Turok of the North

Recently a paper by Justin Sandefur came up with a way of calibrating the results of a math test taken by a number of African countries that don’t participate in PISA and other international assessments – from overlapping questions, and from a few countries that took both. So now we have fairly good estimates of the math proficiency of those poorly-reported African countries [Mauritius, Kenya, Seychelles, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Botswana, Uganda, South Africa, Zanzibar, Lesotho, Malawi,Zambia, and Namibia]

Average pupils score below the fifth percentile for most developed countries.

Neil Turok is a theoretical physicist from South Africa, currently at (and running) the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. He’s a smart cookie, well thought of: he won the Maxwell Medal in 1992, and took the chair of mathematical physics in Cambridge in 1997.

He gives TED talks (ominous already!) about the search for an African Einstein. from Wired: “Turok, 54, sees conditions in Africa today as comparative to those of eastern Europe 100 years ago: then, ambitious young Jews were suddenly granted access to education, and went on to make significant discoveries and advances in science.

Now it is the turn of Africans. “Einstein came from a very disadvantaged community, which had been completely excluded from university until the second half of the 19th century,” he says in his office in Ontario, Canada, where he runs the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “But once they got into university, that first generation, you start having Jacobi, Einstein, Bohr, Pauli.

This group completely revolutionised physics.”

He founded, and convinced Bill Gates to fund, AIMS – the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. How’s that search for African Einsteins going?

I mentioned that he was a smart guy. He’s also crazy. He thinks that sub-Saharan Africans today are analogous to Ashkenazi Jews in 1850 or so – ready to explode into the intellectual world and tear it a new asshole.

Wanna bet? With African math scores at the 5th percentile? With their IQ scores two standard deviations below those of Europeans, three below the Askenazim? That low average tremendously suppresses the fraction above a high threshold. With every event in life its own self consistent with those statistics – not just in Africa, but everywhere in the African diaspora?

And he has no excuse [other than his commie family history]. He grew up in South Africa: there are plenty of things he would have seen if this picture of the world were true, and he’s never seen any of them. Did black kids out-argue him, beat him at chess, win the math competitions even though their parents were poor as synagogue mice? No sirree.

Of course Bill Gates is also a smart guy, but he’s crazy too. His craziness has had negative impact on the success of the Gates Foundation, which is too bad. If you compare Gates Foundation achievements with those of the Rockefeller Foundation in its youth [defeat of hookworm, elucidation of the composition of DNA, many other things] it’s downright embarrassing. Sometimes they’ve been crazy ( everything they’ve touched in educational reform), sometimes perhaps too ambitious [ malaria vaccine – technically hard. Maybe too hard?]. Probably Warren Buffet should have put his charitable money elsewhere.

That craziness is not rare among people smart enough to do theoretical physics, or even write a Basic interpreter. Dumb people don’t originate much, smart people are susceptible to all kinds of ideological craziness. Oh, what a world.

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184 Responses to Turok of the North

  1. I had an email exchange with him years ago, urging him to get a local South African psychologist to do full intelligence testing of the Maths candidates to whom his institute was going to give extra maths tuition. I told him that if he could show that low intelligence test scores in these candidates were irrelevant to their later Maths success, that would be good contrary evidence: it would show the low scores for Africa were biased, unfair, and of little predictive utility. If the scores were high, he could keep a record of the high scores, and eventually argue he was getting too many high scorers for the implied African average of IQ 75 to be likely to be true. However, hearing me assert that African scores were low, and that I believed them to be fair assessments, the discussion ended somewhat abruptly. I looked at the candidate bios a year or two ago, and it seemed to me that quite a number of the candidates came from North Africa, which would make psychometric sense. I didn’t do any proper count against population totals however.

    • dearieme says:

      It seems to me to be a common trick of American argumentation in bad faith. Say “African”, which to Americans routinely means Subsaharan African, but ensure that you are actually talking about the swarthy white men who inhabit North Africa.

      • syonredux says:

        Cf the Eyferth study:

        “The Eyferth study is the name often given to a study conducted by psychologist Klaus Eyferth concerning the IQs of white and racially mixed children in post-Second World War West Germany. The mothers of the children studied were white German women, while their fathers were white and African-American members of the US occupation forces. In contrast to results obtained in many American studies, the average IQs of the children studied were roughly similar across racial groups, making the study an oft-cited piece of evidence in the debate about race and intelligence”

        Needless to say, there were a lot of problem’s with the study (Jensen pointed out several big ones), but one has always, to my mind, stood out : 20–25% of the African-American fathers were North Africans……

        • gcochran9 says:

          Often quoted, never replicated. Must be true!

          • Darin says:

            Just like the alleged “mouse utopia” experiment, but it does not stop people from using it as infallible oracle predicting future of the world.

            • Greying Wanderer says:

              if an experiment supports the dominant ideology there’s an incentive to repeat it

              if an experiment doesn’t support the dominant ideology then there’s an incentive to not repeat it

        • gcochran9 says:

          You could look at various mixed groups and see if their average IQs fall between those of the groups that formed them. As far as I know, they do.

        • Hosswire says:

          For me the big problem is that the Army recruits were tested & only the highest scoring blacks admitted.

          • gcochran9 says:

            Wasn’t the case in WWII.

            • kot says:

              Wiki says they cut off the bottom 30% of whites, 3% of blacks.

              • gcochran9 says:

                No , it doesn’t. Try again.

              • syonredux says:

                “Wiki says they cut off the bottom 30% of whites, 3% of blacks.”

