The Bell Curve isn't about science, it's about policy. And it's wrong. - 2018-04-10
Charles Murray and his decades-old work on IQ and race, published in his 1994 book The Bell Curve, is back in the news because of a mini feud between "new atheist" author and podcaster Sam Harris and Vox's own Ezra Klein. Andrew Sullivan, the punditocracy's original champion of Murray's thinking on genetics, decided to jump in as well.
Harris and Klein and Sullivan have, at this point, spilled plenty of words limning their disagreements. And Harris, for his part, sees himself as exclusively defending The Bell Curve's empirical claims about IQ, which is fine, but it's important to consider Murray's work with a view toward actual American public policy, which has been deeply influenced by Murray over the years, and which Donald Trump is looking to take in an even more Murray-esque direction.
The Bell Curve — co-authored with Richard Herrnstein — is, after all, not a work of scientific research but rather a political book written by one of the most prominent conservative policy entrepreneurs in America as part of a larger ideological project. Like several of Murray's other books, including Losing Ground, In Our Hands, and Coming Apart, the basic subject of The Bell Curve is what should be done to help the disadvantaged in America. And the four books all reach the conclusion that, roughly speaking, we should do as little as is politically possible.