Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kristof vs. Reality 2

So, you may ask: what the hell is Nick Kristof doing writing about intelligence?
This article has jumped to #1 on the nytimes emailed list so obviously people are interested in it.

Let me tell you:

The field of statistics has advanced significantly. In the previous ages, people could claim a correlation out of thin air and we'd have to take them at their word. But now, with the use of regression analysis through easily accessible computers, people can ask which numbers correlate with which.

So, people naturally asked the same question of IQ. And guess what? Independent of income, race, gender, etc, IQ has tremendous predictive power. And there's only so long that people can go on denying it. Even Kristof.

But then we look at what Kristof says about the third world. Every week he writes a column guilt tripping us about how the US is responsible for the problems of the third world and that capitalism is flawed. We have to do more to help them. We should throw money at Darfur and Congo.

But then someone asked: what more can we do? After trillions in aid to Africa, what development has there been? Mexico has spent a century next to the most prosperous nation in world history, with export, remissions, and immigration benefits, and they can barely muster a per capita GDP around the world average. What gives? Could it be that they're just dumber than we are?

So he sees this and he gets nervous. His message goes down the tube if people start thinking that biology is destiny. So he pre empts them saying: "sure, IQ matters. But since it's not genetic, there is still a chance for Africa."

The sad truth is that there is no hope. Africa had a higher per capita GDP during colonial white rule. Recently, a poll found that South Africans are less optimistic about their country than when apartheid ended, and they are about the elect a homophobic, rapist, polygamist, AIDS denying future president.

Zimbabwe's economy collapsed when land was taken away from White farmers.

Kenya endured a bloodbath after an election because the tribes couldn't agree who won, while the United States elected it's first minority president.

Somalia's largest source of income is foreign aid and hostage ransoms.

It's a very basic question. If human civilization has collectively abused, mistreated, and slaughtered animals because it is in our benefit, why should we sacrifice our money and time to save Africa? Shouldn't we just let Darfur burn and allow Rwanda to repeat?

Why should species membership alone qualify someone for the collective sympathy and charity of the developed world? If sentient beings perish daily due to the harsh reality of nature, should barbaric humans be the exception?

Kristof says yes because we're all equal.

Unfortunately, he is wrong.

Darfur burns.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kristof vs. Reality

So today in the New York Times there is an editorial by Nick Kristof on the role of intelligence. He basically tries to shoot down the notion that intelligence in inherited. Here are some of his arguments:

One gauge of that is that when poor children are adopted into upper-middle-class households, their I.Q.’s rise by 12 to 18 points, depending on the study. For example, a French study showed that children from poor households adopted into upper-middle-class homes averaged an I.Q. of 107 by one test and 111 by another. Their siblings who were not adopted averaged 95 on both tests.

Indeed, the average I.Q. of a person in 1917 would amount to only 73 on today’s I.Q. test. Half the population of 1917 would be considered mentally retarded by today’s measurements, Professor Nisbett says.

Flynn Effect

Another proven intervention is to tell junior-high-school students that I.Q. is expandable, and that their intelligence is something they can help shape. Students exposed to that idea work harder and get better grades.

He has some interesting points. However, the report entitled Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns showcases a basic fact:

"Recent twin and adoption studies suggest that while the effect of the family environment is substantial in early childhood, it becomes quite small by late adolescence. These findings suggest that differences in the life styles of families whatever their importance may be for many aspects of children's lives make little long-term difference for the skills measured by intelligence tests."

So we can dispute statistics and tests. Every liberal commentator can easily cherry pick a few tests that show that in certain circumstance, stupid people will do better than usual with certain environments. But he never addressed the deep structural contradictions with claiming that everyone has equal IQ. On the surface, you know that's absurd-families raising non-twin siblings easily see the differences in intelligence between them.

What they key is, is that brain structure matters. It's what makes humans more intelligent than animals, and it gives us our own personalities

The researchers said the brain differences are structural and can be measured as variations in the size of specific regions of the brain that appear to be linked with each of the four personality types.

And even just a few years ago the NY Times reported that intelligence was genetic.

The researchers found that average children (I.Q. scores 83 to 108) reached a peak of cortical thickness at age 7 or 8. Highly intelligent children (121 to 149 in I.Q.) reached a peak thickness much later, at 13, followed by a more dynamic pruning process.

One interpretation, Dr. Rapoport said, is that the brains of highly intelligent children are more plastic or changeable, swinging through a higher trajectory of cortical thickening and thinning than occurs in average children. The scans show the "sculpturing or fine tuning of parts of the cortex which support higher level thought, and maybe this is happening more efficiently in the most intelligent children," Dr. Shaw said.

So Part I addressed why the basic science of Kristof is wrong. Part II will address the implications.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


So after taking some time off, I've come to some conclusions:

1) All people are all equal-not just in their rights, but in intelligence, athletic ability, and attractiveness. Actually, the oppressed groups are probably more equal than everyone else.

2) We should eat meat, since animals were created by a benevolent overlord to be eaten by humans, who were created in his image.

3) Islam is actually a quite beautiful religion once you take everything into account

4) The main purpose of life is to buy stuff to show to others and impress them. Thank God for marketers! If not for them we wouldn't know what to spend on to max out our credit cards!

5) People are usually rational and all their decisions make sense.

6) There is a meaning to our existence

7) Sex outside of holy matrimony is one of the worst sins possible

8) Beware of those advocating using technology to improve the human condition. Natural is the way to go

9) All economic differences between countries are caused by oppression by the Western world.

10) We should let as many unskilled immigrants in as possible, so that we can repay them for holding down their countries.

11) Don't pay attention to the 25K children who will die tonight because of hunger or genocide, and don't let that fact question the previous statements.