Customer Review

136 of 175 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There has never been such a telling literary work..., July 17, 2006
This review is from: The Mismeasure of Man (Revised & Expanded) (Paperback)
If you've been reading these reviews, you've started to notice a stark polarization of opinions and that they tend to fall neatly within certain sets of political motives and agendas. The same criticisms return again and again, and the more I see them, the more I have to ask, "am I the only reviewer who's even READ this book?"

Take for instance: "Gould can't hide his political agenda" -- ladies and gents, Mr. Gould does not even TRY to hide his politics. He put them up-front and center, and I believe he did so to further reenforce his key point that we are all inherently biased (no matter how much we might try to hide it or to convince ourselves that we're not) and that we absolutely cannot make the mistake of assuming that the "scientific" works we read are absolutely dispassionate, objective and impartial. Anybody who claims to be these things should be eyed with a small degree of skepticism; those who are outraged at the suggestion that they might be biased ought have that skepticism heaped upon them.

I could go on and on over the objections people raise about this book and respond like I did in the previous paragraph, or outright discount them (ie: quote from the book direct disproof of the criticism), but it would be tedious and redundant.

Whatever Gould's predispositions, whatever the extensiveness of modern research, he has made it clear and undeniable that there are some serious faults in the science of human intelligence and the reasoning which supports it. Furthermore, it's worth noting that Richard Dawkins -- quoted as being critical of Gould -- flatly rejects any concept of racial superiority.

I highly recommend this book, not just for scientists or those interested in Science's implications for 'ordinary' people, but for everybody as a daily reminder that we all (at least on occasion) allow our prejudices to warp our perception of the world.

If you read this book and don't come away a little more sober and introspective of yourself, then you weren't paying attention.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 19, 2007 5:06:30 AM PDT
P. G. Taylor says:
Good review - but I would have liked you to tell me in what way Dawkins is critical of Gould.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2008 5:01:07 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 2, 2013 2:45:59 PM PST]

Posted on Nov 2, 2008 1:44:53 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 2, 2013 2:47:09 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2009 2:14:33 PM PDT
No one but me thinks this post "adds to the discussion"? Are you kidding? How often do you see someone provide solid critique _and_ evidence to back it up? I see no other reason for this than that the others just don't want to believe that Gould could be wrong in any detail. Thanks for the incredibly useful comments Bob.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2010 4:21:14 AM PST
RB says:
Cited, no less! Nice work, and thanks for the info.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 6, 2010 7:49:53 PM PDT
Dennis, I share your disbelief. I don't go as far as Jensen or Rushton in their view of intelligence, but I do I think Gould overstates the case that scientists are all swayed by their politics. Some are much better than others at producing a balanced account that takes their opposition seriously. Such balance was *not* among Gould's considerable talents.

I'm a fan of SJ Gould as a writer, sometimes in spite of his heavy handed political slant and sometimes because of it. However one thing I have to admit, he could have done a far better job representing the positions he criticizes and a much better job covering the topics in general. He does a skilled and engaging job in Mismeasure skewering the foibles in intelligence testing, but he also avoids talking about the reasons the testing became mainstream science for studying individual differences. This is not a trivial point nor driven primarily by a political agenda.

I'm disappointed that so many people have been influenced by Gould's clever but extreme critique, while only a handful have read the remarkable and much more complete and balanced account of intelligence testing in ...,%201996,%20intelligence.pdf

... which contains very little that is not agreed on by researchers across the political spectrum (i.e. regarding the individual differences view of human abilities vs. more human potential oriented views).

The main problem one encounters from my experience is the conflation of the well established and consensual finding of a positive manifold between different kinds of tasks, with the arguments that this represents not only a general factor in some aspect of intellectual performance but also an important underlying biological capacity that is also both hereditary and fixed. The debate between Hans Eysenck and Leon Kamin in
The Intelligence Controversy illustrated this nicely. They argue over the significance of intelligence testing and how general intelligence is determined, but they pretty much both assume the fact of the positive manifold in task performance. I think Kamin may poke significant holes in Eysenck's hereditarian research, but that's a different thing (my point) from arguing against the general factor in test performance.

That's where Gould goes astray in my view, in the name of his political agenda he avoids even mentioning to his audience, most of whom he should realize don't know any better, that intelligence testing in spite of its foibles in application is based on a real and consistently reliiable statistical correlation. It's, I suppose, a trivial point to him that IQ has real meaning, because its meaning has been so inflated. To me, that's misleading use of politics to skew the facts rather than just present the facts in a way that supports his politics. I think Gould's critique is helpful in some ways as a counterpoint to Jensen and Rushton, but unfortunately he argues mostly past them more than with them. Various authors have done much better, but have not had the same popularity.

For example I particularly liked Outsmarting IQ: The Emerging Science of Learnable Intelligence

Posted on Sep 3, 2011 1:12:18 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 2, 2013 3:01:05 PM PST]

Posted on Jan 26, 2014 9:21:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2014 9:22:37 AM PST
Most people allow their likes and dislikes to influence their judgment of what is true and false. I do it too. Nevertheless, I make an effort not to, and to have an accurate appraisal of reality.

A geneticist, a psychiatrist, and a criminologist should study the relation between genes, intelligence, crime, and race as dispassionately as a physicist and an astronomer study what happened seconds after the big bang. The relationship between genes, intelligence, crime, and race, unlike inquiries into the beginning of the universe, has legitimate political implications.

The civil rights movement and the war on poverty were based on the assumption that racial differences are not innate, and that the poor are the same as everyone else, only less fortunate.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the War on Poverty which was begun the same year, were followed by five years of black ghetto rioting, and more enduring increases in black social pathology. There has been virtually no improvement in black intellectual performance.

The failure of the war on poverty, and disappointments connected with the civil right movement are major reasons the government and the Democratic Party have lost most of the prestige most had in 1964. This makes it difficult for both to respond to the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2014 2:11:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2014 2:16:42 PM PST
J says:
>>but he also avoids talking about the reasons the testing became mainstream science for studying >>individual differences...

I'm sorry, but he doesn't need to! Surely a quick read of the history of how such testing was developed, WHERE it was developed and WHO developed it (as well as who largely benefits from it) would easily show you that it is very much related to the social and political contexts within which its practiced.

Lets keep in mind the majority of these "tests" are from the West and developed from a Western educational standpoint. The lasting effects of British colonization in India for example, has led to the development of tests that are largely based on templates developed in Britain. It in turn is how many Indian students are marked and graded as "intelligent" or not. This has some pretty major political and social ramifications within Indian society -- and the same goes for American society! I mean, as a student at an Ivy League university believe me, its pretty apparent who in America are considered "intelligent," scored higher on such tests and benefit from them (disclaimer: I am an international student but no, I'm not from India).

I would recommend you read Annette Lareau's work - Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life - for a better understanding of how and why the testing you're talking about is very much tied to a larger political framework.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2014 3:03:43 PM PST
Although the IQ tests were designed in the West, Orientals have usually performed better than white Gentiles.
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