Charles Murray’s SPLC page as edited by Charles Murray – AEI | Society and Culture Blog » AEIdeas

Source: Charles Murray’s SPLC page as edited by Charles Murray – AEI | Society and Culture Blog » AEIdeas

For years, the protesters I have encountered at colleges have gotten their information about why I am a terrible person from the Charles Murray page at the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). For all of those years, I have ignored that material. But in the aftermath of the Middlebury affair and the attendant publicity citing the SPLC’s allegations that I am a white nationalist, white supremacist, racist, and sexist, people who wonder whether these allegations have any basis need to know what I have to say about them.

What follows is an edited and expanded version of the SPLC page that I can live with. My self-imposed ground rules are that I can’t delete accurate quotes from my work that I wish I had worded more felicitously, but I am permitted to extend quotes with material that immediately adjoins the quoted text, to correct factual mistakes, and to make suggestions to the author, as copy editors routinely do.

The copy-edited version contains all of the original text of the SPLC page about me. Replacement text and additional text are shown in green. My remarks as copy editor are in green italics. Additional quotes from my work are in red. “AU” is the standard copy-editing abbreviation for “author.” As copy editor, I refer to my work in the third person. Here we go:

About Charles Murray

According to Murray, disadvantaged groups are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior. [AU: You have some material relating to “intellectually superior” (though it relates to men in general, not white men) at the end of the article. I can’t find anything to document “psychologically and morally superior” anywhere in Murray’s work, and I have read every word he’s ever written. Please supply references.]  Murray advocates the total elimination of the welfare state, affirmative action, and the Department of Education, arguing that public policy cannot overcome the innate deficiencies that cause unequal social and educational outcomes; “[w]e tried to provide more for the poor and produced more poor instead. We tried to remove the barriers to escape from poverty and inadvertently built a trap.” [AU: This is how Murray put it in Losing Ground, p. 9. You’re okay saying Murray believes that cognitive and personality deficiencies contribute to social and economic outcomes, but he’s silent on the “innate” part. On the contrary, he’s put a lot of emphasis on the role of family structure as the culprit. The bigger problem is that Murray has a history of coming out with educational and social policies that he says will help the disadvantaged. That’s why he wants to get rid of the welfare state and affirmative action. In education, he has a whole book about policy changes that he claims will benefit the disadvantaged.  So I think you’ve got to get rid of the implication that he advocates giving up on the disadvantaged because of their innate deficiencies.]

In his own words:

“A huge number of well-meaning whites fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It’s going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say.”

—regarding his book, Losing Ground, quoted in “Daring Research or Social Science Pornography?: Charles Murray” The New York Times Magazine, 1994

Throughout the West, modernization has brought falling birth rates. The rates fall faster for educated women than the uneducated. Because education is so closely linked with cognitive ability, this tends to produce a dysgenic effect, or a downward shift in the ability distribution. Furthermore, education leads women to have their babies later—which alone also produces additional dysgenic pressures. [AU: Added preceding text for context.] The professional consensus is that the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists). Women of all races and ethnic groups follow this pattern in similar fashion. There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.”

—The Bell Curve, 1994: 341.

“Try to imagine a … presidential candidate saying in front of the cameras, ‘One reason that we still have poverty in the United States is that a lot of poor people are born lazy.’ You cannot imagine it because that kind of thing cannot be said. And yet this unimaginable statement merely implies that when we know the complete genetic story, it will turn out that the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line. This is not unimaginable. It is almost certainly true. [AU: Stopping the quote here leaves a false impression. I’ve added the text that immediately follows.] It is also almost certainly true that statistically significant distributions of biological makeup separate just about any other groups that show substantially different patterns of behavior.

The group differences that people obsess about have to do with race and sex, but let me try to reach past that reflexive response to make a broader point: Statistically significant genetic differences beyond the self-evident ones probably separate men from women, and people who call themselves “white” from people who call themselves “black” or “Asian,” but they also probably distinguish the English from the French, employed Swedes from unemployed Swedes, observant Christians from lapsed ones, and people who collect stamps from people who backpack.

