Science in Christian Perspective
MARY STEWART VAN LEEUWEN
Department of Psychology
Canada M3J IP3
From: JASA 34 (December 1982): 193-200.
"Should you be punished for being born with a high I. Q. ?" This was the bait printed on the lower left-hand corner of a piece of bulk mail I received not too long ago from the publishers of an east-coast based magazine which prides itself on being "the Battlefield of the Mind." The question was apparently meant to be rhetorical (the answer presumably obvious when its object was anyone with a departmental address in a university); its aim, even more obviously, was a subscription renewal, so that I might not miss, even for a month, the magazine's "friction and exchange of exceptional minds," "unorthodox thinking," and "courage of words." Having duly renewed my subscription (although not at the behest of this particular ad, which strongly tempted me to cancel it) I was further enjoined, a few months later, to give the magazine "to your (sic.) three most intelligent friends for Christmas, and give the rest something less demanding."
It seems clear that the advertising craftsmen of Madison Avenue know the sales value, at least in certain circles, of an appeal to exceptional intelligence. Indeed, there exists an international organization, Mensa, whose membership is open only to persons whose I.Q.'s are in the top 2% of the general population, and whose branches now span almost eighty countries and include some 50,000 members. Its advertising literature, with its forthright appeal to intellectual iltism, is very much the same genre as that employed by the magazine referred to above:
Intelligent people like talking to others who speak their language ... Mensa can fill a void for some people who may be intellectually or geographically isolated from kindred spirits. Good conversation is perhaps the most notable feature when Mensans meet ... New Mensans frequently remark that they enjoy the enlightened, tolerant atmosphere which allows for a broad base of conversation: they find that they are challenged and, most important, understood.1
These kinds of appeals to "intelligence" are always highly connotative. The precision of definition one might reasonably expect of highly intelligent people seems to desert many of them when intelligence itself is the object of discussion. In addition, there is never any reference to any of the long-standing questions about intelligence that circulate perennially in the field of psychology, the birthplace of I.Q. testing and the locus of virtually all the research and theorizing about intelligence that has taken place in the past century. These questions include the following:
This novelty of the 19th century has too often become a tool for the overly-hasty, overly simplified mass sorting of people into crude categories.
1. Is intelligence a "general" aptitude that affects performance uniformly in all domains, or is it more a set of "specific" skills that may or may not be inter-related?
2. Is intelligence something whose definition is (or can be) universalized, or must it be culturally relativized, in part or in total?
3. Does intelligence encompass purely cognitive, problem-solving and information-processing skills, or does it also include any or all of social, artistic, and even moral capacities?
4. Is intelligence measureable, and if so, what are the real-life criteria for validating such measures, and how can we be sure that such measures are reliable?
5. Finally, there is the question that has been posed and argued from the days of the pre-Socratics2 right through to the present writings of Arthur Jensen and Edward 0. Wilson and their respective critics-namely, is intelligence (assuming that we can first agree as to what it is) primarily the product of nature or nurture-of genetic inheritance, or of post-natal socialization?3
It is my purpose in this series of articles to deal with each of the above questions in a manner informed by both my training as a psychologist and my commitment to a Christian world-view. Inasmuch as my major audience are fellow Christians who are academics and professionals, my reasons for embarking on such a task are three-fold. First of all, the whole area of intelligence test construction, application, and interpretation constitutes an issue that has had (and continues to have) very volatile social and economic implications in North American society. This is reason enough for Christians to become informed of at least the broad outlines of the field, its history, and its current debates. Secondly, for Christians who recognize that all scholarship is undergirded by, and reflective of, the scholar's religious presuppositions (whether recognized and articulated or not), there is no better forum than that of the "I.Q. controversy" to demonstrate the ideological components resident in what usually masquerades as objective, value-free science. In this task, I am aided (although not limited) by some foundational criticism and research done by an emerging bloc of neo-Marxist psychologists who, regardless of their final differences in world-view from orthodox Christians, often present a model of articulately partisan scholarship that Christians might do well to emulate in some respects. Finally, the I.Q. controversy is also an excellent crucible for examining the very loaded question as to whether psychology, as a science of persons, is adequately addressing (or even can address) the full range of human psychological functioning through a research paradigm borrowed from the natural sciences .4The Origins of Intelligence Testing
