Brave Position Club?

At my post yesterday on race, several comments accused me of cowardice for not taking a position there on race-IQ correlations, even though that is not directly relevant to the post, and even though I have commented on that topic before. While I mostly don’t avoid taking positions on controversial topics if I think I have something interesting to say about them, I also don’t go out of my way to take controversial positions just to take them. Apparently some folks, however, take pride in going out of their way to take controversial positions even when they have nothing interesting to say on such topics.

I suppose I can appreciate that some folks want to signal they don’t fear social retribution, though I suspect many interpret them as signaling that they have no political or managerial ambitions.  But it occurs to me that folks could be more systematic about this signal; imagine a Brave Position Club.

The Brave Position Club would have an official long list of, perhaps 100, brave topics, and club members would simply be defined as folks who had publicly declared a clear current position (perhaps chosen from a menu) on all those brave topics. The topics should be chosen to be the most socially awkward topics, ones for which people typically fear the most social costs for taking certain positions.  The topics should also be chosen neutrally, so as to “gore everyone’s oxen” equally, rather than to preferentially expose the hypocrisies of certain disfavored groups.

The topic list should be long enough so that people who chose positions by “thinking for themselves” would likely choose socially-awkward retribution-worthy positions on at least a few of the topics. A club member who declared the safe opinion on all the brave topics would be clearly identified as a “kiss-ass brown-noser” who didn’t think for themselves.

I’d be tempted to join such a club, at least if some careful analysis had gone into picking the topics neutrally, and if I expected enough other folks to join for it to become focal.  Would you join?  Who should join and why?

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  • Carl Shulman

    Often a “brave position” is brave because it signals loyalty to a hated faction. One cans sometimes take the position without retaliation if one counters it with abundant signals of loyalty to the dominant or threatening faction. The Brave Positions list would be more attractive with a space for a short addendum accompanying each topic to allow such additional signals, so long as they did not negate the statement.

    For instance, a theistic evolutionist might agree to a public statement about the age of the Earth, but then add in the addendum that she believes God created the world and life to signal her loyalty to her fellow believers.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    I’m not sure. There are many issues where I’d really have to say that my confidence in my estimates is so low as to not be able to reliably declare either way for the issue. Moreover, there’s a fair bit of evidence that even being forced to make a choice on an issue can cause one to have a stronger stance. This seems to be asking for people to end up having their cognitive biases come into play over a whole host of issues.

    • Carl Shulman

      There are many issues where I’d really have to say that my confidence in my estimates is so low as to not be able to reliably declare either way for the issue.

      That’s what probabilities are for.

    • http://infiniteinjury.org Peter Gerdes

      Often the “brave position” consists in nothing but a refusal to dismiss the disfavored explanation as having negligeable probability.

      For instance despite the fact that the best meta-analysises and many other lines of evidence indicate that there is some significant biological effect of gender on high level mathematical ability/interest (perhaps mediated by social effects) suggesting we need to leave innate differences on the table as a possible explanation for gender differences in math and sciences generates substantial outrage.

      Interestingly this is a case where it is virtually impossible to avoid the outrage by disavowing the unreasonable views such a position has often been used to endorse. You can point out that gender equity has nothing to do with beliefs about population level statistical differences (and everything to do with gender giving little information after conditioning on standard information while often triggering irrational responses) till you are blue in the face but it won’t make much difference.

      The problem is some views are offensive because they signal allegiance with some unpopular group (like racists/sexists) while other views are unpopular because they directly insult some group. In the case of gender and ability pointing out that you aren’t making claims to further any sexist agenda and observing that the claim gives no particular person reason to think they have more/less ability isn’t enough. For instance I’ve frequently pointed out that it’s quite likely that factors we would call biological (either by way of interest or ability) are a substantial component of the reason women are statistically underrepresented in higher mathematics but that social factors (self-doubt, lingering discrimination) mean that for a given level of achievement conditioning on being a woman actually increases the expectation of ‘intrinsic’ ability/interest. Thus not only are the claims not being made in support of any sexist view but don’t entail any unpleasant consequences for any individual woman. However, because the claim still is parsed as harming the reputation for women as a group, and many women strongly identify with this group, it will still often be taken badly.

  • Rob

    First rule of Brave Position Club: Always talk about your affiliation with Brave Position Club.

  • burger flipper

    even though I have commented on that topic before.

    If anyone could point me to Robin’s comments on race/IQ, I would appreciate it. I’ve searched the site and googled generally and not found it.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      He recently did so here. I’m guessing he has also discussed it elsewhere, but can’t remember off the top of my head.

      As a pseudonym I assume I am disqualified from the club.

      • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

        That apparently fails to mention either race or IQ. It doesn’t seem very “brave” either.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    Yes, I would join, and I think this is actually an excellent way to determine just how “rational” someone actually is and I suggested it over at LW as a test for doing so.

    Are their positions determined by politics, prejudices, feelings, wishful thinking, peer pressure, because someone told them to believe it? Or are they determined by facts and logic?

    You exactly want to look at the topics that are the “mind-killers”, to see if people actually have a mind, or have they allowed it to be killed off.

    The whole field of IQ is highly flawed. The idea of ‘g’ is a statistical myth. Look at footnote 2 in this.

    http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/523.html

    ‘g’ can’t be determined as a linear combination because there are not enough equations. There are not enough equations if the different scores are linear in ‘g’. What if they are non-linear (as they probably are if there was such a thing as ‘g’, but we have no data that there is such a thing as ‘g’)?

    • Jayson Virissimo

      How does providing your enemies with a list of ways to prevent you from achieving your goals prove that you are rational?

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        One of my goals is to be rational. That is one goal my enemies are powerless to thwart.

    • J

      I don’t see how Shalizi’s piece proves that g is a “myth”. Yeah, the fact that factor analysis always reveals a single common factor in IQ test data does not prove anything about the structure of the brain. However, Shalizi studiously avoids discussing any of the actual reasons why g is so widely accepted among intelligence reseachers. In particular, why is it that the results of completely different intelligence tests (or any other tasks that are related to intelligence) are always intercorrelated even in a small sample? Gardner’s multiple intelligences hypothesis has failed all empirical tests.

      Moreover, whether or not g is the correct way to conceptualise human intelligence is not all that important as to the debate about racial differences in intelligence, as James Flynn pointed out when discussing S.J. Gould’s Shalizi-like claims about g:

      “Gould’s book evades all of [Arthur] Jensen’s best arguments for a genetic component in the black-white IQ gap by positing that they are dependent on the concept of g as a general intelligence factor. Therefore, Gould believes that if he can discredit g no more need be said. This is manifestly false. Jensen’s arguments would bite no matter whether blacks suffered from a score deficit on one or 10 or 100 factors.”

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        There has been systematic suppression of ideas counter to ideas supporting the idea of a unitary ‘g’ and race differences in intelligence. See for example Peter H. Schonemann’s work.

        http://www.schonemann.de/

        and especially his paper where he discusses it in the context of peer review and lays out some of the history of the debate.

        http://www.schonemann.de/pdf/86.pdf

        He passed away this spring, but a number of his peers have written memorials

        http://www.schonemann.de/pdf/Memorial_Peter.pdf

        What Flynn is saying is not correct. Whether you call it “intelligence” or ‘g’ or IQ, or come up with some other unitary measure, all unitary measures of “intelligence” are flawed to the point of being useless. They are indeterminate. The same data does not produce a unique result. You are trying to solve n equations for n+1 unknowns. There is no unique solution.

        Schonemann’s objection to factor analysis have not been address, they have simply been ignored and suppressed.

        If you want to find out why, you have to ask the people who have been doing the suppressing. But doing that will make you a member of the Brave Position Club.

      • J

        There has been systematic suppression of ideas counter to ideas supporting the idea of a unitary ‘g’ and race differences in intelligence. See for example Peter H. Schonemann’s work.

        LOL. That’s a ridiculous claim. In reality, anyone who knows anything about the history of this debate knows that it is Jensen and others with similar arguments whose work and ideas have been suppressed.

        The claims of Schonemann and others regarding g are not accepted by mainstream science. Here’s a recent review (p. 204 in particular): http://www.larspenke.eu/pdfs/Deary_Penke_Johnson_2010_-_Neuroscience_of_intelligence_review.pdf

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        The results of Schonemann have not been addressed by “mainstream” intelligence researchers. The review you cited didn’t even mention Schonemann’s work; kind of hard to refute something without mentioning it.

