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Old 10-08-2002, 01:40 PM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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The Bell Curve

I'm about 90% of the way through The Bell Curve, a book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. At this point I find it quite compelling, yet I see some reviews of the book that say the basic premise has been discredited. Problem is the criticism does not provide details beyond the simple conclusion that the ideas are wrong. While I understand that some of the issues presented are very provocative I would be interested in hearing other ideas. Has anyone here read the book or have an enlightened opinion about the question of IQ and its value as a general predictor of things like achievement, behavior, general health and even life expectancy? Or does anyone have thought out ideas about the value of such a book in our society?
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Old 10-08-2002, 02:41 PM
cher3 cher3 is offline
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Lots of people provided detailed criticisms when it was published. You might want to read Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. Although Herrnstein and Murray's book was written much later, they commit many of the same errors that Gould discusses.

Short answer: You can't generalize across groups by looking at variations within groups.
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Old 10-08-2002, 05:34 PM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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This would seem to be more of either a General Question or a Great Debate depending on how it spins off. (Unfortunately, while terribly wrong, The Bell Curve is neither mundane nor pointless.)

For look at specific criticisms of the book (and the strange tactics employed both in its writing and in its publication), check out
The Bell Curve Flattened that includes links to three specific errors Case Study One, Case Study Two, and Case Study Three in which they both lied about the meaning of their sources and lied about what their sources actually said.

This site presents links to several scientific criticisms of the work.

Generally, what the authors did was to say "We don't have real numbers for the whole population, so we're going to go collect numbers for this group of (self-selected) 'smart' people and for this group of (oddly mis-matched) 'not so smart' people, and then we're going to pretend that they were all measured on the same scale by pretending that we have a magical way to reconcile the discrepancies between the groups that were measured differently using different measuring rods, even though we are claiming the measurements are the same."
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Old 10-08-2002, 07:11 PM
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Old 10-08-2002, 08:35 PM
Larry Griffin-Kentzel Larry Griffin-Kentzel is offline
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Off to Great Debates.

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Old 10-08-2002, 09:13 PM
december december is offline
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I second cher3's recommendation that you read The Bell Curve together with The Mismeasure of Man. They are both thoughtful and well-written, yet they draw almost opposite conclusions. Although S. J. Gould is brilliant and witty, I found the arguments in TMOM to be flawed.

Many of the reviews of TBC bore little relationship to the actual book. There was a whole class of reviewers who panned the book and called it racist based on things it didn't say, things where it said the opposite, things that were widely believed by people in the field, and things that were simply a recitiation of facts.

I'm glad to hear that you're reading the book, so you can make up your own mind, Tigers2B1.

Oh, by the way, welcome to the Straight Dope Message Board.
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Old 10-08-2002, 09:23 PM
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Originally posted by december
[B]I second cher3's recommendation that you read The Bell Curve together with The Mismeasure of Man. They are both thoughtful and well-written, yet they draw almost opposite conclusions. Although S. J. Gould is brilliant and witty, I found the arguments in TMOM to be flawed.
Of note, of course, is that december lacks the most elementary background to judge any of these issues, other than december's a priori political prejudices.

The Bell Curve was neither thoughtful nor well-written. It engaged in academic fraud in mischaracterizing in a substantive manner the underlying data, including series of fundamental statistical errors, that as many scientists noted, all went in one direction. Not sloppiness, deliberate bias.

Gould had a point of view, but his science to date was 100% straight up on the facts, although interpretations might be discussed on some issues.

The fact december has yet to grasp the difference, after so many conversations on this over the years here well, is utterly unsurprising.

I have not bothered to address decembers other claims, insofar as usual they bear little resemblance to the undelrying facts. Ideological blither.
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Old 10-08-2002, 09:44 PM
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Originally posted by Collounsbury
Of note, of course, is that december lacks the most elementary background to judge any of these issues
I could be wrong, but doesn't december do statistical work of some sort?
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Old 10-08-2002, 09:47 PM
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BC did not factor environment and nurturing at all as a contributor to the disparity of IQs discussed. That alone makes it flawed, december.
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Old 10-08-2002, 10:32 PM
Truth Seeker Truth Seeker is offline
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For once, I must disagree with Collounsbury. I simply don't accept that The Bell Curve was nothing more than a psuedoscientific racist fraud. The book sparked a virulent debate and some of its specific claims have certainly taken a few knocks. That, however, is how academic debate works. I've read a number of the critiques, ranging from the hysterically incoherent to the merely vituperative. Only a few have even bordered on the dispassionate. This, I think, does serious disservice to rational debate. One of Herrnstein and Murray's critics, sums it up as well as any.

Quote:
Most of your readers will have recognized the shrill and panicked nature of much of the reaction to the Herrnstein and Murray assertions about race and IQ. This is likely to create in any dispassionate person the presumption that that someone's ox is being deservedly gored.


There is little dispute that different populations have different "IQs." The question is, what is "IQ" and why is it different. Herrnstein and Murray offer evidence that at least some of this difference is inherited. It is simply unreasonable to dismiss this idea out of hand. In fact, those who would argue that there is no inherited component of IQ would seem to have the burden of proof. It may be that, in fact, the IQ differences between populations is entirely due to environmental factors. However, you can't demonstrate that by simply refusing to consider the alternate hypothesis.

The magnitude of these inherited differences, if any, and what impact they have on social policy are separate questions. Even Herrnstein and Murray observe that the differences between individuals is so much greater than that between populations that any difference in average intelligence between populations is meaningless with respect to any individual.

