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IQ Blackout: Why Did Studying Intelligence Become Taboo?

Somewhere along the way, the very idea of intelligence became politicized. An IQ blackout descended.

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"The science underlying IQ tests isn't like experiments in the life or hard sciences," Murdoch insists. "IQ proponents believe in something they call general intelligence. That is, they believe there is one singular, measurable, inheritable kind of intelligence that we can all be ranked on. I have no idea if this is correct or not. Nor do I care.

"Other traits, such as conscientiousness or self-control, might be viewed as equally or more important. ... As long as there is disagreement in the field about what intelligence is, we should remain agnostic and ignore what the intelligence experts say the nature of intelligence is. ... We listened to the intelligence experts in the 20th century with dire consequences," Murdoch says.

"Unfortunately, there are researchers who are still interested in the differences between races. I have no idea why. What's the intellectual appeal or social utility of such studies? It escapes me. ... I believe in academic freedom: Let them study the issue if they want to. Just ignore them."

Coming two decades after the Nazis used IQ to justify slaughter, Jensen's research documenting IQ differences between (among other things) ethnic groups filled scholars with such fear about how this research might be used that many folded their notes and left the field. Others turned to alternatives such as SQ and EQ.

"There is still little evidence to support many of the claims made by proponents of alternative intelligences," Garlick says, "yet it is advocated that life-changing decisions should be made based upon them. One is tempted to say that the alternative intelligence industry is a reminder that snake-oil salesmen are alive and well in this day and age."

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger's Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of Anneli's writings on scavenging at

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