Yet another reader wants to know his IQ

A reader sent me the following email:

Dear PP, 
I recently stumbled upon your blog and find it quite fascinating. I’ve been interested in IQ and psychometrics for many years and have taken many online assessments and standardized exams to gauge my own IQ. Interestingly enough, however, it seems that the more tests I take, the less conclusive my IQ range becomes due to high variances in scores. 
This is why I’m turning to you, an expert on this topic, to request an estimation. For one, in elementary school I was tested for the gifted program and unfortunately rejected. This tells me that my childhood IQ was beneath 130, which I believe is the cutoff for most school gifted programs.

Yes, but the mere fact that you were tested for gifted suggests you were probably close. Perhaps 125 (U.S. norms).

The reader continues:

However, all the standardized exams that I’ve taken (which you’ve claimed to be valid proxies for IQ) seem to tell a different story.  My scores are as follows: 
SAT (Taken 2017) – Math 800, Verbal 720 
ACT (Taken 2017) – 34 Composite 
I was also ranked 6/945 in my high school class for GPA. I figured this might be relevant given the large sample size and the notion that academic performance correlates with IQ. Since my high school was in a lower-middle class area, we can assume a relatively normally distributed sample with an average akin to the American population average. All the students ranked ahead of me were Asian, and I am South Asian myself (Indian). 

A post-2016 SAT score of 1520 equates to an IQ of about 132. I’ve done very little research on the ACT but apparently a 34 on the SAT is like 1535 on the post-2016 SAT which equates to an IQ of 133.

The reader continues:

I’m also currently an undergraduate (a double major in mathematics and economics) and have been studying for the GRE. My diagnostic score for the GRE, with little to no preparation, was a 157 Verbal and 166 Quantitative. I’ve since improved to a 163 Verbal and 167 Quantitative for my second practice exam. 

Averaging across both sittings, you scored 160 V and 167 Q for a composite of 327. Preliminary research suggests this equates to an IQ of 143.

Averaging the SAT, ACT & GRE together, your mean IQ equivalent on college admission tests is 136. Normally I don’t endorse the averaging of tests but these particular tests are so similar that it’s not worth the trouble of considering them different tests.

Meanwhile, your score on an official IQ test was probably around 125.

Given that official IQ tests correlate no more than 0.7 with college admission tests, your score on a composite of both types of tests would be about 134.

I had a couple follow-up questions which the reader answered in another email:

my socioeconomic background is generally lower-middle class. My high school was located in the suburbs but had many students from the nearby urban area…
One caveat to my socioeconomic status, which applies particularly to my situation, was that I grew up in a single-parent household. Both my parents were highly educated (held graduate degrees) but my father unfortunately passed away when I was young.

I’m very sorry to hear that, but at least he lived long enough to pass on his high IQ genes through you.

This obviously influenced my household income. 
As for my ethnic background, I come from a Brahmin ancestry. Although I’m not a practicing Hindu, I recognize that this could have played a role in my generally well-educated familial background. 

Indeed!

A reader’s Wechsler profile

I recently got an email from a college age man who was concerned that his VERBAL KNOWLEDGE INDEX (as I call it) was in the genius range (on both the children and adult version of the Wechsler) despite the rest of his cognitive profile being mediocre or low. When he asked his psychiatrist to interpret the results there was no helpful reply, so a friend of his suggested he contact me.

I’m not a psychiatrist so my opinions are for entertainment purposes only.

The first thing I did was correct all his subtest scores for norm inflation because the WISC-IV norms were 11 years old when he was tested and the WAIS-IV norms were a decade old. The sources I used were pg 240 of James Flynn’s Are We Getting SMARTER? and this table found here:

Such corrections are approximate because one can’t always assume that the rate of norm inflation can be extrapolated beyond the dates from which we have data and some subtests are so new, their rate of inflation had to be estimated using similar tests. In some cases there was norm deflation (see Coding in the table above, aka Digit Symbol).

The next thing I did was substitute the four index scores used on the WISC-IV and WAIS-IV with the five index scores used on the WISC-V. Again this gives only approximate results because the WISC-V index scores were built exclusively on WISC-V data and you’re not allowed to just substitute different versions, and in some cases I had to substitute subtests or adjust for not having the right number of subtests.

