From Fred Reed; IQ: A Skeptic’s View
As anyone who has read Fred Reed’s columns knows, he has a soft spot for Mexico, possibly stemming from the fact he lives there with his wife and children, ardently defending the country against so-called ‘IQ-ists’ who insist Mexico only has an IQ of around 85, which Mr. Reed refutes with anecdotal evidence and how Mexico City, developmentally, resembles that of cities of higher IQ populations. His latest article is no different.
Fred is far from being an idiot, having scored in the 99-percentile on the GRE according to his website, implying an IQ of at least 140-150, but I think he deliberately omits obvious counterarguments to generate more discussion for his articles, as commenters below fill the obvious but intended gaps of his logic. It’s almost like a variation of Cunningham’s Law, which states “the best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.”
For example, American blacks, the Irish, and Mexicans had IQs accepted by the list as being 85, 86, and 87 respectively—almost identical. It seemed odd to me that identical IQs had produced (a) the on-going academic disaster of American blacks (b) an upper Third World country running the usual infrastructure of telecommunications, medicine, airlines, and so on, and (c) a First World European country. This, though IQist doctrine argued vociferously that IQ correlates closely with achievement. Well, it didn’t.
I think he confused ‘b’ and ‘c’.
I was struck by the perfect acceptance of these numbers even though they made no sense. IQists simply do not question IQ. I pointed out the obvious conclusion, that if Mexicans could run the infrastructure of modern nations, decent if not spectacular universities, and so on, then so, on the basis of IQ, could blacks—none of which they in fact do, or have done.
…Do you really believe that this city was designed and built by people with a mean IQ of 84? That is six points below Mexicans, and below American blacks? As a matter of logic, it follows that if people of IQ 84 can design, build, and operate a city with all the credentials of modernity, so can a population of IQ 85. It’s either both can, or neither can, or something is wrong with the purported IQs. For what it’s worth, my wife and I recently spent a month traveling widely in the country. No sign of stupidity
Here is the global IQ map:
Africa and South America have IQs of around 85-90, almost a full standard deviation below Europeans and Asians. In the case of Africa, this data is corroborated by many tests, in which Africans consistently score even lower than Whites, even for non-culturally biased tests such as Raven’s Progressive Matrices. This is discussed in further detail in IQ Tests Are Not Culturally Biased.
But it’s not just Mexico that has modern-looking cities–so to does Zimbabwe and Uganda, both of which have lower national IQs than Mexico. For example, Kampala, the capital city of Uganda:
…and Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe:
As the examples above show, the existence of modern infrastructure in sub-100 IQ countries is not a refutation ‘IQ-ism’, but rather that scarce cognitive capital is being put to good use. The major flaw in Fred’s logic is that he ignores how national IQ is only an average of a normal distribution of IQ scores. Countries with national IQs of 80-90 will still produce geniuses (albeit at a much lower rate), because of the normal distribution of IQ scores. Maybe instead of, say, thousands of geniuses required to to build and run a modern city, maybe you only need a few hundred geniuses, which is feasible even for a country with a national IQ of 85. Also, low-IQ countries import cognitive capital (doctors, engineers, etc.) as needed.
This is furiously denied in IQist circles. The reason, in my judgement, is that thirteen points is exactly the purported gap between Mexicans and US whites insisted upon by IQists. These, often rabidly anti-immigration, do not want to admit any possibility that the immigrants might not be suitably stupid. Why they want immigrants to their country to be moronic is not clear.
Again, señor Fred continues to misinterpret, ignore, or misconstrue arguments that refute his thesis. How else is it explained that certain immigrants score lower on achivement tests and are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.
If IQ measured intelligence, we would be in the midst of an intellectual explosion. We are not.
To some extent, we are. Look at all the innovation coming out of Silicon Valley (self-driving cars, delivery drones, apps that can do everything you want, etc.), or the surge in physics and mathematics publications on arXiv, or how America leads the world in research papers, Nobel Prizes, and patents.
Then in the IQ brew there is the occasional intrusion of common sense. (Not much of it, I grant.) A country whose purported IQ seems to me to fail the test of common sense is India, mean IQ 81. Here we have a billion people averaging well below borderline-retarded. Say again? Anyone even vaguely familiar with the intellectual, artistic, and musical history of India is going to think, “What are you guys smoking?”
The cut-off for retardation is 70, not 80.
There immediately springs to everyone’s mind that Indian kids dominate the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The IQist response is that only the smartest Indian kids come to the US. Perhaps, but the smartest American kids are already here, aren’t they? And since the kids got their visas based on the brains of their parents, shouldn’t they be regressing to the (dismal) mean?
Yes, I know the IQist explanation, that they are genetically-selected Brahmans, said to have a mean IQ of 96, the rest of the country being wretchedly stupid. Well, maybe. Like so much in IQist thought, it relies on genes posited but not identified, acted upon by selective pressures assumed but not quantifiable, to produce assumed effects that cannot be correlated with the pressures. If that isn’t rock-solid, I can’t imagine what could be.
One reason they don’t regress is because of assortative mating. It’s funny how Fred dismisses such counterarguments as ‘maybe’, when it’s the most obvious explanation and also pretty much destroys his thesis. Also, a spelling bee is not an IQ test.
Having spent twelve years in Mexico, I can see no difference in intelligence between Mexicans and Americans. Nor when I lived in Taiwan, Vietnam, or Thailand. This raises the question: How great would the difference have to be to be noticeable? Clearly, greater than thirteen points (OK, now reduced, sometimes, to ten points), since that is the Mexi-American gap measured by IQists. The response will be that I am reasonably intelligent and so spend my time with the reasonably intelligent, but that is equally true in the US, and of course I am in frequent contact with ordinary citizens.
Depends on how you define ‘intelligent’ or how you measure it. Merely conversing with someone in casual setting about simple day-to-today stuff is too imprecise to be of any use in ascertaining intelligence. There’s a reason why IQ tests are designed the way they are, and have specific questions that measure quantifiable attributes of intelligence.