IQ has been studied intensively for a century, and we now know that it not only works pretty well in the present but as a predictor of future developments (e.g., Ian Deary's recent work tracking down surviving Scots who took a national IQ tests as 11-year-olds in 1932). And it seems to be fairly heritable, which probably is the chief reason we relatively few radical changes over time in national average IQs.

Creativity remains somewhat difficult to measure in the present and notably hard to predict in the future, with various national golden ages of this or that happening regularly.

Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment art and science creativity metrics work reasonably well in hindsight, leaving a half-century lag. Yes, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Wagner were creative. No question about it. 

But looking forward, it's hard to say. If you asked me on the way to the screening of The Matrix Reloaded if the Wachowski Brothers were the most creative filmmaker of our time, I probably would have said yes. On the way home, maybe not.

And what really matters isn't the judgment of critics like me, but of future creative artists. All the 19th Century composers were enthralled by or rebelled against Beethoven. It's the impact of Ludwig van upon  Schumann, Berlioz, Brahms, and Debussy that matters. And it's hard to predict what creative and thus surprising artists of the future will be influenced by.

Likewise, the bigness of the tent of "creativity" -- Michelangelo and Shakespeare, but also Newton and Einstein, and Ford and Wozniak, well, that's a big tent.

So, because the most creative is the most unexpected, I've usually been less eager to opinionize about the future of creativity than of intelligence. Of course, it's because scientists know more about intelligence than creativity that we aren't supposed to talk about differences in IQ.
    

97 comments:

Terry Pratchett said...

Perhaps the genius is struck by Creatons. A burst of Creative Particles that irradiate from little understood Craftholes that populate the nether regions of the universe.

Anonymous said...

What creativity? It is dying out completely. Music, Arts, where are the breathtaking inspiring works that we saw in earlier centuries? Rock and early rap imo were the last gasps of artistic creativity. Don't confuse technology and science with creativity. Classical music and art died centuries ago. A casualty of the modern and post-modern zeitgeist.

Ray Sawhill said...

"If you asked me on the way to the screening of The Matrix Reloaded if the Wachowski Brothers were the most creative filmmaker of our time, I probably would have said yes. On the way home, maybe not." Steve at his droll best. That "maybe" is genius.

One of the most common things to run across in the arts 'n' media worlds: the superbright person who desperately wants to be creative but just doesn't have any creativity in him. (Ahhhh -- critics and professors -- choo!) Another one: the hyper-creative person who's quite, you know, dumb. So -- and FWIW -- I've concluded that intellectual horsepower and creativity just aren't very connected to each other, and I take creativity to be something like athletic talent. This may not jibe with anyone's theory of anything, but as a guide to life it works pretty well, I've found.

BTW, does anyone want to take a stab at accounting for African-American music in HBD terms? It's certainly one of the two or three big cultural success stories of the last century ...

Anonymous said...

""""""""So, because the most creative is the most unexpected, I've usually been less eager to opinionize about the future of creativity than of intelligence. Of course, it's because scientists know more about intelligence than creativity that we aren't supposed to talk about differences in IQ."""""""""


Intelligence = Objective

Creativity = Subjective


One is easier to quantify while the other is more (subjectively) quality based.

Josh said...

I think that intelligence is deductive thinking and that creativity is spontaneous thinking.

Take a mathematical proof. Many mathematicians will not understand a proof on their first reading of it, even though all of the information required to understand the current step is contained in the preceding step.

The variation in understanding a proof is a function of intelligence. Smart people are better at following deductive arguments then less smart people. Notice that no creativity is required in following deductive arguments because all of the information required to understand the current step is contained in the preceding step.

Creativity is unlike deduction in that the information required to understand the current step is not contained in the preceding step. The information seems to emerge from nowhere. Some people are really good at spontaneously generating information. These people are creative, and they are not necessarily good at deductive thinking, hence we often see creative people who are not that bright.

Anonymous said...

If I had to, just had to, use a proxy measure for creativity across cultures/nations/races, I'd have to use "intellectual property," which can be measured.

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Economy/Patents-granted

Japan, South Korea, US, Sweden, Germany... Why am I not surprised?

Anonymous said...

intelligence is navigation through light

creativity is discovery through darkness

Anonymous said...

'black' guy

https://www.google.com/search?q=Dean+Baquet&es_sm=122&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=YZR5U7afM4SJqgaqt4KYDQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAg&biw=1024&bih=653

Anonymous said...

But, most of the rest of the world was indeed stultifying after 1500, with Japan as an exception that was making steady progress.

Actually, most of the civilized world was making incremental progress. It's just that the West experienced a revolutionary process -- RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs).

As much as we Westerners like to claim that our superior civilization trumped the "stultifying" East, the reality is that we were behind the East in many technological things even beyond the 16th Century. It's our sudden burst of superior military capacity (a function of both revolution in military technology AND organization and doctrine) that allowed us to conquer the world, absorb its riches and then build a superior civilization with the enormous surplus.

People forget that technologically backward, but militarily capable civilizations frequently overcome their civilizational betters through contest of arms and then go on to build flourishing civilizations, and then look backward to justify their victory on the grounds of being better people and civilizations. History says otherwise.

No less a race-realist as J.P. Rushton thought that the Western triumph during the 16-21st Century was not a permanent feature but likely a temporary phase. I am not as down on the West as Rushton was, but I do think that the East "reawakened" make for a formidable rival to the West.

Lastly, Japan did not make "steady progress" since the 1500. If anything, after the victory of the Tokugawa in the civil war, Japan entered into a "stultifying" period of its own until forcibly reopened to the West and modernity by Perry and his black ships.

Japan's modern growth, as such, was largely a product of the Meiji Restoration (1868) and also the overwhelming American influence post-1945.

Anonymous said...

http://nypost.com/2014/05/11/holocaust-scammer-to-owe-22-5m-for-bogus-memoir/

A pathology

Anonymous said...

