Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Salisbury Review and Richard Lynn

Update1: 24 May, removed repetition of Lee Kuan Yew in para. 10, cleaned up 1st sentence of last para. and changed 2nd sentence from "...assorted losers..."

I have an eclectic taste in magazines. In Borders one recent lunchtime, I came across the current issue of The Salisbury Review, which I'd taken as the voice of the faintly-absurd High Tory reactionaries, led by that Quentin Crisp of the British right, Roger Scruton.

Among the book reviews was one of Richard Lynn's book IQ and the Wealth of Nations, written by his old friend Chris Brand, one-time psychology lecturer at Edinburgh University. The Salisbury Review does its credibility no good by associating itself with this eccentric.

Like your humble correspondent, Brand seems to be somewhat slow in turning around his articles, with this review coming out two years after the book's publication by an obscure American mail-order house.

By his own account, Mr Brand is something of a modern-day Galileo, persecuted for speaking the uncomfortable truth. However, well-known house journal of the politically-correct left, The Daily Mail, reported (6 February 1998):
Mr Brand was suspended after he wrote: 'Academic studies and my own experiences, as a choirboy, suggest that non-violent paedophilia with a consenting partner over 12 does no harm so long as the paedophiles and their partners are of above average intelligence and educational level.' His views were the last straw for university bosses, who had stood by him in 1996 when he was accused of being a racist after writing a book which claimed women were not as intelligent as men and blacks had lower IQs than whites.
In 1996, he told Scotland on Sunday:
"Here's how I'm a scientific racist," he explains. "I do think not only that there's a link between race and psychology, in particular between race and IQ, but of course I think, and have the honesty to tell you - other people wouldn't - that the link is, shall I call it, deep seated?"
Lynn writes elsewhere that humanity is getting more stupid due to the desperate lack of eugenic measures in modern society; so, in a hundred years (or about seven generations), British society will be running short of intelligence, bringing it down somewhere near the current level of Romania. This hysterical pessimism and sloppy statistical work would assure him of a home in the green movement, if his prejudice was of a more fashionable variety.

I can't say that I pay any respect to this body of work. Is IQ more important than an open society and free markets? I very much doubt it.

In the first place, I've never thought much of the argument that IQ is largely heritable, for the simple reason that Catholic nations with intelligent celibate priests are not any less economically successful that Protestant ones. The Chinese and Japanese, as far as I can tell, adhere to a belief that the hallowed virtue of educational success is the result of hard work and moral character rather than some innate intelligence. Lee Kuan Yew, with his eugenic leanings, seems to be an eccentric exception to this, but his upbringing has often been described as owing more to imperial Britain than his overseas Chinese ancestors, whose language he didn't learn to speak until he entered politics. As Frank McGahon also pointed out, politicians who adhere to these ideas tend to be of the authoritarian and collectivist bent, Lee himself being a good example.

In addition, has natural selection ever really, even for the last five hundred years, led to people starving en masse because they lost out in economic competition? Why have Ashkenazic Jewish immigrants to the US gone from poverty to prominence in a few generations while predominantly marrying among themselves? It's just too crude a measure.

On a more personal note, while I seem to have a high IQ, I also have a specific learning difficulty. The MENSA meetings I've gone to in the past have been gatherings of pub bores, proud of their supposed high intelligence. The lesson I draw from my own experience in dealing with dyslexia using the books of Tony Buzan and Dominic O'Brien is that the application one shows in trying to improve oneself is much more important than any supposed genetic or racial concept of intelligence.

Peter 笔德