Dog eat dog

Writer Malcolm Gladwell recently published a collection of his essays in his new book What the Dog Saw. It was recently reviewed in The New York Times by cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker who complements Gladwell as “a writer of many gifts” but notes that “he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong”.

Pinker cites several errors (including describing eigenvalues as ‘Igon values’) but cites one claim, over the link between IQ and American football players’ rankings, as “simply not true”.

Gladwell has just written a stinging response where he notes Pinker was using data from blog posts rather than the scientific article Gladwell was basing his claims on.

While the two writers spar over the details, the subtext is that Pinker is a proponent of IQ being a reliable predictor of success with a significant genetic influence (see The Blank Slate) whereas Gladwell has argued that success is largely a combination of practice plus being in the right place at the right time (see Outliers).

However, you may be interested to know that all of the essays collected in Gladwell’s new book are available for free on his website, so you can try before you buy.

Link to Pinker’s review in the NYT
Link to Gladwell’s reply (via @carlzimmer).

One Comment

  1. Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Gladwell is ok for a bit of light entertainment – but we certainly need to dig a little deeper for thoughts on such a contentious and complex issue.
    I’ve not read the blank slate – reviews look interesting – for me – the Bell Curve is the most convincing book I’ve come across so far on IQ.
    We might not like the politics of its authors – and its conclusions might be hard to take Рbut it is pretty hard to argue with that quantity of data.


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