October 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the most hated book in the history of the social sciences, the 845-page The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Charles Murray and the late Richard J. Herrnstein.
Back in 1994, innumerable pundits informed us that only low-IQ idiots like those haters Herrnstein and Murray were so repulsively stupid as to not know that smart people don’t believe in intelligence anymore. Or something. The critics weren’t wholly coherent, but their rage was clear. (As Freud noted, projection is a widespread tendency.)
One of the less vituperative denunciations by the many reviewers who likely hadn’t actually read the book was by “civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama.” The future president intoned on NPR in 1994:Read the whole thing there.The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. … With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell.Of course, the irony is that Obama’s fabulous career epitomizes the prime subject of The Bell Curve: the rise of a “cognitive elite” facilitated by standardized testing.