Idang Alibi of Abuja, Nigeria writes on the James Watson affair:

A few days ago, the Nobel Laureate, Dr. James Watson, made a remark that is now generating worldwide uproar, especially among blacks.  He said what to me looks like a self-evident truth.  He told The Sunday Times of London in an interview that in his humble opinion, black people are less intelligent than the White people...

An intriguing opening.  Is Idang Alibi about to take a position on the real heart of the uproar?

I do not know what constitutes intelligence.  I leave that to our so-called scholars.  But I do know that in terms of organising society for the benefit of the people living in it, we blacks have not shown any intelligence in that direction at all.  I am so ashamed of this and sometimes feel that I ought to have belonged to another race...

Darn, it's just a lecture on personal and national responsibility.  Of course, for African nationals, taking responsibility for their country's problems is the most productive attitude regardless.  But it doesn't engage with the controversies that got Watson fired.

Later in the article came this:

As I write this, I do so with great pains in my heart because I know that God has given intelligence in equal measure to all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin.

This intrigued me for two reasons:  First, I'm always on the lookout for yet another case of theology making a falsifiable experimental prediction.  And second, the prediction follows obviously if God is just, but what does skin colour have to do with it at all?

A great deal has already been said about the Watson affair, and I suspect that in most respects I have little to contribute that has not been said before.

But why is it that the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay, whereas racial genetic differences in intelligence are not?  Am I the only one who's every bit as horrified by the proposition that there's any way whatsoever to be screwed before you even start, whether it's genes or lead-based paint or Down's Syndrome?  What difference does skin colour make?  At all?

This is only half a rhetorical question.  Race adds extra controversy to anything; in that sense, it's obvious what difference skin colour makes politically.  However, just because this attitude is common, should not cause us to overlook its insanity.  Some kind of different psychological processing is taking place around individually-unfair intelligence distributions, and group-unfair intelligence distributions.

So, in defiance of this psychological difference, and in defiance of politics, let me point out that a group injustice has no existence apart from injustice to individuals.  It's individuals who have brains to experience suffering.  It's individuals who deserve, and often don't get, a fair chance at life.  If God has not given intelligence in equal measure to all his children, God stands convicted of a crime against humanity, period.  Skin colour has nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

And I don't think there's any serious scholar of intelligence who disputes that God has been definitively shown to be most terribly unfair.  Never mind the airtight case that intelligence has a hereditary genetic component among individuals; if you think that being born with Down's Syndrome doesn't impact life outcomes, then you are on crack.  What about lead-based paint?  Does it not count, because parents theoretically could have prevented it but didn't?  In the beginning no one knew that it was damaging.  How is it just for such a tiny mistake to have such huge, irrevocable consequences?  And regardless, would not a just God damn us for only our own choices?  Kids don't choose to live in apartments with lead-based paint.

So much for God being "just", unless you count the people whom God has just screwed over.  Maybe that's part of the fuel in the burning controversy - that people do realize, on some level, the implications for religion.  They can rationalize away the implications of a child born with no legs, but not a child born with no possibility of ever understanding calculus.  But then this doesn't help explain the original observation, which is that people, for some odd reason, think that adding race makes it worse somehow.

And why is my own perspective, apparently, unusual?  Perhaps because I also think that intelligence deficits will be fixable given sufficiently advanced technology, biotech or nanotech.  When truly huge horrors are believed unfixable, the mind's eye tends to just skip over the hideous unfairness - for much the same reason you don't deliberately rest your hand on a hot stoveburner; it hurts.

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In this sense, God has screwed over each and every one of us- in three billion bases of DNA, there's bound to be alleles which we really don't like.

Clearly, however, some have been 'screwed over' less than others at the very least- there are large numbers of people for whom the dislikable alleles aren't even noticed.

Don't forget nurture...I mean, we're all baseline human, but some of us get tutors and trust funds. I thank God that my starting status wasn't worse.
I think it's more the point that some of us have more dislikable alleles than others.

What I find amazing is that no article I read actually quotes Watson as saying Africans have lower IQs. What he said was that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.”

His claim was ONLY that Africans' intelligence is different than "ours."

Is there much doubt as to his meaning? Perhaps not, but I should think on this blog we would not commit the sin of assuming too much.

First, I want to say this: I have no idea whether his claim that Africans got a lower IQ score on the test in question is true or false. I hope it is false. There's a possible explanation that is totally in support of the Africans, EVEN if the claim was true. Here it is: IQ tests are culturally biased. If the test asks "How do you use a teacup?" a British person will be likely to know the answer - a lot of them use teacups daily. Do Africans use teacups every day? Maybe they'll bomb on the teacup question because they drink their tea from bowls as with Japanese matcha tea, or from gourds as with yerba mate tea. If you ask them "Is a rattlesnake dangerous?" that question is irrelevant to them. They have boa constrictors, but not rattlesnakes. There are tests that are designed to prevent these differences from influencing your score. They're called "culture fair tests". Nobody here has specified whether a culture fair test was used (I searched the page).

IQ tests are culturally biased.

If IQ tests are 'culturally biased', then we would expect the highest scoring group to share the same culture as the test writers. The highest scoring group does not share the same culture as the test writers (for instance, East Asians score higher than White Americans). This seems to be strong evidence that IQ tests are not 'culturally biased'.

Ok. Interesting point, but did this group of Asians take English language courses at school? Do they have knowledge of American culture via entertainment channels? Perhaps the Africans who allegedly got low scores were people who grew up living in tribes in the wild, and only came into the city where they ended up getting tested recently. I met a person whose mother fell in love with an African tribesman and I read her memoir on the experience - it wasn't long ago that she met him, a decade or two maybe. There may be a large proportion of people in Africa who literally grew up in a jungle. In addition to straight up single-culture cultural differences, there are also variations from one culture to the next between which foreign cultures they've been exposed to (if any) and enjoy. Some cultures seek to limit their exposure to the outside (North Korea) while in others, the ideal is to embrace them (USA). For instance, here, there are many fans of Asian culture - think anime, Japanese video games and lovers of Thai food. Do they have a multicultural atmosphere like that in Africa? Sure there are American missionaries around who probably bring teacups and the like, but there's a giant difference between occasionally seeing some white people with some cups they didn't tell you anything about because they were too busy feeding starving children versus being taught their language in a class and spending time absorbing culture from their entertainment products. Not only that, but differences between one IQ test and another could be gigantic when it comes to how many culture-dependent questions are in them. If you haven't specifically controlled for that during test design, that would be completely random. Maybe the Asians just so happened to get the test that had fewer cultural questions on it, and the Africans got one that was thoroughly based on many obscure pieces of cultural knowledge. What we really need to be asking here is this: Has anyone done a culture fair tes

If I'm not mistaken, the most widely used IQ test is the Raven's Progressive Matrices. How is taking English lessons or having been infected with Anglophonic memes going to help you guess which shape goes in the white box?:

If I'm not mistaken, the most widely used IQ test is the Raven's Progressive Matrices. How is taking English lessons or having been infected with Anglophonic memes going to help you guess which shape goes in the white box?:

I wouldn't rule out the possibility. There is an environmental influence on even more fundamental visual perception and so could well be related differences here. Further, past exposure to tests in general and tests of the 'complete the pattern' variety is going to bring up a cache of typical things that a test designer is likely to include. It is more or less a habit for me when looking at such a problem to test if it is simple rotation (by either a constant amount or an amount that increases by a constant amount, depending on the level of the test).

I seem to recall that the Ponzo illusion doesn't work among cultures not accustomed to visual art using perspective.

(Edited to replace ASCII art with a link to Wikipedia.)

I think it might be wiser to link to an image. Wikipedia's article on the Ponzo illusion appears to be talking about the same thing.
Thank you. I had no idea what the name of that illusion was.

That's a pet peeve of mine: that illusion belongs to class of illusions of the form, "If you saw this in real life, your perception would be right. But it's a 2D picture, so you're wrong."

It's exactly the same as taking this standard optical illusion, and instead of claiming the A/B squares are the same color, saying "This image has no squares. Verify it for yourself!" (i.e. in the plane of the image, nothing makes a square, but it's understood to represent a perspective image of squares)

Nothing wrong with exploring these -- they're very informative about how our perceptual system works -- but please understand what's going on.

I can see, then, how a culture not expecting perspective images, can interpret them as flat and not fall prey to these illusions.

Another thing I thought about is that there weren't that many straight lines and right angles in the ancestral environment, so i think it's likely that the module in the brain for "getting" perspective doesn't come from a blueprint in the DNA but rather it arises in response to stimuli in the early life. If this is right, there might be differences between people who spent their early childhood in rural vs urban environments.
An old psychology professor of mine once gave an anecdote of a tiger that was kept in a cylindrical room during its early phases of development. It grew up to have a warped sense of spatial awareness and was unable to function properly for the most part. I don't know the details surrounding the story, so I can't confirm it right now, but I'll see if I can find the study (assuming it does exist).
(This was in the wrong place, sorry.)

We both underestimated how inaccurate cultural differences can make an IQ score, I think.

I have two rebuttals specific to your assertion that knowing English shouldn't affect your ability to solve IQ test puzzles, but I also thought about this more and realized that even a culture fair test probably cannot compensate for the differences between the three groups of people we're discussing, so I gave a couple examples for that, too.

First: How are you supposed to understand the question that goes with the puzzle if you don't know how to read English well? Without that question "Which shape goes in the white box?" there is little hope of interpreting the puzzle correctly, let alone filling it out. This is an IQ test, and the questions are sometimes written in a way that makes them tricky to understand completely. IQ tests may demand a high reading level. If all you've got is broken English, reading and comprehending questions like these might feel like you're doing something as hard as applying Bayesian probability to statistics.

IQ tests are also frequently written by people who don't consider all possible ways of interpreting the question. If you were not constantly exp... (read more)

My measured Ravens IQ jumped a good ten points after the experience of taking a few IQ tests, because I got a sense for the thought patterns of the test makers. This indicates that you can learn how to do better on these tests, which further suggests that cultural knowledge might help you learn it faster.

A westerner customarily reads from left to right, and then goes down one line. Note how the incomplete square is also the last square that the Westerner's eye would consider...only after seeing all the relevant information would the Westerner consider the empty square.

A westerner also frequently uses the concept of clockwise and anticlockwise. The black square progresses in a neatly clockwise fashion for each shape as it is viewed by the western gaze. Thanks to the bottom third line breaking the top left/top right/bottom left pattern, one must use clockwise/anticlockwise notions to complete the pattern.

A westerner has also been taught about division using pie charts, and each of these shapes are divided neatly into fourths. Add to this a passing familiarity with grids, the idea that tests are important in the first get the picture.

To get some sense of how difficult this task would be for, say, an illiterate hunter gatherer, try rotating the image 45 degrees counterclockwise and refrain from using your prior knowledge of the correct reading frame to complete the pattern. Suddenly, it is a lot harder, isn't it?

If the first two shapes on the bottom are diamonds, why is the third shape a square?
I think that's meant as a field where you'd draw in the shape, diamond and all.
And what makes you sure of that? It even looks like the outline for the three boxes along the top. Our cultural assumptions are perhaps more subtle than the average person thinks.
Ugh, visual shape processing. You grow up with that sorts of shapes (and patterns, and consecutive patterns that are regular, and so on), Africans don't. You grow up with everything in left to right order or right to left order, they don't. What do you think goes on formally (mathematically) with the correct answer, anyway? The correct answer is the one where the whole thing with the square filled in can be least complexly represented with most culturally common operations (mirrorings, rotations, superpositions, etc) done on orderings of the squares. You have a penalty for each operation (more for less common operations), you add those scores for the whole set of relations, you pick the smallest. That's roughly what a programming contest solution for that sort of thing would look like (leaving aside the question of hardcoding or inferring the patterns and their penalties themselves). Yes, the operations are in some sense fundamental, but you haven't reinvented them, you learned them, from when you were categorizing visual input as a child. As an IQ test, it has two parts: the visual input you are exposed to as a child, and the matrices themselves. Since we're all acquiring a sufficient training dataset, it works just fine as an IQ test for us. edit: Also, try replacing the square to fill in with a circle, and see how many people will get that wrong. Empty box to fill in is a cultural concept. A child unused to this will think they need to use that box as part of the answer.
One big cultural difference might be how seriously tests are viewed, and how much practice people get at taking them.
East Asians in America or East Asians in East Asia?
The former, IIRC.
Both, actually.

East Asians in America or East Asians in East Asia?

Average IQ

  • East Asians in US: 106
  • Whites in US: 103
  • Japanese in Japan: 105
  • Koreans in South Korea: 106
Uh, two to three points is noise. Edit: er, possibly. What was the sample size?
In any case, it is clear evidence against the 'cultural bias' hypothesis.

Richard Lynn, Race Differences in Intelligence (2006) refers to a study with n = ~2000 for whites in US getting IQ 103 and a study with n = ~1000 (plus several with n = ~500) for Japanese in Japan getting IQ 105.

If IQ tests are 'culturally biased', then we would expect the highest scoring group to share the same culture as the test writers.

This assumes that if a test is culture biased, it must be biased in favor of the culture as a whole. A test can be culture biased by hyper-valuing a set of skills prominent in one culture, even if that skill set is stronger in some other culture. If IQ is biased, say, toward "academic culture," even though this is a feature of "white U.S. culture" it may be even more a part of East Asian culture.

What I think your argument shows is that the tests aren't intentionally biased in favor of one culture specifically. In fact, the studies of early IQ testing shows there was intentional bias (not so much today), but rather than being in favor of the dominant culture, it was against the cultures of particular immigrants. (I'm speaking of the Army Alpha tests.)

The best explanation for this I've heard is that there is a certain mindset (the writer refereed to it as a "modern mindset") that is uncorrelated with intelligence, but that allows you to do better on intelligence tests. As evidence for this, he used the fact that right here in America, test scores have gone up over the past several decades. This clearly isn't caused by some genetic change, so the most likely explanation is cultural change. When people say that the IQ tests are culturally biased, that doesn't necessarily mean that "white Americans" have the biggest advantage, it just means that IQ tests are measuring at least two separate qualities; one which is "intelligence", and the other being some facet of the culture. There are cultural factors that might give someone in China and advantage over someone in America on an IQ test. One of the simplest explanations I've heard is that the Chinese numbering system is easier to learn and more intuitive to do simple addition and subtraction with. While most number in English have a regular pattern that makes them easy to understand and to work with, (twenty-one, fourty-three are said in "tens then ones" form), the numbers right after ten don't follow this pattern in English (eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen). This makes them more difficult for a child who is first learning his numbers to do so, and makes them slightly more difficult to work with on a cognitive level (it's intuitive to add fourty-one and twenty-two and get sixty-three, since those numbers are in tens-then-ones form; it's less intuitive to learn do that with eleven or thirteen). Anyway, that's just a simple example of the kind of cultural difference you won't even notice but might give one culture a small cognitive or learning advantage over another that has nothing to do with genetics.
Is that actually more likely than environmental change?
It might be caused by a genetic change. Populations are becoming less inbred. This would be expected to raise IQs, though I don't know what the expected magnitude of change is.
It's been claimed ("Resolving the IQ paradox: Heterosis as a cause of the Flynn effect and other trends") that hybrid vigor/heterosis may help the Flynn effect, but this is not a popular explanation since it doesn't explain the pattern of gains on IQ tests or the apparent size of the Flynn effect. I mean, inbreeding depression alone costs much less than Flynn, so it's hard to imagine that outbreeding could be so valuable.
I suspect that my characteristics are partly due to hybrid vigor, as are my sister's. It's not so much "neg (inbreeding depression)" but more of a "when pooling both the strengths and weaknesses of two respective gene pools, the strengths of having access to more 'highly beneficial' genes tend to outweigh the weaknesses of being struck with 'detrimental genes' from a different region". So hybrid vigor isn't necessarily antisymmetrical (I doubt it is) to inbreeding depression. Beneficial/detrimental being relative to the current stage of human civilization in general, and your culture in particular, of course. Example: propensity for thalassemia, good once, bad now.
Interesting. Can you elaborate? What are the patterns exactly, and how do we know what inbreeding depression costs? From recent studies of inbred individuals? I'd be very surprised if it was the only cause of the gain in IQs, but as your reference says, it represents a pretty decent hypothesis for at least some of the effect.
Being confined to the subscales that look like pattern-matching and analogies, IIRC; I'm not sure which paper I get this from, but it seems Jensen does at least make this claim in and in some citations in so there's some starting points at least. Yes, that's how one would do it. The usual reference is to a study of Japanese cousin-marriages back in the '50s or so where IIRC the estimate was <5 IQ points, but there's been research since then, of course; a google for 'inbreeding depression intelligence' should bring some research to light.
Environmental change is certainly possible. For example, the amount of lead the average person gets from the environment has been slowly falling for several decades now. Better pre-natal care, and better education about the effects of consuming even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy, might also be factors. I think that cultural change is probably the biggest single cause of the Flynn effect, though. Computer use, increased practice taking standardized tests in childhood, ect. Which doesn't necessarily mean that they're smarter, just that they'd better at taking IQ tests.
I'm pretty sure IQ tests don't ask questions like that. They're supposed to measure intelligence, not knowledge (at least in principle¹), and it's obvious that even a very smart person couldn't possibly figure out whether rattlesnakes are dangerous while taking the test, short of knowing that beforehand. 1. Well, many of them do require knowledge of the English alphabet and its order, a few require a reasonable knowledge of English, and I think even with Raven's Progressive Matrices, some explicit knowledge of discrete maths concepts such as exclusive OR and cyclical permutations is very useful.
I took an IQ test that had a bunch of "what's wrong with this picture" items in one section. I don't remember any of the questions but the last one - the last one required me to know that there wasn't any air on the moon.
Well, a sufficiently intelligent person could guess that the moon is likely too small to have strong enough grav[realizes that Alicorn is looking at him in a weird way]... Just kidding. :-)
That was obviously a bad test. There is a theory about how IQ tests should be designed. Most of the complaints in this discussion about why some IQ tests are not fair, are already known, and probably have been known for decades. Of course it does not prevent people from ignoring those suggestions and making their own mistaken "IQ tests" anyway (especially if there is money and status to gain by doing so). Just like any amount of medical research cannot prevent people from making and selling homeopathics.
Okay, my examples sucked, but the general principle that one's abilities with reading and English will make a big difference on a written and/or English IQ test still holds. I made that point a lot better in a different comment.
Look at ravens progressive matrices, these are as far from relying on culture as you can get- they are too abstract and tend to show reasonable distributions of results in all groups. They also show poor results for some groups, including africans.
This comment makes my point on this better than the one above did:
Regardless of whether or not it is true it is not supported by the rest of the paragraph. That explains a way in which some arbitrary test which clearly is different in nature to an IQ test could in principle be culturally biased. (The final paragraph does constitute support of the claim, in as much as the existence of a culture fair test implies an authority sees a need for it.)
That's a valid criticism, so I explained a lot better here:
If you're interested in the topic, Lynn & Vanhanen have released a new book on the dataset, Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences, at least some of whose chapters seem relevant to the question of the validity of the scores. (I only just downloaded it and so haven't read said chapters. EDIT: excerpts) I'd note in passing that a culture-loaded test could be perfectly useful in ranking people within a different culture, for the same reason that crystallized intelligence can be used to predict fluid intelligence: if the smarter people are more likely to remember something after just 1 or 2 exposures, and everyone is rarely exposed to the foreign culture, then when you test people on the foreign culture, you'll wind up constructing a ranking which looks a lot like what a 'fair' IQ test would have given you. (Imagine you're an inner city black: you may see or hear of yachts just a handful of times in your life, as would all your confreres; the ones most likely to remember what a 'yacht' is when that infamous example comes up, are... going to be the smart ones who can remember obscure trivia like what white people mean by 'yacht'. The occasional homeboy obsessed with boats but not terribly smart will add noise to the ranking by knowing all about yachts, but over the whole inner-city population, the ranking still works.)
I finally got a chance to give that a look, skimmed various areas to get an idea of what's in there. What I reallly want is a chart that looks like this: Poverty | War | Sweatshop | Schooling | Racial Attitude ---------------------------------------- Poverty War Sweatshop Schooling Racial Attitude Where all the boxes for intersections have the average IQ score, and there are, of course, more columns to account for all the things that might have an effect. Lead paint exposure, crack epidemics, etc. Without that, we're never going to have even the slightest clue. Even with it, we have to ask "Which was the chicken and which was the egg".
Maybe Africa is smarter despite the score... I just realized there's another reason why a chart like the above wouldn't answer this question: We have to ask "Might being under really tough selection pressures actually make a population smarter than they appear?" First half of my point: Say we accounted for all the details and we discovered that a particular group had been through it all. You have to wonder how the hell they survived. More intelligent people more likely to survive hard circumstances, aren't they? Maybe it depends which circumstances. But my thought is that a population of people that's been surviving something really, really hard might end up having it's genes influenced by natural selection, so that there are way more bright people. Second half of my point: Combine this with another thing that affects IQ and you'll see where I'm going with this: If a person has depression, for instance, that can lower their IQ score 30 points until the episode of depression ends. They might have a lot of IQ points in there that we can't see because their IQs are suppressed by stress - not permanently damaged, just suppressed. If stress can lower your score substantially, then a population might require a larger reserve of intelligence if it is going through something awful. What if you're depressed AND at war AND survived starvation, AND weren't schooled, etc. To be able to accomplish an IQ score of even 85 might take a genius after going through all that. So, they could have a population of geniuses over there, and we wouldn't know. Because we, over here in civilized land, have no idea where to even begin guessing what AMOUNT of IQ suppression a combination of factors so terrible would have, especially because they'd probably multiply each other. So, if we looked at a population that had been through a heck of a lot, and they don't score very well, does that mean that they're dumb (as in born that way, or permanently stuck there), or that they are, in fact, s

