Tag Archives: blank slate

Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children

What is obvious to pretty much everyone else, isn’t so for the blank slate left, who have to perform mental gymnastics to explain away the reality that environment alone cannot account for the disparity of outcomes, both educational and socioeconomic, between individuals. According to the left, policy makers are not ‘doing enough’ and that ‘higher taxes are needed to close the gap’, or that ‘institutional racism is to blame’.

Here are two studies that put in a nail in the coffin for the blank slate (because the welfare left are impervious to logic and empirical evidence, it won’t convince them, but interesting nonetheless):

Parents’ math skills ‘rub off’ on their children:

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that children’s intuitive sense of numbers — i.e. the ability to know that 20 jelly beans are more than 10 jelly beans without first counting them — is predicted by their parents’ intuitive sense of numbers. Researchers determined that such close result parallels could not have been produced through similar institutional learning backgrounds because their previous research showed that this intuitive sense of numbers is present in infancy.

This is obvious to anyone who has either attended school (everyone) or works with children: there are the ‘slow kids’ and the ‘smart kids’, and these differences in intellect manifest very early in life, long before 10,000 hours can ever kick in. Teachers can reality identifying which students will succeed at life (or at least have the most potential to succeed) and who are slated for an ennobling career flipping burgers or greeting strangers at Walmart.

To give an anecdotal example, my middle school had a yearly writing content, and the winners obviously had more talent than everyone else (as was obvious when they read their stories aloud during the awards), and since we were only 11-13 years old it’s not like any of us had thousands of hours of practice under our belts.

But that means we need universal pre-pre-pre-k…all the way up until conception. We’re not spending enough tax dollars to to close the gap, obviously.

Here’s another: How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children:

The research emphasizes the importance of nurturing precocious children, at a time when the prevailing focus in the United States and other countries is on improving the performance of struggling students. At the same time, the work to identify and support academically talented students has raised troubling questions about the risks of labelling children, and the shortfalls of talent searches and standardized tests as a means of identifying high-potential students, especially in poor and rural districts.

The headline caused confusion for some, because it seemed to suggest, perhaps, that it’s possible to turn a child into a genius (nurture). As the passage above shows, what the author meant is that the child has already been identified as a genius (such as through an IQ test), and then what the next steps should be in order to maximize the child’s potential. Cognitive capital is like any other resource, and it should not go to waste.

Special education gets vastly more funding than gifted education despite both extremes being represented equally on the Bell Curve. This represents a massive misappropriation of public resources, and needs to be rectified.

The welfare left talks about ‘breaking barriers’, but this is false or a red herring: what they really want are equal outcomes. The SAT was created with the intent of identifying exceptional talent that may have been overlooked by elite universities, which at the time had quotas, but now the left wants to neuter the SAT or eliminate it altogether, because the ‘wrong people’ are scoring too high, so to prevent this it’s time to get rid of the SAT.

Probably the most overused, trite argument you encounter online when debating IQ is that ‘not everyone who is smart achieves much – early to bloom, early to rot’ – or something along those lines. This study lays that argument to waste:

“Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society,” says Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program in Durham, North Carolina, which collaborates with the Hopkins centre. Wai combined data from 11 prospective and retrospective longitudinal studies, including SMPY, to demonstrate the correlation between early cognitive ability and adult achievement. “The kids who test in the top 1% tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires,” he says.

Although not every high-IQ person will achieve world-renowned success, the odds are much higher than someone who is less intelligent.

In further shattering the blank slate, exceptional talent manifests early in life, irrespective of practice or environment:

Such results contradict long-established ideas suggesting that expert performance is built mainly through practice—that anyone can get to the top with enough focused effort of the right kind. SMPY, by contrast, suggests that early cognitive ability has more effect on achievement than either deliberate practice or environmental factors such as socio-economic status.

Here is a point-by-point refutation of some of the more persistent myths about IQ and giftedness:

Finding “gifted” children does not contradict this. Nobody pops out of the womb a math genius.

