Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Which I Am Dismissive of IQ

I'll start this out by saying that I have an IQ that falls, depending upon which of eight different results you want to look at, somewhere between really high and astronomically high. Considering that I'm a secretary, I fail to see how useful a high IQ really is. Opportunity is a useful thing, access is a useful thing, but an IQ above average isn't really all that useful.

I'm also suspicious of IQ measurements as a whole. There isn't a great deal of consensus as to what exactly is being measured, for one thing. There is a certain cultural bias to IQ tests. Also, while there is a tremendous amount of difference between the capabilities of people at the extreme high and low ends of the scale, there isn't much appreciable difference between the capabilities of people at the average and high ends of the scale. I'm not really sure why we bother to measure IQ at all, other than the fact that people really like numbers a lot.

For example, take a look at the above graph, describing IQ by religion. I suppose I could crow about atheists falling at the upper end of the graph, but look at the range described: 113.43 to 101.89. Don't feel bad Pentecostals, that's not much of a difference. In fact, given that my own IQ varies as much as 25 points depending upon which test result you look at, a range of 11.54 doesn't mean a thing. Basically, IQ doesn't vary according to religion.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on the matter. I don't know what the difference is between believers and nonbelievers. I don't think it's intelligence. I've known some very foolish atheists and some very intelligent people who believe very foolish things. Whatever it is, smarts aren't in it.


  1. I have several problems with that graphic that come immediately to mind.

    First, if we take the information at face value it means that everyone's IQ is higher than average. This is impossible.

    Every IQ distribution I've seen puts an IQ of 100 as the median, meaning that half of all scores will fall above 100 and half will fall below, with the majority clustered around 100, thereby creating a classic bell curve.

    While I would agree that it's possible for a certain sub-set of the population to tend to be clustered above or below the median -- say the average IQ for astrophysicists is 115, while the average IQ for people with a specific learning disability is 85 -- I do not see how something as societally pervasive as religion could work that way. I find this especially odd since Roman Catholic is one option and Baptist another. Adherence to Catholicism is practically hereditary by now, so that particular denomination would almost certainly fall closer to 100. And, at least in America, Baptists are so pervasive that they would almost certainly be right at 100, if not below due to the possibility of the smarter Baptists self-selecting right out. Although they're close enough to 100 that I can't complain too much.

    Second, there's the question of the standard of deviation. It seems to give a different one for each group. But that doesn't make any sense, as the standard of deviation is derived from the data set itself, so if you have a point that's at the first standard of deviation, that's where it is. Moreover, for an IQ test the standard of deviation changes over at 15, so someone with an IQ of 115 had a standard of deviation of 1, not 15.

    Third, the average IQ of all respondents is 106. Again, this is impossible. For a large and pervasive enough data set the average should be 100.

    TL;DR: Either the person who put this out doesn't understand statistics or someone gamed the data.

  2. ...but....but... I'm an Episcopalian. That means I'm super-smart.

    *ducks and runs away*

  3. How does one find out their IQ, short of paying a shrink big bucks to test you?

    Just curious. There's a lot of scammy IQ tests online.

  4. Also, you wanna take this one on?

  5. ...

    Geds, i think that's also a function of different IQ tests. the ones i took, "average" was 115 [i.e. an IQ of 115 would, in theory, allow said person to get straight C's with little to no effort - SOME effort makes B's, a LOT of effort makes A's] and anything below 100 was considered, erm, what is the phrase used today? mentally challenged? [it was "retarded" 20 years ago] and anything below 85 was consider "incapable of being an adult/incapable of consent/a functional moron"

    i also took one where "average" was 130. so...

    i ALSO have to agree, on the religion issue.
    adding in the fact that it's "The IQ of WHITE people by religion" - ??! seriously, people - DEFINE WHITE.

    i cling to my 182 IQ because it's something to use as a weapon of war in academia - it's hard enough getting certain professors [and/or other students] to take me seriously, that i can and will throw around my 182 IQ to SHUT.THEM.UP. never seen any use for it, otherwise [and on a "lower" test, where "average" is 100, my IQ is something like 168. ??? i guess that makes sense - the average dropped from 115 to 100, so my score dropped 14 points? i guess?]

    all IQ measures is how well one retains and uses information. it can be nifty - except most of the info i retain is USELESS... full of it, i am. lol

  6. Geds, you should warn people before links like that. It's not good to read that kind of thing if there are knives or guns around. Innocent bystanders, you know.

    That entire story is just so heartbreaking. That poor, poor kid.

  7. I'm extremely skeptical of IQ also. From what I have read the entire concept is based on pseudo-science. We have no actual means to quantify intelligence. IQ measures some things, but the things that it measures do not necessarily equal intelligence.

  8. Cynical Nymph:

    Sorry. I figured the fact that it was from Vox Day and I was asking PF to fisk it would have been context warning enough. I'll have to remember that those aren't automatic trigger warnings to everyone else.

  9. Geds, context is never enough warning for vile dreck of that level. Between the post itself and the comments, I just... I mean, there are no words.

    I'm going to go look at pictures of bunnies now.

  10. Geds, I had posted on the story about Tyler Clementi over on my blog yesterday morning but now after reading that Vox post and the second NY Times article, which calls Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei 'children' as if they are just caught in some sweet little Lord of the Flies scenario in which they were only 'playing' for gosh sakes. The whole thing just makes my blood boil. I may do a follow up post and include some of the Vox post.

  11. Where did these numbers come from?
    Can't remember a high IQ ever being useful either. It may have helped me get my doctorate, but then again there were several idiots in my class, most of whom also got one. And I will be paying for mine until I am at least 60. Perhaps Sallie Mae's IQ is higher than mine:(


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