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.

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