None of this should be earthshaking. Often we will be talking of group differences so subtle that they can be teased out only with the most sophisticated methods. Often these differences will have nothing to do with “better” or “worse,” but just vive la différence. Even when the differences are substantial, the variation between two groups will almost always be dwarfed by the variation within groups—meaning that the overlap between two groups will be great. In a free society where people are treated as individuals, “So what?” is to me the appropriate response to genetic group differences. The only political implication of group differences is that we must work hard to ensure that our society is in fact free and that people are in fact treated as individuals. And yet I can tell you from personal experience that “So what?” is not a response that many others share. Today, to suggest that genetically based group differences are even probable provokes a reaction that resembles hysteria.

—“Deeper Into the Brain,” National Review, 2000

“You want to have a job training program for welfare mothers? You think that’s going to cure the welfare problem? Well, when you construct that job training program and try to decide what jobs they might qualify for, you had better keep in mind that the mean IQ of welfare mothers is somewhere in the 80s, which means that you have certain limitations in what you’re going to accomplish.”

Interview on race and IQ, “Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg,” PBS, 1994


Charles Murray has been a central figure in discussions of race, intelligence and public policy since the 1994 publication of The Bell Curve, which Murray co-authored with controversial psychologist Richard Herrnstein, who died shortly before the book’s publication. Murray, a statistically minded sociologist political scientist by training, has spent decades [AU: Murray has written thirteen full-length books. Only one of those books has discussed IQ and heritability. Are you sure you want to stick with “spent decades”?] working to rehabilitate long-discredited theories of presenting the state of knowledge on IQ and heredity, turning them into a foundation on which to build a conservative theory of society that rejects equality and egalitarianism.

[AU: The original text has a serious problem. Herrnstein and Murray wrote that cognitive ability as measured by IQ tests is heritable, somewhere in the range of 40% to 80% (pp. 105–110), and that heritability tends to rise as people get older. That’s almost exactly what the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Intelligence said a year later. See their report, titled “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns,” which was published in the February 1996 issue of American Psychologist: “If one simply combines all available correlations in a single analysis, the heritability (h2) works out to about .50 and the between-family variance (c2) to about .25.” And “By late adolescence h2 is around .75 and c2 is quite low (zero in some studies).” (p. 85). The Task Force was made up of 11 of the nation’s most eminent academic specialists in cognitive ability and American Psychologist is the APA’s flagship journal. You can’t get away with “long-discredited theories of IQ and heredity.” A fall-back position would be to bring up the minority viewpoint that twins studies are invalid. See the best current case  published in “Criminology”. Unfortunately, it attracted adevastating rebuttal, Suit yourself, but you aren’t going to get much backup from either the psychometrics or genetics communities with “long-discredited theories of IQ and heritability.”] 

In Murray’s world, wealth and social power naturally accrue towards a “cognitive elite” made up of high-IQ individuals (who are overwhelmingly white, male[AU: You can say “white” if you’re referring just to the American population. But Murray has never argued that women have lower IQs than men] and from well-to-do families) while those on the lower end of the eponymous bell curve form an “underclass” whose misfortunes stem from their low intelligence.  [AU: Iffy. The whole point of the cognitive elite is that it arose from outreach to people who weren’t well-to-do. But by now the cognitive is mostly affluent, so I guess you can leave it as is.] According to Murray, the relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups.

The Bell Curve, which remains Murray’s most controversial work, firmly lays out Murray’s belief, shared with Herrnstein, that the groups that make up the “underclass” are there solely because of their genes.