Here is a link giving some "generally accepted" facts that may help sort through some of the hype.

http://www.mugu.com/cgi-bin/Upstream...ell-curve.html

Here's a site (generally pro-Murray) with a great deal of argument both pro and con, including a number of reviews. It tells you something about the visceral reaction to the book that these reviews are divided into "balanced," "hostile," and "vitriolic" categories

http://www.mugu.com/cgi-bin/Upstream...rve/index.html

The point here is that there is a real debate. As much as we might like to, we can't simply dismiss The Bell Curve out of hand.
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Old 10-09-2002, 12:27 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Truth Seeker, I would not characterize that website as "generally pro-Murray." It appeared to me to be entirely pro-Murray with various criticisms labeled either "Hostile" or "Vitriolic" simply to dismiss them before they could be read. (Why no category indicating a Pollyanna-like embrace of the work for those comments that were wholly uncritical in their acceptance?)

Nevertheless, what that site presents is nothing more than the immediate opinions of people on one side or the other of psychometrics at the time the book was pubished. Of the links that I could make work, every single one (pro or con) was an Op-Ed type statement made in the few months immediately following the publication of The Bell Curve (which was, as noted in my earlier link, deliberately published without peer review). None of those articles actually delved into the work to analyze the science or the math.

The Wall Street Journal ad provided in the first link is typical of the stuff in the rest of the links. The claim that those statements are "generally accepted" is hyperbole (and disingenuous, at best). In fact, many, perhaps most, of the statements are actually hotly contested within the psychological community. The people who signed that ad happened to be on the side that favors psychomerics and believes in IQ. "The following professors-all experts in intelligence an allied fields-have signed this statement" Well, I guess they would identify themselves that way. The fact that they solicited the signature of Arthur R. Jensen indicates that they have a particular axe to grind. The fact that they would solicit the signature of J. Philippe Rushton indicates that they were willing to solicit even cranks to bolster the number of signatories.

In the years susbsequent to those initial reactions, mathematicians and social scientists have had an opportunity to actually study the book in depth. I have seen no peer-reviewed defense of the work. One does not have to oppose psychmetrics or IQ to recognize that Murray and Herrnstein "cheated" when they assembled their book in order to get the result they desired.

Beginning in 1995, people began publishing the results of actual analyses of the work. Some synopses follow (most of the actual analytical reviews are in print and I have not been able to find them in their entirety on-line):

http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/irp/featured/bellcurv.htm (A pre-peer review criticsim of the book in which several points are noted where Murray and Herrnstein "switched" the values being measured in order to make a point or dismissed data that was uncomfortable to their thesis.)

http://www.skeptic.com/04.3.siano-bellcurve.html

http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v3n2.html

http://www.korpios.org/resurgent/L-bellcurvescience.htm
(Which notes that a team, including both pro- and anti-Murray members, assigned by the American Psychological Association to review the work found enough errors throughout the book that they actually labeled one section "fraudulent.")

http://www.srv.net/~msdata/bell.html

Now, are there any scientific reviews of (rather than opinion pieces discussing) The Bell Curve subsequent to 1994 that actually support it?
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Old 10-09-2002, 01:09 AM
Apos Apos is offline
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There wasn't, of course, an end to all research on this subject with the publication of the Bell Curve. There's been plenty more.
Including work doen by Neal and Johnson have cast real doubt on the idea that test scores measure inherent abilities: their research has shown that the gap between the intelligence tests of blacks and whites seems to widen with age: that's a pretty hard thing to explain if you think intelligence tests are really measuring what they claim to: inherent, inherited, immutable traits.

You can find N and J's work in Journal of Public Economy in the 1996 era.
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Old 10-09-2002, 01:58 AM
december december is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by capacitor
BC did not factor environment and nurturing at all as a contributor to the disparity of IQs discussed. That alone makes it flawed, december.
This canard was repeated endlessly by critics who apparently had not read the book, but who had an ax to grind. The statement is completely false. E.g., TBC quotes leaders in the field as attributing intelligence between environment and heredity in various percentages, ranging around 50-50.

In addition, TBC over and over makes the point that one cannot conclude that blacks and whites have different IQs due to genetics, because their environments are so different.
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Old 10-09-2002, 02:41 AM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Originally posted by Truth Seeker

There is little dispute that different populations have different "IQs." The question is, what is "IQ" and why is it different. Herrnstein and Murray offer evidence that at least some of this difference is inherited. It is simply unreasonable to dismiss this idea out of hand. In fact, those who would argue that there is no inherited component of IQ would seem to have the burden of proof. It may be that, in fact, the IQ differences between populations is entirely due to environmental factors. However, you can't demonstrate that by simply refusing to consider the alternate hypothesis.

The difficulty with IQ as measured by Stanford-Binet seems to me to be that it can't be demonstrated that it measures inate intelligence.

For example, anthropologist Marvin Harris in the book Our Kind points out that the test was designed to make the IQ of men and women come out the same.

It was long known that men and women answered various types of questions differently. Using the assumption that men and women have the same inate intelligence on average, the test designers gave tests with various mixes of different types of questions to sample groups of men and women. They then selected as their final tests those that gave equal results for the two sexes.

I believe that if I used that method I could prove that street gang members and Oxford PhD's had the same inate intelligence.

I'm not up on the latest info in this field, or any other for that matter. So does anyone have any new dope on this? What do IQ tests mean? And what exactly are we discussing when we speak of IQ?

I for the sake of argument suppose that IQ means something important and is correlated with physical characteristics. What then should we do about it? I think that even The Bell Curve authors would admit that there is some overlap between the populations. That is some in the group they claim has a lower average IQ still have one that is higher than some in the supposedly "superior" average IQ group. Are those in the upper end of the "low" group to be denied opportunity? Are those in the lower end of the "high" group to be favored just because of a theoretical "superiority" of the average of their group? I read the book years ago and it didn't make any sense then and it doesn't now because I don't see how it contributes in any way to a sensible public policy about how we get along with each other or solve any of the existing social problems.
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Old 10-09-2002, 05:00 AM
Mandelstam Mandelstam is offline
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Dave:
"It was long known that men and women answered various types of questions differently. Using the assumption that men and women have the same inate intelligence on average, the test designers gave tests with various mixes of different types of questions to sample groups of men and women. They then selected as their final tests those that gave equal results for the two sexes.

