Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Viewing the Liberal Arts from Another Perspective

A client sent me an e-mail wondering if he should instead major in engineering rather than his current major, construction management.  Knowing engineering was the obviously superior major, I was already predispositioned to recommend it until he told me his IQ.


Now, it almost was mandatory he became an engineer.

I remembered vaguely a rule of thumb you needed an IQ of about 115 to be an engineer, but I checked first before consulting and found I was wrong.  It was more like 120, with some of the higher level engineers having an average IQ of around 128 (Economics, ahem, ahem, also came in at 128).  Regardless, he had more than the raw potential to become any kind of engineer he wanted.

But as I looked down the list I noticed the dramatic drop in IQ as you went from STEM to the liberal arts.  Matter of fact if you took the average of the top STEM fields and compared it to the bottom of the humanities your average roughly dropped form 128 to 106, a full 22 point or 1.5 standard deviation drop.

This was interesting to me because I remember when I used to teach statistics I (in a brilliant stroke of retaliatory genius) had my students take IQ tests online and then calculate their percentile rank.  The results were predictable, but I recall one of my smarter students all depressed because he scored a 79.  I looked at him and said, "79?  That's borderline retarded!"  He sheepishly said, "Yeah, I guess I'm retarded."  I then yelled at him, "John!!!  You're not retarded!!!!  You just didn't try your best!  Matter of fact you purposely had to try to be this bad!  Now take it again and try this time!"

Regardless, that number stuck with me, and as it just so happens it's true.  80 is considered borderline retarded.

However, it wasn't until 13 years later today did this little expedition into the world of IQ provide me some insight on the problems we have in academia, specifically as it pertains to the liberal arts.  Compared to their STEM peers, liberal arts majors ARE retarded.  The gap between a normal person with an IQ of 100 and a mental retard is 20.  So the gap between a STEM major and your average humanities major would be like an average person with an IQ of 100 and the average liberal arts major with an IQ of 78.  "Officially retarded."

Of course we don't recognize this or view it that way since we are on the "good" side of 100.  People between 90 and 110 are "normal" and it is those who are above 110 that are the statistical freaks in a good way.  But if we were to not look at absolute scores, but relative scores to your average STEM major (or, cough, cough, economist), dealing with your average "college educated liberal arts major" is indeed as painful as dealing with a mentally impaired adult.

Watching the average person get excited about sportsball to the point they get upset or happy depending on how one group of guys throws a ball against another group of guys?


Listening to women gossip at the water cooler about what dress which slut wore to the Oscars?


Channel surfing through TV, searching for a morsel akin to "The IT Crowd" or "Sherlock," only to have "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and "The View" show up?

Bamboo shoots under the toenails.

It's no different than if your average humanities major had to deal with Rupret the Monkey Boy for their entire waking days.

But cultural comparisons aside this may also go a long way in explaining why so many of us on the right have had absolutely ZERO success in getting people on the left, specifically those in the liberal arts, to acknowledge and accept some basic mathematical facts and realities.  To a guy with an IQ of 130 the concept of ever-increasing government debt leads to an obvious conclusion of unsustainability and collapse.  But to your average early childhood education major, she doesn't even know (or care) about the difference between a million and a trillion.  To the woman with an IQ of 140, she understands the concept that there is no such thing as money, only the goods and services it can buy.  But to your average "Child Psychology" major he can't understand why pieces of paper don't have value.  And to the guy with an IQ of 120, he knows villainizing and punishing "corporations" will simply have the effect of deterring them from investing in the place they are punished.  But to your average journalism major, their brain isn't smart enough to overcome simply envy and spouts out "it's the corporations, man!!!!"

This is not to dismiss my theories that the true motivator of leftists is the mere formula of "laziness+ego."  But it is to point out they may simply lack the intelligence to understand and comprehend "slightly advanced"

cause and effect,
math, and
advanced logic,

rendering what we think are simple, black and white facts moot and ineffective.

Ergo, it doesn't make any sense to get angry with them if they can't understand "% GDP" or "exponential growth," because expecting that out of a liberal arts major is really like expecting a mentally retarded person to be able to do long division.  And while it does not solve the country's myriad of problems, it does lower your blood pressure and provide a little bit of sanity.
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sth_txs said...