                Other way around:

                “Arthur Jensen has pointed out that the white girls in the study obtained an average IQ eight points below that of the white boys, suggesting a sampling error, because in the WISC standardization sample the average IQs of boys and girls are equal (among the mixed-race subjects in the Eyferth study, there was a small sex difference of 1 point, favoring boys). He has also noted that the IQs of the children’s mothers and fathers are unknown, and that white and black G.I.’s in Germany were not equally representative of their respective populations, since about 30 percent of blacks, compared to about 3 percent of whites, failed the preinduction mental test and were not admitted into the armed forces.”

                30% of Blacks failed the pre-induction test, vs 3% of the Whites.

              • gcochran9 says:

                I don’t think anyone failed in WWII. After the war, Congress passed a law (early 50s) banning guys in category V – roughly, an IQ below 80. McNamara relaxed that for Project 100,000 ( the Moron Corps) .

              • syonredux says:

                “I don’t think anyone failed in WWII. After the war, Congress passed a law (early 50s) banning guys in category V – roughly, an IQ below 80. McNamara relaxed that for Project 100,000 ( the Moron Corps) .”

                The Eyferth Study was published in 1959, and the children were aged between 5 and 13, with a median age of 10.So, a good percentage would have been born after 1950.

              • kot says:


        • Erik Sieven says:

          totally anecdotical, but my experiences from german schools is that half-blacks are as intelligent as full whites. There seems to be no human biological diversity in this regard. On the other hand the pure number of half-blacks I have seen (nearly all of them with westafrican father and white mother) indicates another kind of human biological diversity, which is success on the partner market

          • gcochran9 says:

            I’d take you more seriously if you weren’t nuts.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            my experience from schools in the roughest blue collar areas – which is where most of the black kids are – is they’re about as smart (on average) as the white kids in the roughest blue collar areas – which i assume is what you’d expect?

          • gda says:

            As a white West Indian growing up in Jamaica in the 1960’s my 5 rivals year after year for top student at the top secondary school there (among 120 entering in my cohort year, sorted by ability into 4 classes) were all light-skinned Jamaicans, all with greater than 50% of their genes inherited from their parents and/or grandparents generation of English, Scottish, Chinese and Portuguese descent. The most noteworthy of these was the son of the framer of the Jamaican constitution.

            The HBD implications rather speak for themselves.

        • ironrailsironweights says:

          “Needless to say, there were a lot of problem’s with the study (Jensen pointed out several big ones), but one has always, to my mind, stood out : 20–25% of the African-American fathers were North Africans……”

          Seems dubious to me. North Africans have never been a significant ethnic group in the US.


          • gcochran9 says:

            French troops occupying Germany: Goums.

          • syonredux says:

            ““Needless to say, there were a lot of problem’s with the study (Jensen pointed out several big ones), but one has always, to my mind, stood out : 20–25% of the African-American fathers were North Africans……”

            Seems dubious to me. North Africans have never been a significant ethnic group in the US.”

            Or maybe it indicates how badly the people running the study wanted to find ways to skew the results….

  2. Yudi says:

    “Dumb people don’t originate much, smart people are susceptible to all kinds of ideological craziness.”

    Has anyone developed a good theory for why this is? Why would smart people be this good at ignoring the truth? Does it have to do with personality traits? Is it group dynamics (but why would groups of smart people collectively have stupid ideas)?

    We talk a lot on here about fixing unintelligent people with CRISPR. Maybe a better strategy would be to learn how to fix this faulty aspect of smart people.

    • pyrrhus says:

      If Turok is Ashkenazi, it fits right into the numerous mental and physical disorders that afflict this otherwise successful group. A clear majority of elementary school children with serious birth defects in our area are Ashkneazi.

      • Yudi says:

        This does not qualify as a good theory. Plenty of crazy smart people are not Ashkenazi–Bill Gates, for starters.

        • Difference Maker says:

          Very briefly (& sleepily)
          1:. Ashkenazim have gone too long without a country
          2:. As we reach the upper limits of human endeavor we understand that males are over represented. In the organization of the male brain, the individual modules are less interconnected than in the female, in the extreme case perhaps leading to autism. Each module being relatively separate also allows for more local development and may be the source of extraordinary ability
          3:. Being autistic, or toward such via asperger’s, means they have little understanding of society
          4:. They are a minority of the population and flattered for their talent, this combined with asperger’s leads to undeveloped self awareness, so to speak
          5:. As with the jareddiamondesque assertion that primitive peoples have their own special cognition, we note that according to the persuasive 10,000 year explosion, high genius can only develop under large civilizations and other factors, not least of which is the larger population generating more mutations
          6:. What happens in a civilization? As we know, there is a state suppressing violence, and specialization of function. “Betas” can flourish, patiently building and hopefully abstracting. The “smart” people no longer need a balanced presentation of human nature; they can be subsidized for their arcane work

        • gcochran9 says:

          What you want to see is whether Ashkenazi people are a significantly higher fraction of crazy smart people than you would expect from their numbers and average intelligence.

          • James Miller says:

            One market test would be are Ashkenazi people discriminated against in jobs where doing something crazy would inflict great harm on your client or employer.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Markets are, fairly often, kinda dumb. Tap water versus bottled water? And people are particularly, systematically bad at evaluating tail risk. Which is why they won’t wear seat belts without coercion.

              That said, I don’t think that (in the US) people discriminate against Ashkenazi people in hiring.

            • David Pinsen says:

              Such as in medicine? Do Ashkenazi physicians have a tendency to do crazy and harmful stuff? Presumably, you could track their license suspensions and other forms of censure versus other groups of physicians.

