Psychology is still embedded within eugenics and lacks the insights of Bronfenbrenner and the idea that the external world impacts upon the individual. So its adherents try to measure the world based upon individual qualities, in a form of autistic fantasy, that the key to human endeavour lies within the corpus of each body and mind. However having said that they then sever the body and concentrate upon the mind.
Here nasty reality checks such as racism, gender inequality, social stratification are conveniently ignored and instead they adhere to filling skill cavities with buckshot or their favourite, the IQ test. As Gould explores human beings make up the world as they go along, and the upshot is of course they create the facts they inhabit. These facts are psychological projections of those who assume power at any particular mantle. Within fifty years the Chinese will be there and they will no doubt be constructing their own league tables based on racial grading. Then these autists will have some explaining to do.
Most of this drivel began with Galton back in 1865, the former Quaker who later had a nervous breakdown after being rejected by his Muslim lovers after his capers around the Orient. As a result he constructed league tables of intelligence and placed himself on the top. Meanwhile there were numerous scientists forging results to ensure the white Anglo Saxon races did not become diluted in the US melting pot. They needed mass European migration to take over the land mass. However they were also wary of hordes of Italians, Jews and East Europeans from taking away their power base. They desperately needed a science which justified their superior position.
Scientists camouflaging themselves within the Empirical method duly obliged and created eugenics, a world without a connection to reality, but numerous connections to power, belief and utility. In Europe social class and manners still held an important sway so the genetic rationale had less use than in the democracy of the republic.
Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese and each and every race had to be graded with white Europeans having to come out on top. Gould does not make it so clear as this in his book, presumably because he still takes a stipend from the institutes which sell this ideology. Furthermore those who are subject to it have a vested interest in peddling it and get mighty upset when it is challenged. See the last thing they want is science to dispel fantasy, fiction and make believe tales because these people will be left with no camouflage.
So for anyone with clear sight and belief who wants to wade beyond superstition then this book is for you. For those who remain stuck then Alex Carrel's Man the Unknown where he advocates distinction and gassing is where you should head along with De Gobineau, Laughlin, Kraepelin and a whole host of other eugenic believers.
on 7 February 1999
Review of Stephen Jay Gould's 1996 revised and expanded publication of "The mismeasure of man" New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work published 1981)
In "Thoughts at Age Fifteen", the sub-title to the new Introduction to the Revised and Expanded Edition of "The Mismeasure of Man", Stephen Jay Gould (1996) calls himself a "working scientist by trade" (p. 24), then "a statistically minded paleontologist" (p. 25) and finally "an evolutionary biologist by training" (p. 41). The author of thirteen books, Mr. Gould currently teaches geology, the history of science and biology at Harvard University. His strong interest in intelligence initially arose from his desire to bring science and its discoveries to the attention of the nonscientist.
In considering the mainstream arguments made about "the theory of a measurable, genetically fixed, and unitary intelligence", Dr. Gould (1996, p. 21) became concerned about how the social sciences, especially psychology, were misused in the development of the concept of intelligence, in particular, the whole nature of intelligence testing itself. Over the past 19 years, Gould has well responded to such misuses with two timely publications. First of all, in 1981 he produced "The Mismeasure of Man" mainly to argue against the social and political results of those misapplications, more specifically, in response to Arthur R. Jensen's (1969) article "How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement?" Likewise, in 1996, Gould generated the revised version of "The Mismeasure of Man" as a response to Richard L. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's (1994) book "The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life" (Gould, 1996).
Throughout the four hundred twenty-four pages of the 1996 version, Gould "argues that early researchers (perhaps unconsciously) biased their measurements of intelligence based on race and points to shortcomings of those trying to substantiate "g" (Yam, 1998, p. 7). Gould uses his 1996 version to reiterate, once again, his two central themes. First and most simply stated for this note, he argues that the psychological construct "intelligence" has not been shown to be any physical object or real thing (see pp. 27, 48, 56, 185, 189). Instead, he suggests that intelligence is one's ability to face problems in an unprogrammed or creative manner. Throughout the book, he argue that intelligence is what he calls "the ground of culture," not a biological entity. In short, he views intelligence as the product of cultural evolution ... distinct from biological evolution.
