Charles Murray’s Philosophically Nonexistent Defense of Race in “Human Diversity”


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[The following is a guest article written by RR. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Pumpkin Person]

Charles Murray published his Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class on 1/28/2020. I have an ongoing thread on Twitter discussing it.

Murray talks of an “orthodoxy” that denies the biology of gender, race, and class. This orthodoxy, Murray says, are social constructivists. Murray is here to set the record straight. I will discuss some of Murray’s other arguments in his book, but for now I will focus on the section on race.

Murray, it seems, has no philosophical grounding for his belief that the clusters identified in these genomic runs are races—and this is clear with his assumptions that groups that appear in these analyses are races. But this assumption is unfounded and Murray’s assumption that the clusters are races without any sound justification for his belief actually undermines his claim that races exist. That is one thing that really jumped out at me as I was reading this section of the book. Murray discusses what geneticists say, but he does not discuss what any philosophers of race say. And that is to his downfall.

Murray discusses the program STRUCTURE, in which geneticists input the number of clusters they want and, when DNA is analyzed (see also Hardimon, 2017: chapter 4). Rosenberg et al (2002) sampled 1056 individuals from 52 different populations using 377 microsatellites. They defined the populations by culture, geography, and language, not skin color or race. When K was set to 5, the clusters represented folk concepts of race, corresponding to the Americas, Europe, East Asia, Oceania, and Africa. (See Minimalist Races Exist and are Biologically Real.) Yes, the number of clusters that come out of STRUCTURE are predetermined by the researchers, but the clusters “are genetically structured … which is to say, meaningfully demarcated solely on the basis of genetic markers” (Hardimon, 2017: 88).

Races as clusters

Murray then discusses Li et al, who set K to 7 and North Africa and the Middle East were new clusters. Murray then provides a graph from Li et al:

So, Murray’s argument seems to be “(1) If clusters that correspond to concepts of race setting K to 5-7 appear in STRUCTURE and cluster analyses, then (2) race exists. (1). Therefore (2).” Murray is missing a few things here, namely conditions (see below) that would place the clusters into the racial categories. His assumption that the clusters are races—although (partly) true—is not bound by any sound reasoning, as can be seen by his partitioning Middle Easterners and North Africans as separate races. Rosenberg et al (2002) showed the Kalash in K=6, are they a race too?

No, they are not. Just because STRUCTURE identifies a population as genetically distinct, it does not entail that the population in question is a race because they do not fit the criteria for racehood. The fact that the clusters correspond to major areas means that the clusters represent continental-level minimalist races so races, therefore, exist (Hardimon, 2017: 85-86). But to be counted as a continental-level minimalist race, the group must fit the following conditions (Hardimon, 2017: 31):

(C1) … a group is distinguished from other groups of human beings by patterns of visible physical features
(C2) [the] members are linked by a common ancestry peculiar to members of that group, and
(C3) [they] originate from a distinctive geographic location


…what it is for a group to be a race is not defined in terms of what it is for an individual to be a member of a race. What it means to be an individual member of a minimalist race is defined in terms of what it is for a group to be a race.

Murray (paraphrased): “Cluster analyses/STRUCTURE spit out these continental microsatellite divisions which correspond to commonsense notions of race.” What is Murray’s logic for assuming that clusters are races? It seems that there is no logic behind it—just “commonsense.” (See also Fish, below.) Due to not finding any arguments for accepting X number of clusters as the races Murray wants, I can only assume that Murray just chose which one agreed with his notions and use for his book.  (If I am in error, then if there is an argument in the book then maybe someone can quote it.) What kind of justification is that?

Compared to Hardimon’s argument and definition. Homo sapiens is:

… a subdivision of Homo sapiens—a group of populations that exhibits a distinctive pattern of genetically transmitted phenotypic characters that corresponds to the group’s geographic ancestry and belongs to a biological line of descent initiated by a geographically separated and reproductively isolated founding population. (Hardimon, 2017: 99)


Step 1. Recognize that there are differences in patterns of visible physical features of human beings that correspond to their differences in geographic ancestry.

