Review of Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray,
The Bell Curve
(Free Press, 1994)

By David Lethbridge, in People's Voice, March, 1995

For at least twenty-five years, Dr. Herrnstein pretended to be a scientist. The disguise apparently worked. There is no record that the administration of Harvard University, where he worked for so long, ever questioned the pretense. But Herrnstein was not a scientist; he was an apologist for racial inequality and class oppression. In the past, it might have been questioned whether he knew consciously that he was objectively a fascist propagandist. But with the publication of The Bell Curve, little doubt remains. The majority of Herrnstein's sources are the work of a cabal of pseudoscientists whose primary motive appears not to be scientific truth, but the advancement of a white supremacist and fascist agenda. In a 1971 article on the IQ (intelligence quotient), published in the prestigious US magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Herrnstein was already claiming that "the tendency to be unemployed may run in the genes of a family about as certainly as bad teeth do now. . . . As the wealth and complexity of human society grow, there will be precipitated out of the mass of humanity a low-capacity residue that may be unable to master the common occupations. . ."

Simply put, Herrnstein's claim is that the working class tends toward poverty because they are genetically inferior, and the exploiting class tends towards wealth because they are biologically superior. That the wealthiest individuals in industrialized western society are overwhelmingly white does not go unnoticed by Herrnstein: the genes of the upper class are the genes of white people, and so the language of class oppression and racism comes together in classic fascist style.

In the same article, Herrnstein reveals his support for the most naked forms of political reaction: "It is hard to argue that the "class struggle" can be resolved by a redistribution of wealth and capital, if it should turn out that something more than economics distinguishes the contending classes." Not only is Herrnstein scornful of the basis of socialist revolution, he is equally opposed to Jefferson and "the vision of a classless society [that] was the keystone of the Declaration of Independence."

Given this background, it comes as no surprise that The Bell Curve claims that class division is based on genetic differences, that black people are biologically inferior to whites, or that much of the basis for these claims arises from pro-fascist sources. Many of the scientists referred to by Herrnstein as authorities have been connected to a journal called Mankind Quarterly. The founder and editor of this journal, Robert Gayre, was a champion of apartheid and has stated his belief that blacks are worthless. Other prominent scientists associated with the journal have included the anti-Semite and racist Henry Garrett of the White Citizens Council, Corrado Gini, a leading biologist in Mussolini's Italy and author of The Scientific Basis of Fascism, and Ottmar von Verschuer, a mentor of Josef Mengele and a race scientist in Nazi Germany.

Even more significantly, Mankind Quarterly has been controlled by Roger Pearson for the last 25 years. Pearson was a leader of the pro-fascist Northern League, which included a number of former Nazi SS officials, and a member of the World Anti-Communist League, described by former member Geoffrey Stewart-Smith as a collection of "nazis, fascists, anti-Semites, and vicious racists."

The link between The Bell Curve and the racist and fascist group surrounding Mankind Quarterly is not accidental. Murray and Herrnstein acknowledge the guidance and literature of Richard Lynn, a professor of psychology in Northern Ireland. Lynn is an associate editor of Mankind Quarterly, whose work is cited in The Bell Curve no less than twenty-four times. Murray and Herrnstein note Lynn's assertion that the IQ of blacks in Africa is 70, at the low end of what is considered educably retarded. Although Lynn maintains that an IQ of 70 is a valid approximation of black IQ throughout Africa, it is based on a single 1989 study of 1000 sixteen-year-olds using the South African Junior Aptitude Test.

Furthermore, the actual author of this 1989 study was not Lynn but Dr. Ken Owen, who maintained explicitly that the results in no way suggested a biological inferiority of black people, but were the result of poorer education of black children under the racist system of apartheid. Yet both Lynn, and Murray and Herrnstein, insist on drawing racist implications from the Owen study, and from other such reports conducted under apartheid.

It is impossible in the context of a review to evaluate and refute the large body of tainted evidence that Murray and Herrnstein employ. But it is tainted. For example, they compare the IQ of less than 200 Japanese children with a sample of 64,000 Americans taken thirteen years earlier. The small sample of Japanese was not taken in any way which could be said to represent Japanese society as a whole, and the 13 year time difference between the studies was artificially adjusted by the distribution of extra statistical points. This is just plain bad science. And that is the fundamental point about The Bell Curve. The function of science is to reveal the truth, and all science worthy of the name serves the people as it serves the truth. What Murray and Herrnstein have done is the opposite of science. They have assembled a body of work by racists and fascists, by ideologues so committed to racialism that every difference noted between ethnic groups within racist societies, such as the U.S. and South Africa during apartheid, is almost automatically attributed to alleged biological inferiority rather than racial exclusion, enforced poverty, mass unemployment, poor education, and the many other forms of ruling class ideology and oppression.

The Bell Curve serves neither truth nor the people. Who then does it serve? Part of the answer lies in the fact that Mankind Quarterly is funded by the Pioneer Fund, established in 1937 by the U.S. millionaire Wickliffe Draper and other supporters of Nazi Germany. In the 1950s and '60s, the Pioneer Fund aligned itself with white racists opposed to education desegregation. Its leaders sat on the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee. Pioneer Fund money has supported such psychologists as Arthur Jensen and, in Canada, Philippe Rushton, both of whom claim that black people are genetically inferior to whites in intelligence, and the racist physicist William Shockley, who proposed a scheme to pay black people to have themselves voluntarily sterilized.

The long list of Pioneer Fund recipients is not restricted to individual racists and fascists. It also supports, among others, the Foundation of Human Understanding, and the American Immigration Control Federation. In the early 1970s, the Foundation of Human Understanding distributed hundreds of free copies of both Herrnstein's and Jensen's work to the registrars offices of colleges and universities across the U.S. in a blatant attempt to influence administration policy against the admittance of black students.

Like the American Immigration Control Federation, The Bell Curve concludes from its own unreliable sources that current North American immigration policies are destroying the intellectual gene pool of the nation. Murray and Herrnstein claim that recent immigration is composed largely of ethnic groups whose average IQ is said to be lower than white Americans. Such non-white immigration is "putting downward pressure on the distribution of intelligence." In the end, the hand is laid down and the cards are revealed: The Bell Curve advocates a restrictive policy against non-white immigration.

From the beginnings of the Pioneer Fund in the 1930s, to the publication of Murray and Herrnstein's present book, the message is the same: white people are the intellectual master race, America must be kept free of the genetic pollution of the Third World. Fascist violence is again on the rise in Canada, the US, and Europe. Fascist ideas are gaining increased respectability within the scientific community. The Bell Curve, and the vigorous marketing campaign that has made it somewhat of a bestseller, is an attempt to legitimize the social policies that make fascism possible.