Jared Diamond says ” Sound evidence for the existence of human differences in intelligence that parallel human differences in technology is lacking.”

In short, he dismisses the entire field of psychometrics. Doesn’t even bother to argue about it. The word “IQ” isn’t even in the book.

Regional scores on IQ tests and educational test scores do track regional differences in technology. Not perfectly – northeast Asians have the highest scores but have not made the largest contributions to the development of modern technology – but very well. Populations that have low average scores on such tests have contributed very little to the development of modern science and technology.

It’s a ballsy approach – implying that’s the whole field is just pointless crap, not even worth discussing. It’s how I would deal with astrology or gender studies. It’s how everybody should have dealt with Freudian analysis.

There may be a valid argument, starting from basic evolutionary principles, that humans should have a general problem-solving ability, not just a bunch of distinct mental modules like face recognition, but I haven’t seen it. At least not one that’s blindingly obvious. I doubt if there is a similarly obvious argument that a pencil-and-paper test over an hour or so should give a reasonable measurement of that general problem-solving ability, one that can predict ( to a fair extent) how someone will do at learning difficult material and solving complex problems, even years later.

It works, though.

If there was some fatal flaw in our methods of testing academic aptitude, you’d see some people that had low test scores but were still whizzes at electrical engineering or molecular biology. But we don’t see that.

If Diamond were right ( and the tests wrong), there would be tremendous arbitraging opportunities, something like how sabermetrics showed baseball managers how to identify undervalued players. For example, if people from PNG were indeed significantly smarter than the world average, UCLA could develop powerhouse departments, full of likely future Nobelists, at low cost. People would eventually try to look intelligent by putting a bone through their nose. Why hasn’t this happened? Pure stubbornness? Shouldn’t Harvard pre-emptively adopt this policy, in order to stay on top?

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62 Responses to Psychometrics

  1. ilkarnal says:

    Well, they believe in the power of culture – that to be smart you need parents who understand the value of education and a good school with good teachers etc. So blacks, third worlders, etc, are in their sorry state because their parents and schools aren’t good enough. Changing this is a very gradual process that requires spending huge amounts of money over many many decades, consistently. Also, stereotype threat – when you look at a black person you think ‘stupid’ and this means that black people are less rewarded for being smart, so they stay stupid.

    IQ testing in this context is rude and pointless – we know they are behind, there’s no need to quantify it and shove it in their faces, that will just discourage them more. It would be very useful as a way to track progress, but since it has stubbornly refused to show progress from the sorts of interventions that should cause progress, it clearly isn’t very useful. And it contributes to stereotype threat.

    Also, even if there is some genetic difference there’s nothing we can do about it so we might as well ignore it and focus on what we can change, their upbringing. Paying attention to genetics is eugenics and eugenics is nazis, and we don’t like nazis.

    Diamond thinks that your innate smarts are just such a tiny part of how smart you turn out (compared to how educational your parents and schools are) that it really isn’t a big deal that the PNGs are a lil bit sharper inherently.

    Oh, and there’s a conspiracy to keep minorities down, and fighting this conspiracy is costly and requires government pressure and assistance. We shouldn’t expect dredging out centuries of racist barriers to be easy or quick or cheap! Many people naively underestimate the power of this conspiracy and try to do things like find the next Einstein in Africa, but the enlightened and seasoned thinkers realize that racism must be fought one little step at a time and before we can get our African Einsteins we have to create an African Einstein image in the African heart, and prevent them from hearing discouraging things from racist white people. Silencing people like Gregory Cochran is obviously a prerequisite for success.

    Twin studies are hopelessly confounded, families were not randomly selected for the separated twins and so they didn’t experience the full breadth of educational diversity. Asian success and to an extent Jewish success are sort of anomalous but upon inspection they are both pretty racist, and racism means you succeed off the backs of others. Look how the most technologically and economically successful Asians, the Japanese, exploited their neighbors! What we’re seeing is the result of racism and exploitation – IQ and economic success aren’t a measure of your inherent smartness but a measure of your racism and exploitative nature.

