Steven Rose, Stephen Ceci and Wendy M. Williams ask whether scientists should study race and IQ (Nature 457, 786–788; 2009 and Nature 457, 788–789; 2009). The problems with such studies seem to result, as they have done since the 1930s, from the near impossibility of defining the word 'intelligence'.

The introduction of IQ tests has always seemed to be one of the best examples of the great political and social harm that can be done by the mind-boggling arrogance of scientists who think that they can sum up human abilities in a single number.

The same sort of problem exists with the present generation of bibliometrists. So far they haven't managed to inflict as much damage but, left to themselves, they will.

See also: The belief that genes cannot be changed is now outdated Identifying adaptive differences could provide insight Is poverty better explained by history of colonialism? Would you wish the research undone? Measured intelligence is a product of social processes Don't fan the flames of a dead debate A useful way to glean social information