Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Larry Summers Effect

Noted, but not named, in this Newsweek piece by Sharon Begley on the current controversy about whether or not it is acceptable for scientists to study IQ differences based on race or gender.

Summers, as you’ll recall, made a casual off hand remark that some of the differences in the number of men holding science and math tenured positions at the top research universities may be due to a variation in the distribution of IQ. This remark gave a number of feminists the vapors, but in true PC fashion they were able to recover enough to browbeat Harvard into paying them off.

Back to Begley – reading the piece, one certainly comes away with the impression that a lot of the opposition is driven by fear over what we might find out.  She does spend

The argument is set up around the notion that all of this brouhaha is because some early on practitioners were racists.

Having thus poisoned the well, she then spends a big chunk of the article discussion the notion that a) IQs change over time at varying rates between groups, b) that environmental factors also influence these changes, and c) that there’s no consistent definition of IQ.

The original Nature magazine debate series is in two sections: ConPro.