THE BELL CURVE WARS by Steven Fraser


Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America
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 A searing response to the pseudo-science on the connection between race and intelligence put forth in the best-selling The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein (not reviewed). An impressive array of intellectuals address different aspects of the fiery debates that have taken place around the book. In an essay entitled ``Curveball,'' Stephen Jay Gould argues that the social Darwinism theory that Herrnstein and Murray construct lacks scientific documentation and fails because of its shaky premises. Gould also points out that any theory about racial differences in IQ will always be fallacious until there is truly equal opportunity. Howard Gardner makes the point that the theories to which Herrnstein and Murray give so much weight have been used as a justification of racial oppression for hundreds of years. This leads to a powerful discussion that goes beyond the question of why The Bell Curve to the question, Why now? Gardner links the weak scientific argument of the book to its powerful policy analysis of programs such as welfare that are often cloaked in racial issues. Not all of the essays here come down against the book. Thomas Sowell calls it ``a very sober, very thorough and very honest book.'' Sowell posits that too often discussions about race are so overtaken by passion that reason cannot enter the debate. He takes the science of The Bell Curve seriously and says the problem is not in the book itself, but in an environment that cannot sustain intellectual discussions about ``touchy social issues.'' The theories of The Bell Curve are really so flat, so weak that they are easy to dispute. What the writers in this book do is take the ideas and flesh them out with history, science, and rigorous questioning. It seems that the true meat of thought is here and not in the book they are responding to.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-465-00693-0
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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