The Genius Excuse

Correction Below.

Since we’re talking about Watson again, I thought I’d recommend a post on BitchMedia about how genius is used as an excuse for sin in the arts (thought the article focuses on film specifically). Despite the seeming differences in the scientific enterprise and the artistic enterprise, the observations in that piece seem quite relevant to how our society treats Michael Shermer, James Watson, and Inder Verma.

Consider this:

Auteur theory, originating in French film criticism, credits the director with being the chief creative force behind a production—that is, the director is the “author.” Given that film, with its expansive casts and crews, is one of the most collaborative art forms ever to have existed, the myth of a singular genius seems exceptionally flawed to begin with. But beyond the history of directors like Terrence Malick, Woody Allen, and many more using their marketable auteur status as a “business model of reflexive adoration,” auteur worship both fosters and excuses a culture of toxic masculinity. The auteur’s time-honored method of “provoking” acting out of women through surprise, fear, and trickery—though male actors have never been immune, either— is inherently abusive. Quentin Tarantino, Lars Von Trier, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and David O. Russell, among others, have been accused of different degrees of this, but the resulting suffering of their muses is imagined by a fawning fanbase as “creative differences,” rather than as misogyny and as uncompromising vision rather than violence.

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Did Chinese Children Evolve To Take Tests After Breakfast?

My recent posts have focussed on IQ and the differences between a gap in IQ test results and a gap in general intelligence or g. The contemporary difference between white and Black racial mean IQ is about 10 points. For every IQ test subject, including all white subjects and all Black subjects, some portion of that IQ score represents a measurement of g. However, there are good reasons to think that the proportion of the IQ score that measures g will be different among white people from the proportion measuring g among Black people. While I don’t think that motivation is different enough between racial groups to explain the mean IQ score gap, it’s very interesting and relevant to note that placebo effects that are likely due entirely or almost entirely to motivation effects (primarily a combination of arousal effects and attention effects) can on their own generate a 10 point difference in mean IQ test scores. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (in this case, the “nation” is the USA) has the lowdown.

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Racial differences in average g are not known to be genetic. Or even known to be. Seriously.

On my recent post on the genetics of g – really the genetics of group differences (and especially racial group differences) in mean g – colnago80 raised in a comment some work on Panda’s Thumb summarizing certain research about intelligence, intelligence testing, g, and genetics. You should certainly read it if you have a mind to do so, and you can find it here. It was written recently, published yesterday, and intended to be a contribution to the current debates closely related to the discussion Murray and Sam Harris had on Harris’ podcast: do liberals irrationally reject a genetic contribution to g? For Panda’s Thumb, the current version of this discussion began with a post there 3 weeks ago that was based on research by PhD candidate Emily Willoughby.

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Destabilizing The Genetics Of g

There is yet another discussion of intelligence raging across the internet just now, sparked by Sam Harris’ interview of Charles Murray and a Vox article critical of that interview. (h/t to PZ) I have been critical of the uses of IQ testing for quite some time now, dating back to 8th grade or so. There is nothing per se wrong with intelligence testing. Nor is it inherently bad to make use of intelligence testing. As part of a job application where one is being asked to perform particular tasks in a particular environment, it’s entirely conceivable that a particular intelligence test or set of such tests might well predict success in that job. However, for many if not the vast majority of public policy purposes, IQ and other intelligence testing will function badly, misleadingly, or both. This is even more true if we make assumptions about how much of a particular test result is due to intraracial genetic factors (factors shared within one race, but not between people of different races).

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