Digit Span is a subtest where the examiner reads a series of digits (one per second) and you must repeat those digits right back from memory. The easiest level would be repeating one digit, the second easiest would be repeating a two digit series, and then a three digit series etc. Typically, you get two attempts at each level of difficulty, and once you fail both, the test ends, and the longest series you passed is considered your digit span. So if you can repeat a six digit series but fail both attempts at the seven digit level, you are assigned a digit span of six.
A more difficult version of the test is backwards digit span, where the concept is the same except you repeat the digits in reverse order. Backwards digit span correlates twice as well with general intelligence as forward digit span, thus I was fascinated to discover that supremely influential neoconservative Charles Krauthammer obtained a backwards Digit Span of 12, despite being tested while driving “through traffic at 70 miles per hour on the New Jersey Turnpike”. To put a score of 12 in perspective, the average mentally healthy American (aged 45-54, which I presume was Krauthammer’s age range when tested) has a backwards Digit Span of 4.8 (SD = 1.5). So Krauthammer was 4.8 SD above the mean for his age and generation, roughly equivalent to an IQ of 172.
Of course backwards Digit Span is a very rough measure of IQ, and the figure 172 is so incredibly high that it should be treated with great skepticism. But having said that, there are several demographic details that raise the probability that Krauthammer is super smart: 1) he’s an Ashkenazi Jews, and this population has arguabley the highest IQ in the World, 2) he’s a physician who is board-certified in psychiatry and discovered a new form of manic depressive disease, 3) he attended Harvard, and 4) he’s one of the most influential people on the planet.
Indeed the Financial Times crowned Krauthammer the most influential commentator in America, saying “Krauthammer has influenced US foreign policy for more than two decades. He coined and developed ‘The Reagan Doctrine’ in 1985 and he defined the US role as sole superpower in his essay ‘The Unipolar Moment,’ published shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Krauthammer’s 2004 speech ‘Democratic Realism’, which was delivered to the American Enterprise Institute when Krauthammer won the Irving Kristol Award, set out a framework for tackling the post-9/11 world, focusing on the promotion of democracy in the Middle East.”
Iconic blogger Steve Sailer writes:
Considering all the cleverness Krauthammer devoted to getting America stuck in Iraq, I’m reminded of something Maxwell Smart said after triumphing over a supervillain: “If only he had used his genius for niceness instead of evil.”
Regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with the 2003 Iraq war, the fact that this paraplegic Krauthammer could help dictate the foreign policy of the World’s sole super power from the comfort of his computer keyboard, indicates towering intellect.
Intelligence is arguably the mental ability to adapt; to take whatever situation you’re in and turn it around to your advantage. If you believe in ethnic genetic interests, it behooved Krauthammer’s gene pool to rid the World of Saddam Hussein since he was an extremely powerful enemy of the Israeli people who not only fired scud missiles at Israel, but was funding Palestinian suicide bombers, and may have had nuclear ambitions. Thus one could argue that by brilliantly rising to the top of America’s intelligentsia and persuasively arguing for regime change, Krauthammer greatly increased his inclusive genetic fitness.
This is an example of how natural selection is still operating on human intelligence. Israel has arguably the highest IQ of any country in the Middle East, and it’s territory keeps expanding, while Arab territory keeps shrinking. But it’s not because the Israelis are outsmarting the Arabs themselves, but rather it’s because Israelis have ethnic genetic links to super high IQ people in the United States who know how to adapt American foreign policy to Israel’s advantage in a subtle enough way that most Americans don’t catch on. By contrast, there are far fewer Arab Americans smart enough to influence U.S. foreign policy the way Krauthammer has, and as a result, natural selection is favoring Jews over Arabs.
However Krauthammer may have met his match with the highly intelligent president Obama, who may have an ethnic genetic interest (or at least a cultural interest) in advancing Muslims since a great many black Africans are Muslim including some of Obama’s own family. Can Krauthammer use his 172 IQ to convince Americans that Iran is an imminent threat to America, despite Obama’s arguments to the contrary?