2015, Books, Non-Fiction

Intelligence: All That Matters (2015, Stuart Ritchie)

I am of a generation where skepticism over IQ was widespread. I don’t know where it comes from exactly but I know that it is everywhere. Essentially I was raised with the idea that IQ had been “debunked”. The reason I read this book is because I got into an argument with someone and afterwards I did some googling and saw that i appeared to be completely wrong. I saw an article by Ritchie about this topic and then found my way to this book.

So, first, about that subtitle: at no point does the book claim that intelligence is All That Matters so I sort of figured it’s the name of the book series. But it doesn’t appear to be. You can ignore the subtitle.

This book is a summary of the evidence for intelligence as a measurable fact of human existence (whether it be the IQ score or the “g-factor”). There appears to be an absolute ton of evidence and the book makes as compelling a case as it can that the evidence is there that IQ scores matter and that they genes play approximately 50% of the role in how smart anyone of us is. From the evidence Ritchie presents it seems this is correct (or as close to correct as we can currently be) and that the ideas that IQ “doesn’t measure anything” or “measures privilege” or “only measures social” class (etc.) are nonsense.

But my biggest problem with this book is that it is (intended as) a cursory introduction t to the topic. Ritchie spends a couple sentences on what a psychological paper might spend its entirety on. I’m not saying I want to read every psychological paper on IQ in order to buy the argument, but rather that there is a happy medium between reading every paper and reading a 115 page summary (with huge font) and this isn’t it. So many times I had questions about a particular study or claim or interpretation of a result but there was no space for it. I suspect Ritchie or his sources have the answers but they are not in this book.

The book does provide a ton of further reading suggestions, which is appreciated. But I wanted to read a more detailed book about the topic and did not realize I was getting a Teach Yourself summary this cursory. So while I want to recommend that all of us skeptics read up on this topic, I’m not sure this book is one I should recommend because it’s so brief and lacks detail.


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