The Ecphorizer

The Mismeasure of Mensa 10
Lottie Fish-Bate

Issue #40 (December 1984)

An extension of meanderings and spoofs

Part Ten: The Mismeasure of Man; A 20th Century Hoax

Such exuberance of discovery of virtually all Prior World history, humanities, and the remaining parts of science previously unknown! Nevertheless, we were disappointed by the cutoff of information as of 1967. After a tantalizing

Gould was a ringmaster parading before us a circus of apes, jackals, clowns, and magicians.

period of complete [quoteright]shutout on the subsequent period, however, in 2163 A.D. the niche was discovered into which a few post-1967 books had fallen. The book investigators have found significance in The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen Jay Gould, 1981. A more distressing blow at our Mensan faith can hardly be imagined. We cannot simply accept it without question.

Mismeasure does have value. Pre-1967 documents confirm its urbane yet scathing exposes of the fallacies of early hereditarian theorists. There was so much laughable, though tragic, error in their researches. The entire 19th century was a wasteland of contradictory and unfounded castigations of physical types, derived from the bigotry and self-deceit of the various polygenists, craniometrists, and naturalists who delved into evolutionary recapitulation, atavism, apishness, and stigmata. Bean, Agassiz, Morton, Broca, and Lombroso were all fools. Only Sir Francis Galton emerges from the first four chapters (150 pages) with any credibility, in spite of Gould's swipes at him, too. The absence of any other merit to 19th century researchers brings forth the suspicion that Gould had no serious purpose in mind with his book--he was a ringmaster parading before us a circus of apes, jackals, clowns, and magicians (he acknowledges great deceptive skill in some of them).

Nevertheless, Gould was no mere buffoon. He spotlighted the few forerunners of the "cultural relativism" (his quotes) he proclaimed. He seems to state the case correctly on page 32 in saying that even among the greatest culture heroes there were no true equalitarians. Skipping forward to the apparently straight-faced fifth chapter, Gould's attack on Goddard provides solid evidence for the impact of culture on IQ. Goddard's spot-testing of immigrants to the U.S. found four-fifths of the non-English speaking to be feeble-minded. This was true even of Jews tested in Yiddish (p. 166). Even the World War I army tests found Jews to be "quite low in intelligence" (p. 255). These tests also revealed that measurement of mental age showed an increase of one year in mental age for every ten years of residency in the U.S. (p. 221). Unaccountably, Gould failed to state in his book the information well known before 1967 that measurement of Jewish IQ by that time yielded scores higher than those for any other ethnic group. This would have provided such strong confirmation of "cultural relativism" as we Mensans have always believed, that IQ is mostly relative to the culture. Simply living in the American culture, speaking English ever more correctly, raised Jewish IQ from lowest to highest. The Jewish fetish for education exposed the Jews, more than the general populace, to more English words and proper usage thereof. This proves the point that English is the language that properly wires the Caucasian brain. Though Gould failed to marshal all the facts and come to the correct conclusion, he must be given credit (at least in hindsight sixty years after World War I) for recognizing that the residency-IQ correlation did not indicate inferiority of the last-arriving groups. As early as 1930, Brigham, one of the primary popularizers of this fallacy, had recanted. It is to Gould's credit that he kept his literary tour de force rolling right along with the usual self-contradiction, self-refutation, or patent absurdity, rather than interposing himself as if the hereditarian positions presented were so weighty that only his own rigorous analysis could expose the fatal flaws.

Gould may have had some scientific intent in his work, but if so, was a victim of his own method. By selecting for study only dreadful errors that self-destructed, he could not include the thorough scholars who did not trip themselves up.

That Gould's Mismeasure of Man is largely a parade of self-mismeasured pseudoscholars does not mean that the whole book is of that same nature. Gould heralded his shift from ridicule to satire by quoting no less than our very Prophet of Mensa, Sir Cyril Burt: "The English...transformed the mental test from a discredited dodge of the charlatan into a recognized instrument of scientific precision" (p. 234). With his usual deftness, Gould turned Burt himself into the charlatan, a fabricator of phony research data. Apparently there were real defects to expose in IQ testing, so he turned to sheer invention of hilarious fables and citations of several nonexistent scholarly studies supposedly dated after 1962 (see p. 305 for the chronologically last real footnote). There is a gap up to the year 1969, and then any later cited books or articles are either by Arthur Jensen or are about (but never by, except for a "posthumous" supposed article of 1972) Sir Cyril Burt. The most recent eighteen years before 1981 did not generate one serious scientific citation.

