Bryan Caplan  

IQ With Conscience: Three Followups

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Three followups on my last post:

1. Most of the brutal policy advocacy I've heard comes from consumers, not producers, of intelligence research.

2. Why didn't I name names or link links?  Because the brutal policy advocacy is almost entirely off-the-record. 

3. In response to this post, many IQ realists have told me they've never heard anything horrifying first-hand.  I totally believe you.  But many other IQ realists have told me they have heard such things.  I totally believe them, too.  Since these horrifying views are (a) rare, and (b) normally concealed, a 50% detection rate strongly suggests that such views are indeed greatly over-represented in the IQ-realist community.




COMMENTS (21 to date)
Grant Gould writes:

The jump from "IQ realist" to "horrifying eugenic/genocidal policy advocate" goes by way of a premise that people are regularly and inevitably imposing negative externalities on one another. (For instance, I can be apathetic about IQ because I believe that in a reasonably liberal society other people don't impose a whole lot of negative externalities most of the time.)

That view is probably extremely correlated with other views (for instance about the welfare state, or about the actual and/or proper amount of democracy, or about whether people in general are a good thing) that are held and expressed different amounts in different social situations.

So between people from different social environments and political belief clusters we should expect large variance in how much of the horrifying policy conclusion different people see. Folks on the collectivist left and right might be more prone to see horrible implications for IQ realism, while libertarians and anarchists might be less bothered on the whole.

Josh writes:

I was surprised at the number of people claiming to have never heard the misanthropic views expressed by IQ realists. Perhaps the missing link is that they've never attempted to advocate open borders to an unsympathetic audience. I've found you'll hear them pretty quick.

Mark writes:

I might have been somewhat sympathetic to IQ "brutal policy advocacy" at 18 but by the time I was 25, no way. Brian, how many of the people you hear expressing these views are teenagers or very young?

Toby writes:

Bryan,

3. In response to this post, many IQ realists have told me they've never heard anything horrifying first-hand. I totally believe you. But many other IQ realists have told me they have heard such things. I totally believe them, too. Since these horrifying views are (a) rare, and (b) normally concealed, a 50% detection rate strongly suggests that such views are indeed greatly over-represented in the IQ-realist community.

How does this follow?

Let's say that these views are rare. They are 1 in a 1000. Let's say I've met a 1000 IQ realists and I have indeed encountered this view once. Now let's say that someone else has met a 100 IQ realists and has not encountered such views. How does this translate to that these views are over-represented in the IQ realist community?

You meet some people who have encountered such views, you meet some other people who haven't, therefore you conclude that the detection rate is 50% and that these views are over-represented. I don't understand your reasoning here.

mbka writes:

Somewhat related:

Brutal and genocidal policies were historically perpetrated against perceived High-IQ sections of society as well. Hitler and consorts in their own admission were afraid of the competence of their Jewish compatriots. The "racially inferior" argument was for public consumption, internally they fretted that the "Aryan" Germans didn't stand a chance against "Jewish domination".

The most obvious example though are the Khmer rouge. They targeted (presumed) high IQ people specifically for genocide. Possession of eyeglasses alone would qualify you for execution.

More generally and as others have pointed out, you can't get an "ought" from an "is", morality and IQ are orthogonal, and division-of-labor and evolutionary fitness arguments should all seal the deal that "IQ realism" should have no particular effect on policy at all. Human rights are the rights of humans. Being human means you qualify, and if your specific IQ would lead to modified human rights, then why stop here? Why not start doling out human rights exclusively to wealthy people ("proven productive")? Or beautiful people ("proven positive externality on others' mood")? Etc. The policy consequence discussion is deeply muddled and one-dimensional, it's as if high IQ people can't actually think outside narrow formalized contexts such as math, IQ tests, and programming. In today's society this propensity for formal IQ accidentally also leads to better economic success. But, this does not have to be true for all times and places.

There's another point that I've rarely heard rabid IQ policy advocates discuss. Darwinian fitness is reproductive success. It's the same thing. It's not a result of technical excellence in running, flying, or thinking. It IS reproductive success. So. Given that only a small fraction of people are really high IQ we have to conclude that the evolutionary fitness of really high IQ just isn't very good.

Lawrence writes:

I consider myself an IQ realist, without the horrifying views. I haven't come across any other IQ realists with horrifying views in 'real life'. I have on internet posting boards though - plenty.

What I have encountered in real life are anti-IQ realists who argue against IQ realism based on the same presumptions that horrible IQ realists hold. Namely that, if were are to conclude that IQ is a real, innate aspect of humans, and some have higher IQ and some have lower, that those with higher IQ somehow have more value as humans than those with lower. I am frankly baffled by this view. Do taller people have more value as humans? Stronger people? People who can run faster? People who have good singing voices? Of course not, in any of these cases. So why should high IQ people?

John Smith writes:

Lawrence,

As an IQ realist, that is exactly the point. Those humans *do* have higher value. But IQ is valued even more highly (though not necessarily highest) than those aspects (in our current modern era).

Let's start off with IQ first and see where it takes us.

Lawrence writes:

John,

I don't see how that is the point 'as an IQ realist'. The empirical evidence about IQ can be accepted independently of any ethical norms - in fact must be if you want to avoid the basic is/ought category error.

You are free to value height or intelligence or anything else however you like. So am I, and so is anyone else. But these value judgments are orthogonal to empirical facts. What baffles me is that so many people who are obviously very intelligent don't seem to grasp that category distinction.