Step 2. Observe that these patterns are exhibited by groups (that is, real existing groups).

Step 3. Note that the groups that exhibit these patterns of visible physical features correspond to differences in geographical ancestry satisfy the conditions of the minimalist concept of race.

Step 4. Infer that minimalist race exists. (Hardimon, 2017: 69)

While Murray is right that the clusters that correspond to the folk races appear in K = 5, you can clearly see that Murray assumes that ALL clusters would then be races and this is where the philosophical emptiness of Murray’s account comes in. Murray has no criteria for his belief that the clusters are races, commonsense is not good enough.

Philosophical emptiness

Murray then lambasts the orthodoxy for claiming that race is a social construct.

Advocates of “race is a social construct” have raised a host of methodological and philosophical issues with the cluster analyses. None of the critical articles has published a cluster analysis that does not show the kind of results I’ve shown.

Murray does not, however, discuss a more critical article of Rosenberg et al (2002)Mills (2017) – Are Clusters Races? A Discussion of the Rhetorical Appropriation of Rosenberg et al’s “Genetic Structure of Human Populations.” Mills (2017) discusses the views of Neven Sesardic (2010)—philosopher—and Nicholas Wade—science journalist and author of A Troublesome Inheritance (Wade, 2014). Both Wade and Seasardic are what Kaplan and Winther (2014) term “biological racial realists” whereas Rosenberg et al (2002)Spencer (2014), and Hardimon (2017) are bio-genomic/cluster realists. Mills (2017) discusses the “misappropriation” of the bio-genomic cluster concept due to the “structuring of figures [and] particular phrasings” found in Rosenberg et al (2002). Wade and Seasardic shifted from bio-genomic cluster realism to their own hereditarian stance (biological racial realism, Kaplan and Winther, 2014). While this is not a blow to the positions of Hardimon and Spencer, this is a blow to Murray et al’s conception of “race.”

Murray (2020: 144)—rightly—disavows the concept of folk races but wrongly accepting the claim that we dispense with the term “race”:

The orthodoxy is also right in wanting to discard the word race. It’s not just the politically correct who believe that. For example, I have found nothing in the genetics technical literature during the last few decades that uses race except within quotation marks. The reasons are legitimate, not political, and they are both historical and scientific.

Historically, it is incontestably true that the word race has been freighted with cultural baggage that has nothing to do with biological differences. The word carries with it the legacy of nineteenth-century scientific racism combined with Europe’s colonialism and America’s history of slavery and its aftermath.


The combination of historical and scientific reasons makes a compelling case that the word race has outlived its usefulness when discussing genetics. That’s why I adopt contemporary practice in the technical literature, which uses ancestral population or simply population instead of race or ethnicity …

[Murray also writes on pg 166]

The material here does not support the existence of the classically defined races.

(Nevermind the fact that Murray’s and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve was highly responsible for bringing “scientific racism” into the 21st century—despite protestations to the contrary that his work isn’t “scientifically racist.”)

In any case, we do not need to dispense with the term race. We only need to deflate the term (Hardimon, 2017; see also Spencer, 2014). Rejecting claims from those termed biological racial realists by Kaplan and Winther (2014), both Hardimon (2017) and Spencer (20142019) deflate the concept of race—that is, their concepts only discuss what we can see, not what we can’t. Their concepts are deflationist in that they take the physical differences from the racialist concept (and reject the psychological assumptions). Murray, in fact, is giving into this “orthodoxy” when he says that we should stop using the term “race.” It’s funny, Murray cites Lewontin (an eliminativist about race) but advocates eliminativism of the word but still keeping the underlying “guts” of the concept, if you will.

We should only take the concept of “race” out of our vocabulary if, and only if, our concept does not refer. So for us to take “race” out of our vocabulary it would have to not refer to any thing. But “race” does refer—to proper names for a set of human population groups and to social groups, too. So why should we get rid of the term? There is absolutely no reason to do so. But we should be eliminativist about the racialist concept of race—which needs to exist if Murray’s concept of race holds.