However, Gould feels that because of the efforts of a group of American psychologists during the war years, the concept of intelligence has been endowed, as just outlined, to the position of a real object. To cite his precise wording, Gould says that now intelligence has been become "reified, or made real". More simply worded, Gould "sees" reification as a real thing, as something each person possesses that is, unitary, genetically fixed, measurable and constant (for a more detailed account of Gould's basic premises, the reader is asked to see Carroll, 1985, especially pp. 123-125).
Gould's second major point is that using an abstract concept such as intelligence to quantify and rank people's worth is an exceedingly dangerous enterprise. He points out that this way of ranking is a fallacy because the task of ranking people implies quantification, or measurement resulting in one single number for each person -- the IQ (intellectual quotient) score. Further, "Gould shows how this sort of ranking can lead (and, as he shows clearly, has led) to the erroneous conclusion that oppressed and disadvantaged groups -- races, classes, sexes -- are found to be innately inferior and deserving of their reduced status, with all of this based on the measurement of something that exists only as an abstract concept at best" (Miller, 1993, p. 8). To sum up all of the aforementioned, Gould considers the use of psychological testing to rank ones' worth on the basis of the single IQ or general "g" score THE major misuse of science in this century.
Carroll, John, B. (1995). Reflections on Stephen Jay Gould's 'The Mismeasure of Man' (1981): A retrospective review. Intelligence, 21, 121-134.
Herrnstein, Richard. J, & Murray, Charles (1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York: Free Press.
Jensen, Arthur R. (1969). How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 39(1), 1-123.
Miller, Lynda (1993). What we call smart: A new narrative for intelligence and learning. San Diego, California: Singular Publishing Group.
Yam, Philip (1998, Winter). Intelligence considered, [Special Issue]. Scientific American, 9(4), 6-11.
on 11 January 1999
Most reviews of this book will focus on the question of Gould's treatment of biological determinism as one of this century's greatest follies. My own opinion is that those focusing on this issue are missing the point. While I do think that the eugenics movement is certainly one of the sadder chapters in our history, I found this particular issue, while beautifully developed and addressed, to be but an example of a larger, more fundamental question. What I see as the main thesis of this book is this: Scientists are people, human. They are prone to the same passions, desires, hopes, dreams, motivations, fears, ambitions, mistakes and biases as the rest of us. That is what makes the mistakes made 80-100 years ago (indeed 50 years ago, last year, yesterday) so relevant. The scientists of the last century were as brilliant as those today, but they viewed the world much differently. Biological determinism was a certainty, a constant. They simply assumed it was so and interpreted all data in this light. Given this premise, of course they would reach the conclusions that seem so horribly biased today. The real message of this book, (to me at least) is this wonderful (and frightening) idea that even today, all scientific "truths" need to be examined and re-examined and re-examined. We can never be sure of what we are seeing as we view all data through a societal lens. To a layman such as myself, often frustrated by the pretentiousness and aloofness of scientists (as well as the jargon-filled literature) this knowledge is one of great liberation. It makes science much less certain, but so much more enjoyable! It brings the scientist down from the priest's alter to the congregation. This is Gould's great gift he gives to readers in all his books, but most of all in this one. This book is simply one of the greatest books written about scientific thought. For anyone who wishes to understand how "great mistakes" are made in science, this is a must read!
on 19 December 2008
Some critics complain that in The Mismeasure of Man Stephen J. Gould attacks a straw man: craniometry is, after all, no more than fin-du-siècle quackery with which no self-respecting scientist would dream of having truck these days. Likewise, the naïve early attempts at to link IQ with heredity that Gould spends so much time recounting have long since been soundly and uncontroversially demolished, so Gould at best is shooting fish in a barrel, and many suspect him of something more mendacious than that. Some suspect a political agenda. The late Stephen Jay Gould, you see, was a *Marxist*, after all.