Nonetheless, the five factor model is so superior to the four-factor model, that for entertainment purposes only, I did it anyway.

The other liberty I took was calculating his overall IQ, by weighting all five indexes equally (the WISC-V gives equal weight to all core subtests, but more core subtests fall under some indexes than others).

WISC-IV (2013)WAIS-IV (2016)
 VERBAL KNOWLEDGE INDEX 135 142
 Similarities 17.23 18.4
 Vocabulary 15.67 17.1
 (Information)  12.55
 (Comprehension) 11 
 SPATIAL INDEX 78 85
 Block Design 5.56 6.73
 Visual Puzzles  
 ABSTRACT INDEX 102 117
 Matrix Reasoning 8.4 13.45
( Picture Concepts) 12.4 
 WORKING MEMORY INDEX 90 84
 Digit Span 7.89 7.73
 (Arithmetic)  7
 (Letter number sequence) 8.89 
 PROCESSING INDEX 87 96
 Digit Symbol 8.66 7.81
 Symbol Search 6.66 10.81
 OVERALL IQ 98 106

The first thing we notice is remarkable stability as we move from the children’s scale (2013) to the adult scale (2016). In 2013 his overall IQ was slightly below the U.S. mean of 100; in 2016 he scored slightly above, and even this modest increase might be partly explained by practice effect.

In 2013 his profile was verbal > abstract > working memory > processing > spatial. In 2016, verbal > abstract > processing > spatial > working memory. In other words there is a near perfect 0.95 correlation between his cognitive profile in 2013 and 2016, despite the fact that different versions of the Wechsler (with different questions) were used on each date.

Vertical reliability vs horizontal reliability

Reliability (not to be confused with stability) is typically measured by dividing all the items on a test in half in some random way (e.g. odd vs even numbered items). If the total score on all the odd number items correlates well with one’s score on all the even numbered items, this suggests your score was reliable, because it internally self-replicates. The reliability of the Wechsler scales are so high at the full-scale level that they are said to have a standard error of only 2 points, meaning in 2/3rd of all cases, one’s score is within 2 points of one’s “true” score and in 95% of cases, one’s score is within 4 points of one’s true score.

But what is true score? True overall score is the overall score one would get on the Wechsler if we could make every subtest infinitely long, yet factor out fatigue, practice effects, and ageing.

However I propose an alterative definition of true overall score: the overall score one would get on the Wechsler if we could increase the number of subtests to infinity, yet factor out fatigue, practice effects, and ageing. But since many subtests redundantly measure the same functions, what we really want to do is increase the number of index scores to if not infinity, then the maximum number that exist within the human mind. Let’s call this horizontal true score, to distinguish it from the typical definition of true score, which we can call vertical true score.

To measure horizontal true score, imagine we were doing a poll of the average IQ in a given school. If we tested five students, and they had an average IQ of 80 with an SD of 10, then the standard error of our poll would be 10 divided by the square root of our sample size.

Now instead of trying to find the average IQ of different people in a school, we’re instead trying to find the average index score of different talents within the same mind. Once we find the standard error of the average index score, we could convert it to standard error of overall IQ (because index scores are imperfectly correlated, one’s composite score on multiples indexes tends to be more extreme than one’s average index score). Multiplying the standard error by 1.96 and then adding and subtracting it from the overall IQ gives the 95% confidence band.

Based on the amount of scatter, I calculate that all we can say with 95% certainty is that the subject’s true horizontal overall score is anywhere from IQ 73 to IQ 122 (in 2013) and anywhere from IQ 78 to IQ 133 (in 2016).

So the subject is either very smart, or very not-smart but we can’t be more precise than that without running several more tests.

Career advise

Subject will be disapointed that I didn’t devote more content to this section, but there’s only so much career advise to be gained from Wechsler test results. He is a genius at overall verbal knowledge, but only slightly above average at social knowledge (comprehension), slight below average at processing and poor at working memory and arithmetic. His social knowledge is not poor (and given the low reliability of a single subtest, should not be over-interpreted), and when combined with his genius overall verbal knowledge, he would probably have a competitive edge. I suggest he pursue whatever he field he is passionate about, as long as it’s not closely related to law, STEM, clerical or visual technical skills because these require working memory, arithmetic, processing speed and spatial ability respectively.

