Hey! Randy

Missed by a Mile

Posted by heyrandy on February 6, 2012

The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould, 1981

Gould, a Harvard professor and evolutionary apologist, writes about the sorry story of evolution’s children. Social Darwinism gave the world some of the most racist pseudoscience ever invented. Gould does not realize it, but he indicts the evolutionary hoax. Presupposing evolution is true (he calls it a “fact”), he gives an account of the fruits of this poisonous tree in the area of intelligence measurement.

It is Gould’s thesis that there is no difference intelligence among the various human races nor can intelligence be measured. He never defines race, or intelligence, but disparages intelligence tests as bogus. He bases all this on the poor quality of the early intelligence test. He does excel in showing the gross errors in the design of the tests. He also shows that the administration of the tests was equally bad.

The early part of the book deals with the absurd belief that the size of one’s brain is indicator of one’s intelligence. Researchers measured the volume of prehistoric skulls in trying to prove early man’s intelligence was what ever the tester wanted it to be. The a priori assumptions drove the conclusions. Presuppositions were always vindicated by the data. Inconvenient data were ignored or altered. Fraud was common.

Binet developed the intelligence test as a method of finding out which school children needed more help to do well in their studies. The test was quickly seized upon as a method of determining the intelligence of anyone. This lead to immigration quotas. Southern and eastern European were not permitted as easy entry in to some countries as were the northern Europeans. Jews were not desirable regardless of where they were from. Africans were the least desirable of all. These quotas were the means to prevent the debasing of the country’s racial stock by the unchecked influx of lower intelligence immigrants.

But it gets worse. The eugenics movement evolved out of this nonsense. The eugenics movement lead to the anti-miscegenation and compulsory sterilization laws. Poison fruit indeed.

Gould spends some time dealing with factor analysis. All I got from this is that if two things change but keep the same ratio it does not necessarily mean anything. Gould thinks that a lot of factor analysis is number crunching for self-justification. It is a case of moving around the numbers until you get the answer you want. “Some studies show…” what the researchers want. Gould does not apply this to his evolutionary models. Truth is unimpeachable even when it is something else.

Read the book to help understand the feeble, early efforts to measure intelligence, the hubris of science, and Gould’s failure  to apply his criticism of intelligence tests to his evolutionary dogma. Presuppositions die slowly, even at Harvard.

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