THE MISMEASURE OF MAN by Stephen Jay Gould
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THE MISMEASURE OF MAN

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"Shared dogmas masquerading as objectivity" . . . idée fixe . . . circular reasoning . . . reification . . . unconscious bias . . . outright fraud. These are the accusations against the biological determinism of intelligence that Gould (The Panda's Thumb, Ever Since Darwin) musters in this latest, most systematic assault. He builds his case in a series of chapters describing prevailing pre-Darwinian and later 19th- and 20th-century thought--which overwhelmingly proclaimed the ascendancy of the white upper-class male (and the inferiority of all others). Among the more egregious common beliefs, it was held that prostitutes had a greater-than-normal separation between their first and second toes, a mark of their kinship to simians. By returning to primary data and, when possible, even recalculating the raw data, Gould demonstrates bias (conscious or not) in rounding out figures, sloppy measurements, exclusion of counterexamples, and more--thus vitiating all the vaunted skull volumes, brain weights, and other anatomical desiderata correlated with intelligence, morality, or leadership. The mis-measurers or misinterpreters include Samuel Morton, a once-celebrated American anatomist, and such familiar names as Broca, Lombroso, Goddard, Terman, Yerkes, Butt, Thurstone, Spearman, and Jensen. In one of the book's best chapters, Gould explains factor analysis and how this mathematical device for handling a matrix of correlations led to Spearman's magical "g"--the general factor of intelligence. Thurstone, in turn, completely obliterated "g" in his mathematical handling of the same sort of correlations, coming up with separate "primary mental abilities." Both, Gould clearly shows, then reified their constructs and to this day neither view has a biological/genetic leg to stand on. Burr is the man with the idée fixe, Gould declares; he latched on to the inheritance of intelligence, and to "g"; and even, in later years, claimed to have invented the mathematical method that produced it. Jensen, in turn, has restored "g" to a central position in his hereditarian view of intelligence and the validity of IQ testing. In the final chapter, Gould justifies this work of demolition--necessary, he thinks, to get science on the right track again. Here he also outlines his cricitism of sociobiology--for deriving specific traits (X's homosexuality) from specific genes, rather than seeing genes as reflecting general rules of behavior. More along those lines can be expected--and more from Jensen et al. too. With outrageous illustrations and examples of early tests, a stylishly provocative work.
Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1981
ISBN: 0393314251
Page count: 454pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1981




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