Yes, technically no one pops out knowing trig or calculus, but some are born with the cognitive capacity, which later manifests in life, to readily master abstract and complicated stuff, and others aren’t born with that ability so they struggle to understand concepts that smart people grasp easily. Although ability can be lopsided (some are better at math than verbal), the less intelligent tend to have no dominant strengths – they are just average. And that’s fine. Most people are that way.

Gifted children are “gifted” with a laser focus on the unusual things that they find fun – math, music, what-have-you. They spend countless hours playing with numbers or with music, while little Johnny is playing with a ball.

Why don’t adults play with paste, coloring books, and alphabet letters? Because they are too mentally mature for those activities. Likewise, high-IQ children have a higher mental age, hence they find these tasks tedious and boring, as adults do.

…when people point to “gifted” talent, this is just another cop-out. They don’t have an explanation. They are appealing to everybody’s shared sense of magical outcomes. But it boils down to the hours that kids put into their interests.

Well, there’s something called an IQ score, and it does a pretty good job at predicting all sorts of things, such as socioeconomic outcomes, job performance, educational attainment, welfare dependency, and learning ability. The IQ test is one of great achievements of human psychology, is much harder to manipulate than EQ tests, and scores tend to remain stable throughout life.

One question is why these erogenous views about IQ are so persistent, and why the the blank slate view of human development is so popular. Perhaps it has to do with ignorance. Many people have been fooled by the intellectual-equivalent of snake oil salesmen such as Malcolm Gladwell, who dispenses a message that is appealing but is either wrong or unfounded. There are also potential career consequences for espousing biological realism, as we saw in 2005 with the firing of Larry Summers. Teachers can’t tell parents their kid is slow, and parents refuse to accept that their kid may be slow, preferring euphemisms like ‘ADD’, ‘differently-abled’, or ‘Autism-spectrum disorder’. As we see with Gladwell and others, entire publishing industries are built upon promoting blank slate-ism to a public that laps it up – there is a lot of money at stake. At the national level, entire multi-billion dollar departments, as well as the careers of thousands of bureaucrats, depend on shoveling money into the furnace of promoting equality of outcomes.

Biology as a Sorting Mechanism

Some try to frame the left/right dichotomy as a battle between ‘order’ vs. ‘chaos’, but it’s more like ‘egalitarianism’ (forced equality) vs ‘hierarchy‘, whether such hierarchy is biological, social, and or economic. The far-left may deny individual exceptionalism in favor of a ‘blank slate‘ approach, because they believe the state should be able to ‘perfect’ man. The reign of Pol Pot is one such extreme example, where anyone who didn’t conform to the Khmer Rouge’s vision of ‘perfection’ was either murdered or ‘re-educated’. The biological reality that some people are perhaps born ‘better’ than others goes against such aspirations of perfectibility and egalitarianism. A communist regime is very orderly and systematic (the opposite of chaos) in its efforts to force equality, and although the eventual deterioration of the economy may lead to chaos, and the installation of a far-left government may be chaotic, chaos just for the sake of chaos is not the intent. One can make the argument that the left is ‘too orderly’ in trying impose their will on biology and human nature.

But to get a communist government you must first have a revolution, which is why the left seeks crisis – whether economic or geopolitical – as a way of punishing the rich and bringing about a more egalitarian society where everyone is equal, even if it means everyone has less (Sanders’ economic vision comes to mind).

The economic strain of WW1 weakened the Tzar autocracy, eventually leading to revolution:

“Russian Revolution” is the collective term for a pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the eventual rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II, and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar; the older Julian calendar was in use in Russia at the time). In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.

As Pinker and others have noted, there is evidence the world is getting safer, and the left wishes this weren’t so, preferring chaos so that the ‘unfair’ status quo is replaced by a more egalitarian one. Liberals deny individual cognitive exceptionlism, to promote leveling. According to the left, if people succeed it’s because they had an unfair advantage, practiced 10000 hours, cheated, etc. – not because of superior genes.

The left is robbing exceptional people of their exceptionalism by planting seeds of doubt, that maybe exceptional people cheated or are deliberately oppressing the less successful. It’s like Obama’s ‘you didn’t build that’ remark. Nevermind the day traders on Reddit who are consistently making fortunes in the stock market despite the left’s insistence that the market and the economy is rigged. But over and over again, exceptional people keep proving the left wrong.

