I have no desire to join the anti-Sullivan jihad on IQ, but I will tell you why I dislike the study of IQ so much. It’s because people think it means something, that a higher IQ means you’re “smarter”. People don’t do this with other measurements, they don’t say Willie Gault had a 40 yard time that was three-tenths of a second faster than Jerry Rice, therefore Gault was a better wide receiver than Jerry Rice. But they do say things like that about IQ-type things.
An acquaintance of mine once told me that he thought that Heisenberg could have figured out how to make nuclear bombs if he’d really wanted to since the Allied scientists did and Heisenberg was smarter than they were. The proof that he was smarter was that he had beat some of the Allied scientists in chess.
One of my best friends was a world-class math problem solver, on the Romanian Olympiad (often the strongest in the world) team several times. As an adult, he is also an excellent math researcher. He tells me that he has always done terribly on IQ type tests because when they say “what’s the next number here” or whatever, his mind says “it could be anything, that’s not much of a pattern there yet”.
I just don’t understand the need to take the human mind, in all its glory and potential, and reduce it to a number based on some stupid test that people made up. It makes me sad that some people want to view human intellectual promise (and even accomplishment) that way. We may suck as a species, but we are also the species of Michelangelo and Newton and Shakespeare and the rest (sorry to name only western men here, I don’t know intellectual history very well, and these are the names that came to mind). Maybe we should ignore that because who knows how they would have done on an IQ test.
It’s strange to me that people who obsess about “racial” differences in IQ are the same people who think we should ignore GDP projections, the holes in Paul Ryan’s budget plans, atmospheric temperature readings etc. because only an un-Burkean fool thinks he can figure out the truth from “data”.