People frequently say "intelligence" when they mean "creativity". Einstein and Newton and Planck and similar people were intelligent, yes, but there were a lot of other equally intelligent people who never made those sorts of discoveries.

Given the number of people in East Asia and their IQ figures, we would expect much more creativity than actually occurs.

Auntie Analogue said...


This excerpt from a Theodore Dalrymple essay makes the distinction between what is truly creative - i.e., what is art - and what is merely the product of skill:

"It is undoubtedly true that tattooists often show astounding skill in, for example, indelibly dyeing someone’s back with a realistic portrait of a celebrity (Elvis Presley by far the most commonly). But skill is not art...and skill exercised in the production of something that ought not to have been produced at all makes it the worse, indeed much worse, rather than the better. A skilled man who produces a monstrosity is worse than an incompetent one who does the same."

The essay is here: http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/160399/sec_id/160399

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

take a mathematical proof.. (and what follows) does not sound like it was written by someone who has studied any serious, advanced math. I think the famous Hilbert quote refers to "imagination" but it is close enough to the point.

Steve, by the way, im tempted to hold the carrot of a donation over your head for a good answer to the Dodgers TV question

Full-Fledged Fiasco said...

The Country in 1950, or The Conservatism of Slavery.

John Seiler said...

Who even in 1975, when Shostakovich died; or 1976, when Britten died, could have predicted the great age of classical composers basically was over? (Pace Orff, d. 1982; Copland, d. 1990; Messiaen, d. 1992; Hovanhaness, d. 2000. In any case, nobody now.)

hardly said...

Well said, Steve. Not many people realize that the Taj Mahal was not a native Indian work at all. It was a Muslim structure designed and built by Muslims, the main ones being non Indian muslims. It's just an accident of history that it is found in India, kind of like some white male monument in South Africa.

Josh said...
I think that intelligence is deductive thinking and that creativity is spontaneous thinking.

That's interesting. I do feel that blacks are exceptionally creative but not very bright. The two seem unrelated.

Anonymous said...

I think creativity is obsession.

An over-riding desire to do something to the point where you no longer have control over it...you just HAVE to do it.



Anonymous said...

"But, most of the rest of the world was indeed stultifying after 1500, with Japan as an exception that was making steady progress."

Eh, China still had an impressive run in the arts and letters after the quatrocento, and produced one truly great philosopher in the form of Wang Yangming. A lot of the progress that the Japanese achieved during the Tokugawa period was actually just the result of continued importation of Chinese culture (i.e. ink painting, Zen Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism).

The Ming and Qing Dynasties produced some of the world's finest prose literature, although accomplishments in the field of verse during these eras was much less impressive.

Painting during the final few centuries of Chinese imperial rule was also produced remarkable innovation - particularly the individualist artists of the early Qing dynasty (Shi Tao, Ba Da Shan Ren). They are, unfortunately, underrated even within China itself.

For reasons unknown China ceded its technological edge after the 1400's, and, it goes without saying, failed to undergo any kind of scientific revolution.

It wouldn't surprise me, however, if the Middle Kingdom re-obtained domination of the sciences and technology in the very near future, now that the country has opened up. So many of the finest STEM researchers in the West are already either PRC nationals or diasporic Chinese - the best example right now being Terry Tao, who most people with knowledge and expertise on the matter considered the greatest mathematician alive.

dearieme said...

Creativity comes in the oddest bursts: classical Greece, Renaissance Italy, early modern Low Countries, enlightenment Edinburgh, industrial England, post-war California.

And what counts? I'd tend to say Portugal in the Age of Exploration should be added to the list, plus musical Germany-Austria and literary Russia. What should be excluded - Ford because he never invented anything of consequence but only proved a brilliant exploiter of existing ideas? But if that's not a sort of creativity, what is it? Do we need a new word to describe the brilliant exploiter of existing ideas? America certainly does: it was her greatest strength in her pre-IT golden age.

Anononymous said...

If science were to discover what causes creativity and could administer a test to measure it, suddenly it would become unimportant compared to a new trait that can't be measured.

sunbeam said...

I read this, and I guess I am uninterested in the theoretical debate.

But this makes me think of Asians (particularly Chinese) and the assertion that Orientals are less creative due to genetic reasons... puzzles me.

The list of inventions and technologies that were devised by the Chinese is long indeed.

With curious holes, like they didn't have the screw for the longest time (not saying they didn't use the principle, they didn't have screws), not sure why the silk road didn't go the other way on that one.

And I do tend to read every news article I come across about new technologies.

Increasingly you see Chinese scientists, universities, and companies in these things.

This has been a trend a long time in the US (notice the names on the researchers in US, usually Asian or Eastern European/Slav).

But now you are seeing it in mainland China. And I don't think it is due to Intel or whoever moving research campuses over there.

That said, I have to wonder about some of the other things.

I don't know anything about Chinese literature other than the I Ching and The Art of War (great book).

But I can tell you I find the lack of any Asian artists in the US/European music scene interesting, given how many Asians concentrate on certain types of music.

In the past you saw guys like Ray Manzarek, who was classically trained, make jump into popular music effortlessly. You would think at least one given the numbers would do the same.

Plus with close to 1.5 billion people in China, just under a quarter of the world's population you think you'd see some big act come out of there.

Whatever Gungnam Style did, Asians sure don't seem to have "it" when it comes to music.

Not sure if it is my parochial tastes or something else is going on.

Though in film, there has been the Hong Kong scene and John Woo.

Plus the Japanese have made a number of movies that have been remade by Westerners.

And that Human Caterpillar movie. That's right up there with Saw and all the Hollywood movies that play with Christian imagery to push a button.

Dan said...

Yes, the subjective grandeur of a Notre Dame or a Yorkminster. The subjective brilliance of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling or Stonehenge. The subjective brilliance of a Louis Sullivan skyscraper...mere subjective imaginary Eurotrash sribblings.

Anonymous said...

"And it seems to be fairly heritable, which probably is the chief reason we relatively few radical changes over time in national average IQs."

