IQ and pseudoscience

In the debate over Ben Stein's movie Expelled, which purports to argue that creationism/intelligent design has a rightful place in the science curriculum, some have argued that - to be blunt - pseudoscience of this sort is popular because people are dumb. Example - Jerry Pournelle argues that higher education is wasted on the proles:

As we go down the Bell Curve it becomes more difficult and eventually becomes impossible -- and all the educational effort expended in teaching "talent meritocracy" skills has been wasted. Those on the left side of the Bell Curve have talents and potentials, but they require a different kind of education -- and the United States public school system, with rare exceptions, not only doesn't provide it but doesn't want to provide it. We believe or say we believe what Bill Gates believes: that every child deserves a world class university prep education. And as I have said, attempting to provide that to everyone means that few will in fact get such and education, and much of the money and resources devoted to education will be wasted.

In a nitshell, this is why the IQ-is-taboo crowd has such a bad reputation - because they cannot resist the temptation to indulge their latent sense of superiority. In asserting their intellectual prowess, they wholly abandon the moral high ground.

The argument in defense of science is wholly separate from the argument about IQ. The former is easy: ExpelledExposed, RealClimate, TalkOrigins, etc. Yes, those who unequivocally reject the (in retrospect, obvious) idea that IQ has a genetic component are as guilty of pseudoscience as Stein et al.

But the other side of the fence, those who say "IQ has a genetic component" are also at fault when, and if, they propose policy. Such as Pournelle's horrific implication that higher education is wasted upon the plebes.

There is in fact no need to "consider" IQ when combating pseudoscience unless you are prepared to accept the fallacy that only dumb people fall for pseudoscience. Very, very high-IQ people are quite happy embracing pseudoscience for a number of reasons. One of them being simple calculus of self-interest (financial or otherwise). And another being genuine belief.

It is intellectual laziness to assume that disagreement is due to inferiority. You are implicitly assuming that super-rationality exists. It does not. The reason people fall for pseudoscience is not because they are dumb but because pseudoscience is Godelian - it cannot be disproved by reason and logic. Pseudoscience is a belief system.

The problem is not that there are low IQ rubes who slurp up pseudoscience. The problem is that there are high-IQ people who gladly dispense pseudoscience because unlike science, pseudoscence is very useful in promoting an agenda. Science is not quite so easy to push around to fit an a-priori.

Were reason and rationality truly objective, then pseudoscience would not exist. That is the problem, and there is no solution aside from the kind of solution to bad, but free, speech: more speech. More Science. Fight fire with light.

Proposing public policy to restrict higher education to the high-IQ-enabled is not only a moral travesty, but would also do nothing to erase pseudoscience from this world.

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