Ring a Bell? Charles Murray and the Resurgence of Scientific Racism – TheHumanist.com

My latest for American Humanist Association 

Charles Murray is a political scientist infamous for being a co-author on The Bell Curve, a book from 1994, which claimed to scientifically prove White people were more intelligent than Black and Latin people. The book was financed by an organisation promoting eugenics. Moreover, the scientific community was swift to critique the data and interpretations in the book as scientific racism. 

In 2017 and the era of Trump, Murray finds a resurgence, with high-profile atheist author Sam Harris hosting Murray on his show for an uncritical celebration of Murray’s work. I discuss why both men’s statements on The Bell Curve are scientifically incorrect and discuss why Harris, as a prominent White male atheist who bemoans “political correctness” (that is, push back against racism), feels a close affinity with Murray’s work. 

Read more on The Humanist.

Ring a Bell? Charles Murray and the Resurgence of Scientific Racism – TheHumanist.com

End the Hero-Worship of Bigoted Scientists

Crowded lecture threatre with many people raising their hands to speak.

There is a troubling trend of famous scientists receiving increased attention to speak at academic events and on conservative media. In The Humanist, I recently wrote about the resurgence of political scientist Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve. The book has been universally critiqued as an example of modern-day scientific racism. Yet Murray is being embraced by right wing media personalities, as well as by research institutions. He was the focus of a student and faculty protest after being invited to give a talk.

Published in 1994, The Bell Curve was founded on a flawed premise that inferred a correlation between intelligence, socio-economic achievement, and genetics, without accounting for the effects of discrimination. The research was funded by the eugenics-promoting Pioneer Fund. Time has proven the book to be scientifically “reckless.” It enjoys a resurgence in 2017, the era of Trump, specifically because it is read as proof that White people are superior to racial minorities, especially Black and Latin people.

We can see a similar pattern in the renewed embrace of Dr James Watson. He is famous for being awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA along with Francis Crick, but they did so by stealing the work of a White woman scientist, Rosalind Franklin. Watson has also promoted scientific racism and sexism throughout his career, arguing that Black people are less intelligent and that women have no value in science careers. He also spread racist pseudoscience, saying there is a link between sunlight and increased libido. His reasoning: “That’s why you have Latin lovers.” He has further argued that thin people are more ambitious, and he subsequently validates that discrimination towards fat people is understandable. All of this, of course, is without any scientific evidence.

What message does his continued elevated status send to underrepresented and marginalised groups in academia?

Continue reading End the Hero-Worship of Bigoted Scientists

Why is an influential atheist author giving a platform to scientific racism? In my latest for American Humanist Association, I show why Charles Murray, infamous for being a co-author on the widely debunked book “The Bell Curve,” finds a new audience in the age of Trump. Below is an excerpt:

In a familiar trope, Murray uses the example of Barack Obama to deflect racism. He sets up a scenario where Obama walks into an interview:

“You need a really smart guy and Barack Obama walks into the interview. Okay he’s Black. If you then make inferences about how smart he is based on his membership in an ethnic group you are going to be making a huge mistake.”

Later, Murray evokes Obama to argue that “affirmative action” has made it near impossible for employers to hire someone like the 44th President of the United States.

“What social policy is doing in an employer’s mind when it is a Black candidate walking into that office, is all sorts of things that are raising the cost of hiring that person for that employer. Raising the cost in terms of vulnerability to discrimination lawsuits.”

And yet Murray says his writing was motivated by a need to speak out against affirmative action.

“A lot of that is, how would I feel if I were a Black kid my age going into college and everybody thought I was an affirmative action kid? I would hate that. I would really hate it.”

Murray will never know, because White men’s achievements are not restricted by structural racism.

Murray displays what Professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls “racism without racists.” White men like Murray are overly preoccupied with the belief that affirmative action is leading society to ruin, when in fact the biggest beneficiaries of this legislation have been White middle-class women—not racial minorities.

Read more on The Humanist.


[Image: drawing of a man drawing the bell curve on a blackboard. The title of the article is above the image, Ring a Bell? Charles Murray and the Resurgence of Scientific Racism.]