Re: Flynn Effect in SciAm

Michael S. Lorrey (
Mon, 21 Dec 1998 10:59:08 -0500

Tim Bates wrote:

> 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 ;-)

uh, 1917-1924?

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

Sure, if they didn't they'd have to find productive jobs.

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

Unfortunately its easy to still make money picking the wrong answer. Its just called art, so it doesn't need to be right.