Friday, February 27, 2009

Why do so many people hate Gail Trimble?

Britain has a TV quiz show called "University Challenge", in which teams from various universities compete against each other to answer some very obscure questions. The team from Oxford's Corpus Christi college has just won. They won because one member of their team, Gail Trimble, seemed to know just about everything. As a much-published academic, I think I have some claim to being bright and knowing a lot but I would not have been able to answer a single one of the questions that Miss Trimble answered even before the question was finished.

Knowledge and intelligence are not the same but her prodigious knowledge is a byproduct of stratospheric IQ. She was reading at age one. And early language mastery is one of the best indices of IQ. Confirming the disjunction between knowledge and IQ, however, Miss Trimble failed utterly at answering "Pub Quiz" questions about film stars, TV shows and the like. She knows as little about popular entertainment as she knows a lot about academic things.

Since it is high IQ people who are responsible for the many scientific and technical advancements that have made our lives so much easier than the "nasty, brutish and short" lives of our ancestors, one would think that high IQ people would always be celebrated and admired. And they do often get recognition of various sorts, the Swedish (as distinct from the Norwegian) Nobel prizes, for instance. But I guess it will be no surprise that high IQ people also attract dislike and hatred. Envy is a very common human trait and it is not only higher incomes that are envied but many other things as well. And Miss Trimble has certainly attracted lots of dislike and abuse as a result of her abilities. See the insert below.

And that ties in with politics. The nonsensical and incoherent claim that underlies so much Leftist discourse is "all men are equal". And that is the envier's gospel. It makes not a scrap of sense and shows no contact with reality but it is something that enviers resort to as a way of soothing their envious feelings. They deny the very differences that give them so much heartburn. "Denial" was long ago indentified by Freud as a maladaptive psychological defence mechanism and "All men are equal" is a prize example of that. Whatever one thinks of his theories, Freud was undoubtedly an acute observer of people and very few psychologists today would doubt the maladaptive nature of denial as described by Freud.

So Gail Trimble by her very existence offends Leftists. Her existence pushes down their throats the falsity of their central dogma. Reality is SUCH a problem for Leftists! And because their central dogma is not rational, they can only respond to inconvenient reality by hatred and abuse. Conservative bloggers know from their email and the comments that they get on their blogs how most Leftists respond to any presentation of facts that are inconvenient to them. A rational comment backed up by facts is very rare. It is almost all assertion and abuse. If you are very lucky you may get selective attention to the facts but that is all.

Envy has always been with us and the envier's gospel has therefore had many outings throughout history. One thinks of the "Levellers" of Cromwell's day, for instance. And it also appears in the American Declaration of Independence, of course. There were enviers among the American revolutionaries too. But the declaration was of course a compromise document and Jefferson inserted into the envier's creed the word "created" ("all men are created equal"), which removed it from everyday reality and made it clear that the dogma was a matter of faith, not fact.

I think it must be because of that one word "created" in the Declaration that some Christians claim that God suffers from poor sight. They say "all men are equal in the sight of God". As the Leftist FDR said in his January 6, 1942 State of the Union address: "We are fighting, as our fathers have fought, to uphold the doctrine that all men are equal in the sight of God."

That is, however, very poor theology. The Bible makes it clear that God treats saints and sinners very differently. Homosexuals are accursed and condemned to death, for instance (Romans chapter 1). All men are NOT equal in God's eyes. I have seen Galatians 3:28 quoted in support of the equality myth but that text quite clearly refers to committed Christians, not to all men.

More about the brilliant Miss Trimble here and here

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Love me. I'm a liberal"

I have often remarked how the Left side of America's politics is run by hungry egos. They crave praise and power and will do anything to get it. Basically, they all have a Stalinist hunger for there to be statues of themselves all over the place. They generally hide their real motives under a veneer of do-gooder-ism, however. They seek praise by advocating things that sound good, even if such things are ignorant and harmful in the long run and are hence avoided by more responsible politicians. The "liberal" solutions to problems are generally little better than those of their fellow Leftist in Argentina, Juan Peron. Peron's solution to rising prices was to threaten to shoot any shopkeeper who put his prices up. Since the shopkeepers had to PAY more for their goods all the time, Peron's edict simply closed most shops. Eventually, of course people see the destructive consequences of Leftist populism and turn to policies that work. It even happened in Russia and China, eventually. But even then, the Leftist loses little because people believe that "he meant well".

