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Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and International Versus National Students, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3)

October 22, 2020











Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 24.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Twenty)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: October 22, 2020

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 6,753

ISSN 2369-6885


Benjamin Li is a Member of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE). He discusses: “philosophy professor”; tips for high school students; another possible academic pursuit; self-confidence and arrogance; self-selection of environments; the environments; and individuals who want privacy.

Keywords: Benjamin Li, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry, University of British Columbia.

Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What makes this “philosophy professor” stand out to you?

Benjamin Li[1],[2]*: A bit of context to begin. When I was around the age of 12, my curiosity for knowledge had begun. I was watching crime documentaries and had a knack for controversial cases. My favorite shows were 48 hour, Dateline Mystery, and CSI. One of my favorite murder cases was “The murder of Stephanie Crowe.” I remember watching the documentaries on this case multiple times. I didn’t realize this at the time, but I truly was abnormal. I had an appetite to go places where other people wouldn’t. I somehow managed to find Stephanie Crowe’s mother on Facebook and I messaged her, in which she responded. We had a pleasant conversation about who had murdered her daughter, surprisingly. Nowadays I tell myself, is there anyone like me? Who goes that far to message people involved in the case, just so he can find more details. I was someone who certainly had the energy to debate anyone at any time, no matter the topic or the position, I made sure I had full understanding of both sides. It is good practice to try to debate different types of people while arguing for either side of the debate. Another case that was quite controversial was the murder of Avis Banks. I can name many more cases that interested me. I don’t have time at the moment to summarize these cases, but my point is that I had developed intellectual interests at a young age, and was ready to take in any sort of information and debate anyone. Later I got interested in science, and as expected, I was more attracted to deep and controversial subjects because those topics required myself to take all viewpoints of a debate seriously and then conclude for myself which conclusion was most probable.

There is a lot to say, so feel free to ask more questions, and I will do my best to answer. The stuff I am saying below, represents only 1% of everything my brain has absorbed in a short amount of time. I will try to summarize quickly.

I have previously discussed the high heritability of individual differences in intelligence and personality, but one has to be very careful with regards to the controversy over group differences. There are so many fallacious arguments from both sides of the debate but one fallacy would be trying to infer genetic causation from high within-group heritability. Just because IQ is largely heritable among individuals, does not mean that average group differences must have any genetic basis. Too many people can’t understand that the causes for individual differences may have nothing to do with group differences. Some say that “IQ is 80% genetic,” even though heritability is not understood in that sort of way.

I was attracted to such a dangerous topic, and had spent an entire year learning about it (then moved on to other topics after) and other topics at the same time. I didn’t know where to start but I started debating with school friends, taking on either side. I was confident in discussing the subject with anyone, regardless or race, sex, age, or political views. Usually I don’t give this much thought on any issue, but both sides of the debate had massive amounts of information to take in. For a year, I read all the relevant books/material from both sides of the debate, emailed various professors, and talked to as many people as possible. My final conclusion is that race differences in IQ are “probably” entirely due to social environment, with genes having little or nothing to do with current gaps between ethnic groups or nations. I say “probably” because the topic is still being explored, and won’t disappear anytime soon. It has not been completely settled and I doubt the answer will come out anytime soon, but I am very confident in my conclusion. The opposing position is called the hereditarian position, which posits around 50% genetic contribution to gaps in IQ scores between groups.