        The whole premise of this blog post and this thread is correct ideas are sometimes suppressed by those with political power, not because they are wrong, but because those with political power don’t like them.

        If you look at reference 106 in what you cited.

        http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997mainstream.pdf

        and consider the “method” by which the agreement of the 52 “prominent researchers on intelligence” (out of 131 contacted) was reached, it was not a “consensus forming” method. It was a set-up to get groupthink. 48 researchers still explicitly refused to sign, with some of them explicitly disagreeing with the statement. In spite of this, the statement has been disingenuously spun as a “consensus statement” of “prominent researchers on intelligence”. When not even a majority of people contacted agree with it (52 out of 131), how can it be considered a consensus? The process by which those “prominent researchers on intelligence” were selected was not bias-free. The first publication was in the Wall Street Journal.

        If the “prominent researchers on intelligence” would actually address Schonemann’s objections in the normal way, with data and analysis, I would be able to take them seriously. When they simply ignore what he has to say and says he is outside the mainstream but don’t address the serious issues he raises, my inclination is to think the Emperor has no clothes.

      • J

        If the “prominent researchers on intelligence” would actually address Schonemann’s objections in the normal way, with data and analysis, I would be able to take them seriously. When they simply ignore what he has to say and says he is outside the mainstream but don’t address the serious issues he raises, my inclination is to think the Emperor has no clothes.

        Every field of study has “mavericks” who complain that the fact that their papers are rejected by mainstream journals and leading scholars is due to conspiracy. I have not familiarized myself with Schonemann’s claims, but usually the case is that such claims are BS. It is particularly unlikely that Jensen would get preferential treatment considering how widely hated he has been among the academic establishment, and how difficult it was for him to get many of his articles and books published.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        C. V. Dolan has apparently addressed Schonemann’s work. I haven’t read this paper myself though:
        http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/98964381-36235211/content~db=all~content=a785043385
        Dolan is a critic of Jensen and his work on psychometrics has been recommended by Cosma Shalizi as a contrast to Jensenists.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        J, yes, there are lone mavericks in many fields. How many fields take agreement of 52 out of 133 with 48 dissensions and call it a “consensus”?

        TGGP. Some of Schonemann’s objections as pointed out in here

        http://www.schonemann.de/pdf/83.pdf

        and his response to critics of his paper here

        http://www.schonemann.de/pdf/84.pdf

        have been elaborated on in a very recent paper here

        http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/14949.html

        where the sample sizes of populations needed to get actual statistical significance are demonstrated to be much higher than what has been used.

      • J

        J, yes, there are lone mavericks in many fields. How many fields take agreement of 52 out of 133 with 48 dissensions and call it a “consensus”?

        That’s false. From Wikipedia:

        The invitation to sign was sent to 131 researchers, of whom 100 responded by the deadline. The signature form asked whether the respondent would sign the statement, and if not, why. 52 respondents agreed to sign, while 48 did not. 38 supplied an explanation for their refusal, with 11 explicitly disagreeing that it represented the mainstream (or at least disagreeing with some of the claims in it), another 11 saying they did not know whether it did, and the rest citing various other reasons, including the fear of jeopardizing their position or project.

        In other words, a clear majority supported the statement, and of those who did not, many disagreed with only some aspects of it. Views with much weaker support are frequently described as “mainstream” in any field, and it would be impossible to create a similarly authoritative statement disagreeing with the main conclusions of the Mainstream statement.

        http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/14949.html

        where the sample sizes of populations needed to get actual statistical significance are demonstrated to be much higher than what has been used

        That has nothing to do with Schonemann. It’s also funny that last week you did not even know that there are methods for investigating test bias, but now you claim to not only know those methods but that they are inadequate.

        daedalus2u, it seems that you reject the mainstream scientific view because you do not like it, not because you have any good reasons for it. Claims made in one or two papers, even if published in a reputable journal (remember that most results published are false), are not terribly relevant if they have not been replicated and are not supported by others.

      • J

        The Dolan paper TGGP linked to not only shows that the theorem Schonemann introduces is incorrect, but also discusses an empirical investigation by Braden (1989), the results of which would be impossible if Schonemann’s theorem were correct. Dolan has himself questioned Spearman’s hypothesis, but he finds Schonemann’s arguments against it baseless and weak.

        Notably, in the article deadalus linked to, another prominent anti-Jensenist, Eric Turkheimer, has a less than positive view of Schonemann, accusing him of utilizing ad hominem arguments and espousing conspiracy theories.

        Contrary to daedulus’s claims, a number of scholars have addressed Schonemann’s arguments and found them wanting. What’s more, the hereditarian view in no way stands or falls on the correctness of Spearman’s hypothesis.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        I have seen the statement published in the WSJ wrongly characterized as a “consensus”. Mainstream and consensus are (to me), very different things. The WSJ statement may very well be considered mainstream, it cannot considered a consensus, not with 48 out of 100 not agreeing with it.

        The hereditarian hypothesis (HH) hinges on there being some unitary “g”, or “IQ”, or some other single unitary measure of “intelligence”, which can be reliably measured and that this reliable “measure” is determined primarily by genetics and so is inherited and that populations from different geographic regions, because they have different genes, have different levels of this “measure”.

        If there is no unitary measure of intelligence, then the HH fails. If there is no reliable measure of intelligence the HH fails. If intelligence is not primarily determined by genetics the HH fails. If there are no measurable genetic differences in those intelligence determining genes between populations that exactly track differences in intelligence the HH fails.

        The problems with the HH are so severe that it can be rejected.

        First, there is no unitary “g” or other unitary measure of intelligence that can be measured as with intelligence testing. The tests to determine such a thing are all fatally flawed. The concept of “g” is underspecified. As linked to earlier, if you consider that “g” or “IQ” can be measured using multiple tests and extracting a principle component from them, if you have k tests, you have k+1 unknowns (the k individual weighting factors and “g”). A system of k equations and k+1 unknowns is indeterminate (if all the interactions are linear, if they are non-linear (as is most likely), it is a higher order of indeterminacy). If “g” is meaningless (because it is indeterminate), then conclusions based on presumed differences in “g” are also meaningless.

        Second, the Flynn Effect shows large changes in IQ in whole populations not due to genetics. If there are large differences in IQ between populations that are not due to genetics, what basis is there for assuming that smaller differences are due to genetics? Especially when there is no evidence from actual gene frequency data that such is the case. The Flynn Effect shows that differences in intelligence are not primarily due to genetics.

        Third. Now that we have actual genetic data on different populations, there has been no discovery of genes that explain differences in intelligence, not between individuals, not between populations. If intelligence were primarily genetic, this would fall right out of the data. It has not fallen out of the data, intelligence is not primarily genetic. If intelligence is not primarily genetic, then the HH fails.

        Fourth, The very recent paper I linked to, shows that the sample sizes that have been used are inadequate to be unbiased. This is important in addressing the hand-waving used to get around the lack of there being such a thing as “g”. If sample sizes are inadequate to get an unbiased measure of a single principle component, how can they be large enough to be an unbiased measure of 10, 100, or 1,000 components? Especially when those components are unknown and may even be different across different populations?

        I understand that a lot of people still believe in the HH. Enough might that it could even be considered “main stream”. So what?

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        “The hereditarian hypothesis (HH) hinges on there being some unitary “g”, or “IQ””
        No, g and hereditarianism are different things. Let’s say we came up with a concept called wet-earwax-PTC-tasting, though having wet earwax and tasting PTC are completely separate traits. The variance for each of the traits which make up our combined trait could be 100% explained by genetics, so hereditarianism would be correct, but it would still not be a unitary trait. This is not a super esoteric bit of knowledge only available to people who’ve spent years studying psychometrics, but pretty basic stuff.

        The implications of g (assuming there is a general intelligence factor) are that a score on a “g-loaded” test will tell us a good deal about performance in other areas we consider related to “intelligence”. That could be the case even if the variance was entirely explained by environment.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        TGGP, no. If there is no such thing as ‘g’, what is it that the HH is trying to explain? If you can’t define or measure “intelligence”, how can you measure variance in intelligence. If you can’t reliably measure intelligence, what exactly are you trying to explain via genetics?

        Wet earwax and tasting PTC have reliable tests for their measurement. It is possible to look for genetic correlations because there are reliable tests. There are no reliable tests for ‘g’ or IQ, or intelligence. It is nonsensical to try and correlate genes with an unreliable test.

