« Letting Igons be Igons | Main | Speaking Tour! »



Me: Eh? This from an anti-hereditarian. You need to get your story straight.
So home environment is null, whats the environment that does all the heavy lifting then?

Kedar: You're obviously rather familiar with the hereditarian literature. So haven't you heard of where the dominant consensus on where environmental influences comes from is?


Like I said, home environment typically has little effect on IQ and personality, and usually has appreciable effects in extreme environments. The majority of the variance comes from outside of the home- non-shared environmental influences. Are you going to argue Judith Rich Harris is a hereditarian now?

Me: The assertion that home environment has no effect is, right on its very face, risible. This Harris woman is just peddling the same desparate rearguard extreme environmentalism as you.

I'm not denying the effect of environment and I would tend strongly to believe that if any environment were to have noticible effects it would be the home environment - amongst others - including, yes peer groups. But to try and sell the idea that home environment is irrelevant is laughable. Good luck with that!


Shane - "There's a more well-known study that blacks perform more poorly on intelligence tests when explicitly told that they are testing intelligence."

We often hear about this phenomenon - 'stereotype threat'.

However, its also said at other times that blacks perform poorly academically (on average) because of the fear of being seen to 'act white'. Has this been accounted for in IQ tests the way Shane reports that it has for stereotype threat.

Does this fear of acting white extend to IQ tests, or is it somehow suspended for that? If those who fear acting white can be separated from those who suffer stereotype threat how does the research avoid some kind of selection bias, given that these two phenomena seem to quite subjective.

What I'm getting at is this - how have researchers disentangled poor black performance due to fear of performing poorly from blacks performing poorly for fear of acting white.

I'm sure some people can grasp the essential conundrum there...



If you believe that IQ has or could have a 50% or higher genetic component, you are already out of sink with Comrad Gladwell and crew who think it all comes down to what you did on your summer break.
Also, if you believe that there are differences between the races on that genetic IQ component, you are a racist according to Gladwell and polite society.
The accepted answer is that there are NO differences between the races.


"Second, two thirds of the editorial board of the journal Intelligence declined to sign the statement."

Brilliant point, especially coming at the head of a chain of guilt-by-association (and degrees of separation). "Pioneer Fund! Bell Curve! Jensen! Rushton! You-know-who!"

What possible benefit accrues to a signatory? The remarkable thing is that 51 felt sufficiently convinced that they were willing to expose themselves to just this sort of calumny.

Of course, seeing as eugenics and "scientific racism" were accepted across the political spectrum in the early part of the Twentieth Century, if we're really to clean house we'll have to do away with the insights of an entire generation of enlightenment. Starting with Darwin. I recommend you (surreptitiously, of course) amble on over to the Discovery Institute for examples on how to begin. If you already have, excuse me.

Some may get weak-kneed at the prospect, but I have faith in you, Mr. Gladwell, to defend the "anti-racist" convention, down to the last undefended reputation. By any means necessary!


Okay, dump my comments, I take it as a compliment. But don't make yourself look silly by publishing spambot comments:

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

Well, it is complimentary. And enthusiastic!


***Second, two thirds of the editorial board of the journal Intelligence declined to sign the statement.***

Gladwell seems to go on to attack Arthur Jensen, but note that in 1998 the journal Intelligence put out a Special issue titled "A King among Men: Arthur Jensen." Jensen is a well regarded scientist, even his 'opponents' like James Flynn acknowledge this.

Siddhartha Herdegen

I believe any compilation of data differentiated by race will show statistical differences. The real question is, does it matter? The relative value we place on health, wealth, IQ or community-mindedness (if we could measure such a thing) will determine which race we think is “better”.

Sadly, we tend to like the interpretations which show our race as being superior. I say sadly because such positions tend to be divisive and the corresponding statistics used to “prove” our point. It would be better if we accepted the notion differences are not value determinate.

Then we could treat all people with equal respect and allow then to excel at their particular areas of comparative advantage.