However when pressed, some on the left will concede that IQ is real, is biological, and is relevant for certain skills, but then they have another strategy, which is to turn IQ into a handicap, meaning that a high IQ must come at the cost of another but more important attribute (for example, that smart people are lazy or unethical).

The question is, can people handle the truth about genes and socioeconomic outcomes, and I’m afraid the answer in many instance is still ‘no’. As I explain in the post IQ Anxieties, the idea of biology as a ‘sorting mechanism’ for society and achievement goes against the concept of ‘free will’ as ingrained by school, parents, teachers, clergy, etc – the conceit that anyone, with enough practice and education funding, can achieve anything (growth mindset vs. fixed mindset). And as explained earlier, such a sorting mechanism goes against the left’s aspirations of ‘perfectibility’. The ‘fixed mindset’ is more accurate, but probably not what people want want to hear, preferring the ‘growth’ one, which sells books and fills Ted talk lectures.

The concept of biological determinism makes many uneasy, because we want to believe we can not only control our lives, but our outcomes too. To quote Scott Adams, your mind is creating little movies in which you are the star.

For better or worse, the disconnect between reality and these ‘mental movies’ is vast. Maybe ‘better’ because, at the personal level, it’s a coping mechanism; ‘worse’ because the consequences of individual delusions are shared by society, in the form of bad policy.

Teachers can identify exceptional students at a very young age, long before 10,000 hours can kick in. Or the especially well-written Salon or Slate article that you know was written by someone with genuine talent at putting words together, talent that manifests early in life. Even in school, there are the ‘smart’ kids and ‘dumb’ ones. Again, no 10,000 hours needed to separate tomorrow’s losers from potential winners. Some defenders of the 10,000 rule may argue that the rule only applies to those who are already talented, with the 10,000 hours of practice supplementing talent instead of of replacing it, in which I agree, but many deny the role of talent altogether. The delusions inspired by the 10,000 hour rule remind me of parents who think their dull kids are smart, or Amazon self-publishers who blame ‘gatekeepers’ for their crappy books being rejected.

We want to live in a world where where if we fail it’s someone else’s fault, a conspiracy, or a failing of society – not a failing of the individual. That’s why Sanders’ blame-the-rich rhetoric is appealing to many – no, it’s not your fault (either due to laziness, poor life choices, bad genes, etc) for failing to succeed at life, it’s those ‘greedy rich people’ keeping you down. Although ‘bad genes’ are obviously beyond one’s control, it’s still an individual problem, not a societal one. This means that the successful and society should not divert too much attention to them (losers), but instead focus on the winners. Maybe this is unfair or mean, but it’s economic and biological reality that some will be better than others, that some will have more than others, and those who have the biological potential to succeed should have priority over those who don’t.

Related: Education and the Blank Slate: Setting Realistic Expectations

Classification of Ideologies

Inspired by the table above (can’t find the source), I created a classification of my own, but this is far from complete.

Welfare Liberal: Humans are imperfect or savages upon conception, and must be perfected with the help of the state in order to help create ‘equal outcomes’ where no one should be allowed to be too much better than anyone else, as well as to purge ‘bad beliefs’ that are ‘racist’; also, high taxes and regulation to try to force equal outcomes and suppress individual exceptionalism; pessimistic view of humanity and human nature – people fail because of greedy rich people, institutional racism, the fed, and other external factors – never genes or other internal factors. If a group or individual is successful, its because he had some unfair advantage, cheated, and or practiced 10,000 hours. Tends to reject HBD except for homosexuality. Rejects nationalism. Pro-choice as a form of ‘women’s liberation’; pro-SJW to a fault; anti-death penalty. Supports higher taxes on rich, and the universal basic income. Opposes free trade and globalization. Believes man-made global warming; rejects industrialization. Rejects social Darwinism, but supports policies that could be considered ‘reverse Darwinism’.* Rejects religion (except Islam), especially Christianity, to the point of persecution (war on Christmas, banning the display of the 10 commandments, etc), although there is a small subset of welfare liberals who are practicing Christians; open borders; collectivist; race is a social contract and or is irrelevant and meaningless.