[AU: I’m sorry, but you just can’t leave those sentences in. In the first place, Herrnstein and Murray don’t talk about the heritability of anything except IQ. They never even mention the possibility of any other kinds of genetic differences. In the second place, if Herrnstein and Murray say that IQ is somewhere between 40% and 80% heritable, then they obviously can’t think that genes are solely responsible for anything involving IQ. But they go a lot further than that. Read this:

A good place to start is by correcting a common confusion about the role of genes in individuals and in groups. As we discussed in Chapter 4, scholars accept that IQ is substantially heritable, somewhere between 40 and 80 percent, meaning that much of the observed variation in IQ is genetic. And yet this information tells us nothing for sure about the origin of the differences between races in measured intelligence. This point is so basic, and so commonly misunderstood, that it deserves emphasis: That a trait is genetically transmitted in individuals does not mean that group differences in that trait are also genetic in origin. Anyone who doubts this assertion may take two handfuls of genetically identical seed corn and plant one handful in Iowa, the other in the Mojave Desert, and let nature (i.e., the environment) take its course. The seeds will grow in Iowa, not in the Mojave, and the result will have nothing to do with genetic differences. The environment for American blacks has been closer to the Mojave and the environment for American whites has been closer to Iowa. The Bell Curve: 298.

That’s just one of many acknowledgments of the role of the environment in affecting differences in test scores between blacks and whites. In addition, Herrnstein and Murray spend four pages arguing that it’s not important whether race differences are genetic or environmental. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of difference are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.

In any case, you are not going to learn tomorrow that all the cognitive differences between races are 100 percent genetic in origin, because the scientific state of knowledge, unfinished as it is, already gives ample evidence that environment is part of the story. But the evidence eventually may become unequivocal that genes are also part of the story. We are worried that the elite wisdom on this issue, for years almost hysterically in denial about that possibility, will snap too far in the other direction. It is possible to face all the facts on ethnic and race differences in intelligence and not run screaming from the room: That is the essential message. The Bell Curve: 315.

Anyway, you do realize, don’t you, how little Herrnstein and Murray ever claim about how much of the difference in black and white IQ scores is genetic? It’s all in one notorious paragraph:

If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or the environmental explanation has 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 the 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. The Bell Curve: 311.

I assure you: That paragraph is the sum total of claims that The Bell Curvemade about genes and racial differences in IQ scores. I even bought the e-book version of The Bell Curve and searched every reference to genes and genetic differences in the book. There’s nothing else. I searched on the words “inferior” and “superior.” Nothing there either.]

Many criticisms of The Bell Curve, most notably Charles Lane’s thorough takedown in The New York Review of Books, have pointed out that Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes IQ [AU: “Genes” has to be changed to “IQ.” The Bell Curve never attempts to link social inequality to genes. Just to IQ] are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists. [AU: Actually, you’ve got to change this whole sentence. The attempts to link IQ to social inequality are contained in Part II of The Bell Curve, “Cognitive Classes and Social Behavior.” It consists of eight chapters, each of which examines the relationships among IQ, socioeconomic status (SES) and various social behaviors. The topics of the eight chapters are poverty, schooling, unemployment, marriage and nonmarital births, welfare dependency, parenting, crime, and citizenship. In each chapter, Herrnstein and Murray review the relevant technical literature and then use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to conduct regression analyses of the relevant social behavior using as independent variables cognitive test scores and an index of SES. Here’s the point: The NLSY analyses for all eight chapters are based exclusively on samples of non-Latino whites. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to invoke the use of “racist scientists” to discredit findings based on original analyses conducted by Herrnstein and Murray using samples of whites. No?]

In an afterward to the book, Murray rejects such criticisms. that rest on the fact that “we cite thirteen scholars who have received funding from the Pioneer Fund, founded and run ([Lane] alleged) by men who were Nazi sympathizers, eugenicists, and advocates of white racial superiority.” Murray contends that the racist pseudo-scientists he cites “are some of the most respected psychologists of our time” and that “the relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today’s Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to that between Henry Ford and today’s Ford Foundation.”

[AU: Let’s just include the whole text from the Afterword. It’s not that long.]

I refer to their highly publicized attack on the “tainted sources” used in The Bell Curve. Lane introduced this theme with an initial article in the New Republic and then a much longer one in the New York Review of Books. In the latter piece, he proclaimed that “no fewer than seventeen researchers cited in the bibliography of The Bell Curve have contributed to Mankind Quarterly … a notorious journal of ‘racial history’ founded, and funded, by men who believe in the genetic superiority of the white race.” Lane also discovered that we cite thirteen scholars who have received funding from the Pioneer Fund, founded and run (he alleged) by men who were Nazi sympathizers, eugenicists, and advocates of white racial superiority. Leon Kamin, a vociferous critic of IQ in all its manifestations, took up the same argument at length in his review of The Bell Curve in Scientific American.

