Is IQ real?

(Or does it default to integer?)*

Jordan Peterson has some comments here.

From the autogenerated transcript:

1:11 one of the things I have to tell you
01:13 about it IQ research is that if you
01:15 don’t buy IQ research you might as well
01:19 throw away all the rest of psychology
01:21 and the reason for that is that the
01:24 psychologists first of all who developed
01:26 intelligence testing were among the
01:28 early psychologists who instantiated the
01:30 statistical techniques that all
01:32 psychologists use to verify and test all
01:35 of their hypotheses so you end up
01:37 throwing the baby out with the bathwater
01:39 and the IQ people have defined
01:42 intelligence in a more stringent
01:44 stringent and accurate way than we’ve
01:47 been able to define almost any other
01:50 psychological construct and so if you
01:52 toss out the one that’s most well
01:54 defined then you’re kind of stuck with
01:55 the problem of what are you going to do
01:57 with all the ones that you have left
01:58 over that are nowhere near as
01:59 well-defined
02:00 or as well measured or as or as or or
02:04 whose predictive validity is much less
02:07 and has been demonstrated with much less
02:09 vigor and clarity

Also here:

00:01 so IQ is reliable invalid [and valid – ed] it’s more
00:05 reliable and valid than any other
00:06 psychometric test ever designed by
00:09 social scientists the IQ claims are more
00:11 psychometrically rigorous than any other
00:13 phenomena phenomenon that’s been
00:16 discovered by social scientists

Also of interest:

I
08:32 should tell you how to make an IQ test
08:33 is actually really easy and you need to
08:36 know this to actually understand what IQ
08:38 is so imagine that you generated a set
08:42 of 10,000 questions okay about anything
08:45 it could be math problems they could be
08:47 general knowledge they could be
08:49 vocabulary they could be multiple choice
08:50 it really doesn’t matter what they’re
08:52 about as long as they require abstract
08:53 to solve so they’d be formulated
08:56 linguistically but mathematically would
08:58 also apply and then you have those
09:01 10,000 questions now you take a random
09:03 set of a hundred of those questions and
09:05 you give them to a thousand people and
09:08 all you do is sum up the answers right
09:10 from so some people are gonna get most
09:12 of them right and some some of them are
09:13 going to get most of them wrong you just
09:14 rank order the people in terms of their
09:16 score correct that for age and you have
09:19 IQ that’s all there is to it and what
09:22 you’ll find is that no matter which
09:24 random set of a hundred questions you
09:26 take the people at the top of one random
09:28 set will be at the top of all the others
09:30 with very very very high consistency so
09:34 one thing you need to know is that if
09:36 any social science claims whatsoever are
09:39 correct then the IQ claims are correct
09:44 because the IQ claims are more
09:46 psychometrically rigorous than any other
09:48 phenomena phenomenon that’s been
09:51 discovered by social scientists

*  Fortran reference

Race & IQ: Don’t Suppress Public Discussion of the Issue | National Review

I took the Introduction to Psychology class in college as part of my General Education requirement. While taking it, and for some time afterward, I hung around in the Psych Student Lounge and read some of the material on hand there. One item I found, in the late 1970s, was a brief article on taboo subjects in psychological research. One of those topics was “Race and IQ”. Not much has changed.

Source: Race & IQ: Don’t Suppress Public Discussion of the Issue | National Review

In the latest issue of National Review, John McWhorter has a challenging and thought-provoking essay about the topic of race and IQ — specifically, about whether that topic should even be up for discussion in liberal-arts classrooms and in the media, as opposed to in scientific journals. He suggests not, as there is nothing to gain from discussing it.

I read McWhorter’s essay with special interest because I have violated the norm he proposes. I have written about race and IQ on numerous occasions — and for a general audience, as I am not even a specialist myself. See, for example, my 2013 essay in this space about Jason Richwine’s departure from the Heritage Foundation, as well as my RealClear reviews of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance and Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve (on its 20th anniversary).

In light of McWhorter’s essay, I thought it would be worth explaining how I became interested in this topic and why I participate in public discussions of it. Here goes.

I suppose I can blame this on my wife. Back when we were dating in college — and she was a self-described socialist, and I thought democratizing Iraq sounded like a fantastic idea — she insisted I take a class offered by the sociology department called “Social Inequality.” It would open my mind. I don’t even remember what led up to it, but at one point the professor informed us that some amorphous “they” had proven that “race isn’t genetic.” Murmurs of amazement spread among my classmates. “That sounds like bullsh**,” I thought.