The date routinely given for the origin of psychology as a separate discipline is 1879, when Wilhelm Wundt, a physiologist by training, opened his "physiological psychology" laboratory in Leipzig and began his experimental studies of the elements and attributes of conscious experience. Before this time, the psychologicallyoriented writings of persons such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Descartes and Locke differed in two fundamental ways from psychology as it later developed. These earlier writers were all commited. to developing a general system of psychology, able to embrace such diverse phenomena as thought, emotion, memory, behavior, aesthetics, morality, and government. In addition, their methodology was philosophical (and often even theological), rather than empirical in the natural-scientific sense. Psychology's abrupt departure from its philosophical parent in 1879 was but one manifestation of a more general divorce between science and philosophy that had gained momentum towards the middle of the 19th century as more and more philosophers acknowledged the importance of experimentation as an epistemological tool. One enduring result of this trend was that the new psychology became less and less system-orientated, focussing instead on developing methods for investigating more isolated psychological functions that mirrored the experimental, operational, and quantitative approach of the natural sciences. In addition, by the mid-19th century, the spirit of the Enlightenment had so come of age that the vast majority of serious writings in science were completely devoid of any confessionally-Christian references, being couched instead in a metaphysics of naturalism and progress which
took for granted ... that each more advanced form of life carried its primitive past with it; that in the dark struggles of the living world, beauty and order arise out of chaos; that man is not removed from these natural laws and forces; that every production of nature is but a stage in the endless march of progress.5
At the height of this formative Zeitgeist, an English gentleman-scholar named Francis Galton set up what he called an "anthropometric laboratory" at the London International Health Exhibition of 1884, a mere five years after the founding of Wundt's laboratory in Leipzig. Born in 1822 to the family of a prosperous Birmingham banker, Galton was a man of many parts. Trained in mathematics and medicine (although with an undistinguished record in both), the young Galton bid fair to become the classic rich, Victorian dilletante, puttering about with gadgets and minor inventions, until at the age of twenty-eight he took on the task of mapping part of the African interior for the Royal Geographic Society. His obsession for careful measurement resulted in a superbly-accurate mapping of part of tropical southern Africa, and resulted in his receipt of the Society's gold medal in 1853.6 While his interest in geography lasted throughout his life (he later established principles of weather mapping and reporting which are used to this day), his primary attention was irreversibly diverted from that field by the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin's controversial theory of evolution by natural selection suggested to Galton that if inherited human traits could be identified and measured, these would then be a basis for the systematic, selective breeding of superior traits. (Not surprisingly, Galton became the father of the Eugenics movement, and promoted the concept of systematic human breeding right up until his death in 1911.7) Thus he turned his attention to the problem of measuring individual differences-particularly those differences that might reflect a capacity for "eminence" or genius, which according to his own research, seemed to run in families to a greater degree than would be predicted by chance. His "anthropometric experiments" at the London health exhibition (which involved almost 10,000 curious spectators as subjects) could be termed the very first attempts to establish a standardized intelligence test.8
What kinds of tasks were included in Galton's 1884 research? Very strange ones, by today's notions of intelligence. They included measures of height, weight, armspan, visual acuity, reaction-time, color discrimination, breathing power and force of hand-grip-none of them even remotely akin to items we are accustomed to seeing on I.Q. tests today, which usually include logical, spatial, verbal and problem-solving tasks, but never those stressing merely sensory-motor capacities. Yet the logic behind Galton's tests was in keeping with the rather reductionistic new psychology of the late 19th century, which assumed that the basic components of all consciousness (including intelligence) were ideas, which in turn were made up of elementary physical sensations. Thus, Galton reasoned, the most intelligent people should be those with the quickest and most accurate senses.
