November 24, 2007

The summit of the nerd pyramid

A reader writes:

Take a look at the group photo here:

These people, the core Linux kernel hackers, are among the very best programmers in the world. It is an absolutely ruthless international meritocracy. These people have no common employer (there are nearly as many different employers as the group has members).

IBM and Microsoft have comparable talent on the payroll, of course. But I doubt that you could trust an IBM or Microsoft group photo to so ruthlessly expose the demographic shape of that talent.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 21, 2007

More on the Race-IQ brouhaha

Here's Will Saletan's third and last article at Slate. He advocates genetic engineering to equalize the races. I've always been skeptical about whether we have the wisdom to handle such power, and have been pleased that it appears to be farther off than I had assumed back in the 1990s. As I wrote in in 2005:

Through genetic selection and modification, we will soon be able to transform human nature, for better . . . or worse.

Some find this exciting. I find it mostly alarming.

The good news: we still have time to figure out what the physical, psychological, and social impacts of these gene-altering technologies might be - by studying naturally-occurring human genetic diversity.

The bad news: we won't fund research into existing human biodiversity - because it's politically incorrect.

Noah Millman responds to Saletan in detail at American Scene in The Sound of a Dam Breaking, with comments from John Derbyshire and Will Wilkinson.

At Cato Unbound, social scientist Eric Turkheimer writes:

“When the theoretical questions are properly understood, proponents of race science, while entitled to their freedom of inquiry and expression, deserve the vigorous disapprobation they often receive.”

Which raises the question, if Eric Turkheimer were ever to discover anything that would support race science realism, he would do what with it, burn it? Couch it in such high-flown philosophical language that you wouldn’t be able to figure out what he meant? Publish it while vigorously disapprobating himself?

Hasn’t he just wrecked his credibility as an objective scientist? Shouldn’t he be ashamed of that, rather than proud of it?

Turkheimer goes on:

“Why Race Science is Objectionable

“If I may address my fellow Jews for a moment, consider this. How would you feel about a line of research into the question of whether Jews have a genetic tendency to be more concerned with money than other groups?”

My observation over the last couple of decades has been, going back to Gould's Mismeasure of Man and Kamin, Lewontin, and Rose's Not In our Genes, that while most of the talk is about the white-black IQ gap, among those who take the lead in demonizing realists, most of their angst, anger, and underlying agendas are actually driven by concerns that the masses will learn about the Jewish-gentile IQ gap, which would cause them to pick up their torches and pitchforks and stage pogroms across America.

It's the kind of triple bankshot reasoning that intellectuals take seriously -- If James Watson is not allowed to mention race and IQ, then the process of discovering that Jews tend to be smarter than gentiles can't get underway! -- not realizing that 90% of the people who have never heard of James Watson roughly understand the reality already (e.g., listen to what arrested mafioso and rap stars say about which kind of lawyer they want).

Of course, quite a few of those demonized, such as Richard J. Herrnstein of The Bell Curve, are Jewish, too.

I'm reminded on one of the dozen general lessons Jacques Barzun has learned from a lifetime of study:

"An age ... is unified by one or to pressing needs, not by the proposed remedies, which are many and thus divide."

As Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine pointed out in The Jewish Century in 2004, much of Western intellectual life since, say, The Communist Manifesto in 1848 has been driven by the pressing needs felt by a successful but vulnerable high IQ minority, and by the often-clashing remedies their many thinkers have proposed: e.g., Marxism, Freudianism, Randism, Boasism, Frankfurtism, Neoconism, Friedmanism, etc.

And progress was made -- Milton Friedman's theories were good for the Jews and the human race as a whole, at least compared to Karl Marx's. The early neocons did a lot of good work in the domestic social science arena and in foreign policy.

But you can't understand the world around you without paying attention to group differences in IQ, since they drive so much of what we see.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 20, 2007

"The Thing"

In Hollywood, when all is said and done, more is said than done, but, apparently, John Carpenter's classic 1982 horror film "The Thing" is being remade by Battlestar Galactica screenwriter Ronald D. Moore.

All the movie versions, including the 1951 rendition, are based on the great 1938 sci-fi story "Who Goes There?" Written by John W. Campbell at age 28, it was his last major piece of fiction. After that, he concentrated solely upon editing Astounding Science Fiction magazine, the key vehicle in launching the Golden Age of Hard Science Fiction. In the summer of 1939 alone, Campbell published the first stories of (among others) Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.

"Who Goes There?" is the story of American scientists holed up for the winter in a research station in Antarctica. They find an ancient spaceship buried under the ice and dig up a frozen body, which (foolishly) they allow to thaw. The alien wakes up and begins to eat people.