That particular, ad hominem, charge has mystified me the more I've read of Gould's work. I first encountered Gould in discouraging circumstances where his evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium was subjected to a contumelious lambasting at the hands of (usually) mild-mannered philosopher Daniel Dennett, in his (otherwise) wonderful and thought-provoking book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.
Taken as I was by Dennett's general argument at the time (I'm less swooned by it these days), I thought his vituperative treatment of Gould was out of character - from what I can tell Dennett is a positively genial chap - but otherwise thought nothing of it, other than supposing Gould to be part of the problem and not the solution.
There I surely would have left it, and Stephen J. Gould, were it not for Richard Dawkins' silly entry to the "religious wars" The God Delusion - as good an example as one could ask for of how perfectly thoughtful, sensible and smart scientists tend to make arses of themselves when they stray from their stock material. About the only interesting thing in Dawkins' book was how, again, poor old Steve Gould, now sadly deceased, got another shoeing, this time for his pragmatic attempt to reconcile science and religion in Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life.
This time I had the BS radar switched on, found Dawkins' attack to be pretty obviously misguided (Dawkins may be a great biologist but his epistemology would have had him kicked out of PHIL 101) and wound up being more, not less, persuaded by Gould's concept of "non-overlapping magisteria".
In any case, at the very least this Gould chap seemed like the sort of contrarian agitator who was clearly a good sport and an interesting critter, but more to the point it sounded like he had something interesting to say. And so, it transpired, he does. I've since read a number of his books and articles, all of them articulate, beautifully written, witty, erudite and excellent in substance, and never once have I seen any suggestion of Marxist bias (eager followers of my reviews will know I have no particular sympathy with left wing politics).
As regards The Mismeasure of Man such insinuations would be especially ironic, since Gould's very point is to illustrate that well-meaning and well respected scientists are all too prone to be deceived into equating their wilful interpretations as scientific truths. In fact, I suspect Gould would even concede to some bias: that, he would say, is the point.
Against all the odds, there seem to be a few brave souls who hold out hope for a hereditary aspect to intelligence: indeed a couple seem to be active on this site. Gould's only substantive point for them is to say that, whatever we even mean by "intelligence", it is so obviously situational and environment-dependent (this shouldn't be news to anyone who's seen Crocodile Dundee) - in other words *socially constructed* - that seeking to tie it to something like biology - which by its very definition isn't - is on its face a waste of time. Gould the liberal then adds, by way of political commentary, that the harmless if silly conclusion that the two *are* related is liable to be misinterpreted by unscrupulous (or simply unsuspecting) people, particularly if they have a particular social agenda which would find it convenient to establish innate differences between - for which read "innate deficiencies in certain (other)" - racial groups. That isn't a scientific point, it's a political one, and to my (un-Marxist) mind, Gould is perfectly right to make it.
Now a different objection to Gould's enterprise might be that such a point doesn't require 300 pages of careful demolition of unequivocally bunk science to make (unless your correspondent is funded by the Pioneer Foundation, apparently: and for those lucky souls, not even 300 pages of argument will do it). But the methodological point is the one that interests Gould: how the hypothesis conditions the evidence sought but even the interpretation placed upon it. Gould's patient history would function as a case study for Thomas Kuhn's superb essay on the contingency of Scientific knowledge The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Gould also sees analogy between the hereditarian's linear view of intelligence with the naive ordering of all creation to accord with a supposed evolutionary progression from bacterium to homo sapiens sapiens. Again, it's not the Marxist but the Paleontologist who patiently explains that evolution doesn't work like that: it is better viewed as an expanding bush that a linear progression.
To be sure, in the early parts of this book there is a level of detail that seems superfluous, but the later aspects, and particular Gould's insight into statistical correlation and factor analysis are fascinating and well explained for a layman, and the handsomeness of his turn of phrase and the constancy of his erudition - scientists tend to be poorly read outside their fields, but this was most certainly not the case of the late professor Gould - make this a fascinating and enjoyable work by a profoundly wise and sadly missed thorn in the establishment's side.