So it is worth taking a moment to note a case when the Leftist acknowledges his real motivations openly. And an article in "The New Republic" does just that, under the heading: "Love Me I'm A Liberal". It is written by the rather aptly-named Leon Wieseltier. The surname is German/Yiddish for "weasel animal" so that may be a hint as to why his ego needs are so pressing. I don't think I would like to identify myself as a "weasel animal" all the time. It must have pained him to have his pretentiousness often satirized in "Spy Magazine". And the reaction to frustration from the large but fragile egos of the Left is hatred. The constant outpouring of hate towards conservatives that I document from time to time on my TONGUE-TIED blog is ample evidence of that. So it is no surprise to find that even weasel's fellow centre-Leftist, Andrew Sullivan has said that 'Wieseltier is a connoisseur and cultivator of personal hatred'. A falling out between two large egos!

The essence of weasel's article in TNR is that although Democrats now hold all the political cards and will use them ruthlessly, America still is, as has often been observed, a center-Right nation. Most people do not share the values of the Left and have little respect for "liberals". Weasel overlooks that it is pretty hard to share liberal values, since they don't have any! The Left constantly tell us that "There is no such thing as right and wrong" so how could they have any values? To have a value is to say that some particular thing or policy is right! All that the Left has are postures that can be changed according to how the winds of public opinion blow. The party that once portrayed itself as the party of the worker and the little guy now hates "rednecks", for instance.

This hollow core of Leftism is often evident in their rapid turn to abuse rather than rational debate and we see that in the weasel too. He has, however, literary pretensions so we see him express his lack of real interest in actual policy in a superficially clever way. He says "The Republicans propose to bail out the economy with doctrine. Unemployment is 7.6 percent and rising, and they say: let them eat Friedman". Maybe that gets a laugh from some Leftists but it is not a serious description of anything in the real world. The central proposal of conservatives about the economic crisis is to unleash the job creators -- business -- by reducing tax and regulatory burdens on them -- but you would never know that from weasel's article.

And also in good Leftist style, weasel is not averse to lying. He says "the cause of all this misery was the market abandon that they [Republicans] promoted so messianically". Absolutely no mention there of the fact that the financial meltdown was caused by worthless mortgages -- mortgages that were forced on banks by such Democrat-sponsored laws as the "Community reinvestment act" and harassment of bank officials by such hard-Left organizations as ACORN. The fact of the matter is that "the cause of all this misery was the market suppression that they [Democrats] promoted so messianically".

So weasel ends up with a demand that Obama promote liberal policies and postures instead of being the centrist which he claimed to be in his campaign. He feebly hopes that Obama can make liberal thinking respectable -- and even "loved"! -- among the population at large. Poor old weasel! As the NYT says, his enemies (created by his own obnoxious behaviour) are legion so his last claim to be loved is that he is a liberal. How pathetic!

There is a detailed fisking of weasel here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

That dreaded IQ again

I am continually amazed at people's capacity to fool themselves. And the smarter you are, the better you are at fooling yourself, it seems. Perhaps the most persistent fallacious belief is that there is such a thing as "healthy" food. Many people, particularly well-educated people, desperately want to believe that they can extend their lifespan by controlling what goes into their mouths. And what is the usual definition of "healthy" food? Low-fat food. And you cannot pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing some comment about healthy food. Yet there is, as far as I am aware, no such thing. As you can see in the sidebar of my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog, the biggest, best and most conclusive research study of the subject found that a low-fat diet had no effect on your health whatever! But that finding was like water off a duck's back. Although the U.S. government spent $400 million on making the study the very best piece of research that could be conducted on the subject, I have yet to see a single mention of it in the popular press and middle-class people still fuss about their food as if it will do them some long-term good. It is a form of religion I guess. People just NEED to feel that they have some control over their fate.

And people's understanding of IQ also seems to be needs-driven. Just about the worst thing you can be called in the USA today is a "racist", yet IQ tests clearly show that blacks are, on average, outstandingly dumb. And their high level of dysfunctional behaviour and low level of educational and economic success is exactly what you would expect of dumb people. It is clear that the tests do not lie. Prisons are full of dumb people and huge numbers of them are black.

But what I have just said is for most people very threatening. If they accept its obvious truth, they risk being seen both by themselves and others as "racist", and that will not do at all. So there are all sorts of mental wriggles that people use to avoid accepting what I have just said. And the truth of all those wriggles has of course been extensively tested and found to be lacking. But there are whole books written on that subject (start here if you want to look into it) so I will not go into details now about it.

What started me off on that little meditation was something very simple, the strapline (subheading) given for the article excerpted below. In answer to the question "Why men are more intelligent than women", the strapline gives an answer: "They aren't". Yet that strapline does not represent the findings reported in the article at all. The article is a generally accurate summary of our current knowledge about IQ and says that women DO on average have slightly lower IQs. It then makes a start on explaining why.

So why such an inaccurate strapline? Because the article was published in a semi-popular magazine and there would have been great cries of outrage from both feminists and real women otherwise. The fact that averages tell us nothing about any one individual within a given population would be no consolation. Many women would just not WANT to believe the conclusion so they had to be assuaged. So the conclusions were slanted to deflect attention from the actual averages to theoretical averages.
Why men are more intelligent than women

The answer is: They aren't.