Guest post by Illuminaticatblog

The following is a guest article written by Illuminaticatblog. The views in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Pumpkin Person:

Many commenters on Pumpkin’s blog think very differently. This has led many to call each other autistic. But there is no scientific consensus on what autism is otherwise autism would not be confused with schizophrenia so often. MBTI the personality system does not help. A new system does. It was made by Digibro the Anime YouTuber. Two axis exist.

Lexical thinking is formalized rules thinking. Contrast (impressionistic thinking) is informal rules or patterns that are informal i.e. patterns that are new and hard to explain. creativity does not follow a rules system if new otherwise it is just calculation.

linear vs lateral thinking is easy to explain. multiple vs singular train of thought. they can be conscious or unconscious.

The only true autistic type on the chart would be the human calculator. They will have such a narrow focus that they will only do something if it is complete. They will not deviate and this makes relationships hard because relationships are not a collection of parts that can be categorized.

I am a newtype. I have high lateral thinking and high impressionistic thinking. I think in multiple ways at once and new stuff is coming into my mind all the time.

Here is a chart on blog commenters and their type.

IQ as fortune teller or self-fulfilling prophecy?

Because the Indian woman who IQ tested me at age 12 looked like a fortune teller, and had a grab bag full of mysterious jig-saw puzzles, blocks, and cards full of cartoon black people, I always loved the idea of IQ predicting destiny. I loved how years after John Gotti left high school and became a mob boss, a biographer found that he scored 110 on a high school IQ test. As Daniel Seligman noted, smart enough to get vey rich, but only in the crime world where he would end up in jail.

Oprah fascinates me because she was a case where brain size was destiny. Despite having everything against her (poor, illegitimate, abused, dark skinned black, fat, lower class, not considered beautiful) the smarts inside her freakishly huge hat size helped make her one of the richest and most powerful people alive just like the human species, despite having everything against us (weak, small, slow. no fur or fangs) used our freakishly large brains to become the World’s richest and most powerful species, causing some to define intelligence as the adaptability to turn situations to your advantage.

Bill Gates fascinates me because only one in a million Americans could have achieved his self-reported SAT score (equivalent to IQ 170) and he went on to become the World’s first centibillionaire decades before Jeff Bezos became the second one.

A self-fulfilling prophecy?

But my fascination with Gates is tempered by the fact that he achieved his high score on a college admission test instead of a nominal IQ test. Why? Because nominal IQ tests secretly predict your future and then get buried in your school files and only decades later do we see if you lived up (or down) to your score.

By contrast college admission tests are arguably a self-fulfilling prophecy because they allow you to enter the best schools and network with the smartest and richest kids which paves the way to success. If Gates hadn’t scored near perfect on the SAT, he never would have gone to Harvard and met Steve Balmer. Maybe he still would have founded Microsoft without him since he knew Paul Allen from Lakeside high school, but if he hadn’t scored high on Lakeside’s admission test, he never would have met Allen and more importantly, never would have cut his teeth on the school’s computer (which were super rare in those days).

So the question is, did Gates’s intelligence cause his success, or did his intelligence test scores cause it? If we could go back in time and prevent Binet from inventing the first IQ test (which led to the Army IQ tests which led to the SAT and Lakeside’s standardized tests) would Gates still have become the first centibillionaire?

IQ researcher Robert Sternberg has long argued that the predictive validity of IQ tests is illusory because standardized tests serve as gatekeepers to the very success they predict. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. We want to live in a meritocracy, but how do we know if IQ tests measure real world adaptability if we keep rigging the game in favour of high test scoring people?

Dale & Krueger

On the other hand, a famous study by Dale and Krueger found it’s the other way around. Standardized tests don’t get their predictive power because elite schools use them as gate keepers, but rather elite schools get their predictive power by recruiting smart hardworking people who would have been just as successful without said schools (with the exception of minorities and lower class people who really do get a boost from elite schools).

