The Bell Curve

An Intelligent Idea or Absurd Argument? Whether it is by making mistakes, by observing others, or repeating a process over again, it is human nature to learn. In their book The Bell Curve, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray disagree and hold the position that human intelligence is inborn and measurable by IQ, which In turn shows how much success a single individual will have in life. The Bell Curve supports a class system, arguing that the intelligent are likely to become ever more dominant and prosperous, while the unintelligent are falling further and further behind.

In addition, African-Americans are overrepresented as unintelligent. The book argues that anything the government may do to improve the economic status of poor people is going to fail because of their low intelligence. It goes on to argue that the best thing that can be done is to create simple, decent, honorable labor for them. In their reviews of “The Bell Curve” Gould, Lemann, Heckman, and Chabris claim that the authors’ arguments lack substantial verification. Stephen Jay Gould considers the arguments made in The Bell Curve.

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When talking about the IQ tests and how they can tell whether a student will do well in the future or not, he sees some flaws in the theory that our knowledge is innate: “In brief, a person’s performances on various mental tests tend to be positively correlated – that is, if you do well on one kind of test, you tend to do well on the others. This result is scarcely surprising, and is subject to either purely genetic or purely environmental interpretation. The positive correlations say nothing in themselves about causes. ”(Gould 373). Gould’s evaluation of The Bell Curve is comprehensive.

For example, Gould argues against the idea that IQ is hereditary: “Similarly the well-documented 15-point average difference in IQ between blacks and whites in America permits no conclusion that truly equal opportunity might not raise the black average to equal or surpass the white mean“ (Gould 369). Gould is able to paint the reader a picture of his argument using simple language and smooth writing style that helps the reader understand his points as he expertly dismantles the arguments presented The Bell Curve. Nicholas Lemann starts out his article by acknowledging that Herrnstein and Murray are recognized scholars and researchers.

Then Lemann offers his critique of The Bell Curve, going deep into the structure of the premises that are suggested. He explains how Herrnstein and Murray haven’t done enough research to back up their premises: But the larger premise–that intelligent people used to be scattered throughout the class structure, and are now concentrated at the top–is almost impossible to prove, simply because the mass administration of mental tests is such a recent phenomenon. High scorers on mental tests do ‘bunch up’ in elite-university student bodies.

But this is tautological: Any group selected on the basis of scores on mental tests will be composed disproportionately of people who score high on mental tests. (Lemann) Lemann shows how well he has researched “The Bell Curve” in his article by expressing the ways in which its arguments cannot be true. He does a superior job at bringing up Herrnstein and Murray’s’ arguments, and shutting them down right away. It is a successful and intellectual way of writing. Of the four researchers mentioned here, James Heckman best explains how Herrnstein and Murray did both a first-class job and a substandard job.

He starts out by explaining how well written the book is. He also gives the authors credit for going to a place where no other authors have gone before and bringing up a subject that many people are afraid to write about. He then moves onto the failures of the book: The book fails for four main reasons. First, too much space is devoted to discussions of intrinsically irrelevant issues. Second, this book fails to provide an effective challenge to contemporary egalitarian social policy… Third, the details of its analysis of the impact of ability on measured outcomes such as earnings…

Fourth, the book fails due to a lack of coherence. (Heckman) Heckman methodically states the reason for why the book fails and then goes into detail on each. In “IQ Since The Bell Curve” Christopher F. Chabris, argues that Herrnstein and Murray are completely correct in their reasoning. Chabris disputes Gould’s “Critique of The Bell Curve” and his ideas on the very existence and coherence of general intelligence. When talking about Gould’s argument that researchers operated under racist assumptions, Chabris eclares, “Insofar as the charge is meant to include figures like Herrnstein and Murray, it is absurd as well as malicious” (Chabris). He then goes onto unhinge his own argument by making a very bold statement that may disturb the educated reader. He argues against Gould over whether mental test scores correlate with each other but also with other measures of information processing efficiency, Chabris concludes by saying, “Even brain size, the study of which is richly derided by Gould, has been found with modern imaging technology to correlate with IQ” (Chabris).

Right then and there, the argument forThe Bell Curve truly loses its steam. To say something so absurd and even false takes away all credibility from Chabris’ previously reliable argument. Herrnstein and Murray argue the idea that IQ testing predicts the successes of the individual in the future and that despite social programs, poor people are going to fail because of their low intelligence.

As a result of the examinations of Gould’s, The Bell Curve, researchers Lemann, Heckmann, and Chabris, suggest that the book’s evidence is less than convincing. Works Cited Chabris, Christopher F. “IQ Since ‘The Bell Curve. ”’ August 1998. November 23, 2008. . Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man. Heckman, James J. “Cracked Bell. ” March 1995. November 23, 2008. . Lemann, Nicholas. “The Bell Curve Flattened. ” January 19, 1997. November 23, 2008. .