They don't make them like this anymore, alas.
on 5 February 1999
Gould's title plays off Protagoras' claim that "man is the measure of all things." This Sophist encouraged his students to utilize whichever methods yielded desired results, but admonished them to always remember that "truth" found this way is relative, a product of a created system, and not an objective verity. Gould shows that many unwitting modern disciples of Protagoras' school retained the method but forgot the underlying madness. The Mismeasure of Man is an investigation of attempts to reify human "intelligence" in order to determine worthiness (mental and otherwise) by establishing a ranking based on a single derived factor and presenting the resultant scalar reckoning as biological and incontrovertible. This quantifiable difference has allowed scientific establishmentarianism that justifies (and perpetuates) racism, sexism, and classism as inevitable and natural. Gould surveys the last three centuries and exposes the faulty logic of reductive systems for the evaluation of human mind (and spirit): craniometry, craniology, recapitulation, criminal anthropology, and modern I.Q. testing. Gould knows that many readers (and non-readers) will attack him for writing outside his proper domain, and he counters this by insisting that he is not writing a book about psychology per se, but about the general error of reification in the sciences. As young up-and-coming evolutionary biologist, Gould received extensive training in statistics, especially factor analysis. It is with statistical expertise that he exposes the logical (not mathematical) weaknesses of using factor analysis and other quantitative methods to distill a person's intelligence to a single quantity. Gould shows how this reification is ultimately an embodiment of a priori assumptions after they have been processed through a circular argument, usually obfuscated (instead of supported) by numbers and mathematics in the name of objective quantification. Gould spent an entire month reworking Broca's data. Gould found in Broca an unparalleled collector of raw figures, but also uncovered "advocacy masquerading as objectivity." Gould's historical survey of intelligence testing in the twentieth century demonstrates too well how science can become a powerful technological tool (weapon) of the state. At the beginning of this century, Binet designed his scale to be used as an instrument to help identify those (relatively few) students in need of special education and not as an absolute measure of intelligence or anything else inherent or irredeemable. Goddard (the American who christened the term "moron") adopted Binet's methods but not his ideology, proffering Binet's I.Q. as an intrinsic and permanent entity by which eugenics could and should (and would) be directed. Gould himself uncovers Goddard's manipulative retouching of photographs of research subjects to suggest their stupidity or vileness (these disturbing photos are reprinted in this book). R. M. Yerkes conducted an enormous study of 1.7 million U.S. Army draftees, a boon to the statistical prowess of a fledgling science, but his method and data analysis were patently absurd as confessed in an 800-page description published by Yerkes. Gould feels sure that those who touted the conclusions of this tome never took the time to read it. Gould includes samples from Yerkes' intelligence tests as well as the instructions given to the illiterate recruits, often hilarious sometimes disconcerting (Gould also administered the tests to Harvard undergrads). Gould thus traces the evolution of an inheritable, fixed, and quantifiable "intelligence" emerging in America, culminating in negative and positive eugenics (Buck v. Bell (1924)), becoming subtler (insidious) after the horrors of the holocaust became known, but always lurking submerged. Gould suggests that Spearman and other reductionists working in a so-called soft science suffer from "physics envy" as they long for universal laws and basic particles (Gould does realize that physicists themselves no longer find such comforts). "With g as a quantified, fundamental particle, psychology [would be able to] take its rightful place among the real sciences." In the most challenging and instructive part of the book, Gould dissects factor analysis, a tool of data sorting that simplifies a complex system and thereby helps in the identification of possible underlying causes of correlation amongst variables. Gould acknowledges the great worth of this tool to all sciences, but warns against a great danger: reification. Researchers and non-professionals alike tend to treat mathematical abstracts (Spearman's g ("general intelligence") here, "averages" in Gould's Full House) as if they are real things. Gould traces this proclivity back to seminal practices of western philosophy and the thrill of flushing out the Platonic essence hidden within the evidence. Once factor analysis has delivered a value to a researcher, it may not only be accepted as a real thing, but