You may recall Martin Cothran from our fight over whether Pat Buchanan is a racist and a Holocaust denier, and from his guest-blogging gigs at the Discovery Institute, and through his other attempts to abuse logic for partisan purposes. Not content to push creationism with the Disco. ‘Tute and other forms of evangelical Christianity through Kentucky’s affiliate of Focus on the Family, he now is promoting Charles Murray’s eugenic pap.

Murray, for those who don’t recall, was a co-author of The Bell Curve, a book widely criticized as racist and eugenic in its implications. Murray and co-author Herrnstein argued that IQ stratifies in society, implicitly argue that these differences are hereditary and imply that they are genetic, and rely on research funded by a racist, eugenicist, hate group to argue that black people are inherently dumber than whites. Stephen Jay Gould responded at length in a re-issue of The Mismeasure of Man, which demonstrated the futility of IQ testing, and the inherent flaws in attempting to claim that IQ can be treated as a trait principally driven by genetic inheritance.

Murray continues his argument that intelligence (as measured by the single metric of IQ) is inherent and unavoidable. He recently applied it to Jews, claiming that centuries of oppression, restriction to financial and mercantile careers, and a tradition of education all resulted in selection for higher-IQ genes (repeating and seeking to justify miscellaneous anti-Semitic stereotypes along the way).

Cothran’s post praises a column by Murray in which he re-hashes the discredited argument from his year-old book Real Education, in which he claims that some people are just too dumb to bother teaching, let alone sending to college.

It should be noted that this argument runs counter to the argument offered in his piece on Jews, where he claims that mandatory education exerted an influence which, over the long run, increased the community’s IQ.

What Murray’s work always ignores is the fact that culture matters. Being raised in a community that values the role of scholarship to society is an important factor, and while it probably doesn’t do much to the genetics, it makes a big difference for achievement.


  1. #1 Katharine
    October 27, 2009

    I’m someone who has an interest in intelligence and is planning on researching the genetics of it in graduate school.

    I’ve read bits of The Bell Curve and things related to it; while the fact that The Bell Curve has at least portions funded by racist scumbags is disgusting, there has been some research out by people such as Bruce Lahn (who’s received death threats for doing this) that has said that, for example, right now the average IQ in African Americans is below that of the average IQ of European Americans.

    Which is not to say that that difference is genetic, and that an average should be applied to the individual.

    Not only do experiences shape the development of one’s brain; children from different economic backgrounds fare differently on tests, but also, epigenetics has an influence; environmental influences can regulate the expression of certain genes at any one time (I don’t know if they can go so far as to mutate them; I doubt it).

    And generalizing from the average to an individual is a stupid thing to do.

    There are certainly statistical differences, but they do not have the implications white supremacists so desperately desire.

  2. #2 Xenu, Lord of Darkness
    October 28, 2009

    Cothran misrepresented the research discussed above in one of his blog posts about global warming. Unfortunately, the response by the authors of the paper came long after Cothran misrepresented the research on his blog.

    Cothran is often quoted in Kentucky’s press; he fancies himself an scholar on a number of issues he has no real expertise in. Even the “conservatives” in the state legislature that use him and his organization’s followers laugh at him behind his back. Alas, the politicians use the (Focus on the) Family Foudation at every opportunity.

    Currently, he is upset that Ky’s gov is using the term “Holiday Tree” instead of “Christmas Tree.” A lot of ink is about to be spilled in KY about this one. So what if using a religious term might result in an unwinnable and expensive lawsuit from American Atheists. This is about to be a huge issue in the press while the public ignores state budget shortfalls and an increasing unemployment rate in KY.

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