James Flynn


I have just been listening to Stefan Molyneux interviewing James Flynn, the IQ expert after whom ‘the Flynn Effect’ is named, which is is the observation that each new generation scores slightly higher on IQ tests than the previous one. Why this is so remains a mystery though better food and the fact that life 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 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 have lots of low IQ children. The film Idiocracy imagines how this pans out. The influx of low IQ immigrants doesn’t help either. Even so, these decreases in inherited IQ seem to be offset by the environmental improvements that the Flynn Effect probably measures: more books, less drudge work, better health etc. That’s my amateurish 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. Back in Ireland these people had had little regard for the law of the colonising British and after moving to America continued to be troublemakers, 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, as well as on IQ tests. Since their genes can’t have changed much since the middle of the 19th century the implication is that it was their backward culture that initially held them back, not the fact that they were a bit ‘tick’.

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 were more encouraging towards their adoptive black children than were black mothers.

Flynn says another 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 (but then again I am a bit of a racist bigot.) 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 dysfunctional sub-culture that blacks grow up in, at no point did he explain exactly why blacks have that sub-culture yet the Chinese and Jews, for example, don’t. I find it likely that the Chinese and Jews gravitate to more intellectual pursuits because they are naturally more intellectual while blacks gravitate to dysfunction because, well, you know.

Unlike me, Flynn didn’t speculate. Nor during the interview did he address the fact that twin studies show beyond a doubt that genes play a large role in intelligence. Despite all this the interview was interesting and gave me plenty of food for thought.


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