How to make More Intelligent People

IntelligenceI’ve been discussing intelligence all week long and now it’s time for my conclusions. Brace yourself because, as usual, I’m not out to make friends.

It is clear some people are more intelligent than other people and that intelligence plays an important role in the advancement of both individuals and societies. The Bell Curve speculates that government policies that allow poor people, who do less-well on IQ tests, to have more children has a negative effect on the average intelligence of the United States  and thus is detrimental to the health of the nation.

I have serious problems with almost all of the principles of both measuring intelligence by IQ tests and trying to determine, through government policy, the best way to breed for intelligence. IQ tests, it seems to me, are most certainly culturally biased. Immigrant groups will always do poorly but as they become amalgamated with the culture, or as the culture changes with immigration, they will drift towards median scores.

Blacks traditionally do poorly on IQ tests and I can tell you exactly why. Black culture largely associates education and success with being “white”. It has nothing to do with intelligence potentials. I went to a highly mixed race school. Far and away the most brutalized students were the “smart” black kids who took upper level courses with the white kids. They were assaulted for trying to be “white”. Many prominent blacks have pointed this out over the years and things will not change for blacks until they overcome this cultural belief.

A culture that values education will produce kids that score high on IQ tests. Bottom line. Perhaps there is something to be said for inheritable intelligence but this limits the potential ceiling of achievement. By this I mean that I can play offensive left tackle as an eight year old for my block football team but I cannot play that position for the St. Louis Rams because I am limited in my ceiling by my physical stature. Everyone, with the exception of the mentally handicapped, is capable of thinking at a reasonable level and scoring reasonably well on IQ tests. So, in all practical terms intelligence has nothing to do with wealth, race, creed, or anything else. If parents and community value education and intelligence then the results will follow.

I absolutely agree that intelligence, or high IQ, is a predictor of success. Success is good. We want people who achieve. The more people who achieve the better for society. I don’t really much care about whether high IQ scores are exact predictors of intelligence or not. They are close enough I suppose but it doesn’t matter. If you are intelligent you will likely do better in life. If we threw IQ tests away we’d still have intelligent people, just not a snobby way to quantify them.

So, that’s the bottom line. We want intelligent people. We want to encourage all people of all cultures to value education so they will get good jobs, produce, achieve, elevate society. How do we do it? Reward achievers! That’s Ayn Rand, that’s Objectivism, that’s Critical Thinking. That is everything I talk about in this blog.

There’s nothing wrong with making sure our schools have the best equipment, that our teachers have all the aids necessary to be great, to encourage parents to be a part of their child’s schooling process, and to find the best ways that people learn and implement those methods. I’m all for those things.

The thing we can’t do, and this is where I’m in partial agreement with The Bell Curve, is reward stupidity. There should be a safety net. There are disabled people, mentally retarded people, people who fall on hard times, and we do not want to become a nation where those sorts of people are discarded and brutalized. But, we can’t continue to reward failure.

When it comes to wanting to stop rewarding failure so-called Conservatives seem to focus on the poor, and I agree that changes must be made with welfare, but the reality is that far and away most rewards to stupidity go to business. Our failed politicians, Democrat and Republican, still rake in massive amounts of bribes, er campaign contributions, in the hopes that they will pass laws to give one business an unfair advantage or bail-out yet another round of failed enterprises. Stop the madness!

Government get out of the tax-break business and social engineering. It leads to failure. Let good business succeed on its merits, let educated people succeed because of their intelligence.

And parents, most of all, take a hard-core, hard-line, day-to-day interest in your child’s education. Smart is good. Dumb is bad. And I’ll stand by that until the day I die.

Tell me what you think in the comments and share if you feel like it!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

The Bell Curve

The Bell CurveThe Bell Curve was a novel written by a Libertarian in 1994 that took an analytical look at intelligence using IQ testing as the backbone for its conclusion. To say it was highly controversial is to accurately portray its reception. In addition to libertarian Charles Murray it was co-authored by Richard J. Herrnstein a professor at Harvard.

The book argues that intelligence is primarily a product of genetic inheritance (40% to 80%) and secondarily to environmental factors and an excellent predictor of success in life at almost every level. It based the results on IQ scores of large groups of people and their eventual outcomes in life. It looked at education, criminality, age at which children were born, salary, and other life defining issues.

The reason it generated so much controversy is that it suggested that inheritance of intelligence played the predominant predictive factor although it stops well short of suggesting this is the only factor. It also points to the undeniable difference in IQ scores with whites and Asians scoring significantly higher than other races.

The recommendations from the book included ending most welfare programs, ending affirmative action, and reducing immigration. It couched most of these recommendations in the idea that poor people have bad IQ scores and yield children with the same issue. Also, that the poor tend to have far more children than the wealthy and this imbalance has the effect of making the United States less intelligent as a whole. It generally spoke in terms if income not race but the implication is undeniable.