His reasoning turned out to be faulty, as later research showed that the kind of intelligence Galton was interested in was not, in fact, very highly correlated with sensory acuity. Yet, for our purposes, two features of Galton's work remain very significant. First of all we must note that it was highly conditioned by his own status as a Victorian gentleman. Galton's anthropornetric work was very frankly motivated by his passion for eugenics; he was interested in measuring "natural ability" to the end that the most promising persons so detected might eventually (he fantasized) be offered special rewards by the state for marrying each other. (Indeed, he even envisaged Queen Victoria herself giving away the brides en masse at state weddings!) While this might at first glance seem to be a move in the direction of a more egalitarian society (inasmuch as a valid intelligence test would be no respecter of class origins), it is worth noting that Galton chose to believe, on the basis of his research into "eminent families," that intelligence was passed on primarily, if not exclusively, through genetic mechanisms. This he did in spite of his awareness, as a scientist, that "nature and nurture" (a phrase Galton can be credited with coining) were totally confounded in his eminent families, thus making his data uninterpretable. In other words, because these distinguised Victorian families passed on their (definitely) privileged environments to their children along with their (possibly) privileged genes, there is no way of knowing whether it is the genes or the environments or some hard-to-assess combination of both that accounts for the trend towards erudition in these families.9 There is little doubt that, in choosing to over-emphasize the role of heredity in the determination of individual differences, Galton was (as one historian puts it)
prevented by the many biases of his class from appreciating the helps and hindrances of the social environment. Like many other upper class Victorians, he often demonstrated a smugness and insensitivity to the position of people less fortunate than himself ... (His hereditarian) assumptions ignored the great advantages enjoyed by the members of the upper classes-Galton himself included-in the socially-stratified society of Victorian England. 10
Secondly, we must note Galton's shaping by his status as a 19th century British scientist who was heir to the forces of both the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. From the former, he inherited both a hostility towards organized religion and a naive confidence in the ability of human beings-or at least a certain 61ite among them-to better themselves and their race through the rational application of scientific knowledge. He was a spirited combattant in the late 19th century battles between the church and the supporters of evolution, writing that, for him, the effect of Darwin's Origin of Species was "to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science."11 Even so, the irreducibility of the religious impulse in human beings is suggested by the fact
Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen is Associate Professor of Psychology at York University, Toronto, but is currently on leave of absence, and has just completed a year's fellowship at the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her most recent book, The Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Christian Looks at the Changing Face of Psychology was released by Intervarsity Press in 1982.
Finally, the gathering strength of the spirit of the industrial Revolution, with its push towards mechanization ' efficiency, and mass production can be seen in Galton's attempts to develop a series of quickly-administered, numerically-scalable items which he hoped would distinguish the less from the more innately-intelligent, with the aim of systematically promoting the traits of the latter in the population at large. Although we take such mass testing devices for granted today (in activities as diverse as medical diagnosis, armed-forces classification, and graduate student selection), Galton must be credited with the very idea that quantitative tests could be developed to measure qualitative psychological differences among people. indeed, the novelty of his procedure is illustrated by the fact that so many thousands of people queued up for him at the 1884 exhibition, and even paid a fee of three pence each to receive a list of their various "intellectual strengths" !14 What we will see later is that this novelty of the 19th century has too often become a tool for the overly-hasty, overly simplified mass sorting of people into crude categories as an aid to the efficient implementation of social, economic, or educational policy.Binet's First General Intelligence Test
Galton, as we have noted, began his anthropometric studies in England in 1884, and published his findings in his 1889 work entitled Natural Inheritance. By 1910, a mere two decades later, American psychologist G.M. Whipple (one of America's first Ph.D.'s, and a product of Cornell University) was able to publish a Manual of Mental and Physical Tests which listed no fewer than fifty-four tests, along with precise instructions for their administration.15 What had happened in this short space of time to catapult Galton's scientific novelty into an institution of national importance across the Atlantic in America? Several factors seem to have been at work.
To begin with, American psychology was, from its beginnings, strongly functionalist in spirit: the practical demands
of a recent frontier existence had left in most American
scholars a strong bent towards finding cause-effect relationships with practical implications. In addition, the effect
of Darwin's Origin of Species in America was to promote a
more "democratic evolutionism" than was the case in Victorian England. Whereas Galton had fixed his attention on
the evolutionary continuity of genetic strains, American
Darwinists (in particular John Dewey) focussed on the effect of environmental pressure in changing both genetic and
behavioral patterns, and on the very non-elitist way in
which random genetic mutations took place. In addition,
Dewey was an influential promoter of the idea of social
evolution: while favorable genetic mutations might indeed
occur randomly, he held that even this "aristocracy of
chance" might be overcome by appropriate social engineering and education for persons of all classes. The result of
such thinking was the promotion of mass education and,
soon afterward, the birth of educational psychology with
its concern for what children know, how they learn, and
how their learning can be facilitated. In short, the testing
movement in North America paralleled the development of
educational psychology and provided the latter with its
most prominent tool. It should be noted, however, that
while Galton developed his tests to buttress a class-based
status quo, whereas the North American motivation behind
test development was initially more egalitarian, a common
secularist spirit lay behind both movements: for Dewey, as
for Galton, the biblical concepts of creation, fall, and
redemption were outmoded superstitions, and the malleability of individuals and institutions through the implication of human intelligence and scientific methodology was
held to be almost limitless.16
Given the pragmatic spirit of much American psychology, and its close association with education in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, it did not take the testing pioneers long to conclude that mere physiological and sensory indices of "intelligence" were inadequate. Their concern was with the educability of children, and with the possibility of predicting which ones would proceed smoothly through the school system and which would have difficulties that might require intervention. Consequently, when it turned out after numerous studies that sensorymotor indices correlated very poorly with academic progress, 17 alternative routes to the assessment of "native abilities" were sought.. The most promising alternative seemed to be in -the work of Alfred Binet, France's pioneer psychologist, who had already, by the turn of the century, published works on The Psychology of Reasoning and The Experimental Study of Intelligence. Binet had been asked by the French government to develop a test that would detect those children who were too slow intellectually to profit from regular schooling, and he had assumed from the start that the tasks on such a test should not be sensorymotor ones. He also assumed that intelligence had a developmental course-that is, that it became more sophisticated and differentiated as children aged. He further assumed that "dull" children were merely "retarded" in their intellectual development: Binet reasoned that they would perform on the tests like normal children of younger ages (something which we now know to be a too-simplistic theory of a multi-faceted phenomenon such as retardation).