      • J

        I have seen the statement published in the WSJ wrongly characterized as a “consensus”. Mainstream and consensus are (to me), very different things.

        Neither the statement nor anyone in this discussion has claimed that 100% of intelligence researchers agree with the statement, so that’s completely irrelevant.

        First, there is no unitary “g” or other unitary measure of intelligence that can be measured as with intelligence testing. The tests to determine such a thing are all fatally flawed. The concept of “g” is underspecified.

        Firstly, even if factor analysis had never been invented, there would be IQ tests and the heritability of IQ could be studied.

        Secondly, g extracted from any sufficiently diverse battery of tests is pretty much the same, so that, for example, the rank ordering of people in “g intelligence” is similar regardless of the test used.

        Second, the Flynn Effect shows large changes in IQ in whole populations not due to genetics. If there are large differences in IQ between populations that are not due to genetics, what basis is there for assuming that smaller differences are due to genetics?

        The same basis that there is for assuming that human height differs between individuals, populations and sexes partly for genetic reasons despite the increases in average height during recent generations. (Now, I understand that you don’t believe that even height is heritable, but that’s just too ridiculous an idea to merit further discussion.) As I have demonstrated, Flynn gains and the black-white IQ difference are qualitatively different, and the Flynn effect has no causal connection to the b-w IQ gap.

        Third. Now that we have actual genetic data on different populations, there has been no discovery of genes that explain differences in intelligence, not between individuals, not between populations. If intelligence were primarily genetic, this would fall right out of the data.

        That shows that you’re just talking out of your ass, without having done any reading whatsoever on the topic. If there is one thing we know about genome-wide association studies and other genetic methods, it’s that nothing “falls right out of the data”. Results like this, this, and this are the fruit of years of work. Moreover, I am not aware of any studies of race and IQ where these methods are used. However, it’s incorrect to say that we do not know of any genetic differences that influence intelligence. In fact, we know plenty that cause mental retardation.

        Fourth, The very recent paper I linked to, shows that the sample sizes that have been used are inadequate to be unbiased.

        Your enormous confidence in the tall claims challenging tons of replicated results made in one recent paper suggests that you’re more interested in defending your poorly-thought out claims that finding out the truth. That study uses mocked-up data, and the fact that huge sample sizes are needed for there to be any bias even in such an artificial scenario suggests that even if the tests are biased, the bias is tiny (and likely disfavors whites).

        If there is no such thing as ‘g’, what is it that the HH is trying to explain? If you can’t define or measure “intelligence”, how can you measure variance in intelligence. If you can’t reliably measure intelligence, what exactly are you trying to explain via genetics?

        IQ tests are highly reliable in the sense of test-retest reliability, and the results of different IQ tests are highly intercorrelated. They are a valid measure of intelligence because of their predictive validity, even if different tests measuring other aspects of cognition could putatively be developed. IQ is certainly more reliable than, say, the diagnoses of many diseases, and there are plenty of GWA studies of diseases. I believe we will learn about the genetic basis of intelligence sooner rather than later.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        The major rivals to the theory of general intelligence are Sternberg’s “triarchic” theory and Gardner’s “multiple intelligences”. They believe, as with wet earwax and tasting PTC, there is something real there (though as with all analogies we shouldn’t try to stretch it too much). They simply believe that intelligence is a more multifaceted thing. Hereditarianism could still apply just the same under their theories (though ceteris paribus one would expect lower correlations). You seem to be suggesting that intelligence tests don’t really measure anything at all, which is a position I haven’t heard anyone with a psychometric background make since the tests have a considerable amount of predictive power. If you haven’t yet grasped the distinction between whether a trait is unitary vs heritable, I advise you to do more reading up on the subject from sources other than the ones that have plainly failed to impart that distinction.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Nice straw man, I never said the statement was characterized as 100%, I said it was wrongly characterized as consensus. The process by which that statement was developed is a good example of how to elicit groupthink. People said they didn’t sign it because they were afraid it would hurt their careers. We have an example of a researcher who didn’t sign it, and who’s career was hurt and was blocked from publishing because of his intellectual position on these matters. That would be Schonemann. When status depends on conformity to the majority position, that is a perfect setup for groupthink.

        The only genetic connections we are confident are related to mental retardation are single gene problems that actually do “fall right out” of a genome wide survey. The gene researchers expected genes associated with disorders characterized as highly hereditary to “fall right out” of genome wide surveys before those surveys were done. They didn’t. The reason they don’t is because genetic systems are very complicated. They comprise multiple non-linear coupled parameters. They are not “additive”, or “linear”, or reducible to anything like a X% heritability. Non-linear coupled systems are inherently chaotic and exhibit what is called the butterfly effect. They can be extremely sensitive to initial conditions, such as the conditions in utero during the first trimester where the same genome can give rise to a normal and an anencephalic infant.

        The whole idea of ‘g’ and IQ is predicated on what is called “intelligence” being a linear function of stuff. Trying to model chaotic systems with linear models will always fail. What “percentage” genetic is the anencephalopathy that one MZT exhibits when the other MZT does not?

        You are misreading the paper. It takes large sample sizes (tens of thousands) to avoid bias. There is no evidence that small sample sizes (less than hundreds) are unbiased, other than the unsupported statements of the researchers claiming they are.

        Because ‘g’ and IQ are under specified, they can be made to correlate with essentially anything. The way that IQ test questions are selected and incorporated into test scores is to give results that correlate with other IQ tests. If new test questions don’t correlate with old test questions, the new test questions are rejected.

        This isn’t a question of “belief”, it is a question of data and do we make policy based on belief or based on data.

        You haven’t addressed the Flynn Effect. The paper you cited and quoted from (Wicherts et al) says:

        “Each comparison of groups should be investigated separately. IQ gaps between cohorts do not teach us anything about IQ gaps between contemporary groups, except that each IQ gap should not be confused with real (i.e., latent) differences in intelligence. Only after a proper analysis of measurement invariance of these IQ gaps is conducted can anything be concluded concerning true differences between groups.”

        “Whereas implications of the Flynn effect for B–W differences appear small, the implications for intelligence testing, in general, are large. That is, the Flynn effect implies that test norms become obsolete quite quickly (Flynn, 1987).”

        where you stop your quotation. If you continue the quotation it says:

        “More importantly, however, the rejection of factorial invariance within a time period of only a decade implies that even subtest score interpretations become obsolete. Differential gains resulting in measurement bias, for example, imply that an overall test score (i.e., IQ) changes in composition. The effects on the validity of intelligence tests are unknown, but one can easily imagine that the factors that cause bias over the years also influence within-cohort differences. Further research on the causes of the artifactual gains is clearly needed.”

        “The overall conclusion of the present paper is that factorial invariance with respect to cohorts is not tenable. Clearly, this finding requires replication in other data sets. However, if this finding proves to be consistent, it should have implications for explanations of the Flynn effect. The fact that the gains cannot be explained solely by increases at the level of the latent variables (common factors), which IQ tests purport to measure, should not sit well with explanations that appeal solely to changes at the level of the latent variables.”

        What they are saying is that the Flynn Effect is at least partly artifactual due to the tests being bad and not measuring what they claim to be measuring (latent variables) from which IQ can be inferred. If the tests become obviously bad quickly, what basis is there for thinking the tests are not bad in a shorter time scale?

        They explicitly say “each IQ gap should not be confused with real (i.e., latent) differences in intelligence.” Which is exactly what you are doing.

        When the paper you cite says differences in IQ should not be confused with differences in intelligence, what is the HH trying to explain? Differences in how people do on bad tests that have been designed to correlate with other bad tests?

      • J

        Nice straw man, I never said the statement was characterized as 100%, I said it was wrongly characterized as consensus. The process by which that statement was developed is a good example of how to elicit groupthink. People said they didn’t sign it because they were afraid it would hurt their careers. We have an example of a researcher who didn’t sign it, and who’s career was hurt and was blocked from publishing because of his intellectual position on these matters. That would be Schonemann. When status depends on conformity to the majority position, that is a perfect setup for groupthink.

        I don’t care if someone somewhere has described that statement as a consensus (however defined). It’s completely irrelevant, and I don’t understand why you keep bringing it up.

