Thursday, March 1, 2018

General Intelligence And Its Sociopolitical Implications

     There has never been a subject more vilified by the Left than that of intelligence measurement. The idea sends the typical Leftist into convulsions. Should you allow intelligence testing, or the concept of generalizable intelligence on which it’s based, the slightest credence, he’s apt to denounce you as, in the idiom of a friend, “everything but white.” Clearly, it’s a subject that deserves more attention than it’s received in recent years.

     The ugly little fact that the Left hates worst is the strong positive correlation between IQ and life achievement. It constitutes a refutation of their mantras about universal equality and dignity. Yet throughout the decades over which intelligence tests have been conducted, that correlation has never failed.

     It makes a perverse kind of sense. When your aim is to reduce everyone to serfdom, admitting to actual, objectively measurable differences among persons is poison to your agenda. But facts, as John Adams once said, are stubborn things. The measurable, replicable nature of general intelligence is just one of those things.


     Time was – i.e., before we all became mortally afraid of ever offending anyone – these were the accepted terms for various ranges of IQ:

  • 160 and above: Genius
  • 140-159: Near Genius
  • 120-139: Highly Gifted
  • 110-119: Bright or Superior
  • 90-109: Normal
  • 80-89: Dull
  • 70-79: Deficient
  • 50-69: Moron
  • 20-49: Imbecile
  • 0-19: Idiot

     The distribution of persons into those categories was approximately “normal:” i.e., it followed the Bell Curve, with an axis of symmetry at approximately 100. For decades, the standard deviation has remained about 15 points on the Revised Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. Thus, as is usual with a normal distribution:

  • About 68.3% of persons will fall into the band between 85 and 115;
  • About 95.5% of persons will fall into the band between 70 and 130;
  • About 99.7% of persons will fall into the band between 55 and 145;
  • Those below 55 or above 145 are no more than 0.3% of the total.

     It was also accepted that persons in the categories of Moron, Imbecile, and Idiot were essentially ineducable. Of course, that was when we understood that education differs qualitatively from training. Some could be trained to perform certain repetitive tasks. However, useful reasoning – i.e., the use of abstractions and inference to reach conclusions – was not to be expected of them.

     Over the decades, studies of races, ethnic groups, and occupations have yielded interesting information about other aspects of the intelligence distribution. These, too, have bad news for the egalitarians and coercive utopianists of the Left.


     One might “reasonably” expect that the most demanding of the scientific fields – mathematics and the physical sciences – would be dominated by persons in the highest IQ bands: say, 145 and above. Yet the correlation is not that strong. Indeed, persons in the 130-144 range participate in those fields in very significant numbers. There are also researchers and scholars in those fields from the 115-129 range, though they’re proportionately fewer. It would seem that above a certain IQ level, the ability to work effectively with the abstractions that characterize those fields is not materially increased.

     Neither is it the case that persons with very high IQ scores will necessarily be attracted to those scientifically demanding fields. One of the brightest people I know – IQ well over 160 – labored for many years in law enforcement. Another, equally bright, has made a fortune as a marketing consultant. Human affinities and desires matter, too.

     Conversely, persons on the lower end of the distribution won’t necessarily be helpless in an advanced technological society. There will always be rote, repetitive tasks for which persons lacking in intelligence can be trained – and in which they can be happy. Contrary to much propaganda, not all of us aspire to be counted among the stars. Many are content to be useful and self-supporting, if they’re recognized and treated as such by those around them. Indeed, that was one of the critical concluding messages of Herrnstein and Murray’s treatise The Bell Curve. It’s been confirmed by experience of many kinds.

     The above assertions, all of which are well confirmed by endless studies, have been denigrated and condemned by the Left. They cross-cut the Left’s core principle: i.e., that systematic coercive interference in men’s lives and fortunes is essential for general happiness and social harmony.


     Patterns of inequality that recur over large stretches of time carry messages for us of the present. They suggest underlying causes, though, as I’ve written before, every effect has more than one cause.

     This is particularly striking when one looks at patterns of inequality of achievement among the nations. For example, the nations of Africa have lagged well behind the nations of Europe and North America in social, economic, and political advancement for many decades. Contrary to the claims of professional inciters of interracial hatred, those peoples’ ancestors did not achieve levels of civilization comparable to those of Europe prior to the arrival of the European colonialists. The European incursions lifted Kenya, Algeria, and South Africa, among others, well above their previous conditions. Over the years since the retreat of the colonial powers, those nations have ceased to advance at their previous rate...if at all.

     It’s perilous to pin oneself to a specific, unicausal explanation of such patterns. Even if a researcher succeeds in isolating a “main driver” for a given inequality, there are bound to be minor contributing factors that ought not to be dismissed. His ideological opponents will promote those contributors for the sake of attacking him.

     What’s uniquely painful about contemporary discourse is the Left’s penchant for ad hominem attacks and imputations that target anyone who even mentions a pattern of inequality. Let the inequality correlate with intelligence measurements, and the attacks become vicious beyond all bounds. Sometimes they involve actual violence. The experiences of psychometrician Arthur Jensen should stand as a warning to us all.

     A final observation: Information is difference: the contrast some group of people, things, or events makes with others, while exhibiting consistency within the group. Only differences can convey information. What, then, is the probable fate of a society that will not allow even the mention of differences: among men, among the races, among the sexes, or among the nations? Can it hope for a future as good as immobile stagnation? Or is a steady descent into squalor and chaos more likely?

     Food for thought.

2 comments:

Linda Fox said...

Intelligence is important - you need at least a base amount to be able to function in a demanding civilization.

However, to be in the top level - IQ at or above 140 - may not be that much of an advantage. It might be more useful to be smart, but not too smart.

I wrote about it here

Andrew Pryzant said...

The great project of the Left and global elite is nothing less than the remaking of human races and organizations into an homogenized humanoid with café au lait skin color and exactly 'average' IQ. And human organization is to be a neo-feudal earth-encompassing government ruled over by said elite in a governing council. All right out of some science fiction story.