It seems a shame to produce a write-up that serves only to detract from another one. It's poor etiquette, and maybe this write-up won't live long. This is not going to be a review of the book 'The Bell Curve', as I haven't read it, and don't want to. This is a review of SigmaVirus' write-up, above.
About those six assumptions that are 'true beyond reasonable doubt' and 'beyond scientifically valid dispute':
- 'There is such a thing as a general factor of cognitive ability on which human beings differ.' - This statement is not merely not evidenct, it is not sufficiently well-formulated to be testable. But to take even a simple example of this statement's failure, an autistic mathematics student and a dyslexic art student are highly unlikely to have any cognitive strengths in common. Applying any single-valued test to such students will not produce results which accurately reflect their respective intellectual abilities. Researchers such as Howard Gardner, of Harvard, have proposed plausible theories of multiple intelligences, whereby a list of eight or nine different factors provide a picture of a person's intellect. Examnples of such factors would be lingustic ability, logical ability, and spatial skills. I have seen one version in which musical aptitude is a distinct form of intelligence, and I have no prima facie reason to dispute this idea.
- 'All standardized tests of academic aptitude or achievement measure this general factor to some degree, but IQ tests expressly designed for that purpose measure it most accurately.' - This is simply a statement of faith in IQ tests. IQ tests do not, as a rule, test higher linguistic abilities, retentive memory, general knowledge or artistic aptitude, all of which are considered to be aspects of intelligence by the academic community at large.
- 'IQ scores match, to a first degree, whatever it is that people mean when they use the world intelligent or smart in ordinary language.' - This is simply a restatement of the previous two assertions. As already noted, nothing in an IQ test will measure any of several longer-term intellectual faculties. Moreover, IQ tests are simply not a suitable medium for examining some subjects at all. I've worked with deaf, autistic, dyslexic and emotionally disturbed children. Some of them I would classify as highly intelligent. None of them could have usefully sat an IQ test.
- 'IQ scores are stable, although not perfectly so, over much of a person's life.' - This statement only has relevance if we accept IQ scores. But in any case, is it right to take this as an assumption at the beginning of a study to see what factors influence human intellectual ability? It seems to me to be assuming a conclusion - or excluding one. Moreover, it has been shown that it is possible to improve one's IQ merely by practising IQ tests. It's not clear whether such practice improves any other intellectual facility.
- 'Properly administered IQ tests are not demonstrably biased against social, economic, ethnic, or racial groups.' - 'Not demonstrably' does not mean the same as 'demonstrably not'. It would seem that ethnic differences in results could be the result of some unseen cultural or other bias in the tests.
- 'Cognitive ability is substantially heritable, apparently no less than 40 percent and no more than 80 percent.' - I'm no geneticist, but to quote from the book's review in Scientific American, where the 'they' referred to are the authors of 'Intelligence, Genes, and Success': 'The book erred in using a "broad" definition of heritability as a basis for speculation about genetically based cognitive stratification, they say. They argue that for this purpose a "narrow" definition of heritability is the mathematically correct one and estimate its value at only 34-percent, a figure that makes the emergence of cognitive castes "almost impossible."'.
And then there's the claim made about the certainty of these claims. It is clearly false that they are 'beyond...dispute', or the highly reputable and inconveniently dead Steven Jay Gould would not have written The Mismeasure of Man largely to refute most of the points above. Good science is not done by calling your opponents wrong more loudly than they make their claims. The same hysterical hyperbole and intellectual arrogance is evident elsewhere in the writeup. We're told, without explanation, that the criticisms of the book are 'ridiculous', and that Gould's claims are refuted - without being told what any of the criticisms, or their answers, are! SigmaVirus tells me to go and talk to professors in the field to hear his claims, and those of the authors, confirmed. This assertion, like much of the rest of the write-up, is the language of religious fundamentalism. In order to be convinced of the work's accuracy and truthfulness, I need to read, learn and inwardly digest it. It can be confirmed by reference to its own sources. The existence of any plausible refutation is denied. I advise any readers who wonder about this claim to do a Google search for 'The Bell Curve'. Well-documented, statistically dense counter-arguments abound.
SigmaVirus' own 'explanation' of Gould's opposition to the book is as follows: 'He presents what is known as the "factor-analytic argument" against the very concept of g.' This is not an explanation, in the same way that Griffin's explanation of invisibility in H G Wells' The Invisible Man is not. There's no node for the 'factor-analytic' argument, and no description of this value g. Most of the argument in the WU, in fact, is bombast and obfuscation. It is simply not true that the points are beyond scientific debate, and saying it, no matter how loud, won't make it so. I've presented some fairly key points against them above. In fact, it is not self-evident, or perhaps even provable, that a finite definition of intelligence exists. Human ingenuity is manifold. SigmaVirus constantly tells us that 'any amount' of 'serious research' into the field will confirm his idols' findings. Google thinks otherwise, yielding up numerous statistically based counter-claims. And I've given you the information you need to conduct this research easily in the comfort of your own home. No need to consult with ivory-tower-dwelling professors. Oh, and I'd say Steven Jay Gould, whose subject was genetics (an exact science, and the one under discussion) would have been better able to criticise these findings than assorted professors of psychology (an inexact, non-metric science, and not one with much to do with heredity). Effectively, what appears above this WU is not, as is claimed, a review of the book, but a fraudulent advertisement for it.
Thanks to Oolong for some of the research for this WU, and for helping with the genetics.