        Some people refused to sign the statement because they knew that being associated with the unpopular (even if widely accepted, tacitly) views of Jensen et al. could hurt their career. To not sign it certainly carried no penalty whatsoever due to the anti-Jensenist bias of the psychological establishment. Lots of psychometricians have had no problem succeeding in their careers despite their vehement anti-Jensen views (whereas in contrast many scholars with un-PC views of racial differences have faced harassment and attempts to have their careers terminated), so if Schonemann was less successful than he had hoped, perhaps it had something to do with his unscholarly tactics and conspiracy-mongering, or perhaps he just was less of a scientist than he thought himself to be. Moreover, despite his protestations to the contrary, Schonemann seems to have got all of his claims published (and refuted) in scholarly journals, so the problem for him was probably just that he couldn’t take the intellectual defeat.

        You are misreading the paper. It takes large sample sizes (tens of thousands) to avoid bias. There is no evidence that small sample sizes (less than hundreds) are unbiased, other than the unsupported statements of the researchers claiming they are.

        I am not misreading anything, and I’m not buying their arguments challenging tons of research just like that. I’ll wait for comments and further research by others. They have simply proposed certain hypotheses using certain theorems, made-up data and arbitrary assumptions. If there is a need for a sample of tens of thousands, the bias, if there is any, is tiny. Moreover, the sources of possible bias that they discuss, “acting white” and “stereotype threat”, are highly dubious constructs. Finally, as a practical matter, even if there was a tiny bias favoring whites in preemployment testing (a bias in the opposite direction is more likely), it would be meaningless next to the massive advantage affirmative action gives to non-Asian minorities.

        Because ‘g’ and IQ are under specified, they can be made to correlate with essentially anything. The way that IQ test questions are selected and incorporated into test scores is to give results that correlate with other IQ tests. If new test questions don’t correlate with old test questions, the new test questions are rejected.

        It’s pretty much impossible to invent test items that can be thought of as assessing intelligence in some way and that are not simultaneously g-loaded. G-loadings correlate with the complexity and predictive validity of the items, so test designers can’t help developing tests that correlate with earlier tests. Otherwise the tests would be useless, with no predictive validity.

        g and IQ are not “under specified”. They are well-defined, all tests correlate with each other, and g factors derived from different test batteries correlate very highly with each other. Of course they are only estimates in the sense that they do not measure anything in the brain exactly, but then again nothing is exact outside of pure mathematics.

        If the tests become obviously bad quickly, what basis is there for thinking the tests are not bad in a shorter time scale?

        Because of the high reliability and validity of IQ tests within cohorts. If there are biases within cohorts, they are small and not against any particular ethnic or racial group. In practise, test takers are typically about the same age, so the Flynn effect doesn’t matter. Naturally, the validity of the tests would improve if they were renormed more often.

        They explicitly say “each IQ gap should not be confused with real (i.e., latent) differences in intelligence.” Which is exactly what you are doing.

        Why did you stop quoting? It goes on:

        “Only after a proper analysis of measurement invariance of these IQ gaps is conducted can anything be concluded concerning true differences
        between groups.

        And several studies prove that measurement invariance holds in comparisons between blacks and whites. This is what they write:

        More importantly, in both B–W studies, it is concluded that the measurement invariance between Blacks and Whites is tenable because the lowest AIC values are found with the factorial invariance models (Dolan, 2000; Dolan & Hamaker, 2001).

        It seems that you either don’t understand what is said here, or more likely, considering how artfully you failed to quote those passages, you do not want to admit that your position is unsupported. The Flynn effect is irrelevant when it comes to the question of racial differences in IQ.

        When the paper you cite says differences in IQ should not be confused with differences in intelligence, what is the HH trying to explain?

        That’s not what they say. Learn to read.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I hope you will agree that height is a unitary trait. Does that imply that it is the result of a linear rather than chaotic process? No, to answer that question we have to look further. So again, the issue of whether a trait is unitary is an entirely separate issue than what you are talking about.

        Generally speaking, large sample sizes do not eliminate biases. Large sample sizes help reduce random error, not systematic (even unintended) bias.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Height is not a unitary measure of any physiological primitive. Height is the sum of the lengths of the femur, the tibia, the individual bones in the spine, the diameter of the skull, the thickness of the scalp, the hip, the foot bones, the thickness of the foot pad, plus the thickness of cartilage between each pair of bones.

        The way that the length of a bone like the femur is determined, is primarily when the growth plates stop growing, stop adding length to the ends of the bone. That growth is determined locally, by the cells that comprise the growth plate. Skull diameter is mostly determined by brain size, but skull shape matters too. Should we expect there to be a single unitary “height gene” that synchronously controls the proportionate size of the height component of each bone independent of other physiological parameters? No, we shouldn’t.

        Suppose you didn’t have the ability to measure distances longer than 1 meter, but still wanted to find the “true” or “quintessential height” (QH) of an individual by taking a weighted sum of the lengths of the individual bones. Since you are not quite sure how the different bone lengths will add up, or which bones will be important, you decide to take a weighted sum of all the bones you can measure and determine which ones are most important.

        Assuming you can measure 200 bones, you measure those individual bone lengths of 100 individuals and then determine the weighting factors to use in weighting the individual bone lengths to quintessential height. You don’t know what quintessential height actually is, so you use the weighting factors that give you the “best” fit but don’t know exactly what weight to put to each of them, so you solve for the weighting factors that will give you the “best” overall fit. You now have equations of the form

        k1*B1 + k2*B2 + k3*B3 + … + k200*B200 = QH (quintessential height)

        You still don’t know what QH is, other than it is the “best” measure of height. So you choose the weighting factors k1, k2, k3 … k200 that minimize the “error” in your equation determining what QH is over your group of 100 individuals.

        Now that you know what the k’s are and how to calculate QH, you measure more individuals, but some of them only have 190 bones, and some have 210 bones. You have already determined that k190-k200 are important, so if individuals don’t have bones B190-B200, they don’t have those components of QH and so are stunted in QH. Similarly since there is no k201-k210, bones B201-B210 are completely unimportant in QH and can be neglected.

        As you accumulate data on k’s and QH over the decades, you notice that QH is creeping up, that the quintessential height of whole populations is increasing. The k factors that you thought were constant really aren’t. But no matter, because you always minimize the error when you calculate your k’s and QH, you know that your k’s and QH’s are reliable in a single cohort, even if they are not reliable between cohorts.

        What does “reliable” in this context mean? Does it mean that testing an individual for QH will produce a “true” QH? No, all it means is that in a whole cohort, the average unreliability is distributed across the entire population. That on average, for every high QH there will be a QH that is low, but you can’t tell if an individual QH is low, high, or accurate.

        Now in the genomic age, you try to fit genetic data to your k’s and QH’s. But which k’s and which QH? The modern ones? Or the less-modern ones? If the different B’s have changed in their importance, so too will the importance of the underlying genes (and non-genetic factors) that determine the length the individual B’s. But no matter, just pick a model that chooses k factors that minimize the “error” in the QH determination and that “proves” the answer is correct.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        Yes, height can be thought of as the sum of many smaller components, but it is still a unitary trait: it can be accurately expressed with a single scalar. In your analogy there is a trait which is real and unitary in nature but imperfectly measured.

        I have never heard anyone say that IQ is the result of a single “IQ gene”. The standard take among hereditarians I’ve heard is that there are a very large number of genes with individually small effects. The addition of such large numbers of small factors results in normal distributions. There are also of course some genes with large effects that give rise to retardation.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        You do appreciate that the procedure I outlined for calculating height from bone length is flawed, even though height is (essentially) a linear combination of the lengths of certain bones? The coefficients are pretty close to either zero or one. Zero for bones like ribs and 1 for bones like the femur. If a calculating procedure like that fails for something as simple as height and bone length, why would anyone expect such a procedure to work for something as complex and as poorly defined as intelligence? It would virtually certainly work less well.

        Intelligence is not a linear combination of anything. It is highly non-linear. The problem is that the interactions between the genes and the environment are non-linear and the interactions are coupled.

        The HH requires modeling intelligence as a linear combination of genes and environmental influences of the form (where G1 is gene 1 and EI2 is environmental influence 2 and g1 is the constant that determines the effect of G1):

        IQ = g1(G1) + g2(G2) + … + ei1(EI1) + ei2(EI2) + …

        In reality, the g’s and e’s interact with each other and with themselves. The first coefficient isn’t a constant, it is a non-linear function of all the G’s and all the E’s and all their mutual interactions that collectively influence the effect of G1 on intelligence.

