Criminology, Social Science, Top Stories

The Dangers of Ignoring Cognitive Inequality

On Sunday 28 April 1996, Martin Bryant was awoken by his alarm at 6am. He said goodbye to his girlfriend as she left the house, ate some breakfast, and set the burglar alarm before leaving his Hobart residence, as usual. He stopped briefly to purchase a coffee in the small town of Forcett, where he asked the cashier to “boil the kettle less time.” He then drove to the nearby town of Port Arthur, originally a colonial-era convict settlement populated only by a few hundred people. It was here that Bryant would go on to use the two rifles and a shotgun stashed inside a sports bag on the passenger seat of his car to perpetrate the worst massacre in modern Australian history. By the time it was over, 35 people were dead and a further 23 were left wounded.

Astoundingly, Bryant was caught alive. He was arrested fleeing a fire at the house into which he had barricaded himself during a shootout with the police. He later pled guilty to a list of charges described as “unprecedented” by the standing judge, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, thus sparing his victims and other survivors the suffering (and perhaps the catharsis) of a protracted trial. Yet, in spite of his guilty plea, Bryant did not take the opportunity provided by his official statement to offer any motive for his atrocities. Instead, he joked “I’m sure you’ll find the person who caused all this,” before mouthing the word ‘me.’ Intense media speculation followed, the main focus of which was Bryant’s history of behavioral difficulties. These were offered as possible evidence of a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia (which would have been far from sufficient to serve as a causal explanation for his crimes). However, the most notable and concrete fact of Bryant’s psychological condition was his extremely low IQ of 66—well within the range for mental disability.

Lascar Monument to Port Arthur massacre (wikicommons)

IQ scores are classified in a number of ways, all of which are broadly similar. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IV) establishes seven categories of IQ scores. Most of us fall into the ‘Average’ band, constituted by the 90-109 range. Those achieving scores of 130 or higher are considered ‘Very Superior.’ Conversely, scores of 69 and under are classified as ‘Extremely Low,’ and automatically qualify the scorer for a diagnosis of ‘mild retardation’ according to the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is into this band that Bryant’s score falls.

The connection between intelligence and behavioral problems, such as Conduct Disorder (CD) or Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), was well-known around the time of the Port Arthur Massacre. A review by biostatistician and UCSD professor Sonia Jain cites contemporaneous studies to suggest that low IQ scores in childhood should be considered a risk factor for APD and CD. In 2010, several psychologists published results from a longitudinal study containing data on over a million Swedish men, who were tracked from conscription for a little over 20 years. They found that IQ scores tested during conscription were a significant and robust predictor, not only for APD or CD, but for all categories of mental disorders. Conscripts with low IQ were substantially more likely to be diagnosed with one or more mental disorders, to suffer from mood and personality disorders, and to be hospitalized for mental illness. Those in the lowest band—like Bryant—were most at risk of severe psychological disorders.

a & b: Hazard ratios for admission for different categories of psychiatric disorder according to nine-point IQ scale. Highest IQ score (coded as 9) is the reference group. Estimates are adjusted for age at conscription, birth year, conscription testing centre, parental age and parental socioconomic status. (n=1,049,663)

While these correlations are concerning, they do not offer an explanation for Bryant’s atrocities. In a population where intelligence is normally distributed with a mean of 100, a little over two percent of people would attain IQ scores close to Bryant. A further 15 percent would receive IQ scores somewhere below 84—well beyond the threshold for disqualification in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), used to determine suitability for admission into the US Army until 1980. Careers for those below this level are extremely rare—a fact that might help explain the correlation between low IQ and an enhanced risk of criminal offending, given the scarcity of well-paid jobs for those with an IQ of below 84. 

But much of this correlation is due to street-level petty and violent offenses, not mass murder, and it would be abhorrent—obscene, even—to suggest that people with a low IQ should be treated with suspicion, or as murderers-in-waiting. In almost all cases, these individuals pose a risk to no one but themselves, and are more likely to fall prey to victimization by others. On the other hand, it is equally irresponsible to ignore the specific difficulties which those with a low IQ face. The consequences of this wishful thinking—however noble in intent—can be devastating.

Perhaps the best example is offered by the recent history of the Cold War. While the American military-industrial complex was sufficiently sophisticated to provide the United States with all the arms and armaments it could possibly hope for, there are always things that money cannot buy. In this case, it was bodies—young American men needed to fight on the ground in 1960s-era Vietnam, where they found the most unforgiving of battlefields among the region’s unassuming jungles and innocuous rice paddies. The unusually high attrition rate of soldiers posted there, as well as the frequent use of student deferments or feigned illness to dodge the draft (President Trump’s excuse of ‘temporary bone spurs’ constitutes one particularly famous example), resulted in a shortage of men which meant that more troops were needed than the nation was able to supply.

The government was confounded by this problem for some time, attempting halfhearted crackdowns on draft dodgers as a temporary solution, until Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara arrived at a more permanent workaround. The US government would draft men whose low IQ scores had hitherto disqualified them from military service. This stratagem—codenamed ‘Project 100,000’—is detailed along with its dreadful consequences in the book McNamara’s Folly by the late Hamilton Gregory. Gregory witnessed the fate of the low-IQ draftees firsthand while he was a soldier in Vietnam. These draftees—cruelly nicknamed ‘McNamara’s Morons’—were generally capable of completing simple tasks, but even a simple task imperfectly executed can be disastrous in warfare.

US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a press conference on Vietnam (26 April, 1965)

A case study in the book is ‘Jerry’ (not his real name). Jerry was a draftee from the 100,000 who had been assigned guard duty in a camp by the Quan Loi Green Line. Jerry’s task was to challenge anyone approaching the camp by calling: “Halt! Who goes there?” followed by “Advance and be recognized!” once a response had been obtained. This task was minimally demanding due to the clearly visible differences between an American soldier and the average Vietcong guerrilla. But when a well-liked American officer returned to camp, Jerry bungled his instructions. Upon seeing the officer approaching, he yelled “Halt!” and then opened fire, killing the man where he stood. Jerry subsequently disappeared in what was either an act of remorseful abscondence or murder by outraged members of his battalion. In another case described by Gregory, one of the ‘morons’ played a joke on his squadmates by throwing a disarmed hand grenade at them. Despite being beaten up for it, he found this prank so amusing that he repeated it every day until the inevitable happened; he forgot to disarm the grenade, causing the deaths of two soldiers and the grievous wounding of several more.

What happened to many of the 100,000 (whose actual total exceeded 350,000) is not hard to predict. “To survive in combat you had to be smart,” Gregory writes. “You had to know how to use your rifle effectively and keep it clean and operable, how to navigate through jungles and rice paddies without alerting the enemy, and how to communicate and cooperate with other members of your team.” Fulfilling all or any one of these minimum requirements for survival in a battlefield is contingent upon a certain level of verbal and visuospatial intelligence, which many of McNamara’s draftees did not possess. This ultimately led to their fatality rate in Vietnam exceeding that of other GIs by a factor of three.

The danger of physical harm faced by those with a low IQ is not restricted to the battlefield. A 2016 study by four psychologists using data from the Danish Conscription Database (containing 728,160 men) revealed low IQ to be a risk factor for almost all causes of death. A drop in IQ by a single standard deviation (roughly 15 points) was associated with a 28 percent increase in mortality risk. The association between low IQ and mortality was particularly great for homicide and respiratory disease (such as lung cancer). The high homicide rate could reflect a predisposition for those of low IQ to find themselves in dangerous situations, perhaps due to a lack of economic opportunity or an increased likelihood of being victimized by predatory individuals. Similar features could explain the prevalence of respiratory disease, which may be a product of high rates of smoking as well as a greater likelihood of inhabiting more polluted industrial areas where it’s easier to find low-skilled work. Clearly, being born with a low IQ is sufficient to set one up for an unlucky and unhappy life. But could low IQ have contributed to—not explain, but be a factor in—the massacre committed by Martin Bryant?

To answer this question, we have to transcend mere correlations between IQ and different types of outcome, and consider that those with low IQ are much more likely to experience misfortune in seemingly every endeavor. Having intelligence is what allows us to operate in the world—both on our own, and within the societies we inhabit. Those lucky enough to have a high IQ have an easier time at dispatching the various challenges they face, and thus naturally rise within hierarchies of competence. We can imagine any number of these hierarchies, most of which are unimportant (the hierarchy of Rubik’s Cube solvency speed, for example, is probably irrelevant), but all of which require some degree of intelligence. Furthermore, some of these areas of success—such as friendship groups, romantic relationships, and professional employment—are so fundamental to the individual pursuit of happiness that to be unable to progress in them is profoundly damaging to one’s sense of well-being and intrinsic self-worth.

This means that having a low IQ doesn’t only make you more likely to get killed or fall victim to an accident. It also means you’re more likely to undergo difficulties in progressing up every ladder in life. You’ll often feel permanently ‘stuck at zero’—unable to improve or change your position. Most of us will experience this feeling at least a few times in our lives, whether encountered in school (being unable to break the ‘A-grade’), in our social lives (being unable to establish or maintain a successful romantic relationship), or in comparatively trivial areas. Yet most of the time, it is transient—passing when we switch our efforts to a new endeavor, or after devising a way to solve the problem. Very few of us know what it is like to have that feeling almost all of the time—to have a large proportion of one’s attempts at self-betterment or advancement frustrated by forces that seem to be beyond our control. Being trapped in such a dismal psychological state for only a brief interval can lead to anxiety, depression, or dependence. In some, this feeling of ‘being stuck at zero’ (that the world is manifestly unfair and against them) will lead to resentment—and resentment can turn into murderousness.

Martin Bryant’s life, characterized by loneliness, depression, and numerous frustrated attempts at making friends, is replete with examples that follow this pattern. Clearly, his actions mark him as an extreme outlier among those with low IQ—but his troubled life experiences are distressingly representative. Four in 30 children in classrooms across America are made to compete with their peers for grades and university places in spite of low IQ and with little success. And, like them, Bryant found society’s ‘normal’ to be simply unobtainable. Because the role of cognitive ability is de-emphasized in childhood success, and often treated as a function of effort, children in these circumstances can find themselves trying harder than every other child in the classroom, while still being admonished to ‘try harder.’ While wise caregivers abstain from blaming these children outright for their failures, a taboo on acknowledging the importance of intelligence means that low IQ individuals themselves may be unaware of their condition or its full ramifications, making them likely to engage in repeated self-blaming injurious to self-esteem and mental stability.

None of this is to suggest that those with low IQ, or those who experience a duration of being ‘stuck’ due to their cognitive limitations, should be viewed as likely to break the law or engage in violent crime. But it’s one possible explanation for the fact that those with a low IQ are more likely to do so than those with an average or high IQ. And the uncomfortable reality is that the resentful, in this case, are somewhat correct in their analysis—they have been set up in a game rigged against them from the very start. Recent research in genomics has confirmed this: a 2018 study in Nature1 used genes sequenced from over a million individuals to examine the genetic contributions to educational attainment. This process allows for the construction of profiles for individual ability by evaluating polygenic scores (PGS). In this study, those within the highest PGS quintile had around a 50 percent likelihood of graduating from college; those in the lowest bracket, only 10 percent. Yet none of this difference in ‘genetic quality’ can be accounted for by individual merit or achievement. It is a difference of crucial importance, yet it is determined for us as individuals by luck alone.

Polygenic Scores from the Nature study (2018)

While generous welfare systems in Western countries do provide benefits to those most disadvantaged by the cognitive lottery, a much larger proportion do not qualify for any assistance at all. Instead, those with IQs below 84 are often forced to work arduous manual labor jobs, since they are unlikely to possess the array of qualifications required for non-manual work. These occupations make them the most marginalized in our complex capitalist society—and even those employment opportunities are shrinking under the unrelenting pressure for lower costs and greater efficiency. Job categories like driver, cleaner, and assembly line worker are rapidly disappearing due to automation, leaving those with low IQ nowhere else to go. While most of us delight at the luxurious comforts heralded by the ongoing automation revolution, these same comforts—such as self-driving cars, autonomous vacuum cleaners, and robotized assembly lines—are poised to render a cognitively vulnerable 15 percent of the population unemployed and unemployable.

What exactly are we doing to rectify or alleviate cognitive inequality? The answer, of course, is that we ignore it and hope it will go away. Continuing to force large numbers of cognitively underprivileged children through the arduous challenges of the standard education system is only perpetuating the devastating legacy of intelligence denialism. By pretending away the fact of IQ differences, McNamara drafted the intellectually challenged into a warzone more challenging and lethal than anything they would have faced at home and thereby caused the needless deaths of thousands. Furthermore, his initiative left tens of thousands of survivors with debilitating psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and cruelly deprived many thousands of parents and relatives of the chance to see a beloved family member grow old. The apparent fair-mindedness in this act of conservative blank-slatism is belied by its atrocious outcomes, which render it morally indefensible.

Yet while McNamara’s policy has been called “a crime against the mentally disabled,” few have considered what crime might be constituted by our indifference to the cognitively underprivileged within our own societies. Fifty years after McNamara and 20 years after Martin Bryant, we have not yet begun to ask the question: is it really fair for one person to be born with an intellectual assurance of success in navigating the challenges of a twenty-first century society, while another is born almost certain to fail? Until we accept that people with low IQ exist, and that the ramifications of their condition are indeed severe, how can we even begin to discuss what might be done to alleviate their suffering? The importance of cognitive ability for life success in our technologically complex society makes answering that question a moral imperative—but economic and political leaders have shown scant interest in this issue. Despite the fact that low IQ is correlated with negative outcomes in a large number of areas and afflicts around 15 percent of the population, we seem incapable of treating it like any other public health problem.

Simply wishing away the fact that the genetic and environmental circumstances of a person’s birth inevitably endows everyone—for better or worse—with a personality, a level of sociability, and an intelligence is a form of denialism that serves only our urge for moral exculpation. Pretending that those burdened with low IQ are just lazy, or lack the appropriate motivation, is a way of absolving ourselves of responsibility to help them. Accepting that intelligence exists, that intelligence matters, and that the less intelligent are equal to us in moral worth and value and thus ought to be helped, constitute the first steps in addressing this increasingly urgent need to fully accommodate the cognitively underprivileged.


