Re: Flynn Effect in SciAm

Tim Bates (
Sat, 19 Dec 1998 16:04:35 +1100

I briefly noted that one reason to respect Arthur Jensen is his high level of scholarship.

Hal Finney noted that his point
>isn't Jensen's respectibility, it is Flynn's consistency.
>How can he be so (apparently) sure that Jensen is wrong and still
>respect him?

Well, one could respect Einstein without buying into the particular value of the cosmological constant which he chose. More to the point, one could respect Einstein's science while deprecating his pacifism (or vice-versa). I think Flynn, because of his politics, sees the race issue as a social construction rather than a testable hypothesis. SO, yes, you are exactly right. Flynn uses science in so far as it reduces the case of those whom he opposes politically, but ultimately, because he is a socialist rather than an objectivist, he holds the racial issue as unassailable. Yes, he is inconsistent, and i think that this inconsistency will grow rather than diminish as the evidence (in particular amino-acid sequences related to intelligence) increases.

Regarding the meaning of score inflation I noted that:
>> ...most simply, there are two main alternatives.
>> 1. Average IQ HAS increased [due to] nutrition ... for instance.
Hal said
>I would like to see more discussion of this possibility; in particular,
>refutations of the arguments against it. Superficial arguments like
>"where are all the geniuses" are meaningless.

Agreed. This is the central issue in modern intelligence research: grounding intelligence in a theory rather than in it measure. many people act as if the "quote" from Boring was true: that intelligence is what the tests measure. I put quote in quote marks as he did not in face say that.

If so, it would be like physicists regarding the trials in a Wilson cloud chamber as BEING the sub atomic particles they study.

Work to elucidate the effect is underway in several laboratories around the world.

>> 2. The tests have been made less valid as all children now have 7 years
>> of head start at macdonalds (it is the macDonalds place-mat type tests
>> which have shown the greatest grade inflation. This could easily account
>> for the increase in the same way that giving a person the same crossword
>> puzzle every day for 7 years might explain their filling it out rather
>> rapidly ;-)
>This analogy doesn't apply, since the tests are not kept identical.
>A better analogy would be someone who improves his ability at solving
>crossword puzzles by working on a great many of them over time. But in
>that case it might well be valid to consider his intelligence increase
>as real.
>In a way it seems meaningless to argue about whether intelligence has
>increased. It comes down to a definition of intelligence.
You are right. from the point of view of science, we are seeking to carve nature at here joints: thus intelligence will be whatever is most able to explain the data. Intelligence may even disappear as a scientific construct if it is found to have an internal structure.

All of this is, as you note, irrelevant for society (well, not irrelevant) but supervenient perhaps. What matters is whether we are increasing the rate of construction of space ships or decreasing it. My own belief is that most of the variance in this is driven by demographics. After a period of gross torpor beginning in the 1920s and reaching a nadir in the 70s, we are now on an upswing that is largely driven by demographic variables such as large numbers of 20 and 30 something kids all competing with each other by building the smartest new extension to Linux or way to insert new information into the genome: we 'ain't seen nothing yet.

>This is what Flynn seems to be arguing against when he
>fails to see a new renaissance.

When was the last time that a socialist ever saw a renaissance ;-)

These people specialise in gloom: they were cribbing in Moorish Spain, in the middle of Elizabeth's golden age and they still complain today.

Like Jim Watson said: "some people just always pick the wrong answer." DNA? Nah, that 'll never work ;-)

very best wishes,