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Expert assessment of The Bell Curve
The Bell Curve (TBC) was widely criticized in the media. This is to be expected since the media are left-wing, and left-wingers hate HBD related content. What did the experts think? I don't recall seeing a compilation of expert commentary on this. I am here thinking of a narrow meaning of expert, limited to researchers who have done primary research in the fields that TBC is built upon. Naturally, one can find any number of left-wing sociologists who attacked it. Here's an attempt at a compilation:
Commenting not as an advocate but as an expert witness, I can say that The Bell Curve is correct in all its essential facts. The graphically presented analyses of fresh data (from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth) are consistent with the preponderance of past studies. Nowadays the factual basis of The Bell Curve is scarcely debated by the experts, who regard it as mainstream knowledge.
David Seligman. Trashing 'The Bell Curve'. National Review, Dec 5, 1994 v46 n23 p60(2)
Sandra Scarr. The Bell Curve. Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 1994 v11 n2 p82(4)
Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (1995). Breaking the Last Taboo [Review of the book The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life, by R. J. Herrnstein & C. Murray]. Contemporary Psychology, 40(5), 415–418. https://doi.org/10.1037/003626
Frisby, C. L. (1995). When facts and orthodoxy collide: The Bell Curve and the robustness criterion. School Psychology Review, 24(1), 12-19.
Sternberg, R. J. (1995). For whom the bell curve tolls: A review of The Bell Curve. Psychological Science, 6(5), 257-261.
Lynn, Richard. (1995) ‘The Bell Curve’ and Its Sources: reply by Charles Lane. February 2, 1995 Issue
Reply to Charles Lane who attacked The Bell Curve for having tainted sources, meaning, work published in Mankind Quarterly. This dumb attack is surprisingly common among the woke. For instance, on talk pages of Wikipedia.
Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard Jr, T. J., Boykin, A. W., Brody, N., Ceci, S. J., ... & Urbina, S. (1996). Intelligence: knowns and unknowns. American psychologist, 51(2), 77.
See also: Lynn, R. (1997). Direct evidence for a genetic basis for black–white differences in IQ. American Psychologist.
Carroll, J. B. (1997). Psychometrics, intelligence, and public perception. Intelligence, 24(1), 25-52.
I have reviewed Hermstein and Murray’s (1994, pp. 22-23) six propositions about cognitive ability and the g factor, and I find that all of them are well sup- ported in psychometric and behavioral genetic research.
Lubinski, D., & Humphreys, L. G. (1997). Incorporating general intelligence into epidemiology and the social sciences. Intelligence, 24(1), 159-201.
Although we do not embrace all of the arguments found in Herrnstein and Murray’s book, The Bell Curve (1994), by illustrating how general intelligence fares when it competes with conventional explanatory social science variables, such as SES, in forecasting many different kinds of important social behaviors and outcomes (such as academic achievement, crime, poverty, poor parenting), these authors have made an important contribution (cf. Bouchard, 1995).
Surprisingly, does not mention it much, but does contain this comment:
Hermstein & Murray (1994) in their signal book The Bell Curve broach the topicof the public policy implications of g more fully than any other work to date, and their effort has elicited extraordinarily vehement pro and con reactions in the media and in academe. One should hope that the door will remain wide open for further research on the critically important issues raised by their work. A recent but more narrowly focused book, Intelligence Policy (Browne-Miller, 1995), deals mainly with the implicit assumptions about intelligence as they influence college admission policies; Gordon (1996) provides an insightful review of this book.
Chabris, C. F. (1998). IQ Since "The Bell Curve". Commentary, 106(2), 33.
And follow up: Chabris, C. F. (1998). Does IQ matter?. Commentary, 106(5), 13
Lynn, Richard. (1999). The Attack on The Bell Curve: Special Review. Personality and Individual Differences, 15
There is nothing in either of these two books that makes any serious case against the conclusions of The Bell Curve With the exceptions of the chapters by Carroll and Hunt in the first book the authors systematically distort the data and ignore the relevant evidence. Just what mix of ideology and sheer ignorance is responsible for the positions the authors of these two books adopt is di.cult to assess. Whatever the explanation, these two books represent the benighted environmentalist timewarp in which much of contemporary social science is still enmeshed.
Baumeister, A. A., & Bacharach, V. R. (2000). Early generic educational intervention has no enduring effect on intelligence and does not prevent mental retardation: The Infant Health and Development Program. Intelligence.
A forgotten review paper of a large intervention study that was frequently incorrectly cited against The Bell Curve.
Nyborg, H. (2003). The sociology of psychometric and bio-behavioral sciences: A case study of destructive social reductionism and collective fraud in 20th century academia. In The scientific study of general intelligence (pp. 441-502). Pergamon.
Jensen was far from alone in being harassed and in having his rights to free speech hurt. Luckily, some of these colleagues neither accepted to be silenced. Professors Richard Hermstein, William Shockley, Philippe Rushton and others also had their lectures cancelled by demonstrators. In 1971 Hermstein wrote an article in The Atlantic Monthly suggesting that a society based on equality of opportunity would turn out to be a society where social stratification is based on IQ classes. The idea was originally set forth by Young (1958) and further elaborated in 1994 by Hermstein and Murray in The Bell Curve, and convincingly confirmed by others, including Gottfredson (Chapter 15 in the present volume). Hermstein’s lectures were interrupted, and posters were carried around campus with the text: “Wanted for racism”.
