Review: Helmuth Nyborg ed., The scientific study of general intelligence


From Introduction

It has been said: If you have no enemies, you have no point of view. Art has many

enemies, and I will describe some of the more prominent in Chapter 20 in this volume.

Fortunately, he also has friends. What do they say about him?

Sandra Scarr (1998), herself certainly no stranger to controversy, understands quite

well that Art Jensen was bound to run into trouble because he “relentlessly pursues a

hard-edged, hypothetic-deductive science that treads on a more emotional, humanistic

psychology. Art has no sympathy for mushy thinking. For him, impressions and feelings

are not data and have no place in psychology . . .” (p. 227).

Hans and Art were invited to present the Fink Memorial lectures at the University of

Melbourne in Australia in September 1977, and that tour ended in a disaster. Art was to

talk first, but his lecture was disrupted by bullies, and he had to run for his life, protected

by at least 50 police officers. Hans was scheduled to talk the next day, but he was bullied

too, and nobody could hear a word. The photo on page xviii was taken on that occasion

by professor Brian Start, in his office.

Art is a calm person. This does not only show up when he faces an unruly mob, but

also in the private sphere. My wife, Mette, and I spent some working days at his

beautiful second house at a huge lake in 1999. Hardly had I fallen asleep before Mette

woke me up and said there is a smell of smoke! Dressed for the night we went to the

living room, and yes, there was smoke. I woke up Art and all three of us inspected the

first floor rooms. No smoke, he declared, this is not a thing I would worry about, go back

to sleep. The next morning it became all too obvious that the cellar was totally burned

out, and only luck prevented the fire from spreading to the rest of the house. There is

no doubt Art’s extroversion score is low, but I bet his neuroticism score is even lower.

In that respect he seems very much like Hans Eysenck — both are rather stable


And now we understand why evolution favors extroversion and neuroticism to some extent!

From Nyborg’s chapter

Religious, romantic, political, moral or idealistic reasons motivated most of the

persecutions. The medieval Church demanded, for example, that early cartographers put

the Garden of Eden at the head of their maps to cover “six-sevenths” of the Earth in

land, in accordance with the Bible. The data-oriented Gerardus Mercator thought that

this representation was not only inaccurate but also dangerously misleading to those

who wanted to find their way. What is more — he had the courage to say so in 1544.

He was accordingly imprisoned for heresy with the intent to bum him at the stake.

Somewhat surprisingly, considering the Zeitgeist of the time, he was subsequently

released for “lack of evidence” (Jenkins 2000).

Never heard of this example.

Voltaire pubhcly questioned the official wisdom of France, and subsequently faced

personal persecution and exile. Not only was he found guilty in defending Descartes,

Newton and Pascal in Lettres Philosophiques, but he also referred to France as frivolous,

superstitious and reactionary, and contrasted it to England. He had to hide in Lorraine

in 1734 as the Paris police set out to arrest him. Voltaire did not mince his words, and

dryly concluded: “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established

authorities are wrong”. If he knew that much, then why did Voltaire touch the matters

at all? He provided that answer himself: “If I had not stirred up the subject (e’gaye’ la

matie’re), nobody would have been scandalized; but then nobody would have read me”.

There are some truths that are better known to everybody, but somebody has to tell them.

Voltaire and Art Jensen are equals here.

When the late Hans Eysenck succeeded Burt as a prominent member of the London

School, he also got viciously attacked for a life-long promotion of the study of

individual differences with a non-exclusive emphasis on the biological side of human

nature (see Nyborg 1997). Ironically, his critics associated his biological interest with

underlying Nazi sympathy. It apparently made no impression on critiques that Hans had

to fly his native Germany after being beaten up by schoolmates for refusing to join the

Hitlerjugend. He even dared to openly challenge his Nazi schoolteacher in class when

they were told that Jews were inferior people. Young Hans loved data, so he simply went

to the local library to collect evidence that Jewish soldiers were, on average, more

highly decorated than other German soldiers fighting in the First World War. Eysenck

was not a Jew himself — just an unusually intelligent and brave young man! This

bravery found good use in his long-life defense of psychometrics and the biological

basis of personality and intelligence. He had to endure physical attacks and personal

harassment in countless ways, and to have his lectures blocked at home or abroad.

It is indeed weird when psychometricians are accused as Nazism, given that they 1) praise the abilities of Ashkenazi Jews, 2) have quite a few Jews among them, 3) are often openly hostile to fascism (which Nazism is), 4) are simultaneously ‘accused’ of being far right-wing (Nazists are left-wing), 5) accused of being elitist (Nazists are antielitist), 6) had conflicts with the Nazis themselves. These claims are internally inconsistent.