There is, contra Murray, material that corresponds to the “classically defined races.” This can be seen with Murra’s admission that he read the “genetics technical literature”. He didn’t say that he read any philosophy of race on the matter, and it clearly shows.

To quote Hardimon (2017: 97):

Deflationary realism provides a worked-out alternative to racialism—it is a theory that represents race as a genetically grounded, relatively superficial biological reality that is not normatively important in itself. Deflationary realism makes it possible to rethink race. It offers the promise of freeing ourselves, if only imperfectly, from the racialist background conception of race.

Spencer (2014) states that the population clusters found by Rosenberg et al’s (2002) K = 5 run are referents of racial terms used by the US Census. “Race terms” to Spencer (2014: 1025) are “a rigidly designating proper name for a biologically real entity …” Spencer’s (2019b) position is now “radically pluralist.” Spencer (2019a) states that the set of races in OMB race talk (Office of Management and Budget) is one of many forms “race” can take when talking about race in the US; the set of races in OMB race talk is the set of continental human populations; and the continental set of human populations is biologically real. So “race” should be understood as proper names—we should only care if our terms refer or not.

Murray’s philosophy of race is philosophically empty—Murray just uses “commensense” to claim that the clusters found are races, which is clear with his claim that ME/NA people constitute two more races. This is almost better than Rushton’s three-race model but not by much. In fact, Murray’s defense of race seems to be almost just like Jensen’s (1998: 425) definition, which Fish (2002: 6) critiqued:

This is an example of the kind of ethnocentric operational definition described earlier. A fair translation is, “As an American, I know that blacks and whites are races, so even though I can’t find any way of making sense of the biological facts, I’ll assign people to my cultural categories, do my statistical tests, and explain the differences in biological terms.” In essence, the process involves a kind of reasoning by converse. Instead of arguing, “If races exist there are genetic differences between them,” the argument is “Genetic differences between groups exist, therefore the groups are races.”

So, even two decades later, hereditarians are STILL just assuming that race exists WITHOUT arguments and definitions/theories of race. Rushton (1997) did not define “race”, and also just assumed the existence of his three races—Caucasians, Mongoloids, and Negroids; Levin (1997), too, just assumes their existence (Fish, 2002: 5). Lynn (2006: 11) also uses a similar argument to Jensen (1998: 425). Since the concept of race is so important to the hereditarian research paradigm, why have they not operationalized a definition and rely on just assuming that race exists without argument? Murray can now join the list of his colleagues who also assume the existence of race sans definition/theory.


Hardimon’s and Spencer’s concepts get around Fish’s (2002: 6) objection—but Murray’s doesn’t. Murray simply claims that the clusters are races without really thinking about it and providing justification for his claim. On the other hand, philosophers of race (Hardimon, 2017Spencer, 20142019ab) have provided sound justification for the belief in race. Murray is not fair to the social constructivist position (great accounts can be found in Zack (2002)Hardimon (2017)Haslanger (2000)). Murray seems to be one of those “Social constructivists say race doesn’t exist!” people, but this is false: Social constructs are real and the social can does have potent biological effectsSocial constructivists are realists about race (Spencer, 2012Kaplan and Winther, 2014Hardimon, 2017), contra Helmuth Nyborg.

Murray (2020: 17) asks “Why me? I am neither a geneticist nor a neuroscientist. What business do I have writing this book?” If you are reading this book for a fair—philosophical—treatment for race, look to actual philosophers of race and don’t look to Murray et al who do not, as shown, have a definition of race and just assume its existence. Spencer’s Blumenbachian Partitions/Hardimon’s minimalist races are how we should understand race in American society, not philosophically empty accounts.

Murray is right—race exists. Murray is also wrong—his kinds of races do not exist. Murray is right, but he doesn’t give an argument for his belief. His “orthodoxy” is also right about race—since we should accept pluralism about race then there are many different ways of looking at race, what it is, and its influence on society and how society influences it. I would rather be wrong and have an argument for my belief then be right and appeal to “commonsense” without an argument.

