The Dickens-Flynn model of IQ, part 1: Background.

This was originally going to be a review of What is Intelligence?: Beyond the Flynn Effect, by James R. Flynn.  However, like so many of my reviews, it quickly became something else – I realized that I couldn’t fully address what I found important about Flynn’s ideas without drawing also on his earlier work, Race, IQ, and Jensen.  Also, his more recent theories are summarized very well in the article “Heritability estimates versus large environmental effects: The IQ paradox resolved”, which is much shorter than his later book. I will also reference some things Thomas Sowell has written, for reasons I’ll explain later.

(Incidentally, for purposes of this post, I will be assuming that the reader correctly understands the concept of heritability.)

Continue reading

Stuart McGill and Paul Ingraham on back pain.

I’m not satisfied with my previous post on back pain.  Framing it as a review of three separate books was probably a mistake.  When you review two books at once, you can frame things as a “compare and contrast”, but grouping things in threes is awkward.

I’m going to try to correct my error by comparing and contrasting the back pain theories and treatment recommended by Stuart McGill of and Paul Ingraham of  The two both claim to be proponents of “evidence-based medicine” for low back pain, and they share quite a few beliefs in common; namely, they believe that many common treatments and diagnoses for low back pain are scams, including: Continue reading

Book Reviews: Crooked / Back Mechanic / Complete Guide to Low Back Pain

This is a review of three books about low back pain: Crooked, by Cathryn Ramin; Back Mechanic, by Stuart McGill, and the Complete Guide to Low Back Pain, an book-length article by Paul Ingraham from (paywalled.)

These are three very different books, written by three very different authors:

  • Cathryn Ramin is an investigative journalist who suffers from severe low back pain.
  • Stuart McGill is a Ph.D. kinesiologist at the University of Waterloo.
  • Paul Ingraham is a science writer and massage therapist, but more importantly for our purposes, he’s a empiricist nerd obsessed with evidence-based medicine.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Hungry Brain

It was joked, of Soviet factories, that if performance were measured by the number of nails produced, they would produce a multitude of nails too small to use; if performance were measured in tonnage, they would produce only one, gigantic nail.


Capitalism has sort of the opposite problem with food – regardless of what you say you want, capitalism will give you what you crave, for a low, low price.  You say you want less fat, capitalism will produce food in which the fat has been replaced by sugar.   You say you want less sugar, capitalism will replace sugar with cane syrup.  You say you want simple foods with only a few ingredients, capitalism will ensure that three of those ingredients are sugar, fat, and salt.  Natural foods? Capitalism will find a way to source commercial additives naturally.  Local foods?  Capitalism will build factory farms locally.

This tendency was on my mind as I read The Hungry Brain, by Stephan Guyenet.  I learned of the book from Scott Alexander’s recent review, and Guyenet’s blog had previously been recommended to me by several very smart people.  Scott’s review is thorough, which spares me the effort of recapping every argument in the book; however, it seems to me Scott reads the book through a certain lens (asking whether weight loss is a matter of willpower, and what the role of genes is) whereas I read it through another.  For that reason, I will focus on what I think the book’s argument has to say about two questions:

Continue reading

Book Review – Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America

Dividing Lines would be a dry read if immigration control weren’t a hot issue now.  And hey, maybe it’s still dry to you, but I found it interesting.  It’s a blow-by-blow history of immigration policy in the United States since the founding, with special attention to the political coalitions that supported several very different policy regimes.
Continue reading