18 March 2019

Intelligence and intimidation

IQ (intelligence quotient) as a single measure of intelligence started to become prominent with the inception of compulsory education. Those in charge of schools and colleges wanted to be able to select those most likely to succeed academically.

The idea of IQ now seems to be considered dubious by the academic and educational establishments, and IQ tests are regarded with suspicion.

Also regarded with suspicion — particularly among those paid to intervene in other people’s lives — is the idea that intelligence has a significant heritable component.

For example, a Guardian editorial described recent research linking IQ to specific genes as ‘problematic’ and ‘troubling’. Apparently this is because the results might undermine demands for more intervention to iron out inequality.

The prejudice against the possibility of IQ heritability is not confined to left-wing journalists. The editorial refers to academics who argue that ‘the heritability of human traits is scientifically unsound’.

The editorial tries to imply guilt by association, conflating heritability with genetic testing and eugenics. The scientists responsible for the research are disparaged as ‘hereditarians’, and their arguments are described as ‘advocacy’.

Ironically, the editorial complains that the research has created ‘an intimidatory atmosphere’. In the area of IQ, it is those who try to make the idea of heritability seem morally unacceptable who are the real intimidators.