Guessing Clarence Thomas’s IQ


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Prestigious Black national merit finalist GondwanaMan writes in the comment section:

… I’ve heard Thomas speak multiple times over the past 10 years and he seems very intelligent but I’ve heard mixed things about his behavior/intellect. Maybe PP can do an IQ analysis I would be very interested…

Thomas came from nothing to become one of the most powerful men on the planent. He is clearly intelligent compared to the average American, but in my opinion he would score lower on an IQ test than most other members of the super-elite.

For one thing, Thomas is known for his chilling silence. Unlike other supreme court judges who ask questions and make comments, Thomas has been largely silent for decades, much like the dim-witted Jason from the Friday the 13th movies.

Conservatives tend to score lower on IQ tests than liberals and blacks tend to score lower than whites, but because blacks are almost never conservative, the rare combination of being both conservative and black doesn’t bode well.

Of course conservatism is a vaguely defined moving target so Thomas may have very intelligent reasons for his political views that are actually quite liberal in the true spirit of the term. For example Thomas opposes affirmative action, not because he’s anti-black, but because he saw first hand how being seen as a token devalued his Yale Law degree. While white law grads had elite law firms at their beck and call, Thomas had to apply to dozens of firms to even be considered. Of course this was the 1970s when there was a lot more racism.

In general he felt that affirmative action benefits light-skinned blacks from elite backgrounds while dark skinned blacks like himself had to work much harder. Of course if racial IQ differences are genomic, we’d expect darker skinned blacks like Thomas to have lower IQs (on average) than their lighter skinned peers like Obama and Corey Booker. From page 45 of the book Strange Justice written by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson:

Not only was he short, and in his teen years slight, but he also had exceptionally African features years before the Black is Beautiful movement made them desirable. “He was darker than most kids, and in that generation, people were cruel,” recalled Sara Wright, a librarian for the Savannah Morning News who attended elementary and junior high school with Thomas. “He was teased a lot and they’d call him [N word redacted by PP, 2020-03-02] Naps” for his tightly curled hair. “A lot of the girls wouldn’t want to go out with him.”

Thomas himself remembered being called “ABC,” or “America’s Blackest Child.” Even friends recollect taunting him that “if he were any blacker, he’d be blue.” As Lester Johnson, who is now a lawyer in Savannah, recalled, “Clarence had big lips, nappy hair and he was almost literally black. Those folks were at the bottom of the pole. You just didn’t want to hang with those kids.

…The most prominent families in town since before the Civil War were for the most part what a local history of African-Americans called “high yellow,” or mulatto. At the same time, many of those with pure African bloodlines, like Thomas were made to feel inferior.”

…At Yale he talked bitterly about the “light-skinned elite” blacks who had it easier than the darker ones.

pg 45 of Strange Justice

Of course race is only one variable that correlates with IQ and we shouldn’t give it too much emphasis, as some very dark skinned blacks score far higher on IQ tests than 99% of whites and East Asians, however as the below photo with George H.W. Bush shows, Thomas has many physical traits that put him at risk for low IQ.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thomas.png

Thomas is much shorter and more muscular than his fellow elite George H.W. Bush. Height is positively correlated with IQ and weight/height ratio is negatively correlated with IQ. Also the cranial capacity of the elder Bush seems to dwarf Thomas’s. But to his credit, Thomas is wearing glasses and myopia is thought to be genomically linked to high IQ.

So what is his IQ?

It’s unclear if Thomas ever took an official IQ test but he almost certainly took proxy versions like the SAT and LSAT. However these scores are not known so we’re left only with his grades.

The book Strange Justice describes his academic behavior at Holy Cross college:

But much of his time was spent alone, usually studying. His classmates recalled that when they went to dances at nearby schools on Saturday nights, Thomas often preferred to stay in the basement of the college library. When the school threatened to shorten the Saturday night library hours, he petitioned the authorities to keep the facility open. And when others went away during holidays, he stayed in the otherwise empty school, explaining later that he viewed such breaks as a valuable opportunity to get ahead of the other students.

