The Real Problem with Charles Murray and "The Bell Curve" - 2017-04-12
He's back. Recent college protests have propelled Charles Murray into the news cycle again, and his resurging book sales show the publicity's not all bad. Attempts to fully discredit his most famous book, 1994's "The Bell Curve," have failed for more than two decades now. This is because they repeatedly miss the strongest point of attack: an indisputable—albeit encoded—endorsement of prejudice.
"The Bell Curve" (co-authored with Richard Herrnstein) prevails as the flagship modern work reporting on racial differences in IQ score. Black people in the U.S. score lower on average than white people (this isn't the book's primary focus, but it's the centerpiece and main draw of attention). As much as progressives don't want to hear such a thing, this book puts it plainly: It's in the data. With the book's standing intact, armchair sociologists at large may defend certain stereotypes by simply pointing its way. As for attempts to take the book down, most critics go after its reasoning or its sources (or the authors' associations with the more notorious sources). But those points should actually take a secondary position within a thorough rebuke. Let me clear my throat.
"The Bell Curve" endorses prejudice by virtue of what it does not say. Nowhere does the book address why it investigates racial differences in IQ. By never spelling out a reason for reporting on these differences in the first place, the authors transmit an unspoken yet unequivocal conclusion: Race is a helpful indicator as to whether a person is likely to hold certain capabilities. Even if we assume the presented data trends are sound, the book leaves the reader on his or her own to deduce how to best put these insights to use. The net effect is to tacitly condone the prejudgment of individuals based on race.