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Breaking the Last Taboo Thomas J. Bouchard
Academic Nazism Steven J. Rosenthal
A Cartoon Elite Nicholas Lemann
Acting smart James Q. Wilson
Common knowledge Michael Barone
Methodological fetishism Brigitte Berger
How the Left betrayed I.Q. Adrian Wooldridge
The Attack on The Bell Curve Richard Lynn
IQ since The Bell Curve Christopher Chabris
The Emergence of a Cognitive Elite Volkmar Weiss
Cracked Bell James J. Heckman
The Bell Curve and its Critics Charles Murray
Curveball Stephen Jay Gould
The Bell Curve David Lethbridge
Deeper into the Brain Charles Murray
The Return of Determinism? The Pseudoscience of the Bell Curve Rajiv Rawat
Soft Science With a Neoconservative Agenda Donald D. Dorfman
IQ and Economic Success Charles Murray
Egalitarian Fiction and Collective Fraud Linda S. Gottfredson
Ethnicity and IQ Thomas Sowell
The Bell Curve Chester Finn
IQ Fight Renewed Anthony Flint
Foretelling The Bell Curve Daniel Seligman
For Whom The Bell Curve Tolls Frank Miel
When facts and orthodoxy collide Craig Frisby
Cracking Open the IQ Box Howard Gardner
Race, Genes and I.Q. Herrnstein, Richard and Murray, Charles
Genius of genes Pallab Ghosh
A Reply to Charles Murray Heckman, James J.; Kamin, Leon J.; Lane, Charles; Lewis, Lloyd B.; Loury, Linda Datcher; Nisbett, Ri
Riding "The Bell Curve" Ernest R. House and Carolyn Haug
How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement? Arthur R. Jensen
The Intelligence Of Nations Philippe Rushton
Is intelligence fixed? Nathan Glazer
IQ will put you in your place Charles Murray
Paroxysms of denial Arthur R. Jensen
Intelligence and the social scientist Leon Kass
Obscuring the Message and Killing the Messenger Pat Duffy Hutcheon
Commentary on some of the empirical and theoretical support for The Bell Curve John Kranzler
Ländernas framtid avgörs av medborgarnas IQ Gunnar Adler-Karlsson
Legacy of racism Pat Shipman
Aim higher Barbara Lerner
Living with inequality Eugene D. Genovese
Meritocracy that works Loren E. Lomasky
Dispirited Glenn C. Loury
Mainstream Science on Intelligence
Moral intelligence Michael Young
Murdering the Bell Curve Ann Coulter
Going public Richard John Neuhaus
The Ominous, New Cognitive Elite Charles Murray
The Bell Curve Francois Nielsen
Not hopeless Ernest Van den Haag
Sins of the cognitive elite Michael Novak
Robert Siegel Interviews Charles Murray
The Bell Curve: Some implications for the discipline of school psychology Thomas Oakland
Some Recent Overlooked Research On The Bell Curve Arthur Jensen
The Bell Curve E.L. Pattullo
Race, I.Q., American Society and Charles Murray
Race, IQ, Success and Charles Murray
Does IQ Matter?
Interview With Robert Sternberg
Scientific American Debunks Leon J. Kamin
The Bell Curve Sandra Scarr
Is the Bell Curve Statistically Sound? James Case
Is The Bell Curve the stealth public-policy book of the 1990s? Charles Murray and Daniel Seligman
The General Intelligence Factor Linda S. Gottfredson
For Whom The Bell Curve Tolls Frank Miele
A Conversation with Charles Murray
Trashing 'The Bell Curve' David Seligman
Freedom, Welfare and Dystopia Charles Murray

Not hopeless
Ernest Van den Haag

National Review, Dec 5, 1994 v46 n23 p38(2)


n 1971 Richard Herrnstein, co-author with Charles Murray of this weighty volume, published an article in The Atlantic Monthly arguing that success--status, income, power--now depends on intelligence. We are becoming a "meritocracy" with great hereditary inequalities. The Bell Curve lucidly organizes an immense amount of data demonstrating empirically that, despite costly efforts to stave it off, meritocracy is becoming a reality. Before continuing, let me dispose of two distractions which have produced hysterical and silly columns--e.g., in The New Republic (unexpected) and the New York Times (expected); although, to be fair, elsewhere the Times was rational.
The Bell Curve shows that cognitive ability measured by IQ tests reliably predicts success--professional, academic, pecuniary--and that, on average, African-Americans have an IQ about 15 points below that of Caucasians, whose IQ, in turn, is lower (by about 5 points) than that of East Asians. Success differs accordingly. However, the point would be the same if all low-and high-IQ persons were Caucasians. Ethnic differences in IQ cause political complications but do not otherwise affect the hereditary social stratification described and predicted by The Bell Curve. (Incidentally, why should anyone expect all ethnic groups to have the same average IQ? Why not the same skin color?) The authors establish the predictive validity of IQ tests for all groups and estimate that 60 per cent of the variation in measured intelligence is due to genetic differences, which means that nearly half of the variation depends on environmental factors. The proof of this point seems fairly conclusive, based on identical twins separated at birth and on adopted children. Yet if intelligence depended exclusively on environmental influences, if it were entirely an acquired trait, that would hardly make a difference. We have no way of influencing the average cognitive ability of any group, regardless of whether it depends on environmental or genetic factors. Whatever other benefits they may yield, Head Start and similar schemes do not permanently raise the IQ of disadvantaged groups. Perhaps in the future we will find a way to increase cognitive ability genetically or environmentally. So far we have not. Thus it matters little whether the cognitive ability of groups is inherited or acquired. (Needless to say, there may be a genius within a low-IQ group and dolts within a high-IQ group; what applies to averages does not apply to individuals.) Without distractions, what does The Bell Curve tell us? Past societies have offered very unequal opportunities and, linked to them, very unequal outcomes. Education was distributed unequally, depending on parental status. So was everything else. Individual status was ascribed rather than achieved. Little depended on intelligence, much on inherited status and wealth. This has changed. Opportunity has become more and more equal, inherited social privileges less and less important. College education is widely distributed, and the best colleges are available to the talented poor. By now, intelligence on the average predicts outcomes better than parental privilege.
Liberals believed that, once opportunity was equal, outcomes would become equal too: they thought unequal outcomes were due largely to unequal opportunities. However, Herrnstein and Murray show conclusively that inequalities won't disappear. This may account for the liberal media's rancorous reception of The Bell Curve. Individuals are born not as tabulae rasae, as many liberals believe, but with different intelligences, which produce very unequal outcomes.
Equal opportunity redistributes social inequalities but does not diminish them. It may increase them. God is not an egalitarian, much as Jefferson thought it "self-evident" that He is. People are born unequally gifted. If they have equal opportunity to use their unequal gifts, major social inequalities are unavoidable.
These inequalities may be augmented because people usually marry others with similar IQs. The poor transmit their low IQs and therewith their poverty. Their fertility exceeds that of the more intelligent and produces a permanent and growing underclass. Unwed mothers have low IQs on the average and provide environments not likely to help their children. They help to perpetuate the underclass. Criminals also come from low-IQ groups. With our egalitarian ideology we will have major social problems with the increasing inherited inequalities predicted. Their congruence with ethnic groupings will accentuate political problems.
The data Herrnstein and Murray provide are convincing, but I do have reservations about their more speculative inferences. People with low IQs will not be left hopeless, as they imply. Many kinds of socio-economic success are independent of intelligence. A low-IQ youth may become a baseball player or a pop singer and do better than any professor. A low-IQ girl may become a supermodel. Such careers require neither stupidity nor intelligence. Sure, the (non-IQ) talents needed for these careers are rare and, therefore, such outcomes are statistically insignificant. But psychologically they generate hope, just as lotteries do. Success is possible, if not probable, for the low-IQ individual. Further, even those confined to the lowest jobs need not dwell in misery. In any future society practically all can be reasonably comfortable regardless of talent (unless they are highly self-destructive). The prediction of The Bell Curve that people with low IQs have to become wards of the government is rank speculation. We cannot predict future social policies and conflicts. Remember Karl Marx?
In any case, the structure of a future society does not really tell us how people will feel about it. The authors mention that intelligence is only one factor in prestige or self-esteem; but they hardly note that, in most high schools currently, intelligence is a negative factor, athletic ability (or attractiveness) a positive one in prestige and self-esteem. I do not know whether people in a future society will go far beyond these high-school evaluations. Will mathematicians be esteemed more and will they earn more than former high-school athletes? The authors rightly commend individualism as an answer to group dissatisfactions based on low IQs and low success. Yet "affirmative action" and similar anti-individualist capers show that neither liberal politicians, nor bureaucrats, nor the favored groups want individualism. It would take another volume to explore why they have prevailed. Will they in the future? Charles Murray is just the man to explore this question.