Thursday, October 21, 2004

IQ and the Poverty of (Our) Nation

In 2000, mathematician John Allen Paulos wrote a snarky column entitled "Who Wants to Be a Science-Savvy President?” playing on the format of the popular TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” In this thought-experiment, he posed some science and math questions to then-candidates Bradley, Bush, Gore, and McCain, and speculated on their respective scores:

How would the four major candidates do were they to take the above quiz sight unseen?

My guess — and it’s certainly nothing more than that — is that Gore and McCain would get 11 or 12 questions right, Bradley nine or 10, and Bush seven or eight.

What, if anything, would this test would tell us?

My opinion: All other things being equal, greater scientific literacy (which includes being realistic about what one doesn’t know and being open to the scientific advice of others) makes for a better candidate and a better president.

The combination of ignorance and power is a frightening one. (emphasis mine)

Mr. Paulos didn’t address the IQs of the candidates directly, even though he did imply that certain candidates were “ignorant.” Steve Sailer, on the other hand, has gone straight to the heart of the matter this election, and comes out with a titillating theory: Bush may have a higher IQ than Kerry.

How is that for frightening? As he has written several times already, “Are these two the best our nation of nearly 300,000,000 can put forward?”

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