The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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 BlogviewJames Thompson Archive

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Uruguay is a small country on the eastern coast of South America between Argentina and Brazil. Mostly European in demographics, it was long considered the Switzerland of South America because, fearful of the usual local tendency towards dictatorship, it shared power in a plural executive, was early in separating Church and State, in giving votes... Read More
Last night the UK Prime Minister said that those who could not work from home, like those in construction and manufacturing should go to work today, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding public transport if possible. Primary schools may begin reopening in June, as may some shops, and some of the hospitality industry may reopen in... Read More
Europe is an ageing continent, with a total fertility rate of 1.6, well below the required 2.1 replacement level. The decline might be reversed, but the trend is downwards. These 747 million Europeans have a life expectancy of 79 years, and three-quarters of them live in urban settings. Of even more relevance in the time... Read More
There are many ways of making the coronavirus epidemic complicated. It is true that the Chinese account of what happened may be deficient, and that the numbers of deaths are probably underestimated. It is true that as each country received cases from China at somewhat different times and in different numbers it then went through... Read More
A few days ago, there was an updated report on critical care for coronavirus patients in hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. ICNARC report on COVID-19in critical care 17 April 2020. Sometimes a single table can be illustrative, and this one gives the characteristics of those who end up in critical care. Covid-19 patients... Read More
The predictions which come out of models of epidemics are often highly sensitive to minor changes in assumptions, so can rightly be accused of being wildly wrong when measured against the eventual outcome. “Improve the model” is a common plea. Of course, the most recent model any team publishes is already a presumed improvement on... Read More
It is disturbing that our Prime Minister is in intensive care. The leader of a nation has symbolic as well as instrumental value. It is reasonable for the public to assume that any Prime Minister has good security, good health care, good advice and plenty of material comforts. 10 Downing Street is not that comfortable,... Read More
It seems an age ago that I was singing the praises of Singapore, who had handled the coronavirus in a highly pragmatic way. In brief, citizens were asked to take their own temperatures and if they were above normal, isolate themselves and be tested for coronavirus. Frequent hand washing and the use of masks helped... Read More
It is a bright new day, so here are some thoughts on various subjects, most of which have the same theme: deciding how bad things are depends on your frame of reference. I had said that excess deaths was the key variable in understanding the coronavirus epidemic, and the policies being deployed against it. Once... Read More
While most countries of the world battle against coronavirus, there is a more conceptual battle raging between different predictive models. Imperial College has predictions for the US and the UK, and has the ear of the Government, but there are other models competing for attention. The Imperial model is now being cast as having been... Read More
Arnold Weinstock, a British industrialist, once said “I’ve forgotten what the 7 wonders of the world are, but the 8th must be compound interest”. Under his cautious guidance General Electric became a great UK company. Under his successors it went bust. Some problems compound and need to be nipped in the bud. A respect for... Read More
The virus needs us to move around.
Peering through the window of my study because of an unusual noise in the street last night, I saw three loud men walk by, one of whom saw me at the window, and gave a sardonic half-acknowledgement. Then, shortly afterward three women walked after them. It may not be relevant, but they were all young,... Read More
Draco was a democratic legislator in 622 B.C. who moved Athenian law from an oral tradition known only to the elite, to a written code of law, which could be called upon by any citizen. A reformer. However, his laws were very harsh, applying the death penalty for minor offences, and his code was repealed... Read More
The best intelligence items are usually those at the very end of the test, where only one or two percent of test takers will reach them. Of course, for the very bright these will be too easy, but standard tests are designed for us common folk, not the genius fringe. Facing the coronavirus, it is... Read More
It is hard to be grateful that the coronavirus is now working its way through us, but it is certainly a vivid illustration of evolution at work. With no motivation beyond the joy of reproducing itself, it hops from one host to another, an equal-opportunity free rider. If it becomes too greedy in taking over... Read More
If life is an IQ test, then dealing with pandemics is a high-priority item. Getting the right answer may save your life, so test-taking motivation ought to be high. At first glance, the answer is obvious: avoid ill people, and if in doubt, avoid people. That ought to do it. Stay quietly in a room... Read More
Seen from a historical perspective, the Andrew Sabisky affair is a litmus test of contemporary sensibilities. A recently appointed advisor to the new UK government, which is recruiting candidates outside the usual profile of special advisors, has been criticized for previous comments about racial differences in intelligence, about possible benefits of eugenics and even about... Read More
murray-human-diversity-book-cover
Charles Murray, a sociologist by background and a datanaut by inclination, has carved out a prominent place in American intellectual debate by the simple expedient of writing clearly about difficult subjects. He is an Enlightenment Regular Guy, who does not want Americans to lose ground, or be split apart or be cast asunder by imperious... Read More