Back at my dorm I turned to Google and quickly sussed out one of the basic truths McWhorter mentions: Categorical claims that “race isn’t genetic” amount to either bad science or word games. One of my most amusing discoveries that day was the argument that when forensic anthropologists identify someone’s race from nothing but a skeleton, all they’re really identifying is the region the person’s ancestors came from, which is totally different. I later learned that, if given a collection of DNA samples, scientists can predict the racial self-identifications of the people the samples come from with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

Are the precise boundaries we draw between racial categories subjective? Of course. But even our casual classifications strongly reflect ancestry, and people with different ancestries have recognizably different genetic profiles. To insist otherwise is ridiculous.
….

At any rate, one year around 2005 or so I pulled out all the stops. I read The Bell Curve, including all the technical appendices. I read not one but two essay collections responding to The Bell Curve. I read a bunch of other stuff online. And on the underlying scientific issue here, I came to the same conclusion McWhorter does: The evidence doesn’t justify a verdict one way or the other. Genes do differ among racial groups, measured IQs differ on average as well, and some of the genes that differ might affect IQ. There’s no reason this can’t be the case. We just don’t know whether it is yet.

My experience provides a window into (a) how it is that people become interested in this topic and (b) what material is available to those who do. Regarding (a), it’s certainly true that if three different people had taken McWhorter’s advice and simply steered clear of the issue — my sociology professor, Eric Alterman, and my classmate — I might never have become so intrigued.

But I rather doubt that an effort to further stigmatize the discussion of race and IQ could have more than a minor effect on how often people actually discuss it. And even if people did stop discussing it openly, I suspect many would still become curious about the topic and research it online, where people feel considerably freer to explore the taboo. This subject sits at the nexus of numerous others that are inherently interesting, for perfectly legitimate reasons. How did evolution shape humanity as a whole, and to what extent did it shape different populations differently? Why do we have such stark inequality among different groups of people, and not just blacks and whites in the U.S.?

So regarding (b) above, the big question is: When people start hunting around for information online, what do you want them to find? If mainstream outlets decline to cover the subject, all that will be left are what McWhorter calls “dense, obscure academic journals” — and fringe websites whose proprietors don’t feel bound by society’s norms. Do you think the typical Googler is going to wade through the technical pros and cons of the “method of correlated vectors” (a heavily criticized technique suggesting that the best measures of “general intelligence” also have the biggest black–white gaps), or do you think he’ll turn to the more accessible option, especially if it’s at least presented in a reasoned tone?

….

There’s another reason too: Whether we like it or not, scientists are going to answer these questions sooner or later. They are already in the process of figuring out exactly what genes shape our brains and how they differ among individuals and groups; even McWhorter would not stop this research, and it will be carried out in other countries if American scientists keep away from it. I think we should be intellectually prepared for the possibility that this line of work won’t turn out the way we want.

….

In A Dream Deferred, Shelby Steele wrote that it would have “far-right and, I have to say, even fascistic ideological implications” if genes contributed to the black–white IQ gap. Responding to my above-mentioned piece about Jason Richwine, Will Wilkinson of The Economist wrote that if genetic, group-level IQ differences exist, it forces us to “acknowledge that the racists were right all along — that racism has, to some extent, a valid scientific basis.”

I submit that it’s better to establish why these conclusions are wrong before scientists uncover any bombshells about IQ or other sensitive traits. They are wrong because population-level averages cannot justify discrimination against individuals, and because genetic abilities and propensities — measured at the group or individual level — cannot justify inhumane treatment. After all, we stopped sterilizing low-IQ individuals long ago, despite a wealth of research showing that individual-level differences in IQ are roughly half genetic. The immorality of fascism and racism stems from the moral equality of all human beings; it cannot rest on an assumption that all human beings or groups of them are exactly the same.

If we achieve that, though, what we should aspire to is not a “brutally open, race-based meritocratic consensus” but an end to racial bean-counting. If Americans of all races have the opportunity to achieve what their natural talents make possible, any remaining statistical gaps among races should become a non-issue. In other words, it’s at that point we should stop talking about all this, and I think we very well might.

Thomas Sowell has written a great deal about race and culture, and about the statistical disparities in which populations are represented in which areas of life. Like it or not, bean counter or not, the fact is that different demographic groups have different levels of interest in different things. Not every race evince the same proportion of people interested in archery. Certain jobs will attract more of this ethnicity than that ethnicity. These are cultural patterns that prove to be very resistant to change, and to follow populations as they migrate around the planet.

I doubt there’s a genetic reason why Germans have more brewers of beer than other nationalities. In fact, there’s probably no good reason for it at all. It just is.

We’ve made something of a peace with physical differences, but psychological difference are proving a lot harder to swallow.