I believe that if I used that method I could prove that street gang members and Oxford PhD's had the same inate intelligence."


I'm not sure I see the logic of that comparison, although I do agree that "IQ" is highly questionable.

There are, to be sure, many different kinds of ability that can count as "intelligence."

One may believe that discernible differences between the sexes on some of these abilities are the effect of nature, or nurture, or a complex interplay of the two. Yet one can surely say the same about gang members vs. PhDs.

I think your underlying point, which is an important one, is that anyone--male or female, gang member of Oxford don--will do better on a test that is designed to emphasize his/her strengths.

But given that that is so, if intelligence must be generically tested in some fashion, (and I'm not arguing that it should be), doesn't it make sense to use a test that measures the broadest range of human abilities?

As to your last set of comments, also very important, I also agree. I don't for one second believe that there is anyone born with mental capacities in the typical range who lacks the ability to learn what is required to lead a productive and satisfying life including (to use an old-fashioned phrase) cultivating "the life of the mind."

Nurture is not all: not everyone can be a prodigy. But human beings are extraordinarily adaptible. Given all the things that humans have done throughout history, it would absurd to think of the potential of any group of people as physiologically limited.

I'd also be interested in hearing what people know on the matter of IQ tests.
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Old 10-09-2002, 06:29 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned The Bell Curve Debate:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...lance&n=507846

All the criticism you want in one easy-to-carry package.



tomndeb's last paragraph sums up the problem with TBC in one simple, if flip, package. The authors of TBC appropriated data from vastly different tests, tortured the data to "compensate" for the differences, and presented the results as truth. I wouldn't calibrate my spectrophotometer that way, let alone base public policy on it.
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Old 10-09-2002, 09:15 AM
december december is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by CalMeacham
tomndeb's last paragraph sums up the problem with TBC in one simple, if flip, package. The authors of TBC appropriated data from vastly different tests, tortured the data to "compensate" for the differences, and presented the results as truth. I wouldn't calibrate my spectrophotometer that way, let alone base public policy on it.
The Bell Curve is around 900 pages long. It addresses a host of issues. The work is thoroughly foot-noted.

Cal's criticism may or may not be valid for certain specific points in the book, but it doesn't invalidate the entire book. There's a big difference between finding a few cases where incompatible data was compared and claiming that the entire book is wrothless and dishonest. People have different views about how to analyze statistics. To say that some critic disagrees with an analysis isn't the same as saying that the analysis is wrong. Also, even if TBC is flat-out wrong in a few points, that doesn't prove that they aren't right most of the time. How could a book this long not have a few mistakes?

Whether or not they are typical, I will be happy to debate the specific issues alluded to by CalMeacham. Cal, please identify the particular points you're referring to and why you consider the analysis to be flawed.
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Old 10-09-2002, 09:26 AM
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As to december's claimed skill and background in statistical applications, given he has never in his debates here demonstrated even a passing critical acquaintance with critical data analysis, I feel quite comfortable characterizing him as utterly unqualified to comment. Perhaps with the proper tables set right out in front, but else, no.

Quote:
Originally posted by Truth Seeker
For once, I must disagree with Collounsbury. I simply don't accept that The Bell Curve was nothing more than a psuedoscientific racist fraud.
As you like.

Quote:
The book sparked a virulent debate and some of its specific claims have certainly taken a few knocks. That, however, is how academic debate works.
Part of academic debate is getting your underlying facts right. Idiot Boys I & II clearly massaged the data, and even misrepresented.

Quote:
I've read a number of the critiques, ranging from the hysterically incoherent to the merely vituperative. Only a few have even bordered on the dispassionate. This, I think, does serious disservice to rational debate. One of Herrnstein and Murray's critics, sums it up as well as any.
Dispassionate? What the fuck does dispassionate have to do with anything? This isn't Star Trek. Lots of debates in science are passionate, I like my scientists to be passionate, if they get their data right.

I would expect passion on an area where two authors so clearly did not do science, they did a policy work masquerading as science.

Quote:
There is little dispute that different populations have different "IQs." The question is, what is "IQ" and why is it different. Herrnstein and Murray offer evidence that at least some of this difference is inherited.
Let me be explicit. Based on my somewhat limited background in human genetics, I have no doubt at all that human intelligence is genetically bounded.

The critics who question that, and they are few, deserve as much scorn as the idiot boys.

The question is the relationship btw intelligence, the underlying genetics and environment.

Everyone I know or read in the field (human genetics) proper has a highly qualified approach to this. One's genetic inheritance is a template, which lays down a range of bounded possibilities. Regretably the lower end is less certain perhaps than the higher end, as environmental damage can quite clearly lower possibilities (i.e. one may not naturally be a moron, but poor nutrition gets one below the lower range that the genes might otherwise imply, ceteris paribus.). On the other hand, environment can also open up upper ends that might be closed off by poor nutrition.

Complex interactions.

Quote:
It is simply unreasonable to dismiss this idea out of hand. In fact, those who would argue that there is no inherited component of IQ would seem to have the burden of proof.
Straw man: my problem with the Idiot Boys is not per se the concept of inheritance of IQ (abstracting away from the fundamental problems of (i) definition of IQ, (ii) complex feedback role of environement in genetic expression), but their dishonest use of differing data sets, many of highly suspect quality and definition, their dishonest massaging of their results etc.

