- The Bell Curve1 revives and elaborates an argument given by Jensen to the effect that facts about heritability of IQ in whites dictate that blacks are genetically inferior in IQ.
- But clarification of the concept of heritability shows that this reasoning is fallacious.
- Heritability is an uninteresting measure that only misleads us about race.
- According to The Bell Curve3=1, Black Americans are genetically inferior to Whites. That's not the only point in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's book. They also argue that there is something called "general intelligence" which is measured by IQ tests, socially important, and 60 percent "heritable" within whites. (I'll explain heritability below.) But the claim about genetic inferiority is my target here. It has been subject to wide-ranging criticism since the book was first published last year. Those criticisms, however, have missed its deepest flaws. Indeed, the Herrnstein/Murray argument depends on conceptual confusions that have been tacitly accepted to some degree by many of the book's sharpest critics.
- Let's first be clear about the conclusion itself. In a recent article on "The Real Bell Curve," Charles Murray grumbles about critics, such as Stephen Jay Gould, who read the book as saying that racial differences in IQ are mostly genetic. Murray answers by quoting from the book:
- If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanations have won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate (311).
- In this passage, Herrnstein and Murray are "resolutely agnostic" about whether bad environment or genetic endowment is more responsible for the lower IQs of Blacks. But they indicate no agnosticism at all about whether part of the IQ difference between Blacks and Whites is genetic; and given their way of thinking about the matter, this means that they are not at all agnostic about some Black genetic inferiority.
- Originally, Cognition 56 (1995) pp. 99-128.
- For the full text, see Link
- For a shorter version, see Link / Link
Footnotes 1, 3: Footnote 2:
- Taken from a shorter version, How Heritability Misleads about Race. The Boston Review, XX, (6) (996) pp. 30-35.
- See Link.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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