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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Responses to Charles Murray's Human Diversity

The New Republic's Alex Shepherd has a response to the publication of Charles Murray's just-published book: Charles Murray Is Never Going Away - The author of "The Bell Curve" has a new book about race and genetics—because of course he does.

He begins by referencing the Sam Harris - Ezra Klein debate which I have previously discussed:
Two years ago, the atheist Sam Harris told Ezra Klein that Charles Murray was cancel culture’s patient zero. The co-author of 1994’s controversial The Bell Curve, which contained a chapter arguing that genetics caused blacks to have lower IQs than whites, was really a victim of political correctness, Harris said. “When I did read [The Bell Curve] and did some more research on him, I came to think that he was probably the most unfairly maligned person in my lifetime,” Harris said. “IQ is not one of my concerns and racial differences in IQ is absolutely not one of my concerns, but a person having his reputation destroyed for honestly discussing data—that deeply concerns me.”
It was a clever rhetorical trick, one frequently employed by those defending the allegedly canceled. The substance of Murray’s work was immaterial—what really mattered is that he was being silenced for pursuing “scientific” inquiry. Never mind that Murray isn’t a geneticist or biologist. Or, for that matter, that Murray’s findings have been thoroughly debunked. Or that they repeatedly cited Mankind Quarterly, which Charles Lane, writing in The New York Review of Books, described as “a notorious journal of ‘racial history’ founded, and funded, by men who believe in the genetic superiority of the white race.” The real problem was that people were pointing out that Murray’s work was based on shoddy evidence and racist journals and thus should not be taken seriously.   
Meanwhile Eric Turkheimer, whose work is cited in Murray's book, says he plans to do a series of blog posts on his responses to Murray's book. The first one was posted today and it's very good. I'm looking forward to more.

(excerpt) 
 think there are several reasons to avoid outrage in responses to the book. One that happens to pertain to me is that my ideas and research figure in the narrative, and Murray treats my work with respect even as he disagrees with it, which I acknowledge and appreciate. (Looking ahead, in the section on polygenic scores he sets up a “Turkheimer-Plomin” debate, and while conceding that in the middle rounds I am ahead on points, declares me the loser anyway, based on scientific advances that he is sure are going to occur in the next decade. More on that later.)
The more important reason to remain calm in the face of Murray’s assertions of biologically fixed differences across gender, class and race is that outrage only feeds into the scientific right’s preferred narrative about this subject, which is that most scientists recognize that the hereditarian position is correct, but refuse to admit it either because they are blinded by their own liberal prejudices, or cowed by oppressive SJW culture on today’s campus.
This is the stance Murray adopts in the Introduction. He says there is an orthodoxy in the Academe, consisting of three tenets: Gender is a social construct, race is a social construct, and class is a function of privilege. Any discussion of the biology underlying these things, he asserts, is met with contempt and exclusion from the community:

It is possible to survive on a university campus without subscribing to the orthodoxy. But you have to be inconspicuous, because the simplistic version of the orthodoxy commands the campus’s high ground. It is dangerous for a college faculty member to say openly in articles, lectures, faculty meetings, or even in casual conversations that biology has a significant role in creating differences between men and women, among races, or among social classes. Doing so often carries a price. That price can be protests by students, denial of tenure-track employment for postdocs, denial of tenure for assistant professors, or reprimands from the university’s administrators.
This picture of the PC-dominated college campus where biology is anathema is repeated so often that it is easy to assume that it must be true, but it has never made any sense to me. Are the social sciences really dominated by environmentalists? Galton, who more or less invented social science, was a hereditarian. Most of the major early theorists of genetics and intelligence were followers of Galton and hereditarians. (Murray cites John Watson, of all people, whose radical behaviorism is about as uninfluential right now as it is possible for an idea to be.) The dominant social scientists of the middle part of the century, the Cattells and the Eysencks, were hereditarians. Arthur Jensen had a pretty good run. Today, behavior genetics is a well-established part of most psychology departments in the country. Robert Plomin is among the top 5 most cited living psychologists, and was awarded the American Psychological Association’s highest award for lifetime achievement. Modern psychiatry is completely dominated by genetics and neuroscience. Do you have the sense that GWAS of behavior has been suppressed lately? You can’t get away from it. Neuroscience, if anything, is even more dominant that genetics in the modern behavioral sciences. People who still try to deny that genes or brains have anything to do with human behavior are the outcasts, not the behavior geneticists and neuroscientists.