Wael Taji is the penname of a predoctoral student and intelligence researcher working in behavioral economics and neuroscience at Peking University. His first publication, “China’s Urban-Rural Cognitive Divide: Evidence from a Longitudinal Cohort Study,” is currently under review at the journal Intelligence, published by Elsevier. You can follow him on Twitter @coevolutionist

1 Gene Discovery and Polygenic Prediction from a Genome-Wide Association Study of Educational Attainment in 1.1 Million Individuals by James J. Lee et al, Nature 

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  1. Daniel says

    Thanks to Taji for this article. Great stuff, and it’s an important conversation.

    There’s no doubt that a society has some form of responsibility for the disadvantaged. Exactly what that responsibility is will no doubt be hotly debated.

    Taji mentions that people who face no hope of advancement feel stuck at the bottom. So the problem extends beyond just basic physical needs (housing, food, transportation), though those can’t be neglected. They also need a respected place in society, with a chance to succeed in a hierarchy.

    As a society, we can’t do everything, and no doubt any solution will be imperfect, but one thing we could do much, much better is providing jobs. Jobs requiring minimal cognitive demand need to be available. A job not only provides money for basic physical needs, but is an identity. It is a potential source of dignity, and a place in a hierarchy. Getting up the ladder is clear: do your job better.

    Corporations could do more to create low cognitive-demand jobs. Governments could do more — offering tax breaks to companies for numbers of employees would incentivise them to find ways to make jobs, rather than find ways to cut jobs.

    But most of all, we need a new paradigm for valuing people that doesn’t preclude low intelligence. The moniker “dumb” is unbelievably powerful in the Western world (and probably everywhere).

    The oft-ridiculed-on-Quillette church defines human beings as Imago Dei — made in the image of God. Therefore, worthy of limitless dignity and respect, no matter the crusty exterior. Has there ever been a more dignified way of regarding someone?

    • An earlier draft of the article included a line referencing our “broken, ableist paradigm” – an idea that I think you captured adeptly here. And while the discussion on how to effect a ‘paradigm shift’ that can allow us to transcend the present unworkable state of affairs is indeed important, a discussion even more pressing is that which you mentioned in your last paragraph. In swapping transcendent values for modernity and materialism, we have justified the determination of low-IQ lives as inherently less valuable – a fact that our taboo about discussing IQ seems designed to obfuscate.

      • Just Me says

        Glad the term “ableist” got the boot.

        I wish the term “underprivileged” had also been replaced, by “disadvantaged”, the latter better reflects reality.

        Being reasonably intelligent isn’t a privilege, although it certainly is a disadvantage to be below average intelligence.

        What society should be doing to help its less more disadvantaged member is an important discussion we should be having, let’s keep the identity politics and culture wars out of it.

      • Bubblecar says

        “In swapping transcendent values for modernity and materialism”

        You mean in preferring a worldview grounded in reality rather than in myths, magic and supernaturalism?

        I think that’s a beneficial result of the more demanding IQs at work in modern civilization.

        And the idea that people of lower IQ are “less valuable” seems to be a conclusion of the “the markets” beloved of the economic right, not a conclusion reached by people merely because they’re not superstitious.

        • Asdf says

          The low IQ are useless, and it would probably be utility maximizing to eliminate them. Even Rawls notes that the veil of ignorance includes future generations, and that eugenics was a big part of their utility.

          Sorry, but I haven’t encountered a materialist philosophy that credibly asserts that all individuals have value and rights. It’s religion or bust.

          • Asdf says

            I’m aware of the concept of secular human rights. I find it lacks metaphysical grounding. It’s built on quicksand.

          • Bubblecar says


            “I’m aware of the concept of secular human rights. I find it lacks metaphysical grounding. It’s built on quicksand.”

            Rational ethics are based on rationally defensible principles.

            Religious ethics are based on the commandments of fictitious magical beings.

            As a person of high IQ, I know which I prefer.

          • Asdf says

            Like all materialist ethics I’ll assume it’s full of first principles you can’t justify and/or a non-empirical review of the facts that uses unjustified logical leaps and assumptions to arrive at the result you wanted to start with.

          • ZRyser says


            “Rational ethics are based on rationally defensible principles.”
            As Stephen Fry correctly points out, empiricism trumps rationality. With enough sophistry, you can make a rational argument for a lot of things. The communists, the nazis, the Jacobins made a lot of rational arguments in their heyday. All it took was to set the initial premise right. And that’s the Achilles’ heel of the secular ethics: it lacks an absolute authority and is based on conjectural premises, that aren’t temporally stable. The mores change and so does the underlying basis for the rational ethics. Marcus Tullius Cicero was more rational, than most of us, yet held particular views (on slavery, women, children, non-Roman citizens, etc.) none of us would consider particularly ethical. And I’m not even touching on circular logic issues, begging the question, etc.

            “Religious ethics are based on the commandments of fictitious magical beings.”
            No. Religious ethics are based on life experience of countless generations, and as such are a form of empiricism, and therefore largely conducive to more harmonious existence, than whatever intellectually vainglorious navel-gazing secular ethics is the tone of the day.

            “As a person of high IQ, I know which I prefer.”
            Your optimism is commendable, if perhaps a bit misplaced.

          • Statistics says

            IQ is the distribution of Intelligence across the population; it is impossible to eliminate any segment of such a distribution.

    • So long as their work does not impact the safety of those around them. Clearly, low IQ can’t be fixed (though it can often be improved in some with education when desired by the learner), but it surely should not mean endangering others to feel good about helping them out.

    • dirk says

      In the Sermon on the Mount, the mentally poor (pauper spiritu) are the ones blessed and deserving all compassion and even the Kingdom of Heaven. I wonder where (which IQ) exactly this heavenly stage of pauperism starts.

    • Stewie Griffith says

      Very interesting – I wonder how much of so called “Institutional Racism” can actually be explained by Group population IQs.

      It would be ironic if the only Institutional Racism that actually exists is the false condemnation of white nations as being inherently racist, in terms of difference in life outcomes, when in fact the majority of that difference is fully explainable by Group population IQs.

      • I presume this is sarcasm “disguised” as intellectual musing.

        It’s not ironic, it’s a stone cold fact, and we have known this for quite some time. But expressing this FACT is not popular among the IYI, since it removes the excuse of it all being the fault of those racist white folk.

  2. ccscientist says

    I probably am in the top 1% in IQ and I constantly am confronted with things that make me glad I am. Just dealing with an IRS mistake for $500 (their mistake), or fixing stuff around the house can be challenging. Or medical issues. I can see how a very low IQ person could get tangled up with the legal system–go for a drive in your old car with busted tail light and expired sticker, with your expired license and suddenly you are in trouble. And then you don’t show up for your court date and suddenly there is a warrant for your arrest and maybe you resist arrest because you don’t understand what is going on and boom, you are in jail.
    I have been in dangerous situations but because I am smart I got out or avoided trouble (like a mugging) but the low IQ person might not know what is happening.
    Life is complicated.

    • Stewie Griffith says

      The only downside of being on the thin end of the high side of the bell curve is that people generally make friends with people who are broadly similar or operate at a similar intellectual level – this means that the pool of potential friends and or mates can be harder to come by and maintain…. that episode from House “Ignorance is Bliss” always struck a cord with me.

      That said – given the same choice, I still wouldn’t choose to drink DXM.

      • Innominata says

        In “The Intelligence Paradox”, Kanazawa represents there are myriad problems with a high IQ. He argues with statistical evidence that those with average IQ do better on many long-term evolutionary problems than those with high IQ, such as avoidance of certain health risks, better reproduction, and higher participation in socially nurturing groups, such as religious communities–which the high IQ as a group tend to denigrate … until they realize that their thick, veiny IQs can’t hold up the other end of a beam to nail it in place, while another silly believer can.

        “The Curse of the High IQ” by Clarey adds another dimension to the discussion. Anecdotal efforts report people in the extremely-high IQ range suffering from all kinds of instability, including long-term feelings of isolation, substance abuse, boredom and frustration, and the self-destructive and contradictory urge to explain to the peons why they are wrong and stupid in their pedestrian beliefs and activities that actually make them happy.

        High IQ doesn’t make one right or give one more common sense; it just makes one more skillful at justification and rhetoric. The high IQ have dominated government, and the results are despicable. The Academy comprise the high IQ, and they presently spread Marxist socialism and Blank Slate-ism. Not long ago, the high IQ supported eugenics and appeasement of Stalin and Hitler. If anything, an IQ above 120 should probably disqualify an individual from any field of public life and decision making. Perhaps we should sequester the high IQ in asylums where they can do rocket science and scrawl their haughty anti-theist tracts without spreading still more destructive bombs and viruses or dissolving the bonds of social cohesion any further than they have managed so far.

        Unfortunately, I think Charles Murray is right in “The Bell Curve”: the high IQ are becoming increasingly concentrated and homogamous, rigging the entire society to their advantage. The knock-on effects look grim for the norm and for societal stability.

        • Carol Douglass says

          “Rigging?” That sounds like Trump–forever complaining that things are rigged, unfair. Some of these comments seem to engage in the “all of them” argument that groups of millions of people who share one particular quality are all operating from the same platform of ethics, morality–or lack of–as every other member of that group defined by one parameter.
          I believe this is called conspiracy thinking.
          If any one characteristic causes groups of otherwise dissimlar human beings to rally round the same club, I’d guess it was the profit motive (and the power that comes with it.)
          Even so, that surely has more to do with moral development than with an IQ number.
          To whomever replied that there’s no such thing as intelligence or IQ, the fact is that although measures of intelligence are not as thorough or fair as they might be, there is demonstrably a difference between people who with high IQs and those with low.
          Finally, while I applaud the idea of helping people whose low IQ puts them at a disadvantage, I cannot imagine parents “allowing” their child to be publicly classified as low IQ. That is, when parents go so far as to sue the public schools–which they do–just to keep their child from being “labeled” with any sort of learning disability, even when it’s a matter of an intelligent child with, say, visual processing problems–I cannot imagine a society that would take the first step in getting help based on a subnormal IQ.

          • I like this IQ test. Would you rather have an IQ 70 flying your commercial jet or an IQ 130?

        • Adam says

          “the self-destructive and contradictory urge to explain to the peons why they are wrong and stupid in their pedestrian beliefs and activities”

          Can’t help but think of Nietzsche…. I don’t think his thoughts where all that self-destructive or contradictory though, maybe to some extent.

        • Lydia says

          “High IQ doesn’t make one right or give one more common sense; it just makes one more skillful at justification and rhetoric. The high IQ have dominated government, and the results are despicable. The Academy comprise the high IQ, and they presently spread Marxist socialism and Blank Slate-ism. Not long ago, the high IQ supported eugenics and appeasement of Stalin and Hitler. If anything, an IQ above 120 should probably disqualify an individual from any field of public life and decision making. Perhaps we should sequester the high IQ in asylums where they can do rocket science and scrawl their haughty anti-theist tracts without spreading still more destructive bombs and viruses or dissolving the bonds of social cohesion any further than they have managed so far.”

          Enjoyed this immensely. So, true! How does one Measure common sense? When the next natural disaster hits, I want to be around the uneducated rednecks that know how to fix things and have survival skills. I won’t care about IQ. The high IQ Stalinists! Lol.

          • There are occasionally educated (in the original sense not our current “credentialed”) rednecks that know how to fix things and have survival skills.

        • (putting this in the right spot since something went wrong, reply to Innominata )

          I don’t think society is being rigged by those with high IQ for their own sake. It’s being rigged by sociopaths and similar for their own benefit. Now some of the more successful sociopaths may also have high IQ, but most of those doing the rigging aren’t particularly bright IMO because they are such very short term thinkers. They are intentionally destroying the fabric of western society right now for their own short term benefit and to achieve something they think is utopia but will be miserable for almost everyone while being highly unstable and disaster prone due to its gross centralization.

          First they interfere thinking they know what they are doing then that causes problems so they treat those symptoms, then two more problems show up, so more interventions, then four more problems, and so on. It becomes increasingly unstable, complex, and difficult to manage.

          Maybe the rigging is being done by those who are ‘smart’ but not smart enough to realize what they don’t know. Because those who understand they can’t know everything, that there is much they don’t know, wouldn’t create such a rigged system because it only leads to disaster when those unknowns manifest themselves.

        • Aardvark says

          ““The Curse of the High IQ” by Clarey adds another dimension to the discussion. Anecdotal efforts report people in the extremely-high IQ range suffering from all kinds of instability, including long-term feelings of isolation, substance abuse, boredom and frustration, and the self-destructive and contradictory urge to explain to the peons why they are wrong and stupid in their pedestrian beliefs and activities that actually make them happy.”

          This is article I need to read. Frankly I always considered myself to be rather average in intelligence despite multiple tests going back to middle school saying otherwise. Having been diagnosed with ADHD as a child and taking stimulant therapy for a number of years, it has only been recently that I have come to accept the notion that above average intelligence is a noted side effect of some persons with ADHD and that perhaps I should acknowledge to myself that is the case. I could best describe it as having a brain that is like a super-charged Ferrari with the accelerator stuck to the floor and a broken steering wheel. If I am not distracted and am able to focus my attention, I am able to solve problems, learn and fix things that drive other people up a wall. Unfortunately it was not until I was in my early 20’s and graduated from college with a C average that I discovered that ability to focus and also realized that I had another ADHD side-effect: superior memory. After reading this article, what truly saddens me is that if I am above average, how do these people considered to be below average survive? I have taken it for granted for so long that I am at most average and usually assumed my thinking and problem solving abilities were average.

    • The IRS, traffic tickets, and much more are intentionally designed with complexity such that government can prey upon people to pay the salaries of those who operate government. But all the solutions of what to do with those with a low IQ centers around even more government and more complexity. Expanding the racket.

      This complexity is also created to make jobs for ‘experts’ in every facet of it. Taxes, law, selling a house, and much more where a person can either spend a lot of time learning the complexity or biting the bullet and paying.

      On the other end of the IQ spectrum those with intelligence see the dangers and they have the problem of trying to get a long in world where there they can see the traps behind every corner. The time and effort to dot every i and cross every t.

      So what’s the solution? To me, it’s get rid of the root cause, the unnecessary and self-serving complexity.