the most real thing. Gould illustrates (literally) that while the ordering principal of factor analysis is useful, its starting point is arbitrary, as demonstrated by the different but equally mathematically valid approaches which each yield separate results. Gould argues that each approach to the analysis was dictated by a priori assumptions, and the result, meant to prove these assumptions, ends up actually resting on them. This circular reasoning thereby becomes impossible to disprove on its own terms, and Gould must expose the fundamental flaw at its roots: the reification of a result begotten from an arbitrary initiation. Even though this book was written more than a decade prior to The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994), it is considered the definitive answer to that now infamous tome (Gould does include a great new introduction and a specific critique of The Bell Curve in the revised edition of The Mismeasure of Man (1996)). Gould explains that the hereditarian viewpoint resurfaces whenever the economic and political climate is favorable, but that the biological determinist argument never really changes substantially. Gould's book should serve as a timeless reminder of the limitations not of biology, but of reductionist science. Let us heed Protagoras' words and recognize that whenever man is the measurer and/or the measured, he is also the measure. Not only can Protagoras' aphorism lead to a more honest science, it will also result in a more humanitarian science.
on 6 November 1998
This is the book to read for a concise, straightforward and completely convincing refutation of claims of racial superiority. Gould starts with a review of the history of attempts to prove white supremacy through the misuse of science, pointing out the scientific flaws in such endeavors as cranial measurement that are today obvious but in the past were accepted as empirical truth. Gould moves forward in time to deal with today's equally dubious attempts to measure innate intelligence through standardized tests. While this edition includes a section debunking The Bell Curve, most of the statistical fallacies that form the core of that book were already identified and debunked in Gould's first edition, written years earlier. You may never see a more brilliant example of good science driving out bad.
on 25 November 1998
A riveting account of how racism works its way into science -not only via conscious fraud, but also through the ability of race & class prejudice to structure our thinking so deeply that it persists even when we believe ourselves to be anti-racists proceeding objectively. One of the most important books of the twentieth century.
on 1 October 1997
This book is great for people that love numbers and statistical analysis. Personally, I felt at times overwhelmed whith their abundance and almost missed the point of the whole book. The author does make some interesting and enlightening points about the fallacies of craniometry and intelligence testing. A great book to read if you want a dense, complete summary of anthropological and psychological thinking past and present.
on 10 May 2009
1. Gould's allegation that Morton had doctored his skull collection was re-investigated by John Michael. Michael found very few errors & those that were found were not in the direction Gould claimed. Michael found Gould was mistaken & that Morton's studies were conducted with integrity. Michael JS 1988. A new look at Morton's craniological research. Current Anthropology 29: 349- 54. In the 1996 edition of his book Gould completely avoids Michael's study.
see also 'The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias' Lewis et al PloS Biology 2010.
2. Galton (1888) observed a brain size/cognitive ability relationship. Modern MRI imaging has confirmed a positive correlation. Gould managed to omit a major literature review on the correlation between brain size and cognitive ability by Van Dalen (1974). In his 1996 version Gould simply deleted the whole section as the MRI evidence on brain size & IQ was obviously damaging to Gould's position.
Recently Richard Haier, at Brain Research Institute, UC Irvine College of Medicine, found that general human intelligence appears to be correlated with the volume and location of gray matter tissue in the brain.
See this article in New Scientist dated 11 March 2009, discussing the recent twin studies on myelination & intelligence:
" By comparing brain maps of identical twins, which share the same genes, with fraternal twins, which share about half their genes, the team calculate that myelin integrity is genetically determined in many brain areas important for intelligence. This includes the corpus callosum, which integrates signals from the left and right sides of the body, and the parietal lobes, responsible for visual and spatial reasoning and logic (see above). Myelin quality in these areas was also correlated with scores on tests of abstract reasoning and overall intelligence (The Journal of Neuroscience, vol 29, p 2212).