Academically, his efforts paid off. He wrote to a friend that he had managed to maintain a 3.7 grade point average, and he graduated in 1971 with honors, ranking ninth in his class

According to The New York Times, Thomas’s grades at Holy Cross were in the top 7% of his class.

Let’s assume grades are simply an average of IQ and hard work (averaging is appropriate because two variables are not correlated). If we assume Thomas was in the top 1% in hard work (skipping holidays, petitioning the library to stay open), which is 2.33 standard deviations above the class average, how high would his IQ have to be to end up in the top 7% (+1.6 SD). Simple algebra tells us that if he was +2.33 SD in hard work (relative to Holy Cross students), his IQ could be no higher than +0.87 SD for his grades to be +1.6 SD.

So now that we estimate Thomas’s IQ was +0.87 SD relative to Holy Cross students, we need to know what their IQ distribution was.

Circa 2014 Holy Cross had a median SAT score of 1280 out of 1600 which equates to a mean IQ of 128 (U.S. norms).

However we know Harvard students went from an SAT IQ of 143 to an IQ around 128 with an SD of 12 on a test not used to select them (one third regression to the mean) so the actual IQ distribution at Holy Cross (in 2014 and perhaps historically) was likely around 118 with a standard deviation around 12 (compared to the U.S. distribution of 100 with an SD of 15).

Thus Thomas’s estimated IQ is 118 + 0.87(12) = 128 (U.S. norms) or 127 (white norms). In other words, smarter than 96% of white America.

Is this estimate too high?

There is reason to think this estimate might err on the high side. For example on page 201 of the book Yale Law School and the Sixties: Revolt and Reverberations it states:

…Associate Dean Ralph Brown recalled that “we were admitting blacks very indulgently, and a lot of them could barely do the work.” When courses required in-class exams, minorities tended to end up “in the bottom,” Charles Reich said. “You couldn’t disguise that”. One could get around it, he added, by having students write papers that, after several drafts, might well deserve a high grade, as he did for Clarence Thomas. But first semester courses required exams.

Since first semester Yale Law courses require exams, perhaps the best estimate of Thomas’s IQ can be found in this paragraph from Strange Justice:

His academic records remain, with his consent, sealed. But professors and administrators from his era recall him as an average student, hard-working but not particularly brilliant. There is only one professor –Thomas I. Emerson– whose records have been made public. Thomas elected to take Emerson’s first-year course on politics and civil rights in 1972, and Emerson’s notes show that he finished the class near the bottom, with a 69 for the semester. One of only two students who scored lower was Thomas’s friend and later witness against Hill, John Doggett.

Interestingly Doggett is also a black conservative.

Assuming about 20 students per class room, being in the bottom three puts Thomas in the bottom 15%, or roughly 1.13 SD below the class mean.

Although students at the best law schools average around IQ 145 on the LSAT, they likely regress to 128 (with an SD of 12) on tests not used to select them. Thus if Thomas’s bottom 15% performance in Emerson’s law class implies an IQ of:

128 – 1.13(12) = 114 (U.S. norms) or 112 (U.S. white norms).

Higher than 79% of white America.

That sounds about right.

[this article was lightly edited on March 3, 2020]

Readership hits record highs as World’s most influential social scientist cites my blog

So the other day I’m looking at the blogs internal statistics and I see a HUGE spike in traffic at the end of February.

I look where the traffic is coming from and find this tweet from Charles Murray:

Murray is the most influential social scientist on the planet. His book Losing Ground is credited with welfare reform in the Clinton era and The Bell Curve (which he co-authored with Richard Herrnstein) mainstreamed the IQ debate.