              But it’s worth asking if Turok’s behavior is crazy. Perhaps not in the context of the TED/Bill Gates/Warren Buffett milieu.

    • dearieme says:

      It’s all part of the oddity of life. Who could believe that the cleverest race on earth would be so stupid as to shun bacon? But they do.

    • Agent J says:

      Michael Shermer, I believe, made the argument that if you’re smart, you can rationalize whatever you want. Then, being smart, you convince yourself of the impossibility that you could be wrong. Then, since you’re so very smart, anybody who doesn’t agree with you must be some kind of idiot. This general pattern holds in many places in our society, of course…

    • akarlin says:

      Rationality is correlated 0.7 with IQ, so the notion that intelligent people are more prone to irrationality is a cognitive bias.

      An understandable one, though. The Newton who slavers over the occult is just considerably more noticeable than some random person obsessed with the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.

      • Zenit says:

        In Newton’s time, alchemy, astrology and bible prophecy (majority of his output) were the mainstream science of the day, and their study was no way a sign of eccentricity or irrationality. At his time, educated observer would say: Why such talented alchemist and theologian wastes his time on natural philosophy?

      • gcochran9 says:

        Actually looking at whether Western intellectuals, over the 20th century, were more likely to fall for destructive nonsense than the average plumber wouldn’t be as valid as that 0.7 correlation. I get it.

        • akarlin says:

          I suspect that was more due to intellectuals not understanding plumbers, neither then nor now, rather than any failure of rationality per se. In everyday life, people tend to associate with people of similar intelligence, and have a social circle of about 150 friends and acquaintances.

          And guess what? Communism works great within monasteries and universities.

      • Jim says:

        Newton certainly was no believer in astrology. Virtually no scientist or philosopher of his day gave any credence to astrology. As for Newton’s interest in alchemy there was nothing unscientific about it in light of what was known at that time. The transformation of lead into gold is phenomenally no more remarkable than many chemical transformations which actually occur. Of course we know today that the chemical transformation of lead into gold is impossible because both are different elements. But substances in nature do not come with labels attached saying whether they are elements or not. Water and air were long believed to be elements but one is a compound and the other a mixture. There was nothing irrational at the time about Newton’s interest in alchemy.

        Newton’s religious beliefs may seem strange to us today but almost everybody at that time in Europe had some sort of religious beliefs.

        • Jim says:

          I think Kepler did some astrological stuff but that was well before Newton’s day and assuming Kepler was sincere and not just trying to make some money (which he certainly needed) he was probably the last significant Western thinker to put any stock in astrology.

          • It may have been purely financial on Kepler’s part. I dimly recall (but cannot verify) a quote about him being asked why he wasted his time on horoscopes and his reply that he did not know why astronomers should not be allowed to eat.

            • Jim says:

              Yes, I think even in Kepler’s time astrology had become quite disreputable. In Newton’s day astrology had no standing whatever.

        • dearieme says:

          And Newton’s religious beliefs weren’t so bonkers as to lead him to emigrate to the North American colonies.

          • Jim says:

            But actually for the Puritans that worked out very well in the long run. The first winters after the landing at Plymouth Rock may have been pretty tough but after a little while things worked out very well for them economically compared to having remained in England or Holland.

            • Jim says:

              In general the American colonies in the 18th century were doing very well economically compared to the home country.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Fairly egalitarian, highest average income in the world. .

              • Darin says:

                The pupose of settlers in Northern colonies was to save their immortal souls, not to become rich. Whether they were succesful, will not be known until the day of Judgement.

              • Jim says:

                I suppose not but they also had a secondary objective of doing well in this world and in that the Puritans were quite successful.

          • Darin says:

            Newton’s religious beliefs were highly unorthodox, and if he professed them publicly, he would find himself in big trouble (not burning-at-stake trouble, but certainly loss-of job-and-office-and property trouble). He was smart enough to keep them for himself his whole life. It was irrational if he valued “living in truth” and martyrdom for faith, highly rational if he valued his work and comfortable life.

            • Jim says:

              He definitely did not adhere to various theological doctrines such as that of the trinity. It should be noted though that many of the leading thinkers of those times were not really Christians. For example It is pretty clear that although Descartes was a sincere deist he did not believe in the divinity of Christ. People like Pascal, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant etc. while having a genuine belief in a deity did not take specifically Christian doctrine or the stories in the Bible very seriously.

              So Newton was probably more of an orthodox Christian than most of the leading European intellectuals of those general times.

              • Jim says:

                You’re right that Pascal was a lot closer to orthodox Christianity than the philosophers following him. But I don’t think that Pascal took stories about Jonah being swallowed by a whale or Moses parting the Red Sea very seriously.

              • Anchises says:

                Willingness to countenance allegorical interpretations of the more implausible-sounding passages of Scripture goes back at least as far as St. Augustine; Pascal would have hardly been considered “unorthodox” for that alone (Galileo technically got in trouble for it, but that was really because of a whole other bureaucratic clusterf***, exacerbated by his own caustic tongue and knack for making enemies). Far more controversial was Pascal’s vocal defense of Jansenism, a doctrine repeatedly condemned by the Catholic Church as a crypto-Calvinist heresy.

      • jasonbayz says:

        Looking at examples of “rationality test questions” many of them look to me like they are mainly testing one’s reading comprehension, one’s ability to understand exactly what the question is asking. The high correlation with IQ is unsurprising.

      • The Monster from Polaris says:

        Measuring rationality sounds like a knotty problem.

        At least Stanovich et al. seem to have come up with something better than the gom jabbar test, though 😉

      • JayMan says:

        There’s not much by way of evidence that that rationality test predicts much (beyond its own correlation with intelligence).

