The inheritance of intelligence, and the policy implications that this may or may not have, is currently the most controversial and divisive issue at the interface between science and society.
This is in part because of The Bell Curve,37 which has given respectability to the notion that it is right and proper to discriminate against the disadvantaged. While the book is badly flawed, the authors should perhaps be applauded for catalyzing many scientists more qualified than themselves to address publicly the inheritance of intelligence. But the book should also be seen for what it is: a political agenda masquerading as science, a meanspirited diatribe against the poor and disenfranchised, and a pseudointellectual legitimization of racism. Racism is revealed, not in recognizing that racial differences exist, but in judging that some racial traits are better than others, and in believing that all racial traits are genetically fixed and immutable.
The reason why the inheritance of intelligence is such a volatile issue is clear. But the reason why so little has been said about intelligence by reputable scientists in the past decade is not clear. Scientists are often reluctant to leave the cloistered environment of the laboratory or the lecture hall to confront the issues of the day. This reluctance may arise because scientists are not interested, or because they feel unqualified, or because they are shy, or simply because they think the public is not ready for science. Most scientists are accustomed to seeing stories about science reported in the lay press that are so badly mangled or oversimplified or out-of-context that they are no longer true. Yet,