The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray.
Review by Steven J. Rosenthal, Department of Sociology, Hampton University, Hampton VA.
Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (HM) assert that we will solve our society's problems when we stop giving handouts and special advantages to people who have low intelligence. HM say that schools and workplaces should do away with affirmative action programs that favor "unqualified" and "unproductive" low IQ Blacks over better qualified whites. HM say that we should abolish welfare programs that encourage low IQ women to give birth to low IQ children and that we should reform immigration laws to prevent low IQ immigrants from entering the U.S. Their overall vision is that, unless we curtail the reproduction of inferior people, the U.S. must increasingly become a "custodial state" in which the "cognitive elite" exercises totalitarian rule over urban "reservations" inhabited by a vast Black and white low IQ underclass. HM, in effect, offer a blueprint and a rationale for Nazism in the United States.
The unprecedented publicity which The Bell Curve has received suggests that those who control the mass media and other institutions in our society want the message of this book to be spread far and wide. The vast majority of this publicity has portrayed the book as a scholarly scientific work that courageously addresses some controversial issues. In fact, The Bell Curve in a pseudo-scientific work that promotes not controversy but a dangerously racist political agenda.
The entire argument in The Bell Curve rests upon assumptions about IQ. HM assert (1) that human intelligence is a trait that can be measured by IQ tests and expressed in a number called IQ; (2) that inequalities of social class and race are mainly caused by genetic, inherited differences in IQ; and (3) that it really doesn't matter whether differences in IQ are inherited and genetic or environmental and cultural, because nothing can be done to raise the low IQ's of children born to low IQ parents. As Black political scientist Adolph Reed stated in his fine review of The Bell Curve in The Nation (11/28/94) these assumptions are "preposterous and loony" and based upon "class prejudice and racism."
The IQ Mythology: Class, Race, Gender, and Inequality, by Elaine and Harry Mensh is one of many fine scholarly books that demolishes the arguments HM make about IQ in The Bell Curve. Leon Kamin in The Science and Politics of IQ and Stephen Jay Gould in The Mismeasure of Man have demonstrated that IQ tests have historically been used as a weapon of racism and class domination. Scientists Richard Lewontin, Ruth Hubbard, and Howard Taylor have conclusively demonstrated that there is no scientific basis for any claims of a genetic, hereditary component of variations in "intelligence."
The book itself is divided into four sections. Part I, chapters 1-4, is devoted to making the argument that those at the top of our society, the "cognitive elite" owe their position to their high IQ's. HM argue that the amount of education people get is determined by how smart they are; that smart educated people get the best jobs; that businesses must hire the smartest people in order to be competitive; and that low IQ people have increasingly fallen behind because they do not have what it takes to get ahead. HM thus reassert the social Darwinist argument of the "survival of the fittest."
Part II, chapters 5-12, is the so-called "white" section of the book in which HM attempt to establish that patterns of social stratification within the white population are determined by inherited difference in intelligence. In these chapters--remember that HM are now talking only about whites!--HM assert in chapter 5 that low IQ causes white poverty and (chapter 6) that how much education white children get depends on their IQ. HM assert in chapter 7 that unemployment among white workers is due to low cognitive ability. Even white workers who are disabled and cannot work owe their disability to low intelligence, which, according to HM, makes them highly accident prone!
Turning to white females, HM assert in chapter 8 that low IQ causes white women to have illegitimate babies and remain unmarried. In chapter 9, HM assert that welfare "dependency" among whites is the result of an inherited low IQ and an acquired "culture of poverty." In chapter 10 HM assert that the worst environmental problem for white children is a having a low IQ mother. In chapter 11 HM assert that low IQ is the principle cause of white criminality. Finally, in chapter 12, HM argue that "civility" and "citizenship" are shaped by IQ. HM propose a "middle class values index." Men who have a high school diploma, are in the labor force, have never been jail, and are still married to their first wife have "middle class values." Women who have a high school diploma, have not given birth to an illegitimate child, have never been in jail, and are still married to their first husband have "middle class values." "These "middle class values" correlate with IQ and, according to HM, are the basis of "good citizenship."
These eight chapters serve two purposes for HM. First, they serve as a class biased attack on the white working class, whom HM call the white "underclass." Second, these chapters set up the attacks on African Americans, immigrants, and other ethnic minorities that follow in the remaining chapters. If you buy into HM's justification of class inequality among whites, it is impossible to repudiate their justification of racial inequality.
Part III consists of chapters 13-16. In chapter 13 HM assert that Blacks are less intelligent than whites. They assert that this is in large part due to heredity. At the same time, they assert that it doesn't really matter whether Black "inferiority" is due to heredity or environment, because Black intelligence levels cannot be raised. What HM are claiming is that Black children receive both inferior genes and inferior parenting from their parents!
In chapter 14 HM argue that racism has little or nothing to do with the inequalities African Americans experience. They argue that, when you control for IQ, (That is, when you compare Blacks and whites with the same IQ's), Blacks are more likely than whites to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers. When you control for IQ, most differences in wages, family income, unemployment rates, and incarceration rates disappear. HM conclude that nearly all inequality between Blacks and whites is due to racial differences in cognitive ability (IQ), not to racism or "ethnic oppression."
In chapter 15 HM argue that American society is not only threatened by low IQ Blacks and whites, but increasingly by low IQ immigrants. HM conclude that this creates strong "dysgenic" pressures, meaning that low IQ people are out- breeding everyone else.