Many people consider market capitalism to be a superior economic structure because the “evidence” shows it creates more wealth. Many others ask, more wealth for whom? And at what cost?

Can we really say wealth is the best measure of effectiveness for an economy?

The answers we get are very often the answers we seek because they are based on the questions we ask. Let’s choose questions which value human diversity.


Given the controversial subject, I think to accurately gauge expert opinion someone should do another Snyderman/Rothman type survey.


Peter Cunningham

I enjoyed and learnt a great deal from your books "The Tipping Point", "Blink" and "Outliers", especially the point that no-one succeeds by themselves.

However, I am very disappointed by this article. You criticise Steven Pinker on the grounds that some people with dubious ideas agree with him. So what? Please address the ideas.

Your books were very informative. Steven Pinkers' books were even more so - especially the key idea that our human nature (both physical aspects and mental aspects) is very strongly influenced by the process of evolution that gave rise to us and every other living organism.

It is not surprising that this extremely important idea affects assessments of the significance of IQ data. (It is rational, on both sides, that it should do - it affects prior probabilities, and so affects, for Bayesian reasons, the assessed probability of e.g. cultural bias in the tests)

So what if there are IQ differences between different ethnic groups? As you know, intermarriage will make these differences irrelevant in a few generations.

Best wishes


These smug marginalization tactics are a disgusting subordination of truth to PC propriety.

With the global warming "consensus" coming apart, it's clear exactly how far we can trust our objective backslapping would-be priesthood on similarly suppressed issues like racial IQ.


When you read Pinker's review, not just Gladwell's response to it, it's pretty evident that Pinker has just eaten Gladwell's lunch. (And I say that as someone who, like Pinker, has enjoyed several of Gladwell's books -- despite being frustrated by some of his intellectual tendencies and overstatements. "Contrary to conventional wisdom" doesn't mean wrong, and skepticism needs to be applied to unorthodox claims too.)

You can see this in the term "fundamentalist" that MG uses to introduce an ad hominem aspect to the debate, even before he starts the spurious trick about association noted (often) above.

Gladwell: It's time to recognize your limitations and stop being a jerk. Just make your argument, insofar as you've got one; the abuse is lame.

Steve Sailer

If anybody is interested in my views, I created a Frequently Asked Questions list about IQ in 2007. It's here:


If you are going to make assertions about what I believe, please do me the courtesy of reading this.



It seems to me like a lot of people are failing to see the point of Gladwell's argument. I think what he's trying to say is not that the racist views of some of these folks negates their studies for any moral reasons, this is not a "guilty by association" situation, he's just pointing out that they may have ulterior motives which can colour their studies in a particular way. If you don't want Jews in the country, there's a good chance you'll conclude that they're dumb and probably won't try very hard to come up with any alternate possibilities.


Lurker: "Me: The assertion that home environment has no effect is, right on its very face, risible. This Harris woman is just peddling the same desparate rearguard extreme environmentalism as you.

I'm not denying the effect of environment and I would tend strongly to believe that if any environment were to have noticible effects it would be the home environment - amongst others - including, yes peer groups. But to try and sell the idea that home environment is irrelevant is laughable. Good luck with that!"

Harris is an environmentalist? Now THAT is funny. I haven't fully read the book, but if you've actually read even a modest amount of it, or Harris' views in general, you'll see calling her an environmentalist is inane. I mean, Pinker praised the book in The Blank Slate, and even wrote an introduction to the anniversary edition of Harris' book. It's right on the cover!

And again and again, I simply said it typically- emphasis on that- exerts little effect on personality and intellect. The exact dynamics of why this is so are hard to explain offhand, but this has been found time and time and time again in behavior genetics. I bring this point up so much because quite a few people here have drummed up studies showing transracial adoption to have little effect, yet, this isn't surprising considering that sort of variable is widely recognized to be invalid as a major source of environemntal influence.

It's also quite amazing how hereditarians will emphasize the meager effects of home environment, yet will still wave around adoption studies using a variable they deem invalid.

couchscientist: I don't know Gladwell's views on the heritability of IQ. I doubt he's an extreme environmentalist or anything along those lines. Many people believe the admission to any heritable aspects of human nature is "racist", but I believe you're blowing things out of proportion. And again, what the evidence from behavior genetics says is that anything higher than the 50% figure would be no more than several percentage points- not much of a difference. Plus, this, once again, is strongly irrelevant to the sort of highly stimulating environments that things like intervention programs aim for.


Peter: I've said the same exact thing. I've found Metcalf's article on this issue to be very concise: http://www.slate.com/id/2128199/

Ignore the rather casual appraisal of Gould's work. Regardless of the far shadier practices of the Pioneer Fund in the past, one has to question it on the behavior of many of it's current grantees, especially how Rushton of all people currently heads it. Rushton is a white nationalist. So is Lynn. So are many other Pioneer Fund grantees. Even the non-racialist ones seem to outright embrace a variety of racialist literature. Plus, I really do have to question Jensen, who's all too often done the same with Rushton and Jensen's work. He's often worked with Rushton too. He even gave an interview in 92' to American Renaissance.

A man who's wholly agnostic, open-minded, and not at all racist like the PC thought police brands him has brushed shoulders with people and groups this shady? Yeah, I don't think Jensen is even a white nationalist himself, but I really, really, really have to question his motives when he does that.


Meant to say Jensen all too often does the same with Rushton and Lynn's work.



I've often thought the same thing as well, and it should be alot more concise than Snyderman and Rothman's poll questions. "Partially genetic" could mean as little as 1%. They should ask people to specify how heritable they believe IQ is, on average, within the typical first world environment.

burger flipper

Geoffrey Miller, a good liberal who just wrote a book bashing consumerism, also seems to be on the ice floe

Eddie Haskell

Steve Sailer "Guilty by association!"

"These scientists seek clear definitions of race and IQ. They think IQ equates with intelligence or "cognitive ability." They think that there is some important social need served by identifying people by race and races by "intelligence." You are one deluded social scientist if you think these scientists are not engaging in ideological activity. What is not ideological about identifying some races as superior to others?"

Eddie Haskell

Not that it matters and not that it has anything to do with IQ science but it's really amusing when people call out on exactly who "they"(ideologues on left or right )associate with.I think it's good that you Mr Gladwell bring this to the table.

There is a big web to weave when it comes to,in this case,right wing racial research of IQ and Race.

Pioneer Fund(ers)are linked with many shady people like(PF is a shady group anyway),The Mankind Quarterly who had an ex-Waffen SS editor! and a few other neo-nazi's and who host neo-nazi authors till this day.The connection is real between Pioneer Fund type of groups and motive.It's not surprising to find names like,J. Philippe Rushton ect.

You will find that some other ideologues who do not publicly support such groups write peices on how "charitable" they have been in the past for some really good research. But on the other hand one can also make the same argument on Council on American-Islamic Relations.Guilt by association?

All in the name of research?

Eddie Haskell

My mistake Mankind Quarterly did not have an ex-Waffen SS editor.The ex-Waffen SS (er) was associated with neo-Nazi organization of Great Britain called the Northern League who also had in it's ranks Mankind Quarterly founder Robert Gayre.But of course there is no connection! ;o)

Just good solid opinions on research which is not in anyway masked by ideology and racial supremacy.

wikipedia is great!


***he's just pointing out that they may have ulterior motives which can colour their studies in a particular way. If you don't want Jews in the country, there's a good chance you'll conclude that they're dumb and probably won't try very hard to come up with any alternate possibilities.***

1. As noted above, Goddard never found that Jews or other groups as a general population had low scores. This was a misrepresentation by Leon Kamin repeated by Gould. The other misconception is that this contributed to the 1924 Immigration Act. However, Herrnstein & Snyderman found this was not the case (Intelligence Tests and the Immigration Act of 1924' American Psychologist 38, September 1983).

