Society and Culture

Charles Murray on allegations of racism

Since the flap about Paul Ryan’s remarks last week, elements of the blogosphere, and now Paul Krugman in The New York Times, have stated that I tried to prove the genetic inferiority of blacks in The Bell Curve.

The position that Richard Herrnstein and I took about the role of race, IQ and genes in The Bell Curve is contained in a single paragraph in an 800-page book. It is found on page 311, and consists in its entirety of the following text:

If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or 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 justify an estimate.

That’s it. The four pages following that quote argue that the hysteria about race and genes is misplaced. I think our concluding paragraph (page 315) is important enough to repeat here:

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 differences are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.

Our sin was to openly discuss the issue, not to advocate a position. But for the last 40 years, that’s been sin enough.

I’ll be happy to respond at more length to allegations of racism made by anyone who can buttress them with a direct quote from anything I’ve written. I’ll leave you with this thought: in all the critiques of The Bell Curve in particular and my work more generally, no one ever accompanies their charges with direct quotes of what I’ve actually said. There’s a reason for that.

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106 thoughts on “Charles Murray on allegations of racism

  1. Actually, CBrowne has a point that I believe Murray himself would agree with with regards to his contextualize comment. Murray comments that even if we could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cognitive differences in the races were 100% traceable to genetics, that it would or should not affect our treatment of individuals. Likewise if we find that the differences are 100% environmental, that none of our current policies would change one iota. So, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting evidence in a social context–this is what good social policy does. Assuming that intelligence–no matter the cause, is a predictor of success in work, we could as a society use such a test to use our resources in a constructive and more efficient way to help the poor, regardless of their color.
    That this will occur in my lifetime, I would not bet on. The left and the Democratic Party have too much invested in keeping people in their current station in life so that they may procure votes in exchange for handing out subsistence monies that they steal from others by forcing their morality down others throats.
    This explains why liberal blacks attack blacks who do not believe they way they do. It’s not primarily about race, it’s about them keeping power.

    • “Likewise if we find that the differences are 100% environmental, that none of our current policies would change one iota”

      Many of the policies might not change, but they should or, at least, a new rational for policies such as affirmative action, adverse impact, and enforced diversity should be developed, given that these policies are largely still justified on the speculation that the relevant group differences are due to discrimination, past or present. Ginsburg just restated the reasoning:

      “I have several times explained why government actors, including state universities, need not be blind to the lingering effects of an overtly discriminatory past, the legacy of ‘centuries of law-sanctioned inequality.
      (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks of the importance of diversity and acknowledges America’s enduring structural racism in her lone dissenting opinion of the Affirmative Action case (Abigail Fisher vs UT Austin))

      Intelligence differences, taking into account group — not just individual — level effects, can more than explain most present outcome differentials. This was pointed out by John Hopkins sociologists Robert Gordon. So if we grant that the intelligence differences are 100% genetic in origin, then we just granted away the rational for these many policies aimed at reducing the differences.

      It’s as if Carl Sanders was utterly oblivious to the issue being discussed. 20 years ago Murray noted that group differences could be explained by IQ differences and offered a race neutral libertarian societal approach: from a legal perspective, treat individuals as individual. He was vilified for this, for daring to argue that group differences were not due to unjust discrimination in need of extensive governmental intervention.

  2. I don’t believe that “Central Auditory Processing Disorder” is actually a genetic condition at all. Marilyn Jager Adams, in her new book “ABC Foundations For Young Children” writes that most American kids finishing first-grade still can’t name and write all of the alphabet letters. If they had been fluent in handwriting in K-1, no such children would have been “dyslexic”.

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