        It is a non-linear function with at least hundreds of genetic terms and likely thousands of environmental terms. These functions are different for each different tissue compartment and cell type that has an influence on neurodevelopment and brain function, heart; liver, kidneys, immune system and vary over time and exhibit hysteresis. It is also epigenetically programmed in utero and maybe in parental gametes.

        I appreciate that the actual complexity of the genetic influence on intelligence is too complex to model given our current understanding of genetics and environmental influences. The HH requires neglecting all this complexity and ignoring all gene-gene interactions, all environment-environment interactions and all gene-environment interactions. We know that is not correct.

        Let me restate it a different way; it is extremely likely that genes that affects IQ can have both positive and negative effects on IQ depending on other genes and on the environment. The effects of a particular gene on IQ are not just “small”, they can be either positive or negative depending on other things. A genotype growing up in one environment may have a high IQ phenotype and in another environment may have a low IQ phenotype. One environment may produce a high IQ in one genotype and a low IQ in another. Environments that are nominally “the same” can produce completely different results even in the same genome, as in the case of MZT being discordant for anencephalopathy.

        Many of the genes that affect IQ are active in utero, when the brain grows from a single cell to 10^11 cells. Epigenetic programming of DNA in utero is known to affect animal behaviors as adults. Exposure to stress in utero is known to affect adult behaviors in animals and in humans. Are there differential levels of stress between the B/W population? Are pregnant white women exposed to more or less stress than pregnant black women? What is the basis for ignoring those differential levels of stress? Because stress levels are hard to measure? Gene frequency hasn’t been measured at all, but the HH has no difficulty attributing large effects to unmeasured and unknown genes while completely neglecting in utero stress which is known to be different, and could be measured. Certainly outcomes attributable to stressful pregnancy are known (low birth weight) and could be measured but are not.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        Yes, when I said “imperfectly measured” that was a reference to the flawed nature of the procedure. I think you now exaggerates its problems though. As Robyn Dawes explained in “Rational Choice in an Uncertain World”, statistical models with randomly chosen coefficients do surprisingly well. The important thing is that they have the right sign.

        “The HH requires modeling intelligence as a linear combination of genes and environmental influences”
        The hereditarian hypothesis is that a substantial portion of the variation in intelligence is due to genetic variation (or alternatively, that the same is true for variation among population groups). If IQ was attributable purely to a massively complex interaction of countless genes, hereditarianism would be obviously correct. If IQ was purely the result of a simple linear combination of environmental factors, hereditarianism would be obviously incorrect.

        “A genotype growing up in one environment may have a high IQ phenotype and in another environment may have a low IQ phenotype. One environment may produce a high IQ in one genotype and a low IQ in another.”
        That can be the case even in a linear interaction model. You could correct it by specifying that in the first sentence you are speaking relative to a different genotype but the same environment, and vice versa for the second sentence. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know enough about genetics to make such comparisons. We can observe that there are still large amounts of variation for identical twins with very similar environments, but that’s compatible with a linear interaction model in which random noise plays a large role.

        On stress and measurement: we can distinguish between identical twins, fraternal twins, and unrelated children raised together (or apart). This is how measures of heritability are obtained (though they can only directly shed light on contributions to within-group variation rather than between group variation, biracial children perhaps shedding light on the latter). We don’t have equivalent comparable classes for stress.

        But if there are ten-dollar bills on the sidewalk researchers have overlooked in the form of unmeasured outcomes, perhaps you should start contacting researchers and offering suggestions. I often email professors out of the blue and they can be surprisingly receptive. There is a subfield of psychology devoted to childhood development, and I would expect that is your best bet.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    In looking at the link TGGP provided, a lot of people who don’t know much about what they are talking about.

    In IQ testing over time there is a thing called the Flynn effect.

    The mean IQ of the blacks of today is a lot higher than the mean IQ of the whites of 80 years ago. I guess that means a lot of gene-flow from whites to blacks? If IQ is primarily genetic, that sort of has to be the case, no?

    But then how did white IQs get so high? Gene flow from aliens?

    The mean IQ differences between blacks and whites is much less than the changes that have occurred within groups of whites and groups of blacks over time. We know the larger changes are not genetic because genetics don’t change in a single generation. What basis is there for assuming the smaller difference is due to genetics? What reason other than racial bigotry that is?

    • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

      Nisbett lists some of the proposed reasons on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence

    • J

      What basis is there for assuming the smaller difference is due to genetics? What reason other than racial bigotry that is?

      I would say the Flynn effect in itself is a piece of evidence in favor of genetically based racial differences in IQ. This is because of the fact that the black-white gap has remained despite the large Flynn gains. The Flynn gains are qualitively different from the black-white gap. The tests results of people from different generations are not comparable with each other, i.e. there’s a test bias against the older generations, but there is no bias if the people compared are from the same generation.

      what is wrong is the idea that differences in height are primarily genetic. The Japanese data is good evidence that it is not

      Height is a highly heritable trait, and differences in height are certainly primarily genetic. However, this applies only to people who grow up in similar environments, i.e. heritability estimates cannot be generalized to widely divergent environments. I once heard that only a couple of percent of Japanese men are as tall or taller than the average man from the Yugoslavian Alps. Do you think this huge difference is because nutrition etc. are so much worse in Japan than in the Balkans, or does genetics explain it?

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        What basis do you have for saying the tests are biased between generations but unbiased within generations (other than wishful thinking)? What does that even mean? How could such “bias” occur? Presumably it is some interaction between the tests and the individuals. Why can’t unbiased tests be produced? The tests are all normalized, that is the scoring is adjusted such that the tests give a “normalized” distribution within a generation. How could bias within a generation even be detected? If it can’t possibly be detected because of the flaws in the tests, how can you say it doesn’t exist?

        You say that height is mostly genetic. Do you have an actual basis for saying that? Have genes that control height been determined? Have populations with different heights been shown to have different frequency of genes that control height? Have individuals with different heights growing up in the same environment been shown to have different frequencies of those height-determining genes? I appreciate that is one of the current dogma’s of science, that “genes cause everything”, but so far genes for height have not been identified, and it is not for a lack of looking.

        The simplistic idea that “genes cause everything” is wrong. Unfortunately many of the gene researchers who have staked their careers on finding genes that cause disease and normal development are unwilling to admit that the “genes cause everything” meme is simplistic and wrong. In no field is that more apparent than in the field of genes and intelligence. The reasons for denial may be different for different individuals. I think it is likely to avoid narcissistic injury from admitting being wrong, and also the narcissistic injury from the realization that the reason such individuals were wrong was because of xenophobia and racist bigotry.

        Diet has an influence, but so does epigenetic programming. The in utero environment has a very large effect on adult phenotype. Environmental exposure in utero can cause a number of adult disorders, presumably through epigenetic programming, for example schizophrenia, exposure to maternal flu in utero greatly increases the incidence of schizophrenia in adults.

        Language is highly heritable too. Virtually everyone growing up adopts the language of their parents and environment as their first language. Does that mean that language is genetic?

      • J

        What basis do you have for saying the tests are biased between generations but unbiased within generations (other than wishful thinking)? What does that even mean? How could such “bias” occur?

        My preferred way of reaching conclusions about scientific questions is to read the relevant literature. There are methods to investigate test bias. Arthur Jensen’s “Bias in Mental Testing” (1980) is a classic treatment, and its conclusions, including the fact that IQ tests are not biased against blacks, have been virtually universally accepted by his peers. The American Psychological Association Task Force Report on intelligence (1996) put it this way:

        The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status.

        This article by Wicherts et al. describes bias with respect to the Flynn effect. An excerpt:

        More importantly, in both B–W studies, it is concluded that the measurement invariance between Blacks and Whites is tenable because the lowest AIC values are found with the factorial invariance models (Dolan, 2000; Dolan & Hamaker, 2001). This clearly contrasts with our current findings on the Flynn effect. It appears therefore that the nature of the Flynn effect is qualitatively different from the nature of B–W differences in the United States. Each comparison of groups should be investigated separately. IQ gaps between cohorts do not teach us anything about IQ gaps between contemporary groups, except that each IQ gap should not be confused with real (i.e., latent) differences in intelligence. Only after a proper analysis of measurement invariance of these IQ gaps is conducted can anything be concluded concerning true differences between groups.

        Whereas implications of the Flynn effect for B–W differences appear small, the implications for intelligence testing, in general, are large. That is, the Flynn effect implies that test norms become obsolete quite quickly (Flynn, 1987).