Quote:
It may be that, in fact, the IQ differences between populations is entirely due to environmental factors. However, you can't demonstrate that by simply refusing to consider the alternate hypothesis.
This is like the moron race debates. Get the goddamned facts right to start with, understand the problems of inter-population versus intra-population (where population stands for the sample sets) comparisions and then get back to the Idiot Boys.

First, in order to attempt a characterization of the genetic inheritance by groups -- and let us be honest that is what Bell Curve was attempting to do -- one has to be sure that those groups make sense in some genetic sense. We already know the answer there.

Further that, one should be certain regarding the quality of the data- above all in issues of attempting to characterize a population. They used data from an era where 'racial' data collection was clearly compromised, above all in re the area of intelligence.

There is simply no way to massage compromised data into usable data. Compromised collection is compromised collection. Period.

In my business, if we found one of our scientists massaging his data to "adjust" for contamination in trials, we fucking fire his ass. (Or her). Garbage in Garbage out.

All this being said, yes the area is worthy of investigation, in a properly rigorous and scientific manner, which the Bell Curve was not. The Bell Curve was inherently a political work, and was complete shit.

Quote:
The point here is that there is a real debate. As much as we might like to, we can't simply dismiss The Bell Curve out of hand.
Bull fucking shit. Bad science and bad research IS dismissable out of hand. Period.

That, of course, leaves the wider point of how to research and characterize population level differences in achievement untouched. There are surely population level differences, depending on the population definition they may even be demonstrably linked to aggregate biologically based differences. To get at this one needs rigorous, well-conceived research, above all in an area prone to bias.

I have no patience for bullshit. Get the basic research right, build on current population-genetic data and in ten years you can write something meaningfull in a meta-analytical manner

Returning to december, his post above adequately illustrates my utter dismissal of his qualifications or capacity to address the topic, outside of ideological nattering on.
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Old 10-09-2002, 09:37 AM
december december is offline
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Collounsbury, I will make the same offer to you that I did to [b]Cal[b/]. Please choose some specific aspects that you disagree with and I will be happy to debate them with you.

I do admire your colorful use of words: passing critical acquaintance, what the fuck, properly rigorous and scientific, complete shit, bull fucking shit, fucking fire his ass, and ideological nattering. That latter phrase is reminscent of Spiro Agnew's "Nattering nabobs of negativism," except that he had the matching n's.

OTOH, actual specific points with arguments and support might be more appropriate here in GD.
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Old 10-09-2002, 09:43 AM
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Originally posted by december
[B]Collounsbury, I will make the same offer to you that I did to [b]Cal[b/]. Please choose some specific aspects that you disagree with and I will be happy to debate them with you.
december, when you demonstrate some passing acquiantance with criticial thought, then I might be inclined to waste my time debating you.

Truthy, I'd be happy to enter into the discussion with him.
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Old 10-09-2002, 09:51 AM
Gadarene Gadarene is offline
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The book Measured Lied: The Bell Curve Examined addresses Herrnstein and Murray's book chapter by chapter, and rips it apart quite well.

Let me ask you a question, december: Suppose the findings of The Bell Curve were and are 100 percent accurate--what would you consider to be the prescriptive implications? What should it mean for public policy, etc.?
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Old 10-09-2002, 10:14 AM
december december is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Gadarene
Let me ask you a question, december: Suppose the findings of The Bell Curve were and are 100 percent accurate--what would you consider to be the prescriptive implications? What should it mean for public policy, etc.?
TBC takes certain positions on a long-running debate. In particular, the authors' views are
  • General intelligence (g) exists.
  • g has a substantial genetic component.
The book itself makes some policy recommendations. The one I recall revolves around the fact that there are many dumb people. Therefore, the authors recommend that public policy aim more at simplification and clarity. This echos the theme of The Death of common Sense. It's a principle I deeply believe in. It's something I have worked to promote within organizations I have worked for. One reason why I am about to leave my job is that my current employer doesn't operate on that philosophy.

In terms of private policy, I have had good luck hiring smart people. I do more-or-less believe that there exists something like a "general intelligence." I seek to hire people with that attribute. At one time my wife was a consultant at Stanford Research Institute. Her boss Chuck liked to boast that he was the dumbest person in his department. That is, Chuck would only hire people smarter than himself.
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Old 10-09-2002, 10:16 AM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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I don't have much background in these issues, but I do find them quite interesting. How about these issues:

Almost all of TBC's data, as I understand it, was based on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY). The mean IQ was only 94, which is (fortunately) not representative of the United States population, and the standard deviation was not 15 or 16.

M&H address a white-only study in order to avoid a "complication based on race." In their section on "Cognitive Classes and Social Behavior," M&H describe the relationship between IQ and poverty, dropout rates, unemployment, crime, etc. I believe that this invites the readers to judge that these same relationships hold true between ethnic and racial groups, not merely among them.

M&H do not question the accuracy or precision of this study, which leaves their work open to criticism.

Furthermore, M&H appear to be of mixed mind about the Flynn Effect (the general trend of IQs going up). As I recall it they agree with this interpretation of the data in the beginning of the book, but then try to dismiss it later in an attempt to demonstrate that IQs are in fact going down among people in certain groups. I never really understood this inconsistency.