More intelligent people more likely to survive hard circumstances, aren't they? Maybe it depends which circumstances. But my thought is that a population of people that's been surviving something really, really hard might end up having it's genes influenced by natural selection, so that there are way more bright people.

Why would you think this? Intelligence is metabolically expensive, and pays off only in the long run (consider how much of a life you can 'waste' getting an education). Putting people into a resource-pressured poor quality environment would seem to select for more immediately useful traits like aggression or growing up very quickly (and hence, investing in poorer quality body parts or less of them, like being shorter).

If there were a lot of resources on average but the environment fluctuated a lot, then there might be evolutionary pressure for intelligence: but this does not describe Africa too well and better describes very northern countries like Scandinavia where you can freeze to death but agriculture or fishing etc still yield lots of food. The book does discuss this theory and run some regressions in its favor. (I've always been a little dubious: it seems to me that it largely depends on European countries for most of its value...)

Gifted babies do things sooner - that's how early it shows up. Gifted children can learn to walk sooner, talk sooner, climb sooner, have rational thoughts sooner, etc. I'm not talking about marginally sooner. I'm talking about huge gaps like 1/3 sooner or 3 times sooner, and sometimes even 12 times sooner (William Sidis). Gifted children tend to be bigger, not smaller - they develop faster. All these things would certainly give them an edge over the other children. They do grow up faster - otherwise what else describes child prodigies? They've reached an adult level of skill as a child. That does happen, you know. Gifted people tend to be emotionally intense - and of course they may express that in any number of directions (sadness, happiness, anger) which lends itself to the idea that some portion of the gifted population may be easier to provoke to the point of aggression. And there are different kinds of gifts, different sources of giftedness. Some gifted people only need three hours of sleep, for instance. I've met several bright people that require only three hours a night. That's five extra hours every day. Imagine that all your days are 1/3 longer, and how much of an advantage it would be. What are these "resources" you keep mentioning? It's not like gifted children eat two elephants a week. They eat normal food. Do you happen to remember the area of the book dealing with this theory?

All of your points may be true, but are not especially relevant. Philippe Rushton makes much hay in his lifecycle theory of how black kids grow up faster than white kids and much faster than East Asian kids, but that doesn't mean they're destined for genius any more than chimp infants growing up much faster than human infants means anything.

What are these "resources" you keep mentioning?

Fats, protein, calories, time-investment, sleep. Feel free to look through for those (the sleep one IIRC is from Ericsson).

It's not like gifted children eat two elephants a week. They eat normal food.

How do you know how much they eat? Have you weighed out their every meal and snack? Just a few hundred calories made the difference between life and death in Nazi concentration camps; how much more so in famines or droughts? Your intuitions from a fat Western First World environment are not very useful in this discussion.

I've met several bright people that require only three hours a night. That's five extra hours every day. Imagine that all your days are 1/3 longer, and how much of an advantage it would be.

I have, actually, with modafinil. It'... (read more)

There are different speeds at which people grow up, it's not boolean. There are different levels of giftedness. Some are so gifted as to be called geniuses, some are more along the lines of talented, and there are plenty of people in between. Food: Now that you've said "a few hundred calories makes a difference", I see that this could be a potential setback for them. That was a good point. I don't know whether they eat a bit more or less, though I know that they can experience reactive hypoglycemia if they don't space and balance their meals properly to avoid blood sugar crashes. Sleep: Gifted children are more likely to need either more or less sleep than average. So far, I've met a bunch of gifted people that need less sleep, and none that need more. If sleep were a survival factor, then the gifted people who need less of it would theoretically just be more populous than the ones who need more. Obviously, the longer sleepers theoretically would not prevent shorter sleepers from surviving better. It's not 100% clear to me whether brilliant people who sleep 3 hours a night experience sleep deprivation symptoms. However, when you're looking at something as extreme as a 5 hour difference, you'd think the person would unravel very quickly, if they needed those 5 hours. If they're paying a price for it, it's certainly not nearly as bad as the price an ordinary person would pay. A normal person would probably devolve into schizophrenia after a couple weeks of that. But these guys seemed bright and rational.
Einstein and Feynman didn't start to talk until they were 3.
Huh. I didn't know that. My parents thought I was deaf until one day I started talking - in full and coherent sentences. How common is that?
This old Language Log post discusses some fictional, real and apocryphal cases.
I couldn't give a figure for it but it is a common enough occurrence that my Asperger's Syndrome textbook notes it as a possible outcome.
I had originally read that on the WIkipedia article about Feynman, which links to, which cites (which I haven't read yet, but I'm going to).
One example: the population is Ashkenazi jews, and the environment is the racist world we live in. It's not clear how much is cultural and how much is genetic, though.
What? If you have in mind things like the Holocaust, remember that the causation goes the other way around. Success breeds resentment, rather than resentment breeding success. Jews are a market-dominant minority, and across the world market-dominant minorities are subject to violence and resentment. Jewish intelligence is likely due to their particular economic and social position in the middle ages, where they had long-range trust networks that facilitated moneylending and trade, as well as a religious prohibition from marrying with the locals that meant they would specialize more towards their ecological niche. (And it seems likely that they picked that niche because it was a particularly pleasant one, not that they were forced into it by oppression.)
Thanks, it's good to know about market-dominant minorities. I'm not sure what to do with this seems to accurately describe the situation but is also very disturbing, for two reasons: First, it sounds like blaming the Jews, in that if they were a model (politically-weak) minority instead of a market-dominant minority they wouldn't have been scapegoated for Germany's economic problems, which is terrible (but I'm pretty sure you just are trying to describe the real world, with no value judgments whatsoever meant). Second, I am apparently one of the oppressors of today. Most Americans don't think much about the poor people who make the stuff they buy, or who get exploded by the weapons their military develops. "Is" doesn't lead to "should", and there's no legal obligation to seek out opportunities to save lives, and I don't have enough power now to make a meaningful difference, but it's really hard to say "I don't care what other people think; I'm going to do what I want!", when every normal American day I burn enough money to support a few impoverished families. If I gave up some luxuries, I could save peoples' lives, but if I give in to that it means the end of my dreams, and would not necessarily do the most good. Most people choose not to think about these things. Is it time to jump off the slippery slope? I falsely equate being selfish with being evil, because it feels like the cost of embracing selfishness is, to quote Steven Pressfield, to "wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, with nothing and no one to hold on to." But, being unselfish ends with my death with nothing meaningful changed, and refusing to choose, while easy, is a non-option. I need to not die, and to know the meaning of life, and I want to help others to the extent possible. Owning my place in the real world is painful but seeking oblivion through distracted and unhealthy living, because of my unwillingness to own my place as a subordinate fiend, is worse.
The Ashkenazi Jews are still a small population, though. And intelligence may be an reproductive advantage in their niche, but that's only one niche. If you don't like the example of the Holocaust, consider the Khmer Rouge going after anyone who seemed intelligent.
The Khmer Rouge were dramatic, but I'd bet money that simpler forces have played a greater role in the evolution of intelligence since the Neolithic. As you say upthread, intelligence is metabolically expensive, and it seems likely that it shows some fairly steep diminishing returns in a subsistence farming environment -- particularly since its gains there are distributed over large populations. If a mutation gives you a chance of dying in a childhood famine and a much smaller chance of coming up with an agricultural innovation that might save your kids (and the rest of your village, but your mutation doesn't care) from dying of childhood famine, it's no advantage from a gene-centered point of view. (On the other hand, if being good at Torah study is sexy in your subculture, then sexual selection might make up the difference.)
That's true comparing chimps to humans. I am not sure that's true comparing an IQ70 human to an IQ130 human.
Why wouldn't it be? Some of that increase might come from gains in efficiency, but precisely because brains are metabolically expensive, I'd expect most of the low-hanging efficiency gains in mammalian brains to be mined out already. Brute-force gains are limited by more than just energy, but I'd expect most architectural improvements to come with energy tradeoffs, too. When you get right down to it, something's got to do the computing.
Is there any evidence for it?
Is there any evidence against it? Not to play reference class tennis here, but given the choice between magic efficiency gains and continuing a curve that we can project out from the lower primates, the latter seems like the more reasonable null.
It seems like a relatively straightforward empirical question whether BMR correlates with IQ. I have no idea if it does, but maybe somebody who knows more neuroscience will chime in? I would definitely expect metabolic cost to vary with brain size or neuron count or something, but AFAIK that varies relatively little between humans (compared to humans vs other primates). It's much less clear that better software or architecture is also more expensive.
No, not really. You can point to increased number of neurons, increased brain energy consumption, etc. for humans compared to primates very easily. I don't think you can point to the same thing for IQ130 humans compared to IQ70 humans. I don't have any hard data, but it doesn't seem to me that all the extra-smart people have unusually large heads and eat more than usual. I don't buy the argument that the evolution must have optimized for intelligence already. The ability to e.g. hold a complicated structure in your mind wasn't particularly valuable for a pack of proto-humans in the African savannah.
Not optimized for intelligence, optimized for neural efficiency. Wikipedia tells me that most mammals devote single-digit percentages of BMR to brainpower, but for anatomically modern humans it's closer to 25%. Maybe more in childhood; Wikipedia doesn't say but the brain-to-body-mass ratio there is higher. When you've got an overambitious monkey burning a quarter of its calories keeping its freaky big monkey brain happy, there are very good reasons for evolution to explore all the corners that it can easily cut, as long as they don't exist in a state of ridiculous abundance. And since we know of at least one population bottleneck in the Paleolithic, I'm pretty sure food scarcity was a thing at that stage.
Neural efficiency at doing what? Our contemporary idea of intelligence involves doing things that evolution did not optimize for. And again -- look at very smart people, look at very dumb people. Is the difference due to neural efficiency? Sure, but evolution works slowly. Big brains are very new in evolutionary time, it's not like evolution had hundreds of millions of years to polish them.
On the neuron level, all the usual biochemistry that makes neurons go. On the architecture level, any structure that helped paleolithic humans do their thing, and none that didn't. Our thinking seems pretty general and flexible, for example, which means that a lot of the reflexive, special-purpose stuff we see in other mammals would have gotten pruned away at some stage of development. No. That is, in part, my point. If I'm right about this, we should expect the efficient phenotypes to have reached fixation long ago. (Strictly speaking, I'd probably expect some of the difference, especially on the low end, to be due to de novo mutations, some of which might have deleterious effects in this domain. But that's a corner case and I think we can ignore it for the purposes of this discussion.)
The usual biochemistry that makes neurons go, as far as I know, is not unique to humans and has been stable for quite a long time. But I think we're getting a bit confused and start to chase our own tails. Let's circle back and see what the original disagreement was. You said that "intelligence is metabolically expensive, and it seems likely that it shows some fairly steep diminishing returns in a subsistence farming environment". I countered by doubting that there's any metabolic difference (cost) between an IQ130 and an IQ70 human -- implying that while the returns are diminishing, the cost doesn't change in the range we're talking about. And after that it looks like the core of the discussion is whether somewhat higher intelligence (say, moving the average from 100 to 130) carries enough of a metabolic cost to make the evolution prevent that move. My position is that the metabolic cost for IQ moves of a couple of standard deviations is sufficiently close to zero.
I would keep in mind that IQ differentials involving increased cranial capacity are more likely to have metabolic costs than ones that don't. It also seems to me that most of the pressure against higher IQs is going to be cognitive rather than metabolic.
Did you look for any? Quoted from here, the paper is here (they should have quoted the correlation of 0.38, which is what you get when you weight by sample size). It's obvious that mental tasks do consume glucose. Jensen mentions metabolic correlations here, but not which direction they go in. This paper suggests that IQ and cerebral glucose metabolic rate are inversely correlated, and that after learning a new task more intelligent individuals showed larger decreases, but it looks like it has a very low n and I'd want to draw conclusions from review papers rather than individual investigations. I would not be surprised if the brain efficiency hypothesis dominates, and that higher IQ individuals get more bang for the buck instead of burning more to get more. I also hear more about cooling costs than calorie costs with regards to brain metabolism, but that may be because cooling costs fits with the observed data of smarter people evolving in colder places with higher latitudes.
Like Singapore?
Singapore is a small country which deliberately attracts elites and tries to practice eugenics; so I don't think that's a very good example at all to use against a statistical generalization...
Ok. But China is also pretty smart, and as far as I know it doesn't have a North-South IQ gradient: According to Wikipedia, the genetics of the Han Chinese is... complicated. But even if high-IQ genes were ancestral in northen Hans and then were transferred to southern Hans due to migrations, if warm climates selects negatively for intelligence I think we should expect that in the last 2,000 years those high-IQ genes would not have thrived in South China.
That doesn't show the absence of a gradient, because they're reporting, if I'm understanding the description right, a PISA-aggregate of 12 provinces; the only other scores are places you'd expect to be outliers and unaffected by any evolution (Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc). There is a map, but: Yeah... Plus, note the striking East-West gradient. So this map is serving more as a measure of economic development and Internet access than a random sample demonstrating lack of gradient. I'm not surprised. The Han have been expanding relentlessly for a long time.
What gwen said. Also the majority of Singapore is ethnic Chinese, whose ancestors came from higher latitudes.
Or, having access to paper and pen, it may actually be less valuable now than it was for a pack of proto humans. (The environment was pretty complicated even back then - competing tribes, complex network of alliances within a tribe, the habits of different animals, etc etc. But you couldn't put it down, you had to keep it all in your mind)
If there was no metabolic difference between building an IQ70 brain and an IQ130 brain, why would there be any effects from micronutrient deficiency? Remember, expensive isn't limited to adult basal metabolic rates, there are other ways to be expensive; for example, a better brain could suck up tons of iron, iodine, and protein in childhood, requiring lots of meat and fat and seafood, and if a fetus or child's metabolic needs are not met, whups, there goes some myelination (fat), some non-cretinism (iodine), some energy and lassitude (iron and protein)...
Also cranial capacity is in fact correlated to iq
Well, hypothetically, if we have a chip fab, and it has a "micronutrient deficiency", it can produce noisier circuits that don't consume less power, or which would even consume more power. It would seem that there are some basic requirements which need to be met to build the brain correctly, requirements that are proportional to the brain volume, with no gains from exceeding those requirements. One could further hypothesise that those requirements are met in almost all "IQ130" brains.
Sure. Chip fabs probably even have 'micronutrient deficencies' in a very similar way - if you can't get enough of the exact right exotic element or mineral for say doping semiconductors, the engineers can probably work around it but won't get as power-efficient or fast a chip. (Now I'm imaging correlating chip fab 'brain damage' to global commodity prices...)
I don't think deficiency in dopants can ever arise, though, as they're used in incredibly tiny amounts. For micro-nutrient deficiencies the issue is often not so much with obtaining the micronutrient as with the lack of craving for it. We can smell iodine, but we don't crave it when deficient, so we didn't have seaweed and the like as a high value spice which everyone craves.
But they need to be extremely pure and in the right form to be used. (If just having the raw material was enough, no one would ever die of thirst drinking salt-water and plants would never lack for nitrogen.) Maybe we can smell very large quantities of iodine, but can one really smell deficiency-relevant amounts in seaweed?
Yeah, but so is silicon (and even more so in terms of purity), and there's million times the silicon. I think industry is sort of similar to the ancestral animal that is eating a diet where it obtains enough micronutrients alongside macronutrients. But if we were to try to build a self replicating factory on the moon... we'd probably just ship anything like this from the earth. The RDA is 300 micrograms per day, 0.3mg, and if I have a 3% solution of iodine, that's 10mg of that solution. 1 drop of water is 50mg , and I think you could easily smell 1/5th of a drop (or a drop 58% the size of a regular water drop), but probably not if its mixed up in food. Still it is close enough that given an absence of such adaptation I wouldn't expect any other complex adaptations to lack of iodine. edit: plus we can detect seaweed without smelling iodine itself.
Oh, you mean that smell is one of the easiest adaptations for dealing with a lack of iodine, and since we don't have a smell adaptation, we don't have any more complex adaptations? Sure, I agree with that. Tweaking smell sensitivity seems to be pretty easy. Humans aren't dogs, but we can still smell some things at very low thresholds. For example, t-butyl mercaptan can be smelled at 0.3 parts per billion, it seems. (Although now that I think about it, what on earth was the selection pressure for that? Maybe some smell thresholds are just random.) Seaweed has an awful lot of stuff in it; we could be smelling any of the components without smelling a particular component. You can easily smell tobacco, but can one smell important parts like nicotine?
Yeah and also we used to have a much better sense of smell. Smell is also used for identification (it seems, in most mammals except humans) and for that the more compounds you detect at the lesser concentrations the better. With mercaptans I think it'd be related to bacterial toxins in rotting meat, which kill at absurdly low concentrations. We can't detect poisons themselves but we can detect other stuff that goes along with it. Yeah, that's the point - those who live next to the coast (within what ever range you can have a preventable iodine deficiency - right next to the coast maybe nobody ever gets it, but some distance inland...) could evolve taste for seaweed based on some other compounds or their combination, to get iodine.
Would that fit food transportation patterns? I've never heard of seaweed being collected and shipped in large quantities. Most communities were generally pretty self-sufficient as far as food goes. If you don't have optional access to seaweed, there's not going to be anything evolution can exploit - you'll just get entire communities of deficient people. Which apparently did exist historically: The consequences are pretty severe: starting from birth, retardation, small size, frequent infertility. And lots of variation within villages and between regions - which sounds like there would have been a lot of selection pressure for particular food preferences, within-village and between-village, but there doesn't seem to've been any kind of adaptation.
What I mean is that a lot of people live quite close to the coast, where they could either go to the trouble of finding more kelp (as people do for salt) or not. I think it's just that there wasn't enough generations and enough pressure. Adaptations like being able to drink milk do occur in a short timeframe, but those could have attained full adaptation in 1 mutation, while this may be the sort of adaptation where 1 mutation only yields a slight preference. edit: or it may be that iodine deficiency is historically recent and sufficiently rare to result in any specific adaptations. I was basing it on Lithuania which has iodine deficient soil even fairly close to the coast, but that state of affairs may be geologically recent. Something else with regards to IQ... regarding the variance of IQ (and potential for any breeding). There's a correlation between the IQ of spouses, which implies that variance is larger than it would have been otherwise (high IQ genes combine more often than they would with random mating). I imagine that the level of correlation between IQ would be dependent on the social institutions and equality (as in a very gender unequal society, there's no selection mechanism at play, or at least, no direct selection). This also serves as an existing breeding program within the general population (if you look at just the high IQ population and ignore what the rest are doing), with the advantage of not destroying genetic diversity. (Something like Aktion T4 has all the potential of losing those high IQ genes that can backfire when combined with 'wrong' genes or the copies of themselves - selective breeding can easily backfire (and does when selectively breeding animals) ).
What would cause iodine deficiencies to be recent? As far as I know, remedies using seaweed go back thousands of years; that was enough time for milk and altitude adaptations in some populations, and it seems to me that fixing iodine deficiency would be much more valuable if possible: being completely lactose-intolerant is not nearly as bad as being a shriveled retard who's infertile.
By recent I meant last ~20 000 years. The lactose tolerance is an exceptionally simple adaptation: full adaptation in 1 step. Whereas I'd imagine available mutations for seaweed craving could only produce a slight preference for a wide class of foods with the first mutations. Also it may be that there is such an adaptation, it's just that it's in a sub-population where it gone unnoticed. In either case we have an apparent fact that there's no such adaptation, even though it would seem to be advantageous. Which perhaps can't tell us much about why but can tell us not to expect more complex adaptations to that specific problem. edit: also, isn't iodine only necessary for the synthesis of thyroid hormones? In principle it ought to be possible to evolve not to need iodine in the first place, but that obviously won't happen if iodine is common enough.
I suspect such an adaptation would have been noticed. There's a stupid number of studies in which the researcher takes urine/blood samples from women, measures iodine levels or a proxy for iodine level like TSH, and do a followup on the infants, and, mirabile dictu, the infants tend to have smaller heads or other problems in a fairly linear correlation with the mothers' deficiencies. (Seriously, there's like 1 a week of these in my Pubmed alerts for iodine, it's quite a nuisance. Who funds this crap?) It's common to record race or ethnicity as part of the covariates; if someone had found an interaction where, I dunno, Europeans were immune to iodine deficiency, I figure I would have heard about it because it would be so much more interesting and sexy a result than the usual one. I'm not sure. It may be that iodine is the only way to do the things it does in mammals - either because it's a local optima or global. For example, you can theoretically have blood which doesn't require iron for hemoglobin (which requires iron), as demonstrated by octopus blood using hemocyanin which relies on copper rather than iron, but no matter how little iron is available, it's hard to see mammals ever evolving hemocyanin and abandoning hemoglobin. And more generally, now that the arsenic-bacteria seem to have been debunked, there doesn't seem to be any replacement at all for phosphate in key roles like ATP; if Earth-life has no access to phosphate, it's doomed. (Of course, some other examples suggest the other way: humans lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C a while ago, and could probably recover it; but there's never been enough selection pressure.)
But they wouldn't be immune to deficiency, merely eating a diet that prevents the deficiency, through some sort of craving for seafood which is virtually impossible to discern from cultural. We do seem to have a preference for variety in food. My understanding is that it is used in signalling molecules used to control growth, but is not used in any key steps in main metabolism itself. Animals can survive on very little iodine, it seems - stunted and not growing right, but i'd imagine given enough time evolution would find a way to re-do that growth control using another molecules for hormones.
I have no idea what your chart would mean. The book supplies tons of regressions if you want some sort of prediction on an individual level (and cites many individual studies which may be more useful than cross-national regressions), so you can't complain data is lacking.