        And hey, there’s always RationalWiki…

        • akarlin says:

          There’s a difference between practising rationality, and making a big scene of worshipping at the altar of rationality – one activity is decidedly more g loaded than the other. 😉

          • Darin says:

            Rationality means art of gaining as close knowledge of reality as possible, and using it achieve one’s values (according to website that shall not be named). This means you cannot judge actor’r rationality until you know his terminal values, just like you cannot judge players’ performance until you know what game is he playing.

            • Darin says:

              If anyone wanted to ask, no, being the world’s best in spelling and typing on tiny touch keyboard is not my “terminal value” 😉

      • I don’t necessarily disagree with you on content. But remember standard assumptions hold… “Using a single variable regression, and assuming that omitted variable bias is not correlated with the error term” If those assumptions don’t hold, it’s totally reasonable that it’s not a cognitive bias. You can’t just show there is some 0.7 linear correlation therefore people who think otherwise are wrong.

    • Complex, intelligent people have complex, intelligent problems. When they are wrong, they are wrong in complex, intelligent ways.

      • dearieme says:

        Goering was an intelligent sort of chap. So was Goebbels. They were wrong in pretty simple ways, it seems to me.

        • Jim says:

          Goering’s IQ was measured by US Army psychologists at the Nuremberg trial. I believe that it was about 140.

          • syonredux says:

            “Goering’s IQ was measured by US Army psychologists at the Nuremberg trial. I believe that it was about 140.”

            Generally speaking, leaders will have an IQ that is higher than the mean of the population that they are leading.

            If I recall correctly, Nixon, at 143, has the highest IQ score of any president.That would place him at almost three standard deviations above the White American mean.

            • gcochran9 says:

              I’d like to see a source for that Nixon number, if you know of one.

              • syonredux says:

                Here’s where I read it:

                The ever-helpful James Fulford of VDARE.com tracks down the Nixon 143 figure to a 1991 Fortune magazine article by my friend Dan Seligman:

                “The IQs of those who rise to the top are hard to come by, mainly because most such folks are shy about their scores. Not shy was Spiro Agnew, who arranged a luncheon with the editors of Time after the magazine said he was unqualified to be President, and there made the point that his IQ was 130. Nixon biographer Roger Morris says RMN tested at 143 when he was in Fullerton High School in California. Kennedy biographer Thomas C. Reeves tells us JFK tested at 119 just before entering Choate Academy. That last figure looks low. Might there have been some kind of testing error? The ”standard error” for the Otis test — the one taken by both future Presidents — was six IQ points. That means there are two chances out of three that the true IQ is within six points of the reported score. So maybe Jack really was entitled to 125. But then maybe Nixon was worth 149. The only gangster whose IQ we have come across is John Gotti, who weighed in at 110 when tested at Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, an institution in which he did not linger overlong.”


              • dearieme says:

                The JFK score sounds plausible to me. I had a friend who met him when he was a senator. Didn’t find him clever, did find him charming. Did note that he was sensible (and rich?) enough to surround himself with clever men.

              • gcochran9 says:

                His brother? McNamara? A friend of a friend was once briefing McNamara about MIRVs. He tried to explain how the square-cube law was the fundamental reason for MIRVs, but McNamara could never understand it.

              • j says:

                I thought that the idea of MIRVs was to decrease the chances of interception. McNamara was a statistician and knew that the ABM system was intrinsically vulnerable, he did not care for the physics.

              • gcochran9 says:

                The area sufficiently devastated, subject to sufficient overpressure, is proportional to the explosion’s energy raised to the 2/3rds power. In other words, to the cross-sectional area of the fireball, not the volume of the fireball.

                So, you cause more destruction with three one-megaton bombs than with one three-megaton bomb.

              • TWS says:

                Didn’t know Nixon but my brother was friends with his family and met him a couple times. Once at the white house. Says he was pleasant at the informal meeting and a nice guy. Can’t say if he was smart or not but I knew his niece and she was bright to talk to. His brother never seemed dumb either.

    • JayMan says:

      See here:

      Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain

      So far I haven’t seen much by way of indication that non-WEIRD smart people are as susceptible to such kinds of crazy.

      Do Russian or Chinese smart guys go for so hare-brained schemes?

    • Frank says:

      Having no skin in the game corrupts. Smart people tend to go into fields that provide good insulation between their skins and the game. Truth claims stop being immediately relevant and become tools of social signaling in those kinds of environments.

      Previously, people could signal via inconsequential pieties about unfalsifiable things. Now the doctrines involve very consequential things. Hence craziness.

    • David Pinsen says:

      Stuart Ritchie just reviewed a book on a proposed “Rationality Quotient”:

    • melendwyr says:

      Why are smart people that good at ignoring the truth? Because they’re good at finding ways to accomplish what they want to do. And, like most human beings whose survival is no longer something they must personally work to ensure, what they want most to do is delude themselves.
      The vast majority of people only want to maintain contact with reality in order to survive it. If that’s guaranteed, then there’s no need NOT to be crazy.

      • Yudi says:

        A similar point was raised by Orwell in 1984, where he stated that severe warfare is the only thing that keeps leaders tethered to reality.

        • melendwyr says:

          Warfare is also notable for encouraging technological development. Interesting combination, that.
          Did any useful scientific or engineering work arise out of Cold War competition? As much as people like to talk about going to the Moon, that seems to have been mostly a waste of time and money. Any technical advancements could have been more cheaply accomplished by just researching them.

          • gcochran9 says:

            “Did any useful scientific or engineering work arise out of Cold War competition?”

