Brink Lindsey makes some important points about IQ scores. They are designed to predict outcomes in a post-industrial advanced society:
IQ scores clearly tell us something of genuine importance. They are a reasonably good predictor not only of performance in the classroom but of income, health, and other important life outcomes.
Then this qualifier:
IQ tests are good measures of innate intelligence–if all other factors are held steady. But if IQ tests are being used to compare individuals of wildly different backgrounds, then the variable of innate intelligence is not being tested in isolation. Instead, the scores will reflect some impossible-to-sort-out combination of ability and differences in opportunities and motivations.
I’m pretty sure that’s true. The trouble is: IQ researchers are not dumb. And they have done their best to control for background, culture, education, wealth, etc. And when they do, the differences between population subgroups of different ancestries do not go away completely. Brink is dead-right that upbringing is a big deal and can greatly affect the result. But those results tend to start at 8 years’ old and are hard to budge thereafter.
Leaving immigrants aside, in the US, we have not seen among longtime residents what we would expect: a convergence of IQ among all population subgroups. We do have rising IQ rates in general – as our brains adjust to the new and more complex set of tasks our modern society has created for them. There’s no reason to believe that immigrants of one population subgroup won’t rise in IQs over generations – and they have. But the other subgroup populations have rising IQs as well – and the differences do not go away.
Why else do they have a de facto Asian quota at Harvard? Why else did they once have an explicit Jewish one? That’s one of the ironies of affirmative action. The very liberals who deride “race” as a category, use it reflexively all the time in the case of affirmative action. And the upshot of their use is direct discrimination against population subgroups because of their higher scores. Accusations of racism cuts both ways. If the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action this year, as seems likely, how will resilient differences in IQ between subgroups of differing ancestries be hidden?
Another important bit of Lindsey’s argument, with which I fully agree, is that the kind of intelligence measured by IQ is a very specialized and post-industrial-specific one. It has, as I’ve repeatedly, said, no intrinsic value, morally or otherwise. It’s entirely contingent on our particular kind of society and what kind of brain succeeds best in it on its own terms (of socio-economic advantage). There are many other just as valuable (in my view more valuable) forms of intelligence.