X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Blogs

Intelligence is just another privilege you inherited from mummy and daddy

16 October 2013

2:32 PM

16 October 2013

2:32 PM

I’m starting to get the impression that the Guardian isn’t very keen on Michael Gove, and may not give him the benefit of the doubt in their reporting. The latest offering was this, ‘Genetics outweighs teaching, Gove adviser tells his boss’, which was presumably designed to infuriate teachers, about an essay written by Dominic Cummings. This was followed up by a Polly Toynbee piece denying the role of hereditary factors in intelligence and claiming that it was all part of some government plan to keep the poor in their place.

Others have waded in, raising the spectre of eugenics, and I imagine someone is right now composing a comment piece about Dr Mengele’s legacy with the headline MICHAEL GOVE’s ‘FINAL SOLUTION’ FOR POOR CHILDREN.

Dominic Cummings had in fact used an accurate definition of heritability, as he states here, and the point he was making was that journalists routinely misunderstand genetics. What’s strange is that he was saying nothing that isn’t widely accepted; the very significant influence of heritable factors on differences in IQ within a population has been well known for four decades, and yet for political reasons it is ignored in education policy, both here and in the US.

[Alt-Text]


The Guardian reporter called these findings ‘eye-catching’, yet there’s nothing remotely surprising that nature plays a large part in differences in intelligence, any more than it would do in height. Recognising that tall parents often have tall kids would not be to say that diet ‘doesn’t matter’, yet in the study of intelligence a false dichotomy is presented — nature v nurture, rather than nature and nurture.

For anyone with even the slightest interest in evolutionary biology it would be exceptionally strange if the human brain, uniquely among mammalian organs, was not affected by heritability, but had instead been created by a New York Times-reading God who thought that evolution was offensive. And yet this blank slate idea still directs policy, and the result is that teachers often get blamed when it all goes wrong.

Why is it that the reality-based community, which is so quick to jump on the creationism taught in a tiny number of schools, ignores another irrational idea that affects the entire educational system? It’s not just the half-life toxicity of Nazi eugenics. As Dr James Thompson of UCL cites here in this primer on intelligence, it is considered bad form for the clever to point out that their advantage is inherited.

Yet this has the effect of giving the intellectually privileged the false idea that they have earned their advantage, and eroding the feeling of noblesse oblige that the wealthy once felt when they knew their fortune depended on luck.

Rather we should regard intelligence as just another privilege you inherit from mummy and daddy, something Polly Toynbee — great-granddaughter of Arnold Toynbee and Gilbert Murray — should appreciate. That would make the world a more, not less, just place.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close