Kinds of evidence

Some people ( like Amy Harmon, but not her alone) have been saying that we don’t have genetic evidence for average differences in intelligence between different human races. Harmon tries to imply that this means that there are no such genetic factors – but she is mistaken.  It does not.

We know something ( info that explains 10-15% of the variance) about genetic factors  that influence intelligence differences within Europeans.  That knowledge was acquired very recently: we didn’t have it ten years ago. For technical reasons, those polygenic scores do not work very well on  genetically distant populations.  Probably we are, to a large extent, detecting SNPs that are linked to the true causal loci, and the linkage pattern is different in sub-Saharan Africans.

Ten years ago we couldn’t detect any of the many alleles that influence intelligence in Europeans, but that sure didn’t imply that there weren’t any:  now we’ve found  a fair number of them.

A relevant fact: we don’t know which alleles make humans smarter than chimpanzees. That does not imply that there are no such alleles.

Why does Amy Harmon push this false implication?   It might be due to the fact that she doesn’t know very much about genetics ( or math).

She also suggests that you don’t have to be really smart to be a top-flight mathematician, but that’s just ludicrous.  Math is hard.

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Kinds of evidence

  1. Nomen Est Omen says:

    Some people (like Amy Harmon, but not her alone) have been saying that we don’t have genetic evidence for average differences in intelligence between different human races.

    What about average differences in honesty, objectivity and ethnocentrism between different human races?

    Why does Amy Harmon push this false implication? It might be due to the fact that she doesn’t know very much about genetics (or math).

    It might be. But in that case why did she get the job? Apparently some important folk don’t mind if an ignoramus writes on the topic, just so long as the ignoramus is woke. Here’s another “data point”:

    There’s No Scientific Basis for Race—It’s a Made-Up Label

    It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

    By Elizabeth Kolbert

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-genetics-science-africa/

    More details of Ms Kolbert:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Kolbert

    • ASR says:

      Kolbert starts that National Geographic article with Steven J. Gould’s canard against Samuel Morton. Although she doesn’t pull Gould’s words verbatim from “The Mismeasure of Man”, she might as well have. Since Gould wrote that book a reanalysis of Morton’s work has affirmed Morton’s results and confirmed that his research was accurate, unbiased and scientifically sound. That reanalysis also demonstrated that Gould had grossly, deliberately and maliciously misrepresented Morton’s work. Either Kolbert is unaware of this, indifferent, or actively hostile to the truth.

      Even a reader unaware of Kolbert’s utter lack of scientific training and background should regard these opening paragraphs as a red flag. They suggest that the women is either a scientific ignoramus or an ideologue with an axe to grind. Her name and background even hint that she may be, like Gould, a red diaper baby, a loathsome vestige of Stalinism.

  2. Edward says:

    It’s possible to achieve eminence in mathematics or science with an IQ of between 130 and 145. Arthur Jensen reports that William Shockley and Luis Alvarez had IQs in the mid-130s, just missing the cut for the Terman studies. It should be noted that the test used was verbally-loaded, however.

    The Fields Medalist Richard Borcherds has a full-scale IQ of 137, placing him in the top 0.7% of the population. His performance IQ (PIQ) was (as expected) higher, at 147, placing him in the top 0.09% of the population.

    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13554799908402743

    The only other Fields Medalist whose IQ score I know of is Terence Tao: he reached the ceiling of 175 on the Stanford-Binet test. The mathematics professor Lenhard Ng is probably in the same ballpark (they were the two most accomplished people in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth).

    • wontgetthrough says:

      Led by a 12 year old Lenny, my high school math club kicked -ss and took names up and down the east coast. He was also “in” my measure theory class in college, but i seem to recall he didn’t actually show up. Someone took notes for him, lucky guy. He was extremely competitive and absolutely the nicest, most normal, friendly, funny kid.

    • ghazisiz says:

      I remember reading (I think from something Richard Lynn wrote) that while an IQ above about 120 was a necessary condition for making a contribution to science, much higher IQ levels were not necessarily helpful, since factors such as motivation and energy played an even more important role.

      • gcochran9 says:

        He’s wrong. But there is something that people with an IQ of 130 have over people with an IQ of 150: there are a hell of a lot more of them.

      • gcochran9 says:

        There are cases in which a guy who’s not super-bright discovers a very important result. But those guys don’t repeat: Watson vs Crick, for example.

        OPn the other hand, super-bright guys can end up accomplishing quite a lot: cf Gauss, Maxwell, Einstein, Gibbs.

        Motivation and energy play a role, but are less important than intelligence.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          There are cases in which a guy who’s not super-bright discovers a very important result. But those guys don’t repeat: Watson vs Crick, for example.

          On the other hand, super-bright guys can end up accomplishing quite a lot: cf Gauss, Maxwell, Einstein, Gibbs.

          Put aside physics and math, and stick to chemistry, medicine, and biology, and I wonder whether that remains true. Darwin, Pasteur, Koch, Scheele, Lyell, Mendel, etc., all seem modestly bright but not super-bright. They often don’t even seem any smarter in raw brain power than the scientists in their field who initially opposed their findings.

          • But then we don’t have actual IQs of them?
            ….
            Rutherford said “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.”

            • Pincher Martin says:

              But then we don’t have actual IQs of them?

              No, but we also don’t have the IQs of Newton, Gauss, Gibbs, or Einstein, but few people who study the lives of those men doubt that they were about as bright as men ever get.

              The same can not be said of, say, Koch or Pasteur, both of whom – despite Rutherford’s pithy quote – were fully engaged in science that was as useful as anything a physicist has ever done.

              • Edward says:

                Fine, we’ll do it your way, and look at the most substantial contributions that have been made to various non-mathematical fields and then look at the IQs of the people who made these contributions. One point of order, though: even if you don’t think that someone with an IQ of 130 could make a significant contribution to mathematics or physics, your threshold mustn’t be much higher than that, given that Shockley and Alvarez had IQs in the mid-130s (albeit tested on a verbally-loaded battery) and the Fields Medalist Richard Borcherds has a full-scale IQ of 137 (but a nonverbal IQ of 147).

                Gibson and Light, in 1968, found that a group of Cambridge mathematicians (staff members), aged between 25 and 34, had an average full-scale IQ of 130.4, with no one falling below 124. Physicists (they didn’t distinguish between theoretical and experimental) had an average of 127.7. They were only aged between 25 and 34, so this study wouldn’t have captured the more accomplished mathematicians who had risen through the ranks. Cambridge admissions were also less meritocratic back then. Furthermore, a number of people didn’t participate either because they were familiar with the Wechsler test or because they were abroad, which probably lowered the averages slightly.

                Even so, it suggests that people interested in IQ need to lower their thresholds a bit, or recognize (as many do already) that while the g factor (approximated by full-scale IQ) predicts how successful you are going to be relative to the population as a whole (high school academic performance, job performance, occupational prestige, income, health/mortality), specific abilities (e.g. spatial or verbal) predict what that success will look like. And at the upper end of the IQ distribution, specific abilities may matter more than the g factor.

                You mention Chomsky: he began studying at university (Pennsylvania) at age 16, studying linguistics, mathematics and philosophy. He was clearly devoted to intellectual pursuits from a very young age. There’s a rumour that Nathan Fine, in a letter of recommendation to Harvard for Chomsky’s admittance to the Society of Fellows, wrote that Chomsky was the smartest student enrolled in an American college at that time. And, sure enough, Chomsky was admitted to Harvard’s Society of Fellows.

                You mention Keynes. Bertrand Russell wrote: “Keynes’s intellect was the sharpest and clearest that I have ever known. When I argued with him, I felt that I took my life in my hands, and I seldom emerged without feeling something of a fool.” Lionel Robbins wrote: “Keynes must be one of the most remarkable men that have ever lived.” Douglas LePan: “This is the most beautiful creature I have ever listened to. Does he belong to our species? Or is he from some other order?” His adversary, Hayek, wrote: “He was the one really great man I ever knew.” I would be very surprised if both Keynes and Chomsky didn’t/don’t have IQs north of 155.

                In any case, I don’t think we’re really in a state of disagreement. We both recognize that people with merely “high” IQs very much outnumber those with “extremely high IQs”, so if we’re answering the question “given that these people have made seminal contributions to Field X, what is their average full-scale IQ likely to be?”, it will probably be in the 135-140 range for fields other than mathematics and physics, and in the 140-145 range for mathematics and physics, with the threshold for the former set at 125 and the threshold for the latter set at 130.

