On free speech and knowledge

As the philosopher John Stuart Mill points out, when you assert that a topic is not to be debated, you are foreclosing not some narrow statement of opinion on that topic, but the whole spiraling universe of discourse that it may inspire. Mill thought that only someone so self-deluded as to think his own judgement was infallible could wish to circumscribe an unpredictable future in this way.

Flynn, J. (2009). Would you wish the research undone?Nature458(7235), 146-146.

I do not believe in natural rights, although I do believe in human rights that can be justified because they contribute to some great good for humanity. If fear forces me to not to think as I normally would, if others persecute me unless I disavow thoughts they think pernicious, I dare not get my own thoughts in order, so as to take an independent stand when I speak. In other words, if I can justify free speech, I will have justified free thought as its prerequisite.

Looming over this whole debate is a terrible temptation: the assumption that since you know that virtue is on your side, truth must be on your side – and that an honest effort to perceive the truth is immoral.

Anyone who aspires to knowledge must conduct an interior dialogue in which they subject their opinions to every plausible thing that can be said against them. But when the passions are aroused, all of us have difficulty in putting as forcibly as possible the case for something we do not want to be true. The interior dialogue rarely substitutes for a real debate with those who believe in the arguments they offer.

Flynn, J. R. (2019). A Book Too Risky To Publish: Free Speech And Universities. Academica Press

No one should do psychology without some sociological sophistication. Hegel once said that to really understand the least facet of the universe we must know the whole. Pity the poor social scientist. Before we know anything about human behavior, we must know something about virtually every one of the human sciences.

p. 110

Flynn, J. R. (2007). What is intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect. Cambridge University Press, 216p.

On IQ tests and the Flynn Effect

At one time, I was blind to the real-world significance of IQ gains because I was under the spell of g. I kept looking for general intelligence gains and could not find them. I could not see the trees because I was looking for a forest.

Indeed, if trends that show no gains are significant, it follows logically that trends that do show gains are significant. If failure to make progress on the Vocabulary and Information subtests of the WISC illuminates why high-school seniors are no better at reading serious literature, then huge gains on Raven’s and Similarities must mean something. Why should some subtests of the WISC have real-world significance and not others?

p. 42

IQ gains over time are significant because they mean enhanced ability to do things that lie well beyond adaptive behavior in the context of concrete reality. They mean innovative thinking in professional work roles, being comfortable with the hypothetical when it is used to pose abstract or moral problems, and so forth.

p. 126

About 1981, it struck me that if IQ gains over time had occurred anywhere, they might have occurred everywhere and that a phenomenon of great significance was being overlooked. Therefore, I began a survey to see what data existed throughout the developed world.

If IQ gains were to cease throughout the developed world during the twenty-first century, this could give the developing world a chance to catch up.

Flynn, J. R. (2007). What is intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect. Cambridge University Press, 216p.

These alternatives sparked a wave of skepticism about IQ. How could we claim that the tests were valid when they implied such nonsense? Our ancestors weren’t dumb compared with us, of course. They had the same practical intelligence and ability to deal with the everyday world that we do. Where we differ from them is more fundamental: Rising IQ scores show how the modern world, particularly education, has changed the human mind itself and set us apart from our ancestors. They lived in a much simpler world, and most had no formal schooling beyond the sixth grade.

A greater pool of those capable of understanding abstractions, more contact with people who enjoy playing with ideas, the enhancement of leisure—all of these developments have benefited society. And they have come about without upgrading the human brain genetically or physiologically. Our mental abilities have grown, simply enough, through a wider acquaintance with the world’s possibilities.

Flynn, J. R. (2012): Are We Really Getting Smarter?