Now, it is possible that the editor ran out of space for the last half of the chapter refuting contemporary hereditarians--hardly likely, because editors don't cut out the most topical copy, the hot, current events items. No doubt Gould might have last seriously studied his topic in 1962 and could not cite what he did not then know. Why then, knowing so little, would he have blackened the name of the most respected hereditarian scholar, Sir Cyril Burt himself? Why would he have cited (apart from the scandal about Burt) solely the greatest known environmentalist scholar as a reactionary reviver of presumably discredited hereditarian positions of such momentous scholars as Spearman and Thurstone? No, no, it is ridiculous to consider the arguments of Immensans that Gould's charges in Chapter Six about Burt are true. Any rational critic has to agree with me that Gould tempered his dry study of Spearman and Thurstone with a hilarious parody of Burt and Jensen. That is, it is a hoax.

I must hasten to clear Gould of the charge of bigotry, of defaming God's messenger, Sir Cyril Burt, the first to proclaim our daily hymn of praise, "There is no God but Mensa, and Burt is His Prophet." I earlier refuted the Mensa Fundamentalists, who cannot conceive that the original Mensans did not all know that Mensa was God. Knowing that not even all Mensans were in on the Mensagate coverup, Gould, as a non-Mensan, did not even know that Burt was a religious person, much less the one true prophet of the most high God.

Immensans persist in their lies and blasphemies, of course. They take the contention of Mismeasure at face value that Jensen was a hereditarian of narrow and unimaginative views. Gould cited repeatedly a bogus 800-page book, Bias in Mental Testing, 1979. He has cited once (p. 235) a 1969 Harvard Educational Review article of 123 pages, but no other sources by Jensen. Now, books that long and articles that long just did not happen, even granted that Jensen might have made a big splash by jumping from the environmentalist to the hereditarian camp. Jensen wrote numerous articles before the 1967 breakoff of documents.  All were pioneering environmentalist research of daring and genius. Oh, I suppose they could be called narrow in the sense that facts were mannishly bent and reinterpreted to fit into the environmentalist framework, but--well, allow me to elaborate on the grand sweep of his speculations.

Jensen rose quickly to the forefront of environmentalism. He established orthodox Behaviorist credentials with his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1956, teaching at the University of California from 1958, and he rapidly advanced there at Berkeley to the head of the Institute of Human Learning. Jensen developed research on learning ability as a culture-fair IQ test. In 1961, Jensen published results showing that serial and recall learning among low-IQ Mexican-Americans was much higher than among low-IQ Anglo-Americans. Jensen first identified serial learning as basic learning ability, but eventually discarded it as his focus because serial learning could not be taught and reached a plateau at age eight or nine. He found it unrelated to learning ability, verbal mediation, or IQ. Jensen switched over to recall or paired associate (P.A.) learning as the key to cultural differences in IQ test results.

Jensen showed that verbal mediation greatly affects P.A. learning. Retardates do very poorly on P.A. learning but can be taught to connect materials together. By 1965, Jensen had established that P.A. learning increases from ages five to eighteen. By good teaching, P.A. learning could be improved in normal children from ages seven to thirteen, as with the mentally retarded. That is, children develop the capability to mediate verbally, but can learn it earlier if taught how to use it.

The knowledge that P.A. learning could be taught led to Jensen's explanation in 1966 of cumulative deficits in IQ among deprived children. A failure to learn caused by deficient home, school, or peer group environment could block later transfer of knowledge. Jensen sought out the very origin of learning in brain chemistry and both visual and auditory perceptual abilities. This set off a vast U.S. preschool education program called "Head Start," which was intended to bring low socioeconomic status children up to equality in IQ with others. It is such a shame that we do not know the results: was a language found in which non-Caucasian children could raise their IQs?

Jensen's data showed relative comparability on verbal tests as the key to his theory. On perceptual testing for which verbal mediation was not necessary, the cultural retardates scored higher than low-IQ middle-class children; where unlearned verbal mediation could not harm performance, the cultural retardates (average among their peers) could do better than the below-average middle-class children. On nonverbal (quantitative) tests, the low-IQ middle-class children did best, paradoxically, because their unfair advantage in verbal mediation coaching should have been no advantage there. Jensen adroitly explained the result: the very deficit in verbal mediation among cultural retardates meant that they were unable to transfer their limited knowledge to quantitative tests because they had not yet been taught to transfer.

I have no doubt confused and bored the reader, but I have certainly made my point that so nimble and unshakable an environmentalist as Jensen would not have refuted the very proofs of that which he himself had researched and justified by his own reasoning. Even had he changed his mind, he would not have risked his career on a radical liberal campus (UCB) where he would have been assaulted and spat upon for adopting hereditarian and racist views. No, Gould was having a great sport on the adamant environmentalist Jensen just as Gould more grossly traded upon Burt's honored position and tarred his character. It was all in fun; no one in 1981 could have taken either seriously.

Readers long disgusted with Lottie's travesty of mid-20th century Mensa may find some sardonic pleasure now in seeing Lottie accusing someone besides herself of perpetuating a silly hoax. Is Mismeasure Man of no more serious purpose than Mismeasure of Mensa's own meanderings and spoofs?

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