Cosma Shalizi on IQ, Heritabilty and Genetics

Cosma,over at his blog,Three-toed Sloth:

Attention Conservation Notice: 1500-odd words on the plasticity and importance, or lack thereof, of certain human faculties, a topic of endless controversy; a controversy which, like the air from a blow-drier, is both arid and heated, and which this certainly won’t settle. Written in dialog form, which is always pretentious, especially when not used to good effect, which it isn’t here.

Q: Would you put on your right-thinking left-liberal educated-in-Berkeley-and-Madison hat for a moment?

A: I’d find nothing easier.  (You left out the dirty hippyprogressive Montessori school where they taught me Pirandello and Diderot.)

Q: Very good.  (It didn’t fit the rhythm, and anyway they get the picture.)  How would you react to the idea that a psychological trait, one intimately linked to the higher mental functions, is highly heritable?

A: With suspicion and unease, naturally.

Q: It’s strongly correlated with educational achievement, class and race.

A: Worse and worse.

Q: Basically nothing that happens after early adolescence makes an impact on it; before that it’s also correlated with diet.

A: Do you work at the Heritage Foundation?  Such things cannot be.

Q: What if I told you the trait was accent?