      • Einstein said something about complexity.

        You can never tell when you have too much other than being able to “see” something simpler that works. To limit the cost of errors “simpler” must be tested at the lowest possible level.

  3. Terrific essay. I’m a special needs teacher; my entire class is comprised of students whose IQs are below 80; some are below 70, and some more below that. Though in middle school, most read at a first grade level, and most of my work involves improving their reading through phonics and other strategies. It cannot be emphasized enough how reading-based our culture is.

    Unfortunately, the state itself is in cognitive denial, and insists on a) heavily academic learning narrowly focused on whatever the state tests emphasizes, which for now is close text based reading (no creativity, no overarching big pictures) and b) math that is heavily verbal. That’s it. Based on this test, I as a teacher am ‘scored,’ and the school is scored as well. Only the most obviously impaired student – ones with IQs in say the 40s or 50s – are placed in what is called a ‘life skills’ track. Even they must take the state test, modified, but also emphasizing reading & math only, & only a certain type.

    What is the result? The author writes, “While wise caregivers abstain from blaming these children outright for their failures, a taboo on acknowledging the importance of intelligence means that low IQ individuals themselves may be unaware of their condition or its full ramifications, making them likely to engage in repeated self-blaming injurious to self-esteem and mental stability.”

    No special ed teacher worth her salt would dream of blaming the kids–indeed the reason we go into special needs teaching at all is the implicit acknowledgment that the kids have, yes, special needs. However, we are unable to control the curriculum, and thus must ignore skills that would serve them best, eg shopping, interpersonal relationships, handling money, finding jobs and so on. In my experience, far from making them engage in ‘self blaming injurious to self-esteem,” what actually happens in the opposite–their esteem is totally disconnected to their ability. They think they’re totally fine. Actually they think they’re awesome. They think they will go to college and ‘be a doctor.’ Or be a famous You Tuber or a basektball star or gamer. They don’t see the connection between their ability and their goal because it is *never* emphasized in the testing and they are always told how awesome they are. Well meaning educators and certainly the media tell them this constantly; they see no evidence of this other than their existence; so they conclude it is their mere existence that is amazing.

    The result is a terrible shock when they get into the ‘real world’ and see that no one has taught them how to shop or find a job and their reading is inadequate to most jobs, and their math is utterly pointless. It’s this shock, not the self-esteem, that is the problem. It’s the fact that they can’t find a job that is the problem. Their self esteem actually often still remains fine, at least on the surface. Obviously most don’t become mass shooters, God forbid, but in an economy that has very little need for physical low skilled labor, and which actually disparages it, they have no place. Ignoring their needs for decades and not training them to be humans with a purpose is a horrible failure.

    THe problem though lies with the state, and the system – university and political and media- that supports it, because mouthing platitudes about how everyone can “succeed” (by which they don’t mean unskilled labor or even succeeding in functioning in society; they mean the narrow band of success they themselves define as success, college, high skilled jobs etc)– mouthing non-data-based platitudes how everyone can succeed if they are just taught well enough makes them feels good, and they don’t suffer the consequences.

    • Thank you for your beautifully written and personal comment. You lay out some important facts in your fourth paragraph, and they are challenging – it is true that many low-IQ individuals may find themselves being ‘overhyped’ by their caregivers in their environment, and as a consequence, developing a hubristic sense of inflated self-esteem, rather than the inverse, as a paradoxical response to their inability to succeed at the system.

      While I will admit that I neglected to acknowledge this facet of the problem within the article, I concur with your analysis in that this fact, to me, only further underscores the need to amend the current state of affairs in which the low-IQ are being so systematically failed by the very caregivers appointed to help them. Instilling in these individuals a view congruent with the reality of their limitations, and doing so in a humane and compassionate manner, is an urgent priority for our educational and pedagogical systems; but to implement such a radical change requires a revolution in our own thinking on hierarchy, intelligence, and ‘hidden’ inequality.

      • citicrab says

        Why is it that we readily admit the differences in IQ as genetically determined but not variation in “character” traits, such as will-power, curiosity etc. that also define life outcomes? Isn’t it magical thinking? Those important personal traits, together with cognitive capacity, constitute a personal profile endowed at birth. This line of thought leads to question the concept of free will and moral responsibility for the choices we make. That mass killer in Australia with a very low IQ was still convicted, and will have to suffer for the rest of his life, even though he was not acting rationally, and his moral judgement may have been equally impaired. Why is mental retardation a disability condition, but not moral retardation? All behavior is ultimately genetics (laws of nature)-based, even if influenced by environment.

        • Well yes. The problem is that if you don’t hold everyone morally responsible then morality declines.

          And who gets away with moral irresponsibility the most? Those who can buy their way out. Those who can connect their way out. Not always of course. But it is a noted aberration.

        • The big 5 factor personality test may be what your looking for. I don’t know how anyone would propose to measure moral judgement though.
          Regardless of IQ, or any other objective measure, we as a society cannot abandon the idea that all people regardless of limitation have free will. That each person has a spark of divinity in them, and is responsible for their own actions, is the basis of our legal systems. This serves to protect the rights of the individual, and reinforces that each individual has a responsibility to the rest of humanity.
          If someone doesn’t have the ability to live up to modern standards of civility, whatever the cause (free will or not), they must somehow be isolated and separated from society for their own and everyone else’s protection.
          Such limited individuals would ideally be looked after in a family or small community situation that is more fitted to their needs and potential.

    • I was in special Ed from 1st to 12th grade. Every kid knew damn well that they were stupid. We all called the special Ed area of the school, the ”retard department”.

    • Cheryl says

      Excellent comment. I’ve never understood why the obvious difficulties faced by low IQ people is a taboo topic.

      • Jack B Nimble says

        @Cheryl — who said that this topic is taboo? In the US at least, mental retardation and other cognitive deficits are covered under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, a Civil Rights Law. The list of covered disabilities includes but is not limited to:
        speech, visual and hearing impairments
        cerebral palsy
        mental retardation
        drug addiction
        specific learning disabilities
        Link –

    • Enough is enough says

      One of those people attends my University. He’s a nice enough fellow, but as you say, his self-esteem is totally divorced from his intellectual ability. He’s spoken about wanting to be a politician, or an ambassador, or a psychologist… and it’s absurd. A twenty year old who comes to classes with a Thomas the Tank Engine pencil case, one whose parents make all his decisions for him. Apparently he hasn’t even been tested to see what learning disability he has. The poor guy is being set up for abject failure in life because no-one is willing to be honest with him, or extend him opportunities that actually suit him.

  4. John says

    This is an excellent contribution to the presently limited discussion of a perplexing problem and one that the author quite rightly identifies as a looming crisis for society in the near future. The speed at which employers are divesting themselves of unskilled workers is increasing. The pressures for this increase are manifold and include everything from having to treat the unskilled in exactly the same way as the highly skilled and therefore more valuable employee. With the increasing impost of social duties such as sick leave, maternity leave, family leave, domestic violence leave, annual leave, long service leave, leave for sitting on jury duty at employers expense and then the inability to easily sack poor or dangerous workers, employers are much happier buying robots. Robots don’t even need an eight hour day and they do as they are programmed to do. What engineer or manufacturer is going to overlook the value of them when it comes to unskilled work.

    As an employer you can even assuage your feelings of guilt by rationalising that the job being automated was hard, dirty and demanding and that you are doing the people doing it a favour. This is an extraordinarily powerful rationalisation and one not appreciated by thinkers today.

    One of the major illusions that we are currently operating under is that we can easily manage this. We cannot. No mater how humane the employer, no matter how comprehensive the regulatory regime of government and no matter how concerned society becomes about this, Adam Smith’s invisible hand will wash the unskilled out of the economy and out of human society.

    The question is how are we going to deal with this? The author has identified the need for government and society to provide support to the less intelligent, and here I absolutely concur with him. However, in his description of how normally intelligent soldiers dealt with the unintelligent in Vietnam, he has also identified the other end of the spectrum, one in which the more intelligent kill the less intelligent because they put everyone at risk. With the growth in human technical mastery over birth I suspect it is not long before we develop the capability to identify the low IQ foetus. If there is no useful role for such a being, then it is unlikely to be allowed to proceed to birth. This issue is one for us all to start considering now, and even now, we are late in coming to it. The author should be congratulated.

    • Iceland is rather proud of almost “eliminating” Down syndrome by aggressively pushing testing to identify the likelihood for the unborn child to have the condition, with strong social pressure to have such babies aborted. Is this a precursor for the rest of the world?

      • Cassandra says

        Not in the world whose morality is formed by the Roman Catholic Church. Or by the Islamic world,with its preference for cousin marriage.

        Iceland is a hard place in a hard climate, on the edge of the survivable world until very recently. Maybe they are better equipped to make hard decisions.

        • Luke Reeshus says

          This comment (by Cassandra) deserves props.

          Iceland sounds like the kind of place I’d like to move to. But, with them being “better equipped to make hard decisions,” I imagine they have a sensible immigration policy. So it’d probably be tough for me to get in. Oh well…

          • Vuil Uil says

            Alas like everywhere else in the Western world Iceland subscribes to the dogma of political correctness.

            Abortion is easy and freely available, but since (as far as I know) Downs Syndrome is not in the main heritable terminating Downs Syndrome pregnancies will have little long term impact on the frequency of Downs Syndrome births.

            It is relatively easy to move to Iceland. You just need some way of earning a living. My guess though you’ll be disappointed with the Nordic politics there.

      • Jouni Korhonen says

        Sports??… Also some other “entertainment” like arts, theater.. Could be done with other gifts than cognitive. Not suggesting modern-day gladiators, though it would be enticing, giving them fame and success.

  5. This is one of those articles where I say to myself, I’m sure glad to have read this. Thank you Mr. Taji for this contribution and Quillette in general.

  6. There is no political solution to a problem like this. Just because a hierarchy creates losers, which it necessarily will, does not mean that the state should intervene.

    I’ve come across a lot of research on low IQ individuals not being able to succeed. How about some research on those who have managed to live fulfilling and purposeful lives? It’s not until you have an idea of the range of possibilities for positive outcomes that you can even begin to approach this as a ‘problem’ with possible solutions.

    Treating this like a political problem means implying that the outcomes are unjust and the hierarchy must be reconfigured. The only people with a vested interest in flattening out all hierarchies of competence are the marxists. Their idea of ‘reform’ is to obliterate all forms of social organization that materially reward human excellence. Of course, this is not the world that 99.99% of us want to live in.

    • Daniel says

      “I’ve come across a lot of research on low IQ individuals not being able to succeed. How about some research on those who have managed to live fulfilling and purposeful lives?”

      Hear hear. A very good point you make there. We need to study successes as well as failures.

    • Magnis says

      In your last paragraph you so neatly describe the thinking of the current South African government.

    • Fekyu says

      You’re clearly projecting. You’re probably a loser yourself.

    • Just Me says

      “Treating this like a political problem means implying that the outcomes are unjust and the hierarchy must be reconfigured. ”

      Um, no. It only means we need solutions at a societal level to ensure those at the bottom are not crushed by those hierarchies, Jordan Peterson himself would agree.

    • “[The marxists’] idea of ‘reform’ is to obliterate all forms of social organization that materially reward human excellence.”

      How preposterous.

      • “How preposterous.”

        Mao had it in for smart people. Pol Pot especially so. How can you have a planned economy when a new invention can disrupt the plan?

    • Luke Reeshus says

      To be fair, I didn’t see anything in this article suggesting “political” solutions to this problem. Its main point was to call out modern blank-slaters—the people who deny the relevance, and in most cases even the existence, of variations in inherited intelligence*—to point out that their worldview, for all its starry-eyed optimism about the malleability of individual humans, is actually quite obtuse and un-empathetic to the plight of those who struck out in the genetic lottery.

      *These people are legion, by the way, especially as you move leftward along the political spectrum and upward in terms of cultural elitism. There’s a reason a 2nd edition of Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate (2002) had to be published a couple years ago. I recommend anyone interested in this topic check it out.

  7. eejaybee says

    I’m surprised to see so much mention that ‘society no longer needs low-skilled labour’…

    1) we would need to define ‘low-skilled’ because as ‘d’ so rightly states they have been taught things that didn’t matter & instead could have learned skills most meaningful in their everyday lives. The total lack of skills is avoidable. And many more would appreciate these than Special Ed class.

    2) building, plumbing, electrical work, general repairs, gardening & tree work, car mechanic… when we are totally robot-ified (which may be in factories but the transition to ‘home’ isn’t happening al that fast), who will fix the wires, a robot? We need these skills that use a totally different part of the brain to intellectual jobs (which are often unsatisfying, see David Graeber). The UK especially has denigrated these spacial/engineering knowledge & now complain about having so many Polish plumbers… a self-made problem. Value these physical skills (as I believe they do in Germany) & there will be a stable base to society & many people will be a lot happier.

    Is all this it actually driven by those who feel those to be ‘cleverer’ (themselves) as being more deserving, who are frustrated when they see eg. mechanics doing as well or better than perhaps they are?

    What we need is a patient community ethos, however what I see most is fearful status-protection perpetrated by the much-vaunted middle classes, & the adult children of the privileged classes. Perhaps if we become less competitive, we will be less fearful & hence able to allow others to find their place?

    • @eejaybee, have you ever looked under the hood of a car? I have some difficulty imagining that people with the cognitive capacity described in the article can become car mechanics. The same thing applies to electrical work and the like – one error and you or somebody else is dead because of the current.

      • MrLogical says

        Bingo. The days of ‘simple’ IC engines with carburetors and points-coil ignition are roughly 70 years in our past. Today, even with the aid of modern diagnostic tools, the successful mechanic needs technical reading skills and a good mastery of deductive logic and problem solving. The code readers and diagnostic trees can only take you so far. On the other hand, much of the ‘repair’ activity in today’s autos mainly consists of isolating the offending component and replacing it, so perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope for low-IQ knuckle busters.