            The fact that you ask this question is revealing.

            • melendwyr says:

              Of the fact that I don’t personally know what arose directly out of Cold War competition, yes.
              Do you have answers to offer, or just snark?

              • ursiform says:

                You could start with the Internet, originally ARPANET …

                Fish gotta swim, Greg’s gotta snark …

              • gcochran9 says:

                It’s an interesting question and by my definition a well-educated person should be familiar with a number of such examples. But I think that hardly anyone is.

              • melendwyr says:

                I had thought of the Internet. Except I’m not aware that any developments in its technology are the result of Cold War competition specifically. Clearly the first networks were made with the motivation to permit communication during a nuke war. But did we develop the Internet out of competition in any way?

  3. Bruce W Bowen says:

    “disadvantaged community, which had been completely excluded from university until the second half of the 19th century,” he says in his office in Ontario, Canada, where he runs the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “But once they got into university, that first generation, you start having Jacobi, Einstein, Bohr, Pauli.”

    Second half of the 19th century huh? Let’s see from a cursory glance at Gauss’s students (besides Jacobi).

    Jacobi: 1804 – 1851 (Died of smallpox)
    Gotthold Eisenstein: 1823 – 1851 (Died of tuberculosis)
    Carl Wolfgang Benjamin Goldschmidt 1807 – 1851

    BTW, it looks like 1851 was a bad year for German mathematicians.

    • Peter Lund says:

      Niels Bohr’s father was professor of physiology and in the running for the Nobel Prize. His father’s father was a (titular) professor. That side of the family wasn’t Jewish at all.

      His mother was from a Jewish family that had worked hard to promote/improve schooling in Denmark (for everybody). His mother’s father was an important banker and unofficial advisor to the minister of finance (a fellow Jew). He was also a member of the upper house of the parliament. His father again was also a banker.

      Not exactly disadvantaged. Not really first generation, either.

      • Jim says:

        Harold Bohr by the way was a very eminent mathematician. Whether it came from the Jewish or the Gentile side of the family or both I sure genes explain a lot to do about the Bohr’s.

  4. MawBTS says:

    Full paper available here

    Of course Bill Gates is also a smart guy, but he’s crazy too. His craziness had had negative impact on the success of the Gates Foundation, which is too bad.

    Here’s Gates’ review of Mukherjee’s The Gene:

    As I read The Gene, I came up with long lists of ethical questions of my own. For example, what if a prenatal test told you with a high degree of certainty that your child will have an IQ of 80 unless you do this little edit? What if a private IVF clinic offered its patients a little enhancement to their fertilized embryos to boost children’s likely IQ from high to very high? This could exacerbate inequities that are already a big problem—especially if this technology is available only for wealthy people.

    What was that book about a society where exceptional people get handicapped so that everyone’s equal (eg if you’re stronger than average you have to wear heavy weights around your ankles)? The title doesn’t come to me at the moment.

    No doubt Gates and Turok got to reminisce about their past history as videogame characters.

    • AppSocRes says:

      “What was that book about a society where exceptional people get handicapped so that everyone’s equal….” I suspect that you’re thinking of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story. “Harrison Bergeron”.

      • Unladen Swallow says:

        I first read the story during the Clinton years, the Handicapper General always struck me as being Donna Shalala. She just really fit the description well.

    • TWS says:

      Gates didn’t strike me as crazy. Petty, mean and vindictive in his personal life. But not crazy. Dishonest too. Add that to being smart and at one time energetic and you come up with a guy who chases his whims even if those are billion dollar whims.

      He’s also a product of his environment upper class Mercer Island (Seattle suburb but very isolated) in the mid to late twentieth century. Can you imagine the hell he could cause with his resources and abilities if he had been raised in the Los Angeles area?

  5. Just Saying says:

    “Einstein came from a very disadvantaged community, which had been completely excluded from university until the second half of the 19th century,” he says in his office in Ontario, Canada, where he runs the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “But once they got into university, that first generation, you start having Jacobi, Einstein, Bohr, Pauli.

    This group completely revolutionised physics.”

    Looking into the histories of those individuals, except for Jacobi, they seem to be the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation.

    About their supposed “craziness” do you think they are crazy or “crazy like a fox?” I lean toward the latter, they aren’t trying any of that crap in Israel.

    • MawBTS says:

      Yeah, I noticed that too. His “first generation” is people spanning at least 120 years.

      Other brilliant first generation Jewish intellects include Andrea Dworkin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Maimonides, and Jesus Christ.

    • gcochran9 says:

      They imported the Falasha, and they assumed that Yemeni Jews would, after acclimation, do just as well as the Ashkenazi Jews. Most of the people running Israel believe. Although from other conversations, it’s possible that at the same time they don’t believe.

      • Ariel says:

        Israeli here. The “traditional suspects” are far more interested in the far-more-obvious difference between Jews and Muslims. Differences between Jews tend to be analyzed more as “class” differences than “race” differences.

        • j says:

          Tel Aviv University is abolishing the psychometric admission exams (similar to the SAT) because certain groups systematically failed, which means that the current test is biased and no one could devise a test that yields the desired result.

          • sonOfRekab says:

            the psychometric admission exams, are not going anywhere, and to any faculty that actually matters (engineering, Math etc) they are and will continue to be the main factor for acceptence.

  6. luisman says:

    I also didn’t recognize the importance of IQ and the importance that it’s largely heritable until a few years ago. Even though I was a private tutor during my high school and college years, I always thought that it may have been my fault that some pupils didn’t benefit from my tutoring while many others did improve their grades a lot.