But we've found a solution to that problem! We can just import millions of low-IQ immigrants to replace the existing population.

Oops ... don't tell anyone I said that. I don't want to get "Jason Richwined."

Michael said...

"Intelligence = Objective

Creativity = Subjective"

To a certain degree, yes. But then people's general standards, that is their capacity to understand and appreciate artistic ingenuity and excellence, can be manipulated, as it has been over the past several decades. Hence, people's expectation for quality has been substantially degraded because it is in the corporate suits' best interest to cater to the lowest common denominator. Acclimate the populace to accept what would be considered crap by yesterday's standards. In this way, art is reduced to a mass-market science to be repackaged and regurgitated ad infinity.

Dan said...

I've always seen the flying buttress as deductive reasoning as architecture. No one knows who came up with it. One part fool one part physicist one part artist?

Grey Enlightenment said...

imho creativity is about making connections between disparate pieces of information to make something new whereas intellect is more about memorization, pattern recognition and knowledge.

Harry Baldwin said...

I've concluded that intellectual horsepower and creativity just aren't very connected to each other, and I take creativity to be something like athletic talent.

Yes, you can only discuss these matters on venues like iSteve, but I assume that many of the great blues singers weren't that bright. I enjoy their work anyway. Barack Obama probably has a higher IQ than Jimi Hendrix, but Obama ever had an original thought we haven't heart it.

I am an illustrator and some amazing artists I know just aren't that bright. However, there can be elements in an artist's work that indicate intelligence. It's obvious that someone like M.C. Escher was highly intelligent. (Of course he didn't consider himself an artist, but a mathematician.)

chucho said...

Film is just too collaborative to be compared to other art forms like painting or classical music. Yes, the director is the key creative point person, but the actors, editors, set designers, costume designers, script writers, etc all play non-trivial, creative roles in producing the final product.

Bouncing off Ray's comment--jazz often gets ignored in these discussions, and I don't think the average music listener understands just how creative a guy like Charlie Parker was. There's also the great songwriters of that era like Gershwin, Arlen, etc who have lost out in the cultural foot race to Lennon/McCartney because no one even knows that music exists nowadays.

2Degrees said...

A gentleman the Speccie comment thread called me a racist fartbag who parasitizes other people's unhappiness.

I don't know about his IQ, but I have to give him full marks for creativity.

Anonymous said...

Posted this previously, but it seems germane:

The mysteries of the fallow period. We like to think that talent is always around and that major works of art are always in the offing. But history says otherwise.Faulkner kept on writing until his death, but his muse had clearly left him by around 1942 or so. Hemingway could have blown his brains out in 1940 and it would have done no harm to his posthumous literary reputation. It might even have helped. Fitzgerald showed an exquisite sense of timing in his exit. TENDER IS THE NIGHT wasn't as good as GATSBY, but it was good enough that cultists can allow themselves the illusion that he might have managed the trick one more time.

syon

Anonymous said...

"What creativity? It is dying out completely."

My brother and I have talked about this (in our conversations, specific to movies).

My hypothesis with regard to music is that, due to recording technology, music now lasts forever, so there is no motivation to be creative. The Beatles will be around forever (as a pop example) as will Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart.

This means that every musician will be starting from virtually the same place: steeped in B,B and M or the Beatles. There is no reason to create, or rather, the best of the period 1950-2000 will always be around, so a) new stuff will almost all suck in comparison, and b) new stuff wil almost all be a reaction to the Beatles, or B,B, and M, so it will be derivative.

With regard to movies (and novels): movies today suck, but they suck in a very particular way. They are objectively better in terms of visual presentation (due to special effects). They are often paced better. Often even acted better. But they suck simply because they are written poorly.

Our hypothesis was that modern movie makers (in fact, modern people) are all children of film or visual stimuli. Old movie makers (in fact, all old people) were children of the written word.

In other words, movies (novels) suck because they are written poorly, and they are written poorly because we are in a post-literate society (obviously, not illiterate: rather, the intellect is shaped by tv and movies, even for people who read).

anonymousse.

el supremo said...

"But, most of the rest of the world was indeed stultifying after 1500, with Japan as an exception that was making steady progress."

As others have noted, this is not really the case - the huge improvements in science & technology in W. Europe after 1750 overshadow the more incremental progress in some other non-Western regions; and several non-Western civilizations had their most creative cultural ages during this period as well.

Both Japan and China during these periods showed substantial innovations in art and literature based on interpretations of their own traditions, not just derivative imports of foreign trends. Japanese art developed several new and quite innovative art styles throughout this period, and the late Ming and Mid Quing dynasties were very innovative artistic periods in China for both painting and prose. They are just not widely known in the West.

The Turkish-Persian worlds were quite creative during this period as well - the 1500 and 1600s are the high water marks of miniature painting, infrastructure, and civil and religious engineering in Turkey and Iran. Both slowed down by 1700, but the flourishing cultural scene in the two centuries before is very clear.

The Jesuits who visited China and Japan were quite impressed with the lively intellectual and cultural scene among the Chinese literati and Japanese feudal lords, and the Jesuits were quite familiar with leading edge European intellectual and cultural life.

el supremo said...

"A lot of the progress that the Japanese achieved during the Tokugawa period was actually just the result of continued importation of Chinese culture (i.e. ink painting, Zen Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism)."

Not really. The most innovative and influential artistic movements in the Tokugawa period are not based on Chinese models - the Rimpa and Kano Schools, garden design, tea ceremony and its associated ceramics and aesthetics have little to do with China.

The Nagasaki school of bird and flower painting drew on Chinese models as did the literati ink landscape painting style, however.

Japanese scientific progress during the Tokugawa era had little to do with China, and was driven by continued contact with the Dutch, who provided scientific equipment and technical manuals, which were refined and adapted by a large community of Japanese scholars.

By 1800 Japanese natural science, industrial and military technology, and printing had pulled well ahead of anything in China.

Anonymous said...

"post-war California."