Your contentions on IQ are reasonable, but I know of plenty of dumbass engineering Phd's over the years who would fellate Obama and like gun control laws and think Paul Krugman is real economist.

Even those with higher IQ's are limited in viewpoint which is also part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Glad I have 2 STEM degrees, where I actually had to learn something at school and use it in my daily work life (at one time, not so much now-but that's another story). What I find funny in my college career, is that I use to take the liberal arts classes for an easy A, while getting crushed with all the work in my STEM classes. Nothing against the liberal arts classes, I have the equivalent of a minor in history (my school didn't give out minors, but I had 21 credits in history when I graduated, where most schools have between 15-18 credit requirement for minors), because I like history. The classes were easy. I really don't understand how people don't get A's in liberal arts classes, all the time (of course now all the special snowflakes in their safe spaces get A's for just showing up, it was different 25-30 years ago, somewhat)?

Oh well I need to get back to "Enjoying my Decline"! Best advice ever given Mr. Clarey!

Anonymous said...

Hey Aaron,

I seriously doubt your client's IQ is 128. Unless your client took an official MENSA IQ test, then his IQ is NOT 128. Only MENSA provides a real IQ score.

Random IQ tests on the internet will NOT give you an official measure of your IQ.

I took an online test, and my IQ was listed as 140. Think thats real? I doubt it. Based on my MENSA score, it was only in the average range.

You should tell your clients NOT to take online tests, but the official MENSA test. I doubt most people would because they are either lazy or too scared to do so.

JK Brown said...

No doubt IQ has an impact, but even the high-IQ liberal arts majors can seem like dealing with the mentally challenged. Much of this may come from the higher IQ testing STEM having developed problem solving skills. Learning to break problems down into force diagrams, which often revealed that the solution was nothing like the first intuitive solution of the "uneducated". Shifting coordinate systems, etc. And then there is the rigor imposed by mathematics. Then they throw in the non-linear forces/impacts that you have to keep aware of in case they suddenly shoot up to significance. In economics, there is as Don Boudreaux has written about as his purpose in teaching is the student learning to ask, "Compared to what?"

For all the hype over "critical thinking" from the Liberal Arts, is the student really forced to break down the ideas regardless of intuition and see where the forces are and how they drive the system? How many times is the student forced to answer "compared to what?" If they aren't forced to face their uneducated guesses, how will they learn to see past the first impression and breakdown the problem into solvable chunks? In other words, does the liberal arts major learn to "think"? Your early childhood education student probably doesn't as they are being trained, not educated. How many of the professors in these areas would welcome a student dissecting the lessons rather than memorizing them?

All this fits, Mises characterization of antiliberalism (the modern Liberal) having resentment, which can be impacted by logical argument, and what he called "Fourier Complex". The Fourier Complex is roughly neurosis based on the unwillingness to see that "the best plans of mice and men often go awry" and its not due to privilege, discrimination, conspiracy, etc. That one must adapt, improvise and overcome, even it means accepting human nature. This blindness to reality is not something that the believer can be disabused of by rational argument. They most often must come to their awakening on their own.

When you realize you are dealing with "crazy" people who are not seeing reality as you are, dealing with Liberals makes more sense. A good portion of society has the Fourier complex, mostly because they don't have to deal with reality in fact and believe their personal experience transfers to the wider world. There are some who have dealt with the real world, but adopt the antiliberalism for power purposes.

gAry from Jersey said...

I don't know, Cap. sEems to me there's a cultural element that makes people stupid as they absorb Marx, the Kardashians, public schools and Hollywood. nO doubt engineers and economists are smart people but they had help along the way in ways liberal arts types either didn't get or were to dumb to recognize. You know the kind: they've been in charge of education and media for some time now, churning out morons just like themselves. I just wish someone would do a study to see just how deep the gap is between STEM students and arts majors in cultural and political issues. mAybe that would shut down liberal arts for good.

Emac said...