    The main reason probably is, that discussion of IQ is shunned, not only in the academic community, but in the general public. There is this illusion that everybody is the same and that someone not becoming the next Newton is only the fault of his school teachers, parental support or other environmental factors.

    As a simplified explanation, I see IQ as the bucket size for potential intelligence that you’re born with. You just cannot fill more knowledge into a 75 size bucket that in a 140 size bucket. I agree that society should try to fill the 75 size buckets to the brim with good usefull knowledge, in order to get somewhat functional people. What the West does for the last 30-40 years is to fill the 140 size buckets with garbage like gender studies, intersectionality, anti-racism and the like.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I remember a family that moved to my home town from Arkansas, which we will call the Snaps ( not their real name). I remember one of them in shop class, falling asleep while using a cutting torch. People thought that the whole family was dumb. Did this take unusual psychometric sophistication, or was it something that anyone could have seen throughout history?

    • dave chamberlin says:

      “The main reason is the discussion of IQ is shunned.”

      You are right. Bill Gates isn’t crazy, but he isn’t rational about hereditary IQ. Neither are the vast majority of bright people, it was part and parcel of my liberal upbringing that we must deny this piece of reality for the greater good.

      My old liberal friends are going to go to their graves believing heart and soul that we can pretend our way to a greater good that all people are created equal.

      Pressing them in the obvious faults in believing this nonsense only results in accusations that I am racist, or elitist, or think I am better than other people. Meanwhile the years tick by and things get steadily worse in Africa, and underclasses grow in cities around the world.

      By 2100 the African countries listed by Cochran as having the average pupil at the 5th percentile in most developed countries are projected to have four times the population they have now. Hans Rosling over at http://www.gapminder.org happily predicts this and says things will be just fine.

      No they won’t, that is crazy. They won’t be fine, the Bill Gates of the world can’t feed 4 billion Africans (the total predicted by Hans Rosling by 2100) and even if they could, how many will they be feeding by 2200?

      We are not pretending our way to a greater good by denying variation in hereditary IQ, we are pretending our way to staggering human misery.

      • dearieme says:

        Ok, they pay lip service to the notion. But are their actions compatible with it?

        • craken says:

          Gates said in an interview a few years back that African birth rates would decline if they did not face such high risks of early mortality from malaria, TB, and other diseases. He funds efforts against these diseases. He also mentioned female education as a factor in fertility levels. I would speculate that Gates is not so much crazy as possibly uxorious. With such disease risks in Africa, and without a welfare state or high expenses for child-rearing, it makes sense for a couple to have enough children to support them in old age, probably 4+. There are other factors, like cultures long influenced by high mortality and the fact that Africa is not yet as densely populated as India, nor nearly as malnourished. But, in the long run, Africa’s population pyramid promises to be another tragedy of the commons.

      • JayMan says:

        Somehow I have a feeling that if 4 billion Africans can’t be fed, there won’t be 4 billion Africans.

        • dried peanuts says:


        • dave chamberlin says:

          Of course. When Africans can’t be fed, when all hell breaks loose in Africa, people will say “oh that’s a shame, I wish we could do something” (short of course of bringing them to your neighborhood).

          Doing something starts with admitting the source of the problem, but admitting the source of the problem makes us confess to being dirty racists. So we wont do anything.

          The Cochrans, Jaymans, and James Thompsons of this world are far and few between but your work is very important. You may not succeed in educating people but at least you tried.

        • whyteablog says:

          How many do you think we can feed? (Particularly with CRISPR?)

          Things are gonna get real interesting when we hit that number.

  7. Pingback: Brilliant Crazies | POLITICS & PROSPERITY

  8. engleberg says:

    ‘smart people are susceptible to all sorts of ideological craziness.’

    Why crazy? Pious fraud works great for orthodoxy sniffing. You are a parish priest. You tell parishioners the Virgin’s statue bleeds because they sin. The orthodox believe. That damned village atheist says ‘church bats pee red other places than just the statue’. It worked. You exposed the atheist.

    Gates and Turok use pious fraud to expose your lack of faith in racial equality. It is working.

  9. M* says:

    How do the Africans rank on PISA via Sandefur’s method compared to Trinidadaians and Black Americans? Those groups both score 431 on PISA on average, around the same as natives in Romania (437), Turkey (426), Moldova (423), South Italy (449 from science score only). (Contrast to average score UK natives 505, Germany natives 524, China natives 517, Japan natives 529).

  10. ziel says:

    Well I suppose the good news is that this ‘craziness’ thing is beginning to get some traction – or at least it’s being recognized that highly successful people who are smart enough at least to graduate from Wharton are capable of thinking dangerously crazy things. David Frum has asserted that believing that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the presidential election is crazy enough to justify invoking the 25th Amendment.

    Especially in contrast to the cooly rational previous occupier of the Oval Office who made only the most blandly reasonable assertions such as that 1-in-5 girls on campus are raped, that there is a school-to-prison pipeline driven by school suspensions, that pre-school pays off 7-to-1 on each dollar invested, and that an approximate 50-50 racial split among victims of police shootings is evidence of systemic bias.

    Of course even if Obama’s statement/beliefs were irrational, they’re not dangerous – only good can come from them – it’s not like innocent college students are going to have their lives ruined by kangaroo courts at universities, or undisciplined students will feel free to disrupt classes or attack teachers, or that we’ll waste $billions on useless education for toddlers, or cities will be burned down and murder rates will soar.

    • gcochran9 says:

      An awful lot of the notions about the world popular among typical university graduates are incorrect. Sometimes medieval goatherders, or hunter-gatherers, are closer to the truth.