Robert Plomin and Amy Chua’s research influenced me, but later I had found a strange, confident individual who had made headlines for his offensive views. You (Scott) have previously interviewed James Flynn so I’m sure you are aware of this subject. One of the supporters of the hereditarian position was a Canadian psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario who had passed away in 2012. Some people called him a “modern-day Galileo” or “modern-day Darwin” but later it is clear that he was not a genius. When I first stumbled across the topic, I was agnostic, and so I watched YouTube videos and was amazed at how calm and confident he was. Unfortunately, what was disappointing was that no one could respond to him honestly and rationally. The debate featuring David Suzuki and Rushton at Western was quite interesting. Suzuki however, did not make it seem like a debate, and I was disappointed. Rushton made his case very clearly and calmly, but everyone tried to make the debate seem like just a joke. The evidence seemed to be on the hereditarian side because it seems like everyone just wanted to shut him down without rationally refuting him. James Watson made controversial statements about race, and was ostracized from society. Richard Lynn and Arthur Jensen were also prominent researchers on the hereditarian side and I am certain James Watson had read their work. At the time, I didn’t find much relevant information on the environmentalist position, but quite a bit for the hereditarians. However, I wanted to take up these arguments one by one to see how they actually stand up to scrutiny.

As for my professor of philosophy, I wanted to find details of any rational responses to Rushton’s work, and found out that he taught a course in the philosophy of biology, and had included a reading of Rushton’s work in his course. I went to his office hours to discuss philosophy a bit, but then later I managed to get him to discuss the question with me. I made a summary of Rushton’s work and asked him what his thoughts were, as he has stated that he had known about Lynn, Jensen and Rushton’s work (the three major Hereditarians). I needed to find good arguments for the environmentalist account before making any conclusion. My professor told me he was a skeptic on the issue, someone who withholds judgement. He recommended a book by Richard Nisbett – Intelligence and How to Get it. He gave me more information about the common responses to Rushton’s work, and he himself told me that humans expressed lower genetic variability than other species, but that some researchers were still defending the biological concept of race. My professor talked mostly about the flaws of trans racial adoption studies as well. The major point however, that is shared by a large amount of researchers is not that “race is a social construct,” but that “race is more so a social construct in humans than it is a biological one.” The conversation went on for about 3 hours, but to cut to the chase, I asked him if the truth mattered, and he hesitated and said “I don’t know.” I told him that this subject will never leave academia and that 500,000 years later, this debate would disappear for sure. His response was in the line of “well, we probably won’t be alive for that long.” Implying that we should just wait until the world ends and avoid the issue altogether. The fact that a philosophy professor had made so many fallacies and claimed that truth didn’t matter, made me laugh out loud. I told him I was disappointed in him and he should be ashamed of himself. He probably wanted me to leave at this point, and I asked one final question. I asked him if I could get in trouble for merely discussing this subject, and he said no. Then he said that he could get in trouble himself if he said “you’re an idiot!” to a student. After that I just thanked him for his time. I was later worried he had disliked me, as it was a small class, and since he knew my name, I was worried if he was going to fail me. For the record, I ended up getting an 89 in his class, which was 1 point off an A+. A week or so later I apologized to him and told him that thanks to him, I later found the more prominent researchers on the environmentalist position such as James Flynn, but also started to look at biology, rather than psychology.

I used to believe Rushton was an objective scientist, but later I realized he was not. There are many things that scared me about Rushton, that’s for sure. However it is a fallacy for me at this time to talk about Rushton’s personal character. It is best to tackle Rushton’s arguments one by one and James Flynn has been able to do so. I have a lot of respect for James Flynn and any truly objective scientist. You can read Flynn’s rebuttal to Rushton’s work here.

-Psych 2019, 1(1), 35-43; , “Reservations about Rushton”, James R. Flynn

Joseph Graves – the first African American to obtain a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology, wrote two books that address myths and theories of race, made multiple appearances in documentary films, and has also rebutted Rushton and Watson. He has done a profound job and I have found his work to have profoundly shaped my views on the concept of race. If you google “Questions for Joseph L. Graves, Jr.” you will find a lot of clear, and concise answers to frequently asked questions. Rushton’s major book is “Race, Evolution, and Behavior,” but Grave’s book “The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America” offers a good reading. I have read both and found Grave’s position to be much more scientifically based than Rushton’s account.

