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The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

3.9 out of 5 stars 345 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0029146736
ISBN-10: 0029146739
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Michael Novak National Review Our intellectual landscape has been disrupted by the equivalent of an earthquake.

David Brooks The Wall Street Journal Has already kicked up more reaction than any social?science book this decade.

Peter Brimelow Forbes Long-awaited...massive, meticulous, minutely detailed, clear. Like Darwin's Origin of Species -- the intellectual event with which it is being seriously compared -- The Bell Curve offers a new synthesis of research...and a hypothesis of far-reaching explanatory power.

Milton Friedman This brilliant, original, objective, and lucidly written book will force you to rethink your biases and prejudices about the role that individual difference in intelligence plays in our economy, our policy, and our society.

Chester E. Finn, Jr. Commentary The Bell Curve's implications will be as profound for the beginning of the new century as Michael Harrington's discovery of "the other America" was for the final part of the old. Richard Herrnstein's bequest to us is a work of great value. Charles Murray's contribution goes on.

Prof. Thomas J. Bouchard Contemporary Psychology [The authors] have been cast as racists and elitists and The Bell Curve has been dismissed as pseudoscience....The book's message cannot be dismissed so easily. Herrnstein and Murray have written one of the most provocative social science books published in many years....This is a superbly written and exceedingly well documented book.

Christopher Caldwell American Spectator The Bell Curve is a comprehensive treatment of its subject,never mean-spirited or gloating. It gives a fair hearing to those who dissent scientifically from its propositions -- in fact, it bends over backward to be fair....Among the dozens of hostile articles that have thus far appeared, none has successfully refuted any of its science.

Malcolme W. Browne The New York Times Book Review Mr. Murray and Mr. Herrnstein write that "for the last 30 years, the concept of intelligence has been a pariah in the world of ideas," and that the time has come to rehabilitate rational discourse on the subject. It is hard to imagine a democratic society doing otherwise.

Prof. Eugene D. Genovese National Review Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray might not feel at home with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Lani Guinier, but they should....They have all [made] brave attempts to force a national debate on urgent matters that will not go away. And they have met the same fate. Once again, academia and the mass media are straining every muscle to suppress debate.

Prof. Earl Hunt American Scientist The first reactions to The Bell Curve were expressions of public outrage. In the second round of reaction, some commentators suggested that Herrnstein and Murray were merely bringing up facts that were well known in the scientific community, but perhaps best not discussed in public. A Papua New Guinea language has a term for this, Mokita. It means "truth that we all know, but agree not to talk about." ...There are fascinating questions here for those interested in the interactions between sociology, economics, anthropology and cognitive science. We do not have the answers yet. We may need them soon, for policy makers who rely on Mokita are flying blind. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

The ability to manipulate information has become the single most important element of success. High intelligence is an increasingly precious raw material. But despite decades of fashionable denial, the overriding and insistent truth about intellectual ability is that it is endowed unequally. In this audio presentation of The Bell Curve, author Charles Murray explores the ways that low intelligence, independent of social, economic, or ethnic background, lies at the root of many of our social problems. He also discusses another taboo subject: that intelligence levels differ among ethnic groups. According to the authors, only by facing up to these differences can we accurately assess the nation's problems and make realistic plans to address them. However, if we accept that there are intelligence differences among groups, we must learn to avoid prejudicial assumptions about any individual of a given group whose intelligence level may be anywhere under the bell curve. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 876 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (September 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029146739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029146736
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (345 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Since you're reading this, I assume you're thinking of buying — or at least reading — this book. That being so, you'll probably want to read other reviews than mine. This is in principle a good idea; but having just read all of them (147 at the time of writing) I should warn you that you'll need both considerable stamina and a strong stomach: there are indeed thoughtful and informative reviews, but they are islands in a sea of drivel. By "drivel" I mean the following:

1) Reviews consisting entirely (or almost entirely) of expostulation rather than information ("racist garbage", "most important book of the 20th century")

2) Asserting what the book doesn't deny and denying what it doesn't assert.

3) Distortions of the book's content, and other disinformation, for instance:

- "the panel criticized the authors for not explaining what intelligence is" (intelligence is defined on page 4 (!) ).

- "The Bell Curve ignores bad diet" (Nutrition is explicitly dealt with on pp. 391-3).

And so on.

Many of the critics appear not merely to have misunderstood the book, but not even to have read it; amusingly, this is actually admitted in one review ("Although Head has only browsed through the book, she has seen this kind of pseudo-science before"). Some appear to be basing their argument upon the Moralistic Fallacy: if different groups had different average IQs for even partially genetic reasons, it would be a Bad Thing, and therefore that cannot possibly be the case.
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Format: Paperback
In reading the synopses above and the few negative reviews below, I have to wonder if their authors read the book in question, or merely the media hype. This book is not about "ethnicity and intelligence." It's not racism, nor even about race.

This book tries to show that A) people are becoming stratified according to intelligence (you go to school with, work with, and largely socialize with people of similar ability) and B) many of our social problems can be explained in terms of differences in intelligence (ie, in blunt terms, dumb people are more likely to commit crimes, etc.) They provide a huge base of data to support their thesis.

The authors have bent over backwards to try to avoid any hint of racism in their studies; the only place the issue even arises is when they report that blacks and Latinos have historically scored lower in IQ tests than have whites (Asians have scored higher), and that the claims of "cultural bias" are not supported by any data or studies. These details alone are enough to inflame the politically correct among us, unfortunately.

To portray this book as some type of white supremecist manifesto, you would have to have a strong agenda of your own, and totally disregard the content of the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought I knew a lot about the topic. I stand corrected.

IQ is the most scientific and mathematical concept in all of psychology.

Every test that somehow measures cognitive processing capacity strongly correlates with g, general intelligence.

Studies with sample sizes of tens and hundreds of thousands clearly showed that IQ is the best predictor of success in basically all professions. Attempts to devise other tests to predict job success did not work out, as IQ is the best predictor and explains more variance then all other factors together.

The book meticulously cites all research in foot notes, explain scientific concepts such as correlation and factor analysis. Still manages to be understandable to the educated layman.

The authors were aware that their scientific findings would be met with strong political resistance. They were right.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up "The Bell Curve" three years ago, and resolved to read it cover to cover, which I did. Quite a lot to absorb, but ultimately worth the time investment. I wouldn't suggest it for those who have less than a passing interest in race issues, since the authors took a measured and scientific approach to an otherwise emotional topic. This makes for a thoughtful but demanding read, which I believe is a far superior approach to the topic than a "jazzed up", rhetoric filled, pulp novel, written for popular consumption. However, this means that the book is slow and requires careful reading in order to fully get at what the authors are saying. Most importantly, contrary to popular belief, the book is not all about race. Rather, the majority of the book envolves analysis of race neutral studies. Approximately 20% of the book is actually dedicated to racial analysis, and it is my honest opinion, having read the book, that the authors took a good-faith approach to a controversial topic. I do not know if their analysis was correct, but I do know that the controversy was undeserved. The hype that surrounded this book was less about the authors work and more about our society's inability to come to grips with the issue of race. In the final analysis, all the book proved was that the issue of race is far more complex than the popular media would have you believe. If you really care about this topic, read this book. Really read it, and then think about it. Then, whether you are outraged or inspired, atleast you will have a leg to stand on when you quote/criticise the work.
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