I do not know a whole lot about statistics, but I do know a little about regression coefficients and r-square. Has anyone tried to check M&H's math?
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Old 10-09-2002, 10:18 AM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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Quote:
g has a substantial genetic component.
Murray says himself that they "guessed" it was "about 40%". To my knowledge, they offer no substantive proof one way or another as to the accuracy of this claim.
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Old 10-09-2002, 10:34 AM
december december is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Maeglin
M&H address a white-only study in order to avoid a "complication based on race." In their section on "Cognitive Classes and Social Behavior," M&H describe the relationship between IQ and poverty, dropout rates, unemployment, crime, etc. I believe that this invites the readers to judge that these same relationships hold true between ethnic and racial groups, not merely among them.
I cannot fault you too much for making the underlined statement, Maeglin, because it was widely repeated by critics. However, the critics never had a cite, because TBC never said this. In fact, the book denied this several times over. It made the point that one cannot compare the genetic component of white vs. black IQs, because of environmental differences.

M&H's point was to try to demonstrate that g exists. This has been a controversial question for 100 years. It's not really settled today. Many experts have contended that there are many types of "intelligence," rather than a single one with broad impact. By showing a relationship between IQ and all those areas, M&H claim to show how meaningful general intelligence is. As you noted, they used a single race in this section precisely in order to focus on the meaningfulness of IQ, because they wanted to avoid adressing racial differences. It's unfortunate that some critics refused to take them at their word.

I was fascinated by the book's coverage of early intelligence research and debates. In particular, I learned that a number of commonly-used non-parametric statistical tests were devised for the purpose of IQ studies, including the Spearman rank-order corellation coefficient, which at one time was used in the process of calcuating workers compensation insurance rates in California.
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Old 10-09-2002, 10:35 AM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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Maglin,

I read someplace where the Flynn Effect might be the result of our moving from a relatively simple to a more complex world. The fact that our environment has become increasing more complex over the last 100 years and is increasingly bringing the whole society into that mix. I'm not sure whether I saw this in the Bell Curve or someplace else but the premise was that since IQ is determined by both heredity and environment - IQ has seen the "Flynn Effect" increase.
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Old 10-09-2002, 10:40 AM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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Quote:
Murray says himself that they "guessed" it was "about 40%". To my knowledge, they offer no substantive proof one way or another as to the accuracy of this claim.
Monozygotic twin studies indicate a positive correlation at about .90 This is when raised together. When raised apart I think it dropped to around .75

This is all from memory -- I'll look it up later and retract if wrong.
  #28  
Old 10-09-2002, 10:41 AM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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. In fact, the book denied this several times over. It made the point that one cannot compare the genetic component of white vs. black IQs, because of environmental differences.
I take your point, december, but my bigger issue is that I suspect the correlation between IQ and socioeconomic status (SES, I think some people call it) in the first place. Hence using a survey that tests substandard and environmentally underpriviliged youth rather overdetermines their results.

They admit that they don't have a clue what the proportion between genetics and environment that seems to boundary intelligence, they merely posit that one exists. I don't disagree with them substantially on these issues.
  #29  
Old 10-09-2002, 10:46 AM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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Therefore, the authors recommend that public policy aim more at simplification and clarity.
"Simplification and clarity"? The authors put forth (the old refrain that Murray had championed for the prior twenty years wonderful how their "science" just happened to support Murray's political agenda) that we should, as a society, abandon all efforts to improve the environment of people who tested "dumb" and, in a plan somewhat analogous to the Japanese model, simply divide people into "smart and dumb" as they enter school, while looking for "dumb" jobs to get them when they come out the other end (having never been given the opportunity to leave the "track" they were assigned as four-year-olds).

I suppose that they might call that "simplification and clarity".

Of course, since the overwhelming majority of their IQ conclusions were based on the corrupteds use of the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (which was never designed to measure "IQ") with the claim that they had found a way to pretend it measured IQ, their science is more than suspect. Given that they made their science match their previously established philosophy, I don't find their philosophy to be very honest, either.

Quote:
There's a big difference between finding a few cases where incompatible data was compared and claiming that the entire book is wrothless and dishonest.
Here is a summary of the APA findings noted in my link, above:
Quote:
  • Much of the book's data are accurate, especially when addressing the fundamentals of intelligence and IQ testing. One of the stated purposes of the book was to serve as an introduction to the topic, and in this respect the book succeeded. Stephen Ceci, Ph.D., said that despite Herrnstein and Murray's political agenda, they have been "the clearest and most comprehensive writers" on the topic to date. (6)
  • However, much of the data are also wrong, and analysis of it severely flawed. Halford Fairchild, Ph.D., who led one of the panels assessing the scientific accuracy of the book, summed up their conclusions this way: "The scientific basis of The Bell Curve is fraudulent." (7) Indeed, some of the errors were so large as to be attributable to non-experts attempting to write in the field.
  • The policy recommendations suggested at the end of the book do not follow from the book's own arguments on genes and IQ. On this point the task force was emphatic: it called The Bell Curve a "political" work, not a "scientific" one. (8)
6. Tori DeAngelis, "Psychologists question findings of Bell Curve," APA Monitor, American Psychological Association, October, 1995.
7. Don Lattin, "'Bell Curve' Called Political, Not Scientific: Psychologists examine race-IQ controversy," The San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, August 11, 1995, A6.
8. "APA Task Force Examines the Knowns and Unknowns of Intelligence," American Psychological Association, Press Release, September 15, 1995.
So, december seems to be accurate when he notes that Murray and Herrnstein got a lot right when they were quoting other people's literature, but it seems that the professionals in the field found that their own meager attempts were just bad science. That they then published their "findings" as science while hiding from peer review, indicates that they were, indeed, dishonest.
  #30  
Old 10-09-2002, 10:50 AM
Scylla Scylla is offline
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An interesting article here that I'd love to see commented on by some of our worthies on the subject

http://www.brainmachines.com/body_wolf.html

Of particular note is the "IQ Cap" Which can accurately predict an IQ score on a standardized test simply by attaching a few electrodes and staring at a pin.

Also, an interesting essay on the politics of this kind of science.