Leftist Rationalist/Neo liberal/Classical Liberal: Less belief in blank slate, more emphasis on biological determinism, with the belief that some people are possibly born ‘better’ than others; economic policy should strive to allow individuals, especially the best and the brightest, to perform to the best of their abilities and to keep what they earn; pro-choice; HBD: belief in the innate, biological differences, both cognitive and physical, between men and women and different population groups, etc; support of pragmatist, utilitarian, and consequentialist policy; possibly support universal basic income. Ambivalent towards SJWs. Anti-death penalty, but may support it in limited circumstances, from a pragmatic standpoint. Global warming may exist, but not necessarily man-made. Supports free trade and globalization. More receptive to social Darwinism. Equal opportunity instead of equal outcomes. Agnostic/indifferent to individual religious preferences. Similar to welfare liberals, supports a welfare state, but possibly with means testing. Also tends to reject nationalism; tends to support open borders; less collectivist; less racial (but not outright rejecting it as welfare liberals do).

Pragmatist/Rationalist Right: Same as above but with more emphasis on free market capitalism, less regulation, more homeland security & defense, stricter border control, as well as less welfare spending; may support basic income with preconditions. May reject isolationism. Like above, generally supports free trade and is pro-technology. Ownership society. May support abortion, eugenics, and other HBD-based policy as a way to lower healthcare costs, entitlement spending, and crime, as well as to boost national IQ; pro-choice & euthanasia from a eugenic standpoint; Anti-SJW. Pro death penalty. Elements of futurism; pro-technology. Belief in social Darwinism, with some people being biologically better than others, which manifests through individual socioeconomic outcomes like wealth, creative output, and educational attainment. Agnostic/indifferent to individual religious preferences. Minimal welfare state; could be described as minarchist or neoconservative. Consequentialist; some central planning and govt. intervention such as TARP. More nationalistic, but this varies among individuals; supports high-IQ immigration, also with immigration control to turn away ‘low-quality’ immigrants; more individualistic, in the Randian sense.

NRx: Belief in HBD, but tends to be somewhat critical of eugenics, euthanasia, and policy that may be ‘un-Christian’. Isolationist, nationalistic, and traditionalist; strict border control (may support deportations); skeptical of free trade and globalization. Pro-life. Anti-modernity. Pro death penalty. May reject central planning. Skeptical of utilitarianism, pragmatism, and consequentialist policy. Ambivalent towards technology. Ideal government may be a theocracy (Catholic monarchy); less individualistic (tends to reject Randian Individualism).

The ‘mainstream right’ probably lies somewhere between the ‘rationalist right’ and the ‘rationalist left’, but shares some elements of the far-right. And the ‘mainstream left’ is between the ‘welfare left’ and the ‘rationalist left’.Paleoconservatives are perhaps the closest to NRx but probably slightly to the left. Trying to classify more ideologies, along with all of their subtleties, would require a lot more room.

*Welfare liberals have a conflicted view of race – on the one hand, having to pretend it doesn’t exist or is irrelevant, but also supporting race-based programs like affirmative action. They are also conflicted about science, being pro-global warming science but rejecting or dismissing race & IQ science. They believes in Darwinism – but in reverse, or survival of the un-fittest. Taking tax payer dollars from the most productive and frittering it away on the least. The left can’t stomach the idea that some people are intrinsically better than others, so they want the state to create equal outcomes, even if it makes everyone worse-off.

Related:

Free Will – Welfare Liberals vs. Neo Liberals and HBD Conservatives

The Differences Between Neo/Classical Liberalism and Welfare Liberalism

Utilitarianism Is Not Welfare Liberalism

Foucault, Chomsky, Pinker, and the Blank Slate

Foucault, Chomsky, Pinker, and the Blank Slate

From evolutionistx: Chomsky on Foucault

“In Foucault’s 1971 televised debate with Noam Chomsky, Foucault argued against the possibility of any fixed human nature, as posited by Chomsky’s concept of innate human faculties. Chomsky argued that concepts of justice were rooted in human reason, whereas Foucault rejected the universal basis for a concept of justice. Following the debate, Chomsky was stricken with Foucault’s total rejection of the possibility of a universal morality, stating “He struck my as completely amoral, I’d never met anyone who was so totally amoral” … “I mean, I liked him personally, it’s just that I couldn’t make sense of him. It’s as if he was from a different species, or something”” (from the Wikipedia page on Foucault)

