Jason Richwine recently put up a rather good post over at Politico. Why can't we talk about IQ
should really be titled Why cant we talk about certain things?
In my mind, the IQ debate is settled. Overwhelming scientific evidence validates the concept, as does personal experience. Only those who deliberately turn a blind eye to the data can assert that there isn't a genetic component. Environment does play a role, though you can't put in what God's left out. Still, I'm not a IQ Calvinist who believes in genetic predestination, there are ways to by-pass innate stupidity but that is for a different post.
What struck me about Richwine's piece was it's explicit, but confused, attack on The Cathedral.
At stake here, incidentally, is not just knowledge for the sake of
knowledge, but also how science informs public policy. The U.S.
education system, for example, is suffused with mental testing, yet few
in the political classes understand cognitive ability research. Angry
and repeated condemnations of the science will not help.
What scholars of mental ability know, but have never successfully
gotten the media to understand[ED], is that a scientific consensus, based on
an extensive and consistent literature, has long been reached on many
of the questions that still seem controversial to journalists.
Here is where I think he starts to go wrong. Richwine seems to be running on the assumption that science hasn't done enough to convince journalists about the truth of their claims, or, that there is an onus on scientists to convince journalists. Richwine doesn't seem to realise that the role of journalists has changed. Whilst the traditional role of journalists was to objectively report the facts, the role of the modern journalist is to police "approved" culture. He seems to be running on the assumption that "more convincing" or communication is required by the scientists. This a typical victim response. Most good natured people, when involved unexpectedly in a conflict, tend to rationalise the event by blaming themselves, in someway, for the events. He doesn't seem to realise that he is up against a malevolent beast.
Snyderman and Rothman then systematically analyzed television,
newspaper, and magazine coverage of IQ issues. They were alarmed to find
that the media were presenting a much different picture than what the
expert survey showed. Based on media portrayals, it would seem that most
experts think IQ scores have little meaning, that genes have no
influence on IQ, and that the tests are hopelessly biased. “Our work
demonstrates that, by any reasonable standard, media coverage of the IQ
controversy has been quite inaccurate,” the authors concluded.
Now, most of the people that I know who became journalists weren't the
sharpest tools in the shed, and given their limited cognitive powers it's to be expected that
some of them would get things wrong. However, the systemic nature of their
misrepresentation is not an act of isolated stupidity but of systemic
disinformation. i.e. they're lying. The same could be said for discussion on issues such as gay marriage, immigration and crime.
For too many people confronted with IQ issues, emotion trumps reason.
Some are even angry that I never apologized for my work. I find that
sentiment baffling. Apologize for stating empirical facts relevant to
public policy? I could never be so craven. And apologize to whom —
people who don’t like those facts? The demands for an apology illustrate
the emotionalism that often governs our political discourse.
Here we come to the crux of the matter. As Ortega y Gasset argued most
professionals are really noting more than mass-men, i.e cognitive
misers. The liberal cognitive miser has a mind hermetically sealed to
facts or opinions which contradicts their world view.[Ed: As does the
conservative cognitive miser] Emotion, rather than logic, is the method
of discourse amongst the hive mind. Nice and good are conflated as are
uncomfortable and evil.
What causes so many in the media to react emotionally when it comes
to IQ? Snyderman and Rothman believe it is a naturally uncomfortable
topic in modern liberal democracies. The possibility of intractable
differences among people does not fit easily into the worldview of
journalists and other members of the intellectual class who have an
aversion to inequality. The unfortunate — but all too human — reaction
is to avoid seriously grappling with inconvenient truths. And I suspect
the people who lash out in anger are the ones who are most internally
But I see little value in speculating further about causes. Change is
what’s needed. And the first thing for reporters, commentators, and
non-experts to do is to stop demonizing public discussion of IQ
differences. Stop calling names. Stop trying to get people fired. Most
of all, stop making pronouncements about research without first reading
the literature or consulting people who have.
The role of The Cathedral is to police the prevailing culture and punish dissent, particularly through putting pressure on employers to rid themselves of those who upset the culture. Given the moral cowardice that comes part and parcel with modern corporate and academic culture employment for influential academics who buck the system becomes impossible. They become culturally neurtralised.
The internet is the enemy of the media. Traditional media structures
involved a centralised collecting agency, filtration of the news and
dissemination to a public which had no other sources of information. A
man's weltanshcauung was thus powerfully shaped by the titans of media.
The internet bypasses the Cathedral's power. Cue Washington Post
It's interesting the Richwine recognises this as well.
Not all the media coverage was divorced from real science. Journalists such as Robert VerBruggen and Michael Barone
wrote insightful reaction pieces. And the science-oriented blogosphere,
which is increasingly the go-to place for expert commentary[Ed], provided some of the best coverage.
I suppose that the most important take home message from Richwine's post is that engagement with the media is going to be counterproductive, especially to those of the right. Some blog commentator seem keen for media attention but I think that this desire is unwise. I think its important for the nascent New Right/ Dark Enlightenment/Neo Reactionaries not to worry about sudden media exposure and the publicity it brings. The movement needs to establish roots which are deep, wide and strong. Just like undergound movements in occupied countries, we need to establish our bona fides by personal contact through person to person spread. Anyone who embraces the media is likely to end up as its lunch.
We are the new rebels.