Please let me know what you think.
  #31  
Old 10-09-2002, 11:24 AM
december december is offline
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Originally posted by tomndebb wonderful how their "science" just happened to support Murray's political agenda[/size]) that we should, as a society, abandon all efforts to improve the environment of people who tested "dumb" and, in a plan somewhat analogous to the Japanese model, simply divide people into "smart and dumb" as they enter school, while looking for "dumb" jobs to get them when they come out the other end (having never been given the opportunity to leave the "track" they were assigned as four-year-olds).
This sounds like a parody, particularly the part about never giving an opportuniny to leve the track. Can you cite what the book actually says?
Quote:
Here is a summary of the APA findings noted in my link...
We are all aware that the book was highly controvesial and reaction to it was highly politicized. Some criticisms were unfair -- just a political smear, e.g., the Scientific American book review. Other criticisms were made in good faith.

We can quote purple prose from critics and supporters, but I'd rather debate specific points if anyone has any.
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Old 10-09-2002, 11:45 AM
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I'm still waiting on someone's response to my remarks on the NLSY. That not scientific enough?
  #33  
Old 10-09-2002, 11:57 AM
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Originally posted by Maeglin
I'm still waiting on someone's response to my remarks on the NLSY. That not scientific enough?
I'll try to take a look when I get home, if I have time tonight.
  #34  
Old 10-09-2002, 12:39 PM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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An interesting article here that I'd love to see commented on by some of our worthies on the subject

http://www.brainmachines.com/body_wolf.html

Of particular note is the "IQ Cap" Which can accurately predict an IQ score on a standardized test simply by attaching a few electrodes and staring at a pin.

Also, an interesting essay on the politics of this kind of science.

Please let me know what you think.
Scylla -

Thanks for the link. I think some of the other points made in the article were even more interesting than the brainwave / IQ connection. The social aspects of 'theorys' like this one that force people off their mark has even been reflected in some of the posts here --- and may even be of more relevance in this debate than the subject matter itself. The article dealt with taboos that if mentioned in 'political' society will bring a predictable response despite the science involved. We seem to have a solid history in that respect. Yet - it remains a serious matter since these sort of response aren't based on science yet they will prevent it if one isn't careful. We all have to recall that Nature doesn't bend herself to our ideas about right and wrong -- and as Will Durant said, "The Sun isn't there to light our cigars."

On another note - I'd be interested in hearing ANY responses to not only Scylla's post, but also to the twin studies which have been done ---- without resort to ad hominem which adds nothing and only clouds the valid points one might make.
  #35  
Old 10-09-2002, 12:55 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I have, in general, tried to avoid posting when someone has already said what I was going to, unless it was , for instance, a poll in which a "me, too!" response actually contributes information. Otherwise, I'd simply be adding to clutter on the Board and taking up too much of my own time (I spend more than enough on the SDMB as it is!). In the present case there have been more than enough responses to december, and many have been much more thorough and better-written that anything I can have produced.

On the other hand, december addressed his challenge specifically at me -- why, I do not know, as others had written in before -- and that seems to require a response. I can't let others on this Board fight my battles for me.

That said, I recognize my limitations. It's been a few years since I read The Bell Curve and The Bell Curve Debate and other responses, and I'd have to bone up before I could give a useful reply. And when I did, this not being my specialty, I'd be parroting what those sources said.

My answer, then, is to direct december to the book I cited above, The Bell Curve Debate, as well as the others people have cited. My other alternative is to dig into the subject myself, and I really haven't got the time. If you think I abdicate any right to respond to this or another thread because I fall back on these experts, then all I can say is that I doubt if you have personally researched or checked your sources completely, either. I am familiar with the writings of the contributors to the cited volume, and trust their work. I even know one of the authors personally, and can vouch for him.
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  #36  
Old 10-09-2002, 01:07 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I have, in general, tried to avoid posting when someone has already said what I was going to, unless it was , for instance, a poll in which a "me, too!" response actually contributes information. Otherwise, I'd simply be adding to clutter on the Board and taking up too much of my own time (I spend more than enough on the SDMB as it is!). In the present case there have been more than enough responses to december, and many have been much more thorough and better-written that anything I can have produced.

On the other hand, december addressed his challenge specifically at me -- why, I do not know, as others had written in before -- and that seems to require a response. I can't let others on this Board fight my battles for me.

That said, I recognize my limitations. It's been a few years since I read The Bell Curve and The Bell Curve Debate and other responses, and I'd have to bone up before I could give a useful reply. And when I did, this not being my specialty, I'd be parroting what those sources said.

My answer, then, is to direct december to the book I cited above, The Bell Curve Debate, as well as the others people have cited. My other alternative is to dig into the subject myself, and I really haven't got the time. If you think I abdicate any right to respond to this or another thread because I fall back on these experts, then all I can say is that I doubt if you have personally researched or checked your sources completely, either. I am familiar with the writings of the contributors to the cited volume, and trust their work. I even know one of the authors personally, and can vouch for him.
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  #37  
Old 10-09-2002, 01:09 PM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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They admit that they don't have a clue what the proportion between genetics and environment that seems to boundary intelligence, they merely posit that one exists. I don't disagree with them substantially on these issues.
Maeglin - They estimate that IQ is 60 percent heritable - with a range from 40 to 80 percent. This is based on the studies of twin, sibling and unrelated subjects - both raised together and apart. These numbers, as I understand, are typical -- not unique to Herrnstein / Murray. Others have published similar results. So, it's more a factor of Herrnstein / Murray publishing outside of the scientific commuunity that seems to bring most of the criticism --
  #38  
Old 10-09-2002, 02:16 PM
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First, if we want to discuss this topic, scientifically as opposed to a bunch of uninformed ideological blithering on, one has to go get the primary literature. Your half-recalled twin study is not up to snuff. They are also fairly irrelevant to the issue of the Bell Curve given the Bell Curve goes well beyond the general observation that one’s genetic background provides an underlying template for what eventually is expressed.

