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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Oct 7, 2021

This week Razib talks to Fredrick DeBoer, author of The Cult of Smart, about the heritability of intelligence and its broader implications for society and education. The two discuss the difficulties of having fact-based conversations around the topic of heritability without being shouted down or accused of being proponents of eugenics. They also talk about how The Cult of Smart compares to Paige Harden’s book The Genetic Lottery.

Freddie breaks down the evidence that heritability, rather than just environment, is a major determining factor when predicting intelligence. He cites numerous examples where early indicators of intelligence, such as standardized tests, are predictive of long-term success despite changes in the environment over time - emphasizing that these indicators as early as kindergarten can be used to predict a child’s success in college. 

Then, the discussion turns to the implications of heritability on academic performance and how a deeper understanding might be used to inform educational policy decisions.  They discuss how policies like No Child Left Behind failed largely due to their inability to grapple with inherent differences in IQ and the impulse to view students as “blank slates” – and contrast it with the equally flawed reactionary position of doing away with standardized testing completely to focus on ‘the whole individual’ and the unintended consequences such a policy might have.