That was a good rant, because it is true. My IQ is in the range of 136-146, I earned my living as a professional mainframe computer programming consultant and I usually worked around people not significantly less intelligent than me. So not only can I easily grasp more complex matters a lot faster (or at all) than the vast majority of liberal arts and trash major owners but I was able to work in an environment with intelligent people, so conversations were actually a pleasure to have even if sometimes they got a wee bit nerdy, like discussing Larry Niven's hilarious short story that examined the consequences of sex between Superman and Lois Lane in the link here:

I recognize I am not the norm but it is hard on a day-to-day basis living with the fact that people who cannot understand fundamental economics and binge on reality TV are the ones electing the scum that reside in the White House and Congress, not rational people. Every day it is getting worse and worse in this country and I guarantee you that only will a collapse as you referenced occur but it will be far worse than anything else people that didn't live through the Great Depression have ever experienced. It's simple math and deduction, folks.

Highland Fiddler said...


The Question said...

"And to the guy with an IQ of 120, he knows villainizing and punishing "corporations" will simply have the effect of deterring them from investing in the place they are punished. But to your average journalism major, their brain isn't smart enough to overcome simply envy and spouts out "it's the corporations, man!!!!"

I was a journalism major (yeah, yeah, yeah, it is what it is). It is a lonely profession for a Red Pill libertarian working in the Seattle area, to say the least.

I was having a discussion with a coworker about our salaries (you don't want to know how low) and they were whining about how the company needed to give us raises. I pointed out that our company has to make more money in order for them to pay us more. I suggested they come up with a better business model in order to attract additional advertisers or increase readership to justify higher advertising rates. The coworker just insisted that we deserve a livable wage.

"Where does that money come from?" I asked.


They can sit and wait for a raise. I see the writing on the wall and not waiting for the ship to sink. I've been reading your book on how to become self-employed and plan to go that route eventually. Fortunately, there are a lot of entrepreneurs in the area I've met through my work I can reach out to as well.

If I have kids, I am drilling it into their heads as soon as they crawl out of the womb that they are going into STEM or some trade and I will help them make it happen. I don't care what it takes or what other people tell them. I'm not having a high IQ child waste the best years of their lives and earning potential because I failed to give them any kind of real guidance or advice on what careers to choose.

Mark Matis said...

I wonder what AA does to the average IQ in each major...

Heh. I wonder what the average IQ is in AA studies.

Anonymous said...

An IQ test only accounts for a very specific kind of intellect. There's an entire spectrum of intelligence. It's like you're saying that if you're not red or orange that you must be retarded.

I've went out with PhD students in STEM fields, and they were socially inept. Were they smart? Sure. In a certain area. Do you think Hitler or Stalin had a high IQ? Hitler was a wannabe liberal arts student. I guarantee you that if you were to sit across a table from Hitler or Stalin they'd belittle your intelligence and scope of understanding in life.

Another one everyone likes to give a hard time to; Donald Trump. He couldn't cut it in a STEM field in a million years. Maybe his English skills aren't the best, but the guy is incredibly intelligent. Anyone that can amass a multi billion dollar fortune knows a little something about life and how things work. Those are the kind of people that STEM majors usually end up working for in the long run.

I'm not glorifying Hitler, Stalin, or Trump, but citing that intelligence, power, and influence don't always directly link back into STEM fields. Would Hitler and Stalin use STEM students to their advantage? Sure. Going into a STEM field almost guarantees you're going to be a subordinate to such a machine. A STEM major will 99% of the time being working for a company like Johnson & Johnson, or stuck in an academic spiral of research which is funded, and the overall narrative controlled by the establishment.

David v. Rudisill said...

Ultimately, test scores mean nothing. The real test of intelligence is production: what you've produced, what you've done, what you've created.

Real production in the real world requires problem solving skills that are very different than the problems encountered on IQ tests. Proving a new mathematical theorem, or writing a poem, or writing a best-selling book, or starting a lucrative business all require a kind of intelligence and character traits that are difficult to measure with IQ tests. IQ tests largely consist of routine problems that have to be solved as quickly as possible. You have very little time for creativity, research, making dumb mistakes, asking lots of dumb questions or trying out different possibilities.