  2. I think Diamond might say that PNG natives are too intelligent to waste their valuable time sitting in faculty meetings, or trying to pound advanced physics into the thick heads of the dumb white and Asian grad students at top-tier schools like Stanford.

    They might be rather like our last president, who was so magnificently brilliant that everything on Earth outside of ESPN bored him, in contrast to lesser minds like Newton, Dirac, Galton, and the like.

  3. Rosenmops says:

    Blacks will NEVER accept that they have lower average IQs. Blacks seem to have a lot more self confidence, on average, than other races. But it is hard to understand where this is coming from. I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe lots of emphasis on their accomplishments in athletics or music. And on the few who do well intellectually.

    I can accept that Asians have a higher IQ on average than whites (I’m white). But I’m still pissed off that Chinese have basically taken over most sciences at the University of British Columbia, because I see them as interlopers. That university was created by white people, and so was most of the science taught there! Since the Chinese are so smart they should be creating their own damn universities. When they come to Canada they are like parasites who attach themselves to our non-corrupt, high status universities, and many of them do everything they can to corrupt these universities by cheating!

    Forty years ago there were almost no Chinese at UBC. Whites have been replaced, in my lifetime. But if you notice you are racist. I don’t know why those stupid neo Nazis in Charlottesville were chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Low skill workers are being replaced by Mexicans. IT workers are being replaced by Indians. A huge portion of Vancouver has been replaced with Asians. Europeans are being replaced with Muslims who are trying to kill them. Why the hell are these Nazi punks worried about Jews?

    By the way, does anyone know how these Chinese IQ tests are carried out? Because if they are being administered by Chinese people in China the results aren’t worth much because of corruption.

    • Jim says:

      Many of the IQ studies done on the Japanese population have been done by white researchers. There doesn’t seem to be any consistent difference between their findings and those of Japanese researchers. The Japanese population seems to have an average IQ of about 107. I don’t see any reason to regard this as invalid.

      • Feirich says:

        “Many of the IQ studies done on the Japanese population have been done by white researchers. There doesn’t seem to be any consistent difference between their findings and those of Japanese researchers. ”

        Which white researchers? What Japanese-led IQ data are you even referring to? Much of the most widely-cited and promulgated IQ research in the west has been by people like Lynn, asiaphiles who seem to have this decades-long commitment to proving that comparatively tiny asian immigrant populations in the west and elsewhere are representative of the massive populations of China, Japan etc. Lynn’s data on the chinese alone is suspect; they have long been disproportionately pulled from urban populations (, or possibly outright fabricated, with there apparently being data he has not referenced from rural populations showing IQ scores often below 100, even sub-80:

        And then there is the rampant cheating and academic fraud that has been shown to be widespread in China (and to a lesser extent Korean and Taiwan), and has been a major issue among recent immigrants from these countries in the west.

        Japan however doesn’t really seem to have many issues with cheating or academic fraud, or the possibility of massive rural populations being overlooked, but an IQ of 107- just 3 points below Ashkenazi jews, that would honestly be incredible. That’s definitely one of the higher scores I’ve heard though, I’ve heard it usually given as 105, but these figures change frequently from book to book, study to study, conversion method of TIMSS data etc., but random internet commentators repeat them as if they’re accurate and unimpeachable nonetheless. What else makes you think the Japanese are that smart though? They have a really clean, efficient and industrious, organized society? Your image of them (along with other asians) is that of quiet, studious drudges, a misleading and exaggerated stereotype of the intelligent?

        I honestly do not see any reason to believe the Japanese are significantly more intelligent, if at all more intelligent than whites. Having an IQ that high would work against them, because Japan’s innovative, groundbreaking output has been long been behind western countries that supposedly have IQ’s considerably below them. They’re close to as smart as jews, but have been outshone by countries with an IQ of half an SD lower than them for generations now? And they languished in self-imposed isolation and stagnation for centuries until the mid-19th century?