I have no objection to diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of each child and I wish society valued everyone more whatever their abilities. However, at present, society does not value capabilities to the same degree. Being good at reading and writing and mathematics opens up a world of educational and vocational opportunities for a child however inept at sport. Being above average at softball may brighten your leisure but will not make you a viable earner unless you are among that tiny elite who can earn a living at professional sport. By emphasizing mainly Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical intelligences, conventional IQ tests tell a parent much about their child’s prospects. Parents are not fooled by “multiple intelligences”. Contrast their joy when their child does well in the relevant school subjects with their dismay at a bad report card, sport notwithstanding. Children do not really need a musical IQ score – either a child takes to piano lessons and performs well or she does not. Ignoring conventional IQ tests in favor of multiple intelligences simply mis- educates students about the significance of their school performance and allows teachers to live in an egalitarian dream world.

Flynn, J. R. (2019). A Book Too Risky To Publish: Free Speech And Universities. Academica Press

The mind is more like a muscle than we once believed. It is something that must be constantly exercised to attain and maintain peak fitness. Just as an athlete must train harder and harder as he or she matures, so children must think with greater and greater complexity as they pass through school.

Flynn, J. R. (2008). Where have all the liberals gone? Race, class, and ideals in America. Cambridge University Press, 336p.

Many in my running club have never been to university. Some of them are among the most intelligent and intellectually curious people I know. Some of them are better informed than university students about almost everything, except the narrow knowledge a graduate gets from majoring in physics or commerce or engineering. Some of my running companions know who Hitler was. As for my students, I once set an exam question about tyranny in the twentieth century. Only a few students could volunteer Hitler’s name.

Flynn, J. (2013). The torchlight list: Around the world in 200 books. Simon and Schuster.

Those who think our inherited genes overwhelm environment in the development of our cognitive abilities do not deny that family is important in many respects. They concede that parents affect whether their kids hate other races, get a criminal record, or learn to slap their own children, and indeed, they concede that family can give children a head start for cognitive abilities that counts in school and university.

Flynn, J. R. (2016). Does your family make you smarter? Nature, nurture, and human autonomy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 258p.

When society asks us to increase our use of any skill over time, the brain responds. This is likely true of every cognitive skill, not just those with a high g-loading like working memory but also those with a low g loading like rote memory.

Flynn, J. R. (2018). Reflections about intelligence over 40 yearsIntelligence70, 73-83.

Although teaching children “how to think” is desirable, we should recognize that this will not necessarily enhance numeracy and literacy. The focus must be on teaching reading and arithmetic skills. And note that if we really want to enhance those skills, there will have to be an attitude shift, so that Americans welcome core subjects that make greater cognitive demands. If all parents and children were like Chinese Americans, the “nation’s report card” would improve dramatically.

Above all, we must go beyond g to develop a theory of intelligence with a sociological dimension. In this theory, g will still play an important role. Within every generation, people compete to win, and, therefore, g will always help explain why some people excel across so many cognitive skills.

Flynn, J. R. (2003). Movies about intelligence: The limitations of gCurrent Directions in Psychological Science12(3), 95-99.

Those familiar with my work know that it had a single objective: to use cognitive progress to illuminate the history of modernized peoples in the 20th century. They will also know that I stumbled on this mission by trying to interpret the so-called Flynn effect, that is, the dramatic increase in IQ performance in developed states ever since IQ tests were invented.

Modernity means advancing beyond manipulating the concrete world for use. It means classifying, using logic on the abstract, pictorial reasoning, and more vocabulary. The IQ test items that have risen over time make the same cognitive demands.

In the 20th century, cognitive progress had subtle effects on moral progress. Nationalism and racism peaked during World War II. But after that, among those whose minds altered as the century progressed, these idols have been on the defensive. The same is true of cruel moral maxims that treat individuals as if they deserved to suffer without fault. How did altered habits of mind take moral reasoning away from the stone age of simply accepting the bias and cruelty of the past?

Flynn, J. R. (2014). The folly of writing history without a cognitive dimensionMankind Quarterly54(3-4), 313-321.

Humane-egalitarian ideals possess not only goodness but beauty.