This isn't how most problem-solving in the real world is done. In the real world, time is generally on your side. You have lots of time to make dumb mistakes, learn from them, and to do research and hope for creative insights. IQ tests are best used as weed-out tests; people who do very badly on them probably aren't going to do well in business, or mathematics, or other fields. But don't rely on them too much for anything beyond that. To get the best idea of a person's intellect, look at what they have produced, not what grade they got on a test. If someone talks a lot about having a high IQ, that's a good sign that they haven't done anything but talk shit.

Mkelley said...

I belong to a group of total dummies. We call ourselves Densa.

The Plague Doctor said...

President Camacho on the Economy.

The Plague Doctor said...

Off topic: Let's all make this video go viral: Modern Edukayshun.

Anonymous said...

I just love your stuff Cappy .... You say a lot of what I think. Nice to know I am not alone.

Anonymous said...

Read this before you take IQ a bit too seriously. IQ is largely based on visual-spatial perception, and this is tied to being a pretty boy (eyes symmetrically placed just right in the face) with low testosterone and the predictably leftist values that come with it. They suffer a lot of mental illness, too. Symmetry seems to come at the expense of redundancy and robustness.

Hardened conservatives with lower IQ scores are de facto more intelligent in the real world. But no one wants to listen to rough looking guys, and it's not because they score lower on a silly exam. Justin Trudeau types simply look better on the television, which is the most important aspect a politician can have since the 60's.

Alyric said...

Great analysis, Captain. I've tried explaining the difference between currency and wealth to a leftist before, I eventually gave up.

I'm not sure if you've ever read Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court, but in Chapter 33 (Sixth-Century Political Economy), the narrator tries (in vain) to explain this concept to the locals. In the end, he gives up, noting "What these people valued was high wages; it didn't seem to be a matter of any consequence to them whether the high wages would buy anything or not".

MC said...

I had the neuropsych people test me twice.

Once after three years in Liberal Arts (91) and once, about 12 years later, after a decade as a housewife (137).

I'm not sure intelligence tests are valid. That's a lot of difference in score for changing nothing more than trying really hard (on the first one) to kicking back and having fun with the tester (on the second one).

If, however, there is validity in intelligence testing, I guess my scores would suggest that studying Liberal Arts actually makes you dumber.

Either that, or raising kids, running a house, and trying to garden on flint gravel grows your brain.

Unknown said...

I haven't been here in a while, CC. Some good shit there.

Derp said...

I think many conservatives don't understand that there are lefties and there are lefties. Some of them know full well that they are making statements that are absurd within our reality, but they believe they can create a new reality. For example, the only reason a crisis develops when a country borrows too much is psychological, lenders panic and stop lending, and if they could defeat that psychology, infinite wealth could be created if we only just dared! "We will bury you!" in the words of Khrushchev. Krugman believes that too.

Then there is the lumpenproletariat, known to conservatives as LIVs, who really are stupid and just want free stuff. Lefties and lefties.

You shouldn't underestimate lefty intelligence. It is there.

deb harvey said...

hi, captain,
i am old so even though the iq is said to be sufficient i can hardly do arithmetic, much less mathematics.
i homeschooled my kid, which led to a lot of reading on my part.
one article, which i cannot properly cite, since i don't remember, told of a professional who was looking for greener pastures.
he instructed his secretary to write to places he had researched,in order to get information about the areas.
he noticed that every place cited above average students. he couldn't figure how this could be true everywhere.
his research yielded the reason as every testing agency had lowered standards so that the average iq, about 25 years ago, was 110.
this meant that every district could claim above average students.
of course, it is a scam.
ev3n if all kids could be improved ten points the bell curve would just move the median so that the 50% mark would still be in the middle!! no one seems able to grasp this.
it is an interesting topic, and those you cite as probably retarded may really be retarded if you subtract those ten fake points from their measured iq's.

i never took the mensa test because it cost money i didn't have, but i was afraid it would show me up as not as smart as i thought i was. so the commenter above is correct. many of us are afraid to take the mensa test!!

starting from about the time i went to college [1967] the quality of students began to go down.
the draft dodgers were filling the place and the schools had pressed hard for the masses to go to college, whether suited or interested or not.
this kept thousands out of a stiff job market and lined the pockets of the schools.
once schools found the golden egg laying goose they have never let it go--why would they?

