Quite aside from the strangely-dressed gent who appears to constitute their their logo, The New Yorker is a rather strange publication. They email to privileged people like me (why I am so privileged I have no idea) copies of articles that have not yet appeared in their magazine. One such is a part of the small rush of articles that have been sparked by James Watson's perfectly factual observations about black IQ. The New Yorker's contribution appears under the heading "None of the above" and is by Malcolm Gladwell, a historian who takes an interest in the social sciences. Gladwell is of course among the "saints" who think IQ is all nonsense.
I must say that I had to laugh. Gladwell mentions, for instance, the old Eyferth study (without naming it) as if it proved something when all it proves (to be blunt) is that German women don't go to bed with dumb blacks.
All Gladwell does, basically, is rehash the usual points made by Flynn -- so any critique of Flynn (e.g. here) should be an adequate reply to Gladwell. I will however mention a few points here. Another point Gladwell raises is that the black/white gap rises from a small gap in infancy to a much larger gap in later life. Gladwell thinks that shows an effect of black culture but the real explanation is again rather blunt so I will simply refer readers to an extended comment I made on that matter recently.
But Gladwell's basic blindness is to fail to distinguish between phenotypic IQ (scores on IQ tests) and genotypic IQ (that part of IQ test scores which is genetically determined). Nobody has ever denied that IQ test scores are influenced by environmental factors -- about a third of IQ is usually found to be environmentally determined -- so the rise in the IQ scores of most populations over the 20th century (as described by Flynn) was to be expected from all the many advantages that modernization brings -- better nutrition, greater stimulation via TV, more time in the educational system, better perinatal medical care etc. But if genetics set a limit, the improvement to IQ scores that flow from an improved environment should peak as the environment reaches the optimum for IQ development. And precisely that has now happened in several affluent countries.
So Flynn's findings don't let you escape those pesky genes! It is in fact rather amusing to hear an attack on genetic influences in this day and age. We now hear almost daily (in the medical and psychological literature) of new findings about genetic influences on human behaviour -- so much so that it would be amazing if there was NOT a large genetic influence on IQ.
See my recent post about Metcalf for more on the points raised by Gladwell. It would be nice if The New Yorker opened its pages to an article on IQ by someone who really knows the subject -- such as Gottfedson or Rushton -- but I don't expect to see it in my lifetime. Complex truths always have a difficult struggle against simplistic lies. The Gladwell article is apparently set for publication in the Dec 17 issue of The New Yorker.
I will leave readers with an interesting histogram from the U.S. Government's National Science Foundation. SAT scores are, of course, highly correlated with IQ:
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