IQ matters

The 20th century saw some of the worst of ideas celebrated and obvious truths derided. One of the Large Stupid Ideas© that has prevailed has been the complete rejection of any component of heredity in the outcomes of human life. It suited social engineers of the Left to deny the reality of biological influences. Any relatively stable social outcome, such as social class, or racial disparities, could not be rapidly amended by more legislation, thought control, or exclusion from universities, if they were influenced by inherited factors.

I may be battling a folly which the younger generation has long since left behind them. It seems, to the contrary, that political corrrectness, or cultural Marxism, goes from strength to strength. The more the evidence adds up that the biological has some influence, the more it is denounced as sexist racist, differentist: in short, heretical

Thus it was with pleasure that I saw the admission in the normally liberal Slate Magazine a serious rebuttal to the notion that IQ does not matter.

But this argument is wrong. The SAT does predict success in college—not perfectly, but relatively well, especially given that it takes just a few hours to administer. And, unlike a “complex portrait” of a student’s life, it can be scored in an objective way. (In a recent New York Times op-ed, the University of New Hampshire psychologist John D. Mayer aptly described the SAT’s validity as an “astonishing achievement.”) In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Nathan Kuncel, and their colleagues investigated the relationship between SAT scores and college grades in a very large sample: nearly 150,000 students from 110 colleges and universities. SAT scores predicted first-year college GPA about as well as high school grades did, and the best prediction was achieved by considering both factors. Botstein, Boylan, and Kolbert [critics of SAT] are either unaware of this directly relevant, easily accessible, and widely disseminated empirical evidence, or they have decided to ignore it and base their claims on intuition and anecdote—or perhaps on their beliefs about the way the world should be rather than the way it is.

And SAT scores  are not merely reflectors of social economic status; they measure intelligence quite directly.

What this all means is that the SAT measures something—some stable characteristic of high school students other than their parents’ income—that translates into success in college. And what could that characteristic be? General intelligence. The content of the SAT is practically indistinguishable from that of standardized intelligence tests that social scientists use to study individual differences, and that psychologists and psychiatrists use to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled—and even whether a person should be spared execution in states that have the death penalty. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on IQ tests—so highly that the Harvard education scholar Howard Gardner, known for his theory of multiple intelligences, once called the SAT and other scholastic measures “thinly disguised” intelligence tests.