          • Edward says:

            BF Skinner, Linus Pauling and Sewall Wright were all part of Anne Roe’s study of 64 eminent scientists. The mean full-scale IQ of this group was probably in the mid-150s.

            Ancel Keys (who, despite some annoyingly persistent myths about his work, was an excellent scientist) was included in the Terman studies, as were Lee Cronbach and Robert Richardson Sears (both of whom served as Presidents of the American Psychological Association). The cut-off for this study was an IQ of ~135 (converted to a deviation IQ), and the mean IQ of participants in the study was ~144 (converted to a deviation IQ).

            Arthur Jensen tested the IQ of Francis Crick, stating that he scored substantially higher than the mean Terman study participant. So, we can infer that Crick had an IQ > 145.

            • Pincher Martin says:

              Anne Rowe must’ve had something else in mind when she wrote about scientific eminence. I don’t believe B.F. Skinner, for example, made a serious contribution to science. Nor do I believe Sigmund Freud, who is not in Rowe’s study, made one, either. Except in the negative sense. But it wouldn’t surprise me to know that both men had extremely high IQs. Nor would it surprise me if both men had higher IQs than Darwin or Pasteur, if it were possible to go back in time to give Darwin and Pasteur IQ tests.

              So the question remains, can one make a significant contribution to scientific fields outside of mathematics and physics without having a super-high IQ? Crawling to the top of an academic field like psychology to become president of the APA requires incredible smarts and such men do become eminent, but it doesn’t tell us what kind of contribution they made to science.

              • Edward says:

                Firstly, we shouldn’t ignore the other examples that I gave. As you probably know, Sewall Wright was one of the founders of population genetics, whilst Linus Pauling won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. As you certainly know, Francis Crick won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Lee Cronbach – who became President of the APA – made significant contributions to psychological testing: Cronbach’s alpha test is still used today for estimating test reliability. Ancel Keys made important contributions to epidemiology, physiology and public health.

                There are two economists we know of who have IQs above 155, in the top 0.01% of the population, by virtue of their having participated in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth: Susan Athey, the first woman to win the John Bates Clark Medal in Economics (second only to the Nobel Prize), and Colin Camerer, a behavioural economist and MacArthur Fellow.

                The threshold below which it is very unlikely that one will make a significant contribution to mathematics or physics is probably around 130. Perhaps it is a bit lower than this in fields such as Economics, Chemistry and Biology, and even lower in psychology and other social sciences.

                I’d be skeptical about trying to estimate the IQs of historical figures, though. I’d be surprised if any of the great figures in the history of biology, chemistry and economics had IQs below 125. That’s the threshold. Once we’ve defined the threshold, we can move onto the next two questions: “given that this person has made a significant contribution to biology, what is his IQ?” and “given that this person has an extremely high IQ (e.g. 160), what is the probability that he will make a significant contribution to biology?”

                The answer to the former is probably going to be lower than some people think, because people with “very high IQs”, let’s say in the 130-145 range, far outnumber those with “exceptionally high IQs”, let’s say in the 145+ range.

                However, as the findings of the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (which have been replicated by the Duke Talent Identification Project) demonstrate, those with extremely high IQs (top 0.01%, or >155) have far more success on average than those who merely have “very high IQs” (top 1%, or >135).

              • Pincher Martin says:

                Edward,

                I didn’t ignore your other examples. They are solid examples. But given that we don’t know if their IQs were higher or lower than the mean for the Anne Rowe group, I don’t think their inclusion is very informative in answering our original problem. We are, after all, comparing bright scientists to super-bright scientists. If BF Skinner’s IQ was 165 in the Rowe study and Sewall Wright’s 135, what does that tell us?

                There are two economists we know of who have IQs above 155, in the top 0.01% of the population, by virtue of their having participated in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth: Susan Athey, the first woman to win the John Bates Clark Medal in Economics (second only to the Nobel Prize), and Colin Camerer, a behavioural economist and MacArthur Fellow.

                You’re looking at this problem backwards. Instead of naming a few smart social scientists and then glancing through their resumes to support the notion that they have accomplished a great deal on behalf of science (it’s questionable to me that Susan Athey has accomplished anything any bright schoolboy should care to memorize), look at the most important accomplishments in social science in the 20th century and then see what scientists were responsible for them.

