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.