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Since the flap about Paul Ryan’s remarks last week, elements of the blogosphere, and now Paul Krugman in The New York Times, have stated that I tried to prove the genetic inferiority of blacks in The Bell Curve.
The position that Richard Herrnstein and I took about the role of race, IQ and genes in The Bell Curve is contained in a single paragraph in an 800-page book. It is found on page 311, and consists in its entirety of the following text:
If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not justify an estimate.
That’s it. The four pages following that quote argue that the hysteria about race and genes is misplaced. I think our concluding paragraph (page 315) is important enough to repeat here:
In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of differences are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.
Our sin was to openly discuss the issue, not to advocate a position. But for the last 40 years, that’s been sin enough.
I’ll be happy to respond at more length to allegations of racism made by anyone who can buttress them with a direct quote from anything I’ve written. I’ll leave you with this thought: in all the critiques of The Bell Curve in particular and my work more generally, no one ever accompanies their charges with direct quotes of what I’ve actually said. There’s a reason for that.
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