Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Bell Curve is Back

The author of the controversial book The Bell Curve is back with an article at OpinionJournal.com. He points out that there is a broad ditribution in every group, but that we can expect the overall contributions of groups to be different. Some of the more interesting quotes from the long article:
In the autumn of 1994, I had watched with dismay as "The Bell Curve" 's scientifically unremarkable statements about black IQ were successfully labeled as racist pseudoscience. At the opening of 2005, I watched as some scientifically unremarkable statements about male-female differences were successfully labeled as sexist pseudoscience.

Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

Several analyses have confirmed the genetic reality of group identities going under the label of race or ethnicity. In the most recent, published this year, all but five of the 3,636 subjects fell into the cluster of genetic markers corresponding to their self-identified ethnic group. When a statistical procedure, blind to physical characteristics and working exclusively with genetic information, classifies 99.9% of the individuals in a large sample in the same way they classify themselves, it is hard to argue that race is imaginary.

How much damage has the taboo done to the education of children? Christina Hoff Sommers has argued that willed blindness to the different developmental patterns of boys and girls has led many educators to see boys as aberrational and girls as the norm, with pervasive damage to the way our elementary and secondary schools are run. Is she right? Few have been willing to pursue the issue lest they be required to talk about innate group differences. Similar questions can be asked about the damage done to medical care, whose practitioners have only recently begun to acknowledge the ways in which ethnic groups respond differently to certain drugs.

Thus my modest recommendation, requiring no change in laws or regulations, just a little more gumption. Let us start talking about group differences openly--all sorts of group differences, from the visuospatial skills of men and women to the vivaciousness of Italians and Scots. Let us talk about the nature of the manly versus the womanly virtues. About differences between Russians and Chinese that might affect their adoption of capitalism. About differences between Arabs and Europeans that might affect the assimilation of Arab immigrants into European democracies. About differences between the poor and nonpoor that could inform policy for reducing poverty.

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