Never mind that The Bell Curve draws its evidence from more than a thousand scholars. Never mind that among the scholars in Lane’s short list are some of the most respected psychologists of our time and that almost all of the sources referred to as tainted are articles published in leading refereed journals. Never mind that the relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today’s Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to that between Henry Ford and today’s Ford Foundation. The charges have been made, they have wide currency, and some people will always believe that The Bell Curve rests on data concocted by neo-Nazi eugenicists. The Bell Curve: 564.

In fact, the Pioneer Fund’s ties to eugenics and white supremacy are not nearly as historically remote as Murray would have his readers believe. The president of the Pioneer Fund at the time The Bell Curve was written was Harry Weyher, who was a personal friend of the Fund’s founder, Wickliffe Draper, and shared his supposedly archaic views on race; just two months after the initial publication of The Bell Curve, Weyher gave an interview in which he argued, among other things, that desegregation had “wreck[ed] the school system.” Another of the Pioneer Fund’s board members at the time Murray was writing, John Trevor Jr., was also an officer of Coalition of Patriotic Societies, which, during his membership, was indicted for sedition over “pro-Nazi activities” and called for the release of all Nazi war criminals. Despite Murray’s claims, the Pioneer Fund continues to support “research” into race differences conducted by outright white supremacists.

[AU: Let me see if I’m following the logic here: You can’t believe what The Bell Curve says about race and IQ, not because any of its empirical statements are wrong, but because some of the studies cited were written by people who at some time in their careers received money from The Pioneer Fund. That’s not just an ad hominem fallacy, but an ad hominem fallacy at third hand. Isn’t that pretty much the basis on which Joe McCarthy used to accuse people of being communists back in the 1950s?

But I digress. If you insist on going with this line of argument, I’ve got bad news. Only three of the fourteen who had gotten Pioneer Fund money (I found one that Lane missed) were cited in the section in Chapter 13 that was devoted to the causes of ethnic differences in IQ, and two of those were cited for findings that East Asians may have a genetic advantage over whites. Only one of the fourteen, Arthur Jensen, was cited for findings that indicated a genetic advantage of whites over blacks—namely, Jensen’s evidence supporting the “Spearman Hypothesis,” that the black-white difference on IQ subtests would vary directly with the g-loading of the subtests. Apart from your assessment of the meaning of that evidence, you’re going to have a hard time portraying Jensen as a racist crackpot. Arthur Jensen had an excellent reputation for his expertise as a psychometrician and for his personal integrity, even among his colleagues who wished he had not spent so much time on black-white differences (see the festschrift devoted to him in a special issue of the journal Intelligence.]

In a similar vein, Murray whitewashes the individual people who provided the intellectual foundation for The Bell Curve. [AU: Oops. See below]. To take only one example, Murray and Herrnstein described Richard Lynn, whose work they relied on more than any other individual, as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences.” In his many subsequent defenses of Lynn, [AU: references?] Murray neglected to mention the many serious methodological criticisms of Lynn’s work, or his contributions to white supremacist publications including, American Renaissanceand Mankind Quarterly, the last of which Lynn also serves on the editorial staff of.

[AU: I suppose you can get away with this if no one looks too closely. Lynn does have 24 entries in the bibliography, and that’s a lot. But 21 out of the 24 are about Asian IQ and are cited in just three pages of the section titled “Do Asians Have Higher IQs Than Whites?” (272–274). His literature review of IQ scores in Sub Saharan Africa is described on page 289 in one sentence. The next time Lynn’s work appears is on page 359, which again involves his estimate of East Asian IQ. On pages 390 and 393, his name may be found in the endnotes regarding the role of improved nutrition in raising IQ. That’s 7 pages in which his work is mentioned, on an extremely limited set of topics, in a 900-page book. The Bell Curve’s thesis is that IQ has had a profound effect on the class structure of American life. To say that Richard Lynn is one of the “the individuals who provided the intellectual foundation” for The Bell Curve is, if you don’t mind me saying so, demented.]