By Satoshi Kanazawa

The orthodoxy in intelligence research for the second half of the 20th century had been that men and women had the same average intelligence, but men had greater variance in their distribution than women. Most geniuses were men, and most imbeciles were men, they said, while most women were in the normal range. This conclusion, however, was manufactured out of political expediency. Not wanting to discover, or a priori denying, any sex differences in intelligence, psychometricians simply deleted from the standardized IQ tests any item on which the performance of men and women differed.

More recently, however, especially since the turn of the millennium, there have been an increasing number of studies that cast doubt on this politically correct conclusion. Studies with large representative national samples from Spain, Denmark, and the United States, as well as meta-analyses of a large number of published studies throughout the world, all conclude that men on average are slightly but significantly more intelligent than women, by about 3-5 IQ points. So this has now become the new (albeit tentative) consensus in intelligence research.

However, these studies do not answer the ultimate evolutionary question of why men should be more intelligent than women. General intelligence likely evolved as a domain-specific psychological mechanism to deal with evolutionary novelty. However, unlike populations in different geographic parts of the world [translation: different races], men and women within a population have always faced the same level of evolutionary novelty throughout evolutionary history, because they have always migrated together. If general intelligence is a function of the evolutionary novelty of the environment, why then are men on average slightly more intelligent than women? My LSE colleague, Diane J. Reyniers, and I offer one possible explanation in our article, forthcoming in the American Journal of Psychology.

Psychometricians have known since the end of the 19th century that height is positively correlated with intelligence: Taller people on average are more intelligent than shorter people. And men in every human population are taller than women. So one possibility is that men are more intelligent than women, not because they are men, but because they are taller.....

More here

I am not sure why Kanazawa claims that items differentiating men and women have been excluded from IQ tests in the past. It is demonstrably and grossly untrue. He must have in mind some particular instance that is well outside normal practice. It is demonstrably untrue because many items in standard IQ tests DO discriminate men and women. For instance, women tend to do better on verbal puzzles and men do better on mathematical puzzles.

Normal psychometric practice is to select test items by the extent to which they hang together (correlate) with other items -- using such criteria as factor loadings or item-to-total correlations. Doing anything else would damage both the reliability and validity of the test.

It has been suggested -- correctly -- that one could construct an IQ test that did not discriminate men and women by adding in more verbal items and deleting some mathematical items but since the difference between men and women is small, it is hard to see what would be gained by that and, as mentioned, it would detract from at least the validity (construct validity, to be technical) of the test and probably the reliability also.

It would be nice to think that one could dictate the final composition of an IQ test or any other test by the initial item pool that one starts out with before test construction begins but that is not wholly true if one is really doing research rather than just making things up. I have found, for instance, that a subset of items that are not strongly represented in the initial item pool can be quite dominant in the test which emerges from the item analyses. See here for instance. So reality tends to defy intentions and expectations. In other words, there is every reason to believe that existing IQ tests give a correctly balanced picture of IQ. What is in them has emerged empirically.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

IQ rediscovered -- including its heritability and its link to social class

Charles Murray documented all this years ago. Vocabulary is the best single predictor of IQ. Including gestures in vocabulary does however give the new study some originality.
Children who communicate using a wide variety of gestures at the age of 14 months have a much larger vocabulary at age four-and-a-half, and fare much better in school, a study said. [Something that IQ studies told us long ago]

Researchers from the University of Chicago worked with 50 Chicago-area families with different social backgrounds, filming children and their careers during ordinary activities at home for 90-minute sessions. The study, published in the journal Science, found that "differences in child gesture could be traced to differences in parent gesture."

On top of that, psychologist Meredith Rowe said the study found that socioeconomic status differences are clearly evident in the initial stages of language learning. Fourteen-month-old children from "high-income, well-educated families used gesture to convey an average of 24 different meanings," said the researchers in a statement. Same-aged children from lower-income families conveyed only 13 different meaningful gestures. The differences continued on into the child's command of vocabulary in school, the study said.

"Child gesture could play an indirect role in word learning by eliciting timely speech from parents, for example, in response to her child's point at a doll, mother might say 'yes, that's a doll,' thus providing a word for the object that is the focus of the child's attention," the authors wrote in the report. Vocabulary is a "key predictor of school success and is a primary reason why children from low-income families enter school at a greater risk of failure than their peers from advantaged families," said co-author Susan Goldin-Meadow.


The irrational Leftist obsession with their "All men are equal" myth has led to IQ becoming a banished topic -- so the authors above may in fact have been simply unaware that what they had rediscovered was IQ. Certainly, anyone familiar with the IQ research would have predicted all of their findings.

