Re: S. J. Gould/ was Re: Buzzwords (was)Judging Beauty

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun May 14 2000 - 15:48:59 MDT

On Thursday, May 11, 2000 6:43 AM Mike wrote:
> I agree. He was trying to show that the phrenologists probably made
> systematic errors without really being aware of it. It is just that
> certain seemingly commonsense decisions in the process actually
> escaped clear thinking. Political influences, might have
> favoured a particular result, and if research happened to lead to
> results in accord with this, there may have been less motive
> to check results thoroughly.

My point was not that this didn't happen, but that Gould uses it to prop up
his argument(s) against general intelligence (and heritability of
intelligence in general). Has anyone, aside from me, actually read any of
Arthur Jensen's work? (Jensen is one researcher who Gould vehemently
attacks in _The Mismeasure of Man_. For the record, I'm not some scholar of
this area, but I did read Jensen's _The Straight Talk About IQ Testing_)

> I think that the argument for cultural bias, at least in the earlier
> versions of IQ tests, is well presented. The tests depicted in his
> book were ridiculously parochial (like knowing details of certain
> American sports), considering they were given to immigrants.

I agree. Any test is going to have some bias. Stuff like this is easy to
uncover, however. And the goals of the people giving such tests was often
related to an overt political agenda.

Some extremely cultural neutral tests have been developed which use pure
symbols to do things like pattern matching, simple induction, and so forth.
>From what little I've read, there's a strong correlation between people who
do well on conventional IQ tests and these unconventional ones. It's not
100%, but it is high enough to perhaps make a case for general intelligence.

(The real problem with IQ Testing is not so much that the tests are biased,
but that people tend to think not scoring high on them means they are not
good and that their potential is lower. Granted, higher IQ usually means,
ceterus paribus, a lot more possibilities are open to one, BUT there are
plenty of genius IQs (140+) I know who are not really doing all that much
and who do not stay all that active in life itself, whether this be in
intellectual concerns or everything else. In fact, some of them are
downright boring people. One person I used to work with, who was genius
level was also one of the most repressed people I ever met. He was not the
kind of guy I'd want to invite to a party or hang out with -- even to talk
about intellectual stuff.:/)

> Even if Gould falsely one-sidedly motives to particular scientists,
> this doesn't seem to me to discredit the basic idea of hidden
> prejudices/ sloppy thinking. Whether deliberate or unconscious, the
> result is distortion. Scientists *are* human, and although the
> scientific method correctly applied ought to guard against mistakes,
> they DO happen. People can have a lot on their minds.

I agree, but to reduce all error to ideological bias is as large of a
mistake. I have never made the claim that scientists and other researchers
are infalliable, perfect thinkers. I do, however, reiterate the claim that
not all bias and sloppy thinking is as Gould makes it seem. If it were,
then only drastic political changes would ever change science.

> > Surely, all sorts of thinkers
> > err, but they do not always err because of their political views.
> No, but it can happen and should be considered.

But my point was not that they don't ever, just that they don't always. (I
wish people would read what I write. I tend to be very careful and to
qualify my statements, often allowing precision to overcome style in doing
so.:) I think Gould is quick to look for a political explanation for
disagreement. Lots of other people are like this.

> Hopefully some thinkers might change their politics instead.

That's hardly an issue here. The issue is: should people allow their
political views to color their nonpolitical thinking, especially in the area
of science? Gould is guilty of this because he allows his own prejudices to
overcome his scholarship at many points. (Note: for the reading challenged,
I typed "many." "Many" does not mean "all." If any if you decide to
criticize my statement, please be sure to keep this difference in mind.:)

And when the Singularity comes, we can have whatever IQ we want.:)


Daniel Ust
    Use the Singularity to explain away all your problems at:

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