After all I’ve done for RR, you would think he could at least pretend to be happy for me getting this iconic endorsement, but sadly the ungrateful charlatan allowed jealousy to get the better of him as he tweeted out the following:

No blogger works harder than RR (reading a book a week and creating articles with more references than a wikipedia page) so no wonder he’s bitter he can’t escape my shadow. His blog currently ranks 3,220,173rd in the world while mine ranks 1,178,817. RR (who looks like a hybrid between a poodle and the Jersey Shore) needs to surpass over TWO MILLION blogs in popularity to even come in striking distance with me.

Poor RR

The non-linear relationship between head circumference & cranial capacity


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Source: Figue 3 in Jørgensen, J. B., & Quaade, F. (1956). External cranial volume as an estimate of cranial capacity. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 14(4), 661–664.

The above chart shows the line of best fit predicting cranial capacity from head circumference in 121 skulls. The authors of the paper created the following formula to predict cranial capacity from head circumference:

Expected cranial capacity = 5.43 (head circumference) – 1346

However this formula predicts negative cranial capacity for the smallest circumferences in the scatter plot. Why? Because to make the relationship linear, the authors excluded the 11 smallest crania.

Although this paper is a major contribution to the field, the authors apparently lacked the skills to calculate non-linear relationships so Pumpkin Person decided to do it for them, creating a revised formula (using all 121 skulls):

cranial capacity = 0.0080(head circumference)^2 – 1.9(head circumference) + 158

So while the authors’ formula predicted a 200 mm head circumference would have a -260 cc capacity (physically impossible) my formula predicts 98 cc capacity (consistent with the line of best fit) because my formula can adapt to the curving shape of the relationship.

It’s important to note that the formulas above are both based on skulls so when applying them to living heads an adjustment needs to be made. For example, when J.P. Rushton estimated the cranial capacity of living army staff using Lee & Pearson’s regression equations using head length, head breadth and head height, he deducted 11 mm for fat and skin around the skull for each measurement since he was applying a formula derived from skulls on living heads.

However Lee & Pearson noted that there was no obvious way to adjust for fat and skin around the skull when using circumference to predict capacity.

However it occurred to Pumpkin Person that if head length and head width are deducted 11 mm, and these are more or less equivalent to head diameter, then perhaps one should convert circumference into diameter, subtract 11 mm, and then convert back to circumference before applying circumference formulas.

Kyle Kulinski talks Iraq war & deep state

A lot of these progressive YouTube stars are kind of clueless, and Kulinski is no exception. If he really thinks Bush and Cheney were architects of the Iraq war, then the “Woke” generation is asleep. Though to his credit, at least Kulinski knows some of the relevant players (wolfowitz, kristol), and doesn’t blame it all on mysterious Bob Rubin types like certain morons in the comment section.

The humiliation of Mike Bloomberg


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When I was four-years old I was obsessed with the Incredible Hulk. He was my hero and when older kids would become physically abusive, I would make the dinging noise that occurred whenever David Banner’s eyes changed colours as he transformed into the big green monster.

Even though I was still a four-year-old child, the psychological confidence that came with imagining myself transform into the Hulk allowed me to escape from much older bullies.

But then one day a six-year-old girl who lived across the street told me she was watching TV that night and saw Wonder woman beat up the Incredible Hulk. The idea that my hero, and someone who was as big and strong as the incredible Hulk could be beat up by a woman was so profoundly disturbing I was never the same after that. Even though the girl quickly admitted she had lied, the psychological damage was done.

I would never again have another alpha-male hero, and even today my heroes tend to be women like Oprah or nerdy men like Bill Gates. People whose power came not from muscle and physical strength, but from socio-economic power. Because socio-economic power lacks the concrete bravado of muscle mass, self-made billionaires could never be humiliated the was the Incredible Hulk was (in my neighbor’s lie).

But then Michael Bloomberg decided to run for president. At first he was like the incredible Hulk, simply buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of add-time and jumping to second place in the polls.

Then came last week’s debate where one of the 10 richest men in America was eviscerated on live TV by a woman. And not just any woman, but a 70-year-old woman. And not just any 70-year-old woman, but a bookish wonky nerd with glasses. And not only did she dominate him verbally, but she smart enough to wear boots so she could tower over him physically. Adding insult to injury, she would mock his height in the days after the debate.