The major refutation of Rushton’s theory comes here:

What a tangled web he weaves: Race, reproductive strategies and Rushton’s life history theory Anthropological Theory Vol 2(2): 131-154,

Rushton’s thesis is that human races evolved to have differences in intelligence and personality because of differences in brain size which affects the 60 different physiological variables he was studying.

When Graves was asked (not by me) about studies that can counter Rushton’s brain size arguments, Graves states that “The evolutionary arguments are more important than any physical measurements because they address why and how any physical difference could exist. If Rushton cannot explain the mechanism that is responsible for any repute difference, then his argument collapses like a house of cards. This is why his 1994 book was entitled Race, Evolution and Behavior: A life History Perspective. Its goal was to explain using evolutionary theory (the only scientific means to explain human variation) why racial differences in intelligence exist. As I point out in my work, evolutionary science does not support this conclusion.”

Jacobsen: Any tips for high school students about pursuing postsecondary educations?

Li: Don’t be arrogant, prepare for your interviews, and respect the application process. Know all the requirements for each and every college application. Show, don’t tell, have humility, express yourself honestly and completely. This is a short answer, but I have more to say.

I am brought up in the Canadian school system so there are no standardized tests. However, for Americans, I’d say start studying for the SAT or ACT during the summer of junior or the summer after sophomore year. Take lots of practice tests and buy the prep books, and practice on Khan Academy, and it would be awesome if you could study with friends.

I think most people should consider their options before their senior year of high school. I think it will help research your options thoroughly and figure out what fields should fit one’s aptitude and interests. Of course, later, you may opt to switch to another area, and that is something to expect. I think everyone should aim high and set goals, and actively monitor their progress in reaching those goals. STEM majors are more clear in where you end up, but if your talents and passions genuinely lie in the liberal arts, I would encourage it. Many individuals should also consider doing a trade. An IQ of 115+ (84th percentile or higher) is pretty essential to gain a marketable degree at a relatively elite university. However, at this stage in your life, IQ should not be a huge thing to worry about. The amount of coursework in university is likely to be a lot more than your high school, so I recommend developing a stable work ethic as early as possible because many people struggle the first year. Most students going into UBC are straight A students from high school but quickly realize that university won’t allow this. Just do your best, follow your dreams, consider backup options, and you will have no regrets.

The thought of university never came into my mind until literally the time to apply for university during the last five or so months of school. I didn’t put any effort until around the last three months of high school, even though university acceptances are almost over at this time, and most individuals suffer from senioritis, but I was just getting started. I just quit focusing again after my acceptance to many universities. Don’t be like me, and don’t fall victim to senioritis. The critical thing is to prioritize school first if you want to get into your preferred program. A friend of mine in high school, who was quite a high achiever, told me he never looked at an admission requirement (GPA cutoff or average) aside from seeing the required courses needed, because once you have done your best, you leave no regrets, and if you know the requirements, you will continuously stress over them.

Most individuals who go into first-year life sciences will try to opt for medicine as a goal. Students majoring in humanities, or social sciences may want to aim for law school.  These are highly competitive to get into due to the prestige involved. I highly recommend volunteering as early as possible and doing this as early as the summer before entering university, if possible. Medical school admissions in Canada are more competitive than in the US, and you will have to be fully dedicated throughout your degree. Have a backup plan as most people don’t get accepted into any medical school. IQ is not as important here because success in a biology degree relies less on problem-solving than other STEM fields. The average IQ of doctors is around 120-125, but those who rise to the top of medicine, or those occupying more prestigious specialties may require higher average IQs by quite a lot.

I also think everyone should know that the average IQ of students studying at the world’s most elite universities is nothing extreme. Just because you don’t believe you have an IQ of 145 doesn’t mean you should give up your dreams to go to Harvard or any top school in a challenging program. Jordan Peterson – former professor at the University of Toronto (UofT), claimed that the average IQ of Ivy League students is around 145, and has claimed that UofT students were between 120-130 because they have “tested it” he claims. I can make my own claims too. What is true is that an elementary school with an average class size of 24 students who teaches for 30 years will, on average, have only one student with an IQ over 145. This is a bit intimidating.

In reality, the average IQ of undergraduate students at Ivy League schools is likely lower than 140 (1 in 261 level), which means plenty of others are admitted with closer to average ability. There are no peer-reviewed studies regarding this question that I’m aware of. Still, I have heard varying opinions on the average IQ of Harvard or MIT undergraduate students (ranging from 125-145). I typically assume that undergraduate students at STEM intensive universities such as MIT and CalTech, are selected from those with IQs exclusively above the 98th percentile, but for non-STEM subjects no.

The median LSAT score for Harvard Law school is 173, with 175 being the 75th percentile and the 25th percentile score is 170. Mensa – the original high IQ society, accepts LSAT scores from the 95th percentile of all test takers (which is supposed to be equivalent to the 98th percentile or higher relative to the general population). Intertel -a society that accepts scores at or above the 99th percentile level on a qualifying and valid supervised test of intelligence, accepts LSAT scores of 172 or higher. High IQ societies selecting from the 99.9th percentile or higher such as the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry accept scores of 176+. It is clear that the average Law student at Harvard does not have an IQ (general intelligence) of 145, but likely somewhat higher than 130. Therefore, the average IQ of Harvard Law students could be anywhere between 130-145. The LSAT is a test, focusing on verbal reasoning abilities (Law students would score lower on a pure numerical or spatial test) that aspiring students study a lot for and over perform on the test, or take the test multiple times to improve their score. If we look at Harvard MBA students, then the average GMAT score of incoming students is 730, around the 96th percentile. The Mensa chapter in Canada seems to accept GMAT scores (at the 95th percentile or higher). Therefore, Harvard Law, Medicine (though the MCAT isn’t equivalent to an IQ test at all), and Business students each seem to have an average IQ of around 135 from my estimate. It may be true that Harvard STEM undergraduates may have an average IQ of 140, and STEM students are typically 10 points higher in IQ than non-STEM students. As for the top Canadian universities, IQ should not be a huge issue since standardized testing is not important, but for UBC, there is a “personal profile” you can utilize to your advantage. From UBC’s website, it states, “This is your chance to tell us about the things that are important to you, your significant achievements, what you’ve learned from your experiences, and the challenges you’ve overcome. “ I suggest you proofread your writing to make sure there are no grammatical errors, and perhaps even get your teachers to edit for you. If I were to guess the average IQ at UBC, UofT, McGill and other top Canadian schools might be around 120 overall, with STEM students (Computer Science, Engineering, Math, Physics, and the like) being around 125. If this is the case, then most of the top 20 schools worldwide are unlikely to have IQs of over 130 as the student quality in Canada’s top schools is almost comparable to elite schools such as the University of California Berkeley. If the average IQ of students studying in my classes were truly 130+, I would be super surprised, because most students who entered these schools had great work habits, and I tend to believe that allowed many individuals with rather average abilities to be accepted and even thrive.

If we include the entire population, the correlation between IQ and educational achievement and attainment is around .6 (IQ. explains 36% of the variance in grades and years of education), so I wouldn’t worry about whether you have the highest IQ in your high school or not. The correlation between achievement drops to around .5 in high school. The correlation drops further in university and then even more in graduate school due to sample restriction, leaving many more factors responsible for achievement differences. It is much more important to see success in life (economically) as more related to grit, conscientiousness with a mindset for growth (though it is all debatable depending on the circumstances) then the innate ability for academics or “intelligence.”

Finally, I would like to share three important YouTube videos (one documentary, two film’s) that truly influenced me. The first two I had watched prior to entering university, but the third one I had watched recently. I believe they helped me gain interest in top universities in particular.

