Bad science of the 'bigger' brains

September 2, 2005

In the leader about the article "IQ claim will fuel gender row" (August 26), the editor observes with pleasure that research on gender differences in IQ have not been hindered by "political correctness". This is significant because it highlights the culture of unquestioning acceptance in the modern perception of science.

I was moved to write this letter not on the grounds of political correctness but on those of scientific correctness. The IQ test was created (by men) about 100 years ago. It is widely accepted to be a flawed and outmoded measure that attempts to quantify the unquantifiable: the vast array of capabilities that we loosely term intelligence. It simply tests proficiency at doing IQ tests. What we are really talking about is not research that finds men to be more intelligent than women, but research that finds men to be better at doing IQ tests. To make the jump that Paul Irwing and Richard Lynn made between these two things was a scientific error.

Albert Einstein's brain was weighed after death and it was found to be lighter than an average brain (male and female). What does this say about using brain size as a correlate for intelligence? It says that this research is an example of lazy science; recycling old and flawed concepts by shallow means to futile ends. The results of this study have been unforgivably distorted. It has been packaged wrongly and sold to eager customers who expect science to be like a Ronseal product, doing "exactly what it says on the tin". We must remember that science can be used to control and to manipulate. It is foolish to attempt to separate scientists from their politics. The only way to separate fact from inflammatory fiction is to listen to scientists who do not claim to have simple answers, and to be suspicious of those who do.

Claire Visser
Leamington Spa

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