It would be interesting to correlate life time earnings with both one’s SAT and PSAT scores. If after correcting for reliability (the PSAT is shorter), both tests predicted money just as well despite the latter not being used in college admission, it might prove that smart people get ahead because they do better in life (and not because they do better on tests).

Getting rich off failing the LSAT

For every high SAT person who becomes super rich because of the opportunities conferred by good schools, there might be another who is financially stunted by their high college admission scores (think of all the brilliant minds doing academic research for 6 figures when they could have made billions on Wall street).

Or take the case of Sarah Blakely. After failing the LSAT twice, she used her intelligence to get ahead naturally. Her bright idea was inventing a type of pantyhose you could wear with sandals and underwear. She went to a patent attorney but he laughed in her face.

Desperate and disillusioned, she asked the universe for a sign (something Oprah tells viewers to do). Then one day she turned on Oprah and discovered Oprah had independently had the same pantyhose idea. Emboldened by this “sign” she started her business and when Oprah heard, she promoted the product on her show, causing Blakely to become a billionaire. So in Blakely’s case, the gatekeeper to success was not the LSAT, but Oprah’s genuine enthusiasm for the value of her product. Whatever her IQ, Blakely had got ahead naturally, and not because someone had socially engineered smart people to get ahead by demanding test scores but because she had a bright idea in real life.

Echoing Oprah’s metaphysical belief that failure is the universe’s way of telling you you’re moving in the wrong direction, Blakely stated:

I failed the LSAT. Basically, if I had not failed, I’d have been a lawyer and there would be no Spanx. I think failure is nothing more than life’s way of nudging you that you are off course. My attitude to failure is not attached to outcome, but in not trying. It is liberating.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/sara_blakely_424842

Years later Blakely would meet the woman who helped put her on track to be a billionaire.

The fine art of saving face

As a long time scholar of Oprah’s career, one of the most difficult moments came in 2006 after Oprah chose James Frey’s self-help drug addiction memoir A Million Little Pieces as her book club selection. At its peak, the book club was an unrivaled cultural phenomenon with each selection racing up the New York Times best-seller list, often to #1, and selling hundreds of thousands, if not millions of extra copies.

But the book club also bred resentment from elitists who may have subconsciously thought “How dare an overweight non-Ivy league dark skinned black woman who entertains housewives on daytime TV be the most important literary figure alive!”

For years critics had wished for a scandal to embarrass her & knock her of her high horse, & in 2006 it looked like they found one when it came to light that Frey had fabricated or embellished parts of memoir including the time he spent in prison.

At first Oprah stood by the author, saying that while parts of the memoir may be wrong, the spirit of the book was true, but the critics were having none of it. For the first time in a decade, Oprah found herself being attacked in the opinion pages of the major newspapers. Especially unrelenting was the omnipotent New York Times who had long been jealous that Oprah’s book’s club had usurped their review as the most influential literary force. Every day they would write another story about the Frey scandal and at one point they gave Oprah the Nixon treatment, asking “What did Oprah know and when did she know it?”

A dark day

I went to the internet to defend her, but the trolls were too many:

“This stupid woman never should have been on TV in the first place!” read one comment.

“Looks like someone made a monkey out of old Oprah,” read another.

At the time my coworkers were supposed to take me out for dinner to celebrate a promotion but I cancelled. I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head.

How could this have happened to the World’s biggest brained woman? Did I bet on the wrong horse? My whole life felt like one big waste of time.

And then I fell asleep as an ominous Thunder storm began roaring outside.

A new day

When I woke up, the sun shining as fresh air blew into my bedroom from the windows I forgot to close, and bird were chirping.

With great anxiety, I checked the internet.

Gone were all the nasty comments and vicious media coverage. They were replaced by people watching Oprah’s show in Chicago (where it had aired live that morning) and gushing:

“Oprah’s beating the living shit out of James Frey!”

“Oprah’s slaughtering Frey!”

The newspaper headlines were the same:

Oprah obliterates Frey

Queen of Alll Media Takes her Revenge

Oprah scolds Frey for betraying millions of readers

Even the New York Times was singing her praises!