Foucault is even further ‘left’ than Chomsky, if that even seems possible. The far-left reject the idea that civilized humans have any innate goodness, whereas neoliberals and classical liberals have faith in institutions to enforce fairness under the rule of law. Chomsky, in contrast to Foucault, denies the ‘blank slate’ (Tabula rasa), believing that humans are wired to not only acquire language, but are also endowed with an innate ‘moral compass’. The far-left believe that institutions are poisoned by so-called ‘institutional racism’, which makes any sort of fairness impossible. The far-left advocate a complete overhaul of institutions (an anti-establishment view) to be rebuilt to their high egalitarian standards, whereas neoliberals seek incrementalist reform that keeps the ‘system’ intact. Because of the difficulty of the former, the far-left are often unhappy and pessimistic about human nature, in general. When the far-left group ‘Black Lives Matter’ disrupted Bernie Sander’s Seattle speech, they were essentially rejecting the ‘mainstream left’ view that policy can reform problems; instead, the ‘system’ itself is intrinsically and irredeemably racist and corrupt and needs to be torn down, not reformed.

The left believes that human minds are blank slates to be programmed through indoctrination.

Foucault, in taking his ‘blank slate’ views to an extreme, even agrees with some on the ‘right’ that homosexuality is not biological but rather a recent Western concept. Because the concept of homosexuality is a construct, it’s irrelevant if someone is ‘born’ gay or not.

From telegraph.co.uk: A decade after Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo?

As Pinker wrote, there are two types of feminism: “Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology. Gender feminism is an empirical doctrine committed to three claims about human nature. The first is that the differences between men and women have nothing to do with biology but are socially constructed in their entirety. The second is that humans possess a single social motive – power – and that social life can be understood only in terms of how it is exercised. The third is that human interactions arise not from the motives of people dealing with each other as individuals but from the motives of groups dealing with other groups – in this case, the male gender dominating the female gender.
“In embracing these doctrines, the genderists are handcuffing feminism to railroad tracks on which a train is bearing down.”
Gender feminism is no more scientific than astrology, yet the idea of total equality of outcomes is still some sort of vague official goal among the European elite, largely because “people’s unwillingness to think in statistical terms has led to pointless false dichotomies”, between “women are unqualified” and “fifty-fifty absolutely”.

In agreement with the ‘blank slate’, the far-left believe that racial and gender differences may be social constructs, not biological. This is as unscientific as creationism, yet universities continue to espouse this view.

So Richard Herrnstein was called a racist for arguing, in 1971, that “since differences in intelligence are partly inherited, and since intelligent people tend to marry other intelligent people, when a society becomes more just it will also become more stratified along genetic lines”, even though he was not even discussing race. He received death threats and his lecture halls were filled with chanting mobs.

On sites like Reddit and 4chan, there is evidence the pendulum is swinging the other way as millennials, unlike like their stodgy far-left baby boomer parents and teachers, discuss HBD topics freely that offline in the politically correct sphere of liberalism are still taboo. For the left, who pride themselves on being ‘pro-science’ and ‘open minded’, as we saw with the persecution of Larry Summers, Jason Richwine, and Tim Hunt, this ‘open mindedness’ doesn’t extend to HBD-based topics, apparently.

Other controversies down the years included the unmasking of the myth of the noble savage, with scientists who found murder rates in pre-agriculture societies were astonishingly high accused of justifying genocide; and rape, which gender feminists believed was not about sex, despite clearly being about sex.

The far-left believe in the ‘noble savage’ – that society was peaceful and tranquil in its de-industrialized state until evil civilization, along with capitalism, came along, bringing racism, disease, violence and other modern plagues – similar to the liberal Gums Germs and Steel hypothesis. This is why the left seeks crisis in order to bring society to an undeveloped, egalitarian state, even if the result is everyone is worse-off as a result, with great pain and suffering in the process. What matters, above all, is equality of outcomes, not opportunity.

