I don't think I'm one of them either. I'm one of mine.

Category: To Be Filed

A random list of political bullshit I’m tired of

  • Promoting “decolonial” or “postcolonial” movements that are just racist, nationalist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, chauvinistic, fascist, religious fundamentalist, reactionary, intolerant tripe that merely mirrors former colonisers’ crimes. Or if they’re not regressive right-wing juntas, they’re capitalist, “reformist” states that sell the country out to the highest imperialist bidder, as long as that imperialist isn’t one that they were recently ruled by. And, of course, some countries can exemplify both these tendencies. (America, Burma, Jamaica, Ukraine, Nigeria, Israel and Palestine, I’m looking at all of you.)
  • Related to the earlier point, promoting a “decolonial” (I actually hate this expression) approach that comes primarily from highly educated, upper-middle-class or upper-class members of colonised cultures. (Uh, like me. Just the highly educated part, though—I grew up working class and am now part of the squeezed middle-middle class.)
  • Thinking that all social injustices can be solved by voting in the right politicians.
  • Refusing to vote when one candidate is a milquetoast liberal and the other one is a borderline fascist. I don’t like centrist Democrats either, but Donald Trump was and is more dangerous. This kind of voting is harm reduction. (Unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to do foreign-policy harm reduction in American electoral politics—this needs to be a long-term project—but at least you can do something about domestic policy.)
  • Stringing together a lot of jargonistic terms that cause people to shut down. It feels as though I’m being hit over the head with words like bourgeois, settler-colonialist, base and superstructure, decolonial, carceral state, cisheteropatriarchy, kyriarchy. You shouldn’t need a master’s degree in women’s & gender studies or political science to get involved with activism.
  • Repeating terms like neoliberal and bourgeois as though it was self-evident what they meant. (Admittedly, I have referred to neoliberalism here, and I probably shouldn’t have, since it’s vague.)

Human intelligence isn’t distributed equally, but equitably

People vary in intellectual ability. This is, or should be, common sense. (Some tend to acknowledge this with intellectual disability, but they are less comfortable acknowledging the existence of people on the other side of the normal distribution.) But this is an uncomfortable truth, mostly because people are rightly sensitive to the systematic mistreatment and devaluation of people with intellectual disabilities.

But this does a great disservice to people with ID. The entire human race is interdependent, and we need people who can figure out the theory of relativity, mop floors, care for the sick and elderly, write sonnets, and teach children how to read and write. People who think more slowly have an advantage in certain jobs, especially those that are more concrete, sequential, rote, and routine. Quicker-thinking people with more abstract thinking styles would probably flounder in such jobs, just as their slower or more concrete counterparts would be bewildered by work that involved a lot of conceptualisation or analysis. The only right thing to do is pay these people a living wage—they do work that so many others can’t. The more abstract and conceptual your thinking becomes, the more difficult concrete and routine work becomes. It is the opposite of the situation for more concrete, sequential thinkers.

For everyone who can discover the structure of DNA, there is someone who will make sure there’s food on the table by picking the crops. We can’t survive without one another. We may not learn equally fast, but our abilities are distributed equitably. And because of this, we should be paid equitably, too.

A quick rebuttal to arguments about trans women in prison

If we’re going to have prisons at all, we don’t need sex segregation to keep victims of rape or sexual abuse safe (I am a survivor of sexual abuse and rape myself). Instead…

  1. Refrain from imprisoning nonviolent or mildly violent offenders, including low-level drug dealing. The broken-windows model of policing does not work. Instead, use alternative methods of nonviolent offenders from society—for example, house arrest.
  2. Instead of using assigned sex at birth, or even gender identity, separate prisoners based on the severity of the crime. A serial killer is a serial killer, no matter what’s between their legs.

 

“Heterodoxy”

You are the mean, the median, the mode. You are average. You are not unique or special for being a man who is sexually attracted to women, someone who cannot see the difference between sex and gender, a white person in Europe or a country settled by Europeans. You may as well brag that you got average scores on standardised tests at school, or that you drive a Toyota or an Opel, that you shop at discount stores, and are neither poor nor rich. That you have a pulse. That you speak a language. That you shit, eat, sleep, and will eventually be six feet under.

In short, you are just like (nearly) everyone else.

Averageness as heterodoxy is nothing but a swindle. It is an Orwellian distortion of what it means to tackle the Big Questions. It is a way for dreary old bores to pretend they’re different by ostracising the truly different. You are nothing more than the primary-school bully who picks on the misfit kids—or you’re one of the misfit kids trying to overcompensate.