Part IV, chapters 17-22, is devoted to policy recommendations. In chapter 17 HM assert that we do not know any way to raise IQ; therefore reforms are a waste of money. In chapter 18, HM argue that we should reallocate educational funds to "gifted" students. In chapters 19 and 20 HM call for the elimination of affirmative action in education and in the workplace. They claim that the perception that Black college graduates are not as good as whites is "not a misguided prejudice" but a "perception confirmed by reality." They assert that employers hire Blacks who are much less qualified than whites because of Government pressure. HM claim that whites are victims of "reverse discrimination," and our entire society is the victim of falling job performance by unqualified Blacks. HM conclude that the U.S. should "rescind all job discrimination regulations."
In chapter 21, titled "The Way We Are Headed," HM assert that the bottom quarter of the U.S. population of all races is an expendable "net drag" on our society, because there is "nothing they can learn that will repay the cost of teaching" them. The "cognitive elite" will become more "virulently racist" and will set up a "custodial state," which will be a ghettoized "high tech Indian reservation." In chapter 22, HM conclude by arguing that the only way to avoid this future is for everyone to accept their place in society and for society to stop encouraging the reproduction and immigration of inferior people.
I have summarized The Bell Curve chapter by chapter because I think it important for people to know concretely just how viciously racist HM are. HM want public policy in the United States to be guided by their thinking. To a considerable extent, it already is.
Because there is no scientific basis for the claims they make in The Bell Curve, HM rely primarily on some highly "tainted" sources for most of their arguments. In "The Tainted Sources of The Bell Curve," an article in the New York Review of Books, (12/1/94), Charles Lane painstakingly analyzes the sources of HM's claims of inherited racial and class differences in intelligence. Lane demonstrates that the authors of The Bell Curve are closely tied to a group of writers who have edited and contributed to a journal called The Mankind Quarterly and received research money from the Pioneer Fund. What are The Mankind Quarterly and the Pioneer Fund?
The Mankind Quarterly is a journal founded in the late 1950's by opponents of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to publish articles asserting the inferiority of Blacks. Its authors defended the racial policies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, championed apartheid in South Africa and opposed independence for African countries. Since 1978 the editor of the journal has been Roger Pearson, an organizer of neo-Nazi groups both in Europe and the U.S. In 1982 President Reagan wrote a letter to Pearson to thank him for publishing the works of "scholars" who uphold the "ideals and principles that we value at home and abroad." (The letter is reproduced in Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party, by Russ Bellant.
The Pioneer Fund, as Lane points out in "The Tainted Sources of The Bell Curve," is a New York foundation established in 1937 with the money of Wycliffe Draper, a textile magnate who admired Nazi Germany and favored sending U.S. Blacks back to Africa. The Pioneer Fund is committed to eugenics, that is, policies of selective breeding for purposes of "race betterment." In the late 1930's the Pioneer Fund gave financial support to both U.S. and German "scientists" who advocated and carried out forced sterilization and later outright genocide against populations deemed to be genetically inferior.
The Pioneer Fund bankrolls the journal The Mankind Quarterly. Even more importantly, it has provided millions of dollars in research grants to all the "scholars" in the U.S. since the 1930's who have asserted that there are inherited racial differences in intelligence and who have called for "eugenics" policies to decrease the numbers of "inferior" groups and increase the numbers of "superior" groups. Recent and current recipients of Pioneer Fund grants include Arthur Jensen and William Shockley who a quarter century ago revived racist arguments against Black intelligence; Philippe Rushton, South African born Canadian racist who claims that Blacks have smaller brains and larger penises than whites in order to breed larger numbers of inferior children; Thomas Bouchard, U. of Minnesota professor who studies twins in order to claim that IQ is mainly inherited; Richard Lynn, from Northern Ireland, who asserts that Africans have lower intelligence than African Americans; Robert Gordon, Johns Hopkins sociologist who blames low IQ Blacks for crime; and Linda Gottfredson, U. of Delaware professor who opposes affirmative action for low IQ Blacks. (For further information on the Pioneer Fund, see Adolph Reed's column in the Progressive (December, 1994), and Stefan Kuhl's The Nazi Connection.
HM cite no fewer than thirteen such "scholars" supported by the Pioneer Fund. Lynn's work alone is cited twenty-four times in the Bibliography of The Bell Curve. Virtually every important claim HM make is based on citations of works by Pioneer Fund supported, Mankind Quarterly published authors. What this means is that The Bell Curve is a vehicle of Nazi propaganda wrapped in a cover of pseudo-scientific respectability. It is an academic version of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf.CONCLUSIONS
The United States in 1994 is a society in which both Republican and Democratic leaders are moving in the direction advocated by the authors of The Bell Curve. We must not be sucked into racist debates between "conservatives" and "liberals" over whether African Americans and poor whites are genetically inferior or culturally inferior to the "cognitive elite." There are no inferior people, races, or social classes. All humans possess the ability to think and act intelligently.
In the present circumstances, to act intelligently means to organize vigorous collective protests against The Bell Curve and the future its authors advocate. Below is the text of a "Petition/Ad Against Biological Determinism" that is being circulated throughout the United States. Community organizations, professional groups, churches, as well as individuals should publicize, circulate, and endorse this statement. The voices of millions should be raised in condemnation of the authors of The Bell Curve and their circle of Nazi-admiring friends.
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