Ho-hum, right? But the thing has a peculiar talent: after he eats somebody, he can split into two and change himself into that person, physically and even mentally. Paranoia, carnage, and more paranoia ensue. If the alien(s) eat everybody at the station, they'll then eat the first supply plane pilot in the spring and take over the human race. How can you tell who is man and who is monster?

This helped inspire Heinlein's Puppet Masters and the film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Campbell had written the same idea at least once before, in a light-hearted story called "The Brain Eaters of Mars," but "Who Goes There?" was clearly a climactic effort for Campbell.

The Wikipedia page on Campbell offers a wild biographical theory about the origin of this concept in Campbell's youth:

"His mother, Dorothy (née Strahern) was warm but changeable of character and had an identical twin who visited them often and who disliked young John. John was unable to tell them apart and was frequently coldly rebuffed by the person he took to be his mother. ... As Sam Moskowitz has written about Campbell in his early critical study of science-fiction writers, "From the memories of his childhood he drew the most fearsome agony of the past: the doubts, the fears, the shock, and the frustration of repeatedly discovering that the woman who looked so much like his mother was not who she seemed. Who goes there? Friend or foe?"[9]"

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

An insanely good data source

In our discussion of how to measure school effectiveness, many people had commented that it would be nice to have IQ scores for students as well as their achievement test scores.

I had forgotten that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been running the National Longitudinal Study of Youth since 1979, and it's still going on, now into a second generation of children of women in the first study, so there is a nationally representative sample of thousands of people for whom we know both their IQs and their mom's IQs, along with a huge amount of detail about their lives and the lives of their mothers. As I wrote in last year:

In 1979, the Bureau of Labor Statistics established a nationally representative sample of about 13,000 young people born from 1957 to 1964. In 1980, the military paid to have the entire sample take its enlistment IQ test, the Armed Forces Qualification Test. In 1990, the NLSY methodically checked up on how they were doing in life. The military provided the data to Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein and it wound up as the centerpiece in the 1994 bestseller The Bell Curve.

The NLSY is still going on. It has now even measured the IQs of 6209 children of women in the original panel—2557 of whom were born to black female panelists.

The social scientists keep interviewing the children born to the first generation participants, children who now range in age from new-borns into thirty-somethings, every two years. They typically had their IQs measured twice, first as pre-schoolers, then as 4th or 5th graders. Up through age 14, they were given a school achievement test called the Peabody Individual Achievement Test, and a lot of characteristics were collected about the schools they attended, such as (I believe) phonics versus whole word reading instruction. Here's the official write-up on what info has been collected on the children.

The sample sizes could be large enough to explore the major issue of how good a job California has been doing fostering achievement among public school students compared to the rest of the country.

The data is free and available to the public from here (except for the children's zip codes, which are only available to non-creepy types).

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Seven Wonders of the Totalitarian World

Esquire has a nifty feature on the Seven Wonders of the Totalitarian World, including my favorite, the Giant Libyan Fist Crushing the U.S. Fighter Plane.

And then there's the statue of the late dictator of the Congo, Laurent Kabila, one Big Man who wasn't ashamed to look big.

But, how did they overlook North Korea's Hotel of Doom?

This Pyongyang beauty is 1083-feet-tall, 105 stories, 3000 rooms, and unfinished because it's structurally unsafe.

The North Koreans have removed it from all maps because its failure has brought shame upon the nation, but it still casts its vast, malevolent shadow over much of the low-lying capital.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 19, 2007

More from Audacious Epigone on how well schools are doing

Is this the best ranking yet available of how the states differ in how good a job their public schools are doing?

RankStateWhites' relative NAEP
improvement from 4th
grade to 8th (St.Dev.)
2.North Dakota.84
6.Dept. of Defense
9.South Dakota.50
23.New Mexico.13


33.New Jersey(.06)
36.Rhode Island(.17)
41.South Carolina(.40)
43.New Hampshire(.56)
47.New York(.89)
48.West Virginia(1.10)
49.North Carolina(1.18)

Over the years, I've been frustrated by how everybody uses the absolute test scores of students to evaluate how good a job a school is doing: "You'll get a great education at Harvard because the average SAT score there is 1500!" Yes, but that's what they got in high school before Harvard got its mitts on them. In truth, nobody has much of an idea whether Harvard is doing a better or worse job than, say, Cal State Dominguez Hills at helping its students live up to their individual potential.

Similarly, I often hear people assume that the principal at, say, Beverly Hills H.S. is doing a good job because test scores are high there, while the principal at say, Compton Dominguez must be doing badly because scores are low. That's quite unfair.

Absolute test scores for public schools are so dominated by demographics that the results are notoriously boring and depressing.