Watching this humiliating skeptical, I was reduced from successful professional man to that four-year-old boy who was just told the incredible hulk got beat up by wonder woman.

Warren hates billionaires and she wanted to expose one as nothing but an emperor who has no clothes, and boy did she. Did she ever.

I don’t even know how Bloomberg even shows his face after this. How does he look other billionaires in the eye. Maybe he can blame his lack of practice.

The best way for Bloomberg to recover is to buy a pair of six inch elevator shoes, and come out swinging in the next debate. Walk up to Elizabeth warren and say “no I wont let those women out of those nondisclosure agreements because I honor contracts unlike you, you wealth confiscating fake Indian witch!” and then walk up to Bernie Sanders and say “you might be able to fool these kids with your anti-war shtick, but you voted for the Iraq liberation action act which paved the way for the Iraq war you so hypocritically condemn others for voting for.”

And when Sanders tries to defend himself, Bloomberg could yell “YOU VOTED FOR THE WAR!!!!! YOU WILL BURN IN HELL FOREVER MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

LSAT-IQ conversion


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Here’s a thread where people listed their scores on both the LSAT and the ACT/SAT.

Because the SAT is constantly changing, I decided to focus on the LSAT-ACT correlation, ignoring the SAT.

The correlation between self-reported LSAT scores and ACT scores was 0.46+ (n = 19).

The LSAT scores of the sample had a mean of 164 (SD 8.03) and the ACT scores had a mean of 29 (SD 4.02).

Using equipercentile equating, we can infer from the above distributions that the average LSAT taker (LSAT = 150) is a equivalent to a post-April 1995 to pre-March 2016 SAT score (V + M) of 1030 which is equivalent to an IQ of 107 (U.S. norms).


Meanwhile, the average Harvard Law student (LSAT = 173) equates to a post-April 1995 to pre-March 2016 SAT score of 1485 which equates to an IQ of 144. Of course Harvardl Law students (like all people selected by a specific test) would regress precipitously on a test not used to select them.

Nonetheless, a simple equation for converting LSAT to IQ is:

IQ = 1.61(LSAT) – 134.3

Of course this data is only based a small sample of self-reported scores so this equation should only be considered preliminary. One potential red flag is the IQ predicted for the average LSAT taker is 107. While this is above the U.S. average, it is surprisingly low for aspiring law students, given that the average university graduate has an IQ of 111 and mostly the above average ones would pursue even higher learning.

But it could be that many people who don’t even graduate from university decide to take the LSAT just in case, including many people from low IQ criminal communities who see a law degree as a way to vindicate themselves or their loved ones:

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing


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Here at, we’re huge fans of Spike Lee, whose most famous film is Do the Right Thing.

The film was partly about the tension between Black and Korean Americans. Here’s my favorite scene:

Despite being fresh off the boat with no money in their pockets, no business experience and no English, the Korean immigrants in the film were so adaptable, they could come into a Black neighborhood and out-compete all the life long black businesses until they had a monopoly. Sadly, this made the black characters in the film feel genetically inferior.

Speaking of youtube clips, someone posted a youtube video named after one my blog articles:

Average IQ at Harvard law school



I’ve always been curious about people who got advanced degrees from elite universities, like Harvard law school graduates for example, because not only do they have the most advanced degrees, but from the most prestigious schools to boot. We know Harvard undergrads average IQs around 17 points higher than the average university undergrad (125 vs 108 (white norms); the difference is much larger on the SAT because it’s used to select Harvard undergrads, thus causing a selection bias.

We also know law school grads average about 11 points higher than the typical university grad (119 vs 108 (white norms)).

A naive reader might think that if Harvard undergrads are 17 points smarter than the average university grad, and if law grads are 11 points smarter than the average university grad, then Harvard law grads must be 17 + 11 = 28 IQ points smarter than the average university grad, giving them an IQ of:

108 + 28 = 136

But this would only be true if Harvard students and law grads were independent groups. In reality, being a Harvard undergrad dramatically increases your odds of getting a Harvard law degree (or equivalent).

