The Bell Curve

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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. 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...
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