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Scientific validity[edit]

This is linked from George W. Bush, where historiometric study is mentioned to have derived IQ's from absent and dead people. I understand it is based on biographical data and such. I do not consider this a valid scientific method, but because I do not know the debate, I cannot refer to any criticism. If there is controversiality, it should be mentioned in this article. RandomMonitor 08:57, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

I'll expand this page in the coming days. I do, however, have a problem with the fact that you do not consider this a valid method because you've never heard of it. Do you consider ELISA, Mass spectrometry or HPLC (which I can imagine you never heard of) invalid methods as well? I agree that much (but certainly not all) of the historiometry is done by one researcher, which could be problematic. However, he publishes in a wide variety of international, peer reviewed journals. Therefore, this information is coming from reliable sources and questioning these data based solely on the fact that you've never heard of it, might be interpreted as orginal research. I'll investigate the matter of historiometry and if it turns out to be widely disputed, I'll be the first to remove the information from the George W. Bush page, you can trust me on that. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 10:02, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
I trust you, and I have no problem with this subject anymore, as you seem to take my criticism seriously regardless of your own opinions. I respect that.
However, I want to explain my case so that you don't think I'm doing this only for being a dick. I do not consider this a unplausible method because I have not heard of it. As I stated on Talk:George W. Bush IQ section, I acknowledge that my education and myself have limits, and that is precisely why I did not want to simply remove this subject or disqualify it otherwise. It is just that according to what I know, IQ is assessed by standardized and heavily studied methods, and a suggestion that this same Intelligence Quotient could be estimated by second-hand sources alone sounds like somewhat analogous to if you'd be told that there is a method to estimate someone's precise weight only by looking at a painting of that person's face (i.e., it probably has some correlation but wouldn't really constitute a plausible basis to infer the precise weight).
Neither do I want to discredit this man's work. The fact (I only took a glance, do correct me if I am wrong) that it is mostly only him that does this kind of research does not exactly make it more plausible, nor a method widely accepted in scientific community. Again, it could be that this is completely acceptable method: I do not know. But it does not convince me, which is why I suspect that someone else could also be not convinced (and then think less of Wikipedia because of that), and that some other person could be convinced without knowing that this might not be a valid method. This is why I asked that an article on the subject is done (it is now, good!) with a reference to that possibility (also added now, even better!), so everyone can make up their own minds. I did not want to do it myself, because I already have an opinion, and thus would not be neutral.
Does that sound acceptable to you? RandomMonitor 12:30, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes it sounds very acceptable to me. With regard to IQ, however, the whole concept is kinda shaky and certainly not identified by very exact, defined methods. There are differences in measuring IQ between countries and over time. In my professional opinion, measuring an IQ indirectly is just as (un)reliable as measuring it directly. Apart from that, I've started to improve the article by given more references and explanation about the subject. If there is anything you still feel is missing, I'd be happy to look it up. Let me know! --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 12:45, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
Ok, I agree that IQ itself is not as clear-cut as I implied. I have several criticisms of IQ as a concept, too, but I am under an impression that the methods of assessment are quite solid, even if the concept and the use of it are more "shaky", as you said. Furthermore, historiometric analysis deals (apparently?) mostly with creativity and such concepts, that are even more shaky than IQ. Personally I think that the IQ paragraph in George W. Bush should be removed, as even if the method was solid it really does not add anything essential to the question about the man's intelligence (in general, not scientific, sense). Regarding to the article, I think you have done good work. I'd like to have a longer section about the criticism, but that's only because I am lazy and would prefer a summary over the original papers... RandomMonitor 13:09, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
I'll do some more work on the article in the next days. With regards to Bush, I would like to ask you to leave it there and see for some time how other editors feel about it. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 14:34, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

I've added some info and references. There appear to be more researchers working on the subject and although there appear to be some critics of these methods, I have so far not been able to find critical articles in peer-reviewed journals, but I've added a reference to one (non peer-reviewed) critical study (the 4th in the list). --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 10:56, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

I am more or less done for now, in some time I will check back and see if I can make some addtional adjustments. With regard to the critical section, I do not think it should be drastically expanded (I added another reference though), because there is hardly critique in peer-reviewed literature. We do not want to give unequal attention to a hardly existing view. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 21:33, 12 September 2006 (UTC)
There is a spectrum of journals in any field, from highly regarded and intensely peer-reviewed ones to others which are basically vanity press, and which publish anything remotely respectible if accompanied by sufficient page charges. My thesis adviser always said that comparing the number of journal articles without regard to the quality is like men comparing their sexual exploits: sheep don't count! I have verified that this is indeed a journal which colleges subscribe to. But I wonder about the intensity of "peer" review when only one researcher has published in the field. Who is competent to give the manuscript the kind of methodological critique which papers receive in areas with a number of active researchers? The method of assigning IQs to historic persons has a long and dishonorable history. It has been done before, and badly. The ages at which someone learned to read, say, may be reported falsely by those seeking to enhance the reputation of a public figure. Just as Parson Weems reported amazing things about George Washington's "truthiness." and legends say Davy Crockett "killed him a bear when he was only three," people giving Galton's or J.Q. Adams' life story may have fudged their accomplishments to add luster to their historic stature, just as today there are many doting parents who overstate the acheivements of their little geniuses. Historical accounts are no substitute for careful administration of standardized tests, and to be facetious, the IQs from this historiometric discipline should have an "i" after them to show they are imaginary numbers. To avoid the taint of "original research" in criticizing these fanciful IQ scores, someone might look for a counterposing article also in a peer reviewed journal which makes similar points to those just stated, and then delete the estimates for the pseudoscience they appear to be, perhaps one notch above phrenology. I personally feel the "patently absurd" standard for deletion is met: Reagan's IQ could be as high as 141????Edison 14:45, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
If you read the article as it is now, you will see that it is referring to much more than just one researcher. Also, I have been looking for peer-reviewed critique on these methods and was not able to find a lot. With regard to your concerns about journals, I publish in scientific journals myself as a researcher and agree that there are both good and bad journals. That is exactly the reason why I stated that that particular researcher published in several different journals. If a rebuttal of the IQ story is published, of course we will have to add it. But suggesting this article must be deleted because you think that one conclusion in one of the references is absurd, is a bit over the top for me. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 18:21, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

