[ExI] The Anti-Flynn

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sat May 2 03:50:40 UTC 2015

On Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 7:53 PM, Tara Maya <tara at taramayastales.com> wrote:

> Nah, I don’t buy it. Too many holes in this methodology.
> One tests measures household vocabulary of American families from 1974.
> How does this test take into account immigrant families and people for whom
> English is not a first language? I saw nothing about that, and it seems to
> me that the immigration issue alone makes any measure of genetic evolution
> in America problematic… if not, in fact, worthless.

### Why do you think immigration makes WORDSUM worthless? Can you quantify
the impact of variability in immigration levels on WORDSUM scores, and say
whether this impact may produce a spurious signal in the article, or in
fact hide a stronger real relationship?

You may want to look at the prevalence of immigrants among the US
population over time. Also, the time span in question is not 1974 onwards,
this is just the sample used for calibration of the item difficulty in
WORDSUM. The secular trend is analyzed from 1850 onwards, in texts produced
predominantly by native US English speakers, therefore largely insulated
from the vagaries of immigration.


> Another test uses text vocabulary words from 1500 to now. The number of
> people producing those vocabulary-rich texts was an incredibly smaller
> percentage of the overall population. So it’s like comparing texts produced
> by only the top 1% to texts produced by the top 80% of the bell curve and
> then noting that IQ seems to have gone down. In fact, as education expands
> and the literate population expands as well, the lowering of text
> difficulty is what we would expect to see.

### The article does not look at vocabulary from 1500 onwards but, as
mentioned above, the Google Ngram was used from 1850 to 2005. The level of
illiteracy in the US has not massively changed since 1850 - it dropped from
about 20 to about 0.5% so this confounder does not have the magnitude to
significantly change the results. Furthermore, your objection would only be
valid if the increase in literacy over this time stemmed from reaching out
to the the least intelligent 20%. However, it is reasonable to think that
the spread of literacy was caused at least in large part by reaching the
most remote or neglected sections of the population, who should not
significantly differ in IQ from the general population, therefore their
impact on the Ngram test should be neutral.

The reference to older texts is only to adjust the sigma parameter for word

> (There’s another fallacy here, and that is that difficult words prove the
> writer is more intelligent. Having been forced to endure a post-modernist
> education, whose proponents believe in the same theory, I can assure you
> that often multisyllabic gobbdygook exhibits far less intelligence than
> clear, direct writing using simple and direct sentences with concrete nouns
> and verbs.)

### WORDSUM is a good proxy for a full IQ test, with a correlation of 0.71,
which in social science is as good as it gets.


> But the biggest problem with the Dysgenic crowd, in my opinion, is that
> they misunderstand the Demographic Revolution. They think that because the
> most educated, prosperous and (presumably) intelligent men and women
> entered the Demographic Revolution first, this meant they were suddenly
> losing the evolutionary race, when just the opposite was true.

### The cause of the demographic transition is still not entirely known.
The expectation of a dysgenic trend is however not dependent on the cause
of transition but rather on the verifiable negative correlation between IQ
and fitness since about 1850.

> It would be like contemporary social scientists of the Agricultural
> Revolution wringing their hands because all  the most educated, prosperous
> and intelligent men and women of their time were no longer spending as much
> time hunting and gathering as the dullards… completely missing the fact
> that the reason is because the smartest members of society are the first of
> the bell curve to have taken up sowing and reaping instead.

### Don't understand this.

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