Agree totally. The Beach Boys were a much better group than the Beatles.

About Japan - every time I hear that white boy HBD mantra about the white creativity I groan. Japan is incredibly creative in popular arts.

HUNGER GAMES is just a rip off of the much better BATTLE ROYALE. Both the book and the movie were far superior to the American rip offs.

Anonymous said...

Most modern painting sucks because the art schools threw out academic drawing after WWII, with the advent of abstract art. This was crazy. It's like telling music students not to learn scales and arpeggios. Basic drawing is a necessity.

On the other hand, there's been a reaction/backlash to this, with a crop of academic hacks who draw fantastically well. But their stuff is boring. Creativity is taking your drawing chops and seeing the world through your unique lens, not imitating a photograph. JMO.

Anonymous said...

As much as we Westerners like to claim that our superior civilization trumped the "stultifying" East, the reality is that we were behind the East in many technological things even beyond the 16th Century.


Some people just won't let this one go. Do we have to spend another comment thread exploding the myth of the "dark ages"? Europe was as advanced as anywhere else in the world long before the 16th century.

The Z Blog said...

Looking at old best sellers lists is a good way to understand what Steve is getting at, I think. Here's one from the 1920's: http://tinyurl.com/q8yb24e

All of those authors were probably discussed as important at the time. Faulkner was publishing in the 20's and no one knew his name. A century later and Faulkner still casts a shadow.

Creativity is probably the wrong word to use. Inventiveness is more precise. Creating clever ditties for people to sing is not the same as creating HTML. They are both creative, but the latter is inventive.

Modern Abraham said...

If you asked me on the way to the screening of The Matrix Reloaded if the Wachowski Brother...

... were really the Wachowski "Siblings".

Let's see- Larry likes Hong Kong-style wire-dance kung fu. Larry also likes Hong Kong-style gun fu action. And Larry likes steamy, girl-on-girl lipstick "lesbian" erotica (see their early movie Bound, with a young Gina Gershon, back when she was an upper-middleclass man's Angelina Jolie). It is obvious, therefore... Larry is a woman trapped in a nerdy man's body! TA-DA!! Hello, Lana!

dan said...

The ships built by European Kings like Richard II were the most complex machines in the world. The medieval European is vastly underrated. even a commoner like Watt Tyler could raise a very complex revolutionary social movement devoted to radical equality. These people were formidable. And probably fishing off the cod banks in New Foundland on the sly.

Pat Boyle said...

Every TV history show will present Leonardo Da Vinci as the over arching genius of the Renaissance.

But he wasn't.

Get in your time machine - go back to fifteenth century Florence, ask anyone as to who was the genius of the age. Ask the friends of Leonardo. Hell, ask Leonardo himself. Everyone will tell you the same thing - Filipo Brunelleschi.

Leonardo became famous when his notebooks were discovered. But we know now that he copied many of his entries. He copied the drawings of Brunelleschi's inventions for example.

There was a major difference between the invention's of Brunelleschi and those of Leonardo - Brunelleschi's worked, Leonardo's didn't.

Wikipedia will list two major accomplishments of Brunelleschi - the Duomo and the patent. The story of the Duomo is fascinating. The Church didn't want to give him the commission. They favored Ghiberti. But no one on earth knew how to build the dome under the restrictions the Church imposed.

The Church told Brunelleschi to tell Ghiberti how to do it. And then came the moment when Brunelleschi invented Western Civilization.

He called in sick.

He told them that he knew how to build the dome but he sick. The Church fathers debated whether to wait till he got better or just burn him at the stake then and there.

But since he seemed to be the only on earth who even thought they knew how to do it. They fired Ghiberti put Brunelleschi in charge and he made a remarkable recovery.

How dis he do it? To this day it remains unclear.

Brunelleschi was secretive. He wanted credit. He pretty much invented the concept of 'intellectual property rights'. And that is the reason why the West soared past the East for the next five hundred years.

Pat Boyle

Ray Sawhill said...

I'm baffled by the notion some seem to have that Asians aren't creative. I'm no scholar but, sheesh, Asian art/culture/entertainment is a seriously huge and impressive universe. Have y'all toured the Asian parts of museums? Read Indian philosophy or Japanese poetry? Explored Asian architecture or Indian ragas? By the standards of most filmbuffs, Japan has had one of the most creative and productive of all film industries, Bollywood musicals outshine American attempts, and the Hong Kong film industry set the pattern for current action-adventure styles ("The Matrix" is unthinkable without Hong Kong, for instance). I don't like contemporary avant-garde architecture generally, but to the extent I can dig it I find the current Japanese 'way more sizzling than the name-brand Americans and Euros. It's hard to beat Haruki Murakami for creativity where current novels go, Japanese pop culture (graphic design, fashion, food, animation, haircuts) transfixes youngsters all over the world, Takashi Miike is about ten times more gifted and wild a filmmaker than Tarantino is (IMHO) ... Do y'all not know about this stuff? Do you think it doesn't qualify as "creative" for some reason? So far as I know maybe where the "creative" part of tech and engineering goes the Asians don't shine. I have no way to judge. But where culture goes they're often awesome, and have been for centuries.

Pat Boyle said...

One of the most influential books of recent years was that of Lynn and Vanhanen. They give the IQ scores of people in almost every nation on earth. Some criticize their work because being a meta-study not every researcher used the same IQ test.

So why hasn't anyone followed up with a similar study of creativity?

The simple reason is that while there has been a century of IQ testing in hundreds of countries, thousands of studies and millions of subjects, there have been almost no creativity testing anywhere. What test would they use?

At the time of Galton, people had a notion that some people were smarter than others and when shortly thereafter other men tried to measure those differences - they were met with immediate success. But those same Victorians who knew that some people were more creative that others never could develop a convincing test. And they still can't.

As a psychology undergraduate I took a 'creativity test' in class one day. I was by far the most creative person in that class according to that test.