Law degrees (i.e Juris Doctor degree) are now classified as a type of doctor’s degree and Harvard confers about 1,455 such degrees a year. Given that U.S. citizens are about 78.9% of Harvard, we can guestimate U.S. citizens recieve only 78.9% of their doctor’s degrees, so roughly 1,148.

Given that about 4 million Americans come of age every year, we can say getting a Harvard Doctor’s degree is a one in 3,484 achievement, and thus the median such person would be a one in 6,969 achiever.

If there were a perfect correlation between IQ and academic success, this would imply an IQ of 154 (U.S. norms) but since the correlation between IQ and highest degree attained is only about 0.55 an IQ of 0.55(54) + 100 = 130 is expected.

Converting to white norms gives an IQ of 128.

Estimating the IQs of 39 countries (new data from 2015)


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In 2002 Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen’s book IQ and Wealth of Nations estimated the IQs of 185 countries. Critics accused them of cherry picking sources, using unrepresentative samples, comparing and combining samples tested on wildly different tests taken decades apart, and daring to think IQ could be measured cross-culturally. And yet despite nearly two decades of opprobrium, those national IQs remain a landmark, cited in countless peer reviewed articles and repeatedly revised.

One way Lynn has validated his numbers is by showing their high correlation with international exams like Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Another independent data-set against which Lynn’s numbers can be tested (assuming he already hasn’t done so) is the IEA‘s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Ostensibly an achievement test, the math section resembles an IQ test, and the test is scored so that most countries average between 400 and 600.

Sample items:


Using the score distribution of UK students as a reference group (see technical note below), I converted the scores from 39 countries to IQ equivalents. My source for the TIMMS scores is exhibit 1.2 in this report.

Country TIMMS score (8th grade math; 2015) IQ equivalent
Singapore 621 118
Korea, Rep. of, 606 116
Chinese Taipei 599 114
Hong Kong SAR  594 113
Japan 586 112
Russian Federation 538 103
Kazakhstan 528 102
Canada 527 101
Ireland 523 101
United States 518 100
England 518 100
Slovenia 516 99
Hungary 514 99
Norway 512 99
Lithuania 511 98
Israel 511 98
Australia 505 97
Sweden 501 97
Italy 494 95
Malta 494 95
New Zealand 493 95
Malaysia 465 90
United Arab Emirates 465 90
Turkey 458 89
Bahrain 454 88
Georgia 453 88
Lebanon 442 86
Qatar 437 85
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 436 85
Thailand 431 84
Chile 427 83
Oman 403 79
Kuwait 392 77
Egypt  392 77
Botswana 391 77
Jordan  386 76
Morocco 384 76
South Africa 372 73
Saudi Arabia 368 73

Consistent with Lynn’s hierarchy, we find that East Asian countries cluster around the top (Japan IQ 112 to Korea, Repub of, IQ 116), followed by white majority countries (New Zealand IQ 95 to Russian federation IQ 103), followed by Dark Caucasoid countries (Saudi Arabia IQ 73 to United Arab Emirates IQ 90) and lastly sub-Saharan countries (South Africa IQ 73 to Botswana IQ 77). And while Lynn’s data was ridiculed for declaring entire countries “mentally retarded”, it’s perhaps a sign of higher quality data that no country in this data-set averaged below IQ 70 (though most of the poorest countries chose not to participate).

Technical note

On page 95 of the report, we’re told that only 10% of England’s 8th graders could score 625+, 36% could score 550+, 69% could score 475+, and 93% could score 400+. Subtracting these percentages from 100 gives the following percentiles: 90, 64, 31, and 7 which can be converted to the following IQs: 119, 105, 93, and 78. Now that we have the IQ equivalents of four TIMMS scores, we can make a linear equation converting TIMMS to IQ which is IQ = 0.18(TIMMS score) + 6.5: