3/29/2010

OUTLIERS ARE US


Now here's a ridiculous thing.

Tim Tebow, like every other NFL prospect, takes the Wonderlic Test.

An anecdote (which is later denied) is put out there that the notoriously faith-headed Tebow ran an 'audible' right before the test was to be given. The original source is here.

Much blog commentary followed, mocking Tebow's score of 22 out of 50 and chortling at his below-averageness, and how of course it fits, given that he is a very public evangelical and passionate 'right-to-lifer' who was home-schooled.

Well, of course this criticism is ridiculous and misguided. It turns out that '20' would be an average score on this particular test, and that the anecdote in question is disputed. It's more than a little ironic when people who have supposedly made 'critical thinking' a cardinal value manifestly failing to think critically about claims like this.

After all, one of the things that I think I dislike the most about conventional belief systems is that they simply make it easier to rehearse one's prejudices. How is this different? In this case, the inference that '22' is a low score on an 'IQ test', and an uncritically-digested anecdote about a somewhat-fulsome Christian athlete was something of a perfect storm for the skeptic who mistakenly conflates their lack of faith with intelligence.

For the record, I took the test offered over at PZ's place and (five minutes later) had a score in the 40's. Yes, folk like us are exceptional, which is just another way of saying we are outliers. People like Tebow, who are exceptional in other ways, are pretty normal in this respect.

Such folk are understandably less interested in the question of how quick people like myself are at taking such tests, and how quickly people like me are willing to rehearse our own prejudices where athletes and people of faith are concerned.

For the record, I don't follow college footfall and I am not a Tim Tebow fan. I don't agree with his 'right-to-life' position, and I certainly am no fan of homeschooling, especially where science education is concerned. I just think that this 'story' is a case of people rehearsing their prejudices, rather than thinking critically, and thus a cautionary tale. Yes, well-educated bloggers are supposed to be better at such things, precisely because they are exceptional. But even outliers can fall prey to the seductive siren of their own beliefs. All of us, even skeptics, must recognize that the easiest person to fool is one's self!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

A bit of a tangent but, ... as much as I hate Rush L (and I really, truly do), I'm put off by the bloggers that go for the cheap shots about weight and drug abuse.

He's an A#$hole. No question in my mind. But since I'm overweight and wrestle with alcohol, it pisses me off that we can't simply call his ideas stupid/racist/fill in the blank. But when we go for the cheap joke, well, like I said, I've fat and abuse alcohol.

RMP

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Yeah, I definitely agree with the part about his weight. It shouldn't be part of our discourse.

This business about the drug abuse is a little harder to resist, given that he publicly bashed drug users in the past. And, I have a really hard time with anything he might have to say about morality given some of his personal choices. Where does a guy with no kids and multiple failed marriages get off lecturing me on morality?

But, at some point, no matter how tempting those tropes are, we should resist them. You are right. We should refute assholes not on their personal ass-holiness, but on their ideas. And this is not really a tangent, but it goes to the heart of what I am chiding a few Scibloggers for.

Anonymous said...

Man I wish I would do a better job of proof reading my comments for typos. Oh well. Anyway, as to Rush's drug issue, I concur that if he EVER uses it as a club he should be called on it.

RMP