The state of California attempts to deal with this problem by giving two Academic Performance Index scores to each public school, one absolute and one relative to "similar schools."

But I've always wanted to look at how much "value added" schools provide.

Earlier, Audacious Epigone tried to figure out from the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math test results how much value different state educational systems are adding. He compared, across states, performance by 4th graders in 2003 vs. performance by 8th graders in 2007 on the NAEP.

That's a pretty clean comparison (for example, if one state has had a policy of discouraging Special Ed kids from taking the NAEP and another doesn't it, the differences shouldn't affect the relative change over time, unlike the usual absolute comparisons).

But what if there is a big demographic shift going on, such as in states with a dramatic Hispanic influx? That would distort the numbers.

So now, in the table above, he's looking at just the change in performance from 4th to 8th grade among non-Hispanic white students in order to reduce the impact of demographic change and make for even more of an apples to apples comparison.

(This analysis could also be done for blacks and for Hispanics, but not for all 50 states because of inadequate sample sizes of minorities in, say, Montana or Vermont.)

The results are quite striking. In the best state, Montana's white students did almost a standard deviation better as 8th graders in 2007 than they (using the term "they" roughly) did as 4th graders in 2003 relative to the rest of the country. In contrast, in the worst state, Connecticut's white students' change from 4th to 8th grade was one and a third standard deviations worse than the national average, relatively speaking.

That's more than a two standard deviation difference between #1 and #50. These are such large differences that I'm hesitant to present the numbers, but maybe somebody out there can help us check them out.

Clearly, there is some demographic change from 4th grade in 2003 to 8th grade in 2007 still showing up in the data. Perhaps the top white students in Connecticut (last on the list) are more likely than in typical states to leave the public schools for elite prep schools starting in 7th grade? (Maybe not -- most of the boarding schools in that state famous for boarding schools are 9-12).

In general, the states at the top of the list tend to be less demographically diverse than those at the bottom, although there are obvious exceptions, such as West Virginia doing quite badly.

Still, the sample sizes are impressively large: 196,000 for public school 4th graders (across all races) and 164,000 for 8th graders or around 5-6% of all students in those two grades. So the typical state is represented by roughly 2,000 white 4th graders and 2,000 white 8th graders. So, there are probably close to 1,000 whites in each grade at minimum for just about every state. (D.C., though, is excluded because there are so few whites in its public school system.) The two superstates, California and Texas, have extra-large samples of at least 10,000 students of all races in each 4th grade sample, so the number of whites there are adequate, yet they differ by about a standard deviation.

Part of the results are no doubt methodological noise. Some states might have switched to more upscale schools where the test is administered rom 2003 to 2007 to make themselves look better. Or, for example,the NAEPs are administered during a window from January to March, so if a state gave its 4th graders the test in March in 2003 and its 8th graders the test in January in 2007, it would be cheating itself of two months of maturation vs. the national norm.

On the other hand, there would be one obvious way to cheat: give a bad education from K-3 to depress 4th grade scores, then start to do your best to teach kids a lot once they take the NAEP in 4th grade so you can score high on the 8th grade test.

Still, it's unlikely that anybody has tried to game this particular analysis simply because I don't think anybody has ever thought of this analysis before.

Just looking at the table, I don't see any obvious demographic pattern explaining why, for example, Vermont would be in 13th place a standard deviation ahead of New Hampshire in 43rd place. Or why are Maryland's whites (3rd place) two standard deviations ahead of Connecticut's whites (50th place)? Both have affluent, moderately liberal, well-educated white populations. Perhaps we really are approaching the Holy Grail of a measure of educational effectiveness?

Normally, when I look at a table of data, I can figure out what's driving the rankings. Here, though, I can't. That could be good news - I really don't know much of anything about pubic school quality across the country apart from demographics (other than a vague impression from the media that Texas is better than California), so the fact that the results look pretty random could mean that we are looking at actual differences in public school effectiveness. The bad news is that the results could also look random because they are pretty random due to lots of different kinds of noise.

Any suggestions you might have for torture testing the data would be appreciated.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Bravo for William Saletan in Slate

William Saletan's defense of James Watson in MSM Slate (owned by the Washington Post) is turning out to be a three parter and he's not holding back. Today, he looks at the environmentalist attacks on hereditarian ideas and concludes:

"When I look at all the data, studies, and arguments, I see a prima facie case for partial genetic influence. I don't see conclusive evidence either way in the adoption studies. I don't see closure of the racial IQ gap to single digits. And I see too much data that can't be reconciled with the surge or explained by current environmental theories. I hope the surge surprises me. But in case it doesn't, I want to start thinking about how to be an egalitarian in an age of genetic difference, even between races. More on that tomorrow." [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 18, 2007

Asimov's Revenge on O'Connell

Here's my new column.