There's a possible explanation that is totally in support of the Africans, EVEN if the claim was true. Here it is:

IQ tests are culturally biased.

Where did this explanation come from? The way you present it, it's as if you looked for this explanation in order to save a belief about the intelligence of Africans.

If the test asks "How do you use a teacup?"

I have seen a few IQ tests, and none of them contain questions remotely like this. This imaginary IQ test question seems to have been invented as fictional evidence to support the explanation.

IQ tests these days are typically "culture-fair", by which is meant that the questions are non-verbal and non-pictorial. At least, that is what is usually meant, although on googling for "culture-fair", I did notice the occasional assumption that a test that gives different average scores to people from different cultures is ispo facto not culture-fair, making equality of IQ between cultures an axiom instead of an observation.

Even without looking at cultural unfairness in the tests themselves, it's very hard to tell apart genetic factors from nurture. Be it within the US (or Europe) or between US/Europe and Africa, there is a strong correlation between skin color and economical status. Lower economical status means lower quality food, higher chance of living in old buildings using lead-based paint, usually poorer quality shcools, ... which all affect the developement of the brain. Is there any study done for example on the IQ of black children raised from a very young age in middle-class foster families, compared to whilte children raised in similar conditions ? Even then we couldn't rule our non-genetic factors that affected pregnancy (like bad food quality or drug/alcohol use during pregnancy), but it would be more significant to claim that there is a significant genetic difference.
Even that wouldn't work. Here's why: Read about Jane Elliot's brown eyes, blue eyes experiment. Cliff notes version: A school teacher tells her class that the brown eyed kids are better than the blue eyed kids, puts collars on the blue eyed kids, and sees what happens. Very, very quickly, they take on these oppressor vs. victim roles. Suddenly, she's noticing things like the blue-eyed children who used to be smart couldn't perform well. Brown-eyed kids were spelling words she knew they couldn't spell. Simply being a black child in a white-dominant classroom is enough to potentially throw those kids off on the tests. Could this be a problem for a predominantly black school in a white-dominant country? Or a predominantly black country in a white-dominant world? It is argued that America is not a white-dominant country and that's true if you look at the population statistics. But that doesn't mean everyone's updated their attitudes or that the social structures have really changed. :/ One interesting thing I want to note here is that I have read that Chinese people feel a sense of pride about being "the first people." I don't know whether that is a common attitude in China, but IF it is, and IF these IQ tests are actually accurate (which I have already stated some serious criticisms about) perhaps the difference is the way that the races perceive their lot in the world. Also, I hate to do this to you because if I were on the receiving end I would feel really bad, but I can't not say it now that I've seen it: Why do we have to stick to comparing black foster kids with white foster kids, as if there are no black children in middle class families to research? Michael Jordan, for instance, made it well beyond the middle class. I've seen black people working middle class jobs, and met a black guy recently who makes a lot of money working in IT. It's not like they aren't out there. I hope you don't take it too badly... we all come here because we want to remove our bia
I think this is the most interesting sentence in the whole discussion. Let's be clear. Racial groupings are really very significant pieces of evidence. There's huge amounts of genetics that correlates, huge amounts of culture that correlates, huge amounts of wider environment that correlates. It would be frankly astonishing if things like IQ, reaction time, hight, life expectancy, and rates of disease didn't also correlate. So, we ought to expect to see a correlation, and in fact a whole bunch of studies say we do. ... And then those studies are put under far more than average pressure. See people below wanting to dismiss Raven's Progressive Matrices as culturally biased. Why on earth do we want there to be no such correlation with IQ. We're very happy to say there's a correlation between race and hight, between race and life expectancy, between race and disease, between race and income. Why not race and IQ? Why do we want that to be false?
Well, there's a correlation between race and height, too, no doubt, but such correlation is utterly insignificant comparing to variance within either race - you don't say whites are taller or blacks are taller, there's very short black populations and very tall ones, and ditto for the whites whose variance is smaller. The quantitative differences make a qualitative difference here. Racists believe the correlation to be of greater significance than that of correlation between the height and intelligence. Based on fairly poor evidence - Raven's matrices are not this culture fair, they're culture fair in the sense that you can test British, Germans, French, Russian, and Chinese and Japanese with it, not in the sense that you can go and test some tribe that doesn't do much arithmetic nor is exposed to similar visual stimuli. By the way given the diversity of blacks it would be utterly surprising if there is not a single ethnicity there with an average IQ greater than 100, as well as IQ with greater or smaller variance. (I would expect blacks to have larger variance than whites because they're plain more diverse, and mixed to have greater variance still) Then the "rational" racists also object to use or even the existence of correlation between such racism and intelligence, conscientiousness, education, and other factors.
Notice I said nothing at all about racism or our policy responses to race. Of course intra-group variation is more important, that's obvious and applies to height too. This much is well known and irrelevant to my point. The thing I'm interested here is why it's commonly accepted that there ought (in a strong moral sense) to be no correlation. Not our response to the actual existence of that correlation.
I am not aware of any test of pattern recognition that is more culture fair than Raven's, but would love to hear of one if you're familiar with one, and I would be rightfully suspicious of the intellectual capabilities of a tribe that has not invented arithmetic. I'm not aware of many ethnicity-level studies; I think the best we have are nationality-level studies. The highest country mean in all of Africa that I'm aware of is Morocco, with 85.
It's an interesting and very common form of an entirely irrational argument. (Hypothetical) absence of a better test in no way implies that it is a good enough test for a select purpose. Especially when no one really tried to quantify the error you might get. I said, "doesn't do much arithmetic". You can look at the whites 1000 or 2000 years ago and vast majority don't do much arithmetic. "Haven't invented arithmetic" is your invention.
I prefer quantitative arguments to qualitative arguments; relatedly, I prefer certainty as a number to certainty as a word. I think it's better to make the most of mediocre data (and figure out which additional data is highest EV) than to throw out the best data available. It is not true that people haven't tried to quantify the error they might get; this is actually a major concern of psychometricians. They've figured out several ways that a test can go wrong, and have come up with quantitative measures on how much those seem to have happened. For example, a problem with WWI-era IQ tests was that the modal number of correct questions was 0, which suggests that a large number of test-takers did not understand the instructions, which dropped the uncorrected mean significantly. Now they look for this problem. For example, here's a paper about Raven's in Africa, which goes through the various ways that Raven's could underestimate African intelligence. It's full of quantative statements like "the correlation with other intellectual tests is generally about .6 in Western studies, but is .33 in African studies, suggesting it is less g-loaded for Africans."* If you wanted, you could figure out what an individual Raven's score of 80 implies for any other cognitive test in Westerners and Africans respectively. Like any Bayesian exercise, this relies pretty heavily on the priors you choose: if you assume the score is accurate but not precise, then you have a mean centered on 80 but a difference variance for the two groups, with a larger African variance because your test is less precise. If you assume both groups have the Western mean, then the regression to the mean (i.e. upwards) is higher for the African than the Westerner, again because the test was less precise. *I should point out that there are other, competing interpretations of this finding, and it seems that the correlation is lower for the more rural and less educated, suggesting the left half of Fig 4 is due t
Culture and environment are not race. Therefore, if you're studying race, those influences should be taken out of your scientific experiment. It's extremely difficult to remove things like culture and environment from a study on IQ. The fact that so much is correlated with it doesn't mean the results of studies intended to determine racial differences are significant so much as it means they're a tangled mess of cause and effect which we likely haven't sorted out adequately. A. We don't want black people to suffer needlessly. B. We don't want to encourage ourselves and others to be prejudiced against people when, regardless of what the average African's IQ is, it is still both logically incorrect (hasty generalization) and ethically wrong to prejudge individual Africans. However, knowing how humans behave, we figure that if people believe Africans have lower IQs, that will result in an increase in prejudice. Actually, I bet some people are not happy saying that there are correlations there. This is one of those notions you might want to double check.
So what you're saying is that it's ethically wrong to use Bayesian reasoning.
Is it inconceivable that this could ever be the case?
It is dangerous to be half a rationalist. This applies to groups as well as individuals. No matter how good your process for arriving at beliefs, it is indeed unethical to go around spreading those beliefs to people that will predictably misunderstand and misuse them.
Funny how the only people to make that argument tend to be people who don't want to believe the beliefs in question, but have out of ways to ignore the evidence. On a less meta level: what kind of "misunderstand and misuse" do you think is going to "predictably" happen.
In the interest of clarity: I am not at all sure how to proceed in this particular case. History makes me wary of departing from the current Schelling point of assuming everybody is equal, but that's not my point. I am saying that a course of action based on Bayesian reasoning has no special immunity to being ethically wrong, and it is those actual results that are worth worrying about, not merely the epistemology.
I, for one, do believe that the average African has lower IQ than the average European but don't go around telling that to the wrong people. Underestimating how much the evidence race provides about an individual's IQ can be screened off by other evidence about the individual, due to the confirmation bias and similar.
It is almost always bad Bayes, or any other kind of reasoning, to make judgements about individuals based on group characeristics, since there is almost always information about them as individuals available which is almost always more reliable.
Group level information is still useful for shrinkage of estimates and correcting for the always-present unreliability in individual estimates; see for example the long conversation between me and Vaniver on LW somewhere where we work through how you would shrink males and females' SAT scores based on the College Board's published reliability numbers.
And E(X's deserved SAT score|X's measured SAT score; X is male) - E(X's deserved SAT score|X's measured SAT score; X is female) was, like, four points? I still think people's System 1 are likely to overestimate this difference if they know about the correlation more than underestimate it if they don't.
A 4 point adjustment (or more) across all candidates based solely on 1 binary variable (gender) and a trivial centuries-old bit of statistical reasoning seems like a fairly impressive output, and likely to make a difference on the margin for thousands of applications out of the millions sent each year. And your evidence for this is...?
For applicants scoring 800 on a hypothetical normally distributed math SAT, yep. For normally distributed tests, shrinkage is linear based on the difference between the group mean and the measured mean, and so it's smaller for less extreme scores. (For some reason, I'm having difficulty finding the link to the actual conversation; I think Google search is not going into deep comment threads, and the search function is based off the site, rather than just a database of my comments. Anyone remember helpful keywords further upthread to get a link to the actual conversation?) Saying "we shouldn't explicitly calculate something because some people might implicitly calculate that thing incorrectly" sounds to me like going in the exact wrong direction.
Here is Wei Dai's tool for searching LW comments.
If you intend to use an African prejudgment heuristic like 1 (below) rather than reacting as if you've done an equation that takes into account other relevant data like 2 (below), then I think your probability equation needs an upgrade. 1) African prejudgment heuristic: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites, therefore this specific African individual is likely to be relatively stupid compared to my white friends." 2) Reasoning that Takes Relevant Data Into Account: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites. However, there are known flaws with IQ tests such as cultural bias, so that figure might be wrong. Most published research findings are false (PLOS Medicine), so I should apply healthy skepticism to all the research I read. This is not likely to be an accurate piece of data to use as a Bayesian prior. Once I've decided on a prior to use, I should then adjust for other relevant data (things I know about the specific individual). Then, if one wants to behave rationally after one has decided what to believe, I think one must continue by thinking something like this: "Considering things like... A. ...the fact my prior is likely to be inaccurate (there isn't an accurate one for this subject as far as I'm aware)... B. ...the fact that even if the IQ study is correct and the IQ test it used was accurate, there's a decent chance (25%) that this specific individual has an IQ above the African average - meaning I need to avoid the logical fallacy called hasty generalization... C. ...the risk of lost utility via damaging this individual's reputation, emotional health or opportunities for success by pre-judging them... D. ...the risk that this makes for bad social signaling and witnesses may retaliate against me with one or more forms of social rejection if I pre-emptively treat an African like an idiot... I really want to treat this person as if they are less intelligent?" I think you may have reacted to my
All of that looks like rationalization of a pre-determined belief.
No it doesn't. The conclusion supported is far too close to the 'middle ground' on the issue to readily pattern match to rationalization and seems to be a description of considered reasoning from plausibly held premises. The 'rationalisation' and 'pre-determined belief' charges could be credibly made in response to many of the comments in this thread but doesn't apply to the grandparent. NOTE: I don't entirely agree with with either Epiphany's position or Eugine's position. In particular Epiphany seems a little too disillusioned with research while Eugine has somewhat too much passion on the race/IQ political correctness subject to keep his claims balanced enough that I could support them despite agreeing that there are almost certainly IQ differences between groups selected by just about any significant feature---not that this seems like an especially useful thing to place emphasis on. I seem to recall some credible claims about higher average mathematical intelligence in Ashkenazi Jews for example. Regardless of whether I agree with the position being argued with, the parent is making what seems to me to be a false accusation and one of a kind that derails the flow of discourse.
Respectfully disagree, though we may be focusing on different parts. It worries me that your analysis seems to focus on the conclusion drawn rather than the procedures followed. Consider this bit of the great-grandparent: This looks like pure rationalization to me, with many inaccuracies and irrelevancies, all of which support the intended conclusion. (An unbiased sloppy thinker should be expected to make mistakes in both directions simultaneously; when the mistakes all point one way it suggests bias.) The most egregious irrelevance is the attempt to discredit one of the most replicated findings in social science with a study that showed that prominently promoted recent research often fails to replicate. The last sentence is bizarre by its addition- would someone using race as Bayesian evidence not update on other information? (The later reference on Bayesian updating is similarly bizarre.) The rest of the great-grandparent discusses how, even if we had an estimate, we should be careful how we use that estimate. Of course--who would argue against using estimates carefully?--but irrelevant to the question of whether or not it is ethical to use Bayesian reasoning.

