James Flynn, a moral philosopher who made major scientific contributions to intelligence research, passed away on Friday, December 11, 2020. His passing sparked many tributes to him, some of which I have compiled here.
The International Society for Intelligence Research asked me to write the organization’s tribute. I invite everyone to read the entire piece, but it concludes:
James Flynn has bequeathed to the field of intelligence research more than the books and articles containing his ideas. He leaves a legacy of respect from his colleagues and an example for every seeker of truth to emulate. Nobody can ever replace James Flynn, but scientists and scholars can emulate his example.Warne (2020a)
I was honored to be invited to write the piece. In my new book, In the Know: Debunking 35 Myths About Human Intelligence, I called Flynn “an impeccably honest scientist” (Warne, 2020b, p. 294), and I have written positively about him in my blog posts.
James Thompson (emeritus at University College London) was the first to write a public tribute, though. You can read it here, but my favorite passage states:
Above all else, he felt that arguments mattered, and if you avoided them, you avoided the truth.Thompson (2020)
Wall Street Journal columnist Jason L. Riley dedicated a column to Flynn, stating that he “brought more light than heat to this fraught debate” about whether genes could cause the average differences in IQ across different racial groups.
James Flynn’s activities extended far beyond intelligence research. Chris Trotter, a New Zealand columnist discussed Flynn’s political activities.
Social Media Tributes
Many of the tributes were on social media. Here are some of my favorites.
Richard Haier, the editor of the scholarly journal Intelligence, wrote:
Haier’s associate editor, Thomas Coyle (from the University of Texas at San Antonio and the associate editor of Intelligence) had a great tweet that included a picture of Flynn at the 2017 International Society for Intelligence Research conference (which is where I met Flynn):
Charles Murray (second author of The Bell Curve), wrote:
Eric Turkheimer of the University of Virginia wrote:
In fact, Turkheimer seems to be the first person to break the news on social media with this tweet:
Jonathan Wai (University of Arkansas) wrote:
Nathan Cofnas told a brief anecdote about having a paper peer reviewed by Flynn:
I have had a paper reviewed by Flynn, and I can attest that he evaluated viewpoints fairly, regardless of whether he agreed with them.
Here is the tweet (by Steve Stewart-Williams) that Cofnas quoted:
If I missed any tributes, let me know. I will add them to this list.