John Smith writes:

Lawrence,

You misunderstand me. Your point that doesn’t the notion of IQ superiority applies to physical strength, social skills and so forth is exactly what IQ realists agrees with.

Superiority in all aspects is to be valued. And many IQ realists value IQ so highly that we are willing to exterminate entire peoples to enforce our vision of a superior society.

Agree with us or not, surely you can see the merits (and admittedly, demerits) of this vision? Humanity has already achieved so much, let us boldly step forth one more step.

John Smith II writes:

John,

Would you accept the murder of yourself or those you love if you did not make the IQ cut?

Also, as long as we are accepting reasons to eradicate groups of humans, what if other traits were chosen to remove from our genus? Ones you disagreed with? (One example I can think of off the top of my head is people who would murder for potential gain)

F

Matt Skene writes:

I think these horrible positions are widely held in society in general. Find 3 people who have seen Idiocracy. At least one of them will say that dumb people shouldn't be allowed to have kids. I find claims to the effect that people don't know IQ realists who hold these views very hard to believe, given that about 1/3 of the people I know seem to have this view even if they aren't IQ realists. Eugenics has always seemed sensible to a large portion of high-IQ people.

John Smith writes:

John Smith II,

No, because it is not in my personal self-interest even though it may be what is best for humanity. Similarly, even if I deliberately and with malicious forethought murdered multiple individuals to enrich myself, I will not consent to being imprisoned because it is against my personal self-interest. For reference though, these executions are to occur on an involuntary basis so this is not an issue.

I agree that mass killings can get tricky, and there are many valid concerns. Hence, the common preference to start with the Africans since that is a more clear-cut issue with minimal concerns.

mbka writes:

Lawrence,

What I have encountered in real life are anti-IQ realists who argue against IQ realism based on the same presumptions that horrible IQ realists hold. Namely that, if were are to conclude that IQ is a real, innate aspect of humans, and some have higher IQ and some have lower, that those with higher IQ somehow have more value as humans than those with lower. I am frankly baffled by this view.

I completely agree. The anti-realists are making the same mistake as the horrible realists, i.e. stating that something normative automatically follows from something descriptive.

I for once find that many high IQ people are awful to be with. And I sure would like to live in a society that doesn't have any John Smith in it. What bizarre idea that a single dimension of life, high IQ, would automatically lead to a "better" society? Better at what? Chess? Besides, all the research in cultural cognition shows that high IQ individuals are just better at rationalizing their irrational biases. They're not actually, necessarily, more rational.

Either way, my above evolutionary argument above applies: many high IQ people don't reproduce in significant numbers. Ipso facto they are unfit in the Darwinian sense.

Lawrence writes:

John Smith,

As I said, there are plenty on internet posting boards. It's apparent I have not misunderstood you, as you are displaying a textbook example of the is/ought conflation error I mentioned. The emprical facts of human intelligence do not, on their own, suggest any course of action. In order to get to a course of action you need to add a value system of some sort to those empirical facts. Your suggested course of action reveals all we need to know about your value system.


It is a pity that value systems like yours have become associated in the minds of many people with the set of empirical facts about human intelligence. That association is probably the biggest impediment to the general acceptance of IQ realism.

Hazel Meade writes:

Perhaps misanthropic types are attracted to IQ realism because it provides an outlet for their misanthropy. Maybe IQ realism is sort of a way for some high-IQ people to feel they are better than others.

John Smith writes:

Lawrence,

Projecting much? Seems that you are guilty of the very thing that you are insisting I am.

I full well understand that higher IQ does not necessarily mean that these individuals *must* necessarily be of higher value, independent of the belief system. I am outright stating that under my values and belief system, I consider that to be so.

Oranges need not necessarily be considered tasty. However, I personally consider oranges tasty. I don’t know how much clearer I can explain this.

Lawrence writes:

John Smith

Oh, you've made yourself quite clear now. You personally find oranges to be tasty, just like you personally find Africans to be expendable, and these views are your personal preferences or values which are orthogonal to any empirical facts about oranges or human beings.

Hazel Meade

I'm sure that's the case. The curious thing though is the incidence of highly intelligent people who deny IQ realism while at the same time implicitly accepting the superiority values that our friend John is espousing here. In fact in many cases it seems very likely that they reject the IQ realism facts because they accept something similar to John Smith's normative values. Faced with a fact/value combination that suggests a course of action they find abhorrent, they reject the facts, but retain the values. This seems to me exactly backwards.

John Smith writes:

Lawrence,

Yup. IQ realist plus advocate of genocide.

Toby writes:

[Comment removed. Please consult our comment policies and check your email for explanation.--Econlib Ed.]

Below Potential writes:

I have a longer post on this on my blog, so here I just want to point out one thing:

The only area where low IQ can cause social costs is the political sphere: when a government produces bad laws, everybody bears the costs, not just those who voted the politicians into office.

In the sphere of private property low IQ is not associated with social costs.

People with low IQ are, on average, less productive than people with high IQ. That’s definitely a negative effect – but it is not a negative externality.

The only negative effect of low productivity caused by low IQ (or laziness for that matter) is on the salary of the respective person. In a private-property society, salary – the amount for which a person can sell what he or she produces – corresponds closely to the real value of that product to the people who consume it. You get out what you put in. If you put less in, you get less out.

Hello Halo writes:

Many had a prior agenda, and their use of IQ realism is a strategic tool which grants them plausible deniability from accusations of misanthropic psychopathy.

Be wary of underestimating those whose intelligence far exceeds their decency. Your fear is appropriate.

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