But a lunch yesterday, a man at my table gave me an announcement for the first performance of his symphony. Where was my symphony? For that matter where are my patents, or novels?

Could it be that that creativity test was wrong?

Pat Boyle

Anonymous said...

How much creativity is fueled by performance enhancing drugs? The Chinese already have the brainpower. Couldn't they start smoking a bunch cigarettes, drink whiskey and coffee like creative Americans do? Look at all the neat electronics the Chinese make. Could you imagine what they could do on Adderall?

Bryan Townsend said...

@ John Seiler and some anonymouses.

I am a composer of what is misleadingly called "contemporary classical" music and I want to take issue with the several comments stating that there is no longer any creativity in music. Listening to what is in the mainstream right now, you could certainly get that impression, because commercial pop music certainly is not focused on creativity.

But lots of others are. The thing is that there is something of a 50 year lag before we can be really sure. But just as some particularly perceptive critics, such as E. T. A. Hoffman, were able to discern that Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were three of the greatest composers ever, in 1812, while Beethoven was still alive, I think it is possible to see at least some of the creativity going on now.

It is easy to look back 50 years and see that Bob Dylan and the Beatles were truly creative musicians, just as we can say the same about Shostakovich and Britten.

Right now I would suggest that a couple of likely names are Esa-Pekka Salonen, who won the Grawemeyer Prize in 2012, and Arvo Part--two fine composers. Just because they are not on everyone's lips doesn't mean they don't exist.

Modern Abraham said...

BTW, does anyone want to take a stab at accounting for African-American music in HBD terms? It's certainly one of the two or three big cultural success stories of the last century .

I guess some indicators, then, would be openness, non-neuroticism, spontaneity, extemporaneousness?? Then again, Woody Allen/Philip Roth/Michael Chabon exhibit extreme levels of exactly the OPPOSITE traits.

With that said, and granting the excellence of much high jazz, African-American music must be severely qualified in terms of its actual achievement. Basically it has always succeeded through the low-hanging fruit method of sexually titillating white people. This has been true since jazz (again, "Jelly Roll" Morton's nickname does not refer to a type of pastry), swing (throwing your partner through your legs till her skirt lifts up), blues (endless references to "back door men"), and rock n' roll (its very name a euphemism for sex). And of course the heavy dance-rhythm-beat component is also a sexual instigator (which is why pre-60's black churches were often at the forefront of condemning Black America's most notable musical styles).

Anonymous said...

African-American creativity in music is astounding. They invented Jazz, Blues, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop. How many new genres have whites created in the last several centuries?

Anonymous said...


"BTW, does anyone want to take a stab at accounting for African-American music in HBD terms? It's certainly one of the two or three big cultural success stories of the last century ..."


It seems to be a guy thing.

fine almonds said...

All y'all interested in this I recommend Ian Morris' "Why the West Rules -- for Now" (get it from the library), even if just the concluding chapter. It'll give you a better basis for this kind of speculation.

Anonymous said...

"To some extent this is an optical illusion because we have the individual names of almost all Western artists and scientists since maybe 1500. Since we don't have the names of many of the artists involved in Gothic Cathedrals in the Middle Ages, it's easy for pundits to overlook them."

I wonder if this has something to do with the rise of intellectual property, copywrite, and the nation state. Prior to the Statute of Anne, people raised Cathedrals and created art for the Glory of God, or some such thing. After the Enlightenment, it became all about the glory of the Individual.

Anonymous said...

Sailerbait:

A review of Wade's book by one of Andrew Sullivan's sidekicks.

Anonymous said...

testosterone = creativity. Where masculine energies are allowed to flow free, great art and discoveries happen. When they are throttled or somehow misdirected, stagnation occurs. There will be no truly great art from the feminised white eloi or the emasculated urban worker drones that make up the majority of western manhood.

Anonymous said...

Escher was indeed intelligent, and his family background strengthens a Galtonian understanding of its heritability. His father was a prominent engineer, whose own father was an admiral, and whose sister was married to a future Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies; his half-brother was an eminent geologist and Rector Magnificus of the University of Leiden; his mother's father was Dutch Minister of Finance in the 1870's; his cousin Willem Einthoven won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1924.
One could go on: a family of savants, not an artist amongst them.
He himself deprecated any idea that "art" described what he did; at the same time he would have refused the idea that he was a mathematician, a subject in which his talents were mediocre. Let us conclude then that mathematics inspired him, as did the artistic impulse, but that his work was neither the one nor the other, but instead a category of the creative spirit which is uniquely itself.

jody said...

i'm not so sure it's mostly unmeasurable, unpredictable, and can only be assessed when looking backwards several decades. it's not as amenable to testing as certain other abilities, but it is still something which can be prodded and poked and gauged to a moderate degree.

probably the position i disagree with the most is that it cannot be recognized until you are looking backwards on something from many years later. that may be true for the average observer, or how consensus about the significance of an event is built over time, but it's not true for an experienced observer with a lot of time spent studying this stuff.

i can definitely tell you when a significant event has just happened, right when it happened, in many fields, as long as i'm aware of it and following things when it occurs. not 100% accuracy but way, way better than random guessing. in the moment it is happening, i can tell you right then. i don't need a decade of hindsight.

Old Odd Jobs said...

Do we have nearly all the names of artists and scientists since 1500? The famous ones, obviously. But that's not the same thing.

Phillyastro said...

