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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 19, 2010 8:29:15 AM PST
Zeldock says:
After years of reading about "The Bell Curve" (including Stephen Jay Gould's critical New Yorker article), I finally got around to reading the book itself. I read the whole thing, including all the appendixes. It's clear that what people were so worked up about was not what this book says, but what they *thought* it says. What's the reality?

1. The book is very measured in its analyses and tentative in its conclusions.
2. Group differences in IQ are only one topic discussed, and far from the main topic.
3. The authors agree that the extent to which IQ is heritable is unknown. Their guess is 60%, but they make clear that that's only a guess. They also point out that even if IQ is 0% heritable, that wouldn't change that fact that people show IQ differences very early in life and so far no intervention program has been found capable of bringing about large, sustained IQ increases.
4. The authors also agree that early intervention might be able to close the black-white IQ gap, although the results so far have not been very promising.

It should also be noted that the American Psychological Association devoted an entire issue of its main journal to many of the foundational questions discussed in "The Bell Curve" and expressed agreement with Herrnstein and Murray's conclusions on those questions. (A summary of the APA's report was published in the Wall Street Journal and can be found on the Internet.)

Finally, it's also worth noting that in 2001, Oxford published "Intelligence" in its excellent "Very Short Introduction" series. That volume, by British psychologist Ian Deary, cites "The Bell Curve" several times as recommended reading. If you want to learn more about intelligence research but don't want to tackle "The Bell Curve," Deary's book would be a great choice (and it's worth reading in any event).

On the con side, Thomas Sowell's article on "The Bell Curve" is the best thing to read. (You can find it on the Internet.)

Posted on Oct 7, 2012 7:27:58 AM PDT
Cognition says:
I myself just got a copy and have been pouring through it. It looks like I'm going to end up at the same conclusions you did.

If someone agrees that IQ plays a big role in success, that heritability for IQ plays almost as much a role (if not more) as environment in shaping it, and that due to various factors people with various IQs are starting to stratify more and more, then the book shouldn't be that surprising.

At the same time, it's pretty chilling to reflect on the book's implications for class division in the century to come.

Posted on Oct 8, 2012 5:59:57 AM PDT
Zeldock says:
Regarding class division, when you're done with The Bell Curve you should consider reading Murray's latest book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which focuses on that topic.

Posted on Oct 26, 2012 7:53:02 PM PDT
Cognition says:
I'm definitely going to check it out the moment it's available in paperback.

I just finished reading Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality and that turned out to be a simple yet powerfully consequential book.

Murray has given some very excellent interviews regarding Coming Apart that I couldn't help but watch over a dozen times:

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2014 7:39:08 PM PDT
Andrew Smith says:
Normally not a fan of the Very Short Intro series but since you recommended the one on intelligence I'll check it out.

Good summary of why The Bell Curve isn't what critics said it was by the way.

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2014 8:02:07 AM PDT
Zeldock says:
Thanks! I hope you like the Very Short volume. If you have the time and the inclination, Earl Hunt's Human Intelligence, published in 2010, is a wonderful introduction that's far from very short.

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2014 3:39:36 AM PDT
Andrew Smith says:
Well now that you've recommended it I'll check that one out too!

Did research on the author (Earl Hunt) and given his knowledge in both tech and cognitive psychology, I think I need to meet this guy in person...
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Participants:  3
Total posts:  7
Initial post:  Dec 19, 2010
Latest post:  May 13, 2014

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The Bell Curve
The Bell Curve by Charles Murray (Hardcover - 1996)
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