The ban on even thinking about IQ does lead to a lot of follies, particularly in the education field. Vast efforts are made, for instance, to get average black educational achievement up to white levels. But no matter what bright ideas the educators try, the gap stubbornly remains. Again, anybody familiar with average black IQ scores would have predicted that result and told the educators to stop wasting time and money and direct their efforts in more profitable directions. If your theory is wrong, you won't get the results you expect and the results that the educators get certainly falsify their theories regularly -- while the same results validate the IQ concept.

Another folly -- this time in research about secondhand smoke -- that was brought on by ignoring IQ is set out on my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog today.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Asian influence in Australia

I originally wrote the post below for my personal blog but I think it has enough general interest to post here too. On some estimates, the population of Australia is now about 10% East Asian

As a conservative, I treat people primarily as individuals, regardless of any group to which they may or may not belong. I leave obsession with race and class to Leftists. From Marx up until shortly after the Hitlerian catastrophe, Leftists were very pro-racist. Now they are very anti-racist but the obsession with race remains. They seem unable to treat people as individuals and can only talk about people in terms of broad and very oversimplified categories.

But as well as being a conservative I am also a sociologist. An Australian government (NSW) paid me a lot of money over a 12 year period to teach it. And as they are nearly all Leftists, what is the chief interest of sociologists? Race and class! So I still mull those topics over in my head quite a lot -- with always in mind the one piece of wisdom I remember from my mother's incessant chatter: "There's good and bad in the lot".

I am, for instance, very pro-Indian; I think that Indians tend to have admirable characteristics. And being the forthright sort of person I am, I put my money where my mouth is and have mostly Indian sharers living with me in my large house. Usually, I even fly the flag of the Republic of India from the flagpole at the front of my house and have been known to greet Indians living here with Jai Hind ("Long live Hindustan")! And that orientation serves me well in that I am very satisfied with the people that I have living with me. But I have also kicked two Indians out. Even though I think Indians are mostly fine people there are some pesky ones too and I have no trouble treating them accordingly. There is good and bad in Indians too.

So on to my thoughts about East Asians and the Han Chinese in particular. I never cease to be amazed at how well Australians of Asian and British ancestry get on together in Australia. One sees Anglo/Asian couples around the place all the time: Older Australian men with Filipinas and younger Anglo-Australian men with Chinese ladies.

And I myself am quite Sinophilic as well as Indophilic. It is in a way fortunate that I am as I have two old friends who now live in China with Chinese wives. And another old friend has a Japanese lady in his life. I myself however have never got involved with East Asian women, though I did once have an Indian girlfriend. My son however has a girlfriend with Han ancestry and has Chinese friends as well. There are all sorts of background differences and some genetic differences between Anglo-Australians and Chinese but at the individual level there is also often a great appreciation of one another. One can only applaud that. And my conclusion is that the differences between East Asians and Anglo-Celts are complementary: Each has strengths where the other has weaknesses and vice versa. But I might tread on toes all round if I went further into that thought.

The present revival of this theme in my thinking was provoked by a visit from China by one of my old friends, Croucher. He arrived in Brisbane yesterday with his Chinese wife and his two very impressive Eurasian sons. So we all went to dinner together with the Henninghams. Henningham, Croucher and I have a friendship that goes back many years. We always refer to one another by surname only, indicating a sort of jolly friendship, I suppose.

Perhaps in need of a change off Chinese food, Croucher wanted some Middle-Eastern food. So we went to a Turkish restaurant near where I live. Parking around there there is either very difficult or very expensive so I crammed us all into my 1963 Humber Super Snipe and delivered everybody to the door of the restaurant in that. The Humber has bench seats front and back so can transport more people than many modern cars.

I was feeling a bit depressed due to my upcoming minor surgery but fortunately everyone else was in good form with nonsense being talked for most of the night. We did however have occasional serious moments in which we agreed, for instance, that global warming was a great steaming heap of ... Henningham, Croucher and I constantly talk bantering nonsense to one another in emails -- which we greatly enjoy doing -- but it was best of all to do so in person, of course. All three of us are academics so there is also occasionally some academic talk between us but not much.

But it is still a little surprising to me that wherever I go there is a Han presence -- a presence that seems to be completely harmonious. At the classical music group I go to there are almost always Chinese performers giving renditions of Western classsical music to a very high standard; and at the recent annual gathering of my relatives on my mother's side there was also a Han presence: A cousin once removed is married to a Chinese lady and has attractive Eurasian children. I actually now have relatives with Han ancestry!

So if only all minorities fitted in as well here as the East Asians do! Australia is indeed lucky that its largest visible minority is East Asian -- people whom I see as generally patient, clever, flexible individuals who work hard and contribute greatly to the community as a whole. They are not saints (though their rate of crime is very low) but they do seem to fit in with the rest of us remarkably well. And anyone who values social ease and harmony will value that.