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Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Time Event
11:48p
catching up ...
For those of you following along at home, I've gotten way behind on my reviewing, largely due to the massive work load at my new "day job". I have four (soon to be five) books backed up here, and I'm actually jumping ahead with this one as the "first in line" book has a lot of stuff I want to quote, so will be more of an effort, and I'll hopefully get to that over the weekend when I'm running on more than 5 hours of sleep!

Anyway, I finished Frank Miele's Intelligence, Race, and Genetics: Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen a week or so back. It has an interesting format, as neither the interviewer nor his subject could be in the same places over the time they'd agreed to do the book, so this was conducted via e-mail exchanges. On one hand (and, no doubt, to the benefit of Jensen), this results in what one suspects is a far more accurate rendition of what the interviewee actually had to say than most "conversations with" books that get reconstructed from the author's notes (and in tune to his biases); on the other hand, there's less of a narrative flow because here there are five or six pages of the interviewer putting a subject "in perspective" (and/or "spinning" it), and then the rest of the chapter being substantial blocks of text of Jensen answering a one- or two-sentence question.

Arthur R. Jensen is the educational psychologist who, as early as 1965, posited that human intelligence is primarily a factor of genetics ... a highly unpopular stance among the "education industry" and the "race industry". In fact, his early studies and papers were received with such venom that his name became the root of a bogey-man epithet for Leftists to throw around, "Jensenism", although I doubt many among the torch-and-pitchfork crowd ever bothered to read the research (tellingly, much of Jensen's work came to be the foundation of the perhaps even more reviled "The Bell Curve" study).

It's funny, sometimes, what one's "take away" will be for a book, and in this case the one glaring "what was he thinking?" thing that stood out for me was how Miele kept coming back to trying to compare Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man with Jensen's The g Factor ... at one point (in a weaselly move worthy of leftist weenie Alan Colmes) even doing a "neener neener neener" about how many more copies the former (a mass-market "popular" release in various editions including a sub-$10 paperback) had sold versus the latter (only available in a 600+ page "university" hardcover, at over $100 a copy!). I always wonder in situations like this if the person making the comparison can't see that he's comparing "cherries to pineapples" or if he's just hoping that nobody will do the math and challenge his blatant bias.

Despite what appear to be Miele's best efforts to distance himself from Jensen, the book is quite a strong argument for all things "Jensenistic", as Jensen effortlessly tears down the assorted popular "straw men" that Miele trots out, while clearly showing how the data supports his assertions. Miele at least has the decency to list Jensen's extensive bibliography (hundreds of publications in top journals over 50 years), and reprint the 25-point statement (as issued in the Wall Street Journal in 1994) on Intelligence (which was largely a defense of the main points of "Jensenism"), signed by several dozen experts in behavioral sciences and related fields. This would seem to indicate that Miele (who is a senior editor of Skeptic magazine) didn't intend to actually do a "hatchet job" on his subject (even though some of the photos selected to illustrate the book could have been "kinder" to Jensen)..

Now, even with the slant of its author all over it, I rather enjoyed Intelligence, Race, and Genetics, especially the way the Jensen "stuck to the data" and refused to be pulled into "philosophical" battles, and was handily able to demolish all the MSM-driven false perceptions (most based on delusional theories) of how Intelligence manifests. As I noted in my review of The Bell Curve, the arguments here are not even remotely racist (as all the core comparative studies on which theories of "g" are based were done on data from white populations), and Jensen is very clear to point out that the 15-point spread between mean white IQ scores and mean black IQ scores are no different from the typical differences between siblings in an average family!

Unlike the (frustratingly) very expensive The g Factor, copies of Intelligence, Race, and Genetics can be found quite reasonably, with "like new" copies of the hardcover available for around three bucks (plus shipping) from the Amazon new/used vendors. If you want to take a rather unique look at the work of a brilliant "voice crying in the PC wilderness", you should definitely pick up a copy of this one!


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