I got to this article from the Bush article where Simonton's estimate of Bush's IQ is under discussion, and I should have been more clear that the reference there was what I thought should be removed. We have articles on many questionable scientific theories, so an article on this is good, as long as it is balanced and objective. Toward that end more should be entered in this article of the critique in the review by McKenzie of Simonton's book on his method. Simonton noted that on average, college physics students have higher IQs than students of social science, saying "thus it is not utterly preposterous to suggest that Einstein and Oppenheimer may have been equally bright and that both were the intellectual superiors of Freud." McKenzie points out the weasel words in this horrible writing, and that it is a logical fallacy to infer ANYTHING from group means about individual cases. McKenzie neglects to point out that Freud took his degree in medicine, not any social science, further making the inference patently absurd. McKenzie then criticizes Simonton looking at 192 individuals over a 500 year period and using his methods to conclude that "the development of creative potential may be weakened by formal training." McKenzie says "Fallacious reasoning such as this will inevitably reduce the credibility of Simonton's analyses overall," although he does not reject the approach altogether. One thing I have noted is that it is difficult to publish a critique in a good journal of lousy research published in a second rate journal. I'm not sure yet whether Simonton's publication qualifies as the latter. Edison 18:54, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
I added that part to the GWB article, and for the reasoning above, I've now taken the liberty to remove it. For the sake of compromise, I ask however, that we leave the reference to the study in Public perception and assessments of George W. Bush for now. Is that acceptable? --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 19:12, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm ok with it. And thank you, Reinoutr, for being fair and reasonable.
On a side note, what Edison said there was a good point. A lack of critique does not mean that the subject is generally accepted and deserves to be treated as a fact of science, it might as well mean that nobody takes it so seriously that they would take time to rebut it. I, for one, would not spend my research time and resources for a chancy try to disqualify a random obviously unplausible theory. (I am not saying that this is the case here, just referring to the general phenomenon.) I just couldn't put it in words earlier. RandomMonitor 20:53, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
I absolutely agree with you, except that in science a theory is usually regarded valid until proven otherwise... That does not mean it is true, only that people consider it to be true in lack of anything better. That is how science works, both in exact science (my field) and philosphy. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 21:32, 13 September 2006 (UTC)
But in your field of science, if you wished to refute or debunk junk science, you would be unlikely to be able to add to your Curriculum Vitae with an article in the most prestigious journal in your field. The reviewers there would likely send back your manuscript with a note that they feel the same way, but the rubbish was so patently absurd it does not deserve mention in their journal, beside which the original researcher would be pretty much entitled to his own rebuttle piece, which they would not want to publish. Instead you would have to drop down to the quality of publication which published the junk science in the first place. So then you wind up in a journal war in some crappy journal, adding little to your professional reputation. Or you publish the critique in "Skeptical Inquirer" and omit it from you Curriculum Vitae. The charlatan is always likely to get the last word. It is more satisfying to sit on review boards and deny them funding. Not to say that any of this applies to Simonton. Edison 18:50, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree, but since there are no rebuttals, even in crappy journals, we only have gut feeling that this is flawed science, which is not enough for me to exclude this paper from mentioning it. Also (while admittedly failing WP:AGF here on my side), your edits certainly seem to be suggesting (intentionally or not) you strongly feel Simonton is a charlatan. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 20:04, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
Has anyone done a literature search in Science Citation Index or equivalent to see if studies by Simonton are cited in scientific journals, and what they have to say? If there are cites, that should provide evidence pro or con estimating IQ from historical data. If there are no cites, that would tell a story too. Edison 23:12, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
I checked and there are not many cites to his papers, but if they are cited it is usually (and obviously) to articles by others dealing with similar studies. Hard to draw any conclusions from that in my opinion. I suggest we leave it at this for now (I already removed the reference to the Simonton paper from the GWB article), because this article (on historiometry) is much more general now then just dealing with Simonton anyway (which it did before I revised it thoroughly). --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 08:13, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
Did you check Science Citation Index or some other online tabulation? I was thinkiong of checking SCI but if you did I will not repeat your work.Edison 13:08, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
I checked the ISI/Thompson Web of Knowledge [1] Web of Science database, which includes the SCI as well as the Social Sciences Citation Index and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index. --Cpt. Morgan (Reinoutr) 13:14, 15 September 2006 (UTC)