I can also state for the record that my test results indicate that I am 2.7% Ashkenazi Jew myself.

However, the attacks took on a particularly nasty form in the case of Arthur Jensen

— perhaps because he has this tremendous capacity to accumulate solid data and to

derive clear implications. The rule of the attackers seems to be that the better the data,

the more vicious will be the punishment. The 16th century treatment prescribed for

Spinoza looks surprisingly alike the 20th century treatment given Arthur R. Jensen: Stay

away from him! Don’t believe him! Disrespect him! Don’t read him! Stop him!

It is a good thing that the internet has come along, and with it the ability to publish anything without having to worry about pussy ass publishers refusing to publish unpopular findings. Legal protection for freedom of the press helps nothing if the press are afraid to use it.

It may be hard to believe, but SPSSI people then reaffirmed their “.. . long-held

position of support for open inquiry on all aspects of human behavior”. They

emphasized in particular that “.. . in the study of human behavior a “variety of social

factors may have large and far-reaching effects … ” so “. . . the scientist must examine

the competing explanations .. . and .. . exercise the greatest care in his interpretation”.

I feel confident that at least some APA ears must have turned red, at least in retrospect.

Especially after their own Intelligence: Knows and Unknowns, which confirmed everything Jensen said in 1969 except for the possible influence of genetics on race differences.

”Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) made up their own screwed definitions of

true democracy and academic freedom. They thus succeeded in preventing a lecture at

the University of California’s Salk Institute at La Jolla campus, Jensen reports, by

continuously clapping hands in relay, so as not to tire out. After about an hour of this,

the lecture was called off. The lecture the next day had to be delivered to privately

announced invitees. This strategy angered the SDS students so much that the campus

police at Berkeley got wind that the SDS Berkeley chapter had held a rally to plan

reprisals with threats so virulent that it was deemed advisable that Jensen should be

accompanied on the campus, to and from classes, and in the parking lot, by two plain-

clothes bodyguards, for two weeks. I wonder precisely which kind of democracy they

had in mind. Most appalling, it appears that neither their professors, nor anybody from

campus administration, saw able to comment on the deep irony here. Almost everybody

ducked for cover, but not Jensen.

Segerstrale’s account of the personal attacks on sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson at

the meeting looks like a deja vu of what had already happened to Arthur Jensen: “Just

as Wilson is about to begin, about ten people rush up on the speaker podium shouting

various epithets and chanting: ‘Racist Wilson you can’t hide, we charge you with

genocide!’ While some take over the microphone and denounce sociobiology, a couple

of them rush up behind Wilson (who is sitting in his place) and pour a jug of ice-water

over his head, shouting ‘Wilson, you are all wet! (p. 23).

Again we see the previously mentioned disturbing aspect of the obvious attempts to

censure free speech: nobody from the AAAS intervened. No officials showed the

demonstrators and mockers of academic freedom to the door, or called the police to have

them doing it. This particular type of irresponsibility on the part of officials is an

unhappy feature that we will see repeating itself in many later situations where Arthur

Jensen and others came under attack. It may be no coincidence that Stephen Jay Gould

was later called to preside over this organization (see later).


4.2.8. The New York Times Segerstrale takes it as a good illustration of how firmly

the academic intelligentsia was holding on to “. . . the ‘total’ environmentalist position

… ” when in 1973 The New York Times published a Resolution against Racism, signed

by over 1,000 academics from different institutions across the U.S. Not only did it

declare: “.. . all humans have been endowed with the same intelligence”. It also

condemned the research by Jensen and others as both unscientific and socially

pernicious. It went as far as to threaten, that “racist” researchers “deserve no protection

under the name of academic freedom” and it urged liberal academics to resist “racist”

research and teaching.

4.2.10. Gouldian self-promotion Having demonstrated in The Mismeasure of Man

that Plato and Jensen are lying, Gould (1981/1996) goes on to assure the reader that he

feels quite competent in doing what he must do: “I feel I have a decent and proper grasp

of the logic and empirics of arguments about biological determinism. .. . I am fully up

to snuff (I would even be arrogant and say “better than most”) .. . in fallacies of

supporting data .. . my special skill lies in a combination . . . rarely combined in one

person’s interest.. . special expertise in handling large matrices of data .. . I therefore

felt particularly competent to analyze the data, and spot the fallacies, in arguments about

measured differences among human groups. .. . I therefore found my special niche

[and] .. . combine the scientist’s skill with the historian’s concern” and focus upon “.. .

deep and instructive fallacies (not silly and superficial errors) in the origin and defense

of the theory of unitary, linearly ranked, innate, and minimally alterable intelligence”

(pp. 24-26).