It predicted a stratification in society wherein the middle class would diminish and the gap between the wealthy and the poverty ridden would mirror that which we see in poor Latin American countries. Thus the wealthy whites and Asians would live in fenced communities protected from the poor masses of other races. It predicted the conservative movement would be subverted into a philosophy that focused on doing anything to preserve its wealth and an eventual turn of government towards totalitarianism.

Dire predictions indeed.

There are a number of criticisms of the book in particular as to its assignment of IQ test results as the primary source of its base assertion of intelligence. I’m not going to get into them all here but I’ll talk about a few before I wrap it up.

Many criticize the idea that intelligence can be summed up in a single number, the IQ test result. They claim intelligence is much more complex than this. The manipulation of the final IQ score through the g-factor is relatively arbitrary and when scored as it was on the test overstates the difference in IQ between races. A number of follow-up studies using the same methodology have produced less dramatic results in scoring gap between races.

Many point out that immigrants of all nationalities, Jewish, Irish, Italian, etc. have traditionally done poorly on Intelligence Tests and that as they amalgamated with society saw dramatic increases. This would seem to indicate a bias in the IQ test towards the culture of the people giving the test and argue against the immigration policies suggest by the book.

Charles Murray  answered many of these criticisms with a follow-up of the book using siblings for his study. The siblings he used were chosen because of a wide divergence in their IQ scores. He then analyzed the life accomplishments of the high scorer with those of the low scorer. The results of this test validated the original test although the gap in accomplishments was somewhat narrower than the original.

I’m going to save my conclusions of IQ tests and intelligence as a whole until tomorrow but I will state that there is a great deal of validity to the idea that smarter people do better in life. That the higher the ratio of smart people to stupid people we have in the United States the more likely it is our country will prosper. I am skeptical of IQ testing as an absolute measure of real intelligence and I’m also skeptical of racial causality of gaps in intelligence testing scores. I’ll get more into those topics when I conclude tomorrow.

Today I hope that I gave you some insight into an interesting book that, at its base, was trying to formulate policies that would increase the average intelligence of people in our country. That’s a worthy goal.

Tell me what you think about this controversial subject in the comments and share away!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a  Libertarian Twist

Teaser – The Bell Curve

One of the most controversial books published on the subject of intelligence and its practical applications is called The Bell Curve. It was written by Libertarians and made some bold predictions about the future of the United States. Tomorrow, in the next chapter of my Intelligence Week, I’m going to take a look at that book and some of its predictions. I’m also going to examine some of the ideas that it promulgates and how they apply to the country and to the world.

It should be fun!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

What is an IQ Test and how does it Work?

IQ CurveI’m going to kick-off Intelligence Week with a look at the most common type of standardized test, the Intelligent Quotient Test, used in determining intelligence.

One of the most misunderstand issues is the rating of 100 as average. This average is determined from all the people of an age category that take the test and not an actual score. The average person does not get 100 points on the exam. All the exams taken are averaged and this average is assigned the value of 100. The actual score of the exams has been going up by about three IQ points per decade. This is was first noticed in an important and controversial book called The Bell Curve. I’m going to be talking much more about that book later in the week.

Age is an important factor in the IQ test and peak performance occurs at 26 after which it’s all down hill. Don’t I know it. From my point of view, this in itself indicates a problem with the testing. I’ll get to that later in the week.

The next factor is something called the Standard Deviation which is set at 15 points. The math is interesting and worth a perusal but the main issue is that 95% percent of people who take the test fall within two SDs or 70 to 130 on the test. Hence, people who score better than 146 – 149 are in the top .1% and considered genius although the test itself does not use such terminology.

What is indisputable is that IQ tests, as given, are excellent predictors of accomplishment in life. People with higher IQ rankings go further in school, get better jobs, make more money, and general succeed more than people with lower IQ scores.

All IQ tests, and there are many, use something called a g-factor. It gets fairly complicated here but the base idea is that there are some general ways in which smart people excel over less smart ones and by testing these g-factors we can establish a baseline of intelligence. For example, smart people generally do better in all subjects than those less smart. If intelligence was subject based then we would expect to see people smart in one subject and dumb in others. While it is true that people excel in one area more than others it is normal for the smart person to get better grades in all subjects than the less smart person.

Another extraordinarily interesting factor is that people who do well on IQ tests tend to be the parents of people who do well on IQ tests and the same correlation, in reverse, occurs for people who do poorly on tests. This is one of the main points of The Bell Curve. We want smarter people because they will succeed more and the world will be better.

The issue is largely a question of whether or not the test is accurate. I think we can all agree that someone my size, 5′ 7″ 160 lbs of twisted steel, is not going to be playing offensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams. So, physical differences in people is an accepted fact. Mental differences, not so much. We imagine that all people have an equal ability to think but if this is wrong, if there are inherent, genetic inequalities in intelligence should we not try to take advantage of them? And, if these factors are inheritable from generation to generation can we as a society forge better people? Frightened yet?

And you thought this was going to be boring, didn’t you?

Until tomorrow,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist