Skip to comments.The Inequality Taboo by Charles Murray
Posted on 08/26/2005 6:49:50 PM PDT by dennisw
When the late Richard Herrnstein and I published The Bell Curve eleven years ago, the furor over its discussion of ethnic differences in IQ was so intense that most people who have not read the book still think it was about race. Since then, I have deliberately not published anything about group differences in IQ, mostly to give the real topic of The Bell Curvethe role of intelligence in reshaping Americas class structurea chance to surface.
The Lawrence Summers affair last January made me rethink my silence. The president of Harvard University offered a few mild, speculative, off-the-record remarks about innate differences between men and women in their aptitude for high-level science and mathematics, and was treated by Harvards faculty as if he were a crank. The typical news story portrayed the idea of innate sex differences as a renegade position that reputable scholars rejected.
It was depressingly familiar. In the autumn of 1994, I had watched with dismay as The Bell Curves scientifically unremarkable statements about black IQ were successfully labeled as racist pseudoscience. At the opening of 2005, I watched as some scientifically unremarkable statements about male-female differences were successfully labeled as sexist pseudoscience.
The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the medias fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the publics misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.
Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.
One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.
When the outcomes that these policies are supposed to produce fail to occur, with one group falling short, the fault for the discrepancy has been assigned to society. It continues to be assumed that better programs, better regulations, or the right court decisions can make the differences go away. That assumption is also wrong.
Hence this essay. Most of the following discussion describes reasons for believing that some group differences are intractable. I shift from innate to intractable to acknowledge how complex is the interaction of genes, their expression in behavior, and the environment. Intractable means that, whatever the precise partitioning of causation may be (we seldom know), policy interventions can only tweak the difference at the margins.
I will focus on two sorts of differences: between men and women and between blacks and whites. Here are three crucial points to keep in mind as we go along:
1. The differences I discuss involve means and distributions. In all cases, the variation within groups is greater than the variation between groups. On psychological and cognitive dimensions, some members of both sexes and all races fall everywhere along the range. One implication of this is that genius does not come in one color or sex, and neither does any other human ability. Another is that a few minutes of conversation with individuals you meet will tell you much more about them than their group membership does.
2. Covering both sex differences and race differences in a single, non-technical article, I had to leave out much in the print edition of this article. This online version is fully annotated and includes extensive supplementary material.
3. The concepts of inferiority and superiority are inappropriate to group comparisons. On most specific human attributes, it is possible to specify a continuum running from low to high, but the results cannot be combined into a score running from bad to good. What is the best score on a continuum measuring aggressiveness? What is the relative importance of verbal skills versus, say, compassion? Of spatial skills versus industriousness? The aggregate excellences and shortcomings of human groups do not lend themselves to simple comparisons. That is why the members of just about every group can so easily conclude that they are Gods chosen people. All of us use the weighting system that favors our groups strengths.1
The technical literature documenting sex differences and their biological basis grew surreptitiously during feminisms heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1990s, it had become so extensive that the bibliography in David Gearys pioneering Male, Female (1998) ran to 53 pages.2 Currently, the best short account of the state of knowledge is Steven Pinkers chapter on gender in The Blank Slate (2002).3 ........
FULL ARTICLE AT---->>>>
I once had drinks with Charles Murray at the Amsterdam Cafe at 119th street and Amsterdam in NYC. It was right before the Bell Curve came out. As I recall, he ordered a double bourbon with a beer chaser. Anyway, he told a great story about how he became a semi-libertarian.
He had been a hippie, and was in the peace corps. He went to a remote area of Thailand, where society functioned very well, and he noticed that it did so without any government. It was that experience that led him to discount the view that government tentacles are neccessary to constantly try to improve society.
Interesting. Thanks for posting. I'm a capable, self assured female. However, I have observed a lot of the differences in male and female capability in spatial types of math - and in figuring out which way is North . . .
So, although not politically correct to say so - as poor Mr. Summers found out - well, duh!!!
No glass renders a man so true as his speech.
An excellent article. Needless to say, government and academia will ignore it. But I like what he says in the first footnote. Men and women, blacks and whites and Asians, are different, but that doesn't mean that one group is better than another. An elephant is stronger than a man, but few men would want to be elephants. Each group has strengths, each has weaknesses--along a bell curve, of course.
A very memorable quote from an article that is overflowing with them...
Thank you for the posting.
And were all the various stages of prehistoric man equal to all the current variations?
Or would you suggest that evolution has reached its pinnacle for all these groups - Asian, African, White, Cro-Magnon - and therefore all are equal?
As warm and touch-feely as that sounds, it just doesn't make a bit of sense.
We already knew all of that, but it's nice to hear a certified academic and a liberal (in the CLASSICAL sense) say it.
I once read an article that examined the difference between males and females to follow directions to a destination. It said to never tell a female to go North on a certain road or turn West, etc. Apparently many females do not know cardinal directions when outside.
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