  11. JayMan says:

    I think we can simplify it this by saying that WEIRD people and people with similar traits (Jews) have a problem (at least more so than the rest of the world on average) with heredity and heritable human differences. Most of the crazy we’ve noticed seems to fall under that general failing.

    • ziel says:

      That seems likely – they look at themselves and think how smart, sensible, fair-minded, compassionate and tolerant they are, and think back at what a loving, nurturing, intellectually-stimulating, tolerance-fostering upbringing they had, and conclude that Gee, if only everyone could be brought up that way, they’d be as awesome as us!

      • et.cetera says:

        No, it sounds stupid and ignorant. The idea that good upbringing makes good people is as old as Confucius, if not older.

    • et.cetera says:

      How familiar are you with non-“WEIRD” backyards? Not at all, I’d wager. Even cursory knowledge about just the 20th century outside the “west” makes that claim hardly plausible. And I’m not talking about communism.

      • JayMan says:

        You do know I’m Black, right?

        • et.cetera says:

          What a silly thing to say. Yes, you’re mixed race. And? Does that somehow make you magically familiar with non-WEIRD-o cases of lunacy, their causes and prevalence? I’m not a WEIRDo by ancestry either. I fail to see the relevance of that here, since I wasn’t aware that a genetic mechanism that imprints statistics and anecdotes into your brain exists.

  12. georgioxblog says:

    Well, the Israelis have a pretty fence at their Egyptian border which works. The Falasha a great PR Gain (you can not be against black people). I wonder if they have such a huge and growing haredi population because they are crazy, or they believe all the predominantley Ashkenazi Haredi will be useful at some point. I heard they are starting right now to assimilate the Haredi, and guess what it seems to work. What is really crazy is their West Bank policy.

    • Darin says:

      Are Israelis crazy? It depends whether you see the very idea of “Israel” as crazy or not.

      • Jim says:

        In retrospect it seems an awful neighborhood to relocate to. But there’s not much unoccupied decent real estate left in the world. Maybe global warming will change that and they can move to balmy Siberia.

    • Ariel says:

      The only thing crazier than the West Bank policy is the Bedouin policy. Beersheva is rapidly becoming unpolicable. Maybe in a few years after the IDF sets up their new bases there something will be done.

  13. ThisCannotBeTheFuture says:

    I wonder what his equally bright co-author Paul Steinhardt thinks–he always strikes me as a bit more down-to-earth than Turok. But then again, I’ve never heard him interviewed about something as controversial.

  14. TWS says:

    I thought this was going to be a cool post about the great Turok who was a dinosaur hunter. I used to read his biography when I was a kid. Now he accomplished things. Killing dinosaurs with a bow and arrow? Check! Having wild adventures with fellow tribesmen? Check!

    What has this other bozo done? Nothing I can see worthwhile. That would be a great HBD post as well. What kind of changes would we see in a small founder population amongst dinosaurs and other giant critters? How much would founder effect change them? Would they all come up with cool names like ‘Turok Son of Stone’?

  15. Jim says:

    Turok seems to give a new meaning to the term “idiot savant”.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Come on, he’s not that unusual – he just has more energy and dedication than average. If you asked the average college professor, he’d say that sure, sub-Saharan Africans have vast untapped intellectual potential – but he probably wouldn’t run out and try to do anything about it. Some of them, though, would say it without really believing it, and you wouldn’t expect them to invest their time and energy. That second class exists, but I really don’t know how to estimate how big it is.

      Then again, if that vast untapped potential really existed, there would be ways to make a profit from it. I’ve seen people say that some hedgefunders think that, but in that case there’s an easier way to tell what they really think – follow the money.

      • Darin says:

        If you asked about 150 years ago, all college professors would also agree that “we must do much more to preach the Gospel among the heathens”, but very few would volunteer to be missionaries.

      • savantissimo says:

        Of course there’s not much untapped. genius in Africa, but managers don’t really care either way. There’s untapped potential closer to home that they don’t bother with. Nobody hires people just because they’re smart, so far as I can tell. Average income for 150+ IQ people isn’t much higher than for 130, certainly not reflective of the difference in rarity. We know IQ is extraordinarily useful, and 1-in-1000 rare at that level, so economic theory says it should be extremely highly priced in the market, yet in fact it isn’t — in fact, it has no value at all on the market except through proxies such as schooling and resume. It isn’t because of any legal problem, though that is a common excuse. Fundamentally, hiring people smarter than oneself means subordinating oneself to their superior judgement, but people want to hire subordinates, not superiors.

  16. jb says:

    Dumb people don’t originate much, smart people are susceptible to all kinds of ideological craziness.

    When you are the smartest person in the room you can win arguments even when you’re wrong. That makes it easier to believe any damn thing you want to believe.

  17. RCB says:

    Turok’s TED talk was almost 10 years ago.

    So, what has been accomplished? I haven’t found anything since that talk.

    The video is kind of funny. In short, Turok is convinced that there must be geniuses in Sub Saharan Africa because (1) he saw a kid estimate the height of the building by measuring the height of a brick and then multiplying by the number of bricks (sure, clever for a sufficiently young kid, assuming he invented it himself) and (2) he met a miner who could quote Shakespeare. The irony here is that he is so impressed by these modest achievements only because his expectations are so low in the first place. Same goes for the fawning audience, no doubt.

    • MawBTS says:

      Yes, it’s clever but not exactly a “Gauss figuring out how to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100” mental feat.