                For example, the concept of g by Spearman, Chomsky’s universal grammar, Keynes’ general theory, and so on. The kind of ideas that are still with us today and will be for the foreseeable future. They’re so important that most well-educated people know about them even if they know little else about psychology, linguistics, or economics.

                Come up with about fifty of these seminal scientific ideas and then look at the backgrounds of the scientists who came up with them. Since those men are from the 20th century, even if you can’t find an IQ score for them you should be able to make a reasonable inference based on their educational history in a way that would be much more difficult to do in the 19th century and earlier when mass education was far less common in most of the West.

                The threshold below which it is very unlikely that one will make a significant contribution to mathematics or physics is probably around 130.

                I’d say that was generous. 130 is more likely the IQ threshold for teaching physics and math at the local state college. I’m skeptical that anyone with a 130 IQ can make a significant contribution to either field.

                John Derbyshire once mentioned in some piece that he grew up with a love of math. He went on to say that, unfortunately, he also had a 135 IQ and hence math did not love him back.

                Derbyshire’s love for math did allow him to write a couple of excellent pop books on the subject that are worth reading. But I suspect that most people with IQs around 130 will have a similar experience to Derbyshire of unrequited love if they grow up interested in physics or math. They can teach it or write pop books about it, but they won’t make a significant contribution to it.

                Perhaps it is a bit lower than this in fields such as Economics, Chemistry and Biology, and even lower in psychology and other social sciences.

                I don’t think it’s too much lower for those fields. But as Greg points out, there are a helluva lot more people with IQs between 125 and 135 than there are above 135, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are numerous men with IQs around 130 who have made a significant contribution to nearly all the fields of social science.

            • Pincher Martin says:

              Edward,

              See my response to your latest post below.

  3. dearieme says:

    I once went to the cinema with a bunch of friends. When we discussed the film afterwards it turned out that the mathematician hadn’t followed the plot. He had no idea who was married to whom at different points in the story. Yet there he was, thriving in university life.

    I dare say he’d shone in IQ tests when he was young. And as far as I knew he was a decent mathematician. My interpretation was that he didn’t care who was married to whom; in fact I don’t suppose he gave a hoot about the film at all. He probably just wanted a night out in agreeable company with a beer or two afterwards.

    There’s probably a name for it.

    • Deckin says:

      My wife, former neuroscientist, had a legitimate IQ test result of 162. In spatial rotation, I’ve never seen an engineer or other physical scientist beat her (also comes from an ethnicity where that kind of thing isn’t as uncommon as it is in mine). To your point though, when it comes to fiction of any kind, literally the smallest deviation from a completely linear plot throws her completely. Our son was able to parse and digest more complicated novels than her by the age of 10.

      • dearieme says:

        Thank you; so my pal might simply have found the plot too intricate for that part of his brain? Oh well, it takes all sorts.

  4. The Z Blog says:

    The rise of IQ-deniers seems to be following the same track as the ID’ers two decades ago. Just as technology was advancing evolutionary biology, a group of creationists sprung out of the bushes with a new brand of oogily-boogily. They made a lot of noise and managed to convince a lot of nice people that evolutionary biology was bunk.

    These IQ-deniers are using many of the same tactics. They find some small thread to pull on and claim it unravels the whole thing. They do battle with straw men by deliberately misstating facts about psychometry. Different religious impulse, but a similar process.

    • Cloudswrest says:

      “The rise of IQ-deniers seems to be following the same track as the ID’ers two decades ago.”

      Which is why IQ-denialism is sometimes referred to as “Liberal Creationism.”

    • Logic says:

      I read a newspaper or magazine article someone had linked on twitter earlier this week. One of the “arguments” the author made was that most mutations were bad/harmful (true) so therefore populations couldn’t have differing mental abilities due to recent selection pressures.(false)
      This kind of garbage is right out the creationist playbook. How can supposedly educated people not realize how stupid this is?

      • gcochran9 says:

        Look, when I read “The Mismeasure of Man”, years ago, I kept saying ” that’s wrong, That’s wrong, that’s wrong”, sometimes multiple times per page. I happened to be familiar with some of the math he was mangling, and can spot a logic error or deliberate distortion. At the time I hadn’t even looked much at psychometrics.

        But most people liked it. They were supposedly educated.