This was cited by Strenze, T. (2007). Intelligence and socioeconomic success: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal research. Intelligence, 35(5), 401-426. who wrote:
The ideas of The Bell Curve have been severely criticized for a number of reasons.Fischer et al. (1996) argued that Herrnstein and Murrayused an inappropriate measure of parental SES and, therefore, underestimated its importance. Hauser and Huang (1997) argued that the claim about the growing importance of intelligence is simply a misinterpretationof previous research. Other researchers have, however,supported the ideas of The Bell Curve (Gottfredson, 2003; Jensen, 1998) saying that its central claims havebeen convincingly confirmed (Nyborg, 2003: 459).
Cooper, C. (2015). Intelligence and Human Abilities: Structure, Origins and Applications. Routledge.
I have not mentioned this book by Herrnstein and Murray (1994) that caused something of a furore when it was published. There are several reasons for this. First, it seems to have been written with a political agenda in mind: that a “cognitive underclass” in the United States is responsible for what the authors perceived to be the woes of society (crime, single parenthood, high welfare expenditure etc.). Second, there are numerous problems with the analysis and interpretation of the statistical analyses: for example, regression lines for different groups are shown but without a R2 statistic to show how well the model fits the data, it is impossible to interpret the analyses: the same regression line could indicate a R2 of 0.01 (virtually no relationship between the variables) or 0.9 (a massive relationship). Because the analyses were published in a popular book the analyses and inferences had not gone through the rigorous process of peer review to which journal articles are subjected before publication. Finally, the book has a right-of-centre approach to racial differences in g, affirmative action and so on which has been widely criticised by commentators (e.g., Fraser, 1995; Jacoby & Glauberman, 1995).
These are some funny criticisms!
See also related post by Dalliard, IQ and Personality: What James Heckman Got Wrong, also at Human Varieties.
Gottfredson, L. S. (2016). Hans Eysenck's theory of intelligence, and what it reveals about him. Personality and Individual Differences, 103, 116-127.
Publication of Herrnstein and Murray's (1994) The Bell Curve provoked the worst spasms of public vilification and righteous denunciation during the two decades. The book provides an organized readable summary of basic evidence on intelligence, analyzes phenotypic g's influence relative to that of social class on the early life out-comes of young white adults, and reviews the conundrum presented by the black-white gap in IQ. For intelligence researchers, the book's major results were old news. For pundits and journalists, they were out-dated, discredited, pseudoscientific, racist rubbish. No falsehood or misconception was too wild to broadcast and rebroadcast. Many academics joined the feeding frenzy to discredit the book's science, often exposing their own startling ignorance.While the science of intelligence was stronger than ever in 1998,hostility toward it had grown too, even within psychology. Public misconceptions and misrepresentations had continued to multiply even as intelligence researchers proved the old ones mistaken. There were now more constituencies for discrediting it and new media to quickly broadcast their complaints. Critics inside and outside of academe grabbed the most tenuous, marginal, outdated, and implausible re-search results (e.g., Nisbett, 1998) to rebut the ever-expanding, thickening nomological network of evidence on g, as if shooting a pea would sink a ship).
Detterman, D. K. (2020). Will foolish ideas die in an avalanche of data? Review of Human Diversity, Charles C. Murray, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race and Class, Twelve, New York (2020). Intelligence.
This reviews Murray's 2020 book (which I also reviewed), and while doing so mentions:
Despite the positive effects that martyrdom can have for the field of intelligence research, it is probably not much fun for the martyr.Murray has written several other books that are related to The Bell Curve.Here are a few of them:Income Inequality and IQ (Murray, 1998) is about the effects of family environment on outcomes by IQ level showing the importance of IQ in determining major life outcomes like years of education and income. In my opinion, this book does not get enough attention.Real education: Four simple truths for bringing America's schools back to reality (Murray, 2008) argues that ability is an important determinant of educational outcomes, too many are going to college, and how well America's gifted are educated will determine its future.Human accomplishment: The pursuit of excellence 800 B.C. to, 1950 (Murray, 2003) surveys human accomplishment and plots the rate of major accomplishment in various fields. It concludes that human accomplishment has been declining since 1750. Coming apart: The state of white America, 1960–2010 (Murray, 2012) describes the effect of the meritocracy and the increasing segregation of social groups based on IQ levels for white Americans as was predicted in The Bell Curve. All of these books have been extremely well documented as The Bell Curve was.
I probably missed some. But overall, reactions from close experts were not generally hostile, and frequently positive. I am not aware of any anonymous survey that asked experts to rate TBC for accuracy etc., but that would be very worthwhile, and indeed an obvious thing to do. Many experts do not speak their mind publicly lest they be branded by the SPLC, various brainlet journalists, and student protesters.
Some of Murray's own writings about it can be found in:
Murray, C. (1995). The Bell Curve" and Its Critics. Commentary, 99(5), 23.
Goodnow, N. (2014). ‘The Bell Curve’20 years later: A Q&A with Charles Murray. American Enterprise Institute, AEIdeas.
Searching on Google Scholar is hopeless due to the indexing of reviews by a million journalists and sociologists, not experts by my working definition. Instead, I opted for searching in specialist journals, primarily in Intelligence. Then I followed up on any references mentioned.
Subsequently, I found this collection of reviews in the public press, mainly.