On the Limited Utility and Poor Assumptions of IQ Tests

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Einstein had a very high IQ. He was right about a lot of things but wrong about a lot of things. He was socially awkward, known for being lost in a mental fog/aydreaming, and having trouble with things like poor dress and hygiene. He was a nice guy, and everybody liked him. But you wouldn’t want him in charge of anything important. Which, by the way, he would have agreed with.

What IQ tests fundamentally measure is your ability to learn academic materials in a standard academic environment, and test for those skills that are good for those things. Which is useful to know about yourself, but it’s not apparent to me that we should allow such people to run society.

Indeed, a strong case could be made that anyone with an IQ over above, say, 115 or 120 is inherently dangerous and untrustworthy. Until they prove otherwise, of course.

IQ says nothing at all about virtue: integrity, honor, loyalty, or the ability to be dispassionate when you need to be vs. knowing when you should be passionate. It has no ability to predict your moral sense at all, and if history is any guide high IQ people tend to be more prone to being amoral and to thinking they can invent and rationalize their own morality.

High IQ people can be very good at manipulating and fooling otherwise good and honest people who aren’t as quick as they are. High IQ people also, at least if my decades of observations are worth anything, have an unfortunate tendency to think they are a natural elite, and often seem to wish to be treated that way.

High IQ people also tend to have a lot of nervous disorders and personality quirks, and seem to show other social and developmental problems, once you get an IQ much above 140.

Furthermore, we have no test for Sociopathy/Psychopathy. You may know a sociopath and not know it. Worse, sociopathy is a particularly dangerous mental condition when married to a high IQ. Which means, in a very realistic sense, while it may not be fair, if you meet someone and say they have a very high IQ, you should watch for signs of sociopathy, narcissism, arrogance, cockiness, and other personality defects. Not all high IQ people are like this, but an awful lot of them are.

“He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.” –William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Thus, if anything, our society should begin looking at the assumptions underlying the IQ tests and their importance–and also, how much we should ever trust men who are too clever.

For example, I recognize Vox Day as an extraordinarily brilliant man, with an obviously very high IQ (165 I think he’s had it published as). I very much enjoy him, and I do respect him and his lovely wife–though we’ve never met in person, we had a Twitter relationship at one time. But despite his brilliance, he’s quite often so full of himself it’s funny, and he has blind spots all over the place that are sometimes hilarious to watch. All because of his high IQ and how important he appears to think that makes his analyses, without apparently being aware of how quickly that can turn into arrogance and hubris.

I don’t mean to pick on Vox Day. When I look at the writings and thoughts of many other high IQ individuals, like Aaron Clarey or other figures who talk about their high IQs, I do see sometimes brilliant men doing brilliant things, but I also see high-IQ schmucks and douchebags and autistics who can’t even understand basic logic, such as Lawrence Krauss.

By the way I have a high IQ. How high is none of your business, but statistically it’s better than college professors on average for sure. I just find flashing one’s IQ to be vulgar, and to contribute to the mindset where we equate being very very clever with being virtuous, trustworthy, and fit to set the direction of society.

High IQ people like Stefan Molyneux obsessively defend the concept of IQ as vital. But then, he has a high IQ, so how much can we trust his objectivity? Especially when he seems to have so much invested in his own high IQ?

My very high-IQ friend John C. Wright says it well: having a high IQ is like having one very large and superstrong arm. It’s kind of cool, and it’s kind of useful, and it’s kind of dangerous, but that’s about it. It says very little else about you as a person that’s of value.

Author: Max D

Max D. of Michigan is a past rabble-rouser now pursuing less provocative pursuits.

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