I barely noticed the first crash. Driving the new hire car from the airport, the rain was pouring down on the highway, spray everywhere, a high risk of aquaplaning, and we were still on the outskirts of town, with traffic lights, cross-roads, bus stops, shops and lots of local motorbikes and pedestrians moving along and... Read More
The start of a decade is traditionally ushered in with a flurry of predictions. Those usually turn out to be wrong, but are illustrative of the expectations of the current age. Errors are informative, and show our limitations, our fads and misunderstandings. Looking back at predictions can be fun. Hindsight allows us to feel superior.... Read More
This has been my best ever year, with 448,525 pageviews, an average of almost 9000 pageviews per post. These posts provoked 1.25 million words of comments, another all-time record, not bad for a mere 50 posts. The range of comment was very broad, the positions adopted often diametrically opposed, and quality of the best commentators... Read More
To the Church of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, as is my wont, to celebrate the habits of my tribe, as parishioners have done since 1211. They must have done so before that, but not in this building. The service of Nine Carols was just after dark, with the rain lashing down in the bleak... Read More
Usually, British politicians take inspiration from US election campaigns. Very occasionally, the traffic goes the other way. Poorer cousins can sometimes make a contribution. Perhaps this election repays attention, since it is about a party winning an absolute majority against apparent odds. The 2019 UK election has brought about the biggest political opportunity for a... Read More
A few days ago, I was worried we would have a Hung Parliament, as a resurgent youth-led voting public scooped up the free offers showered on it by the Labour Party Manifesto. Discussing this some days ago with people in a position to know better, the younger of the two contacts feared that the Conservatives... Read More
Sceptics say the best way of predicting tomorrow’s weather is to say it will be the same as today. Predictive models struggle to beat that pedestrian approach, which one could label a rolling null hypothesis. Today, Wednesday, pollsters are predicting how voters will behave tomorrow, Thursday 12th December, election day. That ought to be fairly... Read More
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the last campaigning day of the UK 2019 election. The vote takes place on Thursday, and the result should be known by the end of Friday. If the result is very close and re-counts are required, it could take longer, and not be settled until next week. As already discussed, political polls... Read More
I have no idea what you will be thinking or doing on 12th December, but efforts are being made to determine how UK citizens will vote on that day. Why the fuss? A rational approach to elections is to read the party manifestos, judge the personal and societal impact of the proposals, calculate the probability... Read More
For some years now I have made occasional mention of a survey conducted in May 2013 to March 2014 to find out what intelligence researchers thought about racial differences in intelligence. Now the paper has been published, so in academic terms the work actually exists, and can be quoted and commented upon. I can remember... Read More
See the patterns
The concept of general intelligence does not always gain general acceptance. It seems too general, and thus unable to explain the myriad sparkles of individual minds. Multiple intelligence, some people aver, is a better thing to have: a disparate tool set, not merely a single tool which has to be deployed whatever the circumstances. Not... Read More
Response to Birney, Raff, Rutherford, & Scally
It is good to have an essay which sets out a point of view clearly, so Ewan Birney’s 24th October blogpost (Ewan Birney, Jennifer Raff, Adam Rutherford, Aylwyn Scally) is welcome. A summary of this sort gives discussions of racial differences a focal point. Race, genetics and pseudoscience: an explainer It is not up to... Read More
Last Friday I asked this question of Andrew Roberts, whose one volume biography “Churchill: Walking with Destiny” has been described as the best single-volume life of Churchill ever written. It is marvellous to be able to question someone who had actually read all Churchill’s school reports. On a broader front, Roberts had the benefit of... Read More
It is generally agreed that the Wechsler tests are one of the best measures of intelligence, and can be considered the gold standard. That is hardly surprising, because they cover 10 subtests and take over an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, for a clinical psychologist to administer. This gives the examiner plenty of... Read More
It takes a certain courage to title a paper: Genetic “General Intelligence,” Objectively Determined and Measured. Javier de la Fuente, Gail Davies, Andrew D. Grotzinger, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, Ian J. Deary doi: Objectively? Is such language permissible in contemporary science? Should we not instead be cautiously shuffling towards seven types of ambiguity, hedged in with... Read More
It cannot have been easy to be the first reporter on the tragic scene at Aberfan. A vast slagheap of colliery spoil above a small Welsh mining village gave way in 1966, roaring down the valley and flattening the school and killing 116 children, and also destroying houses, killing 28 adults in all. When John... Read More
There is a popular genre of commentary which wishes to show that bright people make as many errors as less bright people, perhaps as a consequence of divine retribution. “Einstein made an error in maths which was spotted by a bus conductor” lifts the hearts of some readers. Of course, bright people make errors. Do... Read More
“All happy families are alike” declaimed Tolstoy, so as to then add the equally unsubstantiated coda: “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Readers may say: “So true, so very true”, but that would be in the literary sense, in that if it sounds profound it is judged to be so. Like all... Read More
net-worth-and-income-by-iq
Do bright people earn more than others? If not, it would strengthen the view that intelligence tests are no more than meaningless scores on paper and pencil tests composed of arbitrary items which have no relevance to real life. So, it is with trepidation that I responded to a suggestion by a reader that I... Read More
Cognitive power leads to monetary accumulation.
  It is just a coincidence, but the initials NNT are best known to me as Numbers Needed to Treat. This is a measure of the numbers of patients you need to give a drug to in order to get one cure. For example, an NNT of 5 means that you have to treat five... Read More
When dull meet bright, tough love rules
What happens when above average and below average ability people have to deal with each other? Specifically, how will they interact when potentially both are able to gain from the exchange? It seems obvious that they should cooperate, and extract the greatest amount of mutual gain, but does this really happen in situations where there... Read More
As every conference attendee knows, a few minutes with a researcher is worth many hours of reading their work. What researchers say in person will be up to date, generally unvarnished and to the point. Compared to writing, conversation is speedy, interactive, and tends towards confession: the spoken word accompanied by the revealed emotion, a... Read More
The full conference began yesterday. In the midst of listening to all the papers I can't post anything much, but will keep live tweeting some of the presentations. As ever, the best thing is meeting participants and finding out first hand about their work, stuff which will be published a year from now. Great fun... Read More
Psychological test.  1990.0034.173.
When I started work in September 1968 one of the first things I was taught was that intelligence testing had a long history, and that many of the subtests in the Wechsler assessments I had been taken from previous research. Kohs’ blocks (1920), I used to mutter, when people talked about Block Design. I was... Read More
I have good memories of San Antonio, host city of the ISIR 2012 conference. We visited the Alamo, and where throngs of tourists looked respectfully at an ancient wall of the building which was being restored with lime mortar. It was regarded as a restoration of national importance, and the wall was cordoned off, with... Read More
Teachers loom large in most children’s lives, and are long remembered. Class reunions often talk of the most charismatic teacher, the one whose words and helpfulness made a difference. Who could doubt that they can have an influence on children’s learning and future achievements? Doug Detterman is one such doubter: Education and Intelligence: Pity the... Read More
For some years I have been organizing the London Conference on Intelligence, which brings together about 25 invited researchers to present papers and debate issues in a critical but friendly setting. (“The London School” was the name give to those who argued that intelligence had a general component, and was heritable). Speakers are chosen for... Read More
As an undergraduate, my psychology tutor dryly commented to me that the best way to get a paper widely read was to give it a memorable title, like “the magic number 7, plus or minus 2”. Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing... Read More
Early in any psychology course, students are taught to be very cautious about accepting people’s reports. A simple trick is to stage some sort of interruption to the lecture by confederates, and later ask the students to write down what they witnessed. Typically, they will misremember the events, sequences and even the number of people... Read More
Superior: the return of race science. Angela Saini. 4th Estate. London. 2019. Excitedly promoted in national newspapers, glowingly reviewed in Sunday magazines, the author interviewed on national radio, this book is part of a mainstream narrative which promotes the ascendant public stance, which is that race does not exist as a useful category, and that... Read More
You can detect a lot about a person using simple tasks which take less than 2 minutes. Here is a test which did the job in 90 seconds, but then got lengthened to 120 seconds to make it even more reliable. Of this test, one of those Edinburgh researchers said to me in a conference... Read More
The Great Retrodiction: English speakers only
Science marches on. A researcher writes in to chide me that I have forgotten the fastest intelligence test of all, which masquerades as a simple reading test, but which can reach back 50 years, and in 90 seconds deliver a precise verdict on the best level of ability you had in your prime. Indeed, I... Read More
James Thompson
About James Thompson

James Thompson has lectured in Psychology at the University of London all his working life. His first publication and conference presentation was a critique of Jensen’s 1969 paper, with Arthur Jensen in the audience. He also taught Arthur how to use an English public telephone. Many topics have taken up his attention since then, but mostly he comments on intelligence research.