Friday, August 26, 2005

Sloppy science and gendered intelligence

According to an Australian website a new study of 24,000 British students has suggested that men are on average more intelligent than women, having in general higher IQs.

Now, we all turn wan and pale in the face of overwelming scientific evidence don't we? We all sit back and gasp, knowing that these very very clever people (men, of course) have shown us incontrovertably that something society has told us from goodness-knows-when was in fact correct all along. So women, is it all very clear now?

Well actually, no. IQ tests, to start with, are not the best way, or indeed the only way, of measuring intelligence. They measure one kind of intelligence; a kind of intelligence that patriarchy considers valuable. Even if it could be definitely proven that men do have higher IQs than women, it would not be logical to therefore declare that men are more intelligent than women.

Then there is the huge factor, significantly ignored in the Australian article, of social context. We live in a society where different behaviour is expected from men and women, and where attributes and qualities are gendered. Women are constantly being told that they are not clever, and that their value lies in their appearance and their function as carers. To imagine that a test created to measure the form of intelligence considered superior is ideal to test the general intelligence of the group considered to be lacking these attributes is beyond ludicrous.

Genetic differences in intelligence between the sexes helped explain why many more men than women won Nobel Prizes or became chess grandmasters, the study by Paul Irwing and Richard Lynn concludes.

Or perhaps, it is more likely to be linked to the fact that the Nobel Prize and chess were both invented under patriarchy, to involve men, and be a measure of rewarding and grading men? Coupled with the fact that women have never received the same education as men, and have never had the opportunities men have had? Could this idea of intelligence being in some way hierarchical and infinitely definable be to do with the fact that the patriarchal society we live in is based upon hierarchies of weak and strong?

I think it's worth mentioning that Richard Lynn is the author of a book called 'IQ and the Wealth of Nations', which apparently suggests that people in poorer countries have lesser IQs than people in the 'developed' West.

Never mind educational opportunities, social context, poverty and all those other pesky considerations. It seems that the patriarchal invention of the IQ test tells patriarchy everything it wants to know- or rather, wants to hear.

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