Are you smarter than a 10-year-old?
“It’s not that you leap from 70 to 100 and then you start industrialising. You go from 70 to 75 because you’re economy improves a bit and you can afford primary school. Then primary school raises your IQ a bit from 75 to 80 and you’re population is better educated and you get more industrialised and people start going to high school. That raises the IQ from 85 to 90. It’s like climbing a ladder.”
Although he rigorously critiques their analyses, Flynn is fair to his academic opponents. His new book features a tribute to the much-maligned Arthur Jensen in which he references John Stuart Mill: “When you suppress an idea, you suppress every debate it may inspire for all time.”
“I think you should argue with people evidentially,” he says. “I’m attacked ad hominem all the time. There’s a lunatic fringe on the left that attacks you as a racist for just discussing these issues. I met Arthur Jensen and I don’t think he would turn a hair if his daughter came home with a black fiancé. Even if I thought he had racial bias, what’s the relevance of it? Either I find the evidence is well-founded or I don’t.”
Flynn believes that those who argue for innate differences in intelligence between groups are missing a “sociological imagination” and that most IQ gaps have environmental explanations. This is why the IQ gap between men and women has disappeared in the western world since “girls were given a fairer shake” (women actually have a slight edge on men in IQ now, although Flynn thinks this is negligible).
Flynn’s outlook is partially a product of his politicisation in 1950s America. “I’m a mild social democrat,” he says. “That made me a dangerous radical in America in the McCarthy era. When I got my first teaching job at Richmond, Kentucky I was chairman of Core, the Congress of Racial Equality. The police used to beat up blacks for fun. There were only four hospital beds for the black community. When I was in Chicago there were black mothers of 18 so segregated they’d never seen Lake Michigan 10 blocks away. I was run out of the south for being too friendly to blacks and out of the north for being in favour of socialised medicine . . . We finally left for New Zealand when I was 29 because I kept getting fired because of my politics.”
Flynn maintains an interest in his native country. He wrote Where Have All the Liberals Gone? in 2008, a plea to revive social-democratic ideals. He also worries about young people; although they are in many ways brighter than their parents (they certainly have higher IQs), they are falling behind verbally.