TroperA said...

IQ tests don't mean crap. Last time I took one, I scored 137 in the English portion but 90 in the math portion. I had an overall score of 127. But it's the Math portion of the test that would determine how well I would do in the all-important STEM fields. Being able to write a nice essay with clean spelling is useful, but not nearly as useful as being able to perform calculus, physics and engineering on a professional level.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, raw ambition goes a long way to cover a shortfall in intelligence.

Captain Capitalism said...

Whole lot of people missing the trees from the forest with this one.

Tony Trucano said...

Tony Trucano said...

Liberal Arts degrees can be worth something. A little thing called evil called nepotism.

EurEye said...

Being a literature & languages major I have a pet peeve(although I agree with your IQ observation, maybe except for the economists in Europe): It´s not the humanities as such that dictate lower IQ. It is the inflated number of students in humanities that cause it.

I see a great difference between people who studied with me and the students my friends from back then have to teach. In my course we were 7, the year before and the year after us it didn´t even open. So the specialty produced 7 (more like 4) people every two years. Then came a breaking point, and now the same specialisation acting in the same labour market spits out about 30 people a year. There are not more teachers, there are just fuller classrooms (if the kids show up). I bet you have the 4 good ones every two years in that bunch as you had before. Then you have the rest. It might be interesting to compare the average IQs from some years back (like 15, 20 or more).

It´s useful for a society to have a FEW people dedicated to literature, filosophy and other "humanities". They sit and drink and watch the things happening and they meanly point out when it starts getting weird, just like a certain captain of our acquaintance does (it´s funny: I have always counted economy among humanities, but that may be a European point of view). This means that for things to work well, it requires intelligent AND wise AND honest people. The good news is you only need a few so if we did things properly, it would be feasible.
Also for the things to work well, you need much more straightforward technically oriented people, engineers and other kinds of precise, strictly down to earth types. For every philosopher, economist, sociologist, you need tens, maybe hundreds of those.
Today the ratio is inversed and it doesn´t help. The noise drowns out the message, since anybody who knows the letters of the alphabet can now be a sociology major.

but we asked for it. When we decided we "needed" more college educated people, we tacitly accepted to lower the level on those colleges. It is only logical that if you want to include more people, you have to be more benevolent in the selection. If you are more benevolent, you have more idiots coming in.

I think STEM is not inherently better, it is just better protected from this trend: if the STEM people (and other practical occupations) screw up, people die right away. So you can´t really let idiots do it, when people die, other people yell and sue and it all turns ugly.
On the other hand, the humanities are a tricky thing: most of the time you don´t see the negative consequences, at least not now. You can always blame it on someone else. So there´s no problem with trying it out and we´ll see what happens.It is the ideal place to manufacture millions of "college graduates" without any (immediately) visible harm.

And that´s what we did(in Europe as well as in the US). We were only too happy to put those young out of unemployment figures for five years or so, mostly into funny sounding courses where stupidity doesn´t crumble bridges and explode airplanes. And we pretend the population is smarter for it.

Mark Matis said...

I hate to break this to you, TroperA, but if you can't write worth shiite, you are useless in any STEM field. Sharing your knowledge with others is how STEM works. And communication skills are ESSENTIAL to that function.

Anonymous said...

Only mensa provide your real IQ?
They are not the gatekeepers to IQ testing.

Anonymous said...

What was the IQ test? Thete are different types.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

I'm forever questioning how "smart" or how "intelligent I am.
Frankly, I think most all people are pretty much savants. They have one or two significant aptitudes but are mediocre-to-subpar at anything else.

grey enlightenment said...

Ultimately, test scores mean nothing. The real test of intelligence is production: what you've produced, what you've done, what you've created.

It just so happens that people with high IQs tend to produce more economic value than those with lower IQs. They create companies, technologies, research, etc.

Anonymous said...

EurEye said a lot of what I was going to.

Part of the problem is that we forgot the purpose of college. There was a time, not that long ago, when most people didn't go to college. They didn't need to. First, because good jobs were available for those with a high school degree. Second, because a high school degree was more rigorous then. High school was suppose to create functional citizens all by itself.