What the hell happened I wondered? In an act of extraordinary genius, Oprah and her female staff had found a way to lure Frey and his publisher, the legendary New Yorker Nam Talese, onto her show as part of a panel discussing “Truth in America” but little did they know that they would be the sacraficial lambs.

Oprah walked Frey through every chapter of his book demanding he admit it was lies. At one point Oprah even got Frey to admit he had lied about his girlfriend hanging herself.

The studio audience moaned in agony

“Well one idea I had” Frey said, before Oprah cut him off. “That’s not an idea James, that’s a lie!”

“You conned us all!” she said, “you betrayed millions of readers”

“I’ve really been embarrassed by all this” Oprah kept saying, using a brilliant technique Chris Mathews calls Shining a Lantern on Your Problem.

Oprah then described a scene where Frey claimed to have had two root canals without novocaine. Frey claimed he wan’t sure.

“James that doesn’t make any sense,” said Oprah “that scene goes on in great detail for 2 or 3 pages and you say you had 2 root canals; so I ask again, were there 2 root canals?”

Frey was defeated. His beard mouth hanging open like dog shocked that its loving master had kicked it. Oprah seemed to see the pathetic face in the live TV monitor and knew her work was done. She cut to commercial, and brought out the publisher.

Oprah then lectured the elite publisher on the need for fact-checking and that the root canal story was an obvious red flag she should have caught.

Then Oprah invited elite columnists from the The New York Times and Washington Post onto the panel.

Richard Cohen praised Oprah for her courage in admitting she was wrong and course correcting and crowned her Mensch of the Year. Oprah insisted he say more, and which point Cohen began lecturing Talese to hire a fact checker! The publish turned bright red and when Oprah saw that the monitor had captured her humiliation too she cut to commercial.

Oprah ended the show by reading a quote from Michiko Kakutani about the importance of truth.

“I believe the truth matters” said Oprah as she furiously stormed off the set to thunderous applause, tossing Frey’s book for dramatic effect.

David Carr gushed: “By the time the program was over, she was surrounded by carnage, but she didn’t have a hair out of place. ”

Others gushed :”This was Old Testament Oprah! Making Frey burn in hell on live TV!”

Barbara Walters said “no one does the right thing all the time but Oprah does the right thing more often than anyone else.”

Packing a roughly 1900 cc brain size, Oprah had somehow turned the biggest scandal of her career into its biggest triumph.

“No one knows how to stage manage their image quite like Oprah,” said David Carr, “and I think her durability over time is that ability to stage manage”.

Another expert said “the sheer shrewdness of Oprah’s handling of the situation was reflected by the fact that her punishment of Frey, not her own judgement, became the story.”

I could hear my chemistry teacher’s definition of intelligence echoing in my mind:

The ability to adapt: To take whatever situation you’re in and turn it around to your advantage.

A few years later, publisher Nan Talese would eloquently lash out at Oprah in an attempt to save face.

Of course Oprah wouldn’t be Oprah if there wasn’t redemption. In the final season of her syndicated talk show, Oprah had Frey back on and apologized for being so tough on him and the two embraced.

No this blog has not been sold, yet…

Getting a couple emails asking if it’s true this blog has been sold; the answer is no, not yet. I figure it’s worth five figures. One problem is prospective buyers want me to stay on as blogger but I would no longer be owner, just a salaried employee with no editorial control. Another issue is control of the huge library of moderated & pre-redacted comments where most of the sensational content is. I’m reluctant to release the moderated & redacted comments for any amount of money because I don’t want the public being brainwashed by the propaganda some push. I’ve released it for a select few paying customers with the judgement to keep it in perspective, but mass release I do not support.

The IQ of As’ad Abukhalil

In light of all the conflict in the Middle East, I thought now would be a good time to estimate the IQ of As’ad Abukhalil, better known as The Angry Arab. I first saw this guy on TV in 2001 shortly after the September 11th attacks and was blown away because (1) he was the only anti-war voice I had seen on a major U.S. network at the time (other than Oprah) (2) he was one of the most verbally skilled people I had ever witnessed in my entire life.