The Bell Curve not only relied on “tainted sources” like Lynn, but is itself making a fundamentally eugenic argument. The central, and most controversial chapter of the book, focuses on the threat of “dysgenesis,” a term that Murray and Herrnstein claimed to have borrowed from population biology, but which in actuality was coined and has been used exclusively by eugenicists to describe the problem that their policy proposals were intended to fix. Dysgenesis refers to the supposed genetic deterioration of a population, but while Murray and Herrnstein wrote as though it represents mainstream science, dysgenesis is not considered to be a real phenomenon by modern evolutionary biologists. It is widely accepted only among the “scholars of racial and ethnic differences” that appear so prominently in The Bell Curve’s bibliography.

[AU: It’s probably a good idea to tell the reader how Herrnstein and Murray are using “dysgenesis” in their own words. See particularly the portions I have italicized.]

So far, we have been treating the distribution of intelligence as a fixed entity. But as the population replenishes itself from generation to generation by birth and immigration, the people who pass from the scene are not going to be replaced, one for one, by other people with the same IQ scores. This is what we mean by the demography of intelligence. The question is not whether demographic processes in and of themselves can have an impact on the distribution of scores—that much is certain—but what and how big the impact is, compared to all the other forces pushing the distribution around. Mounting evidence indicates that demographic trends are exerting downward pressures on the distribution of cognitive ability in the United States and that the pressures are strong enough to have social consequences.

We will refer to this downward pressure as dysgenesis, borrowing a term from population biology. However, it is important once again not to be sidetracked by the role of genes versus the role of environment. Children resemble their parents in IQ, for whatever reason, and immigrants and their descendants may not duplicate the distribution of America’s resident cognitive ability distribution. If women with low scores are reproducing more rapidly than women with high scores, the distribution of scores will, other things equal, decline, no matter whether the women with the low scores came by them through nature or nurture. More generally, if population growth varies across the range of IQ scores, the next generation will have a different distribution of scores. The Bell Curve: 342.

In The Bell Curve and in many of his subsequent articles and books, Murray warns that “dysgenic pressures” will lead eventually to what he calls the “custodial state.” If social and economic status is solely a function of IQ, as Murray and Herrnstein claim [AU: Got to delete that sentence. Herrnstein and Murray explicitly and repeatedly disavow that idea; rather, they say that the statistical relationships are strong enough to create cognitive stratification. Here’s a good example: “For virtually all of the topics we will be discussing, cognitive ability accounts for only small to middling proportions of the variation among people. It almost always explains less than 20 percent of the variance, to use the statistician’s term, usually less than 10 percent and often less than 5 percent.” The Bell Curve: 117. I’ve supplied an alternative opening to the sentence. See below.] 

Even modest but consistent relationships between IQ and social and economic outcomes mean that then social stratification will increasingly occur along the lines of innate intelligence. This process would will turn the United States into “something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top.”

[AU: It will be clearer if we include the entire passage from which that quote is drawn. See below.]

In this penultimate chapter we speculate about the impact of cognitive stratification on American life and government. Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

  • An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.
  • A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.
  • A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive ability distribution.

Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, restructuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. Among the other casualties of this process would be American civil society as we have known it. Like other apocalyptic visions, this one is pessimistic, perhaps too much so. On the other hand, there is much to be pessimistic about. [p. 509]

[AU: As predictions from 1994 go, you’ve got to admit these aren’t bad.]

The “custodial state” comes about, according to Murray and Herrnstein, because the elite feels the need to take responsibility for the “underclass,” which, especially in the “contemporary inner city,” lacks “the minimum level of cognitive resources” necessary to sustain a “modern community.” Murray claims that the elite has and will continue to address this problem through the welfare state, segregation and mass incarceration. In The Bell Curve, Murray and Herrnstein describe the custodial state as a “high-tech and more lavish version of the Indian reservation for some substantial minority of the nation’s population,” and suggest that it should be avoided at all costs. As recently as 2005, Murray wrote that the custodial state is “not a happy solution” to crime and other social ills. [AU: It will be easier for the reader to follow that graf if you use the following quote from TBC to introduce it]

