In this article, Professor Richard Lynn explains that science shows, test after test, that men are smarter than women. And heâ€™s no dummy himself. Heâ€™s a Professor whoâ€™s spent the majority of his career studying intelligence – specifically differences in intelligence between the sexes. And heâ€™s a skeptic. A skeptic of the glass ceiling, that is. He claims itâ€™s not an invisible ceiling thatâ€™s responsible for the disproportionate percentage of men in executive-level jobs or upper-level math and science careers. Itâ€™s the fact that men outnumber women 8 to 1 at the genius level. He even explains how this happened using evolutionary psychology.
Professor Lynn is aware that his point of view is bound to be unpopular, and isnâ€™t politically correct. But he claims loyalty to the data, and will not be deterred by social pressures. He fully expects a backlash from angry feminists and the PC police.
But what if his critics arenâ€™t just angry feminists?
In this post, Iâ€™m going to examine his two chief claims:
(1) That men of average intelligence score 5 points higher on IQ tests than women of average intelligence
(2) That men outnumber women 8 to 1 at the genius level
Iâ€™m not going to touch the evolutionary psychology because itâ€™s not germane to his argument, and because I view evolutionary psychology as a bunch of speculative bs rationalizations anyway.
First, some confessions on my part. I get him to an extent. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a crazy idea that men and women might have different strengths, weaknesses, and interests. (He acknowledges, for example, that women outperform men at verbal reasoning and languages). And based on that belief, I donâ€™t think all organizations or careers should be 50/50 men and women.
Iâ€™m probably the only one of the Skepchicks that thinks there are probably more men than women at TAM because more men are attracted to the idea of TAM. I think organizations naturally attract the people most interested in them, and as long as thereâ€™s no outright exclusion of a certain faction, itâ€™s best to let the membership assemble organically. Any outside force is artificial â€“ whether itâ€™s exclusion by the group or activism to cultivate a certain faction of membership. I suppose an argument could be made that this sort of activism is necessary to offset the negative cultural influences that (purportedly) cause the demographic disparity, but my personal preference is to allow organizations to develop organically without force from either side.
And Iâ€™m a big fan of letting the data speak for themselves whether I like the results or not. For example, I took the GMAT a few years ago and looked up every possible score comparison to see where I stood. One of the comparisons I researched was score by demographic, and I found that white males scored highest, then white females, then ethnic minorities. To some people, even saying (or typing) that result is insulting. Not to me. Itâ€™s just a statistic, and there are lots of explanations for the differences, many of which donâ€™t involve insulting the intelligence of a particular demographic.
So going into his article, Iâ€™m ready to accept the data whether I like them or not. Sure, tests can be culturally biased, but Iâ€™ll take test scores over speculative apologies explaining low scores any day. But there were no test data in the article to accept â€“ the reader is left to look them up for him or her self.
Since my degrees are in business, IÂ consulted an expert in the field who practiced psychology for over 30 years. Not the touchy-feely, blame your parents for everything psychology â€“ but the kind that involves collecting and interpreting data. He studied psychometrics, and spent his entire career administering IQ tests to gifted and learning disabled kids in the public school system. Heâ€™s familiar with all of the major tests, their pros, cons, flaws, and biases. Heâ€™s worked with every demographic. And he also happens to be my dad. Hereâ€™s what he told me:
I suspect this article is intended for an uninformed audience.
Not uninformed as in stupid, but uninformed as in an audience of non-specialists who wouldnâ€™t know how the IQ test is engineered or how different populations score on the instruments. So he filled me in.
When IQ tests are engineered, they are put together item by item, category by category. Each potential item is tested to see how different populations score on it. If it is a highly biased item it is discarded. Items that may have a slight bias are counterbalanced with items that compensate for it. The end result is a test that is not biased overall.
Soâ€¦IQ tests are deliberately designed to eliminate disparities between demographics. Any questions that test with a statistically significant difference are discarded so that the score variation can only be attributed to differences in individual intelligence. The creators of the tests donâ€™t allow questions in which one demographic scores significantly higher or lower than another. If women consistently scored lower than men on a particular test, that test would be unmarketable because its results would be viewed as biased and invalid.
That said, several studies have shown normalized results of the WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) that show a 3-5 point difference in the overall IQ of men vs. women. The consistency and credibility of these results have been discussed and criticized by the scientific community. A detailed and highly technical criticism of these results can be found here.
Do these studies â€œproveâ€ that men are smarter than women? Absolutely not. At best, they open the door for some controversy. But did Professor Lynn call his article “Studies Start Controversy that Men are Smarter than Women”? No.
Controversy does not a scientific conclusion make. To unequivocally state that science has proven men to be smarter than women is just plain false.
But what happens when we look at the upper end of the bell curve? Professor Lynn claims that men outnumber women 8 to 1 at the genius level. And that certainly would explain the disproportionate number of men in upper level careers. If it were true.
Here are my sourceâ€™s thoughts on this:
The norm sample of an IQ test is designed to be comprised of individuals that collectively are the same as the general population. Therefore, it has about the same proportion of geniuses that the general population does â€“ and that isnâ€™t very many. With such a small sample size, trying to answer questions about this group specifically, such as â€“ are there more men than women in it, is just guessing. Also, items intended to discriminate a 140 IQ from a 150 IQ are extremely few (if any). So what would you be basing your conclusion on? Maybe two test questions? The tests just werenâ€™t designed to answer those kinds of questions. I think the most responsible approach to assessing this question is to look at how norm groups have tended to score on IQ tests rather than to latch on to one particular test.
And what test did the Professor use to come to this radical conclusion? The Ravenâ€™s Progressive Matrices test. This is a nonverbal test in which the subject is shown figures that logically form some sort of pattern, and he or she is asked to identify that pattern. This is considered a valid and well-established test, but it covers only a very narrow window of mental abilities. It is by no stretch considered ideal or equivalent to the more standard IQ tests (Wechsler, Binet, Woodcock- Johnson). Hereâ€™s the test manufacturerâ€™s description:
Ravenâ€™s Progressive Matrices provide a trusted, nonverbal assessment of intelligence. Because these scales minimize the impact of language skills and cultural bias, they are particularly well-suited to measuring the intelligence of individuals with reading problems or hearing impairment, as well as those whose native language is not English.
Minimizes the impact of language skills.
Wait, at what skills did Professor Lynn concede that women are better than men? Oh yeah, verbal reasoning and languages!
So, just to recap, Professor Lynn says:
– Women and men have different strengths and weaknesses
– Two of the chief strengths of women are verbal reasoning and languages
– Men outnumber women at the genius level by 8 to 1 based on the Ravenâ€™s Progressive Matrices Test, a test that minimizes the measurement of language skills
Thatâ€™s just disingenuous. I suspect even he knows better.
So, where does that leave us in regard to the original question – are men smarter than women? Pretty much nowhere. Counter intuitively, the IQ test is a poor tool for determining the smarter sex because valid tests so carefully avoid any questions that demonstrate demographic bias. And because the test doesnâ€™t evaluate large numbers of individuals at IQs above 145, the questions about this population canâ€™t be definitively answered. Professor Lynn may or may not be wrong about men being smarter than women, but he is wrong to say that itâ€™s been scientifically proven with IQ tests.