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Mike Bowerman

Hi Malcolm -- can you provide the full text of your correspondence with Pinker so your readers can assess the comments in their original context? Thanks.

For interested readers, Pinker's review can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/books/review/Pinker-t.html

Steve Sailer

Guilty by association!

Steve Sailer

By the way, Jason Lisk of Pro-Football-Reference.com has conducted a detailed analysis of Mr. Gladwell's assertion, denied by Dr. Pinker, that there is "no connection" between draft rank and NFL quarterback performance. Here is the conclusion:

"If you believe that the only reason Carson Palmer has played a lot more than Gibran Hamdan is because Palmer was drafted alot higher, then you can accept Gladwell's position. Otherwise, you probably cannot, at least to the extent Gladwell portrays, because we haven't accounted for the myriad of late round picks where the initial scouting met the performance teams were seeing in practice, and they never got any extended opportunity to play outside of the practice squad and pre-season contests. When we look at the top 20% of late round picks (those who are judged good enough to play or forced into action because of injuries) and they are roughly similar to the top 80% of high draft picks, that does not mean that late round picks are equal to early picks, and the NFL has a quarterback problem where nothing that happens before can predict what will happen in the future. Per play stats matter, and it's important to look at quarterbacks from that perspective, otherwise we reward compilers who get opportunities without merit. More opportunities matter too, though, and a quarterback who plays well over a larger sample size is likely better than a quarterback who plays well over a small one, particularly when qb stats are more volatile due to outside factors such as teammates.

"This is a distinction that, as far as I can tell, Gladwell fails to grasp."

Steve Sailer

You can read Lisk's analysis of the Berri and Simmons' paper on quarterbacks here:



Thanks for linking to the NYer review of The Blank Slate! (got it on hold at the library, but haven't read it yet)
Although perhaps Pinker would disagree; the misquote & misinterpretation of Virginia Woolf's quote feels like a bigger error than the misspelling of a mathematical term. (although, to be sure he seemed to be using that error to question the reliability of popular science writers in general).
I like Pinker, too-- so it's a little surprising (although certainly human) that he would be blind to his own outlook bias (as Menand nicely sums up in his review).


Do you also discredit every scientist who is funded by Planned Parenthood because its founder implemented it for eugenic and racist reasons? Here is Margaret Sanger:
"is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets."
Your ad hominon, guilt by association arguments reveal your lack of appetite for tackling the real issues involve in the genetics of IQ.


Also, your joke about jews excelling at all things intellectual because of their garment industry past was pretty funny.


Gladwell, your link to the "Mainstream Science" paper wasn't properly entered.



While the Pioneer Fund isn't as extreme was it was in the past, and they don't exclusively fund hereditarians or racialists, the majority of people they fund do have such leanings and beliefs. Plus, they gave funding to Roger Pearson, a neo-nazi fringe anthropologist, as recently as the 90's.


Oh, I meant to say your link to the "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns" paper wasn't working. But that paper can easily be accessed via a google search.

Another fun thing about the "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns" paper. It took a relatively middleground approach to the heritability of IQ.

"Parameter Estimates. Across the ordinary range of environments in modern Western societies, a sizable part of the variation in intelligence test scores is associated with genetic differences among individuals. Quantitative estimates vary from one study to another, because many are based on small or selective samples. If one simply combines all available correlations in a single analysis, the heritability (h2) works out to about .50 and the between-family variance (c2) to about .25 (e.g., Chipuer, Rovine, & Plomin, 1990; Loehlin, 1989). These overall figures are misleading, however, because most of the relevant studies have been done with children. We now know that the heritability of IQ changes with age: h2 goes up and c2 goes down from infancy to adulthood (McCartney, Harris, & Bernieri, 1990; McGue, Bouchard, Iacono, & Lykken, 1993). In childhood h2 and C2 for IQ are of the order of .45 and .35; by late adolescence h2 is around .75 and c2 is quite low (zero in some studies). Substantial environmental variance remains, but it primarily reflects within-family rather than between-family differences.

These adult parameter estimates are based on a number of independent studies. The correlation between MZ twins reared apart, which directly estimates h2, ranged from .68 to .78 in five studies involving adult samples from Europe and the U.S. (McGue et al., 1993). The correlation between unrelated children reared together in adoptive families, which directly estimates c2, was approximately zero for adolescents in two adoption studies (Scarr & Weinberg, 1978; Loehlin, Horn, & Willerman, 1989) and .19 in a third (the Minnesota transracial adoption study: Scarr, Weinberg & Waldman, 1993)."