What is the minimum level of cognitive resources necessary to sustain a community at any given level of social and economic complexity? For sustaining a village of a few hundred people in a premodern society, the minimum average level is probably quite modest. What is it for sustaining a modern community? The question is of enormous practical significance yet remains innocent of any empirical investigation whatsoever. Perhaps the crucial feature is the average cognitive ability. Perhaps it is the size of the cadre of high-ability people. Perhaps it is the weight of the population at low end of the distribution. No one knows. Whatever the details, a prima facie case exists that the cognitive resources in the contemporary inner city have fallen below the minimum level. What looked like a rising tide of social problems a generation ago has come to look more like a fundamental breakdown in social organization. [p. 522]

Evoking racist Reagan-era attacks on welfare recipients, Murray and Herrnstein contended that government assistance contributes to dysgenic pressures because “for women near the poverty line in most countries in the contemporary West, a baby is either free or even profitable, depending on the specific terms of the welfare system in her country.” According to Murray, the incentives for poor women to game the welfare system by having babies is particularly strong because, thanks to their low IQs, “a ‘career’ is not usually seen as a realistic option.” Welfare in Murray and Herrnstein’s view only exacerbates the intellectual inferiority, and thus the social stratification, it is meant to remedy, and should be abolished.

Just as dangerous as welfare in Murray’s imagination is affirmative action, which he and Herrnstein credited with “leaking a poison into the American soul.” Affirmative action, according to Murray, creates racial tension by promoting black people far beyond their innate realized capabilities in order to produce a false sense of equality. To bolster this argument, they cite rumors accounts of illiterate or “borderline retarded” black people graduating from police academy, and claim that affirmative action forced major cities like Washington, D.C., and Miami to hire manifestly unqualified black police officers. They even blame affirmative action for crimes committed by police, highlighting a documented 1985 incident case in Miami in which police who had joined the force under relaxed affirmative-action standards were found to be helping smugglers conceal hundreds of tons of cocaine.

Similarly, they claim that black students are over-represented in the universities, where they get “a large edge in the admissions process and often in scholarship assistance and many of whom, as whites look around their own campus and others, ‘don’t belong there’ academically.” [AU: Need to give the reader a better idea of what Herrnstein and Murray mean by “a large edge. Insert following.] 

We have obtained SAT data on classes entering twenty-six of the nation’s top colleges and universities. In 1975, most of the nation’s elite private colleges and universities formed the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE), which, among other things, compiles and shares information on the students at member institutions, including their SAT scores. We have obtained these data for the classes entering in 1991 and 1992. They include sixteen out of the twenty top-rated private universities and five of the top ten private colleges, as ranked in U.S. News and World Report for 1993. The figure below shows the difference in the sum of the average Verbal and Math SAT scores between whites and two minorities, blacks and Asians, for the classes in the COFHE schools that matriculated in the fall of 1992. In addition, the figure includes data on the University of Virginia and the University of California at Berkeley in 1988.

The difference between black and white scores was less than 100 points at only one school, Harvard. It exceeded 200 points at nine schools, reaching its highest at Berkeley (288 points). Overall, the median difference between the white mean and the black mean was 180 SAT points, or, conservatively estimated, about 1.3 standard deviations. This would put the average black at about the 10th percentile of white students. [p. 451]

According to Murray and Herrnstein, as white people see less intelligent and competent black people being given preferential treatment, “[t]he tension between what the white elite is supposed to think and what it is actually thinking about race will reach something close to a breaking point,” and a “new, more virulent” racism will emerge, prompting renewed attempts to segregate and isolate the black community.

Despite portraying it as the result of liberal policies he opposes, however, it is clear that the custodial state is precisely the vision of society Murray is working to bring about[AU: The following grafs don’t make that case. References?] The same 2005 article that deplored “abandoning a central tenet of a free society — that everyone can exercise equal responsibility for his or her own life” — was entitled “The Advantages of Social Apartheid” [AU: You should acknowledge that authors of newspaper op eds do not choose the headlines for their articles, and Murray’s text made it obvious that the title was bitterly sarcastic] and its main argument was that, as unpleasant as it sounds, the custodial state is the best solution to social problems. By isolating the “underclass,” the children of the cognitive elite, for example, won’t have to deal with “large numbers of disruptive, foul-mouthed, sexually precocious and sometimes violent classmates.” Similarly, the increasing isolation of the underclass will provide the solution to crime.

