Since the beginning of the 20th century, IQ scores have been on the rise, up a full three points per decade, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect. Tim Folger looks to the future:
The Flynn effect means that children will, on average, score about 10 points higher on IQ tests than their parents did. By the end of this century our descendants will have nearly a 30-point advantage over us—the difference between average intelligence and the top 2 percent of the population—if the Flynn effect continues. But can it continue? Will the trend go on indefinitely, leading to a future filled with people who would be considered geniuses by today's standards?
Bryan Appleyard examines Flynn's explanation:
Human potential at birth is unchanged; we are not, in any fundamental sense, becoming a smarter species. But the way we live has changed. IQ tests were first established in the 19th century at a time when daily life was concrete and practical. The tests, however, had to be abstract to make them culturally neutral. People, therefore, found them harder because they were unaccustomed to such modes of thought. In the 20th century, greater educational possibilities combined with technological advances introduced abstract thought into daily life. It takes, for example, a high degree of abstract thinking to operate a mobile phone or computer. People became better at IQ tests and, steadily, the scores rose.
Appleyard also believes Flynn has debunked the great IQ race debate:
Flynn’s interpretation overturns one of the most dangerous myths of IQ research — that blacks have been shown to be fundamentally less intelligent than whites. With what seems to me to be a series of cast-iron statistical analyses, he shows that this has, in fact, never been proved and that the logic on which it is based — “this steel chain of ideas” — is flawed. What the evidence actually shows is that racial differences, once all external factors are removed (primarily the social and cultural context of the testees), seem to be almost undetectably small.
Given my history with this subject and a wealth of new research, I am going to revisit this again soon, when I get some campaign relief. This is and always has been an empirical question, which means it is open until the evidence accumulates in one direction. New work is shedding new light on race and IQ, and I won't duck it. Promise.