The Bell Curve, 20 Years later

Twenty years ago Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published The Bell Curve. It had the effect of a large stone thrown into the still pond of “settled science”.
a) there is such a thing as g, general intelligence
b) it is largely heritable
b) IQ tests measure g quite well
c) IQ test outcomes predict a great many social results, including propensities to success or pathologies with better accuracy than any other measure, including years of education, family income, and social status;
d) social factors interact with genetic endowments, and
e) IQ results differ by race.

The Left has been in paroxysms of rage and denial ever since.

Charles Murray was interviewed about the Bell Curve recently in the policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute. Here is a snippet. Go the article for more.

American political and social life today is pretty much one great big “Q.E.D.” for the two main theses of “The Bell Curve.” Those theses were, first, that changes in the economy over the course of the 20th century had made brains much more valuable in the job market; second, that from the 1950s onward, colleges had become much more efficient in finding cognitive talent wherever it was and shipping that talent off to the best colleges. We then documented all the ways in which cognitive ability is associated with important outcomes in life — everything from employment to crime to family structure to parenting styles. Put those all together, we said, and we’re looking at some serious problems down the road. Let me give you a passage to quote directly from the close of the book:

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 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. (p. 509)

Remind you of anything you’ve noticed about the US recently?


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