Why the first? Because in order to have some substantive comment one has to know what the actual research designs were, get a feel for how they addressed problems etc. These are non-trivial issues when dealing with a complex subject such as this. I would do so myself, but frankly I tire – as in the case of the race and genetics exchanges -- of being the only person to provide a range of primary literature and comments. And I lack the time right now.

As to “ad hominem” attacks: december has never shown to date any desire or capacity to actually engage arguments. I feel confident that this is not an empty attack on another poster but an actual critique of his argument. See supra where he simply pretends (and this is a constant pattern which many, many other posters have called him on, conservative and liberal, those that agree with him and those that do not) that nothing contradicts his ad hoc assertions. In point of fact, for example, the Slate article gives several substantive methodological critiques of the work. As does Cal’s citation. If december were honestly interested or capable (or both) in engaging the debate, he would address the substance. He has not and he will not, he will only assert, backpeddle and ask others to do his work for him.

As to the issue of heritability, therein lies one of the problems: heritability does not ipso facto translate as genetically determined. This has been addressed in past Bell Curve debates here and elsewhere. Far too much of this is entire discussion begins with such naïve misunderstanding and then moves from there.

As for the characterization of much of the criticism coming because they published outside of the scientific community this is pure nonsense, and I refer you to Tomndeb’s helpful summary.
  #39  
Old 10-09-2002, 02:49 PM
tomndebb tomndebb is offline
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So, it's more a factor of Herrnstein / Murray publishing outside of the scientific commuunity that seems to bring most of the criticism
Described that way, it simply sounds as though people were irritated that they "went outside." That is not the problem.

The problem is that they "went outside" the scientific community and published the book (to great hoopla) for the purpose of shaping public debate when their science had errors in it that could have been found and corrected had they gone through peer review. (Of course, correcting their errors would have destroyed much of their political intent, which was why they avoided the review.)
  #40  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:04 PM
december december is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Collounsbury
As to “ad hominem” attacks: december has never shown to date any desire or capacity to actually engage arguments. I feel confident that this is not an empty attack on another poster but an actual critique of his argument. See supra where he simply pretends (and this is a constant pattern which many, many other posters have called him on, conservative and liberal, those that agree with him and those that do not) that nothing contradicts his ad hoc assertions. In point of fact, for example, the Slate article gives several substantive methodological critiques of the work. As does Cal’s citation. If december were honestly interested or capable (or both) in engaging the debate, he would address the substance. He has not and he will not, he will only assert, backpeddle and ask others to do his work for him.
In other words, This is not an ad hominem attack. december really is an asshole.

However, Collounsbury, you are correct that I am not passionate about this debate. I will look at my copy of TBC tonight and try to respond to Maeglin's point. However, my level of interest is not high enough to sustain the debate on my own. If you or another poster wants to initiate discussion of specific aspects, I'm willing to keep the debate going.

BTW you didn't respond on the use of the Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficient and other non-parametric tests. Doesn't you nonpareil background lead you to have a position on those techniques?
  #41  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:07 PM
Mandelstam Mandelstam is offline
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Thanks for that post Collounsbury, and to others as well who have provided such excellent information and reasoned argument.
  #42  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:28 PM
Collounsbury
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Originally posted by december
In other words, This is not an ad hominem attack. december really is an asshole.
Save your rolleyes boy. In other words, you have a history of bullshit argumentation, of willfully and gratitiously misrepresenting data, citations, sources etc. as such your assertions to date on this subject get in the way of the discussion.

Quote:
However, Collounsbury, you are correct that I am not passionate about this debate. I will look at my copy of TBC tonight and try to respond to Maeglin's point. However, my level of interest is not high enough to sustain the debate on my own. If you or another poster wants to initiate discussion of specific aspects, I'm willing to keep the debate going.
Passion is not the question. Accuracy is the question. Not willfully ignoring materials brought to the table, or misrepresenting them. In other

Quote:
BTW you didn't respond on the use of the Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficient and other non-parametric tests. Doesn't you nonpareil background lead you to have a position on those techniques?
Why? I've carried enough goddamned water in genetics related debates, I simply want to see something approaching a non-distorted engagement.
  #43  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:36 PM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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Described that way, it simply sounds as though people were irritated that they "went outside." That is not the problem.

The problem is that they "went outside" the scientific community and published the book (to great hoopla) for the purpose of shaping public debate when their science had errors in it that could have been found and corrected had they gone through peer review. (Of course, correcting their errors would have destroyed much of their political intent, which was why they avoided the review.)
Tomndebb -

I believe this book was written for the public. That's why there's a section of the book titled "Statistics for people who think they can't learn statistics." To say that it should have been subject to "peer review" first, like a purely scientific publications, is saying that public books of this sort should like scientific publications. If that is the rule with this book than why not the rule with all other books of like nature? It was this fact - that it was written for and made available to the public - that appears to have brought most of the mass of criticism it saw. Sadly, there appears to be those in our community who have assigned themselves as guardians of what information is or is not appropriate for public consumption.

More to the point -- what errors are in the book are you talking about that make the general conclusions of the book invalid?
  #44  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:42 PM
Scylla Scylla is offline
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Tigers:

The problem as I understand it is this:

If you are writing a book for the public based on generally accepted science and theory, then that's one thing.

If you are presenting a new scientific conclusion, that is another thing.