        See also Jensen and Rushton’s “The rise and fall of the Flynn Effect as a reason to expect a narrowing of the Black–White IQ gap”.

        You say that height is mostly genetic. Do you have an actual basis for saying that? Have genes that control height been determined? Have populations with different heights been shown to have different frequency of genes that control height? Have individuals with different heights growing up in the same environment been shown to have different frequencies of those height-determining genes? I appreciate that is one of the current dogma’s of science, that “genes cause everything”, but so far genes for height have not been identified, and it is not for a lack of looking.

        Firstly, I have never heard anyone claim that “genes cause everything”. That’s a straw man. Secondly, far from hereditarianism being fashionable, there’s long been a strong bias against genetic explanations of human behavior in social sciences — which is not unrelated to the fact that many fields of social science made little progress in understanding human behavior in the last 100 years. Fortunately, in recent times this bias has started to subside. As psychologist Eric Turkheimer said, “The nature-nurture debate is over — All human behavioral traits are heritable [to some degree].”

        Secondly, there’s no need to identify the exact genes before we can say that a trait like IQ is substantially heritable. Other lines of evidence prove that beyond any doubt. There’s no doubt that further progress in technology and methods will make it possible to pinpoint genes responsible for the heritability of IQ and other traits. A recent genome-wide association study study was able to explain 45 percent of variance in height.

  • Jayson Virissimo

    Here is a slight variation in your argument:

    The mean height of the Japanese of today is higher than the mean height of the whites of 80 years ago. I guess that means a lot of gene-flow from whites to Japanese? If height is primarily genetic, that sort of has to be the case, no?

    Does this variation of your argument seem less convincing because it gets the facts wrong, or because something is wrong with the argument form?

    • Jayson Virissimo

      The above comment is in response to daedalus2u.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Jason, what is wrong is the idea that differences in height are primarily genetic. The Japanese data is good evidence that it is not.

        I appreciate that there is a tremendous fad that “everything” is genetic these days, and to get funding in biology you have to be doing gene stuff. Genes are important, but they are not the whole story and are not the primary driver of a lot of stuff that is important. Epigenetics is extremely important, but isn’t appreciated.

        My suggestion of gene flow to explain the change in IQ was satire. We know such gene flow did not happen. Gene flow cannot explain the change in white IQ unless you posit gene flow from aliens.

      • Jayson Virissimo

        daedalus2u, thanks for the clarification.

  • Constant

    Restricting yourself to publishing interesting things seems to come close to being publication bias.

  • http://yudkowsky.net/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    So right now, the main thought that I’m thinking is that if someone asked me to take a position on a controversial topic where the true answer was the unpopular one, and I had nothing to gain from stating it, I would ask them to state a probability that the disliked position was true. They would say 0%, thereby establishing themselves as either liars or fools; and I would proceed to attack that while refusing to answer the original question myself. Perhaps I’ve been writing too much Machiavellian plotting lately.

    • Randall Randall

      …but now that you’ve TOLD Draco that, of course he’ll pick some low-but-non-zero percentage! What, then? :)

    • John Maxwell IV

      “I would ask them to state a probability that the disliked position was true. They would say 0%”

      My experience is that it’s very difficult to get non-rationalists to give numerical estimates of probabilities or expected values. So I’d guess in this scenario the person you were talking to would probably say something like “It’s obviously not true man! One in a thousand, one in a billion, I don’t know, but it isn’t true!”

  • http://thecoldequations.blogspot.com coldequation

    A position is only brave if it’s disfavored by powerful groups. You can show the hypocrisies of white nationalists, creationists, and Raeliens all day long, but they won’t be able to harm your career in any way, so there’s nothing brave about that.

    Roughly speaking, brave positions could be divided into two categories – right-wing, true ones, like HBD, and nutty false ones, like the flat Earth hypothesis.

    I guess it’s slightly brave to attack Scientologists, even though they fall into the latter category, because they’ll sue you.

    • andrew kieran

      what’s HBD?

    • Jack (LW)

      I’m not sure why you think only unpopular right-wing positions are brave – or that all left wing positions are popular. Theres a whole bunch of left-wing associate conspiracy positions which take a lot of courage to endorse. Then theres the non-conspiratorial but more radical views of Marxists, anarchists, PETA, Ecoterrorism, extreme social tolerance (of polygamy or beastiality for example), anti-military views, anti-patriotism views, anti-religion views etc.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Jack, you are not understanding the concept. It is not opposing unpopular right wing positions that is brave, it is opposing popular right wing positions that is brave because right wingers tend to impose social costs on those who oppose their right wing positions.

        Brave positions are things like allowing burning the flag, allowing legal representation for prisoners, opposing capital punishment, legalizing drugs, allowing gay marriage, allowing gays to serve openly in the military, adopting single payer health care, taking “under God” out of the pledge, equal rights for women, complete separation of church and state, supporting a woman’s right to choose, opposing unjust wars, considering diplomacy instead of war.

        Opposing fringe positions like you listed isn’t brave because virtually everyone does and there is no social cost for opposing anything you listed.

      • Konvkistador

        @deadalus2u: I think it depends on the society where you live in. Over here opposing gay marriage is a very unpopular and not respectable position. Also arguing in favour of the death penalty is seen as barbaric and is met by a knee jerk accusation of Americanism.

        Also I’m quite surprised you don’t think Stephanie Grace, James Watson or Lawrence Summers are paying a social cost for what where basically reasonable statements to make (not necessarily correct but certainly well in the realm of the plausible perhaps even likley).

  • http://www.takeonit.com Ben Albahari

    I could potentially add a “badge” feature to TakeOnIt, that would allow various badges such as “Brave Position” or “Populist” badges to be assigned to experts, influencers, and commenters. The way it would work, is that the community could define badges, where each badge would be associated with a selection of questions. Anyone would be automatically assigned a badge, if they answered questions associated with a badge in a particular way.

    To give you an idea what the feature might look like, here’s Robin Hanson’s TakeOnIt page. To the right or below the bio would be room for some badges.

    Thoughts?

  • Emile

    coldequation: so you think a list of “brave positions” wouldn’t contain anything considered “left wing”? Or that the left-wing ones would be as nutty as flat earth?

    • http://thecoldequations.blogspot.com coldequation

      Does NAmbla count as leftwing?

      You can take leftwing beliefs too far (ward Churchill), but you have to work at it.

    • Oligopsony

      To state “unpopular left-wing positions [but not unpopular right-wing ones] are as nutty as flat earth” is just to say “I am right-wing,” or, operationally, “I would respond to the Brave Positions Test by giving brave/heretical answers to the apportioned right-wing litmus questions and cowardly/orthodox answers to the apportioned left-wing litmus questions.”

      coldequation was right to say, in a sense, that one has to “work” to arrive at unpopular left-wing opinions, but only in the trivial sense that one has to work to arrive at unpopular opinions generally. If you’re a standard right-winger (or a member of the Cowardly Positions Club) these positions will seem crazy; after all, if they didn’t, you’d be a left-winger.

      In any event, the test doesn’t need to be a direct test of rationality, even if it can serve as a test of preference for popularity (a common competitor of preference for rationality.) Leftist Alice, who wants a command economy, and rightist Bob, who believes Aryans are the master race, and conspiracist Clarence, who believes the English royal family are space lizards, don’t need to agree on those substantive questions if they’re to agree on the validity of the Brave Positions Test; they just need to agree that they’re all disreputable things to express in polite company.

  • HardwoodMarble

    Let’s just get to the questions already!
    How about something along the lines of:

    Whether or not, college graduates, politicians, and associated others (of which the answerer is a part of and I am a member of) form a self serving elite?

    Follow-up: Does this group discriminate against the poor?

    I guess the goal is the make people uncomfortable and admit bias…are there other types of questions?

  • HardwoodMarble

    More thoughts:

    I think the types of questions changes depending on your social group.

    Upper-management: Are we over-valued?
    Church member: Is there merit to evolutionary biology?
    Union member: Are we a protection racket?

  • Phil

    How about a constitutional amendment that prohibits anyone from running for office until they’ve joined the Brave Position Club?

    • andrew kieran

      and then the houses of government would be filled with liars who pretend to hold positions they in fact have no interest in!

      . . .

  • Economics

    1) Support of Free Trade
    2) Abolishment of the minimum wage.

    • Konvkistador

      Arguments for abolishing the minimal wage is a good catch.

  • Brave

    Who should join and why?

