April 18, 2013

Conspiracy Theorists

As we all know, conspiracies can't exist. Somebody would rat out the conspiracy and then it would all be over. Therefore, conspiracy theories are not respectable.

Except, it's highly respectable to assume that the field of psychometrics has engaged in a giant conspiracy for the last 99 years to oppress blacks. The conspiracy goes so deep that it even extends to the promotion of the arcane g factor model of IQ. As the daring rebel Stephen Jay Gould spoke truth to power: "The chimerical nature of g is the rotten core of Jensen's edifice, and of the entire hereditarian school."

For example, Cosma Shalizi's giant 2007 blog post "g, s Statistical Myth" has proven wildly popular. Here's Shalizi's own list of links to his one post:
Crooked TimberUncertain PrinciplesPharyngulaChrononautic LogPure Pedantry;Exploding GalaxiesNanopolitanPyjamas in BananasDanny YeeExistence Is WonderfulCrooked Timber (again); Lawyers, Guns and Money3 Quarks DailySirisQuantum of WantumEntitled to an OpinionArchPunditRaw ThoughtIdiolectBoĆ®te noireDissecting LeftismThe Ministry of Science;LanguageLogNoli Irritare LeonesWork for Idle HandsGreen Apron MonkeyIt Makes an Ancient Rumbling SoundEphBlogMedical Humanities BlogArs MathematicaCrooked Timber (once more, with feeling this time); JewcyLean LeftThe Jed ReportEzra KleinThe Mahatma X FilesQuantum of WantumLanguage Log (again); Social Science Statistics BlogThe Inverse Square BlogThe Useless TreeRevelations of SilenceRobert LindsaySequential EffectsAdrift in the Happy HillsThe Learner;Strongly EmergentQuomodocumque

Shalizi has never gotten this long essay published in a peer reviewed journal and has announced he doesn't want to talk about IQ anymore.

The fundamental problem with his argument, however, is apparent in his opening line:
About 11,000 words on the triviality of finding that positively correlated variables are all correlated with a linear combination of each other, and why this becomes no more profound when the variables are scores on intelligence tests.

This is like the old joke about the physicist, chemist, and economist shipwrecked on a desert island who are trying to open a can of beans. After the physicist offers a physics solution and chemist a chemical solution, the economist says, "Gentlemen, gentlemen, I have a much better solution. Assume we have a can opener." 

Shalizi just assumes that virtually all cognitive skills are positively correlated, even though that's the amazing thing. 

Being a smart guy, many thousands of words later he gets around to trying to explain away why all these variables should be positively correlated: more or less, it's a conspiracy among psychometricians.
By this point, I'd guess it's impossible for something to become accepted as an "intelligence test" if it doesn't correlate well with the Weschler and its kin, no matter how much intelligence, in the ordinary sense, it requires, but, as we saw with the first simulated factor analysis example, that makes it inevitable that the leading factor fits well. [13] This is circular and self-confirming, and the real surprise is that it doesn't work better. ...

Because, of course, there would be no rewards whatsoever for any rebel who could come up with an IQ test with predictive validity that disproves Arthur Jensen. In our society, you'd have to be a very, very brave dissident to argue against Jensen's sacred book The g Factor. As we all know, Arthur Jensen is a god to the Establishment, which is why when Jensen died last year, President Obama flew out to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

But, courageous Cosma Shalizi has spent about a day working on an alternative idea, and, if he wasn't so busy, he'd no doubt finish it up and destroy Jensenism once and for all:
My playing around with Thomson's ability-sampling model has taken, all told, about a day, and gotten me at least into back-of-the-envelope, Fermi-problem range. In fact, the biggest problem with Thomson's model is that the appearance of g is too strong, since it easily passes tests for there being only a single factor, when real intelligence tests, such as the Weschler, all fail them. If it wasn't a distraction from my real work, I'd look into whether weakening the assumption that tests are completely independent, uniform samples from the pool of shared abilities couldn't produce something more realistic. 

But, all the Big Money in the modern world wants blacks to continue to score worse on IQ tests, so what's the point in anybody even trying to come up with a better IQ test when The Man would just hide it away in Area 51 with the everlasting lightbulb and the water-powered car?


Anonymous said...

The more important challenge to the human race is not to identify the genetic or environmental sources of intelligence, but rather to identify, isolate, and effectively quarantine the "busybody gene".

Neil Templeton

Anonymous said...

OT: bjdubbs said:...we see US politics as essentially drunks being restrained by less-intelligent but more sober bouncers...

I resurrected this comment from the recently dead thread about discipline in the LAUSD because it might be the pithiest description that I've ever heard of the American body politic's dueling glutes.

-The Judean People's Front

Anonymous said...

Courageous journalism, Steve. At least a few people are still willing to speak truth to power, while our elites continue to enforce the Jensenist dogma.

TGGP said...

I'm disappointed you didn't mention here that having a single-factor of intelligence makes group equality more likely than if there were multiple factors. And you're usually diligent about mentioning it elsewhere (referencing Gardner more recently). There's an old joke that goes "I didn't kill him, he isn't dead, it wasn't me, and it was self-defense". So even though disproving 'g' in favor of a more complex mix of factors wouldn't really change most of the controversial implications of psychometrics (I think this is mentioned near the beginning of "The Bell Curve"), people like Gould are still willing to throw any crap at it that might stick.

Anonymous said...

You have a reckless habit of bruiting the word "conspiracy" as a synonym for normal social collusion. Such theories that are typically ridiculed invariably ask us to believe that the participants in the conspiracy linked by tenuous shadowy association have a stronger incentive to stick together than various bigger groups in the outside world have to bust the lid of the plotters' cell. That doesn't apply to solidarity among a bunch of academics who have all their money & status staked on preserving their collegial regard. Knowing Steve he'll probably only intensify this misleading/obnoxious verbal tic in the future (see also: "Just now Google shows no results for 'Purple People Eaters Against Adderall Abuse' when I delimit it with quotes, ergo no one in human history has ever thought what I just did")

Steve Sailer said...

"That doesn't apply to solidarity among a bunch of academics who have all their money & status staked on preserving their collegial regard."

That's pretty hilariously backward.