The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

Synopsis

The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray has generated a firestorm of debate, confirming for some their secret belief in the innate inferiority of certain "races" or ethnic groups, angering many who view the book as an ill-concealed racist manifesto, and worrying untold others who fear the further racial polarization of American society. In The Bell Curve Wars, a group of our country's most distinguished intellectuals dismantles the alleged scientific foundations and criticizes the alarming public policy conclusions of this incendiary book.

Excerpt

Newsweek called it "frightening stuff," worrying that it "may be a mirror for our morally exhausted times," a book that "plays to public anxieties over crime, illegitimacy, welfare dependency, and racial friction." However, contributors to a symposium in The National Review described it as "magisterial," and noted that it "confirms ordinary citizens' reasonable intuition that trying to engineer racial equality in the distribution of occupations and social positions runs against not racist prejudice but nature, which shows no such egalitarian distribution of talents." Time magazine rejoined by characterizing the book as "845 pages of provocation-with-footnotes," a work of "dubious premises and toxic conclusions." Rushing to the book's defense, the Wall Street Journal decried the liberal media for ganging up to excoriate the book, and in particular for engaging in "a frantic race to denounce and destroy Charles Murray" (one of the book's two authors). While Forbes applauded the book, and Murray Jeffersonian vision, New York Magazine saw it as "grist for racism of every variety." A columnist for The New York Times gloomily concluded: "At least Rush Limbaugh has a sense of humor." Meanwhile, the book was being featured on "Nightline" and showing up on the shelves of K-Marts all over the country.

The Bell Curve:
Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life
by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray is clearly the most incendiary piece of social science to appear in the last decade or more. It's easy to understand why. The Bell Curve irritates every abraded nerve in our public consciousness about race and social class. In form it is practically a model of academic etiquette, sober not inflammatory in style, dutifully acknowledging contrary views, encasing its own viewpoint in a thick statistical armature. But despite the hedgerows of caveats and equivocations with which the authors surround their most provocative claims, The Bell Curve is an explosive device. Its premises, its purported findings, its pre-

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