      In the 19th century some factory bosses would pay people to read aloud works of literature to the workers, to keep them entertained. You ended up with millworkers capable of quoting large chunks of Proust and Dumas. That didn’t make them geniuses. Maybe they couldn’t even read.

      • Darin says:

        Proust wrote in 20th century, and Dumas wrote popular low brow entertainment, not “high literature”. The whole setup was due to lack of radio, not due to alleged high cultural level of 19th century factory workers.

      • RCB says:

        Gauss’s achievement is exactly what I had in mind, too.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I know a kid that, as a high school sophomore, invented an efficient algorithm for doing coin sums & used it to figure out how many different ways there are to make 2 £ (pounds), out of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 (100p) and £2 (200p). coins.

          He’s fairly mathy.

  18. Jerome says:

    “That low average tremendously suppresses the fraction above a high threshold.”

    I suspect the situation is worse than that. You are assuming that high IQ is the result of having a particular mix of genes, and the frequency of the genes leading to high IQ is lower in some populations, so that the frequency of high IQ is also lower. But it seems quite likely that some genes are simply absent in some populations. They are the result of mutations that occurred after the populations separated. In that case, the products of those genes will not be rare for those populations, they will be nonexistent, unless and until they intermix with other populations.


  19. Saldim says:

    I wonder if Turok believes in We Wuz Kangz.

  20. Misdreavus says:

    South Africa? Lacking talent for math? Puh-leeeeaze!

  21. namae nanka says:

    Comparison can be made to India, where the last time they took part in PISA they ended up second from the bottom and an IQ around 75, yet quite a few of them have made the mark in American academia. Maybe he hopes he might find some tribe in Africa that will do the same.

  22. Probably Wrong says:

    Bill Gates is not crazy. I’ve seen him mention IQ–and immediately self-edit–too many times to think that he doesn’t know exactly what’s going on in the world. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I still have faith that he’s playing the game on a level too far advanced for most, including me, to understand.

    Most people who flat out state the facts are relegated to social pariah status forced into dark corners of the internet and never accomplish anything.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Sure he’s crazy. What’s the point of having your monster charity do things that simply don’t work?

      • engleberg says:

        ‘What’s the point of having your monster charity do things that simply don’t work?’

        The point is you have displayed your faith.

        A sane Gates could sanely believe IQ results are accurate, and also sanely believe that for all that, and for all that, a man’s a man for all that. He won’t miss any meals for the money he’s blown on loyalty displays.

        • Unladen Swallow says:

          Kind of pointless, wasting billions on Quixotic nonsense, particularly if he knows it is. I think he simply won’t say no to his wife and she believes in it wholeheartedly.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            “I think he simply won’t say no to his wife and she believes in it wholeheartedly.”

            Highly likely imo

            cui bono?

            paranoia – people who don’t want a spotlight shone on racial/ethnic differences because they believe highlighting those kind of differences is bad for them (maybe with reason)

            actual benefit – hard to imagine how making the West permanently stupider could be in anyone’s actual interests – except maybe payday loan companies and corrupt politicians

            soft hearted – people who cringe at the thought of upsetting people (even if in the long term denying it will make things worse) so the benefit to them is no one mentions it

            a lot of my female relatives are in the 3rd group – when anything like that is mentioned you can see on their face they don’t really consider and reject the idea – they just blank it immediately as they picture the angry/upset reaction

      • Jim says:

        Perhaps it’s a method of purchasing status by “doing good” whether or not it’s ineffective or even harmful. Sure it’s a horribly expensive way of purchasing status. But with Gates’ wealth wasting a few billion or so won’t make any difference to him personally.

  23. Cocorico says:

    With their IQ scores two standard deviations below those of Europeans, three below the Askenazim? That low average tremendously suppresses the fraction above a high threshold.

    Malnutrition, tropical diseases and poor education all play an important role in these low IQ scores.

    If they had the same environment as Europeans, they would probably score 1 SD below, not 2.

    • At best. Still too low.

    • Jim says:

      Lynn estimated the average IQ of Sub-Saharan Africans under good conditions to be about 80. The population of the US Virgin Islands is mostly of African descent with some Amerindian admixture. The average IQ of the VI population is about 78..

      The US VI is a US Territory with free K-12 education, modern water, sewage & power systems, paved roads, welfare, etc. The population are US citizens.

      The homicide rate in the US VI is extremely high.

  24. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2017/01/29) - Social Matter

  25. Eugene Swin says:

    Sandefur’s) test results, P 14, 33, 36, are very similar to the table of National IQ scores in Tatu Vanhanen, Global Inequality as a Consequence of Global Diversity (2014) at P. 66 et seq. I would be really interested to see Sandefur’s scores equated to national IQ scores in the fashion of Vanhanen.

    Sandefur’s P. 36 results show that on school tests, high IQ countries do even better than their average GDP and Sub-Saharan African countries do worse. Sandefur says, “Controlling for both log GDP and net primary enrollment rates, the coefficient on the dummy variable for Africa is negative and significant using all three linking methodologies, and ranges from approximately two-thirds to one and a half standard deviations.” Probably much of that is explained by Vanhanen’s other indicators that go into his Index of Global Inequality (P.117): per capita income, extent of tertiary education, under five mortality rate per 1000 live births, life expectancy, improved sanitation facilities, and democratization.

  26. Broadsman says:

    Einstein did NOT come from a disadvantaged background. He was a little rich kid. His family were busy entrepreneurs starting up the new-fangled electric power systems, much like Edison’s former secretary, Samuel Insull, the little rich guy with the spats in “Monopoly.”

    His uncle put him to work doing electrical engineering for the family businesses, but Einstein grew bored. The rest is history.

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