James Flynn


I have just been listening to Stefan Molyneux interviewing James Flynn, the IQ expert after whom the Flynn Effect is named. In case you’re not familiar with the Flynn Effect, it is the observation that each new generation scores slightly higher on IQ tests than the previous one. Why this is so still remains a mystery though better food and the fact that life itself has started to resemble one big IQ test, meaning we get a lot more test practice, probably has something to do with it. Rather than us becoming more intelligent I think it far more likely that the welfare state is lowering the inherited IQ of western countries by transferring money from the intelligent to the stupid, who then spend the money on having lots of low IQ children. Watch the film Idiocracy to see how this works out. The influx of low IQ immigrants doesn’t help either. However, these decreases in inherited IQ are offset by the environmental improvements that the Flynn Effect probably measures: more books, less drudge work, better health etc. That’s my guess anyway.

Flynn himself comes from Irish stock and he makes the point that the Irish peasants who arrived in America in the 19th and 20th centuries had previously only farmed potatoes and had no idea how to grow crops more suited to the American soil and climate. These people had had little regard for the law of the colonising British back in Ireland and also often got into trouble in America, especially in big urban areas of which they had little experience. They were considered backwards by the other immigrants. Even so, nowadays the American Irish do just fine in life and on IQ tests and since their genes can’t have changed much, if at all, since the middle of the 19th century the implication is that it was their backward culture that initially held them back rather than them being naturally a thick.

Flynn claims an old study of black children adopted by middle-class white families at the age of 8 had a 12 point IQ advantage over black children adopted by middle-class blacks. This suggested to him that it was neither black genes nor middle-class values per se that were the important factors in raising a child’s IQ but something that white parents were doing that black ones weren’t. The study seemed to show that the white mothers tended to be more encouraging towards their adoptive black children than were black mothers.

Flynn says the reason so many black children grow up in single-mother families, fail academically and turn to crime and drugs is because there are so few prospective black fathers around for young black women to marry. Young black males are either in jail, on drugs, out of work or dead. Since every 100 young black women are vying for the attentions of just 57 young black males, some women choose to have out-of-wedlock children with unsuitable black men, rather than remain childless.

I have to say Flynn didn’t convince me. He seemed to be bending over backwards to never blame anyone, especially blacks, for the lives they lead. And while he attributed low black IQ scores almost entirely to the sub-culture that blacks grow up in, at no point did he explain exactly why their sub-culture is so dysfunctional. Why, for example, aren’t the Jewish and Chinese cultures so anti-educational? Could it be that they naturally gravitate to more intellectual pursuits? Flynn didn’t speculate. Nor during the interview did he address the fact that twin studies show beyond doubt that genes play a large part in intelligence. Still, the whole interview was interesting with plenty of food for thought.

This entry was posted in General.

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