Just because intelligence is strongly genetic, that doesn't mean it cannot be improved. "It's just the opposite," says Richard Haier, of the University of California, Irvine, who works with Thompson. "If it's genetic, it's biochemical, and we have all kinds of ways of influencing biochemistry."
3. Gould's criticism of factor analysis (and 'g') is flawed: see John Carroll's review Intelligence 21, 121-134 1995 and also Jensen Contemporary Education Review Summer 1982, Volume 1, Number 2, pp. 121- 135.
David J. Bartholomew, from London School of Economics, who has written a textbook on factor analysis, also explains in "Measuring Intelligence: Facts and Fallacies" explains where Gould goes wrong in this area.
4. Gould suggests that Jews tested poorly in the 1920's & this lead to the Immigration Act 1924. Both are incorrect.
5. The idea that Jews tested poorly is actually based on a misrepresentation of a paper authored by Henry Goddard in 1917. Goddard gave IQ tests to people suspected of being mentally handicapped. He found the tests identified a number of such people from various immigrant groups, including Ashkenazi Jews. Leon Kamin in 1974 reported that Goddard had found Jews had low IQ scores. However, Goddard never found that Jews or other groups as a general population had low scores. There is other information that contradicts the idea that Jews did poorly on IQ tests around this time. In 1900, in London, Jews took a disproportionate number of academic prizes in spite of their poverty (C Russell & H.S. Lewis 'The Jew in London' Harper Collins 1900). Also, note that by 1922 Jewish students made up more than a fifth of Harvard undergraduates & the Ivy League was already instituting policies aimed at limiting Jewish admissions (the infamous 'Jewish quotas'). Also, a 1920's a survey of IQ scores in three London schools with mixed Jewish & non-Jewish student bodies - one prosperous, one poor and one very poor - showed that Jewish students, on average, had higher IQ's than their schoolmates in each of the groups (A Hughes 1928).
- see also: G. Cochran, J. Hardy, H. Harpending, Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence, Journal of Biosocial Science 38 (5), pp. 659-693 (2006).
6. The other misconception is that this contributed to the 1924 Immigration Act. However, Herrnstein & Snyderman found this was not the case (Intelligence Tests and the Immigration Act of 1924' American Psychologist 38, September 1983).
7. In 1981 Gould had suggested that twin studies could be useful for considering hereditary factors. Yet in his 1996 version Gould omitted the entire Minnesota Twin Study.
8. Burt's findings regarding hereditary appear to be very consistent with subsequent twin studies. Steven Pinker wrote in the NY Times earlier this year:
"To study something scientifically, you first have to measure it, and psychologists have developed tests for many mental traits. And contrary to popular opinion, the tests work pretty well: they give a similar measurement of a person every time they are administered, and they statistically predict life outcomes like school and job performance, psychiatric diagnoses and marital stability. Tests for intelligence might ask people to recite a string of digits backward, define a word like "predicament," identify what an egg and a seed have in common or assemble four triangles into a square.
The most prominent finding of behavioral genetics has been summarized by the psychologist Eric Turkheimer: "The nature-nurture debate is over. . . . All human behavioral traits are heritable." By this he meant that a substantial fraction of the variation among individuals within a culture can be linked to variation in their genes. Whether you measure intelligence or personality, religiosity or political orientation, television watching or cigarette smoking, the outcome is the same. Identical twins (who share all their genes) are more similar than fraternal twins (who share half their genes that vary among people). Biological siblings (who share half those genes too) are more similar than adopted siblings (who share no more genes than do strangers). And identical twins separated at birth and raised in different adoptive homes (who share their genes but not their environments) are uncannily similar."
on 13 March 2014
An excellent history of the IQ test originating in France as a means of identifying school children who required extra tuition but which later became a tool of discrimination in the USA. IQ was never claimed to be a fixed value and could be increased. Also, that intelligence cannot be reduced to a number. A well researched book.