        • Patrick Boyle says:

          It’s not surprising that he mangled the math. He was never any good at math. We know this with great certainty because he says so in one of his own essays. Then again he wrote two or more long essay on statistics as used in science, These are embarrassingly sophomoric – not what you’d expect from a working scientist.

          Gould was however well worth reading for prose style. He was a very gifted essayist. He had a way with English. It was in the numbers arena that he was weak. And of course his soul was not his own. It was held in trust by Karl Marx.

          • Anonymous says:

            When I was younger I would sometimes skim some of his works in bookstores, Karl Marx would always seem to get mentioned in every book for some reason, I remember thinking that was odd

          • Timbo says:

            Is there ever a reason to read someone because just because of their prose style? Unless do you get paid to grade essays.

        • albatross says:

          The Mismeasure of Man is appealing partly because it appeals to your sense of superiority over those dummies in the past who believed in silly things like race and phrenology. It also tells you a pretty comforting story. I remember finding it convincing in college, but then reading The Bell Curve a bit later and getting a much clearer picture of the world.

        • DRA says:

          I have a minor talent; I can judge sizes and volumes better than most. When I read “The Mismeasure of Man” and about the same time visited a research lab, It was a question of whether I believed my eyes or Gould. I do understand that size isn’t everything, but everything else presumably being random in my sample, the difference was significant.

          However, I did subscribe to Natural History magazine, partly because I liked Gould’s writing style. I just didn’t believe everything I read.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “we don’t know which alleles make humans smarter than chimpanzees”

    What about MYH16?

  6. Young says:

    Given how evolution operates on populations subjected to different selective pressures it seems one would have to invoke divine intervention for human intelligence to be unvaried completely across the board. Everything else varies; variation in intelligence would be expected. Seems like it would be much harder to explain an anomaly like no variation between races than to explain why there are differences in intelligence between different populations.

  7. Smithie says:

    Sure, earth chimps are dumb, but I’m sure Amy was thinking of all the chimps that we sent into space that came back super smart.

  8. Space Ghost says:

    I call this null hypothesis hacking. What evidence do you have that the Earth is not sitting on top of a giant invisible turtle?

  9. Rosenmops says:

    “Why does Amy Harmon push this false implication? It might be due to the fact that she doesn’t know very much about genetics ( or math).”

    __-_______________________

    Her education consists of a BA in American Studies. She probably knows nothing about math or genetics. She doesnt have to be educated or smart to write for the New York Slimes. She just has to push their fake news narrative.

  10. Jacob says:

    “For technical reasons, those polygenic scores do not work very well on genetically distant populations.”

    That was my assumption as well but, in light of Piffer’s recent work, I’m not entirely sure about that.

    Click to access PifferIntelligence2015.pdf

    Thoughts?

  11. “There’s No Scientific Basis For Race – It’s a Made-Up Label.” Elizabeth Kolbert

    Asimov’s “Black Widowers” club guests were grilled, being asked to “justify their existence” before being allowed to proceed to discussing their problem. It was well-chosen, as it illustrates nicely that intelligent questioners can undermine the logical foundation of just about anything. We cannot justify our existence in such a manner. Thus, not only race, but absolutely everything is a made-up label, if one squints hard enough and refuses to accept any priors. Race is a made-up label. Well, yes. So are “Elizabeth,” and “Kolbert,” and “degree” and “award,” and “journalism,” but I think people prefer a world where those are at least somewhat understandable concepts rather than dismissed just because we can’t really define what an “Elizabeth” is.

    • Young says:

      Agree and will add that those who dismiss ‘race’ are remarkably adept at remembering it when benefits accrue to a particulsr race. What is Black History month? What is a ‘Historically Black College’. What sense is there to affirmative action? Why special government loans for minorities if there are no minorities? How does Harvard discriminate against Asians when it can’t admit the existence of different races? Wasn’t there talk about some university requiring genetic testing for those claiming to be a priviledged minority–just to mske sure? How will that work if you can’t admit a scientific basis for the differences? Apparently ‘race’ differences never really exist except when they do. It doesn’t exist when one race looks smarter than another and it does when special benefits are on the table.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think Greg is referring to Plomin’s remarks that all genetics has undergone revolutionary change in the last four years.

    • Patrick Boyle says:

      Maybe it’s not a lousy idea . Maybe it’s just a misprint.

      Of course the statement that race is a social construct seems on its face to be loony. Chimps have races and gorillas have races. Why wouldn’t people?