1) Ivy Dreams Documentary

-You can find a shorter Youtube video called “Strict Asian Parents & Stressed, Pressured Youth – College Process.”

2) Acceptance – Ivy League Admissions Movie (2013)

3) Legally Blonde (2001)

Jacobsen: As a “viable option… to pursue in the future,” if you had not found this joy in academia, what would be another possible academic pursuit for you?

Li: I entered university without any idea of what to pursue. My parents suggested I pursue a career in computer science and so that was the first option.

In my senior year of high school, I applied to schools and programs thanks to parental guidance and only applied to computer science programs. I wanted to go to a university farther away from home, and UBC was one option here, and later I ended up being accepted and chose to attend. However, in high school, I did not do exceptionally well in a computer science class in an earlier grade. Mostly because these classes were so dull and offered me the most time to fool around in class since you were on computers all the time. I had not enjoyed any course in high school, did not perform extremely well in any subject, put little effort into schoolwork, and didn’t pay much attention in class, so I was not in an excellent position to go to university and decide what to study. I got into UBC in the faculty of science, where everyone’s first year is general, and the student must declare a major in sophomore year.

I never made my own decisions when applying for university. My parents just told me to major in computer science (CS), and that was what I was going to declare my major in the second year of university since the first year is general sciences for everyone. I didn’t enjoy it or care too much on that subject because I felt like I was forced into it, and I didn’t think CS was a prestigious career at the time, but I regret it all now.

Before I entered university near the end of high school, I considered medicine and law because I didn’t know what to pursue at first. I just decided I would try to achieve highly because I only really want to pursue something prestigious. Since I decided to go to university in the first place, I believed I deserved the most prestigious occupations and the most elite universities. Business (MBA), Medicine, Law, or graduate school were all academic pursuits that I thought of, but I was unsure what specific field I should pursue. I also had a sick attitude of entitlement. That I was destined to attend an Ivy League or a school such as MIT or Stanford. Many of my high school peers wanted to become lawyers or doctors, and I felt those jobs were much more prestigious than a computer programming career that my parents had intended. Near the end of high school, I told a few students in my grade during lunchtime that I would try to get into Harvard or Yale’s Law school, Harvard Medical school, or any elite institution for business, law, or medicine. People found it funny and made a joke out of me. One of my peers who wanted to study law and another who wanted to study medicine in the future said “impossible” and just laughed. I wonder if this was an attack on my intelligence, personality, work ethic, or whatever. One of these people (let’s call him Bob since his identity will remain anonymous) told me in private messages, “Benjamin, you don’t have the critical thinking skills nor common sense to be a practical citizen in today’s society, let alone a practitioner.” Honestly, I could cry, but this was true. I lacked social awareness and had lots of random obsessive behavior, likely because I may have Asperger’s syndrome (though I am not formally diagnosed). My general attitude was based on how I would be disappointed if I only got into the top 40 schools like UBC, UofT, etc. I was arrogant enough to think that only the top-ranked schools were worth my time. Bob later said, “Put some work in before you rant. I don’t want to hear your world of ‘ifs.’ Secondly, I don’t want to hear you rant those names again; those are the top Canadian medical schools, and I have not earned the right to classify them as if they are backups. Grow up.” I needed to be more humble as I was not considerate of those who might have it a lot harder than me. There are people out there in this world, with just as much talent, if not more, but never had the opportunity to attend any university or a good school like UBC. Bob and I had good times and bad times, but he is someone who has influenced me a lot because I don’t think I would have been competitive enough to care about my future had he not existed. Bob and I volunteered one time at a hospital before entering university to get a feel for the experience of a career in medicine. I enjoyed the experience and did a lot of reading on medical school requirements for the rest of the summer. I was also interested in taking standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT since I never got the chance to see how I’d even do on standardized tests aimed to predict college readiness. I didn’t know before attending university, but these tests are a decent proxy for IQ scores (IQ scores are a proxy for psychometric g, which equates to intelligence), though they are not equivalent. Regardless, I was much more comfortable with the math problems than verbal problems, yet I had received perfect scores nevertheless. Later, I found the time to take other standardized tests such as the LSAT and scored well above the median for Harvard and Yale law students. Taking a philosophy class helped me get in the right line of thinking to take a test such as the LSAT and take it confidently.

In my first year of university, my performance was quite satisfying, having an overall average in the top 10% of the first-year class, allowing me to gain Dean’s List recognition. In the first semester, I managed to get one of the highest grades in my Calculus 1 class, a 97 (an A+ is 90-100 on UBC’s grading scale) and had gotten A’s in my other classes too. However, my computer science grade was rather average, and I had almost failed the final exam. This event discouraged me from majoring in computer science. I did tell my parents that, and they were probably disappointed in me. I didn’t focus on that class in particular because I was not focusing on that career at the time, and as I said, I felt like I was forced into studying the subject.

This begs the question, now what am I going to pursue? I considered some life sciences fields if I were going to pursue medicine, maybe philosophy or psychology, to pursue law, economics, or business to try for an MBA. I still had medicine or law, especially on my mind, rather than business. I took a biology course and enjoyed topics regarding evolution, but overall I didn’t feel biology was a field that suited me best. I later took the GMAT and GRE and received scores well above the Harvard entering average. Still, it was inescapable to note that my mathematical reasoning ability was undoubtedly a strength of mine that I shouldn’t let go of. I decided that a STEM field was the right fit for me, after all. I didn’t want to major in computer science since I already had a rough history with those types of courses, so I just decided to pursue statistics and mathematics, and have given my reasons in a prior part of this interview. It is now an actual self-selection effect, and nothing based on my parent’s suggestion. I have also decided to minor in philosophy, thanks to my high verbal reasoning ability (yet it’s overall lower than my spatial and numerical ability), and my high grades in philosophy, + great interest in philosophical questions. However, I am happy where I’m at, even though I still have that feeling I should have gone for computer science from the get-go because of its prestige and popularity nowadays. I was wrong to think these STEM fields were not as prestigious as law or medicine.

I think I have decided recently I definitely won’t pursue these fields. I decided medicine wasn’t for me because the subjects (biology) don’t play to my strengths for problem-solving, law focused more on verbal abilities instead of math/spatial in which I was more comfortable with (I did quite well on my English and Philosophy courses which indicate strong verbal reasoning ability). Business students typically have excellent social skills, and fantastic CV’s, work experience, and volunteer work, which I didn’t care as much for. However, all of these options are always open to me if I change my mind, but at this point, it’s unlikely I’ll consider these fields again.

Besides those fields I had given up on, I got more interested in science early on, so I decided if I were to pursue academia or research, I would aim to be a tenured professor at the highest-ranked universities. However, this is hard as most people with doctorates don’t become a tenured professor. Before entering university, aside from researching medical and law school and standardized testing, I had already been reading voraciously on scientific topics and had become fascinated by theories of scientific eminence. These academics had influenced me.

Amy Chua – a yale law professor, for her fame regarding “Tiger Parenting.”

Robert Plomin for his contribution to behavioral genetics with regards to his “Nature of Nurture” or the concept of “non-shared environment” – the environmental reasons children growing up in the same family are so different. The non-shared environment is also related to what I have been talking about regarding self-selection, or self-selected environments where you are likely to choose settings that suit your genetic propensities. For example, casual basketball players are taller than the general population, but basketball doesn’t make an individual taller. Basketball players are tall not because they play the game, but because they have the genetic composition for being tall (on average). Similarly, individual differences in academic aptitude play a role in which college major someone may choose, which is also a self-selection effect. Majoring in philosophy indicates very high verbal ability as philosophy students as an average, scoring highest on verbal reasoning. Still, learning philosophy may also increase verbal scores due to exposure, but mostly it is due to innate ability. Another self-selection effect is with regards to STEM, in which STEM students are 10 points higher than non-STEM students in IQ typically. Individuals with higher IQs are more likely to major in STEM, and those with lower IQs will prefer to self-select into majors that rely less on problem-solving and intelligence (psychometric g which IQ scores serve as a proxy for).

