Central to the paper by Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn reporting that social scientists are dimmer than physical scientists (“Who’s naturally the smarter?”, 20 February) is an ancient IQ study conducted in Cambridge by John Gibson and Phyllis Light (1967).
A few things should be noted:
- their “social sciences” category consisted of only 10 male academics drawn from the Faculty of Economics and Politics
- the overall sample size was 131, not 148, as a close reading of Gibson and Light reveals
- the title of their paper is misquoted
- those who had read agricultural sciences appear to have been the dimmest of all.
The good news is Gibson and Light’s conclusion that “IQ seems not to be related to success as a scientist, provided that it is greater than a certain threshold which varies according to the particular scientific discipline”.
R. E. Rawles
Honorary research fellow in psychology
University College London
A couple of decades ago, I had to give a light-hearted talk on science and scientism at a graduate conference. In the psychology department’s library, I dug out without much difficulty a couple of ancient papers that allowed me to construct a case that physical scientists were introverted and anal-retentive, compared with social scientists, who were extroverted and free-spirited. Should I revisit this compelling evidence and publish it in a serious journal?
Department of Geography
University of Cambridge
“The paper also argues that scientists’ higher intelligence accounts for their political moderation.” Reminds me of that famous mathematician and moderate Theodore Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber – though there was no doubting his intelligence, for a given value of “intelligence”.