Indeed, isolation in the form of mass incarceration has, according to Murray, already solved the crime problem in America: “We didn’t solve the crime problem by learning how to get tough on the causes of crime nor by rehabilitating criminals. We just took them off the streets. As of 2005, more than 2 [million] Americans are incarcerated … it responds to the question ‘Does prison work?’”

Again, Murray pretends [AU: Basis for “pretends”?] to find the prospect of mass imprisonment regrettable, and hints that he does not personally believe that the benefits of reduced crime are necessarily worth the cost to the freedom of a large percentage of the population. And again, he is being dishonest; [AU: Basis for “dishonest”? the rest of the sentence is a non sequitur.] the same year that he wrote “The Advantages of Social Apartheid,” he published a short monograph entitled “Simple Justice,” which argued that crime (or at least the kinds of crime committed by the “underclass”) is not punished harshly enough, and that the purpose of the justice system is to exact revenge against criminals without any consideration of extenuating social circumstances. [AU: Need this passage to give a sense of Murray’s position:]

The simple alternative to progressive justice is called retributive justice. It is the modern version of the systems of justice that came into being at the dawn of human history, and it is based on the same reasoning. The primal function of a system of justice is to depersonalize revenge. The agreement, perhaps the most ancient of all agreements that make it possible for communities to exist, is that the individual will take his complaint to the community. In return, the community will exact the appropriate retribution—partly on behalf of the wronged individual, but also to express the community’s moral values. Justice means retribution through punishment and upholding the supremacy of the good members of the community over the bad ones.

The word retribution is jarring to the modern sensibility. Someone who wants retribution is harking back to the bad old days of an eye for an eye, we think. Retribution is something that civilized societies ought to rise above. The victim’s desire for retribution is atavistic and unworthy.

Is it? As a way of testing your own views, consider a thought experiment that Immanuel Kant posed two centuries ago. He imagined an island society that is to disband tomorrow. Its citizens must decide whether a murderer awaiting execution should be executed. (If you’re against the death penalty, substitute some other suitable punishment.) Executing him will have no expedient benefit for the members of the society. It will certainly have no benefit for the prisoner. We may assume that if the prisoner is released, he will not kill again. The only purpose of the punishment is retribution. Should the murderer be executed? Kant says yes, that “the last murderer remaining in prison must first be executed so that everyone will duly receive what his actions are worth.” Your own answer should give you some sense of whether you are a retributivist at heart. Simple Justice, 2005: 18–19.

At the same time, he argued that the justice system unfairly persecutes people who use force to defend their property, arguing that a homeowner who chased a would-be burglar out into the street and murdered them shouldn’t be seen as having done anything wrong.

Murray’s vision of the future and his efforts to bring it about are even more chilling in the context of his early career. Murray started out working in Thailand for the Washington, D.C.-based think tank American Institutes for Research (AIR). While ostensibly conducting basic social science research in remote Thai villages, Murray and his colleagues were working with the U.S. military to develop counter-insurgency programs. AIR’s proposal to the military included plans to develop “stimuli” to bring about desired reactions in the populations; examples given included burning the villagers’ crops, assassinating political figures, “strengthening retaliatory mechanisms and similar preventative measures,” and “neutraliz[ing] the political successes already achieved by groups committed to the ‘wrong’ side,” the last of which “typically involves direct military confrontation.”