    • Peter Kriens says

      To be a successful plumber or electrician you need significantly more than an IQ if ~80. The problem, as pointed out in the article, is that we almost every job in our world need reading skills. Worse, below a certain level the mistakes people make are more expensive than any profits. Jordan Peterson tells a story how he tried to find a volunteer job at a charity. The job was folding a piece of paper, inserting it into an envelope, and gluing the envelop close. It took Peterson over 30 hours to teach him to fold accurately enough to not butch up the envelop. In the end he was let go from the charity (!) because his envelopes too often caused problems in the stamp machine. That is, some people have a negative benefit. The stories about the ‘moron’ soldiers als indicated that many were likely more beneficial to the enemy than the US.

      • Fekyu says

        “The problem, as pointed out in the article, is that we almost every job in our world need reading skills.”
        – Clearly, proofreading skills are needed as well, given your genius level sentences.

    • Enough is enough says

      Are you suggesting that intelligence is not required to be a plumber, electrician, or a mechanic? These are highly skilled jobs. Yes, they have a physical component to them, but there is a significant amount of learning and applied knowledge required in order to execute them successfully.

    • Rick says

      I was a mechanic for 15 years, even after my degree in Philosophy from the top rated university in Texas….

      I think you just might be misunderstanding what “low skilled” means.

      • Charlie says

        There is unskilled, semi skilled and skilled manual( 5-7 year apprenticeship) jobs. A watch or instrument maker are highly skilled. A manual labourer of pre steam powered equipment often had to shift 20 tons of soil per day.

        What is ignored is that over 200 years or even less , work has changed such that perhaps 40-50% of the population had to undertake hard manual labour, basically digging and moving, to very few.

        There used to be schools or stream within schools, for the educationally sub-normal with the aim of making them literate and numerate by the age of 16 years of age. When schools produced literate and numerate peoples of low academic ability who were capable of honest hard work, were cheerful and cooperative, they were very useful. Someone who can unload a van, wash dishes, prepare vegetable, clean 10-15% faster than anyone else and to high standards, is very employable. Having a honest hard working cheerful labourer who has capacity far greater than normal enables the craftsmen to work at full speed and never have the problem of waiting for supplies.

        Where pay is based upon productivity, hard working unskilled people could earn reasonable wages. For example a plasterer’s or bricklayer’s mate who was paid by the cubic yard of mortar or plaster mixed and delivered. Some aspects of tunnelling and piling still use manual labour as does fruit /vegetable picking.

        Where the worst problems occur are where the person has low intelligence and low physical strength and/or eye to hand coordination as they are unable to undertake the better paid manual work with pay based upon productivity.

        Where immigration has seriously undermined wages is for manual labourers and this is particularly hard for those with low IQs.

        A days hard manual labour, say cutting down trees, digging trenches, mixing mortar, especially in cold wet windy weather produces a warm satisfied glow at the end of the day, no doubt due to dopamines, serotonin and endomorphins being produced. If this is combined with hard rugby training, then there is little energy or aggression left to produce violence on the streets. People tend not to pick fights with Colin Meads of the World and Colin Meads of the World tend not start fights on streets, unless severely provoked.

        • Lydia says

          Package handling is an excellent option. And they are desperate for dependable employees.

    • Cassandra says

      I think you are confusing those who are gifted with manual dexterity, an ability to memorise and implement physical systems and a degree of physical strength with the people who are described by the writer.

      These people, the plumbers and electricians, are by no means in the lower quadrant of intelligence. They may have a different concentration of abilities compared to code writers, but to believe that people with very low intelligence are capable of becoming what used to be called ‘tradespeople ‘, that is , people who had mastered a skilled metier, is not realistic.

  8. Stephen Phillips says

    Some assumsions are being made here that I don’t feel are supported by the evidence. First is that a dirty backbreaking job leads to disatisfaction. I have a higher than average intelligence as is now evidenced by my current position and success both at uni and employment (life generally really).
    Nonetheless I have worked in some of the dirtiest most demeaning jobs imaginable. Try standing waist deep in minced sheep guts and shovelling them into a ute to then be trasported to a byproducts dept. Thats just for starters.
    I didnt despair or get angry, it was a job and I dont determine my value as a being by that. I am a complex unit comprising many many parts, each of which I try to optimise and I measure my worth by how much I can improve on my own past record not on others.

  9. ga gamba says

    I join the others here commending the author for his contribution.

    I wondered what specific jobs are performed by those with lower IQs. Fortunately, this has been studied in depth and findings are presented in Robert Hauser’s 2002 paper Meritocracy, Cognitive Ability, and the Sources of Occupational Success. In his introduction he writes, “students of social
    stratification mainly ignore cognitive abilities and their consequences.” Figures 7 – 12 (located at the end of the paper) provide charts labeled Occupation Groups Ranked by Median Henmon-Nelson IQ for both men and women. You can decide for yourself whether humans performing those task will be replaced by robot armies.

    Given that there are more 27 million businesses in the US, of which about only 18,500 employ 500 or more people and 90% employ 20 or fewer, I think it’ll take quite long while before it’s affordable to introduce human-replacement automation. Even those sectors forecast to be the earliest transformed, the cost to retrofit a lorry to autonomous mode is $30,000. This may not seem like much, but retrofits can only be done on lorries built with automatic transmissions, which were introduced in 2013. The average age of the US fleet is more than 17 years, 90% of the businesses have 10 or fewer lorries, and 10% of lorries are driven by owner operators. Likely, transformation will happen piecemeal until someone with sufficiently deep pockets decides to consolidate several firms and upgrade/replace lorries in large enough numbers that the disruption forces everyone else to follow or fail.

    And what of procreative beneficence? Is there a duty to manipulate the genetic code of our future children to improve their wellbeing to include enhanced intelligence? Prof Hauser mentions some of the reasons he thinks why researchers of social stratification ignore cognitive abilities, and be it due to political correctness, anxiety over eugenics, or other reasons, it’s true this is a blind spot. It’s not going away, and as more is learnt eventually someone somewhere is going to start tinkering with the human embryo genome. Alas, it already started in 2015 in China using CRISPR gene-editing technology. I suspect the Chinese will not share many of the hang ups of their American or European counterparts.

    • neoteny says

      a lorry […] lorries

      There are no lorries in the US; not even in Canada. Are you a limey?

      • ga gamba says

        I hopped the wall and joined the undocumented new friends and neighbours who are running the show now. Haven’t you got the message you’re supposed to back over backwards to accommodate and celebrate us?

  10. Farris says

    The widespread notion that everyone should go to college or university is of no benefit to those with low IQ. In the past these persons were sent to Trade school of became trade apprentices. However obtaining employment for persons of substandard IQ is not the end of the road solution. Once gainfully employed persons of low IQ tend to have more trouble managing and holding onto their income. Furthermore these persons maybe of low intelligence but they are not blind, they are still aware that they reside at the lower end of the economic range but still have the same material wants as everyone else. Persons of low IQ, employed or not, are continually confronted with the fact they are not keeping up with the rest. This in your face confrontation leads to resentment which in turn leads to anti-social behavior. Providing for oneself or their family was once its own reward. Today the preoccupation seems to be more on status and material possessions.

    • dirk says

      Very logical resentment indeed, but only shortly so. Uptil, say, 1900 people found it normal to belong to a certain stratum, we have the saying, born as a dime, you never will be a quarter. In the Middle Ages, average people were not allowed to wear fur, and they thought this OK (except maybe a few). But now there is this Universal Human Right, that says: all beings are created equal. Everybodu knows it’s a lie, but still, the ideals are spread and heard, and resentments (and not only for low IQ of course) are creeping in every crevice of our society. Where will this end??

      • In fact:

        We are all born equal *under the law*.

        We are all born equal *in the eyes of “god”.

        We are all travelers along the way to the grave.

        We are all equal!

        Some are more clever, some more pretty, some stronger, some more generally lucky, some more of all things (if you will)… But we are all equal fundamentally and should be treated with basic dignity and all of us would benefit from the humility of internalizing this…

        Why is the above true; because I say it is and no one is “more equal” then I to dispute it.

  11. Erica from Minnesota says

    If we can just ignore IQ differences and ignore cultural differences, most people can go through life swimmingly ignorant of what it’s like to be lacking intelligence and lacking both a mother and father. The Left in this nation appears to want to make all things equal by simply demanding it and ignoring the actual science that shows IQ and Culture have 99% to with the gaps in educational outcomes. This is made worse by ramping up program to encourage more people who don’t have the qualifications to try to get into top universities where the academic standards wash out most of these folks…leaving them with tens of thousands of student loan debt they can never repay.

    Where are the adults in the room on the Left in this country? When will you begin to speak to the hard truths of physiology, sociology, biology and psychology?

    Not everyone gets to grow up to be an astronaut.

    Fact is, maybe Russia and the Soviet era countries had it right with the aspect of Socialism that took 5-6 year old kids…measured their IQ and aptitude…then put them on a track to be a professor, an astronaut, a baker or a farm hand.

    The irony is that this is the very nature of Socialism; recognizing that the collective is only as strong as its weakest link, while acknowledging that the weakest link is a literal interpretation of an individuals weaknesses (including IQ).

    • Just Me says

      The original principle was “to each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” after all.

      That recognized there were different abilities, which today some seem determined to deny.

      The tricky part is “to each according to their needs”, as everyone’s needs today seem limitless.

    • @ Erica from Minnesota

      “The Left in this nation appears to want to make all things equal by simply demanding it and ignoring”


      “the actual science that shows IQ and Culture have 99% to with the gaps in educational outcomes.”

      You have confused a couple of things here. That is not what left [postmodern left] claim. They simply do not believe in biological determinism – and that ‘culture’ can fix it all. The actual reality is we are creatures of both – biology and environment.

    • boylemariotte says

      You are poorly informed. I Soviet block counties psychometric tests at schools were banned from beginning of 1930th till downfall of communism. A book of Eysenck with IQ test was published but never used officially.

  12. Johan (Lic. psychologist) says

    Just wanted to leave a quick correction to a point in the article. An IQ score of 69 or less does not automatically qualify you for and ID diagnosis. The DSM-5 explicitly shifts the focus on a single IQ score to a broader assessment of adaptive functioning.

    • You’re correct – the diagnostic criteria in the article are from the DSM-IV, which I clearly failed to make specific in the article. I’m sorry for the ambiguity, and I’ll be more careful next time to specify version of the DSM I’m talking about when using it as a reference. Thank you for indicating this, as it is an important point of distinction.

  13. Bonnie Anderson says

    A realistic corner of the progressive left is beginning to develop a set of ethical ideas in this area, specifically the idea that the cognitively privileged are just lucky and are not smart because of their own merits, thus justifying redistribution of wealth by the state. The psychologist Kathryn Paige Harding has an upcoming book along these lines, as well as a recent opinion piece in the NY Times.

    • Asdf says

      Just throwing good money after bad. While I wouldn’t rule this out, there is no rock solid moral justification. Utilitarianism would in the long run may well support eugenics, not redistribution.

  14. Vincent Vega says

    I got a chill reading this superb article. Maybe I’ve seen “Gattaca” too many times.
    Even though the author stresses that the less intelligent have the same worth as everyone else, the bitter truth is that what makes us so special as a species is not our strength or our wingspan or our celerity but our intellect.

    I am thankful to the author and I know that accepting the truth in the end is always the better way, but I have to say this article leaves me in a somber mood.
    The more I contemplate the lives of the people I have known who have low intelligence, the more I realize that they were screwed from the get-go.

    • Adrian Smits says

      Fortunately for disadvantaged they are not intelligent enough to understand how screwed they are!

  15. Veera Rajagopal says

    Nice article. Just a small correction. The cited article was published in Nature Genetics, not Nature. Just a trivial thing, but, can diminish the quality of the content. Please change it

  16. Strontium Dog says

    The subject is going nowhere until the huge difference in IQ levels between the commonly recognized human groups are acknowledged and not effectively denied.

    The difference is causing major issues in the West and south Saharan Africa and under future economic pressure those issues will likely take a catastrophic turn, similar to Rwanda, such that no amount of racial blackmail from equality ideologues will silence the debate.

    Then at last the poor and disadvantaged may see a society structuring itself to give everyone a place with the kind of benign capitalism that benefits everyone and not just the intelligent ruthless.

    • Glitter Afresh says

      “Groups” — lol — go ahead and just say it, bud — and prep the skull-measuring calipers while you’re at it.

      • Adrian Smits says

        Hear hear and lets make some room for 5foot 6 inch Jewish kids in the NBA while we are at it!

    • SuperLiberal says

      actually Rwanda economy has been growing 8% a year since 1997. They are one of the fastest growing developing nations. In fact they are actually doing better then some former soviet nations.. They are on track to be a middle income country in less than ten years..

  17. Strontium Dog says

    “The apparent fair-mindedness in this act of conservative blank-slatism is belied by its atrocious outcomes, which render it morally indefensible. Yet while McNamara’s policy has been called “a crime against the mentally disabled,””

    hmm, major retrospective judgment going on there. And no acknowledgment that the Leftists/communists were more of the attitude of “the masses” than the conservatives, by far.

    Indeed, I have heard it said by a conservative that the army is a wonderful welfare system giving the hopelessly marginalized a place of dignity and worth, and where their propensity to fight is not civilly criminalized but contained within the army penal system. These are not the attitudes of someone treating people as cattle but rather of a compassionate realism.

    It’s a shame, therefore, that the army decided that anyone of less than 83 IQ was completely unusable. Was there really absolutely no place for these people? I doubt it. Rather they should not have been given tasks of responsibility, but rather been given manual labor and then simple infantry attack groups. IE, it was a failure of imagination and creativity on the part of the Army.

    • The Army of today uses more technology at every level. Low-IQ individuals would be a greater liability in any combat unit today than was the case in Viet Nam.

  18. Bradd Graves says

    The concept of “moral worth” is the problem, not the answer. It’s the myth of equality that perpetuates the denial. This is basically a management issue, and the answer is obvious. Special environments for the more severely retarded have been created. We need to do the same for mildly retarded people; It shouldn’t be too hard to find tasks that society can let them do; they don’t have to be contributing much to society. The harder question is finding ways to forestall them procreating, which is clearly in the interest of the general society.

    • Adrian Smits says

      Would it not be more humane to use crisper technology to improve the genetics of the disadvantaged so they could also reproduce?

  19. stuart lending says

    Excellent article. The article focuses heavily on males, are there any issues found more in females?

