The politics of intelligence

It’s the old nature vs. nurture debate. Is intelligence genetic, or does your upbringing matter? Yesterday, the Times reviewed a new book that makes the case for nurture. This comment from the reviewer caught my eye:

When the evidence is ambiguous, it is all the easier for ideology to influence one’s scientific judgment. Liberals hope that social policy can redress life’s unfairness. Conservatives hold that natural inequality must be accepted as inevitable.

Actually, I think conservatives have an equally compelling interest in the case for nurture, rather than nature. It’s all about responsibility. Your family has to take responsibility for your education. Schools can’t do it alone, no matter how much funding they have. Consider the following item from the review:

If I.Q. differences are indeed largely environmental, what might help eliminate group disparities? The most dramatic results come from adoption. When poor children are adopted by upper-middle-class families, they show an I.Q. gain of 12 to 16 points.

So what now? Should the government help poor families become upper-middle class? Or do poor families have to learn from the example of their wealthier cousins? The answer to that may really be about ideology.

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