cover image The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America

. Basic Books, $16 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-465-00693-9

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 Alan Wolfe even doubts that an ``economic class structure has been replaced by a cognitive'' one.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. (May)