    • Just Me says

      I would be worried that it takes a minimum of intelligence to keep babies alive and raise children in our society, and that would start with making sure one doesn’t keep producing them, which requires some intelligent foresight.

      • Cassandra says

        It doesn’t seem to take much intelligence to keep producing the poor little things, and keeping them alive ( just), because the state , at least in the UK, pays for upkeep, intervention ( that is, trying to make sure the mother feeds and cleans them, and that they aren’t beaten up , raped, killed by the latest ‘ partner’). And the production line is continually subsided by benefit , etc, etc.

        Of course, every now and again, some poor child slips through the net, and is murdered or neglected to the point of death. Then it is the state’s ‘fault’ , personified by the poor hapless social worker or the police. But never, ever, the parent or parents – or the deluded ideology that the incompetent and those unable to manage their own lives should be encouraged and subsided to procreate.

  20. martti_s says

    Progressives actually think that a person with mediocre intelligence is not as worthy as one with 115 and over. They hate and criticize IQ tests because they make them face their own bigotry that has now its specific term ‘ableism’. They know very little of the actual science behind psychometric testing and present faulty arguments against the methods that have been honed during the hundred plus years that tests have been run on millions of people.
    There is a huge political resistance against IQ testing, It is very difficult to even imagine school kids being tested before making decisions about their education and career plans. My guess would be that the Chinese will be the first ones to launch systematic testing and I am pretty sure it will be carried out on adapted video games.

    • Matt says

      “It is very difficult to even imagine school kids being tested before making decisions about their education and career plans”. So what are all the tests under the sun kids go to before graduating high school? So what is the range of counseling and mentor options available to help people make these choices? It seems to me like you enjoy concocting all these scenarios with your head stuck in the sand.

      • ga gamba says

        The tests are beginning to fall by the wayside. U of Chicago announced it will no longer use standardised tests for admissions, joining several other universities that have done so. Standardised tests make it easy for Asians to provide proof of admissions bias; get rid of something measurable to all and claims of discrimination are harder to substantiate. New York City’s School District 15 will no longer use any screens such marks to evaluate middle school applicants. Instead, one’s race, immigrant status, language used at home, and other nonsense are to be used as screens for selecting students.

        That you are not aware of this makes it appear you’re the one with your head stuck in the sand.

    • Afrosapiens 🇫🇷🇪🇺 says

      The Chinese are Confucian, their culture believes even less in natural gifts than the West’s. They believe in unlimited self-improvement through effort. I think they’re right.

      • ga gamba says

        The Master said, the good man does not grieve that other people do not recognize his merits. His only anxiety is lest he should fail to recognize theirs.

        He also said, before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

        Tsz-kung asked, “What say you, sir, of the poor who do not cringe and fawn; and what of the rich who are without pride and haughtiness?” “They are passable,” the Master replied; “yet they are scarcely in the same category as the poor who are happy, and the rich who love propriety.”

        More things to think about.

  21. airless says

    An excellent article about a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately. Imagine not having the cognitive ability to get by in a competitive economy, and the stress that comes from this constant insecurity. It’s an awful way to live.

    Those who pretend a problem does not exist by denying the role of IQ are little more help than those who fully embrace the sink-or-swim / dog-eat-dog economic order.

  22. Jack B Nimble says

    Overall, an interesting but distressing article.

    The main points [see last sentence of article] are that human intelligence exists, that intelligence differences exist among people, and that intelligence differences can affect life outcomes. I’m not sure how many intelligence ‘denialists’ there are in various scientific fields, but the above three points strike me as non-controversial. Note, however, the absence of any mention in those three points of genes vs. environment, IQ testing and the like. That’s where the real controversy lies, but that is not what Wael’s article is mostly about.

    I was bothered, though, by what was left out of the article.

    First, we need to note that the massacre by Martin Bryant in Port Arthur, Tasmania [along with previous mass shootings] caused Australian govts. to adopt strict gun control laws. Link:

    Second, there is a huge literature on pollution effects [particularly lead exposure] and crime, which needs to be included in any discussion of intelligence and criminality. See, e.g., Wikipedia article ‘Lead-crime hypothesis’.

    Third, Bryant had several encounters with law enforcement and mental health practitioners before the massacre. Torturing animals especially should have been a big red flag to anyone monitoring his case:

    ‘………A psychiatrist’s report of Martin Bryant, the perpetrator of the Port Arthur Massacre, darkly noted that upon leaving high school he “[couldn’t] read or write. Does a bit of gardening and watches TV … Only his parents’ efforts prevent further deterioration. Could be schizophrenic and parents face a bleak future with him.”…….

    He could not read social cues, would cut down neighbours’ trees, tortured small animals, was disruptive throughout his schooling, and had an estimated I.Q. of 64, which is lower than that of 90 per cent of eleven-year-olds. He was placed on a disability pension….. and as such was required to undergo regular assessments; one such assessment was seemingly ignored at the time, despite the strong wording.

    “Father protects him from any occasion which might upset him as he continually threatens violence. Martin tells me he would like to go around shooting people. It would be unsafe to allow Martin out of his parents’ control.”

    ……..[After moving to a remote farm with an eccentric heiress]……Farm life seemed to be making Bryant’s behaviour more erratic — without the immediate influence of his parents, he retreated further into his own fantasy world, carrying an air rifle around at all time, shooting at tourists who stopped at a produce stall at a nearby highway, and patrolling the property in the dead of the night, firing his rifle into the dark…….’ Bold font and bracketed material added.


    The failure here is not that of the psychologists who measured Bryant’s IQ, but of those who later attempted to treat his severe mental disorders. A number of mass shooters have confided similar homicidal thoughts to psychiatrists before they started their killing sprees, usually to no effect except to be offered medication.

    Can someone in Australia shed light on mental health treatment there in the 1990s? Did Australia close most of its psychiatric hospitals in the name of ‘reform’, like the US did starting in the 1970s? That is a story worth pursuing.

    • Heike says

      US asylums were closed because the ACLU considered it cruel to warehouse people without their consent. The same as a prison sentence having committed no crime. They sued and won. As long as people could lift spoon to mouth to feed themselves, it was immoral to imprison them.

      In a weird coincidence, the homeless problem appeared right after the ACLU had the asylums shut down. Ronald Reagan, who closed the doors on the now-empty facilities, got the blame.

      • Jack B Nimble says


        That is garbled history. Deinstitutionalization in the US was jump-started in the 1950s when the FDA approved Thorazine for psychiatric use. Congress later passed [almost unanimously] The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 [CMHA]. As Wikipedia says:

        ‘….CMHA provided grants to states for the establishment of local mental health centers, under the overview of the National Institute of Mental Health. The NIH also conducted a study involving adequacy in mental health issues. The purpose of the CMHA was to build mental health centers to provide for community-based care, as an alternative to institutionalization. At the centers, patients could be treated while working and living at home.

        Only half of the proposed centers were ever built; none were fully funded, and the act didn’t provide money to operate them long-term. Some states saw an opportunity to close expensive state hospitals without spending some of the money on community-based care. Deinstitutionalization accelerated after the adoption of Medicaid in 1965. During the Reagan administration, the remaining funding for the act was converted into a mental-health block grant for states. Since the CMHA was enacted, 90 percent of beds have been cut at state hospitals…..’ , emphasis added

  23. Buddy says

    Where is the validation of that PGS score? The variance explained was 4.9% with the significant SNPs and around 11% when using below significant, over a million SNPs.

    The within family estimates are so low they don’t even mention the actual % in the main paper by the looks of it.

    Has any GWAS PGS correlation been validated as causal for IQ? As in have they been proven to cause the actual trait? How come people with low PGS still did well?

    • Cerastes says

      That’s because GWAS is crap science, done by people with too much access to computing power and gene sequences and too little patience for the hard work of actually picking apart the fundamental mechanisms linking genes to phenotypes.

      I’ve become increasingly convinced that a key difference between shoddy versus solid science is a focus on mechanism. If you know the mechanism (or have mechanistic hypotheses), you can do powerful tests and generate strong results that explain 95%+ of variability, while if you lack mechanistic understanding, you’re just on an elaborate statistical fishing expedition. That’s why you see huge replication crises in psychology (zero mechanisms for anything) and some areas of biomedical (prone to GWAS-style fishing expeditions), but not in physics or experimental physiology.

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  25. Strawberry Farmer says

    Bonnie Anderson, can you provide the link to the NYT’s opinion piece regarding redistribution of wealth being justified by the “luck” or “privilege” of innate intelligence?

      • Peter from Oz says

        Very silly article by Harden.
        ”By showing us the links between genes and educational success, this new study reminds us that everyone should share in our national prosperity, regardless of which genetic variants he or she happens to inherit.”
        That’s a non-sequitur that only a self-proclaimed ”progressive” could make.
        Another give away is the gratuitous use of ”she” as the generic pronoun. Then there is the reference to climate change. I’m sick and tired of pseudo-intellectuals mangling the argument on this issue. No-one denies that the climate changes. After all, we have all heard of the ice ages or the medieval warming period and the mini ice age of the 17th century. The real question is whether recent climate change (which is about a lot more than hotter temperatures) is a natural or man-made phenomenon.

  26. puddleg58 says

    In Flint, Michigan chronic lead toxicity due to a polluted water supply has likely had the predictable effect of lowering IQ. If we don’t see this as a problem, because IQ is some kind of political hot potato, we don’t see it as a problem that is EASY TO FIX.
    GWAS aside, there may be far more adjustable environmental influences on IQ that are as easily fixed than we know about or admit right now. Nutrition and abuse are obvious areas for intervention.

  27. Asdf says

    Provide whatever assistance that doesn’t cost society too much. Talk well of them but keep numbers of low IQ reasonable for society to afford and don’t twist everything into knots on their behalf. That’s basically the maximization of the trade off between human rights and efficiency.

    Noted above comments about simplified structures helping low IQ adapt to modern society explored in depth in The Bell Curve.

    So they are made in the image of god and deserve our sympathy and respect…so long as doing so doesn’t fuck up society for the rest of us too much. If it does, well, don’t take that image of god stuff so religiously you do something stupid.

  28. “Accepting that intelligence exists, that intelligence matters, and that the less intelligent are equal to us in moral worth and value and thus ought to be helped, constitute the first steps in addressing this increasingly urgent need to fully accommodate the cognitively underprivileged.”

    Easy for some Chinese guy living in a racially homogeneous society. Unfortunately there are group differences in mean intelligence. As soon as you start sorting by intelligence that is going to look a lot like racism to a lot of people. So you cannot even talk about it. For example, if you normalize for intelligence you will find a lot of the racial disparity in our criminal justice system goes away. But this is not just forbidden knowledge. This is double ungood crimethink. Just ask Charles Murray who 25 years ago made the exact same point in his book, i.e. the need to find a place in society for the less smart, and was crucified for it.

  29. Bryant DOES NOT appear to have the IQ you ascribe to him. Scores can be depressed by other factors, including mental illness, learning disabilities and the like. Apparently during inprisonment, he was diagnosed with Borderline Intellectual Functioning which indicates higher intellect than you give him credit for in this article. Was this peer reviewed? It seems like an argument which uses a suspect case for its premise

    • Afrosapiens 🇫🇷🇪🇺 says

      Anyone that’s decently smart will fail an IQ test on purpose if it can get them a lighter sentence. IQ tests are not blood tests, people have control over their results.

  30. Susan says

    Nobody has mentioned first cousin marriage which I understand is preferred in some Middle Eastern and African cultures (in order to preserve wealth just as it did in Jane Austen’s time). I read that this type of marriage can reduce IQ by 15 points or so in children and is now becoming more prevalent in the west due to immigration.

    • Asdf says

      Cousin marriage also makes one more clannish and corrupt. Different low IQ people have different problems. One might tend towards impulsive street crime, while another might engage in extreme nepotistic corruption but not be as impulsive.

      Clanishness can be a trait of high IQ people as well.

      There is lot more to cognitive genetics then a single IQ number.

      But yes, cousin marriage is a big part of the story behind how the M.E. fell behind.

    • Cassandra says

      1st Cousin marriage was prohibited in the UK until the 20th century.

      When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in middle class England, second cousin marriage was very poorly thought of and discouraged.

  31. Asdf says

    A fun book on IQ is Player Piano by Kurt Vonnequet. It was written in the 50s and thus deals with the problem before the era of progressive dominance made it all about race. It’s a less sci fi version of Brave New World, whose concept he readily admits he ripped off.

    Bottom line, we all know it sucks to be cognitively useless but we aren’t likely to find a solution when you get right down to it. How does one accept that reality and what does one do in response?

  32. Asdf says

    Only two things that can help the low IQ long term are having tons of economic surplus (so we can afford whatever charity you would like to give them) and genetic engineering (which is a function of resource inputs and regulatory environment). So maximizing growth and scientific discovery is your best bet.

    However, this puts the interests of currently living low IQ versus future living low IQ. Since the low IQ are generally a resource sink and can even be destabilizing to the engine of progress if they get to be too high a % of society (see the third world). So if you really want to solve the low IQ problem in a utility maximizing way over all units of time you would budget/manage your accommodations/charity to them in the short term to ensure long run results.

    Bottom line is don’t fuck up this engine of progress we have in the first world because it’s the only thing that might really fix this problem long term.

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  37. Important blind spots of this article:

    First, what an IQ of 80 corresponds to in terms of cognitive skills is not fixed. IQ is a relative measure of variance within a population. This isn’t a theoretical point. We *have*seen dramatic shifts of population skills as a whole over the 20th century (wiki Flynn effect). This is extremely important wrt the question what possibilities welfare and education have and what the job market may have on offer for low IQ individuals.

    Second, behavioural genetics aim to explain variance under a set of current circumstances. If that is explainable by generic variance, that does not exclude the possibility of dramatic change under a different set of circumstances. Imagine a study of educational attainment in western Europe 500 years ago. In an aristocratic system with a high degree of inbreeding among ruling families, there surely was substantial covariance between genes (say those coding for the Habsburg lip) and all kinds of success. That does not imply the variance in success was an unchangeable biological given, due to the Habsburg lip being casual or necessary for superior skils. It first and foremost meant there was a set of circumstances privileging a group of people with shared genectic variance over others. White supremacists take note.