Finally, regarding the ugly topic of group differences, I am thankful most notably to these names; James Flynn, John Phillipe Rushton, Arthur Jensen, and Richard Lynn for advancing most of the literature during the last 30 years. I am indebted to James Flynn’s devotion to the environmentalist position, as, without him, I certainly would have seen the hereditarian position as a fact of life. These were the biggest names in this debate from my knowledge, but there are many more. I was inspired by the real rivalry of Arthur Jensen and James Flynn and their respect for each other, despite holding opposing viewpoints. Notably, Flynn has laid out Jensen’s points in an entire book and carefully and honestly rebuts each point. Jensen and Rushton passed away in 2012. Richard Lynn and James Flynn have both published their reflections on their lifelong research and all their contributions to the field of intelligence. After Lynn’s and Flynn’s lives are over (Lynn is currently 90, Flynn is now 86), perhaps there will be more researchers this generation. The hereditarians seem to have no shortage of individuals willing to pursue that area. Especially for the environmentalist position, I wonder who will be next to take on that position? If no one else can, I suppose that’s where I come in. If I decide to contribute to intelligence research at the international society for intelligence research (ISIR) someday, there are many things in intelligence that matter, but I will undoubtedly consider tackling the question about group differences. If I do, I will certainly do my best to replace Flynn as one of the few serious researchers in the environmentalist position (culture only theory for group differences). I was also intrigued by the fact (heard from someone I met through high IQ groups) that many intelligence researchers were once a member of the Triple Nine Society, ISPE, or Prometheus but do not want it to be known. It is definitely true that some of the brightest individuals are interested in the subject of intelligence (another self-selection). I currently do not qualify for the Prometheus society (only accepts MAT scores now, and I haven’t taken the MAT) or the mega (1 in a million score on specific unsupervised tests), but it would be awesome if I could interact and learn more about the individuals who score the highest on IQ tests, whether supervised or unsupervised.

Lastly, I am indebted to Joseph Graves for shaping my views on the concept of race, and why the human species don’t have biological races in existence, and carefully refuting Rushton’s theory regarding the application of r/K selection in humans.

This is how I mostly came to be with my academic options. I finally decided to focus on my current education and let academia or research be possible options someday. I realized that prestige, notoriety, and the label of “genius” mean absolutely nothing to me anymore. I am proud of how far I have come. Like I said in part three, all I want in life is to be happy, and I think if I focus more on computer programming, I will be able to have a decent job and happy life.

Jacobsen: What differentiates self-confidence and arrogance in this “higher IQ” domain? What is the importance of the latter as a character trait than the latter with the greater responsibility inherent in greater capacity to some degree?

Li: Arrogance is related to narcissism. Entitlement, insecurities, and low self-esteem seem to be significant indicators of narcissism. It is hard to differentiate narcissists from overconfident individuals, but you realize that most narcissists need validation, but self-confident individuals do not need validation for their achievements.

Overall, having a remarkable ability may allow individuals to be more responsible for helping people, rather than viewing themselves as gods. Be aware of their shortcomings. Self-confidence will enable one to work with others and grow as a person through mutual understanding and empathy. On the other hand, arrogance is a god-complex sort of deal that won’t help anyone form meaningful connections.

Jacobsen: With this self-selection of environments, what are some of those self-selection mechanisms?