Flynn, J. R. (1996). Group differences: is the good society impossible?Journal of biosocial science28(4), 573-585.

On Jensen and race

There is no doubt that high h2 estimates force environmentalists to find a factor or factors that are relatively uniform in their presence within the black population—and within the white population as well if they operate there. After all, if an environmental factor is potent enough to account for the 15-point performance gap between black and white, and if it varies much from person to personal within the black population, it would extremely odd if it accounted for none of the variable performance within the black population! And if it did, it would of course increase the role of environmental factors in explaining IQ variance and thus lower the h2 estimate for blacks. There is also no doubt that this criterion, the criterion of uniform presence, is the most crippling of those the environmentalist is forced to accept. If we seize on SES as a between-population explanation, who can deny that there are large differences in SES within black America; if we seize on education, who can deny that blacks differ significantly in terms of quality of education?

The usual candidate brought forward for the role of blindfold is racism: after all every black suffers from racial bias, and no white suffers from at least that kind of handicap, and racism is very potent.  But this too is simply an escape from hard thinking and hard research. Racism is not some magic force that operates without a chain of causality. Racism harms people because of its effects and when we list those effects, lack of confidence, low self-image, emasculation of the male, the welfare mother home, poverty, it seems absurd to claim that any one of them does not vary significantly within both black and white America. Certainly there are some blacks who have self-confidence, enjoy a stable home, a reasonable income, good housing; and certainly we all know whites who have a poor self-image, suffer from emasculation, or suffer from poverty.

Flynn, J. R. (1980). Race, IQ and Jensen. London, Routledge.

The question now is how to fill the void Jensen’s death leaves, particularly for scholars open to scientific inquiry who challenge some of his conclusions. There is no substitute for someone of great intellectual caliber who disagrees with you. With Jensen no longer alive, we will have to invent him. But we cannot really do that, because no one is so constructed as to put the same energy and imagination into a fictitious opponent as we put into polishing our own ideas. No one can pretend to believe what they do not believe, but I hope there is a young scholar out there with the convictions and mind of Arthur Jensen.

Flynn, J. R. (2013). Arthur Robert Jensen (1923-2012). Intelligence, 41, 144-145.

The collapse of the Ice Ages hypothesis does not, of course, settle the debate about whether there are racial differences for genes for intelligence. If universities have their way, the necessary research will never be done. They fund the most mundane research projects, but never seem to have funds to test for genetic differences between races. I tell US academics that I can only assume that they believe that racial IQ differences have a genetic component, and fear what they might find. They never admins that the politics of race affects their research priorities. It is always just far more important to establish whether squirrels enjoy The Magic Flute.

Flynn, J. R. (2012). Are we getting smarter? Rising IQ in the twenty-first century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 310p.

There are actually people who are still alive “because” of Jensen: those on death row who were proved to be mentally retarded thanks to application of the Flynn effect to their IQ test scores.

Flynn, J. R. (2018). Academic freedom and race: You ought not to believe what you think may be true. Journal of Criminal Justice59, 127-131. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2017.05.010

As recently as 10 years ago, a steel chain of ideas dominated the minds of those who studied and measured intelligence. Much of my own contribution has been to break its links and therefore I must describe them in some detail. Arthur Jensen was its best advocate. The enemies of truth tried to silence Jensen. Science progresses not by labeling some ideas as too wicked to be true, but by debating their truth.

James R. Flynn, “Intelligence, Society and Human Autonomy” in Robert J.  Sternberg (ed.), The Nature of Human Intelligence, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Universities are the focus of irrational pressures that hope to compromise their purpose.

Look into your hearts. Suppressing free inquiry is by its nature an expressive of contempt for truth by power. The truth can never be racist.

Flynn, J. R. (2018). Academic freedom and race: You ought not to believe what you think may be true. Journal of Criminal Justice59, 127-131. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2017.05.010