Patton Oswald mentioned you on the Opie and Anthony Show today. They also mentioned a 70s show that explains all of HBD in a nutshell:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kVKUpJ8vto

jody said...

in 1993, both UFC and magic: the gathering came out. i was aware of and participating in both. i would have bought shares in a public company right then, if i could have. i knew immediately they were a big deal. i sort of became a UFC evangelist among my friends and associates, but dropped magic in 1995 after it became apparent the genius behind the game had moved on and the new card sets were being designed by mediocre people. this caused the game to somewhat stagnate instead of explode like i thought it would, way bigger than dungeons & dragons had in the early 80s. once richard garfield was out, i was out. garfield is a direct descendant of president garfield, according to wikipedia. did not know that until just looking him up now. all i knew was that he was a math PHD at penn.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Garfield

UFC i stuck with all the way, through the years when john mccain tried to kill it by either making it illegal, and when that failed, by having it removed from PPV. when SEG sold out to the fertitta brothers, i knew for sure it was on.

i've definitely had some misses. i knew about bitcoin in 2009 only a few months after it was released, but carefully watched it for a couple years to see if it did anything, before buying in. it did nothing for 3 years straight. that turned out to be a mistake and i missed out on big gains from the ramp up in 2013. but maybe i was right all along about how much of a threat governments would see it as, since now it's pretty much done for.

i'm reminded of a story told to me by a princeton economist, about when he was an undergrad in 1981 and people telling him that a new movie was better than star wars. so he went to see it. raiders of the lost ark. and when he came out, he was so impressed, he went out and bought as many shares in the company as he could. the price went up and up, he was becoming rich, then 3 years later or so the shares crashed, and he lost most of his money. after that he only bought bonds. that was right around the time george lucas lost much of his fortune on the howard the duck fiasco, which set him back years.

the massive creativity behind all these ventures was staggering.

Anonymous said...

*How many new genres have whites created in the last several centuries?*

Everything you didn't mention, plus one that you did.

Anonymous said...

"Right now I would suggest that a couple of likely names are Esa-Pekka Salonen, who won the Grawemeyer Prize in 2012, and Arvo Part--two fine composers."

Heh heh, I got laid recently because I was talking about Arvo Part to some singer chick.

/cool story, bro

candid_observer said...

I looked at the review by Sullivan's side-cretin.

I feel as if the main point of dispute over "race" is like an argument over how many hairs you need to have lost to be called bald. If you can't come up with a number, "bald" means nothing--nothing!

reiner Tor said...

@Anonymous:

African-American creativity in music is astounding. They invented Jazz, Blues, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop. How many new genres have whites created in the last several centuries?

In the last several centuries..? Depends on how you define a "genre". Is Wagnerian opera a genre? or is it just a subgenre of "opera"? Is romantic symphony (as opposed to classical symphony) a different genre, or are they the same? (They are at least as different from each other as blues and rock, for example.) Is post-Romanticism a new genre, or is post-Romantic symphony such? Atonalism, serialism? (OK, the latter might have been invented by a Jew, if we don't consider them white.)

Is heavy metal part of rock, or is it something new? Is black metal part of heavy metal, or is it a new genre? if it is, what about death/doom metal, or grindcore?

Is Britpop a new genre? Country music? (BTW, rock music was influenced by many things, including country, and many whites were among its inventors. So why is it a black genre? What about the possible influence of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32 on jazz?)

reiner Tor said...

@Bryan Townsend:

Esa-Pekka Salonen...
...
Arvo Part...


I will check them out, thanks for the recommendation.

Anonymous said...

we have the individual names of almost all Western artists and scientists since maybe 1500. Since we don't have the names of many of the artists involved in Gothic Cathedrals in the Middle Ages, it's easy for pundits to overlook them.

No. That statement goes beyond exaggerated sloppiness into outright falsehood.

You do not know who was doing chemistry prior to the publication of Fama Fraternitatis in 1614, and even for a century afterward, European chemists were still keeping very low profiles and communicating in secret.

You need to take a second look at the history of alchemy. See B. J. T. Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy.

reiner Tor said...

HUNGER GAMES is just a rip off of the much better BATTLE ROYALE. Both the book and the movie were far superior to the American rip offs.

The horror movie The Ring is a remake of the earlier Japanese movie Ringu.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, does anyone want to take a stab at accounting for African-American music in HBD terms? It's certainly one of the two or three big cultural success stories of the last century ..."

It was but is now spent.

Anonymous said...

" Esa-Pekka Salonen, who won the Grawemeyer Prize in 2012, and Arvo Part--two fine composers"

Fine, if you like modern music but not likely to be remembered in a generation.

Anonymous said...

Pat Boyle May have a point regarding patents and Euro vs Asian creativity. U.S. Guitar manufacturers found that Asian manufacturers had no qualms in copying the work of others.

Anonymous said...

concerning all the talk about hbd i wonder if iq and creativity matter at all. whats matters most is: which race is better in having kids and which race is better in having kids with other races. in my home country germany at least one in tenth of teh german women have their kids with men of westafrican ancestry. the funny thing that it has nothing to do with skind color, they they won´t choose a eastafrican, or a south indian (india in asia). no it has to be someone with westafrican ancestry. and i don´t think that has anything to do with creativity.
also i personally doubt that race is such an important factor when it comes to creativity. i doubt it because for example polish people are very similar to germans in racial terms, but still they have no (classic) musical tradition like we have at all.

Anonymous said...

The fear of being a forgotten nobody in three generations is the source of creativity. Why don't I want to die tomorrow? Because I haven't come up with my big idea yet. That is why so many artist are "tortured." Why don't I want to see tomorrow? Because nobody values my big ideas or the products of my skills and my talents.

Anonymous said...

So the 70 million + ethnic Europeans are being impregnated at a 10% rate by the 800k Africans? BS

Dan said...

All In the Family is a rip off of In Sickness and In Health.

Sanford and Son is a rip off of Steptoe and Son.

America is like a re run of a photocopy.

Dan said...

Are blues rock n roll and funk actually distinct forms of pop or sub genres?

Dan said...

I can think of a few.

Psycheldic, acid house, disco( okay I know), Punk, New Wave, most forms of club music...

Anything electric by default.

Dan said...

Brian Wilson is probably the single most gifted popular musician I've ever heard.

Anonymous said...

African-American creativity in music is astounding. They invented Jazz, Blues, Rock, Funk, Hip Hop. How many new genres have whites created in the last several centuries?

Yet all those things rely upon white creativity to get them started.

The technology that allows those things to exist is white, the means by which they are heard is white. Thats aside from any non-black musical input.

