Monday, 9 February 2015

Philosophy of intelligence

 

On hearing any assertion my first thought is to wonder whether it is true or not. That strikes me as fundamental. I am well aware that I am likely to prefer some findings to others, and that I will be quicker to accept a finding which accords with my previous studies and what my tutors taught me, and with my personal inclinations, such as they are, though those change with age and experience.

However, if an assertion is untrue then, however attractive it may be to me, it is a falsehood and I must admit it, clear it from my mind, and say so in public. I wish that I were able to accept contrary findings as quickly as confirmatory ones, but that may come with maturity. Until then I confess I take some time to adapt my views to the new reality. Registering and quoting contrary research is the easy part, and can be done immediately. Taking down an explanatory mental framework takes a bit longer, but it happens before long, and it must for all of us, if we are to run our fingertips across the face of reality.

However, in terms of the academic ideal, once an idea is broken because the facts are against it, it is bust and that’s an end to it. Start again.

Some researchers take a different view. They say that some ideas, even if true, are not to be promulgated because they are dangerous. Naturally, this raises the question as to who decides whether an idea is dangerous. It gives precedence to the censor over the thinker. It requires that the thinker should always think of the censor, even when the censor may be imaginary.

Without much thought I have taken it as read that my readers will share a fundamental interest in truth, and saw no reason to belabour the issue. However, from time to time researchers argue in favour of taboo. I have been sent a philosophy paper which was something of an eye-opener, in that it showed me that a number of people still argue that to discuss group differences in intelligence is a moral error, to be avoided at all costs, even the cost of truth.

Nathan Cofnas (2015) Science Is Not Always “Self-Correcting” Fact–Value Conflation and the Study of Intelligence. Found Sci DOI 10.1007/s10699-015-9421-3

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3c4TxciNeJZbGt6eTgwTDlybEE/view?usp=sharing

In my view morality bites both ways: there are moral consequences from banning research as well as moral consequences from carrying out research, though the former consequences are often forgotten in the fears aroused by the latter. I take the simple view that it is better to know more than to know less, and that I do not want my curiosity to be curbed by other people’s love of ignorance.

I will give the author the last word, to prompt you to read his paper:

The scientific basis of eugenics was not discredited by the Holocaust any more than the theory of relativity was discredited by the bombing of Hiroshima. Nathan Cofnas.

11 comments:

  1. I hate banning anything. Still pissed that my state university banned all forms of tobacco (even e cigs and chewing tobacco) from its premises.

    Regarding race and IQ, I predict science will win the day here eventually...



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  2. The two fundamental problems here: the interpretation of studies and explanation to society. You can to say "blacks are intelectually inferior than whites" but most people interact individually. For most, is not true that whites are ALWAYS better than blacks" ordinary people tend to interpret statistics literally what for us is implicit.
    The way as to say is very important and it can do all difference.
    Most blacks are remarkably less technically smart than whites but intelligence is multidimensional and blacks ( i.e, most blacks ) have cognitive advantages than whites like social intelligence, charisma and sympathy.
    The most important is not affirme it in loud voice. The most important is the personal security of most individual whites around the world and its fertility. Less words in the nihilistic vacuum of liberal academia and media, more positive actions.

    Santoculto

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  3. That's a fine flourish with which to end his paper.

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    1. It comes in the middle somewhere, but it seemed a good point, worth highlighting.

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    2. In the middle? It's much too good for that. Unless, that is, he thought it more prudent to bury it where the Thought Police might be less likely to find it.

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  4. Thanks for advertising this paper. Very interesting. (And yes that memorable quote is in the middle.)

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  5. To say that I don't agree with Cofnas is an understatement, but it's refreshing to have people who feel as he does lay it on the line, as opposed to the usual weasel words about, "well, I'm not in favor of censorship, but.....etc."

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    1. Hmm, my reading of Cofnas is that he is opposed to censorship in this matter. Dr Thompson's post could give the impression that Cofnas is himself articulating the case against clarity, but that did not strike me as the writer's intention at all. Read the article again and see what you think?

      I believe a lot of psychologists are uneasy about this stuff - I certainly am. Respected colleagues have spoken publicly about their preference for CHC formulations in day to day psycho-educational assessment work - this can avoid a strong focus on g, specifically, and get you away from IQ.

      But weighed against that must be the consideration of facing reality as it is, especially if you move from assessing an individual to thinking about public policy.

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    2. For avoidance of doubt: Cofnas is calling for freedom of expression, not censorship.

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  6. I predict we'll acknowledge the truth only when it's safe to do so, when it doesn't matter anymore. Such as, when we all earn a basic income while robots do the work (your smarts don't determine your income), or, when you can get genes upgraded, or we otherwise have treatment or augmentation for low IQ. Concern for people's feelings and 'equality' will continue to win until the arrival of one of the above.

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  7. I want to comment on this. I will do so when I have a chance to leave a proper comment.

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