The proposal, which is now used as a textbook example of unethical practices in the social sciences, also stated that “[t]he potential applicability of the findings in the United States will also receive special attention. In many of our key domestic programs, especially those directed at disadvantaged sub-cultures, the methodological problems are similar to those described in this proposal; and the application of the Thai findings at home constitutes a potentially most significant project contribution.” As one prominent anthropologist commented, “It takes little imagination to recognize the identities of the ‘disadvantaged subcultures,’ and the circumstances that would be likely to make them targets of such measures.” [AU: The products that AIR produced on this project are in the public domain (they weren’t classified) and have nothing to with military responses. They are exclusively about how to measure the counterinsurgency impact of social and economic development programs—in the idiom of the time, how to win the hearts and minds of the villagers. Murray later wrote his PhD dissertation using data collected during this project and publisheda version of the dissertation as a book.] 

While most of the criticism directed at Murray has with good reason focused on the racist elements of his work, his genetic determinism and belief in the inferiority of differences in cognitive repertoires among certain groups extends to the intellectual abilities of women. Unsurprisingly, he holds poor women and women of color in more contempt than he does elite white women; [AU: Need quote showing his contempt] however, in Murray’s mind, even elite women are substantially inferior to men men and women have demonstrably different profiles in the history of achievements in the arts and sciences. In the wake of then-Harvard University President Larry Summers’ censure for his 2005 statements about women’s lack of intellectual aptitude, Murray built on Summers’ claims, arguing that “[s]ince we live in an age when students are likely to hear more about Marie Curie than about Albert Einstein, it is worth beginning with a statement of historical fact: women have played a proportionally tiny part in the history of the arts and sciences. Even in the 20th century, women got only 2 percent of the Nobel Prizes in the sciences — a proportion constant for both halves of the century — and 10 percent of the prizes in literature. The Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, has been given to 44 people since it originated in 1936. All have been men.  [AU: Need to add the next paragraph.]

The historical reality of male dominance of the greatest achievements in science and the arts is not open to argument. The question is whether the social and legal exclusion of women is a sufficient explanation for this situation, or whether sex-specific characteristics are also at work.

… In the humanities, the most abstract field is philosophy — and no woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions. In the sciences, the most abstract field is mathematics, where the number of great women mathematicians is approximately two.”

[AU: Better to quote the whole passage from which these quotes are drawn. I’ve inserted an introductory sentence.]

Murray goes on to discuss alternative explanations for the different profiles of men and women. He concludes as follows:

Seen from one perspective, this pattern demonstrates what should be obvious: there is nothing inherent in being a woman that precludes high math ability. But there remains a distributional difference in male and female characteristics that leads to a larger number of men with high visuospatial skills. The difference has an evolutionary rationale, a physiological basis, and a direct correlation with math scores.

Now put all this alongside the historical data on accomplishment in the arts and sciences. In test scores, the male advantage is most pronounced in the most abstract items. Historically, too, it is most pronounced in the most abstract domains of accomplishment.

In the humanities, the most abstract field is philosophy—and no woman has been a significant original thinker in any of the world’s great philosophical traditions. In the sciences, the most abstract field is mathematics, where the number of great women mathematicians is approximately two (Emmy Noether definitely, Sonya Kovalevskaya maybe). In the other hard sciences, the contributions of great women scientists have usually been empirical rather than theoretical, with leading cases in point being Henrietta Leavitt, Dorothy Hodgkin, Lise Meitner, Irène Joliot-Curie, and Marie Curie herself.

In the arts, literature is the least abstract and by far the most rooted in human interaction; visual art incorporates a greater admixture of the abstract; musical composition is the most abstract of all the arts, using neither words nor images. The role of women has varied accordingly. Women have been represented among great writers virtually from the beginning of literature, in East Asia and South Asia as well as in the West. Women have produced a smaller number of important visual artists, and none that is clearly in the first rank. No female composer is even close to the first rank. Social restrictions undoubtedly damped down women’s contributions in all of the arts, but the pattern of accomplishment that did break through is strikingly consistent with what we know about the respective strengths of male and female cognitive repertoires.

Women have their own cognitive advantages over men, many of them involving verbal fluency and interpersonal skills. If this were a comprehensive survey, detailing those advantages would take up as much space as I have devoted to a particular male advantage. “The Inequality Taboo,” 2005.

[AU: Okay, that’s it. You might want to add a concluding graf. Please run it by me if you do. I might have some alterations to suggest.]



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