James Flynn, RIP
Print Friendly and PDF

I haven’t seen confirmation of this yet, but it appears that the philosopher-scientist James Flynn, discoverer of the Flynn Effect of rising raw IQ scores, has died.

Flynn was not the first to notice that IQ test creators had to periodically make their tests harder to keep their average score at 100, but, like Columbus, after him the Flynn Effect stayed discovered.

Numerous leftists complain at length about the science of intelligence, but Flynn was the only man-of-the-left of the latter 20th Century to make a major empirical discovery in intelligence research, one that rightly lowered the confidence of psychometricians.

The lengthy epistolary dialog between James Flynn and Arthur Jensen over Flynn’s discovery of rising raw IQ scores should be taught in Philosophy of Science courses as an example of how to do science right. Flynn brought the Flynn Effect (as it was named in The Bell Curve) to the attention of Arthur Jensen in the 1970s (IIRC). Jensen was initially skeptical about the significance of Flynn’s findings, and offered a list of scientific challenges. Over a number of years of research, Flynn patiently answered each one, earning Jensen’s admiration.

I’ve written a couple of times at length about the Flynn Effect

In short, tremendous efforts had been made to make IQ testing more valid across space (e.g., to avoid cultural bias, the non-verbal Raven’s Progressive Matrices invented in the 1930s look like something that would be inscribed on the monolith from 2001). But little attention had been devoted to keeping the scores of IQ tests stable across time, with the Raven’s being particularly susceptible to a huge Flynn Effect, with raw IQ scores rising several points per decade in the 20th Century.

Print Friendly and PDF