IQ in Nepal, and Other Atrocities

Writing about intelligence is splendid fun if you like watching dogfights among towering vanities. (This assumes that vanities can tower, though I’m not sure how dogs come into it.)

On one side you have the politically correct protectors of Appropriate Values. These secretly believe that blacks are less intelligent than whites and live in terror that genetics will shortly prove it. This is why they call genetics “pseudoscience.” Which it isn’t.

On the other side you have the cultists of IQ. These are bright white guys who conflate the results of IQ tests with intelligence, a fit which is imperfect. Their political aim is to show that whites, especially IQists, are brighter than blacks and Hispanics and pretty much everybody else, except East Asians who have higher IQs than white guys. Admitting the superiority of the Asians is the political price of showing the inferiority of everyone else.

Politics is a strange place. Anyway they take IQ with the solemnity appropriate to a mass funeral and overlook multiple nonsenses. For example:

Australian aborigines, according to IQst siege howitzer Richard Lynn, quoted in the Unz Review, have a mean IQ of 64. They are often regarded as the least intelligent of humans. This is not implausible. They have invented nothing, certainly not writing, and their number systems, if so they may be called, run to “one,” “two,” and “many.”

So much for aborigines. In this piece by John Derbyshire, a mathematician by training and longtime enthusiast of all things IQical, I find his assertion that the Nepalese have a mean IQ of 60. (He is quoting other I Qists thought to know of these matters.)

Now, a couple of points: First, I have spent time in Nepal and saw nothing to suggest anything even approaching this level of retardation. Second, an average of 60 means that half the population have an IQ of less than that, the distribution being almost symmetrical, and a substantial number below 45. These people would not be able to dress themselves or find their way home at night. I encountered no naked Nepalis wandering about homelessly.

Third, if the above grass hut in Nepal was built by people with a mean IQ of sixty, then the Australian aborigines, at sixty-four, could build something at least as elaborate and perhaps a bit more so.

Does anyone really believe this stuff?


Three anecdotes. My daughter Macon and I, trekking in the roadless Nepalese Himalayas at 12,000 feet, were approached in a town by these kids, who spoke perfect English. They had, they said, two classes a day in Nepali and the rest in English. Clearly less intelligent than Australian aborigines. Presumably someone else dressed them. I know nothing else about them. The one in the middle is going to have many girlfriends.

Wikipedia: “In 1951 Nepal had 10,000 students in 300 schools and an adult literacy rate of five percent. There were 49,000 schools in 2010, and by 2015 the overall adult literacy rate was 63.9 percent (males 76.4 percent and females 53.1 percent.”

If we assume that Nepali girls are as capable of literacy as boys, which of course they are, then in terms of IQ studies literacy was at the 76 percent mark. This means that at least 26 percent are literate with IQs below 60. Since the explosive growth of literacy obviously is a result of getting schools to remote villages, the proportion of severely retarded literates will grow. This is all very mysterious.

Or consider the Meso-American Indians of southern Mexico and Central America. These, said to have a mean IQ of 83, were a minor but remarkable civilization that, while not in a league with Fifth Century Athens, nonetheless did the following: Invented writing, a base-twenty exponential number system, an abacus allowing calculation of huge numbers, and the wheel. They built five-story buildings using poured-in-place concrete and elaborate flood-control systems.

None of this will involve contradictions if IQists agree, clearly and without evasion or equivocation, that an IQ of 83 is sufficient to do these things. Do they so agree?

Colombians, said to have mean IQ 84, run modern cities with telecommunications, airlines and the concomitant people to maintain avionics and big turbofans. This involves no contradiction if IQists say clearly that 84 is sufficient to do these things. Do they so say? (All together now, “Yes! Eighty-four is enough….”)

But then we have American blacks. These, at a mean IQ of 85, are more intelligent than either of the foregoing groups. We must perforce conclude that they could invent writing and sophisticated number systems, maintain avionics and telecommunications.

Do IQists so conclude? The answer must be either ”yes” or “no.” The latter, note, would amount to saying that blacks are not intelligent enough to do things done by people less intelligent than they are. But saying “yes” will imply that something other than IQ must be holding blacks backs such as maybe withe privilege. Oh God….

Another puzzlement difficult of explanation: The 83 figure for Mesoamericans seems plausible today as they do little of intellectual impressiveness. This being so, their considerable pre-Hispanic achievements are hard to understand unless they lost quite a bit of intelligence between 1521 when Tenochtitlan fell to the Spaniards, and now. Since IQists are enthusiastic Darwinians and attribute everything to genetic evolution, probably including loose doorknobs, they may invoke selective pressures favoring stupidity. The advantage in survival of declining acuity in a rough existence with no welfare state is not entirely obvious.

Another mystery, even deeper than the Nepalis: Say IQists, the blacks of sub-Saharan Africa have mean IQs of about 70. This is not implausible given the very low level of civilization in Africa now and before.

But the people of Equatorial Guinea are at 59. This puts them respectively at 15 and 26 points below American blacks, five points below Australian aborigines, and below even Nepalis. The Guineans, half being below 59, provide another example of people who should not be able to put on their shoes, if they have any. Is this the case? (The Darwinian explanation for the low IQ of Africans is that in a hot climate they didn’t have to remember that it gets cold in winter and thus you have to store food, and consequently had no need of intelligence. I am aware of no study showing that Africans can’t remember that seasons change.)

What the faithful need to do, and won’t, is at least try to determine what percentage of a population need to have what IQ for the society to function (engineers, bank clerks, internet help desks, etc.) and then show that a distribution centered on the alleged mean would produce them.

Enough. The point of all of this is not to support the silly idea that “intelligence is a social construct” and does not really exist. Of course it exists. Clearly it has a large innate, and probably genetic, component. This should be obvious to most plants and some rocks. Does anyone think that Mike Tyson and Stephen Hawking would have been equally intelligent given similar childhoods? If intelligence were cultural then all the children in Isaac Newton’s neighborhood should have been towering mathematical geniuses. It is not recorded that they were.

What we do see here is that IQists are more interested in defending their theory than in examining it, a quality they share with radical feminists, Marxists, Creationists, Evolutionists, Evangelicals, Moslems, Keyhesians, and conspiracy theorists. Perhaps intelligence really doesn’t exist after all.


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