That, unfortunately, is how orthodoxies are enforced across a range of subjects, despite being incredibly weak. On the idea that intelligence is entirely environment, Pinker wrote that “even in the 1970s the argument was tortuous, but by the 1980s it was desperate and today it is a historical curiosity”. And yet now, in the second decade of the 21st century, it is still not considered decent to question the taboo about human nature when it comes to policy.

Yes, indeed, the injection of HBD into public policy is still taboo, which is why politicians keep spinning their wheels, regurgitating the same stale bromides that don’t work.

Nature Beats Nurture

An interesting post from Vox Nature beats nurture

The “Blank Slate” theory is dead. It was never anything but political philosophy and science killed it. Every nominal justification for human equality is being gradually eliminated, one by one, as scientists revisit hypotheses that have long been passed off as pseudoscientific facts.

This is true. The left twists science so that it agrees with their ideology. The left believes in Darwinism – but in reverse, or survival of the un-fittest. Taking tax payer dollars from the most productive and frittering it away on the least. The left can’t stomach the idea that some people are intrinsically better than others, so they want the state to create equal outcomes, even if it makes everyone worse-off.

According to the left, if some groups fall behind, it’s those evil greedy rich people’s fault for holding them back, never genes.

This delusional belief in the perfectibility of man motivates people to support ineffective social programs that run headlong into the limitations imposed by biology. This is related to the success of Malcom Gladwell, who sells an appealing message that anyone, with enough practice and the alignment of other environmental factors, can covet the skills of geniuses. See, Bill Gates didn’t succeed because of a high-IQ, it was 10,000 hours of practice, and you have the potential to, too.

And then you have others in the pop-psychology community – the likes of Nassim Taleb and Daniel Kahneman, to name a few – who try a different approach, leveling, arguing that smart people are no more rational than less intelligent people. For example, if a smart person falls for the conjunction fallacy, according to these authors, he is no smarter than someone who doesn’t. This ‘leveling’ is intended to diminish the importance of IQ, in agreement with leftist egalitarianism.

I suspect that those equalitarians who claim to believe that a meritocracy is the best of all possible systems are going to rapidly change their tune once it becomes apparent that material merit is predominantly genetic in origin. Because in a post-Christian world of scientific rational materialism, there is no way that a meritocratic approach will not eventually lead to Eugenics 2.0.

But the equalitarians (who want equal outcomes) by definition are opposed to the meritocracy (outcomes based on competence, results, etc). They are not interchangeable, but are exact opposites.

…material merit is predominantly genetic in origin. Because in a post-Christian world of scientific rational materialism, there is no way that a meritocratic approach will not eventually lead to Eugenics 2.0.

I think he’s over the map here. If merit is good and biological, but this leads to eugenics 2.0, how does it become bad without contradicting his first premise?

The irony is that it is the equalitarians and anti-racists who will likely cling to the concept of race. Now that genetics gives us far more precise metrics, the new eugenicists won’t have to pay any attention to race at all in order to achieve their desired results. And they can claim, quite truthfully, that their policies are race- and color-blind. For example, if variants of the MAO-A, DAT1, and DRD2 genes are deemed to be unsuitable for an occupation, those possessing the unwanted genetic markers can be banned with absolutely no reference to race at all.

Eugenics isn’t exclusively about big categories like race; it’s about genes, in choosing which genes we want passed and which ones we don’t.

Eugenics does not have to be dystopian sci-fi trope Vox makes it out to be. To some extent, positive eugenics is already occurring today though assortative mating; second, negative eugenics offers a possible solution to the entitlement spending problem, as well as other problems like crime.

Employers should be able to request a genomic profile of prospective employees in order to choose candidates that are not only the most qualified based on biology, but will be less of a drain due to future health problems that can be identified through the profile. If someone’s profile shows a very high risk of early-onset dementia or heart disease, you may think twice before hiring him if there is an equally qualified candidate without such problems.

Vox seems conflicted in having to choose between believing HBD and then opposing eugenics and other HBD-based programs.

Related: The IQ Wars