    Third, nazi Germany has tried eugenics and it failed. One reason for that is that it’s easy to get wrong (one of the ‘degenerates’ they got rid of was Einstein). Another, that the biological contribution to complex traits (like IQ or schizophrenia) is massively polygenetic. Mass murder may get rid of the pie, but not the ingredients. That means the pie will bounce back in a generation or two. In order to get rid of the ingredients, you’d probably have to kill _everyone_.

    I am aware that the article did not argue for racism or eugenics. But its one-sided argument for biological determinism easily is turned into that (evidence: comments). This is why I believe these clarifications are vital. They’re also part of good science communication. IQ and heritability are terms notoriously misunderstood by the public and need to be explained properly.

    I am also aware that the flawed theoretical basis of racism and eugenics are not the only and not the most important argument against them. Human value is not an empirical or logical question, but a fundamental ethical one. Still, I do think that racism and eugenics are fundamentally flawed *apart* from being morally repugnant. And this matters. There is a narrative claiming these ideas would essentially be correct and the only thing in their way would be PC or a taboo. They’re not.

    Finally, my criticism is one of lacking qualifiers and one-sidednes, but does not mean to argue against the central point of the article as such. We need to think more about the distribution of skills in the population and how we reward and foster which ones of them — i agree. Do we want life first and foremost to be a ‘ladder’, school to be a ‘competition’? But if we break the taboo, let’s not be so naive to forget the good reasons it evolved in the first place.

    • D.B. Cooper says


      Speaking of blind spots…

      (1)We *have*seen dramatic shifts of population skills as a whole over the 20th century (wiki Flynn effect). This is extremely important wrt the question what possibilities welfare and education have and what the job market may have on offer for low IQ individuals.

      I couldn’t help but notice your decision to characterize the shift as “dramatic.” I don’t mean to suggest the term is an inaccurate descriptor, because in all honesty I’m not sure what degree of change over time would constitute a “dramatic” shift. I mention it only because it is (at least to me) the operative word in that claim, but reasonable people can disagree in good faith about the appropriate constraints of such claims. And frankly, I’m not qualified to litigate it.

      But more to the point, I find it suspiciously odd that you would submit a critique on “blind spots” and “one-sidedness” and then commit an error commensurate to the one you’re discussing… before you even make it out of the first paragraph. It seems exceedingly convenient that you would provide credible reportage on “shifts of population skills” vis-à-vis the Flynn effect, while ignoring what could conservatively be designated as a not insignificant level of countervailing evidence. I say, “could” because the ambiguity (“possibilities” left undefined) of your claim prevents me from describing the evidence as being antithetical to the “blind spot” you purport to be filling.

      The evidence in question concerns studies showing the possible end of the Flynn effect progression. What’s more, a 2018 study found evidence supporting a possible reversal of the Flynn effect in Norway. Lastly, existing research has also found “a small negative average correlation between score gains and g loading was found,” suggesting the Flynn effect and group differences (Black/White) have different causes (Is the Flynn effect on g?: A meta-analysis). Of course, I wouldn’t fault anyone for lacking a totality of knowledge on the subject, my own is certainly truncated; but when a plethora of countervailing evidence comes from the very same source that you provided (wiki Flynn effect), it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize its absence as an inadvertent error of omission.

      I appreciate the principle of charity as much as the guy, but any fair reading of this inevitably begins to strain even the most indulgent bounds of credulity. Ironically, I, too, understand that IQ and heritability are terms notoriously misunderstood by the public; but, hey, mistakes happen…

      (2)Second, behavioral genetics aim to explain variance under a set of current circumstances. If that is explainable by generic variance, that does not exclude the possibility of dramatic change under a different set of circumstances. Imagine a study of educational attainment in western Europe 500 years ago… That does not imply the variance in success was an unchangeable biological given… It meant there was a set of circumstances privileging a group of people… over others. White supremacists take note.

      For reasons that are still not clear to me, you seem to flirt with counterfactual conditionals (just substitute “Imagine” for “If”) as a means to describe something that approximates to natural selection with sprinkled reminders that environmental (selection) pressures are unique across time and space; which I thought was self-evidently true, but maybe you know people who believe in the inviolability of trait selection in which case it was a useful exercise. Nevertheless, it is true that natural selection does not operate by an absolute standard design (again, self-evident), but by comparative advantage. I apologize for beating this horse, but doesn’t the presence of human diversity presuppose the primacy of environmental circumstances (pressures) across space and time?

      I’m certainly not an evolutionary biologist, but my understanding is that secondary mechanisms such as genetic drift and gene flow are insufficient for creating the levels of diversity we find in contemporary society. If I’m wrong, I’d be happy to learn something, but the point I’m making is that you more or less – but, really, more – straw-maned a haze of undifferentiated white supremacy, by knocking down unsourced claims of an “unchangeable biological given.”

      I understand that white supremacy is as ubiquitous as the air you breath and that nothing, absolutely nothing, is more American than attributing the most endemic, the most intransigent, the most… bullshit problems facing mankind to white men; but you should have enough sense to realize that you’re creating the very thing you fear. Bad faith arguments – such as the ones you’re making – will almost certainly manifest a proportional response (see Donald Trump) while producing results that are antithetical to your original aim.

      (3)Third, nazi Germany has tried eugenics and it failed. One reason for that is that it’s easy to get wrong (one of the ‘degenerates’ they got rid of was Einstein). Another, that the biological contribution to complex traits (like IQ or schizophrenia) is massively polygenetic.

      Your argument here is little more than we simply lack the bio-medical technology, but when our technology becomes sophisticated enough to produce best practice standards; then at that point a federally standardized eugenics would be as morally permissible as aborting a Down syndrome fetus – b/c of their Downs – is today. But, wait… isn’t aborting Down syndrome babies the textbook definition of eugenics? I hope you’re as disgusted with Plan Parenthood as you are with Nazi Germany.

  38. Laura says

    Thanks Wael for a fascinating article. The people I know with low IQ have not benefited from being told they are the same as others, that they can achieve the same as other members of society. These messages have, instead, set them up for failure and compounded already existing resentments. I fear, though, that we will never have a frank discussion about IQ (in the West at least). It’s too taboo (I’ve taught in many universities and it’s never mentioned as a possible reason for inequalities between people – lecturers just shy away from it). I’d be curious to know how we can initiate a frank discussion about this in environments where free speech is effectively curtailed.

  39. I believe there is a caveat to those linear graphs. There are about 5% of people in the group with the highest IQ – hence we are able to observe how the risk gradually drops. However, you can look into research on gifted individuals – say, top 2%, or perhaps top 0.1%, to see that for them the risk of developing those diseases is much greater than for the person in the “average” group.

  40. dirk says

    About 1 out of 3 or 4 persons above 75 will have Alzheimer. I wonder, are they ever measured for IQ by a docter? What will be that IQ? I fear below 60, or much below, depending on severity. So, we speak about millions, and almost in every family, especially in your beloved parents. They are not as dangerous as the person described above, but can be quite agressive and naughty, and need special care, medical service, thus a lot of money. I just see it as part of nature, and I won’t love or respect somebody less because of this Alzheimer. Where we have some especially bright and productive persons, we must do with some at the bottom. Same as in my garden, some seedlings grow up into a tree, others stay small and inconspicuous.

  41. Roy Coleman says

    Ok Ben let me be clear: The populations known to exhibit highest frequencies of the most basal SNPs are today comparatively the most cognitively challenged. If you have any evidence to the contrary it would be good to hear of. A Melanesian scientist from a tribe of cannibals perhaps? An ‘aboriginal’ Terence Tao? Anything..

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  43. There are many high IQ criminals.. most do white collar crime, but the heads of criminal organizations must be intelligent, if they are to be successful. Jeffery Dahmer was an intelligent person, as are many psychopaths. A low IQ doesn’t mean a person is unhappy. Depression cuts across all smart lines. In fact, a low IQ person may be more happy than his high IQ counterpart, with less to think and worry about… a person who is not good at reading and writing may be very good at truck driving, North America’s top employment area, and that person may very much enjoy the work. When I was 17, I was failing at all my subjects. My French teacher told me I had a “high IQ” and wasn’t working at my potential. I just wasn’t interested. Motivation and attitude have a huge effect on success. Two of my friends ended up at opposite ends of the economic success scale, despite being equally intelligent. One became a professor of accounting, the other lives in his van and does itinerant orchard work. Substance abuse and attitude were major factors here.

    • dirk says

      That’s also my experience Jack, the most intelligent of my friends (A’s for theoretical physics, best chess player) were too stupid to have even the simplest job and lived from a grant. Most work , even of academics,is just simply moving things around, cleaning up, writing up what’s happening and what the costs are, but you need perseverance for it, and certainly not a high IQ. I can’t undrstand the obsession for IQ in Quillette, what hell can be behind that? It reminds me of the philosophy of the eugenics movement beginning 20th century , that abruptly came to a halt after WWII. I find it below standards.

    • Have you ever visited a prison? Apparently not.

      There are a few high IQ criminals. They are there for prescribing opiods, illegal use of internet, political corruption, occasionally for paperwork crimes like improper financial disclosures, and sometimes for having a 17 year old girlfriend.

      The vast majority of people in a prison, including the prison staff, are dumb as dirt.

      • Read KDM’s comment on the IQ’s of serial killers…. Stalin, Tojo, Mengele, etc. they were all smart people and they were evil and very conscious of what they were doing. I worked in a Forensic Psychiatric Hospital for the criminally insane for many years, and there were many very intelligent people there. I also visited prisons as part of the work, and disagree with Joe’s analysis above. Some people are dumb like foxes. Some of the smartest people I ever knew seemed pretty stupid at first, “they smile in your face, all the time they’re trying to take your place, the back stabbers,” etc.

    • Adrian Smits says

      Talking about exceptions to the rule does not add much to the points that the author was trying to make. In fact some people might accuse you of being disingenuous.

      • There is no rule, except that which was proposed by the author of the article. I am saying that motivation and attitude often have as much to do with success and happiness, esp. as IQ.

  44. Kim Proctor says

    Are there differences based on biological sex? Do lower IQ women have better outcomes than men? If so, is there something we can learn from their behavior or abilities that might help inform policy in this area?

    I noticed that all the anecdotal stories were about men, so I was curious if there were any sex-based differences here.

    • dirk says

      Cathy Newman’s question (or was it assault?) in the interview with Jordan Peterson.
      Cathy- You said women are less intelligent than men!-
      Jordan- I never said that-

    • Caligula says

      The evidence I’ve seen indicates that mean IQ is virtually identical for men and women; however, there is some evidence that the variance is greater for men. If so, one would then expect to find a disproportionate number of men at both the low-IQ and high-IQ ends of the distribution.

      • dirk says

        And that’s exactly what Peterson explained in the interview with Cathy N. It means, very little chance on a female Einstein in the future, neither a Fields medal for Mathematics, or world chess championship for women. Sad (?), but the truth! But, I wonder, whether any normal woman would find this problematic, I think, they have other priorities! Only fierce feminists will deny it and get angry and furious about it. However, no need to take them serious.

    • Asdf says

      Same mean IQ, but lower variance. So you end up with fewer geniuses and fewer retards amongst women. Also some differences in the kind of intelligence.

      • Kim Proctor says

        I understand that there is more variance, but that still means that there are plenty of women at the bottom of the distribution, just not as many as men. So, how are they faring? Are their outcomes as bad as men’s? If not, why? It’s more of a question about what personality/lifestyle factors might insulate women against the negative effects of low IQ relative to men. There might be absolutely nothing we can do about low IQ, which means its a meaningless question. Or, there might not be any meaningful differences between the sexes. Conversely, it might illuminate some options that help us design better policies aimed at improving the outcomes of low IQ people.

    • markbul says

      ‘Biological sex’ is reduntant. Sex is, by definition, biological.

    • Adrian Smits says

      The bell curve for men is way flatter than for women so you will end up with way more mentally disadvantaged men than women.

  45. Anthony Sinclair says

    Multiple studies have also found a correlation between lower IQs and political conservatism, racism, and prejudice against homosexuals.

    Seeing as Quillette is one of the few remaining bastions of level-headed intellectual honesty and logical consistency, we can rest assured that Quillette will give these findings the same level of attention and rigor in their forthcoming article about how right-wingers are dumb.

    • That statement is not supported by the fact that 80%+ of prisoners are Democrats or their constituency.

    • X. Citoyen says

      There isn’t much to discuss, at least not in the ones I’ve read. Aside from statistical problems, the items are statements intended to capture good and bad attitudes, with bad attitudes being labeled “conservative.” Others, easily found in a Google search, have pointed out these problems.

      I’d add two more problems. Attitudes are not behaviours, and the attitudes expressed are affected by social desirability bias. Educated/high IQ people know what the “right” attitudes are. But how do they behave in real life? Not that I put much weight on it, but other studies don’t show “liberals” to be as liberal as they like to think they are (see, e.g., Haidt’s work).

      The second problem is that the studies don’t take into account the truth of the items, so nothing can be inferred about the “intelligence” of liberalism–that would amount to the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Of course, this hasn’t stopped those oh-so-intelligent liberal commentators from committing it.

    • Adrian Smits says

      If this statement is correct why do 90+ percent of blacks vote Democrat even though their average IQ is 15 points below the mean?

  46. With regard to Trump, I examine military recruits and bone spurs are still disqualifying. If you are going to choose to include this slam at the president, it would be nice to include some evidence. I was not examining recruits in the 1970s but I suspect the physicians of the time were as diligent at finding shirkers as we are at finding those hiding disqualifying conditions to get in.

    • Richard Fincher says

      Yes, why bring partisan politics into this article? Trump had college deferments, like millions, but had a high draft number and wouldn’t have been drafted anyway. He turned 18 in 1964, before the US sent combat units to Vietnam. He was only temporarily medically disqualified, while he was already exempted with college deferments. Several years later he was permanently disqualified because the condition didn’t improve, again like millions of others. You discredit your academic integrity by failing to get your facts correct.

  47. Steve says

    Martin Bryant didn’t do it. An expert marksman did, who probably had special forces training. Bryant was the patsy. Australian gun confiscation was the goal of the operation. Mission accomplished. They are still using the same tactics in the U.S. today, so far unsuccessfully.

