"The Bell Curve," a book that claims intelligence is a genetically linked characteristic of race, is scientifically flawed, a panel of scholars and testing experts said this week.
In a symposium at Howard University in Washington, D.C., scholars said the book fails to present a scientifically balanced view and then uses faulty conclusions to justify suggested changes in the way society deals with the poor.
"The book uses data selectively and then ignores any data that contradicts its point of view," said Nancy Cole, president of Educational Testing Service.
Written by Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein, "The Bell Curve" was published in October and created instant controversy. The book analyzes IQ scores and socioeconomic status and concludes that economic success is directly linked to measurable intelligence.
It also concludes that intelligence is largely controlled by inheritance, that blacks score about 15 points below whites on IQ tests, and that this difference controls destiny and is unchangeable through life. Accordingly, the book suggests that efforts through social programs to improve lives are doomed because the poor are too dumb to climb out of poverty.
All of these points are wrong, according to Stephen Jay Gould, professor of zoology at Harvard University.
He said even the statistical analysis in the book used a technique that failed to take into account individual differences within a group and, thus, could contort the conclusions. Gould said the book also was wrong in assuming that intelligence could be accurately represented by tests, that people can be accurately rated by such tests, and that measured IQ is unchanged through life or through circumstances of culture, training or experience.
"This is a one-dimensional study based on a single data set," said Gould. "They have bamboozled everybody."