Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pride and Prejudice in relation to IQ findings

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

Prof. Philippe Rushton of the University of Western Ontario psychology department has demonstrated yet again his exceptional capacity for engendering controversy in the pursuit of truth; this time, with a paper on sex and intelligence which suggests that the average IQ for men is 3.6 points higher than the average IQ for women.

As usual, most of Rushton’s critics have committed the ad hominem fallacy: Instead of undertaking the difficult task of refuting his conclusions with reason and evidence, they have resorted to the easier expedient of casting aspersions on his motives, character and competence.

Some have suggested that Rushton is stupid. Others have dismissed him as a misogynist. The most strident detractors seem to have overlooked the fact that he is not the sole, or even the leading, author of the paper in question -- an article in the current issue of the peer-reviewed academic journal Intelligence entitled “Males have greater g: Sex differences in general mental ability from 100,000 17- to 18-year-olds on the Scholastic Assessment Test.”

The lead author was the late Prof. Douglas Jackson, a colleague of Rushton’s in the psychology department at Western who died in August, 2004. In an introductory note to the jointly written article, Rushton relates that after Jackson’s death, he completed the write up presented in the paper based on statistical analyses which Jackson had carried out and initially presented to the International Society for Intelligence Research in 2002.

By any measure, Jackson was a brilliant scholar. He accumulated a long list of scholarly publications and taught at Pennsylvania State University and Stanford University prior to accepting an appointment in 1964 as Senior Professor of Psychology at Western.

Besides, as Jackson and Rushton acknowledge in their paper, it is not just they who suggest that males have marginally higher average IQs than females. In recent years, several other scholars have also published scientific papers that point to essentially the same conclusion.

While it might be supposed that a difference of just 3.6 points in average IQs between men and women is essentially meaningless, that is not the case. For both men and women, the distribution of IQs resembles a bell curve, with most people having close to average IQs and progressively fewer scoring at the high and low extremes. Therefore, even a relatively small difference in average IQs between men and women can denote a large difference in the proportions of men and women who have IQs above the average of 100 for men and women combined.

Specifically, Jackson’s data suggest that there are about 55 men for every 45 women with an IQ above 100. And Rushton estimates that if the standard is set at 115 – the minimum needed to qualify for select departments at Western -- there are about 60 males for every 40 females. And for entry into graduate schools at elite institutions, the ratio of qualifying males to females is much higher again.

Of course, a study of adult IQs based on the test scores of college applicants can only be suggestive. Rushton concedes "only more data can determine the true nature of sex differences in cognitive ability. However, people should not be made to feel afraid to study controversial issues."

Daniel Seligman has no such fear. He is the author of A Question of Intelligence: The IQ Debate in America. Among the many intriguing features of this book is a discussion of recent research suggesting that the average IQ for European Jews is 10 to 15 points above average; findings that go a long way toward explaining how the world’s tiny minority of Jews have won close to 30 per cent of the Nobel prizes for science.

Samuel Johnson, the scholar who single-handedly compiled the first comprehensive English dictionary, was one of the greatest geniuses in recorded history. And he put his talents to good use, by distinguishing himself not just as a lexicographer, but also as an author and critic.

Yet Johnson was profoundly humble. As a Christian, he understood that his high intelligence was a gift of God. Far from taking pride in his extraordinary powers and accomplishments, he was mindful of the truth that from those to whom much has been given, much is expected.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gross betrayal of the rule of law

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

More than six months after Mr. Justice David Marshall of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered aboriginal protestors to end their occupation of a proposed housing project on disputed land in the town of Caledonia, the land still remains under occupation.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Provincial Police have laid 14 charges arising out of this dispute including attempted murder, assaulting a police officer and forceable confinement; and the law-abiding citizens of Caledonia live in continual fear of violence between aboriginal and non-aboriginal demonstrators.

Still, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant has no intention of upholding the rule of law in the town. Instead, he and colleagues in the Liberal government of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty are bent on trying to assure the peace by appeasing the aboriginal protestors.

To this end, the McGuinty government bought the disputed land from the developer last June. Given that neither the developer nor the government now has any objection to the occupation of the land by aboriginals, Bryant takes the view that there is no longer any need for him to enforce Marshall’s court order to end the aboriginal occupation.

Marshall disagrees. It was in response to a request by counsel for the Attorney General and the Ontario Provincial Police that he found last March that the aboriginal protestors were in criminal contempt of his court. In an additional ruling on August 8, he pointed out that the failure of the Attorney General and the police to uphold this finding of the court in the face of mob violence constituted a grave attack on the rule of law.

In his reasons for judgment, Marshall observed: “The citizens of Caledonia may well ask why – why should I pay a fine which a judge has ordered when the protestors do not have to obey the court’s order? To that person, this court has no teeth. To that person, this is not a court at all.”

While acknowledging that the Attorney General and the police have wide powers of discretion in deciding when and how to enforce the lawful orders of a court, Marshall emphasized: “They must not use their discretion to defeat the court’s orders.” In the context of the Caledonia dispute, he advised the government, (but did not order, as is commonly reported) that “negotiations should cease until the rule of law returns and the barricades come down.”

The McGuinty government has rejected that advice. It is continuing to negotiate with the aboriginals; the barricades remain up in Caledonia; and there is no prospect of any early revival of the rule of law in the town.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader John Tory is justifiably scandalized. In a commentary published last week in The National Post, he wrote: “It is a fundamental rule of society that the law is the same for everybody. No matter how passionate the belief in a cause, nobody has the right to ignore the law just because they disagree with it or find it inconvenient. It does not matter whether you are in Caledonia, downtown Toronto or anywhere else in Canada.”

Tory takes the view that McGuinty should insist on the removal of the barricades that divide Caledonia and agree to negotiate only with those who “hold respect for the rule of law and for each other.” Tory suggested that in this way, the premier would be “encouraging everyone to uphold and promote respect for our laws and the cherished processes we have in place to deal with them.”

Tory is right, in this instance, but he should be more consistent. If he sincerely believes that the rule of law should apply “in downtown Toronto or anywhere else,” he should summon the Attorney General to bring charges against all the men who routinely violate the criminal code, by parading stark naked through the streets of Toronto during the city’s annual gay pride parade.

Marshall underlined in his August 8 ruling that the rule of law is “the pre-eminent condition of freedom and peace in a democratic society.” It follows that the breakdown of the rule of law in Caledonia, as in so many other instances in Canada, should be a matter of utmost concern, not just to judges like Marshal, but to all Canadians.