Gould is, in his own words, not at all bothered by such a narrow-minded complaint

as: “Gould is a paleontologist, not a psychologist; he can’t know the subject and his

book must be bullshit”. That is simply nonsense, Gould says: “The subject that I did

chose .. . represents a central area of my professional expertise — in fact, I would go

further and say .. . that I have understood this area better than most professional

psychologists who have written on the history of mental testing, because they do not

have expertise in this vital subject, and I do” (p. 40). Given this formidable insight, what

then has Gould to say about the measurement of intelligence he so detests?

This ranks SJ Gould close or at Charlatan level.

From chapter 13: The Ubiquitous Role ofg in Training

Using a large U.S. Air Force sample, Ree & Earles (1991) demonstrated that training performance was almost exclusively a function of g rather than specific factors. Participants were 78,041 enlisted men and women enrolled in 82 job-training courses. Ree and Earles examined whether g predicted training performance in about the same way regardless of the kind of job or its difficulty. Based on Hull’s (1928) theory, it might be argued that although g was useful for some jobs, specific abilities were more important or compensatory and therefore, more valid for other jobs. Ree and Earles tested Hull’s hypothesis with regression analyses. They sought to resolve whether the relationship between g and training performance was identical for the 82 jobs. This was accomplished by initially imposing the constraint that the regression coefficients for g be the same for each of the 82 equations, and then freeing the constraint and allowing the 82 regression coefficients to be estimated individually. Even though there was statistical evidence that the relationship between g and the training outcomes differed by job, these differences were so small as to be of no practical predictive consequence. The relationship between g and training performance was nearly identical across jobs. Using a single regression equation for all 82 jobs resulted in a reduction in the correlation of less than one-half of 1%.

In selection for technical training, specific ability tests may be given to qualify applicants on the assumption that specific abilities are predictive or incrementally predictive. For example, the U.S. Air Force uses specific ability tests for qualifying applicants for training as computer programmers and intelligence operatives. Besetsny, Earles & Ree (1993) and Besetsny, Ree & Earles (1993) examined these two specific ability tests to determine if they measured a construct other than g and if their validity was incremental to g. The samples were 3,547 computer-programmer and 776 intelligence-operative trainees and the criterion was training performance. Two multiple regression equations were computed for computer-programmer and intelligence- operative trainees. The first equation for each group had only g and the second g and specific cognitive abilities. The difference in R2 between these two equations was tested for each group of trainees to determine whether specific abihties incremented g. Incremental validity gains for specific abilities beyond g for the two training courses were 0.00 and 0.02, respectively. Although the specialized tests were designed to measure specific cognitive abilities thought to be incrementally predictive, they added nothing (0.00) or little (0.02) beyond g.

I feel that I have to add that one study has found that non-g variance does predict criteria performance, altho not as much as g. r of g with educational achievement = 0.69-0.72. r of non-g with achievement = 0.13-0.14.

Deary, Ian J., et al. “Intelligence and educational achievement.” Intelligence 35.1 (2007): 13-21.

From Rosalind’s chapter

In one particular respect, making a film about intelligence research was signally

different from my earlier experience of working on a film about superstring theory. Big

Science — particle physics, string theory — rightly captures people imaginations, for it

is wonderful stuff. It was a tremendous privilege to talk to giants in the subject and to

be the recipient of so much generosity from experts who kindly gave up their time to

tutor me. The big difference for me was that with physics, especially such an exciting

but arcane branch (as it was then, now it’s booming), I went in saying ‘I don’t know,

teach me’, whereas when I went to meet Robert Plomin to learn about his research, my

attitude was much more, ‘well I have a sackful of my own views already, but by all

means, please try to cram in a little of what you know’. So there was much less open-

ness, much less willingness to say ‘I don’t know’. I found when talking to friends about

the film project that I wasn’t the only one to come to the subject with lots of pre-

conceptions. With superstrings, friends would say ‘what the heck are they?’ leading me

to cobble together anything I could muster, whatever I’d heard or read that morning

probably. When we talked about intelligence, though, it was another story; everybody

had an opinion, everyone thought they knew all about it already. The reasons for the two

kinds of responses to the two different subjects are obvious but perhaps worth



The last point I want to make about eugenics is that, at a basic level (sometimes with

family involvement), mate choice (our choice of sexual partners) is almost entirely

eugenic in its function. For other species, and ancestrally for humans, mate choice was

a potentially dangerous exercise. It necessitates search costs, demands time and energy,

exposed us to predators and jealous rivals. In the absence of variation in heritable fitness

there would be very little point to it. One might just as well mate with the first creature

of the appropriate sex that one encounters. Mate choice happens because of the genetic

advantage to offspring, conferred by parents having sex with ‘good quality’ partners.

