Underclass:Brighter than the liberals
IN 1994 Charles Murray, an American social scientist, co-authored
a book called The Bell Curve: Intelligence
and Class Structure in American Life. It was more than 800 pages long,
so not many people read it. But then somebody discovered that it was one
of the most politically incorrect books of the decade and it became a bestseller
The main thrust of the book's argument is that low intelligence lies at the root of America's social problems. Of course, the rest of the world has known about and been entertained by the low intelligence of Americans for years. Nothing new there. Any country populated from scratch by the poor, the fugitive and the illegitimate is bound to take a long time to get up to speed. America lags behind even Australia in this respect. And look at the Boers. They made virtually no progress at all in the brain department in almost 400 years and may even have gone backwards. More contentious than this, however, was the theme by Murray and Richard Herrnstein, his co-author, that inherited intelligence is more important for getting on in life than "environment". Better to be born smart and poor, they claimed, than rich and stupid. They got people's backs up, too, by their suggestion that the more stupid an American woman is, the more illegitimate children she is likely to have. (Having slept with few, if any, stupid American women, I wouldn't like to comment on that one.) Most shocking of all, however, was their contention that America's black people might be endowed with even less intelligence than the whites, which must be saying something.
Once our Left-liberals got to hear about this over dinner, of course, they started doing star jumps. One is permitted to assert that black people make better athletes or singers than white people. One may suggest, as Herrnstein and Murray do, that on the whole Asians have higher IQs than the whites. But even to put the phrases "black people" and "IQ test" in the same sentence is strictly verboten. For the amount of opprobrium they brought on themselves for this, Murray and Herrnstein might just as well have claimed that the Holocaust never happened and that at least Mussolini made the trains run on time.
Six years on, Left-liberals still remember Murray's malignant audacity. (Herrnstein died, so he's out of the firing line.) This is why the decision by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to share a platform with Murray last week at a debate entitled The Growing Threat of the Underclass, was greeted with a chorus of disapproval, along the lines that Straw should have been making out a warrant for Murray's immediate arrest, not sharing a jug of water with him in a lecture hall. "I deplore many of the views Mr Murray has espoused; but I also believe in argument," said Straw, obviously a raving fascist. They are so sweet, Left - liberals, when they get really, really angry, aren't they? I couldn't get down to the news agents fast enough to see what The Guardian would say about Murray's visit. "What debate can one have about such manifest and malign claptrap?" wondered Francis Wheen, the big gun wheeled out by the newspaper.
As he warmed to his theme, Wheen became so apoplectic with moral indignation about Straw's attendance at the lecture, he drew his sword and threw away the scabbard. Charles Murray was a man with a "lamentably inadequate brain," he sneered. The Sunday Times (which sponsored the debate) was an "absurd and half-witted newspaper". And Wheen, a recent biographer of Karl Marx, went on to quote Orwell's remark: "There are certain things one has to be an intellectual to believe, since no ordinary man could be so stupid." And so on. It was splendid stuff.
As a former dustman, I only had one small quibble with Wheen's polemic. If the worst thing he can think of to say about other people is that they are thick, he really ought to get out more. He might, then realise that there are millions of perfectly happy people out here, myself included, by the way, who are far more motivated by their genitals than by their brains and that not everybody is necessarily crushed by stinging rebukes such as these.
That's the trouble with intellectuals: they think the rest of us think like they do, when we don't. Which, in fact is the main point The Bell Curve tries to make. It is a warning against the polarisation of society into an increasingly powerful and therefore arrogant "cognitive elite" of which Wheen is clearly one - and the rest of us "half-wits". A timely warning too, I'd say.
Jeremy Clarke The Sunday Telegraph May 14 2000
If Jeremy is correct,then Auberon Waugh is on unsafe ground claiming intellectual superiority is enough to treat animals with contempt.No doubt all animals in the main are "driven by their genitals",and perhaps we inflate our capacity to do something more than being driven by our own. Jeremy suggests putting "black people" and IQ tests in the same sentence is verboten.How odd then that Mr Waugh chooses to use intellect as a means to showing man's superiority,when, race or species,making intellect the issue is verboten in the former case but allowable when it is only an animal one is subjugating. As John Allen Paulos shows,it is possible for there to be actual differences in a population, and thus on average for any set of people to be lower or higher is some respect judged by some standard or other.The question is who sets the standards? IQ tests it is suggested can be culturally biased,so that some race fairs better than another by default. In the case of animals,this is most certainly the case when they are required to accord with our standards of behaviour or intellectual capability.If we tried to create some standard which was not biased in our favour we perhaps would come put winning so easily. I doubt many people have the capacities of a Cephalopod for passing through small spaces,or the vocal capacities of whales to communicate across vast distances without the use of satellites and cell phones. If we use a value system biased in favour of intellectual ability,like the Bell Curve suggests,with animals there will be a noticeable difference between us and other organisms,because we are setting the standard of what "intelligence" means. The book has caused a rumpus because the fact is it may be true,but this is no reason to justify discrimination or create unfair standards.Much less so in the case of animals. Mr Waugh may limit his compassion to those things that have a brain size of comparative size to his own, if he did perhaps he would have more compassion for a cockroach. PC silliness has led to a situation where everything is seen as being the same or having the same value.Mr Waugh is living proof that not all of us have the same capacities,his humble friend of insect extraction,who curiously he would crush underfoot,is much more likely to survive than Mr Waugh and his anachronistic ideas.Mr Waugh is already in the throes of being deselected by Natural Selection,and the sheer fact that his paltry sour grapes bleating over those who measure their compassion on a less absurd scale than mere brain size is easily dealt with here demonstrates admirably how large a difference two bell curves can have even when comparing two human beings.