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Almost Two Orders of Magnitude
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June 24, 2009, 01:20 PM
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It`s interesting to compare the number of hits turned up by Google for searches of two figures important in the history of IQ research:
  • Sir Cyril Burt, who among much else, conducted early research on separated twins from which he derived a high estimate of the heritability of IQ.
  • Rick Heber, whose Milwaukee Project to use intensive daycare to raise the IQs of poor black children was widely lauded at the time and continues to be cited unskeptically, as in Richard J. Nisbett`s new book Intelligence and How to Get It.
The day after Burt`s death in 1971 at 88, an anti-hereditarian colleague advised Burt`s distraught housekeeper to burn his papers. Soon, widely publicized charges appeared claiming that Burt had fabricated his twin research, charges which couldn`t be disproved from Burt`s papers, which were now ashes. Leon Kamin and Stephen Jay Gould jumped in. Later research did much to salvage Burt`s reputation, but by then the conventional wisdom had hardened. (Arthur Jensen concluded in his 1998 magnum opus The g Factor that most of the charges against Burt were exaggerations, but that he wouldn`t use Burt`s later publications, but that it hardly matters since subsequent separated twin studies, such as the famous Minnesota Twins project, came to almost identical conclusions.)

In contrast to Burt, Rick Heber turned out to be a conman who was sent to federal prison for stealing from the Milwaukee Project. In a way, Heber`s criminality makes the Milwaukee Project a little more usable to nurturists, since the costs of the project—$14 million supposedly spent on just 40 children over a half dozen years beginning in the relatively low-cost 1960s—were so insanely high that they couldn`t possibly be replicated on a mass scale. So, knowing that Heber was skimming some of that $14 million actually makes the Milwaukee Project look less ridiculous on the cost front. However, that knowledge also raises questions about it on the findings front. So, Heber`s crimes have, unlike whatever it was that Burt did, been shoved down the Memory Hole.

A Google search of

"Cyril Burt" scandal

turns up 2,310 hits.

Meanwhile, "Rick Heber" scandal

turns up 26 hits.

They say history is written by the winners, but I say that history is written by the history-writers.