Take a creative African deny him access to electric amplification, records, CDs, tapes, computers, keyboards etc etc and where is he then?

Anonymous said...

in my home country germany at least one in tenth of teh german women have their kids with men of westafrican ancestry

Wtf?! I doubt 10% of all German women are having mixed race babies let alone 10% just with West Africans.

bleach said...

"in my home country germany at least one in tenth of teh german women have their kids with men of westafrican ancestry."

Oh come on
bullshit. In the USA with vastly more blacks, not even close to one-tenth of white women breed with Africans. Blacks are close to the bottom of the sexual market, despite what Jewish pornographers want you to believe.

bleach said...

"As much as we Westerners like to claim that our superior civilization trumped the "stultifying" East, the reality is that we were behind the East in many technological things even beyond the 16th Century."

MANY ways, really? Name a few. Actually, name any.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dan, the music genres you listed were mostly started by black men. Some of it was concurrent with white guys in the UK, Germany and a couple other places, but it is fascinating how a lot of the ultrawhite club music has black roots.

Anonymous said...

Some people just won't let this one go. Do we have to spend another comment thread exploding the myth of the "dark ages"? Europe was as advanced as anywhere else in the world long before the 16th century.

I was taught history just at a time that early "Dark Ages" was being reframed as "late antiquity" whereby continuity of Western civilization was emphasized over the previous paradigm of cultural and economic collapse.

So, no, I don't subscribe to the archaic notion of "Dark Ages" of Europe plunging into stone ages. But some of these white supremacist types go too far when they make bold claims about the level of civilization during the chaotic aftermath of the fall of Rome and some centuries thereafter. To be sure, there was a great deal of civilizational loss, decline in trade, rise in autarky and the general decline of living standards (and hygiene).

And there were considerable stretches of time during which Chinese civilization did possess superior technology over Europe. Look at ship-building, for example. The Chinese utilized watertight bulkheads in their ships hundreds of years before Europeans took to them. It was a bit of an accident of history that the European explorers and traders began to muscle in on the Indian Ocean spice trade just as the Chinese began to withdraw from it from internal reasons (until then they were the lords of the high seas in Asia). It was not because of technological inferiority or lack of skillful and daring seafarers that the Chinese withdrew from the looming competition.

Had they not done so, the colonial history of "the Indies" and indeed the whole world might be very different today.

The RMA of modern Europe was indeed revolutionary. Classical Mediterranean civilizations, the high culture of Medieval Europe and, of course, the Renaissance that ushered in modernity should all be celebrated. But it is foolish and contrary to history to think that Europe was always superior to Asia. Europe has been an important pole in the vast spectrum of Eurasian civilizations that have vied for supremacy since civilizations began in the river valleys. The West's dramatic rise in the last five hundred years is an almost miraculous story, but one that is not necessarily a proof of the immutable superiority of the European.

Black Sea said...

When John Cheever was inducted into the military in the Second World War, he twice failed to score high enough on his IQ test to qualify for officer training. I'm not saying Cheever would have made a capable officer (probably he wouldn't have), but it's nevertheless an interesting example of a disparity between creativity and measured intelligence.

Anonymous said...

As our Wagnerian friend reiner Tor (aka pure fool, aka Parsifal) points out, to claim that blacks are more creative because they have come up with more new "genres" like jazz & rock & hip-hop is just silly. It depends on an unreflective notion of what counts as a "genre."

Consider a genuinely & inarguably great composer: Igor Stravinsky. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that he created six new genres every day before breakfast. Firebird, Petrushka, Rite of Spring, The Wedding, Apollo, Oedipus, Orpheus, The Rake's Progress, Agon - each work is *sui generis.*

vinteuil

Stephan Burton said...

Speaking of Stravinsky, and the various musical genres created by blacks, I am reminded of one of Stravinsky's most notorious quips: "Vivaldi didn't write 600 concerti. He wrote the same concerto 600 times."

Similarly, blacks not in Africa keep reinventing more or less the same genre, over and over again. Modern Abraham, above, gets this about right.

The differences between rap & hip-hop are about as interesting as the differences between Vivaldi's Four Seasons and his concerti for lute &/or mandolin.

vinteuil

Stephan Burton said...

Speaking of Stravinsky, and the various musical genres created by blacks, I am reminded of one of Stravinsky's most notorious quips: "Vivaldi didn't write 600 concerti. He wrote the same concerto 600 times."

Similarly, blacks not in Africa keep reinventing more or less the same genre, over and over again. Modern Abraham, above, gets this about right.

The differences between rap & hip-hop are about as interesting as the differences between Vivaldi's Four Seasons and his concerti for lute &/or mandolin.

vinteuil

Michael said...

What an crock. Blacks didn't invent jazz. It developed over a long period of time in the hands of both white and black musicians -- a clash of cultures -- until it became recognized as its own thing. No one race can take credit for its existence.

As for who invented rock, many argue Chuck Berry did in 1955. Regardless whether or not that's true, there's no arguing that it was developed out of southern blues, which is distinctly black.

Regardless, as other posters have noted, none of it would've been possible without the direct influence, instruments and technology of whites and Europeans. All of the melodic intervals and harmonic combinations utilized by black jazz and R&B singers are derived from western tonality and modality, brought to prominence by European composers from the 1500's upwards.

Pat Boyle said...

This thread has degenerated into a discussion of creativity as seen in black music.

This is a central theme in black apologetics.

About a decade ago Derrick Bell - black law school professor associated with Obama - had a screenplay shown on HBO. Robert Guillaume of 'Soap' fame played the lead. The plot was that the space aliens had come into orbit and asked the white people of earth for all the black people. As I remember the aliens were going to pay with a cure for cancer or some such.

This sets the Guillaume character up for some philosophical musings about the contribution of blacks to world culture. In the end he decides that there are but two things - basketball and jazz.

Don't get mad at me. I didn't say that. That's Derrick Bell - Obama's mentor.