Mate choice is a grindingly powerful engine of evolution. All species that have two

sexes (including some hermaphroditic species such as slugs) engage in choosing

partners for sex. We sophisticated modem humans don’t choose our partners with a

conscious view to having ‘designer children’. Indeed many of us choose not to have

children at all. But the long arm of evolution has shaped in our own minds, propensities

to find attractive, features that are ‘cues of biological ‘fitness’ such as good health and

a degree of charitableness. This does not mean that we always choose ‘high fitness’

partners, but it unquestionably tilts us toward them. We are not conscious of the way

evolution has shaped our proclivities any more than we are consciously aware of our

kidney function, yet our preferences and our renal systems serve us well. Mate choice

is none other than pre-copulatory eugenics.

One of the points I wanted to make as well.

We are curiously equivocal about genes and their effects. We say we dislike ‘genetic

determinism’ yet every time a baby is bom to a human mother, we thrill to the perfection

of the tiny anemone hands and feet. We rarely stop to praise biological (mostly genetic)

determinism for seeing to it that we get the right species. How terrifying pregnancy

would be, if for nine months we had to ponder the possibility of being delivered of a fine

baby bobcat or weasel. I’ve encountered two opposing views on the connection between

genes and intelligence. One view is that it is absurd to suggest that genes contribute very

much to intelligence. The other is that it’s ludicrous to claim that genes are not largely

responsible for intelligence. The third thing I’ve noticed is that these opinions are

frequently found lurching from neuron to neuron in the same brain.

No one believes that just anyone could become Mozart or Einstein if they simply ‘put

their back into it’. Nor are we asinine enough to blame severe mental retardation on

laziness or bad parenting. We seem happy assigning genetic influence to both the right

and the left tail of the gaussian distribution. What about the rest of the range — where

most of us sit? Do we imagine that genes kick in at the sharp ends but don’t influence

all the rest of us in the zone that is in and around the average? It is hardly parsimony.

We should expect genes to influence our intelligence right along the range — as they do

with height or with any other personality trait.

Great point. Hadn’t thought of it in the sense of the normal curve.

Parents with several children usually notice that their children are not perfectly equal

in intelligence. Do they love their children in rank order of their intelligence? I don’t

know whether this question has been studied systematically or not but, anecdotally, I

don’t see evidence of that. Indeed what litde evidence there is, supports a prediction

consistent with evolutionary theory — that parental resource allocation tracks

reproductive value (number of likely future children) rather than intelligence. When we

think about what counts in a person, intelligence is one of many qualities that we

esteem. David Buss’s, landmark study of traits preferred by mates, conducted in 37

different cultures, found a universal desire for kindness ahead of intelligence. Among

friends, and employees, we value lots of characteristics such as loyalty, integrity and

conscientiousness as well as intelligence. Intelligence is by no means a sine qua non.

Murray & Hermstein (1994) put it nicely; “intelligence is a trait not a virtue”.

She is just one step away. If g predicts reproductive success, as it must have at some point in time for it to evolve, then parents might like their smarter children more, or invest more in them. Or maybe not. But worth checking out.

It is crucial for us to think clearly about intelligence and what it means for us, both

privately and pubHcly. One reason that we should bother to set this out is because it is

virtually certain that scientists will, in time, learn very much more about the genetic

basis of the differences in intelligence between individuals. Anyone even peripherally

involved with the subject has a moral duty to work towards generating clarity rather than

fear. If scientists, policy makers and the press are clear-headed about the facts then

future discoveries will be greeted with interest not dread. What will happen otherwise

when the first laboratory creates a ‘smart chip’ that picks up all the known intelligence

enhancing alleles in our DNA? It will be a quick and easy to read off the likely range

of an individual’s intelligence. The second step will follow, someone will want to

compare allelic frequencies across various racial groups. Should this be stopped in case

we find out directly from the DNA that groups vary in allelic frequencies? We have an

opportunity to extricate ourselves from the confusion caused by muddling our values

with science. It is incumbent upon us to avoid being caught on the hop.

