Home / Surgin’ With Bill Saletan…

Surgin’ With Bill Saletan…


This may be the single worst paragraph I’ve ever seen at Slate, and goddamn man, they employ Hitchens:

I’ve been soaking my head in each side’s computations and arguments. They’re incredibly technical. Basically, the debate over the IQ surge is a lot like the debate over the Iraq troop surge, except that the sides are reversed. Here, it’s the liberals who are betting on the surge, while the conservatives dismiss it as illogical and doomed. On the one hand, the IQ surge is hugely exciting. If it closes the gap to zero, it moots all the putative evidence of genetic barriers to equality. On the other hand, the case for it is as fragile as the case for the Iraq surge. You hope it pans out, but you can’t see why it would, given that none of the complicating factors implied by previous data has been adequately explained or taken into account. Furthermore, to construe meaningful closure of the IQ gap in the last 20 years, you have to do a lot of cherry-picking, inference, and projection. I have a hard time explaining why I should go along with those tactics when it comes to IQ but not when it comes to Iraq.

Shorter Bill: I’m a moron, and can’t really understand this data, so I’ll try to elide my lack of understanding with a story about how liberals are all CRAZY about Iraq. Here’s the thing, Bill; it’s not that difficult to understand. The tests that you’re citing DO NOT TEST INHERENT INTELLIGENCE. The average inherent intelligence of the human population may change over time, but it doesn’t change this much in the course of two generations. Whatever the tests can do (and they may be able to detect some degree of suitability, generated by whatever factors for academic success}, THEY DO NOT TEST INHERENT INTELLIGENCE. This isn’t even complicated; the increase is easy to explain in its entirety through reference to social and environmental factors.

But hell, I’m just a crazy liberal creationist who’s unwilling to admit the obvious and clear parallels between counter-insurgency doctrine and IQ testing.

We need better contrarians.

… to add a bit, even I, a simple social scientist, understand that if you don’t have good proxies with which to operationalize your dependent and independent variables, then you don’t have a research design. Saletan relies upon a proxy for inherent intelligence that’s obviously flawed, unless you believe that the average inherent intelligence of the human race changes rapidly over the course of a number of generations that you can count on the fingers of one hand. This is not only silly; it also undermines his central point, which is to deny the plasticity of the racial intelligence gap. If humankind has become genetically smarter in the course of the 20th century, then it’s obviously pretty easy to transform our basic genetic makeup (through education, diet, etc; I know this is laughably silly, but stay with me), and consequently it can’t be that hard to close the genetic gap between whites and blacks, as long as you know what you’re doing. In short, Saletan has to acknowledge the plasticity of our inheritance to explain the increase, then deny it in order to return to his central point about how brown folks just don’ think so good as white ‘uns.

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