Reasoning that Takes Relevant Data Into Account: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites. However, there are known flaws with IQ tests such as cultural bias, so that figure might be wrong. Most published research findings are false (PLOS Medicine), so I should apply healthy skepticism to all the research I read. This is not likely to be an accurate piece of data to use as a Bayesian prior.

This reads like a classic case of motivated cognition. You don't want to believe the conclusion; therefore, you selectively look for potential flaws then declare that there's still a chance. The reason I believe the connection between race and intelligence is not just because of the tests but because more or less every relevant aspect of reality (e.g., the statistic on race and crime, the nearly complete lack of blacks in intelligence intensive fields, e.g., math, programing, the state of majority black countries) looks the way one would expect it to look if the connection existed.

Once I've decided on a prior to use, I should then adjust for other relevant data (things I know about the specific individual).

Who is claiming otherwise?

A. ...the fact my prior

... (read more)
Did you stop to make distinction between me being influenced by motivated cognition and alternate explanations like: 1. Me seeing significant flaws in data that would otherwise support your conclusion. Part of this may be that I've spent a significant amount of time reading about IQ and giftedness and I have learned that there are a lot of pitfalls to doing IQ related research. 2. Me simply being unaware of relevant data. (This might be the case in the event that the people who supplied my data were influenced by motivated cognition or confirmation bias.) 3. You seeing motivated cognition in my words because of being influenced by motivated cognition yourself? There is an alternate explanation for those which does not have the same issues that IQ tests and studies have: The effects of slavery and prejudice. We are certain that slavery and prejudice has influenced them, and that it has existed for a long time. To know this, one must only look at the KKK or investigate the history of black enslavement. Imagine a third world country. Imagine that an equal proportion of those inhabitants are removed and used as slaves. Imagine an equal proportion of them dying. Imagine that they're freed, but all of them - not some but all - are freed into a situation of extreme poverty where they don't even own a home or have the ability to read. Many still aren't being taught to read. Consider also that even though there have been advances in medicine, poverty means you can't afford health insurance or medical treatments. Don't think that disability and chronic illness are uncommon - they're not. Not even in America. They're probably especially common for the poor. Don't think that severe worker abuse ended with slavery, either - do some research on sweatshops in America sometime. Now take into account the effects of stress, and the human element - how those effects can compound into things like mental illnesses and drug addictions. Would you predict that the majority of these
In Africa? It so happens that the world is much bigger than the USA and the people in sub-Saharan Africa test for IQ pretty much the same as African-Americans. Sure, you can control for wealth/economic status. Or you can go and test poor peasants in China and poor peasants in Africa. You seem to think that this is a white-vs-black US problem. It's not. The highest-average-IQ large group of people is East Asians, like Han Chinese -- not Caucasian whites. I am curious -- how do you figure out that in a distribution close to normal only 25% are higher than the mean?
cough colonialism cough
So the horrible European experience of being a Chinese colony has shocked the Caucasian population into scoring noticeably lower on the IQ tests than the Chinese?
I was referring to: It is far from hard to see how sub-saharan africa has been stripped and degraded over the centuries in a way that, say, rural China wasn't. And I am far from convinced that IQ, being an extremely culturally contextual measure, can be disentangled from modes of thought that lend themselves to abstract pattern analysis being more or less common in different traditions.
Centuries..? Central Africa was explored by Europeans (that is, the first Europeans appeared there) in the mid-XIX century. Most of the African countries were independent by late 60s early 70s of the XX century. Notable chunks like Ethiopia were never colonized (Ethiopia was occupied by Italy for a short time in 1930s and early 40s). But anyway, it is hard for me to see. Can you provide data? So your thesis is that the Chinese culture is very suited to "abstract pattern analysis", the European culture is moderately suited and the Black culture... oh wait there is no single unified Black culture, so the Black population is unique in that its culture doesn't matter but it was so similarly oppressed in Africa and the US that they ended up with similar reduced IQ. But the Ashkenazi Jews, though they were oppressed in Europe, ended up with a higher-than-Caucasian IQ. Um...
Actually much of sub-Saharan Africa has average IQ around 70, whereas African-Americans average around 85.
Yeah. I suspect there are two reasons for that. First, malnutrition as a child can drive your IQ down and malnutrition is much more common in sub-Saharan Africa. And second, many African-Americans have some white ancestors. Look at Obama, for example -- he self-identifies as African-American though only half his genes come from Africans.
Ethiopians have lots of Caucasian admixture too. (But once we know that both genes and environment play an important role, working out which fraction of the variance in IQs is due to each to within three significant figures doesn't sound terribly interesting to me.)
How is that not self-evident given the edge cases (puppies going to human schools / children growing up in a sensory-deprivation tank, both not doing well on IQ tests)? Regarding the significant figures, we need to keep in mind those are to be interpreted as "this is how much of the variance factor X explains given a certain scenario". They will vary across e.g. nations: In a homogeneous environment (e.g. classless society, higher Gini-index), genes will acount for more of the variance than in a mixed environment with people of the same genetic makeup. IOW, as you e.g. change the school system, or who marries whom, so you change those relative weights of nature v. nurture. You might say "well, given typical circumstances and typical gene pool variances", but consider that the discussion is in any case comparing e.g. the US to sub-saharan Africa (or whereever), which absolutely cannot have the same relative weights for their respective nature versus nurture, unless the different gene variances in tribal societies and the different "school" environment somehow equalled out, a dubious proposition.
If your point is that it's not clear to what extent the difference in intelligence is due to nature or nurture, I agree but would like to point out that for many applications it doesn't matter.
"X have a lower IQ on average." You can choose "People of African descent" or you can choose "People from poor backgrounds" or "People with serious health conditions" or "People with drug addictions" or any number of other things. When attempting to determine how best to help a school in a black ghetto that is failing, and you're choosing between spending money on remedial courses or on a school nutrition program, you will most certainly benefit from having this knowledge. Conversely, I can't think of any applications for which tying IQ to race is useful. Would you name three examples? Also, I'm still interested in seeing the source that you believe is an accurate prior regarding race and IQ. Do you happen to have that information available?
The Bell Curve book is a standard source. Otherwise a quick look at Wikipedia provides this:
Ok thanks. However, I am aware that "most published research is wrong" (PLOS Medicine) and know that there are factors that need to be controlled for in studies on race and IQ (in the second numbered list). Do you also claim that these factors were controlled for, that the key study or studies have been replicated, and that this is quality data that generally avoids research pitfalls? That's what I am looking for.
Yes, I've read Ioannidis. However you're using this quote here as a rather blatant aid to your confirmation bias. There have been many, many studies which all show the same thing. These are findings which have been confirmed, re-confirmed, and confirmed once again. Precisely because these results are so controversial they have been the subject of very thorough checking, vetting, and multiple attempts to debunk them. The results survived all this. What, do you think that for the last 50 years no one really tried to find holes in the studies showing racial IQ differences? Many highly qualified people tried. The results still stand.
I think everyone should consider that published research findings are likely to be wrong each time they are seeking research findings. If you agree that we should be skeptical about research findings, why do you think that asking questions about whether the research controlled for multiple factors, was replicated etc. should be taken as evidence of confirmation bias? Maybe you disagree that we should be skeptical about research findings? Every single one? I would find that hard to believe for any topic, especially one as politically charged and controversial as this one, where both sides have a motive to bias research in their particular direction. If that is true, I would find it surprising. Assuming you were referring to the results of a meta-analysis, would you point to that meta-analysis please? Are you saying that studies used for "The Bell Curve" did take into account the factors I mentioned, were replicated and / or may contain a meta-analysis that states that all the studies that could be found had similar findings? If you aren't specific about what measures were taken to ensure quality in the information you're providing, I have no way to make the distinction between a matter of opinion and a matter of fact when you claim things like "The results survived all this." Please be specific about what particular quality features the data in The Bell Curve provides. I started checking out this book because of your high praise and was surprised to find this: On page 270, The Bell Curve clearly states: "The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved" Can you explain why you seem to be disagreeing with me, when both myself and The Bell Curve agree that we don't have a good way to tell whether IQ differences are nature or nurture? (Note: In addition to that, my view is also influenced by skepticism about research in general and an understanding that although IQ tests are correlated with various t
Sigh. I don't believe you're listening and really have no inclination to play the "yes, but" game. Neither do I feel the need to prove anything to you. You can believe whatever you want to believe, it's just that such an attitude looks strange here.
That is not my attitude. I have been asking you for research. Did you see what I discovered about "The Bell Curve"? What do you say about that?
Did you read the two paragraphs following your quoted sentence? It seems to me that they more or less settle the matter, and resolve your grayness regarding environment and genetics.
That there are population level differences in IQ is not controversial (except in the sense that evolution is controversial because more than 30% of Americans don't believe in it). That IQ is a useful proxy for general intelligence and a useful tool in determining life outcomes is not controversial. That IQ is heritable is not controversial. That the differences are genetic is controversial but the data does seem to suggest that much of the difference is indeed genetic and another portion is biological (pre-natal care, early nutrition). Every objection you've listed so far has been addressed in exhaustive detail in the above link.
You might be in a situation where you need to decide how to allocate money to help a black school or a white school. If white people have higher IQs, and if money is worse at improving the performance of students who do poorly because of IQ than it is at improving the performance of students who do poorly for other reasons, then you should allocate the money to the white school. You might be in a situation where you need to hire a white person or a black person and have no information about their IQs, but you would prefer an employee with a higher IQ. You then should hire the white person. Of course, this is exactly why using IQ this way is a bad idea.
How often do you know someone's race but nothing else whatsoever about them? What?
It's an additional piece of information and allows you to do more of an update. If black people, on the average, have lower IQs than white people, then (for instance) black people with college degrees are still likely to have lower IQs than white people with college degrees, even if college raises the likely IQ for both groups. It is also possible to have traits such that given those traits race is no predictor at all, but those would be balanced out--if race is no predictor of IQ among people with PhDs, it must be a stronger predictor for people without PhDs than it is for the general populace.
Not necessarily. You haven't accounted for differences in variance between the two groups. To make a very rough analogy: it seems widely believed that there is greater variance in intelligence among men than among women; surely such differences are imaginable among racial groups. (For one thing, there's more genetic variation among Africans than among other human populations — which makes sense, given that all other human populations descended from small subsets of Africans.) Nor for selection effects on who gets to go to college — for instance, there seem to be a lot of pretty dopey people who have unusual bonuses to their chances to get into college on account of their parents being wealthy. Nor for socioeconomic differences in general, which are substantial between whites and blacks in America. To make another very rough analogy: If two people reach the same measurement of achievement, but one has to overcome greater obstacles to get there, we would often take this as an indicator that that person had greater ability: a runner who runs a five-minute mile while carrying ten pounds of lead weights is a better runner than one who makes the same achievement carrying no weight.
Yes I have--see the next comment. If blacks with college degrees don't have lower IQs than whites with college degrees, and blacks in general have lower IQ, then blacks without college degrees must have even lower IQs so that the average is still lower IQ. Furthermore, taking other factors into consideration can result in worse discrimination. Consider the trait that most obviously makes up for the difference--actually taking an IQ test. Blacks may have lower IQ than whites, but blacks who take an IQ test and score X don't have lower IQ than whites who score X at all. But if I were to hire people based on the trait "scoring X on an IQ test", and X is at the high end, I may end up hiring a lot more whites than blacks--a small difference in IQ translates to a large difference in the number of people at the tail end of the distribution. If people with IQ 145 are 10 times as common as people with IQ 150 and the black curve is only shifted by 5 points, and I want to hire people with IQ 150, I may end up hiring whites to blacks at a 10 to 1 ratio compared to the proportion of blacks who apply.
Why would IQ matter more than academic and job performance?
If the results of the racial IQ studies are true, then that is very important because it disproves the doctrine of ethnic cognitive equality. Many people, especially in America, have this idea that all ethnic groups must have exactly equal average cognitive ability, and that if one or more ethnic groups perform below average on a test of aptitude, that is taken as strong evidence that the test is invalid and racially biased and thus cannot be used. For this reason, many aptitude tests are severely restricted in their use since they are considered racist. This in turn would have a negative economic impact if these tests are actually valid, since employers and colleges are forced to use other, less effective means to vet candidates.
Actually, the legal rationale for restricting the use of such tests in certain kinds of hiring is not that they're invalid. If you proved to the courts that they were "valid," meaning an accurate reflection of crystallized intelligence/abstract reasoning/g/whatever, this would not undermine the central legal argument against them, which is that they produce disparate impacts on protected classes.
There is the "business necessity" defense to disparate impact accusations. If the courts were to accept that IQ tests correctly reflect g/intelligence that defense will be much more applicable.
I'm pretty sure the courts have allowed that IQ-like tests are acceptable in many situations for many types of employment. It's not a hypothetical. I guess I'm saying the question of the "validity of the tests" is a red herring, even if it's an ideological hot potato. I think the main debate these days is not at all about the validity of the tests, it's a debate over business necessity versus disparate impact.
I am not aware of that "main debate". In the US, at least, political climate makes it impossible to discuss race issues in public. The courts, of course, have to decide these issues, but that hardly constitutes debate.
Fair enough. For "main debate" please read "pertinent legal question."
Well then, we've come to stating that the pertinent legal question is whether the use of IQ tests in hiring falls under "business necessity". I don't know of any answer to that other than "it depends". Though the issue of whether a job really requires high IQ is an interesting one...
Race issues are discussed constantly in the U.S. — often, but not always, under guises such as "immigration" or "the War on Drugs" or "failing schools". However, certain views are broadly discredited, for instance those which attribute or imply differences in the moral value of people's lives on the basis of their race.
Which is still ridiculous. It's been known for generations that IQ has a positive impact on basically every job, which should imply that the default is to assume business necessity for IQ tests.

Even if this were true, it would not follow that there is no countervailing incentive to remove barriers to employment for disadvantaged classes of people. Is it not possible that society has an interest in broad employment, especially among people disadvantaged by such tests? Two thoughts:

1) IQ tests have a history of being used deliberately to weed out applicants of certain races. This was not an incidental effect: it was the entire purpose of the test, much like literacy tests for voting. The odds of them being used this way again, were changes made in the law, seem extremely high.

