Friday, June 4, 2021

Herrnstein and Murray Have a Lot to Answer For

Back in the 1990s, a book titled The Bell Curve, authored by psychologist Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray, ignited a firestorm... one of the central themes of the book is that there are racial gaps in IQ, with Asians being slightly smarter than non-Hispanic Whites, and non-Hispanic Whites being smarter than Blacks.  I'm going to get out in front of this by claiming that I believe the whole concept of IQ is bullshit, and that intelligence is a fuzzy concept, one which really can't be measured.  I mean, if I were dropped by parachute into a community of, say, Kapauku Papuans, I'd probably be considered the village idiot, at least until I learned how to interact with the environment.  Hell, I would define 'intelligence' pretty much as the ability to interact with one's environment, and the ability to switch between environments.  For a measured, humane look at the concept of racial-based intelligence, the late, great science-populizer Stephen Jay Gould is the go-go guy.

At any rate, the book was celebrated by right-wingers as a politically incorrect reality check to counter liberal policies which fostered population growth of 'the wrong people'.  It gave the veneer of 'SCIENCE!' to racism. and is trundled out to bolster racist claims even to this day.

Now, here's why I am bringing up this book, this manifesto which was basically character assassination against an entire race of people- in the 1990s, the NFL based brain injury claims on a model which assumed that Black players started out with lower cognitive function.  You read that correctly- monetary settlements for traumatic brain injuries were lowered because of an assumption that Black players weren't as brainy as White players.  It's very suggestive to me that this model was created right around the time The Bell Curve was released, and the racist model just happened to align with the financial interests of a league which sought limits to financial liabilities for player injuries.

The whole thing is monstrous, and thankfully the bad policy which the NFL had in place is being discontinued.  The poisonous effect of The Bell Curve will pollute our social and political discourse for years, but hopefully, this will increasingly be limited to the fringes, rather than such national organizations as the NFL.


Anathema Device said...

I told my husband about "race-norming" this morning and he flat out refused to believe that such a thing could be legally done in America.

I wish I was that naive :(

bowtiejack said...

Good stuff.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I told my husband about "race-norming" this morning and he flat out refused to believe that such a thing could be legally done in America.

Underestimating the extent of racism in the US is usually a losing bet, I'm sorry to say.

Good stuff.

Thanks, it's rough stuff.