Law School Discussion

LSAT 163 = IQ 132

Stephen Jay Gould
« Reply #130 on: June 09, 2005, 10:21:09 PM »

Gould is the author of The Mismeasure of Man, a study of the history of psychometrics and intelligence testing as a form of scientific racism; the most recent edition includes an attempted refutation of the arguments of The Bell Curve.

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The book, originally written in 1981, describes Gould's objections to:

"[...] the abstraction of intelligence as a single entity, its location within the brain, its quantification as one number for each individual, and the use of these numbers to rank people in a single series of worthiness, invariably to find that oppressed and disadvantaged groups—races, classes, or sexes—are innately inferior and deserve their status" (pp. 24-25).

Gould later revised and expanded the book in reply to arguments from The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, also a controversial book.

Most of his arguments have to do with the value of statistical correlations. Many arguments around IQ center on the issue of correlation—the claim that the test measures psychometric g requires that the kinds of answers to various questions will correlate highly; the claim that g is inherited requires that the scores of respondents who are closely related will correlate significantly higher than results of those distantly related. First, he points out that correlation is not the same as cause. As he puts it, measures of the changes, over time, in "my age, the population of Mexico, the price of Swiss cheese, my pet turtle's weight, and the average distance between galaxies" will have a high positive correlation—but that does not mean that Stephen Jay Gould's age goes up because the population of Mexico goes up. Second, and more specifically, a high positive correlation between parent and child IQ can be taken as either evidence that IQ is genetically inherited or that IQ is inherited through social and environmental factors. Since the same data can be used to argue either side of the case, the data in and of itself is not useful.

Furthermore, Gould argues that even if it were demonstrated that IQ is highly genetically heritable within a group, this tells nothing about the causes of IQ differences between groups or whether those differences can be changed by environment. Gould gives the example of height, which is known to be determined mostly through genes within socioeconomic groups, but group differences in height may be due to nutrition as well as genes. Richard Lewontin, a colleague of Gould's, is well-known for emphasizing this argument as it pertains to IQ testing.

According to Gould, a good example of the confusion of heritability is found in the statement of international scholars published in the Wall Street Journal (see web-link above): "If all environments were to become equal for everyone, heritability would rise to 100% because all remaining differences in IQ would necessarily be genetic in origin." He says that this claim is at best misleading and at worst, false. First, it is very hard to conceive of a world in which everyone grows up in the exact same environment; the very fact that people are spatially and temporally dispersed means that no one can be in exactly the same environment (a simple example will illustrate how complex social environments are: a husband and wife may share a house, but they do not live in identical environments because each is married to a different person). Second, even if people grew up in exactly the same environment, not all differences would be genetic in origin. This is because embryonic development involves chance molecular events and random cellular movements that alter the effects of genes.

Gould argues that heritability is not a measure of phenotypic differences between groups, but rather differences between genotype and phenotype within a population. Even within a group, if all members of the group grow up in exactly the same environment, it does not mean that heritability is 100%. All Americans (or New Yorkers, or upper-class New Yorkers – one may define the population in question as narrowly as one likes) may eat exactly the same food, but their adult height will still be a result of both genetics and nutrition. In short, heritability is almost never 100%, and heritability tells us nothing about genetic differences between groups. This is true for height, which has a high degree of heritability; it is all the more true for intelligence. This is true for other reasons besides ones involving "heritability", as Gould goes on to discuss.

Gould's most profound criticism is his rejection of the very thing that IQ is meant to measure, "general intelligence" (or g). IQ tests, he points out, ask many different kinds of questions. Responses to different kinds of questions tend to form clusters. In other words, different kinds of questions can be given different scores – which suggests that an IQ test is really a combination of a number of different tests that test a number of different things. Gould claims that proponents of IQ tests assume that there is such a thing as general intelligence, and analyze the data so as to produce one number, which they then claim is a measure of general intelligence. Gould argues that this one number (and therefore, the implication that there is a real thing called "general intelligence" that this number measures) is in fact an artifact of the statistical operations psychologists apply to the raw data. He argues that one can analyze the same data more effectively and end up with a number of different scores (but valid, meaning they measure something) rather than one score.

Finally, Gould points out that he is not opposed to the notion of "biological variability" which is the premise that heredity influences intelligence. He does criticize the notion of "biological determinism" which is the idea that genes determine destiny and there is nothing we can or should do about this. Many people who study race intelligence hold that Gould is not representing their views correctly, and is effectively engaging in straw-man attacks on their work.

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #131 on: June 11, 2005, 09:03:59 PM »

I remember I've read that Gould had a long-running feud with Richard Dawkins and other evolutionary biologists over sociobiology and its descendant evolutionary psychology, which Gould opposed but Dawkins, Dennett, Pinker and others strongly advocated, and over the importance of gene selection in evolution: Dawkins argued that all evolution is ultimately caused by gene competition, while Gould advocated the importance of higher level competition including, controversially, species selection. Many evolutionary biologists believe that Gould misunderstood Dawkins' claims, and that he ended up attacking a point of view that Dawkins had not held. Strong criticism of Gould can be found particularly in Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker and Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea"; Dennett's criticism has tended to be harsher while Dawkins actually praises Gould in evolutionary topics other than those of contention. Gould, Lewontin and other opponents of evolutionary psychology are accused by Pinker (2002) of being "radical scientists", whose stance on human nature is influenced by politics rather than science. In turn, Gould claims that evolutionary theorists are heavily influenced by their beliefs and interests.

« Reply #132 on: June 14, 2005, 06:19:34 AM »
Dawkins argued that all evolution is ultimately caused by gene competition, while Gould advocated the importance of higher level competition including, controversially, species selection. Many evolutionary biologists believe that Gould misunderstood Dawkins' claims [...]

I, on the other hand, remember Dawkins from his book "The Selfish Gene" coining the meaning of "meme":
"I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drfiting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate which leaves the old gene panting far behind."

"The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmisision, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classcist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'

"Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. As my colleague N. K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter: '... memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn't just a way of talking -- the meme for, say, "belief in life after death" is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.'"

That is to say, a meme is an idea, which mutates and is inherited like a gene and spreads like a virus. (Dawkins has in fact written an essay on "Viruses of the Mind," which has now infected the Web.) Such ideas are not original with Dawkins -- as he himself says, "the analogy between cultural and genetic evolution has frequently been pointed out" -- but they really took off after his book. One can think of various reasons -- Dawkin's clear and compelling case; the (foolish) controversy over his book; general concern about biological and computer viruses; the millenarian notions of computer groupies, who want to see themselves as preparing for the next stage in evolution. Of course, there is also Dawkin's enthusiastic use of the idea as a stick with which to beat religion over the head, which none of his predecessors attempted:

"Consider the idea of God. We do not know how it arose in the meme pool. Probably it originated many times by independent 'mutation'. In any case, it is very old indeed. How does it replicate itself? By the spoken and written word, aided by great music and great art. Why does it have such high survival value? Remember that 'survival value' here does not mean value for a gene in a gene pool, but value for a meme in a meme pool. The question really means: What is it about the idea of a god which gives it its stability and penetrance in the cultural environment? The survival value of the god meme in the meme pool results from its great psychological appeal. It provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence. It suggests that injustices in this world may be rectified in the next. The 'everlasting arms' hold out a cushion against our own inadequacies, which, like a doctor's placebo, is none the less effective for being imaginary. These are some of the reasons why the idea of God is copied so readily by successive generations of individual brains. God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture."

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #133 on: June 14, 2005, 10:21:16 PM »
monsieur, please stick to the topic!

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #134 on: June 15, 2005, 10:37:47 PM »
Gould is the author of The Mismeasure of Man, a study of the history of psychometrics and intelligence testing as a form of scientific racism; the most recent edition includes an attempted refutation of the arguments of The Bell Curve.

Here it is the book:

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #135 on: June 18, 2005, 05:16:25 AM »
I see clearly the point of the white Jay Rosner as well when testifying on the issue ... The people at the top of the system should always be careful not to lose their humanity and individuality. After all, power and authority corrupt those who exercise them as much as those who are compelled to submit to them.

Usually the leadership group is made up of men and women who in one way or another have belonged to the social strata of the dominators. At a certain point in their existential experience, under certain historical conditions, these leaders renounce the class to which they belong and join the oppressed, in an act of true solidarity (or so one would hope). Whether or not this adherence results from a scientific analysis or reality, it represents (when authentic) an act of love and true commitment.

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #136 on: June 20, 2005, 03:40:36 AM »
Whether or not this adherence results from a scientific analysis or reality, it represents (when authentic) an act of love and true commitment.

I can not think of any scientific analysis, no matter how rigorous and honest, to make such a person renounce the privileges his existing social class gives him (or her). I also find it difficult to believe it can be a true act of love!
Ignorance of the law excuses no man ... from practicing it.

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #137 on: June 27, 2005, 09:40:51 PM »
Gould is the author of The Mismeasure of Man, a study of the history of psychometrics and intelligence testing as a form of scientific racism; the most recent edition includes an attempted refutation of the arguments of The Bell Curve.

Here it is the book:

I've read this book twice. It's an annotated history of the incorrigible human need to feel superior to others on group rather than individual grounds, especially heritable intelligence. It boggles the mind to learn how much brainpower, education, patience, hard work, and ingenuity have been turned to the question of "proving" that social distinctions are scientifically valid and immutable. One of the most salutary themes of the book is a reminder that almost every group has been "proven" intellectually or morally inferior at some point: Italians, Slavs, Irish, English, Germans, Hispanics, Blacks, Jews, Asians, Indians, Arabs, Native Americans, women, and even the white American male himself! Americans tend to be obsessed with race, while Europeans have devoted more time to issues of class and religion -- but everyone wants to believe they're smarter than the next guy.

Gould plays fair by choosing to take on the best theories of group intelligence, the fruit of celebrated minds such as Louis Agassiz, Paul Broca, Cesare Lombroso, Alfred Binet, and R.M. Yerkes. He also shoulders the unbelievably tedious task of replicating these scientists' results and/or checking their research methods. It's quite difficult to argue with his factual conclusions without revealing oneself as a poseur; and his critiques of their methodologies are equally difficult to deny. Gould also points out that many of the scientific racists/classists themselves came to recant their own ideas as they got older and presumably wiser.

The book gains relevance as it goes on. Much of the first half is devoted to "scientific" theories that no one could now take seriously, based on experimental methods like filling skulls with mustard seed, weighing the brains of famous men, measuring the spaces between the toes of criminals, and even simply claiming that beauty equals intelligence QED. The best part of the book is its examination of mass intelligence testing, and of the misuse of factor analysis. Gould's simple explanation of factor analysis goes a long way toward dispelling the urge to be cowed by statistical conjuring. Finally, in the 1996 edition Gould takes on the newest incarnation of mismeasurement, The Bell Curve.

Gould mostly refrains from speculating on the motives of his subjects, chalking it all up to the social construction of science or even allowing for benevolent intentions. He also avoids mention of the worst effects of scientific racism, such as the Nazi genocides. While I can understand why he took this low-key, professional approach, I wonder if his arguments are often too subtle for their intended audience. My experience has been that these types of theories are most appealing to precisely the demographic group least likely to be swayed by implicit historical arguments of the "Since these ideas are ridiculous, perhaps more recent but similar ideas are also ridiculous" type. This group seems to me to consist of people with high intelligence and strong faith in the purity of scientific truth, but low life experience, depth of knowledge, and critical acuity -- in other words, privileged undergraduates. Luckily, most people eventually realize that theories of biological determinism, no matter how emptily flattering to themselves, are an intellectual dead end and no substitute for individual achievement.
I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance.

Karl Rove = Weasel
« Reply #138 on: July 30, 2005, 06:39:37 PM »
Now that the rumor of George Bush's functional illiteracy has surfaced in the press, Karl Rowe the head of the Bush campaign has denied it vehemently. 'Governor Bush is an avid reader.'

Unfortunately for Karl Rove, even if he dodges the CIA-leak bullet, he’ll never dodge the fact that he’s a chickenshit little weasel. Bush said that he would fire any White House staffer who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame — of course, now that his right-hand man is implicated, the goalposts have shifted. It’s no surprise that the Bush administration is more interested in deflecting controversy than accepting responsibility. What is surprising is that any self-respecting public figure — even a back-room player like Rove — would rather lurk in the shadows like Rasputin than step forward to clear up the mess. But maybe that's exactly what chickenshit little weasels do.

Re: LSAT 163 = IQ 132
« Reply #139 on: September 24, 2005, 07:34:47 PM »
I believe few people in the White House should know such confidential information as the names of undercover CIA agents.