2) It is interesting that LW sees so many rational arguments for policies that would give more resources to whites or Asians, especially white or Asian males with high test scores who may not have gone to college. While these arguments are phrased as both logical and obvious, LW rarely (ever?) entertains the easily constructed, similarly phrased arguments that would push resources away from LW's typical membership. For example: "It's been known for generations that physical strength has a positive impact statistically on outcomes in basically every sort of violent encounter, so as a default, in a ... (read more)

Of course it has. But the issue is that the society isn't going to come out and say that -- it will deliberately distort the map and make claims that are not true in reality. The argument being made isn't "50% of people are below median intelligence, we still need to and can productively employ them", the argument is "we will pretend that all groups of people are exactly equally smart and if you say otherwise we'll sue your ass into the ground". Nope, not true since Mr.Colt made an equalizer :-) But I'll agree that firearms training and ownership can be a reasonable plus in looking for a romantic partner. Well, unless his name is Pistorius...
So, reason dictates that... "we" should shove our offended senses of intellectual consistency and naively understood "honesty" up our collective butt, and just do whatever helps people. And we should absolutely not help people "equally"! Whatever you think of the abstract moral/political ideal of equality, in practical terms people's circumstances in any society are so unequal that symmetrical treatment makes no sense. Any policy that does not identify the most vulnerable and marginalized groups and offer them targeted aid and protection is not "fair", it's not "impartial"... it's basically a waste of resources, failing to seek out the greatest marginal utility for its subjects. So, ironically, it becomes a core left-wing idea that people should not be approached as identical or treated in an "equal" manner. Bam! "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." - Anatole France on "legal equality"
I think your problem is that you're so focused on the "fairest" way to divide a fixed set of goods, that you're forgetting that the decisions in question also have a large effect on the amount of goods available.
Very possible. I would take the Steve Sailer approach here, of acknowledging underlying differences and making the best of the situation. Let's step away from race and just talk about tracking in schools- by the time someone is 12, we have a pretty good guess what their eventual social strata / broad kind of career will be. In countries like Germany, they respond to this with different high schools- someone who will be a technician can go to a technical school, and someone who will be an engineer can go to an academic school. Both get work suited for their intellectual ability and interests, and so the first isn't drowning and the second isn't bored. (Relevant here is the finding that getting rid of shop classes increases the high school dropout rate in America- turns out that for an easily identifiable group of students, the primary benefit they get out of high school is a place to practice basic handyman skills!) In the US, we get lunacy like "whether or not someone takes the first optional math class is a very strong predictor of whether or not they go to college. Let's make that class mandatory for graduating high school!" which makes everyone involved worse off, as the students not pointed at college now find it more difficult to graduate high school. I'm not sure this would see significant disagreement here on LW. The main response I would give is yes, but the preference is miscalibrated. Ceteris paribus, a stronger partner is likely to be better (assuming they aren't prone to domestic violence), but my reflective preferences would give a weight to athleticism that's orders of magnitude lower than the weight my attraction heuristics give athleticism. This mismatch seems to be because those heuristics were tuned in an era when the chance of being the victim (or beneficiary!) of violent crime was orders of magnitude higher than they currently are.
To refer back to the OP, why is the relevant disadvantaged class "black people" rather than "people with low IQ" or even "people unqualified for the job"?
As far as it goes, I'm in favor of preserving opportunities for all sorts of people to work, because it's humanizing and it makes people happy. We're all in favor of that, right? But I also don't think there's been historic, organized pressure to keep low-IQ people from finding useful labor, and while such people deserve the protection of the law, it's not illuminating to compare their plight to a group of people who were denied the ability to find employment they were very capable of using intimidation, violence, and bad-faith law.... which, and this is sad, were very much still in use when the Civil Right Act was passed, and would still be in use today if it had never been passed. Racial "classes"--not sets of corresponding genetic polymorphisms, which science tells us about, but race as we understand it in America, which is both more and less complicated--were not created by the Civil Rights Act, or the civil rights movement. They were created long before that, to justify cruelty, and to deny the continuing effect of that social construction would have been, in the the judgment of the majority of our Congress in 1964 and our Supreme Court since then, counterproductive. Not at all. It's a very rationalist sort of argument. There are many like it. I think it would be terrific if we spent more time exploring those, possibly at the expense of focusing heavily on arguments that seem a little less than disinterested.
That's actually an interesting argument. I wouldn't mind seeing it expanded, if you happen to have real numbers lying around. Though some obvious confounders do come to mind: in a really diverse religious environment (like, for example, the Silicon Valley tech scene), you're giving up quite a bit in talent if you recruit only from your co-religionists. And if you weight it less heavily, I'd be very surprised if the response looked linear: I wouldn't expect a workplace that's (say) 50% Christian with the rest split between atheists, Hindus, and Buddhists to be that much more harmonious than one with equal numbers of all of the above plus the odd Wiccan or Discordian. It might actually be worse under some circumstances, although this is rank speculation.
A lot of the current research focuses on "trust" inside groups. This is not exactly double-blinded climate controlled stuff, as you might expect, just brave and smart social psychologists doing their best. I find it highly plausible and confirmatory of many centuries of non-scientific observations about insularity. Disclaimer: I AM NOT SAYING DISTRUST OF PEOPLE OF OTHER BELIEF SYSTEMS IS GOOD, JUST THAT IT HAPPENS. Atheism associated with lack of "trustworthiness signals" by believers. Religious in-group trust and cooperation is higher. I know of no studies on friction over expression of religious beliefs. I do kind of take as a given that there are fewer HR complaints when everybody's got the same Sacred Heart/Darwin amphibian/Santa Muerte/COEXIST bumper sticker. Granted that there are huge trade-offs for religious homogeneity, and I think that it's almost always a bad business decision (exceptions: semi-utopian communes? survival in Hobbesian chaos? new colonies without hope of reinforcement?) It was just an exemplary argument of a sort made less often than, you know, arguments about race and IQ.
Yes, and what is the justification for the disparate impact doctrine? And for that matter what is the justification for declaring certain classes "protected"?
Are you asking rhetorically? The American legal justification for the disparate impact doctrine, and for declaring race a protected category, is the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the legislative justification for that was a history of massive mistreatment of individuals based on skin color. I gather from the thrust of arguments in this thread that you may be strongly opposed to government protection of racial minorities in the United States, and that you may not believe that racial bigotry is--or possibly even was--a problem that needed legal redress. It is worthwhile to note that the legal basis for these doctrines is well established and, through the wonders of litigation, much studied and highly nuanced. That does not speak to any philosophical objections you have but, frankly, no philosophical objections you make have any bearing on the legal justification.
Um, the legal basis is the act of Congress. That's all, you don't need studies and nuances. Whatever Congress says and the President signs is the law of the land. Unless SCOTUS objects, of course.
This is a somewhat fundamentalist view of the law, and I am guessing many federal judges at all levels, and regulatory bodies of technical experts, would add something to your definition. I agree with you that the statutory basis for these court rulings is very clear. But it's also pretty clear that the doctrine of disparate impact, which is what he asked about, has been clarified and nuanced through litigation of those statutes. My point was that over many decades, the courts have not overturned this doctrine due to any philosophical objections of litigants.
Yes, of course, though it has nothing to do with legal basis -- it's interpretation of the law which is what the court system does all the time. Courts do not do that. A philosophical objection is not a legal objection -- a court can overturn a law only by deciding that it is unconstitutional. But I am unsure what is the point that you are making. Is it that both politically and legally the Civil Rights Act is untouchable in the US? Sure, but that's pretty obvious...
Sorry, I meant the two questions in different senses, I should have made that clearer. The Civil Rights Acts didn't specify disparate impact as opposed to disparate treatment. I understand the motivation, but I don't think the ever increasing (and rather arbitrary) list of protected groups is a workable approach. Not to mention the "some groups are more equal than others" problem implicit in having a specific list of "protected groups". If you look at the history of law, philosophical arguments end up influencing legal arguments all the time.
I absolutely agree. It is conceivable that in the future, arguments could change the courts' regard for this doctrine. But it is unlikely. The law has been in place for fifty years, and the doctrine has seen a ton of challenges in court.
Actually, the most useful application for individual businesses in this case would be (in the event that IQ tests are good at predicting who will be a good worker) to request IQ scores as part of a job application, not to discriminate based on race - this is not to say that it would be useful for society as a whole. I am not sure what it would do to society as a whole. On the one hand, if there's a correlation between race and IQ, more people of each race with a low IQ might find themselves worse off. However, if employers become more willing to hire black people after testing their IQs, it could be a great boon to blacks and actually serve as a way to encourage people to judge each person based on individual characteristics as opposed to rejecting them for being part of a group. Simply tossing away all of the people of whatever race because the others have a low IQ would probably, in practice, not work very well - this is because they're selecting from a pool of people who are qualified in the first place, and the process of becoming qualified acts as a filter. Most of the people they're interviewing who are qualified are probably also intelligent enough to do the job - so you'd have too man false negatives this way. I would say also that if aptitude tests are restricted because of racist connotations, it's because people tied IQ to race. Can you think of any applications for tying IQ to race that do not have the above issues?
The problem is that this is currently illegal in the USA. This was in fact precisely the point of the parent comment. When is this ever the case in practice?
Well, seeing an unknown man approaching you at night, granted this is more about criminality than IQ but the correlation is the same. Also thinking about whether affirmative action and the desperate impact doctrine are reasonable ideas.
Actually, it is far more prudent to avoid a stranger approaching me at night, regardless of his race - depending on the environment I am in. If he is approaching from a dark alley, I will head away from him, whatever his race. If he approaches me at a party full of friends, I will speak to him. The crime statistics are not so incredibly different for blacks and whites that you can simply trust all of the whites.
Once you specify where I am, who I am with, what kind of body language the man is using, how big he is, and what he is wearing, further specifying what race he is wouldn't matter that much. I can't recall anyone on LW advocating those, so you might be attacking a straw man.
Is that true? Depending on the "where I am" part? There's only so much you can tell about someone from "what kind of body language the man is using, how big he is, and what he is wearing", after all. In the right racially-segregated society, could it provide valuable additional data?
As the saying goes, "Life is an IQ test." The predictive ability of IQ on income (and most other statistics of interest) is very similar for each race, which suggests that differences in measured IQ scores map onto differences in life outcomes. To the extent that a medical condition makes someone test poorly, it generally also makes them live poorly. (There are a handful of prominent exceptions to this- like dyslexia- which don't significantly impact the main point.) Now, where those IQ differences come from in the first place is an interesting question. Many people have looked at it, and the consensus answer for individual IQ differences is "somewhere between 50% and 80% of it is genetic," and the extrapolation from that to group IQ differences is somewhat controversial but seems straightforward to me. A perhaps more interesting question is "what knobs do we have to adjust those IQ differences?" Here's Jason Richwine explaining that all serious scientists have agreed on the basics of IQ for decades, and the media is completely mistaken on the state of reality and scientific consensus. It seems pretty relevant to me, because it looks like basic statistical innumeracy on your part, unless you think the IQ distribution of African Americans is tremendously skewed such that the mean intelligence is the 75th percentile of intelligence, rather than the 50th percentile like it would be in a symmetric distribution. (Or you think that the African average is higher than the African American average, which is very much not the case.)
As a stand-alone statement, I would probably leave this alone. But as a response to "What about nurture", the first thing that comes to mind is: Has Vaniver adequately corrected for the just world fallacy? Ok, that's interesting, but it does nothing to rule out nurture factors that would impact both IQ and income. I agree that IQ is mostly genetic and that IQ does seem to correlate with a lot of factors. I'm not saying IQ does not exist. What I am saying is that, specifically when it comes to black people, there are other factors that are definitely influencing performance and IQ scores. Therefore I reject claims about IQ and race that haven't controlled for known factors. Actually, when I read that section (it starts with "What scholars"), I parsed it like this: Jason explicitly says that there's a scientific consensus on many issues that seem controversial to journalists. Jason states that virtually all psychologists (not scientists) believe there is a general mental ability factor (That he's not saying is specifically connected to race). Then, without qualifying these statements with anything along the lines of "most x believe", he states: "In terms of group differences, people of northeast Asian descent have higher average IQ scores than people of European lineage, who in turn have higher average scores than people of sub-Saharan African descent." I will not assume that this sequence of claims means that the group differences statement is also something scientists have a consensus about. If I did, that would be a non-sequitur. Also, below that, he writes: "It is possible that genetic factors could influence IQ differences among ethnic groups, but many scientists are withholding judgment until DNA studies are able to link specific gene combinations with IQ." This is where I stop reading the article because it is clear to me that it does not say "there's a scientific consensus that there's a link between race and IQ". If you have a credible source for t
It's not clear to me why you would be interested in nurture factors. There are two things going on here: the ability of IQ to measure intelligence, and the historical causes of intelligence. With the exception of disorders that prevent people from testing well without significantly impacting life outcomes, the historical causes of intelligence don't appear to have much to do with the ability of IQ to measure intelligence. A nurture factor (like, for example, being breastfed as a child or being struck on the head) actually alters someone's intelligence, and their intelligence influences both their test scores and their income. Again, this looks like it's mixing up the historical causes and the predictive ability. If the predictive ability is the same independent of race (it is), then it doesn't matter why the racial IQ averages are the way they are. What we would need to show to discount IQ measurements is that the IQ measurements are not as predictive for members of one race than another. As an example of a real bias like this, girls tend to get better grades than standardized test scores alone would predict. In order to get an accurate estimate of what a girl's grades would be from her standardized test scores, you need to adjust upwards because she's a girl. Symmetrically, boys score better than one would expect from their grades, and so when predicting scores one needs to adjust upwards. When moving in the opposite direction, one would need to adjust downwards; a girl's grades overestimate her standardized test scores. But note that this doesn't mean we throw out the data- it's still predictive! We just adjust it the correct quantitative amount. Now, do we know the historical causes of that effect? I'm not familiar with that field, but it seems like there are lots of plausible theories that probably have support. Even without knowing the causes, though, we can use our estimates of the size of the effect in order to predict more accurately. What would you cal
That's a saying? Are there also sayings "Life is a test of height.", "Life is a test of immune system efficiency" and "Life is a test of facial symmetry"? We may as well round out the set. Anything of comparable test significance that I missed? Oh! "Life is a test of breast perkiness" and "Life is a test of capacity for situation-appropriate violence." (I actually agree with the point of the rest of the paragraph.)
Those may be qualitatively similar but I would suggest they are quantitatively different. I would be surprised if facial symmetry did not correlate with income, health, social status, and so on, but I would expect the correlation to be much lower than the correlation with IQ. The saying means that most metrics of life success are moderately highly g-loaded, and so it makes sense that IQ correlates positively with basically everything good.
I think you either drastically overestimate the impact of IQ or underestimate the predictive value of those other factors of life success---particularly in environments different to those experienced by the white male nerd class of first world countries. Regardless, the paragraph with that alleged saying redacted would be far more persuasive than the one with it included. It strongly undermines the credibility of your point. I currently agree with you despite the opening sentence, not because of it.
Perhaps we should switch to numbers to make it easier to communicate. I haven't looked at any numbers recently, so I don't expect these guesses to be particularly accurate, but I'd guess IQ correlates .2 to .6 with most interesting measures of life success, and height correlates around 0 to 0.1 (after controlling for IQ). I'd guess facial symmetry has correlation >0.3 with other health-related things, a correlation around 0.4 with social things, and a correlation below 0.3 with the rest. If you have a source handy that estimates these sorts of correlations, I'd like to see it, but I don't think it's important enough to spend time hunting something down.
I would be very surprised if IQ correlates at .6 with, say, wealth or income. Parental wealth and income possibly correlate no more than 0.5 to childrens' incomes, and it would be frankly remarkable for IQ to be (1) transmitted intergenerationally to a large degree, and (2) more closely correlated to financial outcomes than one's parent's financial outcomes, since your parents often give you not only your genes, but your inheritance/early support, financial assumptions, and first set of career contacts.
Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns claims that parental SES and IQ are correlated at .33; that parental SES explains one third of social status variance (which implies r=.58) and one fifth of income variance (r=.45); that IQ explains about a quarter of the social status variance (r=.5) and a sixth of the income variance (r=.4), and that also correcting for parental SES reduces the predictive ability of IQ by a quarter. I would expect more recent numbers to be broadly similar.
Thanks for the link. It's a nice summary of the state of research a few years back, and anybody who's interested in the topic should read it. It is probably even more interesting to me because it tacks pretty hard away from the conclusions some people have drawn in this thread. The authors clearly did not believe that the well-attested differences in IQ testing across ethnic groups could be ascribed to genetic factors.
You're welcome! I think that there's not definitive evidence on the subject, even today. The definitive evidence would be if we knew the specifics of the causal link between genetics and IQ and had representative genetic samples from different racial groups, so we could look at the prevalence of various IQ genes and calculate what we'd estimate the average racial IQ to be for various groups from their genes. That'd give us an estimate of the genetic factors, and the difference between that and measured IQ would give us an estimate of the environmental factors. My read of the field, though, is that the majority of the evidence points to the majority of the difference between racial groups being explained by genetic factors, and the trend has been that the hereditarian position has been growing more solid over time, especially as more and more people have been sequenced. For example, African Americans represent a significant observational data source on ancestry and intelligence, since while the average African American has 80% African ancestry, that percentage can vary significantly from person to person. Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns reports that a study that used blood groups to determine ancestry failed to find a correlation between European ancestry and IQ; more recent research claims to have found a correlation between European ancestry and IQ and controlled for the impact of skin color.
Do you similarly control the IQ finding for height? For obvious reasons that is necessary for consistency. I'd certainly expect (based on loose memories of studies encountered) height to predict more than '0 to 0.1' and IQ to predict a heck of a lot less than 0.6, especially when considering populations that are not limited to first world nations. I wish it were otherwise, naturally. I'd love the world to be more biased in favour of my own highest stat. In any case, I would consider it legitimate to readers who encounter "Life is an IQ test" delivered in response to the quoted context to be sufficient evidence that the comment is not worth reading and downvoting and ignoring it. It was only because I was more patient that normal that I bothered to read further and found you had a good point hidden in the detail. Do with that information what you will.
You can re-allocate some of that to Charisma if you work really hard (stand-up comedy is a learned skill) and if you have a British or Australian accent you get +1 just by coming to North America and talking. Provided you haven't already maxed it, Strength is highly trainable, as are Dexterity and Constitution. Even HP, up till about 30 when bone density stops accumulating. Wisdom is extremely trainable, and there's some evidence the world's biased that direction, so I'd throw points there when in doubt.
In fact, even those who have reached their maximum strength potential can increase it by using the highly potent Potion of Potential Strength. HPs are primarily determined by Constitution (somewhat trainable) but in many worlds (including the real one) there is also a bonus from Strength stat. Better developed muscles are useful for absorbing damage non-critically. Perhaps the most important stat is actually Willpower, which is also somewhat trainable and can be buffed with items and hired allies. Well spotted on the 'favour' usage! Yes, I've noticed a bonus there (my current girlfriend is North American), presumably the accent helped.
If you do a linear regression with both IQ and height as inputs, this automatically separates their (linear) effects. But I'm not sure about the general point, because IQ is an estimate of a factor and height is an estimate of a single variable. My impression is that when you are looking for the individual effect of a component of a hidden factor, then you want to control for the factor before measuring the effect of the component, but when measuring the effect of the hidden factor you don't control for the components. But height isn't a component of the IQ calculation, though it does appear to be weakly related to intelligence. I'm also having trouble remembering if the 0.05 number I remembered was an r or r^2, which would significantly impact the range. I'm finding rs of about .2 for the correlation between height and intelligence, and rs of about .2 for the correlation between height and income without controlling for intelligence. Haven't found anything yet that does control for it. (IQ correlation with income, as mentioned in a cousin comment, is about .4.) It's still not clear to me what about the saying you find objectionable. The best guess I have is that you took it to mean that the g-loading of life success was comparable to Raven's, when I meant that they were g-loaded at all. The heart of that paragraph: seems to me like a fair explanation of the saying, and why it's confused to think about nurture factors influencing intelligence as separate from actual intelligence.
EDIT: sorry, misunderstood your comment.