In the latter case, good scientific method is to offer your data and conclusions up to other experts so that they can check and challenge it.
  #45  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:44 PM
Maeglin Maeglin is offline
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BTW you didn't respond on the use of the Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficient and other non-parametric tests.
To be honest, I am not quite sure what merited a response. I didn't know what Spearman rho was a few minutes ago, so I looked it up. Everything seems to indicate that the equation gives legitimate product-moment results, though with my nonpareil background, I might not know the difference one way or another.

The more relevant question is what M&H are including as data sets X and Y. Apparently it's all in the appendices. Which I do not have.
  #46  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:49 PM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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First, if we want to discuss this topic, scientifically as opposed to a bunch of uninformed ideological blithering on, one has to go get the primary literature. Your half-recalled twin study is not up to snuff.
Quote:
As to the issue of heritability, therein lies one of the problems: heritability does not ipso facto translate as genetically determined.
Collounsbury -

Since you apparently are unfamilar with the monozygotic twin studies -- and as you stated "too tired" to look them up I'll get that information for you. As to the "uninformed blithering" - it seems you just about admitted such.
  #47  
Old 10-09-2002, 04:01 PM
Mandelstam Mandelstam is offline
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[bTigers2B1[/b]: "I believe this book was written for the public. That's why there's a section of the book titled "Statistics for people who think they can't learn statistics." To say that it should have been subject to "peer review" first, like a purely scientific publications, is saying that public books of this sort should like scientific publications."

Tigers, this is an incoherent argument, the false premise of which is that a book can't be, on the one hand, peer reviewed, and on the other, written for the public. There is nothing to prevent a book from being both peer-reviewed, and written with a general audience also in mind.

"Sadly, there appears to be those in our community who have assigned themselves as guardians of what information is or is not appropriate for public consumption."

You do not seem at all to understand the nature of peer review, which is to protect the public from charlatanerie. We live in a very complicated world: a person may be an expert tax lawyer, a leader in the field, and not understand a thing about statistics, genetics, or IQ-testing. In what sense does that tax expert benefit from reading a book about the latter subjects that has not been peer-reviewed by those who know and understand the relevant research and methods?

If you were in trouble with the IRS would you go to a geneticist for advice? If there were a dispute about tax law would you be content to rely on a book that had not been peer-reviewed by other lawyers?

"what errors are in the book are you talking about that make the general conclusions of the book invalid?"

Tom is more than equipped to answer for himself, but it seems to me that he has offered several examples of what "makes the general conclusions of the book invalid."
  #48  
Old 10-09-2002, 04:15 PM
Tigers2B1 Tigers2B1 is offline
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Tigers, this is an incoherent argument, the false premise of which is that a book can't be, on the one hand, peer reviewed, and on the other, written for the public. There is nothing to prevent a book from being both peer-reviewed, and written with a general audience also in mind.
I'm not presenting it as an 'either / or' argument. That is, I'm not saying that it can't be both. I'm just saying that your argument would prevent all science based publications from being offered to the public without someone elses review first. Surely your not saying that. Now if all of this is NEW science as Scylla suggests that is different and can certainly understand that position.

Quote:
If you are writing a book for the public based on generally accepted science and theory, then that's one thing.

If you are presenting a new scientific conclusion, that is another thing.

In the latter case, good scientific method is to offer your data and conclusions up to other experts so that they can check and challenge it.
  #49  
Old 10-09-2002, 04:18 PM
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Originally posted by Collounsbury


Save your rolleyes boy. In other words, you have a history of bullshit argumentation, of willfully and gratitiously misrepresenting data, citations, sources etc. as such your assertions to date on this subject get in the way of the discussion.



Passion is not the question. Accuracy is the question. Not willfully ignoring materials brought to the table, or misrepresenting them. In other



Why? I've carried enough goddamned water in genetics related debates, I simply want to see something approaching a non-distorted engagement.
Do you engage in anything but ad hominem attacks? I know you have a little fan-club going, but how about you try to make it through one OP without insulting someone?
  #50  
Old 10-09-2002, 05:12 PM
december december is offline
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Originally posted by Maeglin Almost all of TBC's data, as I understand it, was based on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY).
This is true. On page 118 it says, "In the chapters that follow [i.e., Part II, Cognitive Classes and Social Behavior], it [the NLSY] will play the central role in the analysis, with other studies called in as available and appropriate."
Quote:
M&H do not question the accuracy or precision of this study, which leaves their work open to criticism.
Right. In fact, they refer to this study as the "mother lode for scholars who wish to understand the relationship of cognitive ability to social and economic outcomes."

As was mentioned by someone, this study uses the Armed Forces Qualification Test as its measure of cognitive ability. They describe the AFQT as "a good measure of general cognitive ability," citing their own Appendix 3. Appendix 3 goes into considerable detail arguing the validity of the AFQT as a test of g. Incidentally, I notice that Appendix 2 discusses NLSY in some detail.

Is TBC correct about the value of NLSY and AFQT? I dunno. They mention prestigious organizations, like NORC, and they seem to use the right words, but I am not in a position to confirm or deny this point.

Gadarene had asked, "Suppose the findings of The Bell Curve were and are 100 percent accurate--what would you consider to be the prescriptive implications? What should it mean for public policy, etc.?" TBC discusses policy issues in Part IV. Broadly summarizing their suggestions (after a very quick glance) they offer
  • Failures are apt to have low IQs, so programs for welfare recipients, teen-age mothers, criminals should deal with the likelihood that these people will have lower-than-average IQ's.
  • Efforts to increase cognitive ability by altering the social and physical environment have had a spotty record, although they may succeed eventually.
  • Education programs, such as Head Start or Vouchers or Affirmative Action, should be judged on their effectiveness.
  • Amercan education has been more successful with average and below average students, but has neglected the gifted minority.
These conclusions don't seem particularly controversial...
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