      I could be that its just a transcription error. They meant to say that racism not race is a social construct. That makes much more sense. This black actor Smollett seems to have constructed a hate crime out of nothing. One suspects that most other charges of racism are similar constructions.

      In fact the idea that racism is harmful at all is a construct. For example the most iconic example of racism – separate water fountains – has never been shown to have any deleterious consequences. If you drink from a water fountain labeled black, what harm befalls you? It lowers you SAT’s?

      Lynching certainly causes harm but where I live (California) no black has ever been lynched though many Chinese have. Yet today the Chinese in America have higher incomes than native whites and better school grades.

      Being the target of racism seems not to matter much.

  12. howitzer Daniel says:

    Exactly.

    The best Enlightenment philosophers – Hamann, Schelling in his later belated years, and a couple others – all enthusiastically considered the “naming” problem to be trivial because, whether one adopted Plato’s Ideas of Forms or Aristotle’s equally well-argued views on (what I call) nomianism, a simple rational agreement between two individuals discussing a concept on what the limit of that concept ought to be completely erases, from the point of view of their effort to understand God’s world, (‘to kosmos’ in Greek plus ‘to apeiron’ in Greek, the world and its limits in English), any artificial difficulty involved with “naming” or “not naming” or “incompletely naming”.
    If simple rational agreements on the limits of what specific words might mean are not possible, philosophy fails.

  13. rs says:

    the god of the gaps

  14. Greying Wanderer says:

    “Why does Amy Harmon push this false implication?”

    either she’s a cultural Marxist (less likely) or she genuinely believes the lies invented by cultural Marxists (more likely)

    the bigger question is why does the entire western media promote the lie and hide the truth?

    big business (which owns the media) wants open borders for an unlimited labor supply (which in the long term will be disastrous but in the short term has been making them billions) so they pay the editors to act as gatekeepers over what the public are told so the editors hire people like Harmon.

    “woke capitalism” – the alliance between big business and cultural Marxism.

  15. Spangel says:

    Do you really need that high of an iq for a math PhD? Couldn’t you just have extremely high iq in spatial and numerical intelligence? Intelligence sub types seem to be linked but I would guess you could have an average iq of 130 something if the relevant subtypes to math were around 4sd above the mean. Similarly I don’t think you could be a math PhD if you had a total iq of 160 but somehow had numerical abilities only 3sd above the mean.

    My dad told me my iq is 143. I doubt I could even be a math major at a top 50 university and get an A average. I don’t have high enough spatial intelligence.

    • Young says:

      For some math ability appears to be a distinct talent, like a talent for music, and does not necessarily come with a deep and broad intellect. Just a thought. But it is not unusual for someone brilliant in one field to make peculiarily stupid decisions in another.

  16. MEH 0910 says:

  17. István Nagy says:

    What Amy really needs is a meeting with professor Watson…

  18. Pincher Martin says:

    (Continued from the discussion above)

    Edward,

    One point of order, though: even if you don’t think that someone with an IQ of 130 could make a significant contribution to mathematics or physics, your threshold mustn’t be much higher than that, given that Shockley and Alvarez had IQs in the mid-130s (albeit tested on a verbally-loaded battery) and the Fields Medalist Richard Borcherds has a full-scale IQ of 137 (but a nonverbal IQ of 147).

    I’m surprised you didn’t also mention Richard Feynman’s score of 125.

    But as you suggest, not all IQ tests are equal. What’s more, measuring IQ is not quite the same thing as measuring height, which is why if you give three different IQ tests to a person and he scores 130 on all three tests, then his composite IQ score is NOT 130, but above 130.

    I suspect (without really knowing) that this phenomenon explains some of these lower scores by accomplished 20th century physicists. But who really knows? Maybe I overestimate what it takes to be a great physicist who makes a significant contribution to the field.

    <

    blockquote>Gibson and Light, in 1968, found that a group of Cambridge mathematicians…

    <

    blockquote>

    Why go back to 1968 for just one school? If you want to see what is the mean IQ of the mathematicians from whom the more distinguished math wizards rise from, couldn’t you just look at GRE scores for matriculating at Princeton, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley’s math graduate programs (and other similarly high-ranked programs) to find out?

