A Science for Everyone, Demography

IQ Testing Government Officials

Donald Trump described himself as a “stable genius.”  Joe Biden challenged another old man to an IQ test competition.  These are things that never happened with George Bush, and I scoured the internet for reliable IQ numbers on politicians.  I learned that a US government official IQ tested a group of German military and political leaders.  So near as I can tell, the only data available on the intelligence of government officials came from the Nuremberg trials after World War II.  An American psychologist, Gustave Gilbert tested the 21 former Nazi officials with an early Wechsler IQ test, with the following results:

Position HeldIQ
Schacht, HjalmarMinister of Economics143
Seyss-Inquart, Arthur Reichkommisar of Netherlands141
Dönitz, KarlAdmiral138
Göring, HermannChancellor138
Papen, Franz vonChancellor134
Raeder, ErichGrand Admiral134
Frank, HansGovernor of Poland130
Fritzsche, HansDirector of Propaganda130
Schirach, Baldur vonHitler Youth Leader130
Keitel, WilhelmField Marshall129
Ribbentrop, Joachim vonMinister of Foreign Affairs129
Speer, AlbertMinister of Armaments128
Rosenberg, AlfredMinister of Occupied Territories 127
Jodl, AlfredColonel General127
Neurath, Konstantin vonMinister Foreign Affairs125
Frick, WilhelmMinister of Interior124
Funk, WaltherEconomics Minister124
Hess, RudolfDeputy Fuhrer (until 1941)120
Sauckel, FritzHead Labor Deployment118
Kaltenbrunner, ErnstSS, Head of Security113
Streicher, JuliusNewspaper Publisher106

All were above average – most, excepting the publisher of the party newspaper and the head of security (Streicher and Kaltenbrunner) above the “normal range” of intelligence.  The only thing I can generalize from the sample is that you don’t have to be dumb to be a nazi, and that isn’t a conclusion I like.

There’s a chart at IQ Comparison that shows the probability of each score.  For example, Julius Streicher, with an IQ of 106, almost made it into the top third of the population.  Kaltenbrunner, at 113, scored in the top fifth.  Hermann Goring, at 138, was statistically the sharpest knife in a drawer with 177 others.  Hjalmar Schacht, with an IQ of 143 was one out of 278 . . . and he was acquitted of all charges at Nuremberg. 

There is a clickbait series on US presidential IQ scores – complete to two decimal points, and it looks unreliable to me – so this seems to be the best available data.  I suspect we could develop some pretty good estimates on recent presidents, if we had their ASVAB or college placement scores – but most of our presidents preceded IQ tests.  In 1916, Terman set the minimum standard for genius at 140 . . . so Trump may well have scored above that – basically, the probability in the general population is 1 in 261.  Biden probably did have a better than 50-50 chance of beating a random 83-year-old in an IQ test.  I’ve seen Einstein listed at 160 – a one in 31,560 probability.

In a nation of 330 million, we have about as many smart people as dumb ones – and, if we extrapolate from the Nurenberg IQ tests, we have some equally bright people in politics, and bright politicians can do some really dumb things.

A Science for Everyone, Demography

An IQ Too Low for the Military

Jordan Peterson has a brief video on youtube describing the IQ cutoff the US military uses in recruitment. (Jordan Peterson | The Most Terrifying IQ Statistic)  He explains that the army doesn’t recruit for people who score below 83 because they can’t be trained. 

I think he has simplified the explanation – the ASVAB is the military test.  While it is not technically an IQ test, it correlates closely.  I’m not about to fact-check Jordan Peterson on a technicality.  He explains that 10% of the population have an IQ below 83, and the chart shows that 11.5% of the population score 82 or below.  Definitely close enough for a short lecture.

I think back among my students, and recall asking the slowest veteran I ever had in a class what he did in the army.  He replied he had been a gama goat driver.  The photo suggests that he probably had skills that would transfer to operating a rubber tired skidder – but probably lacked the forest experience.  My experience tells me that he would have been a good, reliable tail chainman on a survey party – but even at that time, electronic measuring devices were replacing the chains.

All told, I think I understand why Jordan Peterson called it “The most terrifying IQ statistic.”  If he was close to correct – and I suspect he was – we’re looking at somewhere around one person in nine that can’t be trained to perform a minimum military job adequately.  I suspect the civilian world isn’t any more merciful.  Years ago, I had the privilege of knowing Doug.  The army had released him because of a low score – whether IQ or ASVAB makes no difference.  He was in his fifties, and remembered vividly the date when he learned he wasn’t good enough.  He made a living as a ranch hand, mostly working cattle, haying and fixing or building fences . . . he was conscientious and reliable at handloading ammunition, and a cautious, safe driver.  As I watched Peterson’s video, I realized how few jobs there are for folks like Doug.   There was a place for Doug in north central Montana, but few areas have that opportunity.  Doug couldn’t have made it in the urban technical world.   Anything that finds one person in nine untrainable is a terrifying statistic. 


Standard Deviation and Stable Genius

About three thoughts came together and gelled last week.  One was a headline that explained voter turnout in Wisconsin was 5 standard deviations from the mean.  The other was looking at Trump assessing himself as a “stable genius” and Biden’s frequent challenge of having a high IQ.  I realized that I don’t have to explain how to calculate a standard deviation – there is a chart that shows it all in terms of IQ, and it really simplifies matters. 

If you look at the linked table, on the scale that accepts 15 points as the standard deviation, an IQ score of 175 is 5 standard deviations above the norm.  To make that statement understandable, that’s one person out of 3,483,046.  Chances are that I have never met one, despite a career in science and the academy. 

Nasim Taleb writes “IQ” is a stale test meant to measure mental capacity but in fact mostly measures extreme unintelligence”, so let’s look at the IQ 25 – whom I also haven’t met.  0.0000287105% of the population would score below this mark.

Tierman’s classification for genius (based on a standard deviation of 16) was 140 and over – so if you check the chart, that’s one out of every 161 people.  Statistically, we should have four or five living within the Trego school district boundaries.  I don’t know what it takes to be a stable genius – maybe a horse?

IQ RangeClassification
140 and overGenius or near genius
120-140Very superior intelligence
110-120Superior intelligence
90-110Normal or average intelligence
70-80Borderline deficiency
Below 70Definite feeble-mindedness
Table developed by Tierman, source: IQ Comparison

When we look at Biden’s quote, “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.” and look at the chart in Talib’s paper, toward the bottom we see the range for “legal professions”.  Talib’s comment at the bottom is just as valid for attorneys as college professors.  It does add a bit of perspective.