Radiolab from WNYC Studios Presents “G”
Special Six-Part Series Exploring the Controversial Science of Human Intelligence,
From IQ Testing and Genetic Intelligence Predictors to the Quest for Genius
(New York, NY – June 7, 2019) – Today, Radiolab from WNYC Studios debuts “G,” a new six-part series exploring the fraught terrain of measuring, explaining, and just plain talking about human intelligence.
The idea that some people are born smarter than others, and that IQ tests are a reliable measure of intelligence, is one of the most well-supported findings in psychology … and one of the most disputed. Through expert interviews and personal stories, “G” wades into the biological, sociological, and political debates surrounding intelligence research, as well as the dubious origins, tragic applications, and questionable future of intelligence testing. Ultimately, the series digs into questions that have confounded people for decades: What is intelligence? How do we measure it? And should we?
“G” debuts today with “The Miseducation of Larry P.,” a two-part story that unpacks a little-known but profound fact: more than a million IQ tests are given to American children every year, but in the state of California, the tests are banned for use on most African-American students. The story goes back to Larry P. v. Riles, a class-action civil rights case from the late 1970’s, which ended the deplorable practice of using IQ testing to warehouse African-American students in dead-end classes. Radiolab tracks down Larry P. himself, who is now 60 years old, and has never quite recovered from the treatment he received in the 70’s.
Part two of the story -- available June 14 -- will explore the aftermath of that court decision, which had the unintended consequence of creating a system that many parents contend hurts the students it was designed to protect, preventing children from accessing critically needed, state-funded academic resources. And digs deeper into the question: What do IQ tests really measure, and do their benefits outweigh their potential harm?
“G” is reported and hosted by Radiolab Senior Editor Pat Walters.
Upcoming episodes will include:
- June 27 -- How one man’s drive to understand and pursue genius led him to steal Albert Einstein’s brain. Radiolab unfolds this strange saga involving road trips, disappearances, and enough scientific studies to make Einstein’s brain one of the most closely examined specimens in all of human history. A saga that, in the end, leads to a deep question about precisely how much of Einstein’s brilliance was contained inside his head … and how much seeped in from the outside.
- July 11 -- Lulu Miller (cofounder of Invisibilia) joins Radiolab to tell the story of how Buck v. Bell, an infamous Supreme Court decision from the 1920s, inspired one law student to launch a crusade against modern-day legalized forced sterilization. Miller also examines the thinking of eugenicists, who used Darwin’s teachings to justify their cruel practices, and visits living victims of eugenic sterilization who point out a provocative and beautiful realization about Darwin’s theories.
- July 25 -- The story of Dr. Steven Hsu, a theoretical physicist turned geneticist, who recently began selling a controversial test to couples using IVF, which he argues can determine whether their embryos are likely to have low intelligence. It’s easy to see this as a sort of pre-emptive eugenics. But Hsu disagrees, and says it isn’t his place to decide whether or not couples should have access to this information. Radiolab asks: does Hsu’s test really predict intelligence? And do we want to live in a world where people can decide how smart their babies will be?
- July 30 -- A game show pre-recorded before a live audience on animal intelligence featuring special guests: science writer Dan Engber (Slate, New York Time Magazine); Laurel Braitman, author of the best-selling book Animal Madness; Tracy Clayton, host of the Strong Black Legends podcast; and comedian Jordan Mendoza (Drunk Science, Comedy Central). Judged by Radiolab co-hosts Jad Abumrad, Robert Krulwich and … a celebrity dog, the show will seek to determine which animal is the world’s smartest, along the way reframing and expanding how we define intelligence across all animals, including humans.
“The whole idea that people can peer inside human minds and measure intelligence is a big ol’ Pandora’s box, to say the least,” said Jad Abumrad, Creator of Radiolab. “So naturally, I was thrilled when Pat told me he wanted to open up that box. Each of the stories he’s found are startling, complicated and perfect for creating the kind of arguments that derail otherwise pleasant dinner conversation.”
“When I told people I was researching intelligence, their gut reaction was: ‘don’t go there.’ But no one could tell me why,” said Senior Editor and “G” host Pat Walters. “‘G’ dives directly into the discomfort, facing head on how the study of human intelligence has been fraught with the same biases about race and gender as other fields, how desperately we want to understand the conditions which create ‘genius,’ and the thorny questions provoked by the evolution of prenatal intelligence testing.”
The first episode of “G” is available today at radiolab.org, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Pocket Casts, and wherever podcasts are available. Additional episodes will be released bi-weekly through July 30.
“G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. Additional support for Radiolab is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.
ABOUT WNYC STUDIOS
WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio, home to some of the most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts of the last decade, including Radiolab, On The Media, Nancy, The New Yorker Radio Hour, Death, Sex & Money, Snap Judgment, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, and 2 Dope Queens. WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with podcasts and national radio programs that inform, inspire, and delight millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. Their programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, interviews that reveal, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself. For more information, visit wnycstudios.wnyc.org