2. @ Peter & Kedar,

Lynn's research in the 70's showed that East Asians averaged above europeans. That has been replicated many times since.

You question Jensen's motives? Read the book 'Conversations with Arthur Jensen' by Skeptic editor Frank Miele.

Ask James Flynn about Jensen or read the tributes from the likes of Sandra Scarr in the special edition of the journal Intelligence (You may be interested to read her tribute article to Arthur Jensen. 'On Arthur Jensen's integrity' Intelligence Volume 26, Issue 3, 1998). Scarr of course set out to prove Jensen wrong with the Transracial Adoption study. Scarr wrote:

"An interesting parallel to this work is our longitudinal study of interracial adoptees. At the average of 7 years, the African-American adopted children scored 106.1 on IQ tests. By the average age of 18 however, their IQ scores had declined to 96.8. Children with one White and one Black parent scored, on average, 109.0 at age 7 and 98.5 at age 18; children with two Black parents (and later adoptive placements) scored 96.8 at age 7 and 89.4 at age 18..

The test performance of the Black/Black adoptees was not different from that of ordinary Black children reared by their own families in the same area of the country. My colleagues and I reported the data accurately and as fully as possible, and then tried to make the results palatable to environmentally committed colleagues. In retrospect, this was a mistake. The results of the transracial adoption study can be used to support either a genetic difference hypothesis or an environmental difference one (because the children have visible African ancestry). We should have been agnostic on the conclusions; Art would have been."


@ Kedar,

In relation to Rushton, Derbyshire made an interesting point:

"...this whole story about researchers being lap-dogs of their funders doesn’t bear close scrutiny anyway. A couple of years ago, for example, I reported in National Review about the discoveries of human-geneticist Bruce Lahn. Lahn had turned up some variants of genes known to be involved somehow — we didn’t (and still don’t) know exactly how — in infant brain development. These variants showed strikingly different frequencies when tallied by race. Could these variants help explain race-I.Q. differences?

Not hard to find out. Assemble two groups, equalized by age, sex, income, race, and anything else you can think of, one group with variant P, the other without it, this being the only detectable difference between the groups. Give ‘em I.Q. tests. See if there is any statistically-significant group difference.

That follow-up experiment was done. The result was negative. No, these gene variants seem not to be an explanatory factor for race-I.Q. differences.

The lead researcher on that follow-up experiment that got the negative result is J. Philippe Rushton of the University of Ontario. Prof. Rushton has been a major recipient of Pioneer Fund grants, and currently heads the fund. I guess he momentarily forgot he’s supposed to be a lap-dog."

Steve Sailer

Mr. Gladwell's insinuation that IQ researchers are in for the money is pretty funny.

After all, look at how vastly more Mr. Gladwell makes for speeches to big corporations and conventions recounting politically correct conventional wisdom about IQ, while a scholar who knows infinitely more of value on the topic, Charles Murray, almost never gets those kind of gigs. If Mr. Gladwell were to announce that he had closely studied the science and had decided that Dr. Murray are more right than his own past pronouncements, he would lose millions in income from corporations. After all, corporations, which are sued constantly for discrimination, can't afford to pay money for anything but Gladwellesque politically correct pablum.

If Mr. Gladwell truly believes that the settled findings of cognitive science are corrupted by the activities of the Pioneer Fund, then he should compete with the Pioneer Fund by funding IQ research. He can certainly afford it.

After all, Mr. Gladwell gets paid huge sums annually by corporations and conventions to make speeches on the findings of social science. (You'll note that mainstream IQ researchers who know infinitely more of value to corporations, such as Charles Murray, almost never get corporate speaking gigs.

Since, he doesn't like the results of social science, and he hints darkly that it's all biased by the funding source, then he should become a funding source for IQ research?

Jeremiah Whitmoore

Mr. Gladwell,

Do you always smear your enemies by linking them to noxious racists?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo


  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

My Website


  • What the Dog Saw

    buy from amazon


    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK


    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Tipping Point

    buy from amazon

Recent Articles

Blog powered by Typepad