The sum of intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.

Quaintly enough the modern antecedents of the IQ test were almost all tests to determine idiocy or lunacy. After having graduated to the point where they were thought to distinguish between mental retardation and mental illness in France [apparently the only two alternatives if you are French?] the English came up with the science of  psychometrics and eugenics which allowed an American psychologist to devise the modern IQ test – one of the first great experiments in social engineering, one of the most controversial and finally one of the most useless. At one extreme the horrors of eugenics have led to genocide and at the other the inane inquisitiveness of social researchers have led to billions being wasted on educational schemes that do not educate. This book is a very good primer on a debilitating process that screams for reform but is protected by an invincible industry of idiots.

IQ : a smart history of a failed idea London : Duckworth, 2007 Stephen Murdoch Intelligence tests  History ; Intelligence levels Hardcover. 1st. ed. xiv, 269 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

One number has the power to determine the chances we have, the people we meet, the lives we live. In a competitive world, our performance in IQ tests can shape our destiny.

In this, the first popular history of the intelligence test, Stephen Murdoch reveals how universal education, mass immigration into the U.S. in the early 20th century and the demands of mobilisation in the First World War created the need to rank populations by intelligence. In the following decades the tests were used to decide whether people could settle in a new country, whether they could reproduce, even whether they lived or died.

While IQ tests have some predictive power, they don’t explain people’s capacity to think and understand the world around them. What has only ever been a rough guide to ability has, through the seductive power of a single, all-explaining number, come to be seen as an objective and infallible measure of intelligence, even of human merit. Just as bad, we’ve often tried to reshape society based on exam results alone. Is that the smartest idea anyone ever had?


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