Finally, Binet assumed that intelligence was a general capacity for comprehension and reasoning that would show up in various ways. In other words, he assumed that a "bright" child's high intelligence or a "dull" child's low intelligence would manifest itself fairly uniformly on all intellectual tasks. In other words, intelligence was regarded rather like ink poured into a glass of water: a lot of it will color the water quite deeply, whereas a little will result in a much lighter hue-but in either case, the entire supply of water becomes a uniform color once the ink has diffused throughout. 18
The reader may have observed that none of the above assumptions ever addresses the theoretical question as to what intelligence really consists of. According to some sources, Binet had wrestled in vain with the "essence of intelligence" in his earlier writing, and was relieved to turn his attention to the more practical task of distinguishing "normal" from "backward" children in the Paris school system. To do this, he did not need to have a developed theory of intelligence; he needed only to find out what, in fact, the majority of children could do at a variety of age levels and then devise a test that would sample it efficiently and adequately. More specifically, he decided to consider "normal" those aptitudes that appeared common to about 75% of the children of any given age. Having fixed the percentage to be considered "normal" (noting that it arbitrarily assumed that at least 25% of children should be classified as "backward"), Binet then set out to devise, by guess and intuition, a number of "stunts" (as he called them) that he could try out on a sample of Paris schoolchildren ranging in age from three to fifteen years.19 Whenever he found a stunt that about 7507o of a given age group could pass, he retained it as an item that could detect normal ability for that age. Items that did not meet this criterion were discarded. Hence, by Binet's criterion, to have a "mental age of seven years" was to be able (regardless of actual age) to pass all of the same items as 75% of a (hopefully) representative group of seven-year-old Paris school children at the turn of the century. To have a mental age exceeding one's chronological age meant that the child passed all items up to and including those for his own age, plus some beyond. Conversely, to have a mental age below one's chronological age was to pass fewer items than one's peers.20 All of the most commonly-used I.Q. tests are direct descendents of Binet's, both in conceptualization and standardization. The so-called "Intelligence Quotient", or I.Q., is obtained simply by dividing "mental age" (as assessed by the test) by "chronological age" and multiplying by 100.
Binet issued this first intelligence scale (in collaboration with a colleague, Thomas Simon) in 1905, and revised it twice before his death in 1911. The revisions were conditioned by the following considerations: (1) Did each item reliably reflect the changes in proportions of children answering it correctly at different ages? (This reflected Binet's developmental assumptions about intelligence.) (2) Did performance on each item correlate well with performance on the test as a whole? (This reflected Binet's assumption that intelligence must be a general capacity, reflected in all samples of performance.) (3) Finally, did the test scores as a
An I. Q. score per se simply rankorders a person's performance on a set of tasks relative to his or herpeers; there is nothing in the score itself that can detect whether the origins of individual or group differences are the result of nature, nurture, or both.
It is also important to note some questions that Binet's work did not answer and never claimed to be able to. First of all, as we have seen, Binet never stated what the essence of intelligence is. His test items were merely a set of age graded, trial-and-error derived tasks, performance on which correlated well with rate of school progress in Paris. His assumptions about its "general" and its "developmental" character were the closest he came to actually defining intelligence. Secondly, Binet's validation process did not question the content of the Paris school curriculum of his time, nor its pedagogical methods, nor the teachers' criteria for diagnosing "bright" and "backward" children. Inasmuch as all subsequent tests tend to be validated by their correlation with (at least parts of) Binet's original, they implicitly reflect a definition of intelligence that is linked to a particular school structure in a particular part of the world at a particular point in history.21 Thirdly, Binet never pretended that his tests were measures of innate, immutable capacity-or, for that matter, of acquired, changeable capacity either. The tests could only predict school correlated performance with a reasonable degree of probability; they could not say what the source of that performance, whether backward, average, or precocious, was. It is of interest, however, in light of the subsequent use made of Binet's work in America, that Binet personally leaned towards a mostly environmental view of the origins of test performance. Indeed, he protested against the "brutal pessimism" of persons who suggested that the test score was a fixed quantity, and suggested remedial "mental orthopedics" as a means of raising the capacities of children with low scores." Finally, there is no evidence that Binet thought that his test could be put to universal use with equal validity. He had devised a practical sorting tool for use in the Paris school system of the 1900's, and nothing more. Indeed, he died (in his early fifties) before he could carry his ideas any further.American Contradictions: Democracy vs. Elitism
Binet's death in 1911 corresponded with the American upsurge in educational psychology referred to in the previous section. It was only natural that the task of further revising and adapting the Binet Intelligence Scale was taken up by psychologists across the Atlantic. The name of Lewis M. Terman, a Stanford University psychologist, is so strongly associated with this work that subsequent revisions of the Binet still bear the title "Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale." Terman found that the Paris-evolved Binet scale worked badly on California schoolchildren, inasmuch as performance on certain of Binet's "stunts" did not show the same age-related changes, or the same item-total correlations demanded by Binet's assumptions about intelligence. One would think that such findings would point to the obvious conclusion that intelligence (whatever it is) is at least somewhat culturally relative: the cognitive skills and knowledge acquired by the average Parisian child are somewhat different from those of children raised in northern California, even though both settings are part of the western, industrialized world. Moreover, educational curriculum and techniques also vary between the two settings, thus requiring somewhat different standards for validating the usefulness of the test as a predictor of "normal" school progress. Yet it seems that Terman went about his revisions of the Binet (using Binet's original methods of item selection and validation, except that the standardizing group was now 2,300 Californians "in a community of average social status."23) without ever publically acknowledging a crucial assumption-namely, that he must have believed that intelligence was to a degree culturally-acquired (and therefore not purely the product of genetic inheritance), or else he would not have revised the Binet in the first place. Instead, he would simply have concluded that his Californian subjects were "stupider" (or at least innately different) than Binet's Parisians, published his conclusions, and left it at that. What he in fact did was to retain only those of Binet's items which "worked" for his California sample, add others which were shown to have the developmental functions, item-total correlations, and school progress predictability that he desired, and still maintain that what was being measured was essentially genetically inherited intelligence.
How is it that Terman (and most of his associates in the early testing movement) were able to get away with such an exercise in double-think? The answer seems in part to be found in their involvement in a strong and influential turnof-the-century eugenics movement in America.25 This moveMent was a direct historical descendent from Galton's eugenics concerns in 19th century England, particularly via Charles Benedict Davenport, who had studied Galton very seriously and persuaded the newly-formed Carnegie Institution of Washington to sponsor a biological research station that he would direct. By 1910, Davenport had founded the "Eugenics Record Office," which eventually included committees on the inheritance of mental traits, the inheritance of deaf-mutism, the heretability of feeblemindedness, and also a "committee on sterilization." These committees (including several well-known pioneers in American psychology)26 were influential in pressing for the "eugenical sterilization laws" that were in effect between 1907 and 1928 in a final total of twenty-one states. Moreover, these laws, and the persons behind them, regularly lumped together mental and moral traits and implied that science had shown them to be interconnected. Thus, the Eugenics Record Office included in its definition of "feeble-minded" the insane, the criminalistic, the epileptic, the habitual drunkard, the diseased, the blind, the deaf, the deformed and the dependent-including orphans, "ne'er-do-wells", tramps and paupers.27 Terman, in his 1916 volume on The Measurement of Intelligence, could inform his readers, with all the apparent backing of the new "science" of psychology, that
all feeble-minded are at least potential criminals. That every feebleminded woman is a potential prostitute would hardly be disputed by anyone. Moral judgment, like business judgment, social judgment, or any other kind of higher thought process, is a function of intelligence.28
The eugenics movement did not stop with a concern for keeping the American gene-pool free of physical, mental, and moral defects; it went on to claim that such defects were overwhelmingly more present in persons of nonAnglo-Saxon descent, including not only the Blacks, Indians, and Mexican Americans already present in the United States, but also the more recent immigrants from the Slavic and Mediterranean countries, Jews of whatever national origin, and even the French Canadian migrant workers (presumably of much the same stock as Binet's schoolchildren) who innundated New England early in this century. The "scientific" basis for these conclusions was said to lie in the outcome of mass I. Q. testing (using various adaptations of Terman's Stanford-Binet, including a version for illiterates) done on thousands of army recruits during World War I and on thousands of immigrants passing through Ellis Island in the years before and after. According to the 1913 report of psychologist Henry Goddard (who did the Ellis Island testing at the request of the United States Public Health Service), 83% of Jews, 80% of Hungarians, 79% of Italians and 87% of Russians were "feeble-minded."29