  48. AhaHoo says

    The comments on this article also highlight the perils of not ignoring cognitive inequality, especially when a lot of the people who figure themselves the Chosen Ones don’t exactly hold the same stance towards the Benighted Ones as the author does. Lol.

  49. Great piece, one I’ve tried writing before but never quite figured out how to. This paragraph in particular hit me:

    “While generous welfare systems in Western countries do provide benefits to those most disadvantaged by the cognitive lottery, a much larger proportion do not qualify for any assistance at all. Instead, those with IQs below 84 are often forced to work arduous manual labor jobs, since they are unlikely to possess the array of qualifications required for non-manual work. These occupations make them the most marginalized in our complex capitalist society—and even those employment opportunities are shrinking under the unrelenting pressure for lower costs and greater efficiency.”

    Even left proposals like a job guarantee ultimately doom many people to jobs they may not enjoy. Radical prospects for freedom need to be rediscovered, lest we continue to live in a society, as Plato once described, where some have souls of lead and other gold. We should cringe at the notion, and the relationship between IQ and wellbeing must be supplemented by other factors in public and civic life.

  50. Pingback: The Dangers of Ignoring Cognitive Inequality | Unhinged Group

  51. donald j tingle says

    Self-contradiction seems to be the strong point of Quillette pieces. Is a group of people more likely to be anti-social of equal moral worth with a group that is not? Are the anti-social individual members of that group of equal moral worth with law abiding productive compassionate well, moral, people?

    And if you think they ought to be helped, by all means use every last bit of your own resources to help them. I’ll decide whom I wish to help, thanks.

    Or maybe it’s just that cognitive inequality hits this author closer to home than he thinks.

    Or is this some sort of esoteric propaganda for eugenics?

  52. PaulNu says

    Smart people with mental disorders are better at compensating for them or hiding them. As such they are less likely to be diagnosed.

  53. David Taylor says

    “Wael Taji is the penname of a predoctoral student and intelligence researcher…”

    “Predoctoral”? Could my 4 month-old niece be described as “predoctoral”?

  54. Pingback: The Dangers of Ignoring Cognitive Inequality | Sassy Wire

  55. Henrik Møller says

    “…it would be abhorrent—obscene, even—to suggest that people with a low IQ should be treated with suspicion, or as murderers-in-waiting.”

    But, to many, it’s neither abhorrent nor obscene to suggest that people who own guns “be treated with suspicion, or as murderers-in-waiting.”

  56. Henrik Møller says

    “A 2016 study by four psychologists using data from the Danish Conscription Database (containing 728,160 men) revealed low IQ to be a risk factor for almost all causes of death.”

    It’s called “evolution in action” and it’s pretty much a Good Thing.

  57. Henrik Møller says

    “…the role of cognitive ability is de-emphasized in childhood success…”

    Doing otherwise gets yo accused of “racism.”

  58. Henrik Møller says

    “…increasingly urgent need to fully accommodate the cognitively underprivileged.”

    I can only conclude that “Wael Taji” is common-sense-underprivileged.

  59. The great lie of the US educational system is that many people blame differences on outcome on money. They pretend that innate cognitive ability differences do not exist.

    The fact is that IQ is strongly inheritable. People with higher IQ are more likely to be financially successful and therefore more likely to live in an upscale neighborhood with “great schools” of high funding, while those with low IQ are more likely to be underclass and live in an impoverished neighborhood with “bad schools” of low funding. No amount of school funding is going to prepare a 75 IQ to be a rocket scientist and no amount of funding is going to take a school with a lower IQ distribution curve perform like a school with a higher IQ distribution curve. The best we could do is to pluck the high IQ kids out of the bad school and send them to the good school. There is resistance to do that because it lowers the performance of the bad school.

    Increasing income inequality is a favorite rallying cry on the left. It is not due to racism, flaws in capitalism, insufficient funding for welfare, or disparities in educational funding.

    It is consequence of the increasing trends in assortative mating, marriage pattern differences between the educated and uneducated, and the increasing value of the high skills of the highly intelligent. All of which point back to innate intelligence level.

    It is immoral to tell the low performing that they can live like those in the 120’s and 130’s. It sets expectations that cannot be met.

    As a society, we should address this in one of two ways. First, is to stop lying to low IQ individuals. They need to be told and learn to accept their position. This will reduce the amount of their frustration. Second, McNamara was on to something. We should strive to reduce the number of low IQ individuals in society. Creating a war for them to get killed in isn’t desirable. But by utilizing probability distributions, we could reduce the percent of low IQ individuals by preventing low IQ individuals from reproducing. Paying them to be sterilized is a deal that many of them would take and would ultimately be in their best interests and the best interests of society.

  60. AhaHoo says

    The basic Quillette format is this: (supposedly) much more moderate author writes a decent piece that appears, well, moderate in its conclusions -> the actual Quillette far-right (whether on the fascist or right-libertarian side of the spectrum) commenting crowd come together and put the lie to that, often accusing the author of being too “liberal/stupid/leftist/moderate”.

    It’s good stuff, I hope the comments keep rolling in because a few people still mistake this publication for attracting decent, moderate people and not mostly fascists who fantasize about exterminating the out-group in some way under every single article.

    • OleK says

      “the actual Quillette far-right”

      This doesn’t exist.

  61. Caligula says

    It’s been said that low-IQ individuals do some low-skill tasks better than those with a higher IQ, but there’s little evidence to back that up and more than a little evidence that those with higher IQs tend to do better and faster work even at simple tasks.

    A basic problem in securing employment for low-IQ individuals becomes the reality that the economic value of the work they may do may be less than the legally-mandated minimum wage. Especially if additional training time is required, along with additional supervision to ensure that the work is consistently being done correctly.

    One solution to this would be extending programs like Earned Income Tax Credit to subsidize wages, so the employer can pay what the work is actually worth yet the employee can take home enough to live on. Of course, all such programs are susceptible to fraud, and protecting against misuse thus becomes an additional cost of the program.

  62. Loran Tritter says

    The problem of how to deal with low IQ (and mentally ill) persons is older than civilization. Not much luck sealing with it, so far. Science is only nibbling away at determining the root causes.

    Personally, I don’t see much point in getting the government involved in a family matter. Wards of the state are another issue. And, helping to support families with low IQ or mentally ill members is a decent thing to do.

    The article makes a good case for recognizing the obvious. Maybe that is a step in the right direction.

  63. Peter says

    I had solid hardwood floor installed and sealed by a craftsman. He employed a man aged about 40, who obviously did not go to a standard school. There was a problem when I wanted a change to what they started to do, and this man got very upset, but the boss kindly calmed him. Ten years later I can still say they did an excellent job. For me, it was very nice that this person got an opportunity to be productive.

    A student working in an institution for “special needs” population told me that some of these people can catch a bird with their bare hands! Try doing that yourself. I also heard that patients in a similar institution in Israel train dogs and are very good at it.

    The same student told me that the staff sometimes deliberately incites quarrels among patients, then punish them by denying them the dessert, so they can eat it themselves.

  64. markbul says

    This is, indeed, a very important subject. But it can’t be discussed – at least in the United States – because of race. Charles Murray wrote a book on the topic that restricted itself to white Americans, and came to the natural and painful conclusions. But in spite of the fact that he posed the problem entirely race-less, he’s still called a bigot.

    Please note that this is not a taboo topic when it comes to race (and therefore always) because it is ‘controversial’ or simply false. It is taboo because those who want it suppressed are scared to death that it is correct. And if African Americans really are a standard deviation below whites in intelligence, then the entire worldview of the American Left is shattered.

  65. Gogo says

    What purpose did it serve to mention the President’s deferment? How did it advance your argument about the correlation between IQ and anti-social behavior? Or was it simply an opportunity to signal your personal politics? It was difficult to take what followed that petty swipe seriously after you revealed your tendency for tendentiousness; did a similar bias color your thesis on the issue that ostensibly motivated you to write the article? Researchers should do their best to avoid all forms of bias, as any expression of it (particularly publically, even if it voices a popular opinion among academics) calls into question their ability to remain professionally emperical.

    Your next article should investigate Trump Derangment Syndrome.

  66. tvtaerum says

    There are many consequences for denying the range of cognitive abilities… in particular, it makes it impossible to improve cognitive abilities if you deny there are differences in cognitive abilities. While working at a college, I recall a conversation with a lady in her late 20s doing data entry who, out of the blue, stated she could have been a scientist if she wasn’t female. As fortune would have it, I was stunned into silence by the comment. But it got me to thinking, that with the right opportunities, cognitive abilities and motivation, she could do great things. She had apparent cognitive challenges but it got me to wondering, what kind of training could she do which would make it possible for her to be a scientist. And that is one of the challenges we face when we ignore cognitive abilities – it limits our ability to do something about our cognitive abilities.

  67. In fact:

    We are all born equal *under the law*.

    We are all born equal *in the eyes of “god”.

    We are all travelers along the way to the grave.

    We are all equal!

    Some are more clever, some more pretty, some stronger, some more generally lucky, some more of all things (if you will)… But we are all equal fundamentally and should be treated with basic dignity and all of us would benefit from the humility of internalizing this…

    Why is the above true; because I say it is and no one is “more equal” then I to dispute it.

    (repeated above in reply to another comment)

  68. It is no accident that this article was written in China by Chinese.

    Although our cognescenti know the truth, the rest in the West will suckle at the teat of Blank Slate fairly tales for at least another generation while condemning those who decide to even bring up the subject in respectable conversation.

    • dirk says

      yes, in China, where Big Brother is no longer a novel phantasy, and the value of the common good (= the aggregated total) is higher than that of the individual. A very big difference with the West.

  69. This article is skillfully constructed, including Bryant as a hook for Australian readers and Macnamara and Vietnam to blame American capitalist running dogs.
    The important point is not the IQ measured, but the quality it is proxy for: success and status competition as humans.
    The tail really are disadvantaged, really do suffer as pointed out. But the ‘automation’ argument about jobs disappearing is not very realistic; it is labour value for money and the fact that low-capability workers need more supervision so are very costly in management time. When you add the effects of minimum wage and Award wages, jobs just vanish.

  70. D.B. Cooper says

    Accepting that intelligence exists, that intelligence matters, and that the less intelligent are equal to us in moral worth and value and thus ought to be helped, constitute the first steps in addressing this increasingly urgent need to fully accommodate the cognitively underprivileged.
    Wael’s claim – that human worth is not predicated on or proportional to one’s cognitive prowess – is not, I think, sufficiently qualified in any meaningful sense from the contemporary moral landscape. The conspicuous ethical symmetry of this particular predicate of value
    Skillful prudence

    Of Wael, himself, or what can be gleaned from his prose, I suspect he is duly situated on the right tail of the curve; which is why it’s difficult to describe the sentiment that Wael’s distributive counterbalance ought to be helped as controversial. It is unlikely that a man of Wael’s intellectual reach would violate the is-ought distinction (naturalistic fallacy) so haphazardly. A parsimonious read may view this blunder as an ambiguous rapprochement of complementary truth values and normative statements of undifferentiated potential. The sympathetic reader may regard Wael’s claim as appreciably little more than a mere inadvertence of empathetic discourse, a slight unforced error along what is or may otherwise be a concomitant continuum of specific and distinct principles pursuant to a particular context of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’; but, more precisely… what should be right and what should be wrong.

    And, yet, having said that, it is simply the case that granting the most charitable and auspiciously sympathetic explanation possible has a purported utility that is statistically unrelated to reality so much so that Bernie Madoff would decry it as a fraudulent ‘bait-and-switch’. But in the interest of brevity, let’s unburned ourselves with the repressive constraints of neutral language. What I am plainly trying to imply is that even a cursory glance of Wael’s argument suggests a degree of skillful prudence on the author’s part. And insofar as that’s true, the likelihood that Wael isn’t manifesting and attempting to promulgate his own version of moral relativism is currently a running as a 2:1 dog to the existence of gelded pink unicorns and sub-Sahara leprechauns.

    It is true that Wael has neither proposed nor intimated strong claims in either case, but it is nevertheless also true that statements of what ought to be done are arrogated from alternate channels of communication; which purport a solution (fully accommodate the cognitively underprivileged) through some unbounded systematic efficacy criterion (treating it like any other public health problem) based on inferential claims (ought to be helped… presumably by coercion or force if necessary) that do not necessarily follow from the premises (Intelligence is real, important, and stubborn ).

    Wael’s ability to recognize the paternalistic nature of obligating one intelligence cohort to another ostensibly less privileged intelligence cohort has quite obviously been maroon somewhere along the neural path of his philosophical treatise on applied sophistry. But sophistry is not philosophy and requiring an exigent and morally compulsory obligation onto a group of people who are no more accountable for their own cognitive lottery ticket than are the ones you wish to obligate them to is grievously indecent, bordering on bad faith. The degree of culpability is equally yoked. Neither group can be responsible for the intellectual bandwidth of themselves or their counterparts. If true, and it is, how does it follow that one group (A) would acquire another group’s (B) responsibility when the other group (B) never had responsibility to begin with. And I swear to God, if anyone responds with that dumbass Spiderman quote about “great power… great responsibility” I will troll you until Quillette bands me for life.

    And I’m just throwing this out there for your consideration. Does it at all seem self-defeating that your solution “coerced accommodations” would essentially arrest the dignity and self-worth of the people who you don’t think can take care of themselves. Instead of concerning yourself with how others weigh the moral worth and value of less intelligent people, maybe you should stop to consider the psychological effects of a lifelong vocation in social dependency. I’ve yet to meet a disinterested party who looked kindly on

    Also, does this Cognitive Guilt seem at all any less pernicious than the less recent phenomena of White Guilt? Actually, does it seem any different at all? A more insightful person than I might even suggests there’s a suspicious degree of similarity between the Cognitive Guilt offenders and the White Guilt offenders. Shockingly, the transitive property seems to also apply to the phenotypic characteristics of the victim groups. Rebranding???

    Anyway, even if sold under the pretenses of a self-interest volition (which I do not deny is self-evidently true to some degree of consequence) the solution cannot be to extricate the biological imperatives of one group, while confounding the moral imperatives of another under the guise of deftly parried ideals. Suggesting that the maximization of social utility can be found in “fully accommodat[ing] the cognitively underprivileged,” is like saying health will save the sick. This isn’t even sophistry. It’s just horseshit.