Simply r square those correlation coefficients (multiply times itself, then by 100) and you get the following:


r squaring .75 is about 55%. The majority of twin studies converge around that figure. That's the majority consensus in the behavior genetics field. Hereditarianism is largely a fringe view, contrary to what it's legions of followers on the internet will tell you.


Oh, meant to say that the majority of twin studies converge around 50%.

Norwegian Shooter

Again, digging deeper and farther afield from the heart of Pinker's objections:

Gladwell over-interprets limited data to make an interesting comparison or point, but misses the big picture, such as how drafting quarterbacks is related to teacher selection.


Here you have a controversial area that politics prevent the funding of – no one wants to be associated with, let alone fund a study which shows Asians are naturally more intelligent than Africans- and so those who do want to explore the area have trouble finding funding. Those who do the research and get support from the Pioneer Fund are then discredited for being funded by the Pioneer Fund per Gladwell and Co. That way no one does the research or anyone who does the research is not credible. The only studies that come near it are funded and conducted by people who believe in equality between the races as a tenant of their religion. The people stay in the dark, believing that all differences between the races are socially created, or that there is no such thing as a race. In the mean time, Asians adopted by whites in America do better than whites adopted by whites or blacks adopted by whites. In the mean time, a tiny population called Jews continues to be completely overrepresented at the top of IQ tests. Etc.

Norwegian Shooter

Can't stand the Afghan debate anymore, so I scrolled down on the main page and found your post about the original story on teachers and quarterbacks. Still not impressed.

The "ability to reconcile apparently irreconcilable options" has absolutely nothing to do with comparing two different processes. There is no business that would benefit from finding professional QBs who can also teach elementary school well.

"That confronted with a prediction deficit, the human impulse is to tighten standards, when it fact it should be to loosen standards." No, in fact, you need to prove that loosening standards would benefit either QB or teacher selection. Since no one has loosened the standards for either, it's pretty hard to argue that it would be better. (I know that won't stop people from wanting to read the argument anyway.)

"Think Matt Cassell's rather remarkable performance this year: surely that's a consequence of being drafted into one of the league's best learning cultures." N of 1. Proves. Nothing. (btw, don't call me Shirley). This is precisely the type of error Pinker calls you out on.


"In the mean time, Asians adopted by whites in America do better than whites adopted by whites or blacks adopted by whites."

Home environments are widely known to have little effect on IQ, but people of your stripe will drum this up while waving around studies indicating a hereditarian position based on a variable you acknowledge to be flawed. I can't get enough of that.


If you can't see that groups have different average IQs then you have simply used your mind to fool yourself and you are not a thinking person. Note that in every single country in the world the same pattern emerges:

East Asians are over represented in cognitively demanding professions.
Whites do pretty well.
Blacks do poorly.

Just open your eyes people. Blacks do poorly in every single country in the entire world.

Timothy Black

@Kedar: 55% is enormous. It also happens to be what the so-called hereditarians claim: _The Bell Curve_ says 40-80% (median again at 60%) and A. Jensen, if memory serves, cites a similar figure. If 55% of the variance in IQ is explained by genes, then the racial IQ differences are very unlikely to be entirely environmental. (And that's in addition to prima facie evidence: what are the chances that every distinct subpopulation of human being has an identical mean IQ???) I image Dr. Pinker would likewise agree with 55%. Ask Mr. Gladwell what his figure is.

Evan McLaren

You note that two thirds of the board of Intelligence declined to sign. Then you remark on how “IQ fundamentalists” are in it for the spoils, and are mouthpieces for dark personal/social/institutional forces.

So personal/social/institutional forces don’t influence the other side? People don’t hush up un-PC findings and attitudes because of the social and professional risk? Do you really think your critique can't be turned onto the dark personal/social/institutional forces behind *your* side—that they fund the people whose attitudes most closely complement theirs, and that they put their weight against opposing attitudes? Do you really think the IQ-fundemantalists enjoy favor in the battle, at this level of mere resources? Yes? Please. No? Then maybe try another approach.

Yeah, your perspective is objective. Ain’t colored by your personal views at all. But in a sense you are correct about the ice floe itself.

Couch scientist


So if a study showed that East Asians adopted by whites had higher IQs than whites or blacks raised by whites, why would that be so? The simplest explanation is that Asians are naturally smarter than the other two groups. Other explanations may be possible, but are based on attenuated social theories.

Business Improvement

Its an extremely a great article.Thanks.Looking forward for such interesting posts!!


Henry Ford was an anti-semite. A pox on the Ford Foundation!

The claim about 83 percent of Jews is just wrong. The test was originally designed to detect retardation, so the subjects were pre-selected by Goddard as having been judged mentally retarded. The point was that the test worked the same on different ethnic groups.

