Race and Intelligence: Separating Science from Myth

By Jefferson M. Fish | Go to book overview

advancement of the culture. This conclusion is hasty generalization from selected bits of evidence.

The results from intervention studies indicate that if programs begin early and are continued over a major portion of childhood development, then substantial improvements in the abilities of intelligence can be realized and maintained. The improvements can be particularly large if intervention effects result in favorable change in the childrearing environment as well as school learning environment. It is not true that the environment is of little consequence in the development of the abilities of human intelligence.

Thus, in general the major claims of The Bell Curve are not well based on scientific knowledge. The information the book presents is sometimes incorrect. Other times it is not well qualified. Often it is a selection from the total information, omitting information that is not supportive. Often this information is slanted in interpretation to provide the most favorable arguments in support of the book's claims.

Speculations about genetically based social stratification are not well based on the knowledge of behavioral genetics. Formulation of the arguments for such transmission is incorrect. Social class stratification can also derive from the way wealth makes wealth and economic opportunity as it can from segregation due to individual differences in basic cognitive capabilities. One need not question the increasing importance of education in today's society or the evidence that there is increasing separation of the very rich from the very poor, but these conditions, in themselves, do not support claims of formation of a cognitive elite determined by a particular indicator of human intelligence.

The concluding chapters of The Bell Curve present arguments opposing policies of affirmative action and aid to dependent children. The book appears to have been written to justify and supply support for these arguments. It is thus in the end a political treatise, a statement about what should and should not be social policy. Viewed as such, it can well be regarded as forceful and, depending on the reader's political orientation, as eloquent or demagogic. In either case it should not be thought to derive from the authority of science.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am grateful for suggestions the following people made that helped me improve this chapter: Jack Block, Herb Eber, Howard Gardner, Lloyd Humphreys, John Loehlin, Jeff Long, Jack McArdle, John Newman, and Penelope Trickett.


REFERENCES

Baker, P. C., Keck, C. K., Mott, F. L., & Quinlan, S. V. (1993). NLSY child handbook (rev. ed.): A guide to the 1986–1990 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth child data. Columbus: Center for Human Resources Research.

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