His verbal acumen was all the more striking because so many of the Arabs I had seen on U.S. media did such a poor job expressing themselves, which made sense because (1) academic achievement is lower in the Arab world (2) for many, English is a foreign language, and (3) the neocon U.S. media likely denied high IQ Arabs a platform because they feared losing control of the narrative.

According to Richard Lynn, on a scale where white Americans average an IQ of 100 (SD 15), the Arab World averages 84. While this figure likely approaches 90 when you correct for the poorer living standards in the Middle East, it is substantially lower than the average American Jew (IQ 110) and far lower than Ivy league Jewish media elites like Bill Maher (which I estimate to be about 140)

And yet, the Angry Arab appears to be two standard deviations higher than even the brilliant Maher:

The angry Arab displayed not only logic and fluency, but advanced working memory, unleashing high speed well organized complex sentences.

He also showed quick wit. When presumably asked by another guest why he doesn’t leave America if he hates it so much he apparently shot back: “I like chicken McNuggets” prompting Maher to admit “Professor you’re a brilliant man, you took on everyone …they’re probably the smartest ethnic group. I don’t agree with them, but I’ve never met a dumb one”

And lest one think this was a one-off, Bill Maher is not the only Ivy League Jewish media elite the Angry Arab has verbally obliterated. The below videos show him skillfully dominating New York Times columnist Bret Stephen.

So what is his IQ? Well he’s certainly head and shoulders above Stephens and even Maher at debating, at least on Middle East issues, so he’s likely well above 140. On the other hand, if the average Arab has a true IQ around 90 with an SD of say 15, and there are 423 million Arabs, the smartest one should be 178.

So I can safely say his IQ is somewhere between 140 and 178; let’s split the difference and say 159 (extreme Genius level)

Ten most influential LIVING people of all time: 1940 to 2020

Below is a list of the 10 most influential living people of all time at the start of every decade from 1940 to 2020 as implied by various Time magazine honors (person or the year, people of the century, etc). Even though my readership is extremely bright, I’d be surprised if anyone (before reading this article) can recognize every face on the list, but familiarizing yourself with them all is a great education on post-WW II history. And while some might find the selections to U.S.-centric, America is, and certainly was, the World’s sole super-power, and its cultural capital

The list was first topped by FDR who won a record four presidential elections but he was quickly dethroned by Churchill whose victory over the Nazis so dramatically changed the course of history that he was King of the World until his death in 1965, clearing the way for Truman to hold the title.

Meanwhile Wallis Simpson was for decades the only woman among the 10 most influential for decades, until finally being joined by Queen Elizabeth by 1960.

By 1980 President Nixon’s impact on history had become enough for him to top the list, before being dramatically overtaken by Mikhail Gorbachev. Meanwhile after 50 years as the World’s most influential woman, the great Wallis Simpson finally died in 1986, allowing the Queen to finally be the Queen, but by 2010, Oprah’s intimate confession culture and role in electing the first black President made her important enough to overtake her.

By 2020, the genetic revolution became so important that even the great Gorbachev was dethroned by James Watson and the cultural significance of the Beatles had slowly accumulated to the point where their only surviving members leapfrogged to the top five.

Method:

To make this list I looked at all the  people who had ever been Time’s person of the year, person of the decade, person of the century, or included on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year, the century, or all time. Points were allotted as follows:

One of the 100 most influential of the year = 0.01 points

Person of the year: 1 point

One of the 100 most influential of the century = 1 point

Person of the decade = 10 points

Person of the half-century = 50 points

Person of the century = 100 points

One of the hundred most influential people of all time = 50 points (since recorded history is 5000 years and there are 100 people)

If they shared any of these honors with someone else, the points got divided by the number of people. So for example James Watson got 1 point for being one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century and got 50 points for being one of the 100 most influential people of all time, but since both honors were shared with Francis Crick, his total was 25.5 points making him the most influential living person ever (according to the collective wisdom of the World’s most prestigious magazine). If there was a tie, the person who achieved the distinction first was given preference.

In order to get points, the person had to be alive at the time they were honored. So even though Einstein was person of the century (100 points) he never ranked among the ten most influential living people because that award wasn’t given until the late 1990s (when Einstein was dead).