    My enemies, for my benefit.

  • Patrick L

    How is being a member of the Brave Position Club any different then being a contrarian?

  • Emile

    What would be interesting would be seeing Brave Position Club positions and membership 150 years ago, for example.

    I wonder if a historian would be able to put up such lists?

  • mgravity

    A club member who declared the safe opinion on all the brave topics would be clearly identified as a “kiss-ass brown-noser” who didn’t think for themselves.

    You’d need to be very brave indeed to admit to taking the safe position on every issue.

    • andrew kieran

      reminds me of a quote from a historian about desertion in world war 1

      “it took a brave man to be a coward in those days”

      and cowards were happy to fight.

  • James Babcock

    Publishing answers to a brave predictions list would be stupid in today’s society. But there is a variation that I do like: brave prediction lists published posthumously, when there is no longer any reason to hide the answers. If enough people did this, the data would be very valuable, albeit laggy and strongly skewed towards the opinions of the elderly.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      James, shouldn’t we try to change society such that publishing a list of Brave Positions is not stupid? Aren’t we even more stupid to allow our society to be structured in that way?

      Can we disagree without being disagreeable?

      To me, establishing a society where ideas that are correct but disfavored by those in power can be held without adverse effects is the most important property a society can have to avoid existential risk.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Carl, yes it makes sense to let folks qualify by mentioning related positions of theirs.

    Rob, makes sense.

    daedalus2u, I don’t see this as sending much of a rationality signal.

    Constant, unless we are expected to say absolutely everything we think, things we say are associated with strong selection effects. Interpreting them otherwise is a huge error.

    Eliezer, It would be interesting to see what is considered the “safe” percentage belief in heresy. I doubt 0% would stand.

    Ben, software would be great, but the limit now is topic analysis.

  • Pierre

    I’d join the club, if only to find out what brave positions I haven’t thought about are worth taking and to find out whether what I consider brave positions are brave at all (or maybe even positions, for that matter.)

    Pierre

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    That apparently fails to mention either race or IQ. It doesn’t seem very “brave” either.

    From the quote, I’d say Robin’s position is quite clear to anyone with half a brain, but the way he said it isn’t very quotable and avoids certain words that tend to set off alarm bells. Therefore, he’s unlikely to get hauled before some modern inquisitor. This way of speaking is particularly understandable given that this area isn’t his specialty.

    • Konkvistador

      I have been guilty of failing to use such ways of expressing myself. I’ve fortunately outgrown this phase. People need to look up more to Descartes handled things.

      Staying away from alarm bells also has the added bonus that it avoids knee jerk responses among all involved. Sure most of the time it files over people’s heads but every now and then I suddenly realize one of my former cherished unsubstantiated beliefs just died and I don’t feel bad about it at all, at that point I’m thankful to the sneaky little guy who snuk all those little facts while my defenses of the big ideas where up.

      Of course one shouldn’t trust little guys with their little facts unless one fact checks and understands probability.

  • James D. Miller

    Robin,

    If you ever wrote anything that eliminated your chance of getting a government position of high influence I would wonder if you really believe in many of the things you write and are not just playing intellectual games.

  • Philo

    How would the “brave positions” be chosen? Remember, these are supposed to be not just politically/socially incorrect propositions, but politically/socially incorrect propositions *that are true*. Selecting these is going to be difficult and controversial; after all, most politically incorrect propositions are false–that’s part of the reason they have been widely rejected by society’s opinion leaders.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Pierre, since positions are public, you could from others’ positions without having to take any yourself.

    James, the chances of my getting such a position are very low even without such a mark against me. So doing something that cuts that chance doesn’t sent much of a signal.

    Philo, we’d together pick the topics, but each person would pick their own positions.

  • Philo

    Are there topics on which it is socially embarrassing to declare one’s opinion *no matter what it is*? Isn’t there always at least one “safe” position one can take? If so, there are really no brave *topics*, only brave *opinions* on various topics.

    To join the club, would one be required to take a position on *every* one of the topics, never being allowed to say “I don’t know” or “I am suspending judgment” (often the appropriate stance to take)? How many “I don’t knows” would disqualify one from membership?

    “A club member who declared the safe opinion on all the brave topics would be clearly identified as a ‘kiss-ass brown-noser’ who didn’t think for themselves.” That’s too harsh, unless the topics have been chosen so that it is very unlikely that in each case one is epistemically justified in taking the socially safe view. (And, of course, *declaring* ≠ *thinking*.)

    If a great many people joined the club, membership would lose its scarcity value; membership *per se* would come to signal little, though one’s declared opinions on the various topics would retain value as signals, and maybe one would get credit for being an *early joiner*. (It would be braver to join the club when it was small: there is safety in numbers.)

  • god

    Eh, I just “like” bringing it up, because I always get heckled for change by black homeless people in town.

    So, not accusing you of cowardness, just blowing off some steam.

    • god

      Ah damnit,If only I could delete comments.

  • http://denisbider.blogspot.com/ denis bider

    I’m not sure that I should honor Daedalus with much attention, as it is my impression that he seeks more of it than is justified by what he has to say. My impression is he can’t imagine any middle ground between “exactly known” and “totally invalid”. Dismissing evidence merely because it’s not complete is just not the road to better understanding.

    It may be relevant however to point out an argument I haven’t seen mentioned. Mingroni’s hypothesis is that both the Flynn effect and height increases can be explained by heterosis:

    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/114/3/806/

    Due to cities, populations have undergone internal migration and gene mixing more than they have done before. If the genes that contribute to intelligence or height are even slightly dominant overall, then mixing over time will cause these genes to get more spread out and more common.

    Response to Eliezer’s strategy on making the other person pick a probability: I just tried that recently on someone – a self-proclaimed scientist, no less – and her response was that her world is not as shallow and as restricted as my narrow, 0-1 view of probability. You can’t extract a rational response from an irrational person.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      You are really not understanding my position, and by mischaracterizing it, you show me what your position is. I don’t discount evidence because it is not complete. I don’t accept logical conclusions without a logically complete argument. You are correct, there is not a complete chain of facts and logic that lead to the conclusion that “intelligence” is determined genetically and the reason populations of minorities have lower IQ test scores is because of their differential genetics.

      So why do you accept the conclusion if the argument is incomplete? You can’t be accepting it because it logically follows because it doesn’t, and you have even acknowledged that it doesn’t. So why are you accepting it?

      You and virtually all the other proponents of the HH are not looking for greater understanding of what causes intelligence or how to raise it in populations. We already know how to improve intelligence, through better prenatal health care, prenatal nutrition, childhood nutrition, childhood education and many other things. Most proponents of the HH don’t want to do the things that we already know work, they want to simply ignore what we know works and instead focus on genetics which can’t be changed and more tax cuts for the rich.

      Even if intelligence was primarily genetic, better prenatal care, better health care, better nutrition, better education for the poor would raise their intellectual capacities. Why do the HH proponents want to not do those things? I am pretty sure I know why, but many people get upset when their bigotry is so trivially exposed, and they then use their faux outrage at their cognitive dissonance being exposed as an excuse to abandon the argument with their biases intact.

      I am not looking for attention, which is why I use a pseudonym. I object to racist bigots using pseudoscience to justify their racist bigotry, especially when that racist bigotry is practiced by a large fraction of people working in the field, as is the case in intelligence research. The reason I object is because using racist bigotry and pseudoscience as a basis for policy makes for crappy policy, and crappy policy makes for a crappy world. I don’t want to live in a crappy world. I especially don’t want to live in the kind of crappy world that racist bigotry and pseudoscience based policies will produce.

      I looked at the cited paper on heterosis. I see it as simply yet another contrived rationalization trying to rationalize intelligence differences with genetics in the complete absence of any actual genetic data. If the heterosis idea was actually correct, then because Africa has the vast majority of human genetic diversity, the intelligence of the population of Africa should be much higher than everywhere else in the world, and should have been since human speciation. This is of course inconsistent with the “standard” HH, that white populations are enriched in genes that confer intelligence; genes that no researchers have been able to find.

      The major “data” linking genes to intelligence is from a naïve examination of monozygous twins. Monozygous twins share a lot more than just a genome, they also shared pretty much the same in utero environment where their brains grew from a single cell to 100,000,000,000 cells, a factor of 10^11.

