Well, Blow Me Down

In the past day or so Dennis Mangan and others have mentioned this important new study confirming the heritability of intelligence. The results will hardly be a shock to denizens of the HBD blogosphere, or for that matter anyone who has been following the actual science of psychometrics, but are bound to raise a hackle or two here and there.

The notions that this paper supports — that intelligence is real, that it is measurable, and that it is in large part heritable — are a good example of PC orthodoxy contradicting the findings of both everyday experience and scientific inquiry. Yet the orthodoxy persists. I recently had a fairly heated dinner-table argument with a Harvard sociologist in which she denied that the idea of ranking “intelligence” had any value at all, because there are so many “kinds” of intelligence. I suggested that even if that were so (and even if we generously leave aside the general problem-solving sort of intelligence that people usually think of and is the metric usually sought), one could still entertain the notion of being more or less intelligent as regards whatever particular “kind” of intelligence one might choose to consider, and that surely we would have to say that someone who did better in every “kind” of intelligence than someone else could fairly be ranked, by any reasonable examiner, as “more intelligent” than that other person.

At this she bobbed and weaved a bit, and then finally gave away the real basis of her resistance by saying that regardless of any of these points, we shouldn’t be conducting such research, as it could be fodder for discrimination. In her mind that was more or less the end of it, and in the interest of friendship and good digestion I let the matter drop.

She’ll be sorry to hear that the research has gone ahead anyway. I’ll try not to mention it.


  1. Severn says

    “a Harvard sociologist”

    She herself is undoubtedly of above average intelligence, and passed a series of g loaded tests before arriving at her current fairly elevated position.

    Of course when you consider the things which this intelligent woman believes, it IS enough to leave you doubting the value of intelligence.

    Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Right you are, Severn.

    Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

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