  1. Intelligence describes some quality that individuals have.
  2. Individuals have different aamounts of or ability in that quality.
  3. Larger groups of can be created by grouping these same varying individuals and this group can be said to have a group average in terms of intelligence.

Some conclusions that follow from these assumptions:

  1. Any group of people, divided by almost any arbitrary measurement into a large enough sample will differ in the average amount of intelligence each particular subgroup has.
  2. Arbitrarily dividing the worlds population
... (read more)

Sharper, if the divisions are truly arbitrary and on a basis uncorrelated with individual intelligence then the difference in population average will be (crudely speaking) on the order of 1/sqrt(N) where N is the size of each population. N is so large here that the sorts of interracial "differences" that are inevitable on the grounds you give are also clearly negligible, and no one who claims that races do, or don't, differ in intelligence is talking about such tiny differences.

Eliezer, leaving aside the bit about God, I think there's at least on... (read more)

As I tried to make clear a while ago, humans are very particular about the kinds of inequality that bother them. Race tied inequalities are among the ones they care most about.

IME most people only think individual IQ differences are ok because they believe other qualities compensate the difference. If they say that some person has a higher IQ, they usually (at least implicitly) question their social skills, financial success, physical prowess, etc.. Also they always talk about much smarter people, not about the 50% under the average, conveying the idea that difference is due to the genius' unusually high IQ not because most people are stupid in comparison. OTOH group comparisons usually imply that one group is smarter and the ot... (read more)

IME most people only think individual IQ differences are ok because they believe other qualities compensate the difference. If they say that some person has a higher IQ, they usually (at least implicitly) question their social skills, financial success, physical prowess, etc.. Also they always talk about much smarter people, not about the 50% under the average, conveying the idea that difference is due to the genius' unusually high IQ not because most people are stupid in comparison. OTOH group comparisons usually imply that one group is smarter and the ot... (read more)

About the commenting program:

  1. Why require both javascript and a captcha to prevent spamming? Both are very bad for accessibility.
  2. Moving to another URL is quite bizarre. Additional negative points if after submitting doesn't show any results at all.
  3. Combining 1 & 2 in a javascript requirement for two (seemingly) unrelated URLs makes the whole process much more complicated than it needs to be.

I browse with javascript disabled (security reasons) and usually can post in most blogs. I also write software for a living, so I know that any of those aren't required. Please consider improving your blog software to something simpler and less restrictive.


There are no racial inequalities there are only human inequalities.

I may not risk to claim: There are no human inequalities, there are only sentient inequalities.

Sharper, dividing humanity into the subpopulations "male" and "female" does not result in average IQ differences, though brain-volume does differ, as does the visuo-spatial vs verbal component of intelligence, and the standard deviations for them differ as well. It is usually an assumption of statistics that large enough groups with arbitrary divisions (say, by a "natural experiment") will not differ on average.

In which geographic region were you thinking of where darker skin indicates higher intelligence?

Daniel Yokozimo, nobo... (read more)

Its a bit more complex than that.

Group differences are distressing because the more of a difference there is, the more grounds there are for discriminating on the basis of race or sex, and it is incredibly frustrating to find oneself continually judged not for one's own manifested abilities, but for the average abilities manifested by other people who who share one's race or sex.

Yes, if there is an average group difference, then race or sex alone would count as Bayesian evidence of a particular level of ability. A perfect Bayesian, looking at all the evidence, would be justified in statistically discriminating. But there aren't any perfect Bayesians; that's why this blog exists. One needn't contend that all groups have identical average capacities in order to be worried about discrimination. The problem is not discrimination itself, considered abstractly in some toy domain; the problem with discrimination is that in the real world, people are going to do it wrong, and do it wrong in all sorts of harmful and oppressive ways.

In "An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning," Eliezer writes that people don't pay enough attention to priors, but I wonder if the opposite isn't the case when the task is evaluating people whose race and sex are known.

Too bad no one actually bothers to work on that problem rather than simply proclaim any and all differences of outcome the result of often ill defined and nebulous systemic discrimination.

Who has suggested not looking at each individual with love and respect?

Could you be more specific about the insights you find in the book of Job that are relevant here? (It doesn't seem to me to say anything about individuals versus groups, or about the implications of varying intelligence or other unequally distributed benefits; and what it says on the question of whether God is just amounts to "how dare you question his justice? he's bigger than you". But no doubt I'm missing something.)

U can't possibly say what I want about this and keep it short, but I"ll try anyway. I'll sketch the bare outlines and if you want you can fill in the details.

The US race problem comes entirely from insufficient miscegenation. If we mixed things up sufficiently we'd have no separate races in 2 generations. But we haven't, yet.

Consider Gause's Law. Populations that don't mix are like separate species, they won't stably fill the same niches. The alternative to one population going away is a caste system -- guarantee that each race has niches that are the... (read more)

TGGP: Eliezer referenced the book (the wikipedia url on the "real" link, lookup for the phrase "Is Idang Alibi about to take a position on the real heart of the uproar?"). I thought everybody followed the links before commenting ;). Anyway I assume that if something is referenced its discussion is on topic.

Regarding their data, we can't just remove the data they fudged, we need to redo the analysis with the original data. We can't just discard data because it doesn't fit our conclusions. Using their raw data without fudging we are left ... (read more)

Skin color is a function of the latitude at which ones ancestors lived.

This is obvious through observation: ancestors lived on the equator - brown skin. ancestors lived at extreme north/south latitude - white skin.

Gareth, I don't believe I specified a quantitive amount by which they would differ, just that they would differ. You're right, normally (pun intended), the groups wouldn't differ by much. That's part of the point, isn't it. Why care that they differ at all? There isn't a useful reason to care that group X has a different average IQ than group Y. Does a particular group of dark skin people have a lower intelligence due to their skin color? Not likely. Other factors are much more significant. There's no causual relationship between the two factors. The only ... (read more)


Sorry, forgot to answer your additional question in my reply. Whenever Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams get together in a small group (as they do occasionally), within that small geographical region darker skin color is a great indicator of higher intelligence. Makes all these divisions seem just a little more arbitrary, doesn't it?

On a more serious note, Queens, NYC, NY has a higher than normal proportion of black West Indies immigrants. In that geographic region, blacks have an average IQ higher than those with lighter skin. Other US locations incl... (read more)

g- Nobody has suggested treating people other than with respect and love. It seems to be a fairly common thread in the things I'm reading here. Instead of asking "what group has a lower or higher IQ?", why not ask, "How do we raise an indiviual's IQ?" I may be misreading Job, I see more like- "don't forget the beauty that surrounds you"

Sharper -- Pembroke Pines? Holy schmoley, that's a pretty small neighborhood. I'ts more known in my mind for Canadian snowbirds than high IQ dark skinned people. Do you have a reference for your assertion? I'm personally intererested because it's about 5 miles down the road from where my sailboat is right now. Plus it's where a friend of mine lived when she was in the escort business.


Douglas, I don't see why we can't ask both questions, but in any case the question this post was about wasn't "what group has a higher or lower IQ?" but "why do people think that group IQ differences matter more than individual ones?" -- decrying group-over-individual emphasis just as much as you are.

All the stuff about natural beauty in Job is there to make the point "God is bigger and cleverer than you are, so who are you to question him?". (Hence the constant refrain of "Do you know ...?, Have you seen ...?, Were you t... (read more)

"in his humble opinion": Jim Watson? Humble? There's a first for everything.

Race adds extra controversy to anything; in that sense, it's obvious what difference skin colour makes politically. However, just because this attitude is common, should not cause us to overlook its insanity.

You can thank the Nazis for making race so political that it won't be touchable for generations. You can also thank the segregationists for irritating that political gland and making race untouchable for more time.

Francis Galton brought a lot of ideas to the world, but the one that was amplified to the point where it will take centuries for the con... (read more)

Why isn't the concept of fairness a bias? It seems to meet the criteria.

It could also be a moral value in your utility function, in which case what looks like bias mostly falls under wishful thinking.

People care about race because race is about who your blood relatives are, and who, to some extent, your descendants will be.

A racial group can best be defined as an extended family that has more coherence and cohesiveness than a typical extended family because it is partly-inbred.

So, that's why people care so much.

Also, please, can we stop equating "race" and "skin color"? Haven't you ever seen an African albino? Being white in skin color doesn't make him white racially.

Or consider the famous golfer Vijay Singh, who of South Asian origin and was born on Fiji. He is darker than the average African-American (but has Caucasian features). He is never, ever considered to be racially black or African-American in America. Never. You can make up a list of other dark-skinned people who aren't considered black in America, such as pundits Dinesh D'Souza and... (read more)

I thought the actual point of this article was nifty, but I thought this was stupid:

If God has not given intelligence in equal measure to all his children, God stands convicted of a crime against humanity, period.

As much as you open/close this, there isn't nearly enough in this article to justify the claim. I am not asking you to justify it. I am just curious why you include something like this in an otherwise focused article. What is the point of having this and saying it the way you did? To me, it just sounds like "Boo God!"

I had a hard tim... (read more)

I think Eliezer is missing the main cause of the uproar in cases like this. The stance of the uproarers is not that "If this was true, it would be horrible, so let's not believe it." It's more like, "believing this is true would cause people to act horribly, so let's not believe it."

Claims of innate racial and sexual differences in intelligence have historically been baseless rationalizations that attempt to justify oppressing the group in question. So now when anyone raises the question, they are shouted down because they are tarred wi... (read more)

because while individual differences clearly exist, group differences probably don't

Just not true. And obviously not true at that. Was this presented as "one of the crazy beliefs that some insane people have" or as your own position? Hard to keep track in there.

Group differences not existing would be such an overwhelmingly improbable occurrence that it would prompt me to second guess my atheism. The universe isn't fair. Things just don't go around being equal to each other without good reason.

Sorry for the confusion. It was meant as a joint position of the insane people and myself, but on further consideration I'm abandoning it. However, I don't think it's that unlikely that e.g. racial differences are fairly minimal if they exist at all, at least in terms of genetic rather than cultural/environmental/whatever differences. To the best of my knowledge, races aren't all that distinct on a genetic level, so I wouldn't call it "overwhelmingly improbably" that they would turn out to be close to indistinguishable in terms of intelligence. That might be wishful thinking at play, but it seems sound to me. Not to say that it's not worth doing a serious investigation of the possibility that there really are such differences.
TTBOMK a grand total of two (2) men whose ancestry is not predominantly West African have ever run 100m in less than ten seconds. If you can come up with some good reasons why selection for g wouldn't have ancestral group differences that strong I'd be interested to hear them.
I would think that different climates would select different physiologies more intensely than they would select for different "g" -- I can think areas where running is a greater advantage, and areas where swimming is a greater advantage, and different musculatures may account for each... but in pretty much all areas generic intelligence is an advantage. This doesn't preclude the possibility for differences, but it's a reason why the differences wouldn't be as strong.
No, I don't think we can really say that unfortunately. I. Opportunity cost. To elaborate, even if g is perfectly equally useful in all geographic regions, if other selection criteria vary you can still get pretty strong selection pressures that effect intelligence (say something as simple as heat regulation of the brain or say a different rate of babies surviving birth in regions where fewer parasites are adapted to humans). Pleiotropy also means that these sorts of things may not always be apparent. II. Speed of adaptation. Also even given perfectly equal selection pressures on all dimensions, one would expect isolated populations depending on their size to adapt faster or slower to a new equilibrium (depending on which theories you espouse).
It's potentially misleading to quote a statistic like that in isolation without describing the base rate. A quick scan seems to imply that nine men whose ancestry is predominantly West African have ever run 100m in less than ten seconds... which certainly seems to support your point anyway, since less than nine elevenths of the Olympic talent pool is from West Africa.
You misdescribe your link and so are off by a factor of 8. Your list is of the ~10 people, all west African, who have set records faster than 10s. Here is a list of 80 people to have run that fast. Immediately above that on the page is a list of the 2 or 3 non-Africans and the 2 south Africans to have run that fast.
That's not just delusional, it's deluded. "believing this is true would cause people to act horribly, so let's not believe that we believe it," would be merely delusional, and hence less objectionable.
I mostly agree with you; I was just stating my impression of the attitudes of those raising the objections in the first place (note the quotation marks). And to be fair to them, it's really more, "believing this would cause other people to act horribly, so let's keep them from believing it."
It's more that racism is unfair in a different way than people simply being different from each other. People don't get upset that some people are cleverer than others because it's fundamentally different from the unfairness of perfectly competent people having their opportunities crushed because of unfair things that people actually do on purpose. They're fundamentally different kinds of unfairness, and that's why they provoke fundamentally different responses in people. I'm confused that this wasn't more obvious when this was posted. I'm usually not struck by how obviously wrong something in the Sequences is, and I'm unsure of exactly where the fault lies.
I plan on replying to this later as it deserves a full reply and I have no time. For now let me just say I am suspicious of perspectives on racism that have as an integral component the belief that most racism is on purpose.
I'm not sure what I was going for there; the whole point of the Chicago resume study was that racist outcomes happened even when nobody involved set out to do racist things. I think I meant "unfair things that people do", as opposed to unfair things that simply happen.
It's still not obvious to me. Can you unpack a little here? What is most confusing to me about your comment is what it means for two examples of unfairness to be fundamentally different, rather than... um... non-fundamentally different (superficially different?). For example, is there some framework I can use to determine whether, say, treating able-bodied people differently from handicapped people is also fundamentally different from treating black people differently from white people, or is fundamentally the same and merely superficially different, or is not different at all, or...?
I'll try to unpack that, especially since the original post was so sloppy. The original post said "But why is it that the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay, whereas racial genetic differences in intelligence are not?". This is incorrect. "The rest of the world" seems to think that individual genetic differences in intelligence exist and are meaningful, whereas racial genetic differences do not. (Does Yudkowsky really think that anti-racist activists believe that black people are inherently less intelligent and that that fact should be ignored? I'm not sure how else to read that.) The unfairness of individual differences in intelligence is that, well, it happens and it's unfair. The unfairness of racial differences in intelligence is that they don't exist, but people act as though they do, and it's that second part that's unfair. These are two different kinds of unfairness. For the first, changing people's minds won't do a darned thing; it's like trying to persuade water to run uphill. For the second, changing people's minds will, following the above logic, reduce the amount of unfairness in the world, because the source of the unfairness is in those people's minds. So, treating able-bodied people differently from disabled people is... well, it depends. If you treat someone in a wheelchair like they can't walk, that's the first kind. (They actually can't walk; it's not anyone's fault.) If you treat someone in a wheelchair with no obvious signs of mental impairment like they have impaired intelligence, that's the second kind. (They're just as clever as anyone else; the unfairness is entirely in the way you're treating them.) Does that clear things up a bit?
Yes, thanks for clarifying. I agree with you that there's a difference between treating groups differently based on differences that actually exist, and based on differences that don't actually exist, and that the second thing involves a kind of unfairness that's different from the first thing. That said, it does seem to me that a lot of people not only think that racial genetic differences in intelligence don't exist, they also think that if racial genetic differences in intelligence did exist, that would be a bad thing, in a way that they don't think that the existence of individual genetic differences in intelligence are a bad thing. Do you disagree?
One thing to say about the study you cited is that I don't think it was conducted well. The names chosen were steeped in confounding status effects. The "white names" ("Emily" and "Brendan") were high status and they didn't include white low status names like Seth, Clint, Cody, Angel, Neveah...I'd better stop, I'm having way too much fun with that list. The "black names" were not high status ("Lakisha" and "Jamal") and they didn't choose available black higher status names like Jasmine (sic), Andre, Jeremiah, or Xavier. A minor nitpick - this isn't just about perfectly competent people, the study interestingly found a constant relationship between interviews for both perfectly competent white-named/black-named and incompetent white-named/black-named people, with employers 1.5 times as likely to take chance on a poorly qualified "white-named" person as "black-named" person just as they are 1.5 times more likely to give an interview to a qualified "white-named" as "black-named" person. I think this is incontrovertibly true if reversed, but not as it is; they provoke different responses in people and that effects how we should treat each kind of unfairness, but I'm not sure that aside from that they are so different. One person is born brilliant, ugly and fat, another good-looking and of average intelligence. Both of the same race, gender, propensity to work hard etc. Both work just as hard. They are given the same scores on their oral exams, do just as well in interviews, and so on. Both do just as well performing their job because the good-looking one does better on collective projects. It's unfair that the first isn't rewarded for his or her intelligence or given more opportunities, and this is because of his or her poor appearance, but he or she didn't earn or deserve his or her intelligence in the first place. I could easily be persuaded to support treating the different cases of unfairness differently on the mere grounds that humans feel they are different, i
From the paper: "We find little evidence that our results are driven by employers inferring something other than race, such as social class, from the names." Section 5 deals with this; "Carrie" and "Neil" (low-status white) do just as well as "Emily" and "Geoffrey", while "Kenya" and "Jamal" (high-status black) do just as poorly as "Latonya" and "Leroy". Absolutely--I should have said "equally competent" or "reasonably competent". I don't have a particularly strong opinion on your example, though; I've rolled it around in my head a bit and can't quite see how to fit it into the same framework. There are, I believe, organizations and affinity groups advocating for better treatment of fat people, at least. I don't perceive 'ugly' or 'fat' as being the same sort of grouping as race, though, and I'm not sure where the difference comes from, exactly.
This makes me think that you are right. There was a weakness in the method, though. In appendix table one they not only show how likely it actually is that a baby with a certain name is white/black, they show the results from an independent field survey that asked people to pick names as white or black. In table eight, they only measure the likelihood someone with a certain name is in a certain class (as approximated by mother's education). Unfortunately, they don't show what people in general, or employers in particular, actually think. If they don't know about class differences between "Kenya" and "Latonya," or the lack of one between "Kenya" and "Carrie," they can't make a decision based on class differences as they actually are.