        • gcochran9 says:

          Ashkenazi Jews did nothing interesting before 1820. They were, to a significant extent, in a self-imposed cultural isolation. There was no law against them reading Principia Mathematica in 1700 but they just weren’t interested.

          • Feirich says:

            Jews have plenty of activity and accomplishment since then to affirm their IQ score. And with Japan, we’re talking about an entire civilization consisting of many more people across a very large area. Nothing ever really happened during the nearly 200 Sakoku period. For that matter, very little in terms of invention and discovery ever came out of Japan before they opened their doors in the mid 19th century. They were even behind Korea in those regards. But they’ve obviously performed far better than China and Korea on all fronts since then.

            And when I said “They have a really clean, efficient and industrious, organized society”, I should have said “outwardly.” Obviously Japan is a safe, high-trust society, but they absolutely have their own share pathologies and social dysfunction. Working hours in Japan are often brutal, it’s been estimated something like 1 in 5 Japanese cry on the job, and there is the disturbingly common phenomenon of being worked to death, “karoshi”. There’s the very high suicides, the rampant childlessness, the extreme social anomie and isolation in the form of the unknown (but bound to be very large) numbers of NEETs, hikikomori etc. Their near-100% conviction rate for crimes is in large part due to widespread police corruption in the form of things like forced confessions.

            None of this means of course that these issues are inevitable consequences of Japan’s prosperity, that the prosperity can only be maintained through extreme working conditions, or that Japan’s prosperity is really truly that unique. But this caricatured image people have of Japan combined with stereotypes of asians and the high IQ contribute to the image of Japan being something reflective of a 100+ IQ. In all of my experiences with the Japanese and what I know about the country (and the nature of IQ research on east asians), I see no real support for an IQ of 105-107, or really above 100 at all. No reason to believe a country like Japan can’t be maintained with an average IQ of 100, possibly somewhat lower (not that I’m saying the Japanese are sub-100 though, virtually nobody believes that).

            And going back to the jews, why exactly did they exist in this state? I’ve never really come across good clarification on that. I’ve gotten the impression it was the opposite, that their isolation was largely due to discrimination and barriers against them.

    • Bob says:

      Think of it this way. Do you think it would be harder or easier for those Nazis to deal with their other worries if they didn’t have a population with the highest IQ in the world as political competition? If their political competition were reduced to other white gentiles and thus to a population with similar mean IQ, then it would be a whole new ballgame and their odds of success would be much greater.

      • Rosenmops says:

        But some Jews are conservative and are want immigration restrained.

        • Bob says:

          Forget about Jews for a sec and think about how dumb your average gentile politician, policymaker, pundit, journalist, etc. is. Imagine if they were your sole competition for the political character and direction of the body politic.

          • Rosenmops says:

            This situation seemed to work out OK in Britain. They created a democratic system and the industrial revolution largely without Jews. Canada , Australia and New Zealand were largely created and managed by gentiles, at least in the early years, and are among the best countries in the world by many measures. I’ve got nothing against Jews and I know they are very smart on average and have done a lot for science in more recent years.

            • Bob says:

              I mean the average gentile politician etc. today. Do you think it would be harder or easier for gentiles today with similar views and attitudes to those gentiles of 18th and 19th century Britain to succeed politically if their political competition were reduced to the average gentile politician etc. of today?

        • Issac says:

          Some African Americans are peaceful conservatives like Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell.

    • JerryC says:

      I don’t know why those stupid neo Nazis in Charlottesville were chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Low skill workers are being replaced by Mexicans. IT workers are being replaced by Indians. A huge portion of Vancouver has been replaced with Asians. Europeans are being replaced with Muslims who are trying to kill them. Why the hell are these Nazi punks worried about Jews?