College was geared towards three major groups: what we now call STEM--areas of science and applied technical skills that required additional schooling; the "future leaders", including Management at most companies; and the thinkers, the historians and philosophers and artists who were supposed to contribute to society's cultural advancement. These weren't hard and fast categories--it was expected that scientists would have a firm grasp of Latin at the least, and a firm grounding in History as it pertained to scientific advancement, for example. The Liberal Arts were the foundation of every education.

This changed at some point. We usually wave generally at sometime in the 1960s. There was a lot of change happening at that time, but what gets overlooked are Pell Grants. They came into existence in 1965, with the purpose of giving capable but lower-income students the opportunity to attend college, which was an expensive proposition in most cases. Naturally, there was "mission creep", as the grants expanded to allow more and more students to afford college. A college education was seen as the ticket to a better life, and everyone wanted a better life (for their children if not for themselves). The pressure to attend college increased. As more students appeared, more colleges were born, and the existing schools expanded.

Anonymous said...

Pt 2:

By the time I started college in the mid-80s, college was almost mandatory; it was inconceivable (to both me and my parents) that I might not go. College is like every other commodity: when it is scarce it is valuable. When it is mandatory the value of it lessens, and the quality of it drops. But when everybody MUST attend, then the institutions see to it that everyone CAN attend, and, more importantly, graduate. New majors will be created for those who "aren't a good fit" for the existing disciplines. High school stopped being an end to itself and became a "college prep"--the new Junior High.

I knew the education I was getting was not as rigorous as what I would have gotten just 20 years earlier, but I was sure it would be good enough. I started college at 18, but it was wasted on me, for the most part. I would have been much better served if I'd waited until I was 25 or so to start, but that simply wasn't done unless you'd gone into the military first (which would have never occurred to me either).

Did I mention that I majored in Philosophy? The important thing was, though, I had the sheepskin. This was all I needed to succeed, and the college was very happy to give me that golden ticket.

The world needs great thinkers, and artists, and the like. But there's a glut on the market, and as in the case of any glut, some of the goods are not as high a quality as others. While I enjoyed college, and my philosophy classes, I also recognize that it did little to prepare me for any career. And at the time, I didn't care, which is the surest sign of all that I wasn't ready for it!

And now, thirty years later, is there anything left to the Liberal Arts? Is there a standard, or is it a catch-all for everything that isn't STEM? We need scholars and thinkers--exceptional ones, though. "Liberal" used to have a different meaning, one which only a few people today even understand. Liberal arts is the same way.

So, Aaron, while I applaud the effort to steer serious, hard working students into STEM and hard fact careers, we also need to restore the Liberal Arts back to what it used to be--a solid grounding in history, theory, and knowledge of the world, along with learning how to learn and think. I have no idea how that's supposed to be done, but there it is.

For what it's worth, my IQ is 136. But IQ is overrated.

bob r said...

That is something of an epiphany. I've been measured at 145. Graduated summa cum laude in mechanical engineering. I work with engineers and sometimes dealing with the "average" engineer is pretty frustrating: ideas that seem to me to be blindingly obvious appear to be incomprehensible to some of my colleagues. That 20+ point difference might indicate a different approach is needed.

Phelps said...

An IQ test only accounts for a very specific kind of intellect. There's an entire spectrum of intelligence. It's like you're saying that if you're not red or orange that you must be retarded.

That's absolutely, totally wrong. All the tests measure the overall intelligence factor (g) to a greater or lesser degree. The standard IQ tests are designed to average right down to that g factor.

All tests are influenced by g. A person with high g is going to do better on tests, overall, whether they have a natural talent in that particular sector. The correlation is well studied -- the usual response is, "well, I just don't believe that." Fine. you don't believe in math. You aren't the first dum-dum to say that.

The g factor is also pretty unpopular outside psychometrics because of all the other implications it brings -- notably that it correlates strongly with income, is highly hereditary, and most unpopularly, it tracks strongly with race. It tracks so strongly that the stereotypical "dumb" races are a standard deviation behind the stereotypical "smart" races.