The Bell Curve: Revisited - or rather Revised?
For a number of years now, a disagreement has smoldered regarding the role of IQ in American society. The Bell Curve, written in 1994 by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray presents a compelling case that America's social problems such as violent crime, drug abuse etc. are primarily attributable to low-IQ as it was demonstrated to be a much stronger predicter than socio-economic status, education level of one's parents and numerous other factors traditionally blamed for America's problems.
I must admit that for a long time after reading the book, I shared the belief that IQ must be where to look for the answers to America's problems. After years of accumulating additional knowledge of considerable variety, I can no longer say the answers to our problems are likely to be found there.
Like other things I have discovered in my travels over the years, the conclusions in The Bell Curve are compelling but do not exactly hit the target in my opinion. IQ has sometimes been likened to clock-speed in a modern computer - some chips "fire" their electrical impulses quicker and therefore are capable of operating at considerably higher levels of productivity. While there is room for the possibility that human brains differ in architecture because of genetic code, research has revealed in recent years much of the structure of our brains is shaped and determined by our "programming".
One of the most difficult to accept assertions of The Bell Curve was that different ethnic groups of people (I do not use "race" here as I believe we are only one race of human beings.) possess significantly different levels of IQ. The book asserted that the highest IQ's belonged to Jews, Asians and Caucasians next, followed by Hispanics and lastly Blacks. The book used significant research and controlled for many different supposed factors for predicting a variety of social ills in our country and concluded low-IQ was far and away the most reliable.
How can such extensive research and considerable work by two Harvard professors - work and research that generated very compelling conclusions - possibly be wrong? The conclusion that Jews have the highest IQ's on the planet and that Blacks have the lowest is extremely difficult for many people to accept. But our willingness to accept something has little to do with whether or not it is real - and reality shows us that American prisons are disproportionately populated by Blacks which shows a direct correlation between low-IQ and high likelihood of crime punishable by incarceration.
But does this show that the low-IQ is the cause of criminal behavior? I believe where the work of these two brilliant men departs from reality is where it links IQ to genetic predisposition and thereby diminishes or even destroys hope for significant change for better social results.
But if IQ is not really driving these statistics as it appears from the research in The Bell Curve, what could be the driving force instead? I propose the real culprit involved in generating these statistics, and the real driving force in society is the "cultural story" a person hears in their life from the time they first learn to understand language throughout their formative process.
The IQ extremes provide an opportunity to test this theory. Among Jews, the group possessing the highest IQ's, what is the cultural "story" that is told a child growing up in a Jewish household? Is it not likely a Jewish child will hear with considerable regularity that Jews are "the chosen people of God"? And by extension, how might that shape the development of the person? Is hearing that you are "God's chosen people" not an incredibly de-limiting, empowering cultural "story" with which to associate oneself?
So how about those with the lowest IQ's? I was given a glimpse of what Black children are hearing in their homes by Jesse Jackson's daughter while she was offering commentary on a television program in the summer of 2012. In reply to a remark by the television host, Ms Jackson replied "Well, we have 400 years of slavery we are dealing with here." This seemed indicative of the cultural "story" that dominates a child's upbringing in the American Black family - and the hyphenation to African-American will do nothing to diminish this self-destructive, debilitating narrative.
Research continues to emerge that tells us our "stories" have remarkable power to shape us. Perhaps it is time to dump the garbage of self-limiting stories and replace them with something offering greater hope for prosperity in the future.