IQ With Conscience
By Bryan Caplan
I’m an IQ realist, all the way. IQ tests aren’t perfect, but they’re an excellent proxy for what ordinary language calls “intelligence.” A massive body of research confirms that IQ predicts not just educational success, but career success. Contrary to critics, IQ tests are not culturally biased; they fairly measure genuine group differences in intelligence.
Yet I’ve got to admit: My fellow IQ realists are, on average, a scary bunch. People who vocally defend the power of IQ are vastly more likely than normal people to advocate extreme human rights violations. I’ve heard IQ realists advocate a One-Child Policy for people with low IQs. I’ve heard IQ realists advocate a No-Child Policy for people with low IQs. I’ve heard IQ realists advocate forced sterilization for people with low IQs. I’ve heard IQ realists advocate forcible exile of people with low IQs – fellow citizens, not just immigrants. I’ve heard IQ realists advocate murdering people with low IQs.
When I say, “I’ve heard…” I’m not just talking about stuff I’ve read on the Internet. I’m talking about what IQ realists have told me to my face. In my experience, if a stranger brings up low IQ in Africa, there’s about a 50/50 chance he casually transitions to forced sterilization or mass murder of hundreds of millions of human beings as an intriguing response. You can protest that they’re just trolling, but these folks seemed frighteningly sincere to me.
Don’t such policies flow logically from IQ realism? No way. If someone says, “I’m more intelligent than other people, so it’s acceptable for me to murder them,” the sensible response isn’t, “Intelligence is a myth.” The sensible response is, “Are you mad? That doesn’t justify murder.” Advocating brutality in the name of your superior intellect is the mark of a super-villain, not a logician.
But don’t low-IQ people produce negative externalities – negative externalities that well-intentioned consequentialists will want to address? I’m no consequentialist, but the consistent consequentialist position is: Not if the “solution” is worse than the problem! And if your “solution” involves gross human rights violations, there’s every reason to think it is worse than the problem. We should be especially wary of self-styled consequentialists who rush toward maximal brutality instead of patiently searching for cheap, humane ways to cope with the social costs of low IQ.
Why do IQ realists go so wrong? Stigma is part of the story: If IQ realists face grave social disapproval, sensible IQ realists will tend to keep their views quiet. Remaining spokesmen for IQ realism therefore lean crazy. But stigma aside, IQ realists tend to be smart – and self-consciously smart people are often attracted to what I call high-IQ misanthropy. If you marinate in your own misanthropy long enough, common decency fades away.
To repeat, I’m an IQ realist myself. As a result, I’m tempted to deny ugly generalizations about my tribe. But I won’t. As I’ve said before:
If you really want to improve your group’s image, telling other groups
to stop stereotyping won’t work. The stereotype is based on the
underlying distribution of fact. It is far more realistic to turn your
complaining inward, and pressure the bad apples in your group to stop
pulling down the average.
So here’s what I say to every IQ realist who forgets common decency: You embarrass me. You embarrass yourself. You embarrass intelligence itself. Teaching IQ with conscience probably won’t end the stigma against the science of intelligence. But if we teach IQ without conscience, we deserve that stigma.