Individual intelligence differences are NOT thought of as okay. Try introducing yourself on a random message board with each of these and see what happens:

  • Hi, I'm Joe and the main thing I'm good at is art.
  • Hi, I'm Joe and I'm proud of my Native American ancestry.
  • Hi, I'm Joe and my IQ is 170.

Joe with the IQ of 170 will be called arrogant, a liar, an elitist, treated like a scam artist, or told he has no social skills. That's not telling Joe he's okay. That's telling Joe not to talk about his difference. Let's explore what it means to be told you can't talk about your difference for a moment. Imagine going into a room and saying each of the following:

  • Hey, don't say you've got Native American blood, that's socially inept.

^ This comment will surely be interpreted as racism.

  • Hey, don't say you're good at art, you're a liar.

^ This comment will be interpreted as an extremely rude or even oppressive comment. Making judgments about whether artists are "good" or "bad" is taboo and considered, by many, to be oppressive to self-expression.

  • Hey, don't say your IQ is 170, don't be an elitist.

^ This comment prejudges the person. It assumes that they're an... (read more)

How would that play out with athletic accomplishments? Compare: I'm Joe, and I have an Olympic gold medal in [famous|obscure] sport. I'm Joe, and I just finished a marathon. I'm Joe, and I've won a local marathon. I'm Joe, and I run half a dozen marathons a year One more: I have the optimal physiology for [some sport]. I think this is the closest to announcing a a high IQ..
I am not a sports person, so I have no idea, but I suspect they'd be cheered on. Unless they were seen as part of an enemy team. I think people feel a sense of pride in the people that play on local teams. My imagination says that might go something like this: "That guy's probably eaten some of the hotdogs from the factory I work in. I probably played some small part in this famous guy's awesome sports abilities somehow." I'm really itching to do an experiment now. (: Maybe I will...
The issue is more the circumstances that lead to talking about your IQ. In an argument about something else, it is almost certainly an appeal to authority, and should be avoided. Brought up out of the blue it -is- socially inept. A discussion which turns to IQ might be an appropriate place to bring it up. (I bring up my own exceptional IQ as an argument against elitism or eugenics, such as people who think low-IQ people shouldn't be allowed to reproduce. "Do you want me applying the same standard you're applying to other people to you?" is a pretty effective argument when you're more standard deviations above the other person than they are over the people they think are too stupid to reproduce/make their own decisions.)
I agree that using IQ as an appeal to authority will draw negative attention, and that bringing it up in order to use yourself as an example of a smart person who isn't elitist would probably go over very well. But those examples are black and white. You're not making distinctions outside the black and white "easy to interpret" areas where people begin to behave funny, so, in effect, you're ignoring the problem I presented. As for your "out of nowhere" comment, what would they do if I said "I'm a woman." out of nowhere? What if I said "I'm African-American." If they don't react in a negative way to those, but they DO react in a negative way when IQ is brought up, that says something. Why do they react to it negatively, instead of neutrally, when there is no context in which to interpret?
They would assume you have a reason for bringing those things up. (Or, if they couldn't find one, assume you were a bit daft.) What reason would you have, in their model of you, for bringing up your IQ? None of them are good.
Judgments often made about IQ statements: I think you were asking "What do I think they think?" - your wording felt a bit tricky to interpret.
It's worse then that: What do you think they think you are thinking? People generally assume purpose, correctly or incorrectly. If you bring up your IQ, your audience is going to ask themselves -why- you are bringing up your IQ. And they're unlikely to find any good reasons, which leave only the bad. (Not to mention that most people who bring up IQ -are- socially inept, precisely because of social policies against bringing up IQ. It's unfortunately a stable equilibrium. You'd need a popular movement to change the social mores there, and I don't think most people are going to care enough to get involved in it, compared to the other social problems our society faces.)
One of these is not like the other two. How about: Hi, I'm Joe and I'm good at 3D games (or some other activity that is representative of high IQ scores). This replaces the apparent status seeking with a proper introduction.
You make my point better than I do. This statement strikes you as having a major, obvious difference. If it's so obvious, then there probably really is a difference, right? Well obviousness has a lot in common with first impressions - they're both instant, they're both compelling, and they both happen so fast that when you first experience them, there hasn't been any time to scrutinize them yet. This "one of these is not like the other" reaction IS the experience of bias. By arguing that one statement is different, you have underlined your bias. One way to determine whether there is any bias in the way people interpret mentions of giftedness and IQ is to attempt to conceive of contexts in which they'll be perceived neutrally. If this is a lot harder than presenting things like gender and race, then this may indicate bias. Try coming up with some contexts in which a mention of IQ or giftedness will be perceived neutrally - without "cheating" by applying an opposite bias (like wrapping it in a sugar coating by telling people you're an example of a Mensan who isn't elitist for instance) or suppressing the information (for instance waiting until someone asks, or hiding it from everyone except your developmental psychologist) and without using code words to obscure it (Because evidently, my question is not always being interpreted as a request to know a way to talk about it directly.) If you have to hide the information to avoid being chided, that's basically the definition of oppression, and how do you get oppression without bias? What I want to know is "How do you freely tell people you're gifted or have a high IQ in a way that is entirely neutral?"
Not sure why you ignored my original example. As I said, you tell them that you are good at something that implies high IQ score, but is not perceived as status seeking. "Hi, I'm Joe and the main thing I'm good at is art." is not the same as "I draw better than 99.9998% of all people", which would be the equivalent of "my IQ is 170", and would also be perceived as status seeking.
That doesn't qualify as an example of how to talk about IQ and giftedness. You're talking about 3D games. Your suggestion was to hide the fact that you're talking about IQ by talking in code. That's why I ignored the example - I didn't see that you were trying to present me with a neutral IQ statement. I'm still waiting to see whether anyone can come up with a way to freely tell people you're gifted or have a high IQ in a way that sounds neutral - without cheating in any way. Without sugar coating, without having to hide it, and without using code words to obscure it (Because evidently, my question was not interpreted as a request to know a way to talk about it directly.) . (:
'Hi, I'm Joe and I'm a smart guy.'
8Scott Alexander12y
The most important difference here is that the first two statements, in addition to being boasts, also convey a non-boasting fact about the particular area you are interested in. For example "I'm good at art" strikes me less as conveying information about being especially talented, as saying that art is the particular subject you like and work on. Compare someone who goes into an artists' workshop or an art class or something. They introduce themselves with "Hi, I'm Joe, and I'm really good at art." Now it is boasting. Everyone there is interested in art, and Joe is making a claim of being especially good at it compared to all the other artists. (This is even more true if we add some kind of number or statistic to it. "Hi, I'm Joe, and I'm in the 99th percentile for art skills.". Now he's definitely boasting, since the statistic doesn't do anything to help describe his interest.) Intelligence is very general, and it's something you have rather than something you're interested in. That might make claims to it seem more boastful.
"I am a woman" - is that a boast? No, it's just a fact. "I am African American" - is that a boast? "I am white." - is that a boast? It could be. Why do we perceive it that way? All three are a difference you might have, rather than a thing you're interested in. They are also all things that can influence you. Gender stereotypes are criticized for numerous reasons, and I don't think they're perfect, but we can't deny that a lot of men and women have a set of differences they associate with gender. For many, it's part of their identity. At times, members of both genders have had issues with excessive pride in their gender such that it became a sort of prejudice against and oppression of the other gender. Yet, when I say "I am a woman." does it sound like a boast? Does any part of your mind want to jump to the conclusion that I am a feminazi or a man hater? Where does this perception of excessive pride come from when people talk about giftedness? You might argue "It implies you're really good at something" - okay, so does the phrase "I'm a doctor." If being good at something makes a statement a boast, why is it okay to say "I'm a doctor." as part of an introduction? That you perceive the example IQ statement as a boast is a sign of bias. How do you know that it is a boast? It isn't objective. It is a subjective sense. You're guessing at the person's motive. If you wouldn't guess the same motive for "I'm a woman." and "I'm a doctor." then why do you guess it for "My IQ is 170."? Specifically when it comes to speaking about IQ and giftedness, I want to know how we discern the difference between boasting and making a neutral statement of fact about what makes one different? Put another way, here is the problem: Being gifted and/or having a high IQ makes one different. It frequently makes sense to refer to this difference in order to provide a context in which to be correctly understood. Some examples: Gifted people are frequently misdiagnosed with mental disorders.
It needn't be. For example, if this is said at a gathering at which trans folk are particularly visible, it might be perceived as a boast, since the whole question of who is and isn't a woman is foregrounded and has status associated with it. (Of course, at most gatherings this is not a reading that would occur to anyone, since trans folk are not typically visible.) Again, it depends. In a gathering where being an African American is a high-status marker within the group, it can be. Again, in gatherings where being white is a high-status marker within the group, it's a boast. For most of LW's readers, this is probably far more common than either of the other two examples. In a gathering where high intelligence is a status marker, no. Claiming a high-status marker within a group is never a neutral move. Sure. In particular, as I've said, I think the assumptions they contain is that high IQ and giftedness are status markers.
Hiding IQ is the rule not the exception, do you agree with that? I agree that talking about just about any trait might be perceived as boastful or rude in very specific contexts. But when something isn't okay to talk about in most contexts, that's how we know that there's a widespread bias that can be said to be cultural. Do you agree with this? What if I introduced myself with "Hi, I'm Sue. I like sports and I am a doctor. What about you?" That would be interpreted as talking about a difference you have that affects who you are, not a boast, am I right? Okay, that's a really good point. To be clear, you do agree with me, then, that there is a cultural bias against talking about giftedness and IQ - am I correct? I'm also interested in knowing whether you agree with these: * If talking about high IQ and giftedness are usually seen as a status marker, this makes them socially unacceptable to talk about most of the time. * Do you agree that when both of these conditions are true, it is sign of oppression: A.) There is a group of people that have significant social differences, for example, how the queer community dates differently from and sometimes express gender differently from hetero people. B.) It is socially unacceptable to talk about the difference that makes them part of the group, for instance, the "Don't ask, don't tell." policy that the U.S. military had. * Do you agree that gifted / high IQ people meet the two definitions above of having significant social differences, and that it is considered socially unacceptable for them to talk freely about their differences? If so, then does this qualify as a form of oppression? Fine distinction: I don't think that most people KNOW they're doing something that may be considered oppressive. To me, if a prejudiced person doesn't see their prejudices as prejudiced, it doesn't mean that their behavior doesn't oppress the people they're prejudiced against. That just means their oppression is uninten
Depends on the social group. I hang out in a number of social circles where signalling high intelligence is highly endorsed. But, sure, I agree that's the exception and not the rule; in most social circles, signalling high intelligence is seen as a status grab. Sure. Again, that depends on the status implications of those claims in the context of the group you're introducing yourself to. There are many contexts in which introducing yourself as a doctor would be seen as boastful, and many contexts in which it would not. (There are few contexts where introducing yourself as liking sports would be seen as boastful.) I would agree that there are contexts where talking about my giftedness and my high IQ is seen as a status grab, and therefore rejected. Many of those are contexts in which talking about giftedness and IQ in general is seen as OK. Again: where high IQ and giftedness are seen as status markers, talking about my high IQ and my giftedness is usually unacceptable. (Similarly, talking about my wealth or my really beautiful spouse or various other status markers is usually unacceptable.) I agree that these things are frequently present where oppression exists. But they are also frequently present where oppression does not exist. For example, if I'm a white-collar millionaire participating in a social group that is primarily lower-middle-class blue-collar workers, that's a significant social difference that is socially unacceptable to talk about, but I would not agree that I was being oppressed, or that millionaires are generally being oppressed by blue-collar workers. Relative levels of power and status matter, here. In many contexts, yes. In some contexts, yes. Not many.
I enjoy your precision. You make my verbiage look sloppy. (: Sorry for seeming to ignore this comment for a few weeks. I was busy. Right now the way I'm seeing this is that because IQ differences are not seen as something that can cause a person a prolific number of differences that are socially relevant for lots of things other than status, it's often perceived as a status grab when it's not. There are also a whole bunch of other problems that, combined, paint a picture of oppression. OrphanWilde did an experiment in this very thread, asking "Actually, let's try an experiment: My IQ is estimated to be in the vicinity of 220. What is your reaction?" The result was that he was accused (in the context of the experiment, by people who, I realize, probably do not literally believe these things) of lying by Alicorn and gwern and later suspected to be a psychopath by gwern and shminux. I was the only one that showed willingness to entertain the idea that OrphanWilde might not be a liar or a psychopath. I suppose, technically that's not oppression against people you believe to be gifted, it's discouragement toward people you believe not to be gifted. However, what happens when people have the same attitude of not believing other types of people about their differences? "Oh you're not really homosexual, let's send you to the psychologist and have that fixed." They may have good intentions but the result is definitely oppressive. If people jump to conclusions about a group of people - even the conclusion that the specific individuals in question aren't part of the group - then those assumptions can oppress the group in question. Then there's the fact that 50% of gifted children in America are never given an IQ test, yet they require special education to prevent them from developing problems like learned helplessness due to being placed in the wrong environment. Terman did a study that challenged commonly held beliefs that gifted people tended to be ugly, and have a l
If gwern suspected OrphanWilde of being a sociopath, surely he would have made a PredictionBook post. But seriously, I've read the posts I think you are talking about. Nobody has such suspicions.
OrphanWilde was only doing an experiment. I didn't mean to say those guys were serious about their accusations. They behaved that way in the context of the experiment. Most likely they do know better than to take the experiment literally. I realize this. (: I hate pointing out the obvious, but I guess I have to now. edits my post
I apologize for my lack of explicitness. Here gwern states that someone possessing transcendent charm is not sufficient evidence for one to conclude that they possess a 200+ IQ. (He mentions other possibilities of them having a "mere" 140+ IQ or them being a psychopath.) Here gwern states that the world contains more psychopaths than geniuses. Here is a well-done ramble about the overlap between psychopathy and genius. I cannot find any post by schminux that would explain why you think he was pretending to accuse OrphanWilde of being a psychopath. ---------------------------------------- Now to clarify: I am holding that gwern and schminux never publicly suspected OrphanWilde of being a psychopath. I am further holding that gwern and schminux never publicly pretended to suspect OrphanWilde of being a psychopath. These events did not occur, nor did events resembling them occur. Thus, this: is almost a complete non sequitur, apropos of nothing.
You can't find those because some wonderfully helpful person decided to hide my post. Search for "comment score below threshold" and look inside of there for "psychopath". Ctrl-F is helpful if you didn't know about it.
There's likely no single individual involved, wonderfully helpful or otherwise. If a comment dropped below the default display threshold, it's probably because three more people operating independently downvoted the comment than upvoted it.
Considering that the posts I linked to were descendents of your post (I assume you were referring to this one?), it would be safe for you to assume that I had read it. (I also do not filter posts by karma value.) Is there, in fact, a post that you think would support the claim: ? If so, could you please post a hyperlink?
I can't be certain, but it's possible that the post which led to shminux' inclusion on that list was this one - in which shminux quoted gwerm's conclusion that a gifted conversationalist is at least as likely to be a psychopath as a genius.
Yes, I agree that this is frequently true. We also frequently react that way to wealth inequalities, power inequalities, and various other things that we fear (not always without justification) will allow a privileged minority to become a threat to us. It isn't clear to me that "oppress" is a clearly or consistently defined term here, but I agree with you that this sometimes leads us to act against the groups we see as potential threats. The thing that most jumps out at me is that we seem to keep reiterating the same rhetorical pattern. You point out scenarios where intelligent people end up in potential conflict with those around them because of their intelligence. I agree that that happens sometimes, and add that it's a special case of a more general relationship that isn't especially about intelligence. You continue to discuss how raw a deal intelligent people are given, from a slightly different perspective. It mostly leaves me with the feeling that we don't really disagree about any of the stuff that's actually being said explicitly, but that there's something more fundamental that isn't getting said explicitly, about which we do disagree. If I had to guess, I would guess that you're motivated to maximize the relative status of intelligent people, and you're framing the situation in terms of how oppressed intelligent people are in order to justify doing that, and you see my responses as interfering with that framing. But that's just a guess.
Good insight, TheOtherDave, it is time to clarify. I don't want to "maximize the relative status" of anyone - I don't believe in status. Oh, sure I see lots of people imagining one another to be at different points on a mental model, and I don't deny that people behave that way, but to me, that doesn't mean the mental model is at all accurate to reality. To me, they're just imagining this - status is just a bias. Also, I think the fact that people perceive intelligence as a "high status" thing is the entire problem. So unless "maximize the relative status" was meant more like "optimize the relative status" I don't think that'd be a real solution. I don't really see your responses as interfering with the framing, but like you said they're indicating that some clearer point needs to be made. Here are some ideas: No sort of oppression happens all the time, but that doesn't mean a group is not oppressed. I think the oppression of gifted people should recognized. I think people on both sides need to realize that most of it is unintentional. I think we need to knock it off with this status business, as a species, recognize that we all have rights regardless of intellectual abilities, and quit acting paranoid and grappling for control with one another. Seeing this power struggle and status madness makes me sick to my stomach. Every time I see it, I have to question why I bother to make a difference if people are going to behave like this.
(nods) Sure, sounds great. Two questions: * Do you agree any more or less with that phrase if I remove the clause "regardless of intellectual abilities"? (Followup: if you don't, what is that clause doing there?) * Do you have any strategies in mind for achieving that state? I recognize that gifted people are sometimes subjected to actions taken against their interests, which we can describe as "oppression" if we want to, though that word has other connotations in other contexts I don't think apply to the condition of gifted people. That said, I don't care very much. Do you think I ought to care more? If so, why?
I don't think what you're saying here makes sense. The "status model" only makes claims about people's behavior. If people behave as though status were a thing, that makes status a thing. By way of analogy, beauty is also imaginary in the sense that status is imaginary. Lots of people imagine each other to be at different points on the beauty scale, and act accordingly, but there's nothing objective out there corresponding to beauty. Sure, there's things that lots of people would agree are beautiful -- symmetric faces, lack of disfiguring scars, whatever -- but these are arbitrary -- there's nothing intrinsically beautiful about them. (Similarly, wearing a gold watch or whatever might be a sign of status, and is also arbitrary.) Would you say that you "don't believe in beauty" in the same way that you "don't believe in status"? If not, what are the relevant differences?
Did you even read the post? He doesn't think they're okay:
For clarity: My interpretation of his main point is "the rest of the world seems to think that individual genetic differences are okay" and my main point in that comment is "Individual intelligence differences are NOT thought of as okay (by the rest of the world)." The sentence you singled out is an oversimplified version of what I was actually trying to convey. What I was trying to convey was "I'm glad you think it's okay with the rest of the world for people to talk about their intelligence differences, but it's not okay." It looks like my verbal processor took a shortcut without me noticing it. I'll fix that to prevent any confusion. Thanks for pointing it out. I don't appreciate hearing "Did you even read the post?" yes, I read the post (and responded to other aspects of it also).
To contribute my analogy, I think introducing yourself by saying "Hi, my IQ is 170" is kinda like introducing yourself by saying "Hi, my net worth is $100 million", which would definitely be obnoxious. Though the IQ thing is maybe even more obnoxious to me because at least you had to make the money yourself, whereas the IQ you got almost purely as a matter of luck.
Or inherited it.
Actually, let's try an experiment: My IQ is estimated to be in the vicinity of 220. What is your reaction?

