Deborah Solomon recently interviewed Charles Murray for the NY Times. Murray is the author of the recent book, Real Education, which argues that 80% of all college students should not be pursuing a bachelor's degree.
Even though the interview is pretty short, Solomon shows how Murray's scientific views don't jibe with his political views, namely that you don't need smart, able people running the country.
What do you make of the fact that John McCain was ranked 894 in a class of 899 when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy? I like to think that the reason he ranked so low is that he was out drinking beer, as opposed to just unable to learn stuff.
What do you think of Sarah Palin? I'm in love. Truly and deeply in love.
She attended five colleges in six years. So what?
Why is the McCain clan so eager to advertise its anti-intellectualism? The last thing we need are more pointy-headed intellectuals running the government. Probably the smartest president we've had in terms of I.Q. in the last 50 years was Jimmy Carter, and I think he is the worst president of the last 50 years.
The cognitive dissonance inside Murray's head must be deafening.
One of the ongoing debates about IQ tests (besides whether they measure anything meaningful) is to what extent race affects scores. As Malcolm Gladwell explains in a review of a new book by James Flynn, for whom the Flynn Effect is named, IQ scores seem from the available data to be influenced more by nurture than nature.
Our great-grandparents may have been perfectly intelligent. But they would have done poorly on I.Q. tests because they did not participate in the twentieth century's great cognitive revolution, in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories. In Flynn's phrase, we have now had to put on "scientific spectacles," which enable us to make sense of the WISC questions about similarities. To say that Dutch I.Q. scores rose substantially between 1952 and 1982 was another way of saying that the Netherlands in 1982 was, in at least certain respects, much more cognitively demanding than the Netherlands in 1952. An I.Q., in other words, measures not so much how smart we are as how modern we are.
That last line is a pretty insightful way to think about IQ tests. On his blog, Gladwell references a recent article by Richard Nesbitt, who closes it with:
Most important, we know that interventions at every age from infancy to college can reduce racial gaps in both I.Q. and academic achievement, sometimes by substantial amounts in surprisingly little time. This mutability is further evidence that the I.Q. difference has environmental, not genetic, causes. And it should encourage us, as a society, to see that all children receive ample opportunity to develop their minds.
Steven Shapin reviews the history of vegetarianism, from Pythagoras to Hitler to organic Zambian green beans. "Recent epidemiological studies suggest that adult vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, lower rates of obesity, and, more controversially, higher childhood I.Q.s -- though vegans tend to have lower I.Q.s than their carnivorous peers, and the nature of the links between vegetarianism, health, and I.Q. is unclear."
Recent studies show that family income level affects the IQ of children. "The average I.Q. of children from well-to-do parents who were placed with families from the same social stratum was 119.6. But when such infants were adopted by poor families, their average I.Q. was 107.5 -- 12 points lower."
Scientist hypothesizes that Ashkenazi Jews are more intelligent as a group because of natural selection. "Put these two things together--a correlation of intelligence and success, and a correlation of success and fecundity--and you have circumstances that favour the spread of genes that enhance intelligence."