The result, by 1924, was a congressional law not only restricting the total number of immigrants per year to the U.S.A., but also assigning "national origin" quotas, which restricted the proportion of entrants from a given country to the percentage of their numbers present in the U.S. in 1890. Why an 1890 criterion? The drafters of the law were quite frank about their motivation: prior to 1890, the majority of U.S. immigrants were of Scandinavian, British, and German stock. Only after 1890 did the MediterraneanSlavic influx begin. Thus the new law deliberately tipped the scales in favour of continued Anglo-Saxon dominance. And although the sterilization laws were never applied to those non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants who did manage to get it, it was not because the psychologists in the eugenics movement didn't advocate it. Carl Brigham, a Princeton professor involved in the immigrant research, was aware that, as long as present immigrants of "undesirable origin" continued to propagate, "the revision of the immigration and naturalization laws will afford only a slight relief ... The really important steps are those looking towards the prevention of the continued propagation of defective strains in the current population."30 And Terman, writing in 1916 about the poor test performance of Indian and Mexican children, stated that
children of this group should be segregated in special classes ... They cannot master abstractions, but they can often be made efficient workers ... There is no possibility at present of convincing society that they should not be allowed to reproduce; (nevertheless) they constitute a grave problem because of their unusually prolific breeding.31
Psychology is profoundly affected by ideology-which would not be sobad, provided that it were frankly acknowledged more often.
In all of this, there are two puzzling but enduring contradictions, one on the disciplinary, the other on the national level. As regards the first, we have already pointed out that Terman, by virtue of even deciding to revise the Binet for use in America, was already conceding that the expression of intelligence depended rather heavily on exposure to a certain culturally-based set of experiences. In addition, while the sample of 2,300 Californians on which he standardized the Stanford-Binet included males and females, rural and urban dwellers, and individuals of all socioeconomic classes proportionate to their numbers in the general population, it was composed only of white, native-born Americans. Consequently, a non-native or non-white child's test score represents only how well that person has performed relative to a norm which never took his or her cultural group into account in the first place! Finally, as Binet knew and Terman must also have known, an I.Q. score per se simply rank-orders a person's performance on a set of tasks relative to his or her peers; there is nothing in the score itself which can detect whether the origins of individual or group differences in performance are the result of nature, nurture, or both, since (as we have already seen) these factors are hopelessly confounded in all cultural and racial groups. To conclude that the inferior performance of darkskinned persons is caused by the genetic makeup which includes their dark skins goes beyond the information available and is simply an unjustified inference of causality from correlation. This is not to say that there is necessarily no such causal relationship (an equal and opposite error made by well-meaning liberals); it simply means that we do not know.32 Yet, in spite of all these qualifiers, Terman and his associates in the testing movement continued to write as if (and convince legislators that) the tests measured innate, immutable intelligence in all groups to which they were applied.33
They were able to do this, I suspect, because of a second profound contradiction which lies at the very heart of American democratic ideology. We have already referred to John Dewey's brand of "democratic evolutionism" and the effect that it had on the promotion of mass schooling after the mid-19th century. Is it not puzzling that in the midst of this national vision of America as the great melting pot, with equal opportunity for all, there should arise a pseudo-scientific eugenics cult of such vast influence? Puzzling, yes; un-American, no. As one historian of the testing movement has written,
The nativism, racism, elitism and social class bias which were so much a part of the testing and eugenics movement in America were, in a broader sense, part of that Zeitgeist which was America. This is the land of the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Scare and the Scopes trial as well as the land of real opportunity for millions of immigrants. It was this kind of contradictory base in which the corporate liberal state took firm root, building a kind of meritocracy that even Plato could not have envisioned.34
In a more summary fashion, contempory sociologist Herbert Gans concludes, on the basis of his own research that "America is an inherently unequal nation which like to think of itself as egalitarian."35
In part, the tension between democracy and iitism was resolved by Terman and his associates in the following way: on the one hand, (true to the American melting-pot ideology) they rejected, as Galton in England had not, the notion that mental and moral superiority ran in the blue blood of certain families. On the other hand (true to their meritocratic assumptions) they believed and preached that, through a natural sorting process, "the cream would rise to the top." Because Terman's research had shown that high test scores were overwhelmingly more common in the professional and managerial classes than in the working class, and because he believed the tests were a pure measure of innate intelligence, it was only a short step to the belief that it was high I.Q.-s that had caused their possessors to become members of the socioeconomic elite. That this professional and managerial dite was also overwhelmingly white was not seen as part of a racist plot on the part of the test" ag pioneers; it was not their fault (or that of American society) that non-whites did not do better. The tests had shown them, on the average, to have I.Q.'s typical of the poorest paid manual laborers. Consequently (it was argued) only their own inherent limitation kept them from ascending the American ladder of betterment that was equally available to all. This was a superb way to get the best of both worlds! For now the tests could be billed as the "servants of democracy," ferreting out "natural ability" regardless of the pedigree of its possessor (after all, one to two percent of the unskilled labourers in Terman's study turned out to have "gifted" level I.Q.'s), while at the same time their results, in the main, served to confirm the existing distribution of wealth and privilege!
But here, of course, we have another example of causality being inferred from merely correlational data. It was certainly true (and continues true to this day) that lower I.Q. scores are correlated with low socioeconomic status and non-white origins. But this by no means leads either to the conclusion that innate intelligence is the explanation of socioeconomic status, or that racial origin is the explanation of group differences in I.Q. (both of which were assumed by the testing/eugenics proponents). It would be no less (but also no more) justified to argue that membership in certain classes and/or racial groups, by depriving their members of the "average white" experiences assumed by I.Q. test items (see footnote 19 for some early examples) was what led to the appearance of low I.Q. scores in these groups. For, as we have seen, since parents generally bequeath their environments to their children along with their genes, there is no way of knowing whether the fact the "I.Q. scores tend to run in families" (as they certainly do) is the result of nature, nurture, or both-and if both, then in what proportion each.
It is interesting to note that, to this day, all students of psychology are repeatedly warned that "correlation does not necessarily imply causality," and that, to this day, psychologists routinely infer causality from correlation when such inferences accord with their particular value system. In addition, they are able to get away with such inferences to the extent that the peer-review system in which they move (and which evaluates them for promotion, publication, and research funds) operates according to the same value system. In other words, psychology is profoundly affected by ideology-which would not be so bad, provided that it were frankly acknowledged more often. In fact, for the most part, such admissions are as rare now as they were at the genesis of the I.Q. testing movement, and ideology instead hides behind a screen of implied scientific objectivity and statistical numbers-magic, resulting in profound social consequences such as those we have illustrated.
But the recognition of this reality should, in turn, make it easier for Christians in psychology to do their work from the basis of an honestly-articulated world-view, and some unfolding of the implications of this for the I.Q. controversy will be attempted in later papers. But prior to this, we need to bring the I.Q. controversy up to date, and to examine in more detail the various answers that are currently circulating with regard to the questions posed in the introduction of this essay. This is the subject of the next paper.REFERENCES
1All information on Mensa in these articles is taken from publications and reprints supplied in 1981 by Mensa (Canada), P.O. Box 505, Station S, Toronto, Ontario M5M 41-8.
2For a very complete and readable introduction to the history of prominent themes in psychology, see Robinson, Daniel N. An Intellectual History ofPsychology (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1981).
3Notice that the question posed by the magazine-subscription solicitors at the start of this article completely begged this question regarding the origins of intelligence!
4For a more detailed coverage of this question from the perspective of a
Christian philosopher of science, the reader is referred to C. Stephen
Evans' Preserving the Person: A Look at the Human Sciences, and to
the author's forthcoming volume The Sorcerer's Apprentice: North
American Psychology in Transition.
(Intervarsity Press, 1982).
5Robinson, Op. cit., p. 362.
6A good summary of Galton's life and contributions to psychology can be found in Fancher, Raymond E.: Pioneers of Psychology (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979), from which most of the material in this section is drawn.
8Fancher (Op. cit., pp. 257-258) suggests that Galton's life-long passion for measuring aptitudes and promoting the idea that they were largely hereditary stemmed from his own undergraduate days as a mathematics student in a highly competitive programme at Cambridge: "During his Cambridge career, Galton was constantly preoccupied with his standing relative to his fellow students. His letters home betrayed an obsessive concern with examinations, including the way they were constructed and marked at Cambridge so as to yield a precise ranking of all students. Undoubtedly, his disappointment at not being able to place at the very top of the list was an important factor in (a later) nervous breakdown. Recovery came only slowly, after Galton abandoned any thought of competing for honours, and settled for an ordinary or "poll" degree. His preoccupations with examinations and the ranking of intellectual ability would persist in milder form throughout his, life, however, and would contribute to his later development of mental tests."