This is not far away, given that the first hits on GWAS have been found.

Now to that fourth ‘final frontier’ point I mentioned much earlier. Genetics and race; one

cannot write about Arthur and avoid it. I asked him once after dinner, on his way to the

tube, if he was racist. I thought at the time that I was being a bit daring. When I look

back on it I feel ashamed because I was not, as I thought, bearding the lion in his den,

I was simply being callow and jejune. I came to understand that later from his answer.

Anyway, what he said was this: ‘I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve come to the

conclusion that it’s irrelevant’. He did not mean that racism is morally irrelevant. He

meant that against the importance of developing a proper scientific theory of individual

differences in intelligence, the personal attributes of Arthur R. Jensen are trivially

insignificant. It is typical of Arthur that he deflected attention away from himself toward

the subject he cares about. Had someone asked me the same question, I would have

fallen over myself in my haste to lunge for the moral high ground, to demonstrate what

a good person I am. I find it almost intolerable to be thought racist. Readers will know

that Arthur has spent decades being very widely abused and accused of racism. It is

striking that he rarely defends himself. He is obdurate that the science is distinguished

from the scientist and he cares a great deal more about the former.

Because it is irrelevant, at least strictly speaking. It’s a genetic fallacy to infer something from that, if it was true.

Jensen was smart to draw away attention from an irrelevant point, even if he is publicly abused.

Race differences and racism are two different things. They are often muddled together

to nobody’s benefit. The suggestion that studying race differences is intrinsically racist

is a logical absurdity and harmful. Race is an emotive subject. That is not at all absurd;

such ghastly things have happened because of racism. It is not surprising that we rather

shrink from the task of thinking clearly about racial differences. But difficulty is not an

excuse, just a challenge. There are already several well-known examples of biological

differences, which it is immoral not to explore, such as different reactions to drugs,

different propensities to disease and so on. It is vital to explore racial differences when

we develop new drugs for exactly the same reasons that we must take sex, age and

pregnancy into account. One quick point about studying race is that, racism needs

neither facts nor science to support it. Racism is endemic within White, Black and East

Asian populations. Racism exists where there is cognitive stratification and where there

is none. Racism is not caused by intelligence differences.

Racism fares well especially among those that are confused in their thinking about races.

The first hour or so of my orals went well — at least in my mind. I felt OK about the

questions posed and confident of the answers I provided. Then, just as I started to relax

a little, my faculty advisor, Leonard Marascuilo, posed a very tough, real-life statistical/

methodological problem from out of the blue and asked me how I would solve it. I was

momentarily stunned and panicked because I didn’t have a clue how to approach it.

Luckily for me that moment was short-lived because as soon as the question was raised,

Dr Jensen’s hand shot up in the air. With an unbridled enthusiasm that is unexpected

from an internationally known scholar, he pleaded: “Can I try to answer it? Can I try?”

Of course, Dr Marascuilo had no choice but to let Dr Jensen take a stab at the solution

of a problem intended to challenge my skills. What an immense relief for me! I felt

saved from total humiliation.

Jensen, the child, surely autism? And so completely likeable.

It is hard to capture the breadth and depth of what I learned from those stories, but

they still stick with me and at some level must inform who I am because many have

become my stories too. I love sharing a story about Hans Eysenck. I shared Dr Jensen’s

amazement at Eysenck’s ability to write books and articles by tape recording them as he

walked around his office. Later, a secretary would transcribe the tapes into a manuscript.

When Dr Jensen asked Eysenck how he could write whole articles and books without

notes, Eysenck was quick to assure him that he was working from notes. With that

assurance, he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper with the

briefest of outlines as proof. I can still hear Dr Jensen’s chuckle of astonishment at this

as he emphasized “just one sheet of paper for the whole book!”. I also remember a

rather cautionary tale about a psychologist who was such a perfectionist about his

writing that he only wrote one article and eventually committed suicide: definite lesson

to be learned from that tale! Perhaps there are also lessons to be learned from the stories

Dr Jensen told about the Nobel Prize winning physicist William Shockley. One in

particular stands out in my mind. Dr Jensen was invited to the Shockley’s for dinner but

he ended up eating alone with Mrs Shockley. Apparently, Dr Shockley was in the middle

of working on a problem and did not want to be distracted from this work by any dinner


lol’d. Eminent scientists have the best personalities!