Bill Maher’s IQ

The fully vaccinated Bill Maher (who recently made news by getting covid) has always struck me as one of the most intelligent people in public life. It’s long been known that the higher one’s IQ, the less glucose their brain metabolizes during cognitive activity because they take the more efficient path, and Maher seems to really personify that. I love the effortless way he holds court on his weekly HBO show Real Time and before that Politically Incorrect. He’s so smooth the way he transitions from aggressively debating, to making a witty comeback to offering some deserved praise to elegantly laughing at someone else’s joke. He never belabours a point and always knows when to graciously move on with a chuckle. But he also has this arrogant way of looking at guests that just makes them seem stupid (see above photo). He’s also incredibly funny and it’s because he so good at spotting ironies that most of us miss.

And as an extremely wealthy, Ivy League educated, socially liberal, subversive, half Jewish atheist comic talk show host, he belongs to many high IQ demographics.

So what it is his IQ?

One clue is that in a recent interview, he said he graduated 7th out of 400 students in his high school so one in 57 level. But also consider that 10% of his generation dropped out of high school and in his day, these tend to be the worst students, so really he was one in 63.

Of course we don’t know how hard the school was, at least not in 1974 when Maher graduated. But in 2006 it ranked 8th out of 316 public schools (one in 40 level) in New Jersey based on mathematic and literacy proficiency.

If we multiply Maher’s individual ranking (one in 63) by the ranking of the school (one in 40), we get top one in 2,520 level.

Of course there’s more than just IQ involved in school grades and Maher described himself in the interview as a diligent student who showed up for class.

Before 1983, IQ predicted roughly half the variance in school grades (adjusted for range restriction), leaving traits like conscientiousness to explain the rest. Since Maher described himself as “diligent”, and not “very diligent” student, my guess is he was +1 SD in conscientious, not +2 SD. +1 SD implies top one in 6 level.

If prior to 1983, grades could be roughly modeled as the product of diligence and IQ, (Diligence * IQ = Grades), then IQ = Grades/Diligence.

Thus, the rarity of Bill Maher’s IQ = (1/2520)/(1/6) = 1/420

Top one in 420 level equates to an IQ of 142 (U.S. norms) or 141 (white norms) which sounds about right.

Who was right about cold winters: Richard Lynn or Jayman?

Both Richard Lynn and Jayman have argued that cold winters helped select for racial differences in IQ, but both of them also noted that the cold winter explanation was incomplete. For example, the most cold adapted race are the arctic people yet these appear to be somewhat less intelligent than Whites even though their brains are supposedly much bigger than those of Whites.

Richard Lynn resolved this paradox by arguing that because of their low population, Arctic people did not have genetic mutations which increased brain efficiency. So even though Arctic people faced more selection for high IQ than whites did because of the cognitive demands of their colder winters (making clothes, shelter, fire & hunting etc), evolution could mostly just select for bigger brains, while in Whites, selection was weaker but had more ways of making people smart, so more cognitive evolution occurred.

Although this theory makes sense, it appears to be wrong. Davide Piffer’s data shows that Native American (a proxy for Arctic people) score way below whites on polygenic scores for education (a crude proxy for IQ), even though the SNPs used are common in all races.

Jayman on the other hand argued that cold winters selected for brain size (via thermoregulation) but that only those cold adapted big brained races that acquired civilization would evolve high IQ.

The problem with this theory is that if civilization selected for IQ, it would also have also likely selected for brain size (though to a much lesser degree than if brain size were directly selected by the cold) and that doesn’t seem to have happened. Also, if civilization had selected for IQ, then people today would be better at drawing (a crude proxy for IQ) than they were in Upper Paleolithic Europe, and that doesn’t seem to have happened either.

Thus I’ve been forced to propose a third theory. Cold winters both selected for IQ directly (survival skills) and indirectly (big brains keep you warm) but the ratio of direct to direct selection was higher in Whites than in Arctic people because Whites lived in more population dense areas, where resources were running out. By contrast Arctic people (and Native Americans) were had a whole continent to themselves so there was less competition for survival skills, but you still need big heads to keep warm.