Herrnstein & Murray's The Bell Curve is a deeply controversial text that raises serious issues about the stakes involved in reasoning and interpretation.
The authors’ central contention is that intelligence is the primary factor determining social outcomes for individuals – and that it is a better predictor of achievement than income, background or socioeconomic status. One of the major issues raised by the book was its discussion of 'racial differences in intelligence,' and its contention that there is a link between the low observed test scores and social outcomes for African-Americans and their lack of social attainment.
While the authors produce and interpret a great deal of data to back up their contentions, they ultimately fail to tackle the problem that neither 'intelligence' nor 'race' have widely accepted definitions in biology, anthropology or sociology. In consequence, the book has been termed both ‘racist’ and ‘pseudoscientific’ thanks to what its critics see as both its faulty reasoning and its uncautious interpretation of evidence. The debate continues to this day, with academics on both sides engaged in fierce arguments over what can be argued from the data that Herrnstein and Murray used.
Ways in to the Text
Who were Herrnstein and Murray?
What does The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life Say?
Why does The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Making the ideas of the world’s great thinkers accessible, affordable, and comprehensible to everybody, everywhere.
With a growing list of over 180 titles across a broad range of subject areas, Macat works with leading academics from the world’s top universities to produce new analyses that focus on the ideas and the impact of the most influential works ever written. By setting them in context – and looking at the influences that shaped their authors, as well as the responses they provoked – Macat encourages readers to look at these classics and game-changers with fresh eyes.