It is certainly true that blacks are a whole lot better than whites at basketball. With 13% of the population they have earned 90% of the starting slots in the NBA.

But Jazz? Who really likes jazz? Blacks certainly don't. It is a very minor musical genre. In the sixties somehow sitar music became popular proving I suppose that anything is possible. But when was the last time a real jazz number made it in the Top 40. Now that they've found Casey Kasem do you think he'll play some jazz on the air?

The idea that jazz is high art is a modern affectation. Nobody really likes that stuff so some intellectuals figure it must be art.

Pat Boyle

Pat Boyle said...

One of the problems with discussions of creativity is that it is usually undefined. There are no tests for creativity that make any sense.

Most of the commenters here end up talking about painting and especially music. They are not the same neurologically or in the human mental property space.

The reason that IQ is so important is that it is general. If you are good at - for example - world history you are likely to also be good at lots of other things. That's why Lawrence - a classical scholar was sent into the desert. If you can learn Greek grammar they would hire you at the bank in Victorian England.

Paintings is part of 'g'. It requires visuo-spatial intelligence. Feynman 'saw' physics problems in this way. The Goodenough 'Draw a Man Test' sort of works as an IQ test.

But music isn't a pert of general intelligence at all. General IQ seems to be a function of the whole cerebrum such that more brains equals smarter brains. But musical ability seems to be located only in the posterior anterior gyrus.

Musical ability is considered a 'special ability'' - not part of IQ at all. You can verify this for yourself. Go to the violin section of any major symphony orchestra and strike up a conversation with one of the players. These people are at the top of their profession - the crème de la crème - but they are typically as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Pat Boyle

David said...

Not all geniuses are motivated by their legacies. In fact, that may seldom be a motivation. Bruce Charlton's blog contends that creativity and conscientiousness are opposed personality traits. Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, among other successful creatives, were both fond of the old saying, "What did posterity ever do for me?" In his creative function, a person is concerned only with what he's doing (the work) and not with who he is. Maybe dialing back reputation-anxiety will free you to find and do what you want to do?

ben tillman said...


I was taught history just at a time that early "Dark Ages" was being reframed as "late antiquity" whereby continuity of Western civilization was emphasized over the previous paradigm of cultural and economic collapse.


Western civilization most certainly did not survive into the Middle Ages. You misunderstand what civilization is. Civilization is centralization, the organizing of population into high concentrations called "cities".

Western culture, of course, survived.

David said...

>Nobody really likes that stuff<

Black jazz musicians play out all the time at numerous nightclubs and festivals which are well attended by blacks and whites, even in my neck of the woods. (Two fine jazz clubs are within an hour's drive of me.) Jazz may be a boutique genre when compared to Miley Cyrus, but it's caviar to a lot of generals.

David said...

There are a number of superstar classical musicians who are young Asians. A truly great (but older) pianist is Kun Woo Paik, a Korean. (Although his Mexico City concert, which is on YT, was bad, he is still unusually reliable and brilliant.)

David said...

I'll bet it's nearly 10% in cracker sections of Florida. Possibly more.

Stillicho said...

Western Civilization was born in this period. It was necessary to wash away the Med and Levant infused Empire for some thing better to be born.

In the South of France Rome never quite ended anyway. Constantinople was the Middke City anyway.

Stillicho said...

That's actually EMPIRE.

Michael said...

Pat Boyle, it isn't necessarily that blacks are better at basketball per se, although many black youths are brought up playing it. Black players are given more opportunities in the NBA simply because the organization itself is inherently biased towards them, for whatever reason. If there were a different basketball league with all the same rules as the NBA, except comprised of talented white players, or whoever else, you wouldn't notice a difference. Skill has nothing to do with race.

I'm reminded of how some people believe that only Spanish guitar players can truly bring out the emotion in a piece of music written by one of their own race, or how whites lack soul, or *insert racial stereotype*. If someone recorded five different guitarists, one of which was Spanish, playing the same piece of music and then played each recording without anyone knowing who's who, nobody would be able to single out the Spanish player just by listening. Not a chance.

Anonymous said...

The late realist Hans Eysenck wrote a 1995 book on creativity.
He intersected aspects of his theory of "psychoticism" as a
normal personality trait that at
high levels also generated
creativity. This publication took place shortly before his terminal illness. Clearly, he viewed "psychoticism" as very distinct from disordered behavior that the conventional term "psychotic" refers to. It is an approximation to his (research derived) point of view to suggest that latent psychotic
tendencies often impact creative accomplishment; active, disordered psychotic tendencies clearly sabotage creativity (Hippie assumptions to the contrary, notwithstanding ) Brains are helpful in seeing and maintaining the distinction.

reiner Tor said...

Anonymous (in response to Bryan Townsend):

" Esa-Pekka Salonen, who won the Grawemeyer Prize in 2012, and Arvo Part--two fine composers"

Fine, if you like modern music but not likely to be remembered in a generation.


I would bet on him not being remembered in a generation either (because that's the winning bet for 99.9% of all composers or musicians), but I'm not sure if their music is entirely what most people call "modern music" (like atonal compositions or amusical noise or whatever). According to Arvo Pärt's Wikipedia page, he started out as a usual "modernist" atonalist whatever composer, but it proved to be a creative dead end for him, and he started to compose works influenced by early music, and his compositions are usually sacral choral works. I especially enjoy Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (and the Gardiner recording I have at home has some nice Lili Boulanger compositions, also mostly psalms), and I also sometimes listen to early music as such, so I'll probably check out Arvo Pärt as well.

As far as I know, composers no longer create totally unlistenable Johnny Cage etc. stuff.

Anonymous said...

"I think that intelligence is deductive thinking and that creativity is spontaneous thinking."

But lots of logical ideas are arrived at spontaneously. The connections just click into place when one least expects it.

And there's an underlying pattern to creative thought. It may not be logical like math but relies on configurations, patterns, shape, texture, tones, and etc, all of which require mental acumen to carry from inspiration to execution.