November 21, 2007

Reading Skills

OK, boys and girls, settle down. I know everyone is anxious to leave for Thanksgiving break, but based on the reaction to the previous post around the blogs, we need to do a quick reading skills test.

A number of people have earnestly objected that Slate doesn't charge a subscription --- very true! Can anyone tell me the name of the figure of speech being employed in the title? Go ahead, Johnny. "Sarcasm; the use of irony to express contempt; from the Greek sarkazein, to tear flesh." Very good, Johnny.

Next, can someone tell me why the names of Saletan's sources appear underlined in the text? "Because they are anchors of hyperlinks." That's right! Did anyone follow those hyperlinks? You did! And what do you find there? No, Johnny, let someone else take a turn --- Cindy? "Demonstrations that, even if you accept IQ is valid, his sources are quacks who couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag." Excellent! My, you're doing much better than the blogosphere, boys and girls. Let me just add that if you follow this controversy at all, you know that these people are quacks; you can even discover it by, at most, a quarter of an hour with your favorite search engine. I will leave you to judge whether a journalist who doesn't check up on his sources that way is doing his job.

Third point: Why do I not go into all the reasons why you shouldn't accept the usual IQ framework in the first place? Alex? "Because you wrote about 22,000 words in two parts doing so already, and linked to all that at the bottom of the post." Correct!

Finally, fourth point, why do I not say anything about the correlation between head sizes and IQ that impresses Saletan so much? Johnny? "Because you can't handle the truth?" I knew I was going to regret calling on you. Who else? Chris? "Because a construct's being correlated with a physical variable doesn't imply being physically meaningful in any way. Height is correlated with head size, so the sum of height and blood triglycerides will be correlated with head size." True, but maybe not all that compelling to the audience. Anyone else? Roxana? "Because the evidence for that correlation is taken apart in the piece you linked to about Rushton?" Right --- do you have something to add to that? "It's easy to discover from the literature that there really isn't any such correlation, once you design your study so that it's not hopelessly confounded." Did people catch what Roxie did there — she attached a link. Boys and girls, you should follow that link! Roxie, thanks for that article, and let me say that getting a result like that out of Vincent Sarich, of all people, is an especially nice catch.

OK, class, congratulations; you passed this little exam in basic on-line reading skills, unlike the blogosphere's various comment sections. Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Posted at November 21, 2007 14:00 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth