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The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America (New Republic Book) Paperback – April 7, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of articles by 19 journalists and academics represents a mostly effective counterattack against Richard Herrnstein's and Charles Murray's controversial bestseller, The Bell Curve. Stephen Jay Gould leads off by refuting the earlier book's central argument: that racial differences in IQ are due mostly to genes. Howard Gardner adds that East Asian examples show that culture, not genetics, is key. Alan Wolfe even doubts that an "economic class structure has been replaced by a cognitive" one. Some contributors offer useful context: Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes that The Bell Curve appeared in a time of diminished liberalism, Randall Kennedy observes that its prominence stems from problems in our market-driven intellectual culture and Jacqueline Jones tartly scores its authors' "wide-eyed, romantic view of the past." Several authors?including Mickey Kaus, Martin Peretz and Leon Wieseltier?reprise pieces from a New Republic issue devoted to The Bell Curve. This collection, unfortunately, has the flaws of a rush job: the contributors, notably the conservative Thomas Sowell, do not respond to each other. (Sowell criticizes the genetics argument but believes that Herrnstein and Murray demolished double standards regarding college admissions and "race norming" on employment tests.) Moreover, this book could have used a solid postmortem on the press coverage and hype surrounding The Bell Curve's publication.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Fraser, the vice president and executive editor of Basic Books, has gathered individual pieces from some 20 contributors, well-known professionals ranging, alphabetically, from Howard Gardner to Alan Wolfe. In his introduction, Fraser avers that "taken together [these essays] comprise a powerful antidote to a work [Richard Hernstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, Free Pr., 1994] of dubious premises and socially alarming preductions." Joint essayists Jeffrey Rosen and Charles Lane's representative position is that "The Bell Curve deserves critical attention, not public smearing and uncritical private acceptance." The critical attention as expressed throughout this collection is stimulating, reasoned, lively, and challenging. An excellent and thoughtful compendium; highly recommended for an academic and general audience. [An interview with Steven Fraser appears on p. 103.?Ed.]?Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology Lib., Alfred.
-?Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology Lib., Alfred,
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: New Republic Book
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; English Language edition (April 7, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465006930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465006939
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

192 of 222 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Wren on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I find it dissapointing when scientists and intellectuals take to the rhetoric when they see an idea they don't agree with or that disturbs them. I really wanted to see some research results, but the best this book seems to offer is citations of other authors who do not agree with Herrnstein & Murray and opinions on possible reinterpretations of some of the Bell Curve data. Some authors don't seem like they really read the book thoroughly, or at least are overstating H&M's argument. There is the standard sort of politically correct pretentiousness here:
1) Claim the writers have a bias (no need to prove you don't) 2) Talk about how statistics can be used selectively (no need to prove they were) 3) Talk about how racism has been cloaked as science before (no matter that these references are not to the Bell Curve) 4) Remind people that correlation does not equal causation (the only useful point in the book, but they don't offer much besides this cautionary statement) 5) Remind people that intelligence is composed of more than one part (even if true, that doesn't mean that generalizations can't be made about *overall* intelligence) 6) Insist intelligence cannot be adequately measured (Gould's favorite theme, joined with #5 above, which is more of an opinion than a fact. Intuitively, we all have met people that we characterize as 'smarter' or 'dumber' than average. Gould would have us believe that this opinion could never be put in numbers)
I wouldn't waste my money or time on this book, unless you're a liberal and you want to hear some left-leaning messages to make you feel better.
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58 of 67 people found the following review helpful By R. Michaels on December 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
"The Bell Curve Wars" (BCW) is a collection of short essays that argue against Murray and Herrnstein's controversial book "The Bell Curve" (TBC). I think that if you read TBC you should read some of the criticism, and BCW has contributions from mostly eminent people. BCW makes several good points, though if you read TBC carefully Murray and Herrnstein conceded many of those points too. BCW also makes some unfair accusations. I particularly did NOT like the accusation that TBC was hateful and racist. This is not only inaccurate but dishonest since it amounts to using scare tactics to argue a point. There is also a somewhat absurd argument that intelligence is unmeasureable. Well, we measure it all the time. I've sat on committees to hire people in high-tech jobs, and we can normally arrive at a consensus of the relative IQs of the applicants, though this isn't always the decisive factor.
While TBC was only partially about race, this is the hot button issue and the focal point of criticism. BCW makes the good point that we cannot tell for sure what causes the observed average IQ differences, so environment might cause most of it. It is also plausible that hundreds of years of slavery and subsequent discrimination has some residual effect. Therefore it is reasonable to seek cost-effective methods to correct this. This is ultimately a political judgement and the gamble is acceptably small if the programs are sufficiently cheap.
With all the discussion in TBC and BCW, the main outcome has to be: What do we do about social problems ? What are the appropriate government policies and social lessons ? At least TBC presents some ideas, some of which are pretty good, e.g. fathers should stay home with their children until they are grown up. That is a cultural problem, and solving it will make a big impact. The most disappointing aspect of BCW is that it proposes hardly any new ideas of its own. It is basically anti-TBC, hence nothing new and not very interesting.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robby on February 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
I was forced to undertake several readings from this text as part of the college course SOCO-212-03 (American Social Problems) and it is a major disappointment to any reasonably intelligent person with critical thinking skills.

As is often the case with my social science professors, this text simply ignores what it holds to be invalid or else relies almost exclusively on empty rhetoric and conjecture to supply argumentation. It is both sad and pathetic. I personally find it very disturbing that anyone involved in academia could get the idea that including this pile of nonsense in scholarly pursuits is a good idea.

To other students out there who are in the same boat as I was: Read it and regurgitate to the point of being able to preserve your GPA, then forget it. Stuff like this is not worthy of your cost per credit hour. TRUST ME!

To all others: Again, there is not much value here unless you are the type that has an agenda which matches the author, but I must say if you are looking for material to feed your obsession with worshiping the Obama administration, there is far more convincing propaganda out there than this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DJ MichaelAngelo on November 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
I tried to give this book a fair shake, even though its Introduction made it pretty clear that this Steven Fraser character had a preconceived notion of exactly which side of the fence he was on, and had no interest in collecting editorials from writers who did not share his own (inaccurate) opinion. I made it about 1/3 way through the collection of chapters (the most even-handed and rational one being "Ethnicity And IQ" by Thomas Sowell) before my journey was abruptly terminated by the baffling ludicrous ramblings of Jacqueline Jones. This was one of these tirades you'd expect to read on a lawyer blog, or ACLU fansite....I don't even have to look at a picture of this nut to guess her race. Probably a feminist too, "equal opportunity" crusader, activist, and ready to jump down anyone's throat at the defense of any (real or imagined) long-suffering minority group out there. Just your typical hand-wringing, bleeding heart liberal with all the light-heartedness & fun of an engineer. I mean shoot, the essay title itself "Back To The Future With The Bell Curve: Jim Crow, Slavery, And G" is enough to instantly alert you to what kind of a personality this Jacqueline Jones lady really is. I managed to finish her ridiculous tirade, but that was enough to make me stop reading right there. I get it that people are emotional about this issue, but the authors of "The Bell Curve" put YEARS of their life to create 100's upon 100's of pages, and more facts, statistics, numbers, and research than you can shake a stick at. Most of these chapter authors in THIS book however, didn't even come CLOSE to being able to refute the cold hard evidence - they just bellyached about how un-PC it is, and unfair, etc, etc. A lot of whining, but very little else.
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The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America (New Republic Book)
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