Arthur Jensen also did not oppose trying to raise scores, he himself managed to produce gains in black test-takers!


r squaring .75 is about 55%. The majority of twin studies converge around that figure. That's the majority consensus in the behavior genetics field. Hereditarianism is largely a fringe view,


Uh, Kedar ... what you just quoted *is* the "hereditarian" view.

This "debate" such as it is, is essentially between a "blank slate", nuture (left-wing, Franz Boas, communist, Lysenko theory, "we can remake man", "fully fund head start!", "deprived environment", etc. etc. etc.) view, and a view that says "hey a lot of this -- "human nature" in general, IQ, personality for individuals -- is sorta locked-in, in the genes.

Of course, parents know this -- whether they draw the big picture or not. I just told third child, that she needs to get to bed by say 11 o'clock. For some reason she shares a *lot* of personality traits (goofiness, feistiness ...) with me -- including "owl" tendencies -- unlike her (better behaved) older siblings who are a bit more like mom. All this was obvious when she was one year old.

No one -- that i know of -- claims that heredity counts for 100% or even 90% of IQ variation. 55% is ... huge! Insane. (Social science correlations of .7 and up are extremely rare.)

Compare to the result in the APA paper you quote for adoption -- which is the most extreme form of social intervention possible. (Even the left does not -- yet -- advocate pulling underpriviledged kids out of their homes to "fix" them.)

"The correlation between unrelated children reared together in adoptive families, which directly estimates c2, was approximately zero for adolescents in two adoption studies (Scarr & Weinberg, 1978; Loehlin, Horn, & Willerman, 1989) and .19 in a third (the Minnesota transracial adoption study: Scarr, Weinberg & Waldman, 1993)."

That's right -- essentially zero. (.19 would explain less than 4% of variation.)

But thanks for pointing out what the middle of the road, mainstream position is.


Frankly for anyone with even a modicum of experience with people or a moments thought ... none of this should be a surprise.

People vary. And when you consider that it's the human brain which has set us apart from other animals. You'd expect coding for it to be an important part of our DNA. And that we *just* made some sort of evolutionary breakout -- we *just* did agriculture maybe 500 generations back, written language maybe 200, the industrial revolution 10 ... holy cow. How would you not expect humans to still be varying tremendously as mutation and selection grapple with our drastically changed social environment.

Or ... you can believe that we're all the same. And that the tests aren't all that "meaningful".

Like some people think all quarterbacks are equally likely to succeed because Tom Brady exists.


"r squaring .75 is about 55%. The majority of twin studies converge around that figure. That's the majority consensus in the behavior genetics field. Hereditarianism is largely a fringe view, contrary to what it's legions of followers on the internet will tell you."

-What the hell are you talking about? First you describe the hereditarian view as the majority consensus, yet in the next sentence you claim it's a fringe view. Or are you suggesting that, for example, the Bell Curve is an anti-hereditarian work?

-Here's the Wiki definition of hereditarianism:

"Hereditarianism is the doctrine or school of thought that heredity plays a significant role in determining human nature and character traits, such as intelligence and personality. Hereditarians believe in the power of genetics to explain human character traits and solve human social and political problems. Hereditarians adopt the view that an understanding of human evolution can extend the understanding of human nature."

-Both the "Mainstream Science on Intelligence" statement and the "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns" report are unequivocal about the fact that IQ is related to important life outcomes, and is substantially heritable. Pinker simply agrees with this mainstream, hereditarian view, whereas Gladwell for whatever reason thinks the mainstream view is a "lonely ice floe".

J. Raymond

"Among the fifteen Pioneer Fund-sponsored signatories were Arthur R. Jensen (who has cited the heritability of IQ to argue against interventions to boost academic performance of minorities), J. Philippe Rushton (who, since 2002, has been the president of the Pioneer Fund, and who has argued that the size of what he terms the “Negroid brain” is inversely related to that of the Negroid penis); Rushton's colleague Douglas Jackson (best known for arguing that men are significantly more intelligent than woman), and Seymour Itzkoff (a eugenicist who holds that blacks and whites have such distinct evolutionary histories as to belong to different subspecies)."

You know, this may have some bearing on the question you are supposedly discussing here, but I'm darned if I can see what it is.

Do you disagree that "I.Q. is strongly related, probably more so than any other single measurable human trait, to many important educational, occupational, economic and social outcomes”?

If so can you explain why, basing your answer on science this time?


"I don’t mean to suggest that Professor Pinker agrees with the more eccentric positions of the some of the 52 signatories"

I see. It's just a coincidence that said positions take up two thirds of this post ...

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