      To a first order, I would think that the importance of a specific environment on brain development and function will depend on how much change that brain has experienced during exposure to that specific environment, not on the length of time. The neurons are not just multiplying, they are also forming long range connections, differentiating and being epigenetically programmed; programming that will persist long term, perhaps for the individual’s entire lifetime.

      If we assume that only 0.1% of the brain is “important” in intelligence, then because the number of “important” neurons increases from 1 to 10^8 in utero, the in utero environment is ~ 10^8 times more important than the time from birth to adulthood where the number doesn’t change by even a factor of 5. Maybe this analysis is off by 6 orders of magnitude. That still makes the in utero environment 100 times more important than childhood.

      We know that in utero exposure to things does cause changes in neurodevelopment. Schizophrenia is increased by exposure to flu in utero. Autism is increased by exposure to valproate, thalidomide, maternal stress and perhaps other things. There are no known post-birth exposures that are known to increase schizophrenia or autism. There is no known neuropsychiatric disorder that has 100% concordance between MZT. Things as extreme as anencephalopathy cam be discordant between MZT. We know that MZT are not discordant because of genetics, because they share the same genome. They are discordant because of some environmental effects in utero. If in utero environmental effects can cause brain phenotype differences as extreme as anencephalopathy, what basis is there for neglecting in utero environmental effects for things as subtle as intelligence?

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        “If the heterosis idea was actually correct, then because Africa has the vast majority of human genetic diversity, the intelligence of the population of Africa should be much higher than everywhere else in the world, and should have been since human speciation. ”
        No, you are making too big an inference. denis was suggesting that heterosis is responsible for the increase over recent generations. That does NOT imply that heterosis explains all variation in intelligence. So his theory would imply that Africans have more intelligence THAN THEY WOULD HAVE HAD if they had not been so diverse.

        I’m no expert on the thought of hereditarians, but from what I’ve read they tend to promote things like breastfeeding & micronutrients. As far as I know there are no hereditarian researchers who believe in a 100% GENETIC explanation. There are nurturists (generally not psychometricians) who try to clamp down on any genetic explanations, but nobody does the same for environmental influence (though some think there are no “shared environment” effects among normal middle class first-world families, still leaving room for peer effects).

        Uterine environments are an interesting subject and I think there should be more research into them. Greg Cochran (categorizable as a hereditarian, though he is a physicist-turned-anthropologist) thinks schizophrenia is caused by an infection, like narcolepsy. There have been a lot of nonsensical claims about the causes of autism, so I’d need some cites for your listed causes before I go repeating them credulously (as is normally my wont). The latest hypothesis I’ve heard is that ultrasounds explain its prevalence among wealthier parents. Who knows.

        In my earlier comment I had meant to reference personality. That’s another branch of psychometrics, and nobody thinks there is a unitary “g” factor for it (I think the five-factor theory is most popular now). Nevertheless, personality seems significantly heritable. So there’s another example of unitary vs heritable being separable.

      • Anti-Zionist Anti-Egalitarian

        “So why do you accept the conclusion if the argument is incomplete?”

        Your argument is absolutist in tone though, by your own logic we shouldn’t accept evolution per se due to the fact the chain of transitional fossils has not been ‘completed’ yet.

        Nice to you see smugly attacking Catholics and Homeopathy practitioners on your blog though. Isn’t it funny how egalitarians always pick the easiest targets to beat over the head? Not a single one would ever challenge the real dominant paradigms that rule our age, the real taboos of racial egalitarianism and how any inequality of outcome is invariably down to some kind of ‘phantom discrimination’ and can be corrected with social engineering.

        Far from it, you support these paradigms and gleefully engage in the kind of character assassinations that followed Watson’s comments years ago, or Lahn’s research into Microcephalin and so on.

        Fuck Zionism by the way. If you want to talk about ‘religious evil’ just read the damned Talmud, I’ve never seen so much hateful supremacist filth in all my life, the Babylonian Talmud is like Mein Kampf on steroids.

  • Jason Malloy

    TGGP: “we can distinguish between identical twins, fraternal twins, and unrelated children raised together (or apart). This is how measures of heritability are obtained”

    daedalus2u: “The major “data” linking genes to intelligence is from a naïve examination of monozygous twins. Monozygous twins share a lot more than just a genome, they also shared pretty much the same in utero environment where their brains grew from a single cell to 100,000,000,000 cells, a factor of 10^11. “

    Evidence for the high heritability of intelligence, and other traits, is extensive, multifaceted, and unimpeachable. It is not based on one method, but on numerous, mutually reinforcing methods. Whatever working assumptions behavior genetic methods may have started with, have long since entered the realm of supported fact.

    Genetic denialism is quackier than ever. We don’t even need different levels of kinship anymore (e.g. identical twins, cousins, etc), we can now demonstrate substantial heritability using nothing but full siblings! Welcome to the Post-Genomic Era; take this flyer and please remember to get your hand stamped at the door.

    And not that it matters (since the assertion it was tied to was a lie), but sharing a prenatal environment overwhelmingly makes siblings less alike, not more alike.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      Uh Jason, you should look at the comment in the PloS article you linked to. It is not “assumption-free”, it is “fewer assumptions”. As was ably pointed out, they still assume that gene effects are not interactive other than being linearly additive. We know that genes have effects that are not linearly additive. That analysis assumes that those interactive effects are all negligible. We know they are not.

      If you look at a gene like MeCP2, we now know that loss of it causes Rett Syndrome in females and is fatal in males (pretty strong rescue of the phenotype by interaction with an X chromosome which happens to be inactive in the cells that are rescued). The MeCP2 protein binds to methylated DNA, and so MeCP2 regulates how DNA that has been epigenetically programmed by DNA methylation is read out. MeCP2 doesn’t have any direct effects on phenotype, the only effects are secondary, mediated through differential effects on the transcription of other genes.

      DNA methyl transferases also only have effects through differential regulation of other genes. SNPs of DNA methyl transferases do seem to have effects on intelligence.

      http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.001132

      Presumably those DNA methyl transferases are having effects through their normal function, that of methylating DNA and so affecting how it is transcribed.

      How about genes for transcription factors? They don’t have direct effects either, only effects mediated through differential transcription of other genes. Something like 5% of the human genome is transcription factors. They only have effects mediated through gene-gene interactions.

      People have actually looked for the genes that supposedly cause intelligence to be inherited. Have they been found yet? No, they have not. Until the specific genes are found and reliably identified as influencing intelligence and under what environmental conditions, their existence remains hypothetical. Due to the level of effort put into finding such genes, and the essentially complete lack of success in finding them, to me their existence is becoming increasingly speculative.

      Pretending that models of inheritance that ignore gene-gene interactions have risen to the level of “fact” is disingenuous, or as you would say, “a lie”.

      Uh, we know a lot more than was known in 1950. We now know that the actual genetic material is DNA, and we now know a lot about how it is replicated, stored, regulated, epigenetically programmed, silenced and transcribed. We have actual data on similarities of twins vs siblings, and fraternal twins. We now know that fraternal twins have a higher concordance for autism than do full siblings.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19805709

      Sharing an in utero environment does make fraternal twins more similar along the autism spectrum than full siblings. If fraternal twins have a higher incidence of autism, then presumably there is something about their shared in utero environment that affects the normal process of neurodevelopment and causes autism. Presumably there are also sub-clinical effects of what ever that in utero environmental process is that produce effects less than autism. Presumably those effects might include something like intelligence.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        That’s pretty neat, Jason. I would have assumed that the variance in Mendelian segregation, as well as the portion of the genome affecting height, was small enough that it would be hard to find anything that way.

        Like the commenter “Miko” there, I am outside my domain competence. But in browsing the paper they only reference gender & age as assumed to have linear effects. Also, daedaulus2u, your plos link is broken.

        Speaking of pre-natal effects, I have occasionally heard (such as from the second video here) that crack babies don’t actually turn out worse than comparable children not exposed to crack. That’s surprising to me, do any of you know much about it?

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        Also, I only have access to the abstract for the ncbi paper. It only references the concordances for MZ and DZ twins (by gender). Could you give the concordance for full-siblings here?

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        How about this link

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892514/

        The concordance rate for full siblings is in the 3-6% range.

        http://resources.metapress.com/pdf-preview.axd?code=vjk336n5k54wtl12&size=largest

        There is cross-talk between twin fetuses in utero. In cattle, there is what is known as a “free martin”, the female twin of a male calf. A free martin is usually always sterile.

        The increased autism in male-male DZT is probably due to higher levels of testosterone.