Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Race and IQ in Nature

I wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole, but Nature did here (sort of), as part of its Darwin 200 celebration. (Via Razib.)

In this, the second of two opposing commentaries, Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams argue that such research is both morally defensible and important for the pursuit of truth. In the first, Steven Rose argues that studies investigating possible links between race, gender and intelligence do no good.

The ensuing online debate is as polarized as you might expect. Read James Flynn's comment, which utterly demolishes Steven Rose.

Flynn: ...In Rose’s original paper [commentary], he asserts that the trait in question (intelligence) leaves aside other desirable traits and argues that the groups in question can be divided into subgroups that are more biologically coherent. He concludes that the hypothesis is not subject to scientific treatment; and therefore, no useful social policy will emerge. In his response to Ceci and Williams, he says something very different, namely, that by about 1975, it had been definitively shown that genes had no place in explaining group differences. So from that date, Jensen and everybody else had no excuse to persist.

To assert both that a hypothesis is not scientifically testable and that it has been conclusively falsified is incoherent. The only way to reconcile them is to assume that Rose does not really mean Jensen had been refuted by 1975, but is saying that by that date, it should have been clear to everyone that the question was indeed unanswerable.

I predict most readers will find about half the remarks in the debate incredibly stupid. But which half? :-)

Incidentally, one of the commentary authors and I were both on the faculty at Yale at the same time and I have known her for many years.

My Darwin 200 post is here, but see also this ;-)


Barry Kelly said...

This very post counts as "touching", with a direct link.

You write about little else. Finance, physics, and the relationship between IQ and race (or genetically distinguishable subgroups along geographic or cultural lines) forms the bulk of your blogging output.

Even your own tags indicate that "brainpower" and "genetics" are 6th and 7th in popularity order - but 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th places are all financial, with physics in 3rd.

Steve Hsu said...

>You write about little else.


The topics of IQ (for example, does it predict success in science?) or genetics (for example, what is regression to the mean? are humans clustered into groups by genotype?) are not the same as the topic of genetically determined group differences in intelligence (i.e., Race *and* IQ) which I have NOT discussed very much here.

My position on that *specific* subject is:

a) yes, it is worth studying (I am with Ceci and Williams and Flynn; Rose is either an idiot or an ideologue or both)

b) no, we don't know the answers yet with high confidence - -despite what *either* side says

But, I am quite amazed by people who take strong positions which are clearly wrong such as:

1) IQ is not a useful construct (tell it to the admissions committees at every major university and graduate program)

2) race does not exist (blah blah clusters in gene space and correlations)

3) biologists can prove there hasn't been enough time in 50k years for group differences to have arisen in cognitive function (no, they can't)

Although completely incorrect, 1-3 are very widely held opinions. I do write about 1-3 quite a bit.

PS The label "brainpower" also covers things like high skill immigration, human capital, elite universities, careers in theoretical physics, quants, etc.

Anonymous said...

"tell it to the admissions committees at every major university and graduate program"

The GRE does not correlate with graduate school achievement. This is an example of the diminishing importance of g at the high end.

Here lies Steve Hsu

World's Smartest Man

Wasted his smarts on physics

Finally he did something a little useful having nothing to do with physics

Steve Hsu said...

"The GRE does not correlate with graduate school achievement. This is an example of the diminishing importance of g at the high end."

No, it's a reflection of the low ceiling on the GRE test (restriction of range). The very fact that grad programs will *reject* some applicants due to mediocre or low GRE scores means that they believe it has predictive power. If you did admit those low scorers, I am sure you would see a strong correlation between score and later performance. (i.e., a kid who can't score in the top 10% on the GRE quantitative section probably also can't master general relativity or fluid mechanics.)

"Finally he did something a little useful having nothing to do with physics"

What did I do that was useful?

Anonymous said...

Intelligence does exist, it can be measured, it does make a difference. The Manhattan Project would have failed given diversity hiring. Consider 45 years of Grand Guignol Head Start.

Attend a Mensa Regional Gathering. You'll be surrounded by a few score people who scored well on IQ tests. They don't have a license to kill, but they do have learner's permits.
Evolution is a hoot if you are one of the survivors

Anonymous said...

"No, it's a reflection of the low ceiling on the GRE test (restriction of range)."

That would be true Steve if average GRE scores at the best graduate schools were near 2400. They aren't. At some in some departments the average GRE math and analytic scores may be close to 800 though.

The use of the GRE by graduate schools is disconfirmed in my case. It is merely a formality.

I took the GRE once. My score was 800 V, 800 Q, 800 A. I took the GRE subject test in my field once. My score was in the 99 th percentile. I was rejected by UC Irvine, Oregon State, Columbia, Cal Tech, and Stanford. I also had a 4.0 in my major field.

Anonymous said...

"Rose is either an idiot or an ideologue or both)"

Rose is clearly an ideologue (he cites the old radical science book "Not in our Genes", which he co-authored with Kamin & Lewontin).

The comments of Volkmar Weiss on the Nature forum are interesting also. Apparently he thinks Rose helped suppress research in Communist East Berlin when he worked there. From the comments on gnxp:

"Weiss explains this in a 1983 essay entitled The Suppression of Human Behavioral Genetics by the Radical Left—unpublished, , until 1991. He wrote:

"In 1980, the manuscript of the monograph Psychogenetik (Weiss 1982a) was complete. Now some fierce dogmatists were discovering that a cuckoo’s egg had been laid in the nest of socialism. One example: S. Rose asked his East German colleague, the professor of neurochemistry D. Biesold at the Karl-Marx-University of Leipzig (personal communication by Biesold), whether there was no means of stopping further publications by Weiss, because such publications printed in a socialist country were particularly disadvantageous to the propaganda of the Radical Left in the Western world. …”

Anonymous said...

According to the wiki article on the GRE there has been studies done (Baird) on the validity of GRE in predicting post PhD publishing and citation success in chemistry, history and psychology. But the GRE score correlations are almost all either zero or even negatively associated with success in publishing of papers or books and in the # of citations.

Steve Hsu said...

Re: GRE correlations, as I mentioned there is a restriction of range problem. People with low scores don't get into graduate school, don't become researchers, etc. You are left trying to differentiate between the upper tail of the distribution, which is hard. You need a test with a very high ceiling:

horsepower matters

A useful analogy: NBA centers are almost all between 6"10 and 7"6 tall. Do you think performance correlates very much with height *within that population*? Probably not. But you wouldn't assert that height plays no role in qualifying someone to play center. You can pretty much reject anyone well under 7 feet tall.

Anonymous said...

"People with low scores don't get into graduate school, don't become researchers, etc."

People with low scores DO get in and people with mediocre scores DO get in.

Steve has his head in the sand regarding the GRE. My scores (800 V, 800 Q, 800 A, 940 subject chemistry) were higher than his, so according to Steve he should shut up and listen to me.

Anonymous said...

Most people are largely going to believe whatever they want, regardless whether something has been shown empirically or is a complete myth. Being in denial and/or a hypocrite, is a very popular pastime for many people.

The only people I've know who are very accurate in their own personal assessment of themselves, are almost always people with major depressive disorders (for some strange reason).

Anonymous said...

Your observation about depressives is spot on. It is a research finding. In general depressed people see things the way they ARE and not just in regard to themselves. The truth DOES hurt.

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