I think you're lying.

Indeed. At the usual standard deviation norm of ~15, a 220 IQ would be 8 standard deviations out and make him ~1 in 8*10^14 (100 trillion). Inasmuch as only 100 billion humans are estimated to have ever lived, the overwhelming majority of that having an average IQ far lower than 100 and so being essentially irrelevant, we can conclude that he is either lying or from the future.
220+ IQ scores DO happen - due to the fact that IQ tests cannot be made accurate for such an uncommon group of people, they're far more common than they're mathematically supposed to be. A collection of research on that can be found online right here: I've actually talked with people in that IQ vicinity, and based on the absolutely sublime intelligent conversation they're capable of providing, and considering the likelihood of specifically them being dishonest about that within the context of their other behaviors, I just don't think they're lying. Superintelligent people do exist. And they have to actually BE somewhere, right? Where do they go? Do you think that none of them would be attracted to a website like LessWrong? I think this site is likely to be a genius magnet. If it turns out that this person's IQ really is over 220, I totally want to have intelligent conversation with them. If you give people the benefit of the doubt in situations like this, sometimes the result is more than worth the effort to withhold judgment for a while. P.S. Yes, I realize the claim is that it was estimated at over 220, not that they received that score. The obvious argument here is "What professional would estimate it that high knowing how rare those scores are SUPPOSED to be?" but if you're not basing your estimation on observations about people who have received that score, all you are left with is attempting to deduce the characteristics of a person with such an IQ out of the numbers themselves, with no actual experience to base it on. Or, this person may be referring to the practice of adjusting a young child's IQ score upward in order to reflect the age at which they took the test. For instance, if you are 2 years old and get an IQ of 100 on an IQ test, that's really incredible. You definitely have to give that kid a higher score than 100. The only way I know of to get a score in the 200 ballpark is to have that sort
And that's a limitation of the tests being ratio tests or not being normed on the sufficiently large population they're supposed to be normed on. (Why are all the datapoints on that page so old?) That's why modern IQ tests come with listed ceilings! 'Past this point, who knows what it's measuring if anything'. With a short test, even random guessing will eventually throw up some remarkable scores... Perfectly consistent with them having more earthly IQs >140. (If even that; I have been reading up on psychopathy lately, and one of the diagnosable traits is being gifted conversationalists and creators of emotional 'bonds', despite psychopathy being, if correlated with IQ at all, negatively correlated.)
Living people with 220+ IQs do exist - you say the words "modern IQ tests" as if the ratio tests were invented in the dark ages. This only changed in recent decades. Regardless of which method is the best, the fact that there are plenty of people still alive today who can honestly claim that they were given an IQ score that high means that this person is not automatically a liar or "from the future". "Perfectly consistent with them having more earthly IQs >140" Which is perfectly consistent with them having IQs over 220, if you think about it... And, no, they weren't like the people with scores of 140. There are differences that they have that I have not encountered in anyone else. Things stood out. Why are you bringing up psychopathy? That's totally out of left field. Do you mean to imply that people claiming that IQ are probably psychopaths?

Living people with 220+ IQs do exist - you say the words "modern IQ tests" as if the ratio tests were invented in the dark ages. This only changed in recent decades.

Very well then, let us discuss the cases of people recorded to be hundreds of years old by less than modern documentation, like Methuselah as verified by the Book of Genesis. Wait, you don't think people actually live to thousands of years? But you just said we can use datapoints from any kind of test we please!

Whatever cutoff you choose to exclude things like Genesis or scientific results from hundreds of years ago while still including largely obsolete ratio tests, I will shift it slightly to include only better IQ tests. I think this is perfectly legitimate, as one should strive to use the best available data, and regard your 'but old obsolete scores!' as quibbling.

Which is perfectly consistent with them having IQs over 220, if you think about it...

And it's also consistent with IQs over 9000!!!

Occam's razor. Use it, love it. The base rate of IQs like 140 are by definition higher than >220.

There are differences that they have that I have not encountered in anyone else. Things stood out.

"B... (read more)

...And able to convince you that they have IQ > 220, regardless of whether it means anything,
I wish I could do that, imagine how much "funding" I could get for my perpetual motion machine.
Some, but apparently not that much.
Damn, back to selling bridges.
I'm actually somewhat curious about the degree overlap between those two groups.
Well, assuming complete independence would just be 1% 1%; but there does seem to be a slight negative correlation between psychopathy & IQ. Complicating matters is Hare and Babiak's research into business psychopaths, where they estimate they are over-represented by a factor of 2-3 or so, suggesting that the negative correlation may be skewed by the 'failures' in prison samples (which are the samples for most studies, for obvious reasons); smarter psychopaths are far less likely to resort to violence\*, further hindering identification (since impulsive violence is one of the major diagnostic hallmarks). To the extent that the gifted 1% avoid business, that may restore a negative correlation / underepresentation. Finally, psychopath's impulsivity and few long-range goals or efforts (another part of the diagnosis along with glibness/manipulation) suggests that to the extent genuine objective achievements cause you to be considered a gifted 1%, we can expect still more underrepresentation*. So guesstimating further, I'd say in a population of 300m people (eg. the US), we could expect substantially fewer than 30,000 gifted psychopaths (0.01 0.01 300,000,000). Phew! On the other hand, they would be the ones who would do the most damage and be least likely to ever be diagnosed, so we may never know for sure... * Which makes me wonder about high IQ societies, now that I think about it. My vague impression was that they tend to collect those with poor social skills, and also with fewer objective accomplishments & success. So if you meet someone in a high IQ societies who seems very charming and empathetic but lacks objective accomplishments, just how much does this increase the psychopath possibility over the 1% base rate..? ** Covered multiple times in the Handbook; first relevant paper seems to be "Psychopathy and Aggression", Porter & Woodworth.
Maybe, but if someone talks to me about quantum field theory and actually makes sense, my posterior probability that their IQ is < 80 suddenly goes down to epsilon.
But how do you know that? Plenty of nutters sound convincing on quantum matters (as judging by the sales into millions of such folk as Deepak Chopra and abominations like The Dancing Wu-li Masters), so I assume you have some expertise in the matter - and now you're just judging based on that. (And what if they sound convincing on a topic you have no expertise in...)
I think one of the main reason they “sound“ convincing (though the readers' ignorance is also a necessary condition) is motivated cognition: the kind of people who read such books would like to believe what they say. Lose that, and your strength as a rationalist kicks in. (And anyway, I don't think Chopra et al. are idiots; they are either misguided or bullshitting the readers for fun and profit.) I'd have to test that. Anyone willing to give me a few paragraphs of either something “serious” or crackpottery (or a spoof à la Sokal), without telling me which it is, about a topic other than physics?
Upvoted (also) for this.
Looking closer, I think there are several points of confusion. Neither of us carefully distinguished between meanings like "An IQ score / estimation that really was that high but not accurate." versus "An IQ score / estimation that high that is NOT accurate." and I guess that neither of us noticed the possibility for multiple meanings. We also did not address the possibility that this person's (inaccurate) IQ could be that high while incidentally, the person does have an intelligence level to truly match an IQ of 220. That sort of person would be more likely to get an IQ of 220 on a test/estimate, no? There may be people with that (true) IQ who also have a nearby (inaccurate) IQ result to match it. After all, that is what the developmental psychologists are aiming for - that they're right sometimes but not all the time is possible. I thought this was great, BTW:
Note that it is physically impossible to measure IQ > 200:
It's not clear whether you're saying: * You can't create an accurate IQ test for that. * You can't generate an estimate IQ that high. * None of the IQ tests developed provide any method to generate an IQ that high. * You can't have an IQ that high.
Given that IQ is a measurement of intelligence, and there is no way to measure a number that is that high, all 4 apply. If you are still confused about the meaning of the verb "measure", here it is:
Agreed: You can't create an accurate IQ test for that. Disagreed: You can't generate an estimate IQ that high. Estimates can be made, but their accuracy can't be verified. Estimates are, by definition, an approximation. An estimated IQ that high is not automatically invalid, as long as it's expressed as an estimate, the statement can still be true. Disagreed: None of the IQ tests developed provide any method to generate an IQ that high. Some IQ tests can be adjusted upward based on a child's age. I'm not claiming it's accurate. I'm claiming it exists. Disagreed: You can't have an IQ that high. Saying a person can't get an IQ score that high is not the same thing as saying they can't get an IQ that high. You can be born with an intelligence level beyond what is statistically probable. Whether it can be measured may be another story. But it can still happen. William Sidis is my cite for that - his estimated IQ was 250-300. If you read enough about developmental psychology, you'll probably agree that Sidis not only qualifies as a person having abilities consistent with what an person with an IQ of > 220 should have, but that he had such great abilities that by using him as an example I am doing something more along the lines of killing an ant with a nuke. You can claim that because it's improbable, it can't happen, but that's would be an appeal to probability (or a reverse of that appeal, if you want to be really technical.)
Since IQ scores are calculated to conform to a normal distribution, your IQ is in exact correspondence with your percentile ranking in the general population. If f(x) is the CDF of the Normal(100,15) distribution, and your percentile ranking is p, then your "true IQ" is precisely the value of x such that f(x)=p. Since there are only roughly 7 billion people alive, the smartest person on Earth is ranked above 99.99999998578% of other people, which corresponds to an IQ of 195. If we include all people that have ever lived (I believe the number is roughly 100 billion), the smartest would have an IQ of 201. William Sidis's IQ of 250-300 is using a different scale, which is no longer used: it claims that his intellectual age, as a child at the time he took the exam (if in fact he did, there is some doubt about this) was 2.5 to 3 times his physical age. This isn't really a meaningful assessment of how smart he was as an adult, nor does it have any relationship to the modern system of IQ scores (on a normal curve, such a score is 1 in 10^23, which I think we all agree is ridiculous).
I suppose that if you mean that it is possible to make an invalid extrapolation based on age adjustment, then you are right, it is indeed possible, if meaningless. It is not, however, how IQ is measured (by comparing how well you did vs other people who took the same test). It is exactly the same thing, because IQ is not intelligence, it's one (not very accurate) way to measure it. Thus there is no such thing as person's IQ, only person's IQ score. Just because IQ is commonly confused with intelligence, does not mean it is the same thing. You can estimate someone's IQ testing skills from one or more of their IQ test scores, and this skill is indeed a property of (your model of) the individual, not of a piece of paper with the number on it, and this skill is correlated with other measures of intelligence. This skill can conceivably be shorted to "person's IQ". However, there is no standard procedure of calculating anything like that (should it be the average? mode? geometric mean? maximum? minimum? any of those have merits, depending on your model of how the hypothetical innate IQ testing skill is translated into IQ test scores). Funny that you bring him up. Says Wikipedia:
It is possible, and they've done it. Whether it is meaningless is outside the scope of our particular debate as, if I remember correctly, we started arguing after Gwern said that claiming an IQ of 220+ is proof that a person is "either a lying or from the future". So, this supports my point that such a claim is not proof that a person is lying. I'll just disregard the "from the future" comment for now. ;) Not sure if you're saying "IQ test scores aren't generated based on how you compare." or, within the context of the previous sentence "IQ tests are not scored using age adjustment." For the former, you're partly right and partly wrong. The ratio tests were scored using a bell curve. If your IQ was relatively close to normal, you'd get a score that would tell you how you compare to average. If your IQ was super high like 160, it was likely to be inaccurate, because those people are rare. As for age adjustments - of course they make age adjustments. Otherwise, how would they test children of different ages on the same test? If a child of the age of 3 gets the same questions right as children who are 10 years old, do you give the ten year olds a toddler's score or do you give the toddler a score closer to that of a ten year old? It would be inappropriate to imply that the ten year olds and the toddler have the same amount of intelligence. I imagine this is fairly meaningful at least when it concerns testing average children of different ages, since it's not too difficult to find lots of children to make the test more accurate with. When it comes to testing child prodigies, the exact score (say "exactly 223" or something) would be meaningless, but the fact that, say, a 7 year old got a perfect score on an IQ test suitable for adults, we'll say, that would be very meaningful - though their score should be taken as more of a ballpark figure than an exact measurement. It depends on how you use the word in the sentence. You make a distinction between IQ and intellige
IQ is defined to be a normal distribution with mu = 100 and sigma = 15, so “IQ 220” means ‘99.9999999999999th percentile¹’; if more than a person in 10^15 gets such a score, then the test is miscalibrated. (But most tests are, beyond a few standard deviations away from the mean.) 1. I didn't count the nines, I just copied and pasted the output of pr norm(8) in gnuplot and moved the decimal point.
Awesome! Tell me super-intelligent thoughts? Have you met the others? (Nope, not gullibility. Explaining below in re to gwern.)
I'm not sure what a super intelligent thought would look like; there's a limit on how intelligent a thought could be, as a thought that gets too clever ceases to be clever at all. But if that's your internal reaction as well, I don't have any room to argue/criticize on this front, as you're being fully consistent. (Strictly speaking, incidentally, any score above 180 is merely an estimate; IQ tests cease to perform reliably above that level.)
I loved your experiment. (: As for what a super-intelligent thought would look like, there are multiple ways of interpreting you: You might be saying that a person with an IQ of 220 could be prone to over-thinking things. In that case, it would cease to qualify as cleverness due to a failure to maintain a good cost-benefit ratio between the amount of brainpower put in and the results coming out. You may mean that if someone were to say something significantly more clever than what is commonly thought of as "clever" it may not be recognized as such, may not even be observable to most minds once pointed out, and therefore might never end up recognized as "clever" by anyone. There's a much more interesting possibility - that a super-intelligent thought may transcend cleverness, take on emergent properties, or otherwise be so advanced that our current definitions of intelligence can't express it.
Estimated by whom?
You're taking my experiment literally.
Try going to an art forum and proclaim "Hi, I'm Joe, and I'm very, very good at art." The key is: are you using a form of words that imply that you're better than other people?

My personal reaction seems to be traceable to a potential vs achievement view of status.

Imagine a 10 year old who introduces himself and says he's been tested and found to be gifted/~150 IQ. My intuitive reaction is to be a little happy for the kid and maybe talk to him.

Imagine a 40 year old who introduces himself to the group and says he's been tested at 150; same IQ, same introduction, but my reaction is instantly negative - because why did he introduce himself based on his IQ? At age 40, shouldn't he have something to show for it, some personal identity beyond 'a smart person'? Be a doctor, a researcher somewhere, an entrepreneur, etc. His failure to mention anything more substantive seems like decent evidence that there is nothing better to mention, and he's simply failed at life - yet he still seems to think a lot of himself. An arrogant failure is not someone I wish to know or think highly of, and so I don't.

What's wrong with "I'm Joe and I'm doing my doctorate in string theory"? People do pick on IQ-boasters specficially, and there are reasons for that.
I don't know, but there definitely IS something wrong with it. "I'm doing my doctorate in string theo