    I won’t go so far as to claim this is an intractable problem, but it’s likely there is an irreducible complexity to some of these questions. My guess is that any morally palatable solution that can be had – save genetic mods such as CRISPR and in-vitro genetic screening – will almost assuredly be found via indirect/passive pressures that have the ability to prosecute recursive socio-economic processes that can “adjust” the generational trends of preferred and/or maladaptive populations, accordingly. If this sounds like eugenics, it is. If dysgenics goes down better, fine. Both are widely practice across America as well as much of the world today, so please save me the pearl-clutching simply b/c I suggested we should “adjust” the socio-economic knobs to prevent people from breeding as incontinently as they like. Only the idiots and fundamentalists are breeding, everyone knows this.

    Just to give one example, Richard Dawkins once tweeted, “It would be immoral to bring it [fetus with Down Syndrome] into the world if you have the choice.” His solution, “Abort it and try again.” Despite being an emotional cripple that obviously trends toward the autistic end of the spectrum, what Richard lacks in social grace, he more than makes up for in blunt pragmatism.

    And, here, lies our real dilemma. The problem is, most people are idiots. If you doubt this, you need to get out more. Forgive me for explicating the obvious, but half of society is below average, by definition. A tautology, I know, but nonetheless true. Given the mob’s (society) diffuse latent frontal lobe development, a significant segment of society is primed to believe what they feel is true, not what is objectively true. For those in the lower SES quintile, the Left’s socialistic tendencies masquerading as enlightened self-interests looks more like pay dirt than the right’s hyper Lockean independence. If your relentless individualism is earning you $10, it’s not hard to divorce yourself from it, especially when certain people (see Wael Taji) are floating ideas that will undoubtedly increase the system of aggregate dependency. It’s almost like Wael is a Trojan horse.

    • X. Citoyen says

      White guilt is predicated on the collective culpability of the race in all the world’s past and present problems. The author does not imply that the intelligent caused the unintelligent, so there’s no collective cognitive guilt. The moral analogy here is the responsibility of the rich for the poor. Like Cain, no one wants to be his brother’s keeper. I don’t blame anyone for taking this position—it’s understandable.

      But your proposal is no solution. IQ can’t be genetically manipulated now, so you can hardly fault people for not embracing a hypothetical panacea. Of course, even if it were possible to increase IQ, almost nothing changes. The bell curve will simply move up from its current position—120 will become the new 100, and 100 the new 80.

      On top of this, IQ is only part of a bigger picture. What about character, personality, and interests, for example? Men and women have roughly the same IQ distribution, but men commit the vast majority of crimes. The difference is personality. If one accepts the general theory of crime, the most important personality factor is low self-control, not low IQ. Wouldn’t we be better off engineering more self-control? And what about mental illnesses and disorders the author himself mentions?

      I could go on, but the conclusion should be obvious. We don’t know how to make people smarter, and even if we did, we don’t know that it would make them better people or any better off.

    • So sorry, D.B. Cooper, I didn’t follow that. If you want to communicate with the wider world, you’ll need to get off your high horse and speak English.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        This is phenomenal. Easily one of the best reply’s I’ve ever gotten. I appreciate your candor, I really do. A lack of brutal honesty is making West softer by the day. I’m just guessing here, but I bet there’s a strong inverse relationship between the decline of honest opinion and the rise of participation trophies.

  71. An interesting alternative article would be the problems faced by the 10% on the other end of the IQ scale, who suffer from a host of unique, statistically significant problems themselves, namely emotional, social, and mental health issues. Talk about a group that gets no sympathy!

  72. AhaHoo says

    OleK wrote: “This doesn’t exist.”

    Hahaha. Under every single “moderate” article, a good amount of commenters flock in to remind us that it does. I realize fantasies that range from making various out-groups “know their place” (the insinuation every time is that the author of the comment is part of the Chosen Ones, in this case the high IQ group, something everyone likes to think of course!) to actually contemplating how to extinguish various out-groups might seem moderate to the “classical liberals” that flock here but to the rest of us, they don’t.

    I’m actually glad the more moderate comments attract this kind of comments since you can easily show people what they’re in for if they buy too much into this emerging techno-fascism. 🙂

  73. Sorry if this is being repeated, I didn’t read through all the posts. I agree that we need to have this discussion on a society level. But I don’t think high IQ’s confer all the benefits that are often touted.

    Serial murders with high IQ’s:

    Nathan Leopold IQ 210
    Richard Lobe IQ 169
    ​Ted Kaczynski, IQ 167
    Charlene Williams, IQ 160
    Kristen Gilbert, IQ 152
    Andrew Cunanan, IQ 147
    Jeffrey Dahmer, IQ 145
    Dr Harold Shipman, IQ 140
    Rodney Alcala, IQ 135
    Edmund Kempner, IQ 136

    Sure, there are a lot of sub-IQ people that go on murdering sprees, but let’s not act like the cognitive elite is all roses.
    I tend to agree with the idea that the average, above average people are the ones who contribute huge to society in the forms of business men, social clubs, community leaders, et. al.
    Just something to think through.

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  75. Adam says

    Great article, adressing an important subject.

    Clearly, the effort required to find your place in life and society coupled with the effort to get through school is far to challenging when dropping below a certain IQ score. I agree with the beautiful comment from the special-eds-teacher that more emphasis should be placed on learning key social and societal skills than to get through the standard curriculum, or rather the help to apply the knowledge we learn in school in real world circumstances (“If John has four apples and Ava eats three, how many does John now have?” could of course constitute a real-world circumstance, but I’m talking more about those you will encounter in societal life) and stressing “getting your grades” in those areas of applied knowledge instead.

  76. Bruno says

    Interesting, but you miss very important detail about Bryant life. While employed as a gardner by a very rich and excentric Tasmanian heiress, she fall in love with him and married him. So is beauty was quite an asset. But then, she did (she was 29 yo older) and his father died. He felt very lonely – despite being very wealthy – and he travelled a lot, but hated it, because he found people weren’t interested in him elsewhere more than in Tasmania.

    But he wrote that he love the flight because he could have very interesting conversations with passengers (who had to be polite). He was extremely proud of some of what he considers as his most sucessful conversations, he was willing to talk about to anyone approaching him.

    So yes, his beauty made him escape poverty and know something else, but he was trapped by his IQ. And maybe it’s more the contradiction linked to both experiences – extremelly high on beauty and very low on IQ, than his IQ alone that provoked the incident aimed at gaining attention …

    • dirk says

      It’s always nice to read alternative and insightful aspects of a case in Quillette, such as this one of Bruno.

  77. Cassandra says

    Hi dirk,
    I think you may being a bit sardonic in your response?
    I thought the OP was pretty interesting and gave rather a good insight onto this case.

    Ps how good is your Italian?

    • dirk says

      Did I need Italian to read Bruno’s comment? I was not sardonic, and thought the psychogical aspects (beauty, low IQ, much older lover, gardener, traveling, father dead) quite interesting, and probably highly influencing indeed.

  78. ERTZ says

    ” the less intelligent are equal to us in moral worth and value and thus ought to be helped”

    Sentimentally confused nonsense.
    The less intelligent deserve extermination, and that is what they will receive no matter what others or they themselves want.

    Low IQ is nothing special in that it is not different from physical malformations;
    if one is born with a faulty heart or kidney disease one will suffer and die, and get exterminated just as well as by being born retarded.

    Let me suggest that those with high IQ may look less criminal due to them being able to better predict the chances of a successful crime as well as planning more elaborate criminal schemes that are more likely to succeed and therefore less likely to detect.

    A typical Negro may rob a liquor store and risk his life or a long prison sentence for the petty sum of money in the cash register; this type of crime is most obvious, always detected – a bad idea in the first place. White collar crime, embezzlement, financial fraud is much more complex, and if competently executed also less likely to get detected, therefore registered as existent. Additionally,
    even in the case of detection, typical imprisonment times are much shorter.

    Human nature is the same for everybody, therefore the desire to cheat, steal, rape and murder is universal.
    Obviously only those criminals who are incompetent are ever detected, at least at much higher rates.
    To suggest that high-IQ people are not criminal just for their higher IQ seems naive to me.

    The inferior get killed. In one way or another. This is inescapable. This is life itself.
    All life must master natural and sexual selection.
    This means that the inferior are exterminated by the superior.
    The meaning of human life, in practical terms, is to kill off other humans, the inferior ones,
    by sexual and natural selection. This is the brutal reality. Inescapable.
    This is the reason we are here, have somewhat well working bodies and minds. All those in the past who were inferior were exterminated, thus being the reason we are what we are today.
    If you “help” the inferior, the retards and cripples, you end up with more and more extremely inferior ones in the next generation.
    So take care and really think what you are actually doing with socialist and sentimental doctrines for humanity: You breed more retards, produce more cripples, grow more human misery.
    You’ll end up with the opposite of what you claim to want to achieve.
    Love is a killing mechanism to exterminate inferior life – because the inferior life is not loved.

    YOU who reads this are a Social Darwinist, an Eugenicist, bent at exterminating the inferior.
    Are you surprised by this accusation? Let me prove it to you:
    Are you willing to reproduce with a biologically inferior human, that is, if you are a female, bear and nurture his child, if you are male, impregnate an inferior female and then invest all your resources in that child, all your life time and money and energy as a father? Of course not – you abhor the idea to reproduce with a low-IQ, ugly, diseased, weak human – you want at least a human on your level, ideally a superior one. Therefore, you exterminate the inferior, you are an Eugenicist.
    The end result is the same for the inferior, if killed quickly in death camps or slowly by refusing to mate with him/her – the misery for the inferior, however, is short if they were killed in death camps,
    while their suffering is very long – a life time – if superiors are “merciful” to them.

    “Intelligence denialism”
    Not only IQ, but also race and IQ is a taboo.
    For a simple reason: IQ is the real basis of power.
    The upper class holds power by not much else than their superiority in IQ and conscientiousness.
    This is also the reason Whites ruled and rule the world.
    Low-IQ races and individuals are more animal-like; many Negroes and other very low-IQ people are at best like pets to the superior humans; eternally locked in an inferior state.

    Because IQ and conscientiousness are heritable, as is health and beauty, and given free sexual selection, we can expect that superior genes for high IQ, conscientiousness, health and beauty will over time wander up the social classes towards the upper class, while bad genes trickle down, getting enriched in the lower classes; over time, a new species may emerge, Homo Superior from the upper class, and a Homo Inferior from the lower class.

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  80. chelseavanvalkenberg says

    Demographic Effects on National High IQ
    The consequences of shifting the bell curve even slightly results in disproportionate effects at the extremes, and these extremes are what drives society forward, and backwards. What are the effects of narrowing your pool of top performers to draw on for your doctors, engineers and scientists, never mind the managerial class. Millions fewer, when even western countries must import to meet the needs of we have now. It shouldn’t be a surprise why certain countries are mired in poverty when they have so many fewer, and even then, we poach from them what few they have.

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  82. I don’t think society is being rigged by those with high IQ for their own sake. It’s being rigged by sociopaths and similar for their own benefit. Now some of the more successful sociopaths may also have high IQ, but most of those doing the rigging aren’t particularly bright IMO because they are such very short term thinkers. They are intentionally destroying the fabric of western society right now for their own short term benefit and to achieve something they think is utopia but will be miserable for almost everyone while being highly unstable and disaster prone due to its gross centralization.

    First they interfere thinking they know what they are doing then that causes problems so they treat those symptoms, then two more problems show up, so more interventions, then four more problems, and so on. It becomes increasingly unstable, complex, and difficult to manage.

    Maybe the rigging is being done by those who are ‘smart’ but not smart enough to realize what they don’t know. Because those who understand they can’t know everything, that there is much they don’t know, wouldn’t create such a rigged system because it only leads to disaster when those unknowns manifest themselves.

  83. Urano says

    obviously, the main problem here is that IQ being a distribution even if we find a solution for the lower end of the curve the point will be simply translated upward.
    as absurd e.g., if we “kill all the stupid” (as the glorious Mitchell and Webb “kill the poor” joke…) below IQ100 we’ll be left with a “new IQ100” placed around the present IQ120, with those who are nowadays IQ100 being the new disadvantaged at the lower end…
    so, unfortunately, the reality of having an uneven distribution can’t be put aside but won’t ever be completely solved as well.
    we have to accept that living in a community will not ever be fair for someone and the only thing that we can make sure is that “unfairness” doesn’t rise over a “certain level” and treat it as any other “luck” outcome.

  84. VivisectionRightsActivist says

    The Swedish study could be flawed. It labeled people geniuses and retards and then followed-up twenty years later. But the soldiers were sorted into different paths immediately upon being labeled, so the “halo” effect of being labeled a genius was not controlled for in the study.

    Likewise, the problem with the 100,000 stupid recruits had some errors. First, the examples weren’t representative of anything except elitist pornography. Also, the way the army trained the men was to, essentially, put them through the regular recruit program twice instead of putting them through a stupid guy program once.

    The mortality rate that was 28% higher than the regular troops is regrettable, but not unexpected — smarter soldiers can avoid death more capably. It’s not conclusive proof that the men were intentional cannon fodder. The real crime was probably with a society that lowered standards for volunteers instead of expanding conscription to fill the ranks.

  85. Aaron says

    McNamaras approach was described as morally reprehensible. Surely in this age it should be described as “inclusive”. Why should the intelligent have solely borne the burden of going to war?

  86. Autonomous vacuum cleaners are threating the future of 1.000s of workers.
    Geez, this is maybe true, but it’s kind of hilarious. LOL

  87. Pingback: Classical Values » Dealing With Science – IQ and Noblesse Oblige

  88. Pingback: Why Cognitive Inequality Matters –

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  90. There are many tasks that need doing that cognitively challenged people can effectively perform but they are prevented from being employed with these tasks by minimum wage laws. Thus they are banned from these activities that under more human laws would give then cause for genuinely earned self-esteem. Many of these jobs would not pay enough to enable the worker to be 100% self-supporting but some portion of self-support is better than none.

  91. CDelastella says

    There are religious communities like L’Arche who care for these people.These should be supported. Asking corporations to create needless jobs isn’t a solution to the problem of not having a place in a community and human relationships.

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