Li: Robert Plomin’s book, “Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are”, gives a splendid answer. To a layperson, the obvious question that comes to mind is, how is it even possible to disentangle which behavioral traits are due to nature or nurture? There happens to be two straightforward answers to this question: large longitudinal twin and adoption studies combined with the ongoing decoding of the human genome. With Blueprint, Plomin is leveraging the late stage of his distinguished career to publish the culmination of his life’s work on this controversial subject. He’s undoubtedly cognizant of the social sciences’ ideological resistance to any form of genetic explanation, as the prevailing orthodoxy assumes that only the environment, and remarkably parenting, are causal in largely shaping who we are and our life outcomes.

Blueprint’s main thesis is what Plomin calls “the nature of nurture,” which posits that our genes are nudging us to respond to, interact with, and even shape our environments to fit our genetic dispositions. Plomin states’ Psychological environments are not “out there” imposed on us passively. They are “in here,” experienced by us as we actively perceive, interpret, select, modify, and even create environments correlated with our genetic propensities.” Some things come and go, but DNA doesn’t.

This does not imply that the environment doesn’t matter at all, but it can never be assumed that any outcome shaping individual differences is entirely environmental. There are certainly some reasons people are afraid of genetic explanations. There is a rough history of eugenics and other atrocities in human history. Ever since I learned about behavioral genetics, and IQ related work, I had to come across the subject pertaining to group differences. Individual differences are what Plomin focuses on, and he has made it clear that group differences are a clearly different matter.

Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, what are some of the environments?

Li: A simple example Plomin gives is that it’s sometimes assumed that kids who are read to by parents do well in reading at school and that this is a causal relationship. This is wrong because the relationship is correlational in that parents who enjoy reading and who see the value of reading are more likely to be intelligent and want to read to their children too [who share 50% of the parent’s DNA] and that the children inherit some of these traits that make them more interested in and amenable to being read to. The parents may also be picking up on cues exhibited by the child to be read to or who enjoy the stimulation of being read to, while not reading to the child who is restless and would instead engage in rough and tumble play or play with objects rather than being read to. A different type of environment in childhood would be “Tiger Parenting” and Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” gives an entirely different feeling. Both are two of my favorite books, and these two academics have a lot to say about the nurture vs. nature debate. I am grateful to both these academics for helping me gain an interest in science through questions such as these. 

Jacobsen: Rather than the “spotlight,” what about individuals who want privacy, quiet, peace of mind, or stay away from the spotlight inasmuch as it’s necessary to enter the limelight for particular ends?

Li: There is no need to be too competitive for individuals wanting privacy. One can stay in their room and focus on casual activities that soothe one’s mind. Indeed, high intelligence combined with social awkwardness can be truly oddly shaped in a world obsessed with money, sex, fame, and educational achievement. Most of my life, I cared about none of these things and could have been satisfied just living everyday life naturally. I have grown since and realized why people care about these things. Unfortunately, I did not even attend my high school prom, and I wish I never attended my high school graduation. The peace of mind from not attending would have been better for me at the time, I believe, as I was certainly not anywhere near the spotlight. Now, I see peace of mind as beneficial to me. I was so caught up with trying to fit in, it led me to want notoriety, as without that, I was afraid someday I may be forgotten. In the high IQ community, I sort of wanted to become more well known someday, but now I realize being famous is not all that’s cracked up to be. I have found myself recently, and have realized that all I want in life is to work a decent job, have a family, compete in video games and sports in my free time for the rest of my life.  I am not obligated to become a genius, regardless of my high ability. 

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE); Member, Torr; Member, Profundus High I.Q. Society; Member, Global Genius Generation Group.

[2] Individual Publication Date: October 22, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021:

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3) [Online].October 2020; 24(A). Available from:

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, October 22). Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3). Retrieved from

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A, October. 2020. <>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2020.  Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott  Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A (October 2020).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 24.A. Available from: <>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 24.A.,

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 24.A (2020):October. 2020. Web. <>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on Advice, Self-Selection, the Spotlight, STEM, and Hereditarianism Versus Environmentalism: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (3)[Internet]. (2020, October 24(A). Available from:

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