The rabid defence of social conformity is not and never will be heterodoxy. It is orthodoxy, and you are afraid of having the existing social order challenged. Call yourself a conservative, call yourself a traditionalist. But don’t call yourself heterodox. There’s nothing strange about fitting in.

 

Scams for the clever and gullible

This is a bit of a niche topic, but I really hate scammers and eugenicists. Paul Cooijmans, a self-appointed expert in human intelligence from the Netherlands, has built a career of designing “high-range” IQ tests.

He insists that “childhood age-peer scores” are invalid, as are classic ratio IQ tests (for example, a score of 100 means that someone’s “mental age” is the same as their chronological age), and only adult standard deviation tests (using an SD of 15) can be used to rank people.

But this is a scam designed to get people to take his tests. (You can apply these arguments to any of the other absurd high-IQ societies on the internet that sell their own bespoke tests.) Here’s why:

  • IQ tests were originally designed for children. Not because individual differences in adult intelligence are irrelevant (and the relative skill level is usually constant), but these tests are designed to identify kids’ skills in school. That’s what Alfred Binet intended when he created these tests. They were made to help kids, not give people bragging rights. Adult tests are especially useless for identifying one’s learning potential, since they are typically used for clinical purposes, such as identifying whether someone has difficulty with executive functioning or short-term memory. Once you’re grown up, it’s much clearer what you can do. David Wechsler was clear that his scales were clinical tests.
  • Also, modern-day tests like the WAIS do not include high-range scores like this on their adult tests. Remember that he considers adult scores with a standard deviation of 15 as the only acceptable ones. But these tests are typically cut off at 160 and are geared towards the middle of the bell curve (roughly 70 to 130).
  • He calls the Stanford-Binet test a “childhood test.” The Stanford-Binet is an all-ages test. Older versions, such as Form L-M, are also known to be better at identifying both highly intelligent children and those with intellectual disabilities. (Full disclosure: I’ve taken both Stanford-Binet and Wechsler tests.)
  • As far as I know, all modern tests use age bands to rank people. If a 20-year-old takes the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), they will be compared with other 20-year-olds, not 18-year-olds or 40-year-olds. The same goes for the modern Stanford-Binet test and the Kaufman tests, and just about any other test you can find on the market. These are age-peer scores, just for adults rather than schoolchildren.
  • Cooijmans’s devaluing of childhood tests may be an artefact of his sexist views. People like Cooijmans believe that girls can be precocious (rather than intelligent or gifted) and plateau or regress to the mean in mid-childhood or adolescence, but boys take longer to mature, so their scores are valid at a later age. This is bullshit. The kinds of girls who show clear signs of high intelligence at a young age (existential concerns at 7, reading at 18 months, going to university at 10) are unlikely to drop to a 100 or 120 level as they get older.
  • He is specifically attacking the older Stanford-Binet tests (specifically form L-M), which were the only mainstream psychometric tests to produce scores above 160, using a special formula that combines a ratio and a deviation score. The standard deviation of the L-M  is 16, rather than the 15 used on modern low-ceilinged tests like the dreaded Wechsler scales. If Stanford-Binet results, typically taken in childhood, are invalid predictors of someone’s intelligence, then they’ll fork over for Cooijmans’s homemade IQ tests. His disparagement of these tests is in his financial best interests. When people make claims like this and sell a competing product, follow the money. You’ll rarely be led astray.
  • Cooijmans’s tests can’t be used to join mainstream high-IQ societies like Mensa. You can’t take them to a neuropsychologist to show your intellectual functioning. You can’t do anything with these tests but brag about them online. They’re an intricate puzzle, not a real IQ test.
  • The WAIS and similar tests will probably bore the hell out of someone who has strong logical and pattern-recognition skills, since the subtests tend to be rather basic and a bit dull. Also, they include a lot of subtests that involve motor, visual and other non-intellectual skills. They are inaccessible for a lot of people.

And here’s where Cooijmans comes in. He says that only tests like the WAIS produce valid scores. These scores cut off most people who are drastically different from the norm. People who desperately want to prove themselves then spend money on Cooijmans’s tests. His business preys on people who want to prove their intellectual bona fides. This is nothing but a scam that preys on the relatively intelligent (but gullible), rather than the average person’s multilevel marketing or anti-cancer bracelets.