9To give him due credit, Galton also pioneered what is now known at the "twin-study" method: the comparison of mono- and dizygotic twins as a way of deconfounding the influence of heredity and environment of physical and psychological traits. As we shall see later, however, this methodology raises as many questions as it answers when it applies to the question of the heretability of intelligence.10Fancher, Op. cit., pp. 293-294; pp. 253 & 272.
13Fancher, Op. cit., p. 171.
14Galton also pioneered the use of the questionnaire schedule in his study of 2000 distinguished Royal Society Fellows for his 1874 English Men of Science. Despite the alarming length of the questionnaire, almost all of those solicited responded in detail-an enviable result in comparison with today, when a 30% return rate is considered good for any questionnaire, and also an indication of the great novelty of the method.
15The chronological history of mental testing in the U.S.A. from 1880 through 1950 is well documented in Boring, E.G., A History of Experimental Psychology (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc., 1957), Chapter 22.16Ibid., Chapter 22.
18Although all of these assumptions tend to persist among the defenders of I.Q. tests, all have been challenged repeatedly. For a representative survey, see Block, N.J. and Dworkin, C. (Eds.) The I.Q. Controversy (New York: Random House, 1976).
19Binet's original test included items such as the following: "Are you a boy or a girl?"; "What are the names of these four colours?;- "Hand me five blocks from that pile."; "What is the opposite of the word'large'?" "Define the word 'pride'."; "Which of these objects is different from the rest?" (e.g., showing the child an array consisting of an apple, a pear, and a cup). (Source: Lindzey, G., Hall, C.S., and Thompson, R.F., Psychology (3rd Edition). (New York: Worth Publishers Inc., 1976), Chapter 15.
20The actual calculation of mental age is usually not quite so neat: A given child may miss some items standardized below his age, while still passing some which are above. In practice, a child's "basal mental age" is the level at which he answers all questions for that age. To this is added two months of "mental age credit" for every question above the basal age also answered correctly, regardless of the level from which the questions come. The arbitrariness of the methodology is self-evident.
21Bereiter, C. "Genetics and educability: educational implications of the Jensen debate." (In: Block and Dworkin, Op. cit.)
22As quoted in Kamin, L.J.: "Heredity, Intelligence, Politics, and Psychology" (In: Block and Dworkin, Op. cit.)
23As quoted by Lippman, W.: "The mental age of Americans." (In: Block and Dworkin, Op. cit.)
24In addition, Terman pioneered the development of adult intelligence scales. As a result, all modern I.Q.'s are test scores adjusted for the age of the person taking the test, such that if one passes the "average" number of items for one's age group, one is always assigned an I.Q. of 100. All I.Q. tests are also interpreted according to the assumptions that for each age the I.Q. scores are normally distributed in the population, average 100, and a standard deviation of 16.
25A good survey of this movement, and its effect on the development and interpretation of I.Q. tests can be found in the work of neo-Marxist educator Clarence Karier, especially in his "Testing for Order and Control in the Corporate Liberal State." Educational Theory, 1972, 22(2), 154-180.
26The names of Robert M, Yerkes, Edward L. Thorndike, and H.H. Goddard will be familiar to students of the history of American psychology.
27Haller, M.J. Eugenics. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1963), p. 133. This assumption that morality and "intelligence" are intertwined persists to this day: when I recently applied for a renewal of my Canadian passport, I noted once again that only certain classes of people (who presumably can be trusted never to lie) were allowed to endorse my passport photograph. These included doctors, lawyers, professional engineers, university and community college professors, and certain elected or appointed officers at various levels of government!
28Terman, L.M. The Measurement of Intelligence. (Boston: HoughtonMifflin Co., 1916), p. 11.29Quoted in Kamin, L. Op. cit.
31Terman, L. Op. cit., p. 77.
32We continue not to know, in spite of the much-publicized "separated twins" methodology pioneered by Galton and invoked more recently by Arthur Jensen. We will take up this point in a later part of this essay.
33The strength of Terman's commitment to this position is suggested by the fact that, out of a total of 8,500 "eugenic sterilizations" done in America under the sterilization laws between 1907 and 1928, fully 6,200 were performed in California alone, under the influence of the Human Betterment Foundation, of which Terman was a leading member. (Source: Karier, Op. cit., p. 161)34 Karier, Op. cit., p. 165.