In honor of last week’s Trump/Tillerson IQ Test kerfuffle, I decided to do a very politically relevant anthropology article. Well, even more politically relevant than the other times I talk anthropology, a topic that is literally the most important thing that nobody is talking about.
So a few days ago, the president got into a bit of a spat with Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State, over his perceived stupidity, allegedly challenging him to take an IQ test simultaneously with him. This led to several articles claiming that this very challenge just makes Trump seem even stupider, because “everyone knows” that IQ tests don’t test anything other than your ability to take IQ tests, and besides they were all designed to “prove” white supremacy anyway.
So seeing as studies of human intelligence are still part of anthropology…much in the same way that the Swiss Guards represent the Vatican’s ability to project military power, let’s see if we can’t prove or disprove the thesis those who are, for lack of a better term, anti-IQ, and along the way learn about the history and application of this metric.
Intelligence Quotient tests are defined as a score of total intelligence based upon the performance of one of several types of standardized tests. The first IQ tests as we know them were invented in the early 1900s by French psychologist Alfred Binet, and focused on verbal abilities, which he felt was a problem as it only focused on one sort of intelligence.
To combat this, a British psychologist, Charles Spearman, came up with general factor G, attempting to correlate all forms of intelligence into one factor of total intelligence noticing that kids who did good in one subject in school tended to be good at most subjects. To put it very simply, Spearman and others since then have defined G as the ability to do abstract reasoning, and this is the closest way you can measure overall human intelligence. And inevitably, some find this notion to be controversial.
The USA then led the charge in IQ testing, as it was seen as a viable recruitment and sorting tool during the mass mobilization of the world wars, of note is that the first nonverbal or “performance” tests were devised so as to not unfairly judge the vast immigrant population that perhaps didn’t speak English very well. L.L. Thurstone argued for a model of intelligence that included seven unrelated factors (verbal comprehension, word fluency, number facility, spatial visualization, associative memory, perceptual speed, reasoning, and induction). This model was a great influence on later theorists, such as David Wechesler.
And so that brings us to today. As is typical for scientific processes, IQ tests are thrown out and revised when new research comes along, and today the most common one is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, which goes out of its way to measure verbal, nonverbal, and abstract forms of reasoning and ability.
So far so good, but here’s where the controversy begins. Most IQ tests today use a “Deviation IQ” grading method, in which the individual gets a score based on the median performance in a statistical sample that they fit into.
THUS, “100” is the median score for all populations that are tested, and thus 2/3 of all test-takers will get between 85-115, 5% above 125, and 25% below 80. To the ahem HBD enthusiasts, this might seem confusing–after all, there’s an abundance of data showing that Northeast Asian populations have the highest IQ ranks, then Ashkenazi Jews, gentile Europeans, and so forth until we get into populations that are in the 50s on average. How do you reconcile this with the IQ deviation thing?
This IQ deviation method is often cited as proof that there are no racial differences in intelligence because hey, the median is always 100, right? I will concede that there is not, as far as I know, an absolute IQ test that is applied to all populations and forms an ironclad set of scores to compare nation to nation or population to population.
It seems to me that any researchers who have looked at national/racial IQs, most notably Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in “IQ and the Wealth of Nations,” did their estimates by looking at average IQ studies already existent, and then estimated a calculation based on the Flynn effect (the observable effect that IQ scores increase progressively for reasons that are still not entirely known, probably health and industrialization reasons), as well as looking at student assessments such as PISA.
Thus, again I will repeat, that the research was not clear cut, and might have somewhat skewed the data towards the conclusion they wanted–and indeed, Richard Lynn has spoken at American Renaissance conferences, so one could possibly argue that he is a racist (However, considering that American Renaissance founder Jared Taylor has gone on record saying “in almost every way, northeast Asian cultures are superior to white cultures,” it’s also a matter of debate how racist they are, and where “white nationalism” stops and mere “white advocacy,” to use a term of my own creation, begins, but that’s an entirely different issue).
However, Tatu Vanhanen was not by any accounts a racist, and was even investigated and acquitted of hate cries charges by the government of Finland, and ultimately I’d like to think that the Cambridge PHDs that wrote IQ and the Wealth of Nations were capable of accurate data collection, or rather as accurate as you could be in attempting to create a worldwide intelligence measure essentially out of whole cloth.
But it’s not just the application of IQ tests ala Lynn and Vanhanen that is criticized, the entire concept of IQ testing is sometimes criticized, the phraseology often used being something along the lines of these tests “only” judging whether or not you are good at taking IQ tests. First of all, this statement is kind of meaningless and in fact it embodies what Rational Wiki refers to as “deepity,” a statement that essentially SOUNDS profound but is in fact trivial in one interpretation and nonsensical in another interpretation.
What i mean is, you could say a math test “only” judges whether you’re good at math tests, but the state of “being good at math tests” encompasses understanding the theory and application of mathematics, abstract reasoning, and so forth.
Similarly “being good at IQ tests” likely encompasses a variety of cognitive abilities like abstract reasoning, pattern recognition, long and short term memory, verbal and matrix problem solving. Thus, I question what better method of judging intelligence there is–and I’d also like to note that Steven Jay Gould and others who criticize the G factor never seem to posit what you can do to replace it. While it’d be great to have some theoretical foolproof intelligence measure, this is the best we have for now.
But WHY are IQ tests criticized as inherently worthless? Of course, it’s because of the perception that they’re “racially unfair” and somehow skewed in a way to consistently show some groups as lower than others. This is objectively wrong–the test I took for this video was largely comprised of raven’s matrices and the like, completely abstract questions that cannot be seen as being biased towards European cultural norms (and let’s not forget that again, East Asians are consistently higher than Europeans on IQ tests, but East Asians are conveniently ignored whenever it doesn’t fit in with the anti-white narrative).
But then again maybe I’m wrong, I mean, stereotype threat and implicit bias are totally provable scientific phenomena, much more so than IQ, right?
A substantially less idiotic criticism of IQ is that it does not take into account other types of intelligence such as artistic, creative or social intelligence. And yes, the standard IQ test only tests one type of cognitive ability, which I don’t think it’s improbable that some groups might be better at then others, and again some groups might excel at other types of cognition such as Verbal IQ.
And perhaps this might satisfy the gatekeepers of anthropology–because let’s be honest, they don’t hate IQ tests on any sort of principle, as seen by how they leap upon any IQ testing that confirms their world view.
They just hate IQ testing that doesn’t show white people on the bottom, and from working with these people, I have no doubt that if there was an IQ test that showed white people to have below-average IQs, they’d pounce upon it immediately. Frankly, from my time working in the public schools, where basically every initiative and change to the curriculum is a hail mary to somehow get black students on par or above white students, they’d declare that everything’s okay, and there’s nothing wrong with the public schools at all, if they were to find that magic bullet.
Even if you don’t believe that IQ tests prove anything, there’s enough evidence of cognitive differences between populations and enough evidence that different races might have different types of intelligence. To cite one example, Muhammad Ali was tested to have a 78 IQ, much lower than mine, but in terms of verbal ability and trash talking, I have no doubt he’d run rings around me. So, rather than eschewing intelligence testing at all, I think all types of intelligence should be first determined, and then tested, should they be capable of being tested. Truly, I think this would make everybody happy, showing racial differences existing and showing that white people are lower than black people in some metrics. Because that’s what’s important.