It follows up on California school superintendent Jack O'Connell's attack on Mean White Lady schoolteacher that Nanette Asimov broke in the San Francisco Chronicle a week ago. By the way, although I titled my blog's extract from her article "Beyond Parody," that shouldn't be taken as criticism of her story, which is a model of giving a bloviating politician enough rope to hang himself.

Here's an excerpt from my new column:

Earlier, Nanette Asimov reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's initiative to close the racial achievement gap:

"He offered the example of black children who learn at church that it's good to clap, speak loudly and be a bit raucous. But doing the same thing at school, where 72 percent of teachers are white and may be unfamiliar with such customs, will get them in trouble, he said.

"The achievement gap is 'absolutely, positively not genetic,' O'Connell said.’All kids can learn. I'm saying it's racial.'"

In other words, he is blaming the gap in part on white racist schoolteachers enforcing too much discipline in California's public schools.

O'Connell's statement caused a controversy, leading him to apologize … not to white schoolteachers, of course (there wasn't any media tumult over that), but to black churches.

After the conference, O'Connell kept up his attack on white teachers, telling the Los Angeles Times:

"O'Connell concurred, talking of 'a cultural bias that impedes instruction. Well-meaning, well-educated people can unintentionally be part of perpetuating institutional racism.' The nation's schooling system, he said, 'developed to educate white children and remains most advantageous to white children.'"

… Finally, O'Connell's implication that too much classroom discipline is holding NAM students down is just barking mad.

For example, Asimov (yes, she's the niece of science fiction great Isaac Asimov) pointedly reported in the SF Chronicle on the only session out of the 125 at O'Connell's conference where real high school students were asked what would help them:

"'If the room is quiet, I can work better—but it's not gonna happen,' said Nyrysha Belion, a 16-year-old junior at Mather Youth Academy in Sacramento County, a school for students referred for problems ranging from truancy to probation.

"She was answering a question posed by a moderator: 'What works best for you at school to help you succeed?'

"Simple, elusive quiet.

"Nyrysha said if she wants to hear her teacher, she has to move away from the other students.’Half our teachers don't like to talk because no one listens.'"

After five years of Jack O'Connell as head educrat, California nearly hit rock bottom on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. California students' reading scores are horrible, with the state ranking 48th out of 50 states in 4th grade reading and 49th in 8th grade reading.

But the performance of California, home to Silicon Valley, in that universal language, mathematics, may be even more disturbing: 47th in 4th grade math, 46th in 8th grade math.

California's dim future is mostly not O'Connell's fault. The primary culprit is "demographic change"—i.e., immigration.

I suspect that the Superintendent is babbling insane nonsense because he's terrified of blurting out what he suspects is the real reason for the gap…and finding himself Watsoned out of his precious political career.

But, unfortunately, as Richard Weaver pointed out long ago, ideas have consequences …no matter how stupid the ideas are. O'Connell's ridiculous rationalizations have taken on bureaucratic momentum. He hired Glenn Singleton, a black professional diversicrat, as his racial sensitivity consultant and wants to subject white public school teachers to Singleton's system of Maoist-style self-criticism sessions (Singleton calls them "Courageous Conversations") about "white privilege."

The last thing California public schools need is for O'Connell and Singleton to wage a Cultural Revolution from above against school discipline. That would tell NAM students, in effect, to play the race card even more than they do now when they get in trouble. [MORE]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

A Watson Defender

More than a little too late, but, still, good for William Saletan, the "Human Nature" columnist for Slate, for gearing up his courage to become one of the few James Watson defenders:

Created Equal

Race, genes, and intelligence.

From: William Saletan
Subject: Liberal creationism

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …

-- Declaration of Independence

Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced nto retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn't "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. "Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government's supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn't a scientific leg to stand on."

I wish these assurances were true. They aren't. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It's time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.

If this suggestion makes you angry—if you find the idea of genetic racial advantages outrageous, socially corrosive, and unthinkable—you're not the first to feel that way. Many Christians are going through a similar struggle over evolution. Their faith in human dignity rests on a literal belief in Genesis. To them, evolution isn't just another fact; it's a threat to their whole value system. As William Jennings Bryan put it during the Scopes trial, evolution meant elevating "supposedly superior intellects," "eliminating the weak," "paralyzing the hope of reform," jeopardizing "the doctrine of brotherhood," and undermining "the sympathetic activities of a civilized society."

The same values—equality, hope, and brotherhood—are under scientific threat today. But this time, the threat is racial genetics, and the people struggling with it are liberals. [More]

As G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1922 in Eugenics and Other Evils:

"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal.

Also, good for Saletan for showing some sympathy for William Jennings Bryan.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer