What Does IQ Measure and Why Does This Matter?

Standard

There are many alt-right types who use IQ statistics to distinguish between groups of people, and yet they themselves do not seem to grasp statistics or even understand what IQ actually measures. They suggest their own lack of intelligence through this. And, given that their use of IQ is most often directed at those whom they deem to be inferior races and is what makes them feel superior, this is deliciously ironic.

Yes, certainly IQ does matter. But it matters in the same way that hitting a golf ball and bench pressing do as being a measure of overall athleticism. Sure, it does differentiate natural ability for those with equal training, and yet says very little about the inborn abilities of those coming from vastly different circumstances. In other words, I can out bench many bigger men who never saw a gym. But not because they couldn’t outperform me if they put the same time in. And, likewise, the kind of intelligence that IQ tests measure is built on practice.

So, basically, without a multi-variant analysis, the results of IQ tests tell us very little. A person can score high because they are genetically gifted. They could score high because they had a stable home, good nutrition, and high-quality education. And, like Koreans getting taller on average, lower average IQ today does not mean the same will be true tomorrow or if all circumstances were equal. In fact, IQ tests are increasing generation by generation, this is called the “Flynn Effect” and not necessarily a result of people actually getting smarter than their grandparents.

No, IQ tests tend to focus on a kind of abstract reasoning that has no practical application for prior generations or those who are raised outside of an advanced economic system. My ability to reason through engineering problems may unlock earning potential in a very controlled environment and yet doesn’t mean I would survive a day in the Amazon basin or on the streets of Rio. So this assumption that my test scores prove something about my superiority is basically nonsense.

Sure, not everyone has the mental capacity to solve differential equations. But that doesn’t mean everyone who couldn’t solve them prior to Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz was an idiot.

The really crazy thing about racial supremacist mid-wits (or at least those who I know of European ancestry) is that they will so often make fun of the pointy-headed intellectuals (those who outscore them in IQ while lacking street smarts) only to turn around and use IQ statistics to create a racial pecking order. I mean, if IQ is a reason for some to rule, why do these same people turn to wild conspiracy theories to explain why many Ashkenazi Jews are disproportionately more successful (academically) and in positions of power or influence? Why not just assume they are the next stage of human evolution?

The truth is culture and environment have a large part to play in our development. What is prioritized in homes and communities can make a huge difference in outcomes. If my dad was an attorney and I was sent to a prep school, I would probably be more likely to score higher and go further in pursuit of a professional career. Alternatively, if I was raised in a place where everyone was obsessed with track speed and achieving celebrity status, I doubt I would’ve grown up playing with Legos or visiting various museums with my parents. My own 97th percentile IQ was likely built on experience as much as anything else.

Lastly, it is worth noting that outliers do not tell us a whole lot. Interestingly enough, men are both smarter and dumber than women and this has to do with standard distribution or how the bell curve works. What this means is that there can be more or less diversity within categories. Or, put otherwise, some Kenyans being excellent long-distance runners doesn’t mean all are and this superiority of some Kenyans will tell us even less about those on the other end of the African continent. Too often we look at the cream of the crop (or bad actors) as an indication of the whole and yet group statistics never tell us about individuals.

Lost in the Technicalities

Standard

There are many things in life that depend on a smell test or an intuitive sense.  When the religious hypocrites brought a woman before Jesus the legal prescription was simple, she was caught in sexual sin and deserved death according to the law of Moses.  They knew of his compassion for sinners and had hoped to trap him.  If Jesus spared her he would break the law, but if he condemned then he would be just like her judgmental accusers.

What happened next in that narrative totally upended their simplistic conception of the law and application.  To them, it was all very black and white.  They were very thorough in defining the limits, of their legalism, and this adulterous woman fell well outside the bounds of any gray area.  But Jesus defied them.  We don’t know what he wrote in the dust at their feet, but we do know that Jesus, in response to their demands for an answer, told them “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and that after this they left one by one.

Growing up in a fundamentalist sect, in the shadow of purity culture teachings, it was always about meeting expectations.  If only you could follow the rules, then you might be accepted, then her dad (or your own) would be pleased and no longer harbor those often unspoken negative opinions.  Sure, maybe those in this culture knew better than to be as open about their disapproval, like the men accusing the woman, but they still miss the point and will attempt to explain away the full significance of what Jesus did.  To them, the goal is to be undefiled enough to cast the first stone.

Those blinded by a legalistic mindset only comprehend the letter of the law without ever understanding the spirit or true purpose behind it.  When they are not onerously enforcing the technicalities of their own  (often errant) interpretations of Scripture then they are carving out special exceptions for themselves and in all circumstances are missing the spirit or intent of the law. (Romans 2:29, 2 Corinthians 2:4-18) They see the law as a means to gain God’s favor or as means to gain rank on their more sinful neighbors rather than what it truly is.

First of all, the law was not established for Pharisees past or present to play morality police.  Yes, we’re told to work out our own salvation.  We need to confess our sins and admit our falling short as often as we do.  But it is the role of the collective body of the Church to apply the law to others and not our own.  In other words, we should stay in our lane, and use the law for introspection rather than as a hammer to beat over the head of our neighbors.  Our obligation to others is to do as Jesus said and learn the meaning of the phrase, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

Second, the law isn’t just an arbitrary set of rules to prove our worthiness to God.  No, it is rather something established for our good and as a protection from harm.  As Jesus said, the Sabbath was “made for man” and not the other way around, which is why he let his disciples violate the rules.  In other words, the law is very practical, for our good, and can be bent when need be.  Sure, we may not always understand the reasons and thus we should obey even when we do not, but there is always room for exception.  This is what freedom in Christ entails—the ability to live by the underlying intent rather than only by the technicalities of written codes.

Those in the construction industry know about building inspectors who are ‘by the book’ to the point of being ridiculous.  It isn’t actually making anyone safer.  These types often lack hands-on experience, seemingly even basic comprehension of what makes a structure work, and they just make life harder for everyone.   They can be technically correct, according to line three of page 395 of the code book, while still being clueless and unhelpful.  This kind of expert has the letter of the law and lacks the spirit. This is to say that they have useless knowledge that makes them feel qualified when, in reality, those in the field know better.

And religious fundamentalists all end up like these building inspectors, hung up on details and never adding any real value to the project. They condemn everyone around them, in violation of the commandment of Christ, while they themselves have a beam in their own eyes. They think they are moral people because they can follow a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” and yet fail to comprehend the meaning of “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Indeed, we may not allow our children to cross the street without permission, it may also be jaywalking to cross in certain areas, and yet would the legal statute matter if there was an urgent need to cross?

Politicians and lawyers can find ways to be technically ‘legal’ while also immoral or violating the principle of the law. They can also point out when others do what is right when it is technically illegal or when others fail to dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘T’ as is required. But they fail to apply the law correctly because they miss the actual intention or purpose behind the law. They do not know the Jesus who makes even our righteousness seem like filthy rags and are trying to earn God’s favor instead.

This is to be lost, like the rich young ruler, who was still trying to save himself through his own works. You can do everything right according to the Scripture (or at least your own understanding of the writing) and still be lost. You can do everything wrong and still be saved. This is because we always depend on the mercy of God rather than our ability to be perfect.