      The Nazi dress-up guys are idiots, of course. But they’re not dumb enough to believe that they’re literally being replaced by foreign Jews. The idea is that Jews, through their considerable cultural, economic and political influence, are driving the non-white immigration that is displacing the native white population.

    • Ursiform says:

      Since we all know British Columbia was originally settled by white people. How dare another race come along and out-compete them!

      • Rosenmops says:

        Well at least when the Europeans came they introduced some improvements such as the wheel, written language, farming, etc. The Europeans carved Vancouver out of the wilderness and created a beautiful, safe, prosperous city. The Chinese just moved in after all that had been done, and drove the price of real estate through the roof. They didn’t improve anything. All they they did was make things more crowded.

        I’m not saying the First Nations people don’t have any cause for resentment. They do. But if the racist Chinese ever take over completely things will not go well for First Nations people.

      • JerryC says:

        In other words, if Native Americans had had the capability to restrict immigration from Europe, it would have been a good idea for them to do so.

        • Rosenmops says:

          You mean if the Natives could have prevented the Old World and the New World from ever meeting? Well that might have been good for them. Mind you a lot of them were in the stone age and had pretty rough lives. But maybe they would have prefered that over all the Old World diseases, alcohol, and a huge number of people of a different race arriving.

          In any case, we can’t go back in the past and undo what has been done. I don’t think very many of the First Nations people alive today would want to go back to primitive conditions. But they were here first, and I can understand why they might hate and resent white people.

          The more recent immigration from China and India hasn’t really benefited Canada, and Canada COULD have prevented it. I think there has just been too much immigration too quickly. I worry that these immigrants will bring a corrupt culture with them. And there are just too many of them and they all want to go to Vancouver or Toronto. The infrastructures can’t keep up with the increasing population. But the government loves to import new voters.

          As much as I complain about the Chinese, I realize things would be a LOT worse if they were all Somalis or something. Canada has plenty of Somalis and other really problem immigrants too. And they keep coming.

          • Ursiform says:

            The Indians who lived where UBC is today were not in the stone age.

            • Jim says:

              What are the criteria for being “stone age” or is it just a meaningless term?

            • Rosenmops says:

              They didn’t have iron-working technology. Or a written language, or farming, or the wheel.

              • Jim says:

                They didn’t have any metallurgy.

              • Jim says:

                They might have used native copper but that barely qualifies as metallurgy.

              • Ursiform says:

                They lived on the coast surrounded by forests. Fishing and hunting made more sense than farming. Wheeled vehicles wouldn’t have been that useful to them, but they were good at building boats for fishing and fighting. And they worked copper.

              • Jim says:

                The term “Stone Age” may not be very useful but for what it’s worth the definition online is “a prehistoric period when weapons and tools were made of stone and organic materials such as bone, wood, or horn”.

                Otzi is usually described as belonging to the Neolithic but he was carrying a copper axe.
                Many other Neolithic cultures seem to have made use of copper.

                So I don’t think describing the pre-Columbian Indians of Western Canada as “Stone Age” is terribly inaccurate even though they, like many other Neolithic cultures, did make some use of native copper.

              • Ursiform says:

                It would be interesting to know what, in a couple of centuries, the Chinese will call your civilization.

              • Ursiform says:

                “Whine Age”, maybe?

              • Jim says:

                Ursiform – The logical relevance of some of your comments is obscure.

            • Rosenmops says:

              The Haida (from the Queen Charlotte Islands–now known as Haida Gwaii ) were the fiercest. The had big war canoes and raided all up and down the coast, and inland on the rivers, for slaves and anything else they could take. The Haida even today seem to be different–maybe more industrious. I wonder if they came over from Asia at a different time, or if they just evolved differently on their Islands.

              Old World diseases took a terrible toll. And alcohol has just been devastating for the natives.

              • Jim says:

                Haida is classified as a Nadene language. In fact the name “Nadene” is a combination of the Haida root “na” for people and the corresponding Athabascan root “dene”. Many linguists do not regard this family as valid and classify Haida as an isolate but Greenberg was quite emphatic on the relationship. He devotes an entire chapter to Haida in his book on Amerindian languages.

                The geographical distribution of the Nadene speakers and the great differences between their languages and other Amerindian languages suggests that they are the descendants of a secondary migration from Asia. There is considerable support among linguists for the hypothesis that the Nadene languages are related to the Old World Yeniseian languages.
                Sapir was strongly of the opinion that the Nadene languages are related to Sino-Tibetan languages.

                However I imagine that you are comparing the Haida to other Nadene speakers. Assuming their language belongs to a single family together with Athabascan, Tlingit, Eyak they are still the most divergent member of this family.

                So yes the Nadene seem special among American Indians and the Haida special among the Nadene.

              • Ursiform says:

                It’s amazing how a few hours and Wikipedia creates a panel of experts for a learned dialog.

              • Jim says:

                If you have any specific disagreements with I wrote please let me know.

          • pyromancer76 says:

            A faithful follower of this most interesting blog, but one not really intelligent enough to comment. Don’t know why I am daring, but…

            A society can either protect its borders or it can’t. If it can’t — takes a competent military, adequate resources, and will power — it usually gets “invaded” by those who want its natural resources. I don’t know where IQ comes into this. British Columbians sound “stupid” for permitting this invasion — I know, the Canadian government sucks. Much better to permit a few high value individuals from outside to increase the intelligence/wealth of one’s society.

            Native Americans had already been invading each other’s territory and dying off well before Europeans came — probably due to “climate change”, very lengthy droughts, etc., and maybe population increase in an area of natural abundance. The Europeans were icing on a cake already baked. But their technology, demography, and IQ won the day anyway.

            Only some Brits developed the kind of IQ for each individual’s free pursuit of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and “no taxation without representation. Only some Brits had the guts to fight for those rights. Marxists and Global Elitists, with superior IQs, are trying to erase that experiment, one that never happened before in human history. So far they have failed.

            Dissing “Freudian analysis,” well that seems very old fashioned, not worthy of current intelligence. Psychoanalysis, with many high and low IQ practitioners, has finally been understood to be a dyadic science of intersubjectivity for which we are prepared by evolution — primary emotional programs and object relations — for survival. Bad things happen that can be “undone” by proper, intelligent understanding, but only within intersubjectivity and the individual’s, the analysand’s, “omnipotence.” Oh, sounds a little like the American Republic experiment.

        • Jim says:


    • says:

      Rather than relied on university ranking that dominated by subjective reputation scores, the Nature Publishing House has the more objective ranking by Weighted Fractional Count (WFC) of reputable international science journal papers output at the . Some universities ranking by 2016 WFC scores for Canada and China.

      Rank WFC16 WFC15 WFC14 WFC13 WFC12 Uni
      13 296.63 300.39 296.21 273.25 212.07 Peking University (PKU)
      17 262.28 253.62 213.92 196.59 169.13 Nanjing University (NJU)
      21 252.29 231.33 210.64 197.59 178.58 Tsinghua University (TH)
      24 235.83 229.13 214.92 175.79 146.78 University of Science and Technology of China (USTC)
      25 228.82 274.99 269.55 257.39 272.28 University of Toronto (U of T)
      45 164.59 183.62 191.48 150.42 122.34 Zhejiang University (ZJU)
      60 138.53 177.65 166.75 129.42 121.53 Fudan University
      63 136.31 162.07 133.62 136.65 140.25 McGill University
      68 131.1 150.88 98.21 113.52 85.85 Nankai University (NKU)
      72 126.49 88.73 88.98 71.21 64.96 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS)
      85 109.04 112.49 98.2 76.02 77.11 Xiamen University (XMU)
      86 108.99 127.1 132.66 131.77 130.08 The University of British Columbia (UBC)

      In one year three Chinese universities overtook University of Toronto.

      From OECD 2010 data, China by policy limited the graduate population at 3.6%, that means based on IQLynn=100, the min entry IQ for Chinese universities is IQ 127. The graduate pop of Canada was 26.8%, i.e. the min entry IQ for Canadian universities is 108. Most of the Chinese students in Canada are those with IQ between 108 and the respective min IQ for their chosen majors in Chines universities (e.g. engineering IQ 149) which they could not enter into their local Chinese universities and paying hefty Canadian university tuition fees in the process.

      • Rosenmops says:

        Great. I’m glad the Chinese have good universities. Why don’t they stay in China and attend those instead of taking over a Canadian City?

        • Daniel Chieh says:

          Too many Chinese in the world, in short, and Western universities are easy in comparison and less stressful.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Somebody doesn’t like us.

    • pyromancer76 says:

      Also lots of dumbing down in the military with affirmative action, the scourge of intelligent societies. Also purposeful dumbing down. Robbing a society of its high IQ/performance individuals

    • Jake Bell says:

      In the US Military today, political ‘reliability’ is more important than competence. In any peace-time military, the promotion system is skewed to those who fulfill the priorities handed down to them which today are diversity, inclusion and zero-defect exercises which are accomplished by zero-risk training. It’s not surprising that the Navy is the service to have major mishaps as ship CO’s can’t be micromanaged every second by the next higher authority. When at sea, there are no officials looking over their shoulder at every turn, and when there is a mistake it’s big news. Officers are promoted for their reliability in following policies that have nothing to do with operating a ship at sea, let alone in combat. It would be very enlightening to see the evaluations of those in command of the vessels involved in these incidents, I wouldn’t be surprised if they received their commands (a prerequisite for advancement) because of their excellent work in creating social policies needed to meet new directives from the top.

  4. Aaron X Gardiner says:

    Can anyone direct me to IQ test results for East Asia before WWII? I am particularly interested in testing conducted by Westerners on Japanese or Chinese. The earlier the results the better. I have had little success searching google scholar. Thanks in advance.

  5. anonymous says:

    How do clever sillies like Diamond himself figure into all this?

  6. RCB says:

    I figured out long ago that when fellow students said they were smart, but just “bad test-takers”, that actually meant they were not that smart.

    Okay, that’s probably not totally fair. People vary in their response to stress.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      And some people just hate sitting there in a classroom at a desk staring out the window at the world while filling in little dots with their pencil.

      They go on to be great farmers, mechanics and electricians–which all require someone to be “smart” in both senses of the word, and INCREDIBLY useful, but don’t involve all that much time sitting at a desk.

  7. LemmusLemmus says:

    “There may be a valid argument, starting from basic evolutionary principles, that humans should have a general problem-solving ability, not just a bunch of distinct mental modules like face recognition, but I haven’t seen it.”

    The argument has been made:

    I think I have not read those papers, so I cannot say how valid the argument is. Here are two critiques:

  8. John Harvey says:

    Jared Diamond says ” Sound evidence for the existence of human differences in intelligence that parallel human differences in technology is lacking.”

    OK Mr Diamond, so where is your evidence that after tens of thousands of years of disparate human evolution in widely different environments, all the worlds various populations have ended up with exactly the same mean IQ?

  9. RCB says:

    “There may be a valid argument, starting from basic evolutionary principles, that humans should have a general problem-solving ability, not just a bunch of distinct mental modules like face recognition, but I haven’t seen it. At least not one that’s blindingly obvious.”

    There has been some pop-gen-style analysis of different kinds of learning as a function of environmental variation. The basic result I remember reading is this:
    Slow changing environments -> genetically ingrained behavior. Don’t bother trying to figure anything out; your genes have already done it.
    Fast changing environments -> general purpose learning. Populations evolve to be able to track the environment.
    Medium changing environments -> social learning. I.e. copy what others are doing, assuming this is cheaper that trying to learn things for yourself.
    Some old results here:

  10. DD'eDeN says:

    The word “IQ”

    Need I say more?

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