    I suppose one potential problem with this method is that so many international students with questionable English skills (but highly proficient math skills) go to these programs nowadays that it’s difficult to establish a fair IQ estimate on the verbal side of the GRE.

    <

    blockquote>Even so, it suggests that people interested in IQ need to lower their thresholds a bit…

    <

    blockquote>

    Whatever quibbles I’ve had with some of your other comments, I think this is a fair remark. There is a tendency by some in the HBD community to fetishize IQ scores and to overrate both their own IQ as well as the IQ scores of others in the community.

    I would be very surprised if both Keynes and Chomsky didn’t/don’t have IQs north of 155.

    So would I. Spearman, on the other hand, I find far less remarkable.

    But the purpose of the exercise (for someone who has more time and energy than I have) ought to be to find many more examples of 20th century accomplishments in the social sciences and the scientists who are responsible for them. I just named three off the top of my head. Two of them (Keynes and Chomsky) are undoubtably brilliant; Spearman is not. But the sample size is too small.

    • Edward says:

      Thank you for your reply. On Feynman’s score, I’m not sure whether to believe that it’s even true. Perhaps it is and, as Steve Hsu suggests, it was a verbally-loaded test (or perhaps even a verbal test), which would chime with the evidence that he didn’t have tremendous verbal capabilities. I find it hard to believe that someone who Hsu describes as follows would have a full-scale IQ of 125:

      “Feynman received the highest score in the country by a large margin on the notoriously difficult Putnam mathematics competition exam, although he joined the MIT team on short notice and did not prepare for the test. He also reportedly had the highest scores on record on the math/physics graduate admission exams at Princeton.”

      I could look at the GRE scores, though I tend to prefer to find IQ test scores where I can. One time, I did take the time to do the SAT conversions, when reading a study that administered the US SAT to a group of 18-year-old UK students. Information about their likely destination of future study was available, so I calculated the mean IQs for the universities. Cambridge came out on top, at 128. Oxford was quite a bit lower, at 120.5.

      Dartmouth students, in 1971/1972, had a mean IQ of 123.5 (corrected for the Flynn effect), while Harvard students in 2003 had a mean IQ of 124 (corrected for the Flynn effect). Thus, I suspect Cambridge was an outlier (the sample sizes were pretty small), and that the IQs of students attending elite universities is around 120-124. This also chimes with studies suggesting that the average IQ of medical doctors and students, at least in the United States, is in this ballpark. These days, the average IQ of all university students in the United States appears to be 111.

      Therefore, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if mathematicians and theoretical physicists at top universities have mean IQs of ~130 (with mean nonverbal IQs of ~140), with eminence being achievable by those with IQs fairly close to this mean, as with Borcherds, Shockley and Alvarez. The math and physics students at university will obviously have mean IQs higher the 120-124 mean, but because studies have only found a 0.35-0.40 correlation between university grades and IQ, we shouldn’t expect the people who go on to become academics to have IQs much above the mean of the students studying these subjects. Nevertheless, I’ll have a look at the GRE data in the future and see what I can find.

      On your final point, I too find Spearman to be less remarkable. Given that I mentioned Sewall Wright earlier, it’s probably worth noting the other two founders of population genetics. Greg did a post on Haldane which you probably read, writing:

      “he worked in his father’s lab by age 8… He mastered Latin, Greek, French and German and received a double first in mathematics and classics… his work had such breadth that few non-polymaths could fully appreciate or evaluate it… his contemporaries were irritated by the way in which he wasted his talent. Although he was “probably the most erudite biologist of his generation, and perhaps of the century” (White 1965), legendary for his memory and originality, he would spend his time on politics, on endless petty rebellions against every kind of authority…”

      As for Ronald Fisher, an online biography states: “one of his masters later commented that, of all the students he had taught, Ronald was uniquely brilliant.” There are also suggestions of a Ramanujan-esque approach to mathematics (not that Ramanujan didn’t do proofs): “although clearly a brilliant mathematician, his tutors were dubious about his future. They were worried that in mathematics he tended to ‘see’ the correct answer and write it down, rather than go through the usual processes of calculation and proof.”

      Fisher also studied postgraduate physics. People with mathematics and physics backgrounds keep popping up, time and time again, in other fields. Keynes, Fisher, Haldane, Sewall Wright. Just this morning, I was reading about Venki Ramakrishnan, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009. I didn’t know that he had a doctorate in Physics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s