IQ, Race and Policy

October 21, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

Washington -- Here we go with another orgy of articles and debates about another book about IQ, genes and the supposed inherent superiority of whites and some other races, compared with the inherited intellectual inferiority of black people.

Over my lifetime, in every decade or so I've seen some arrogant ''social scientist'' who claims expertise in the bogus science of psychometry arouse the nation with the oft-repeated assertion that black people are 15 IQ points dumber than white people.

Nobel Prize winner William Shockley stirred a storm when he endorsed paying people with low IQs to be sterilized, and creating a bank of the sperm of geniuses -- presumably to create a super race.

I remember the uproar in 1969 when Arthur Jensen wrote that educational programs (such as Head Start) targeted mostly at black youngsters were doomed to fail because of the low IQs of black children. He helped create today's popular conservative mindset that says all programs to lift America's underclass are a waste of money because ''you can't help 'em.''

Now we get a book by Charles Murray and the late Richard J. Herrnstein that drones on and on about ''differences in intellectual capacity among people and groups'' and asks us to believe that America's social problems arise from the inherent inferiority of some of our citizens.

These pseudo-scientists seek to convince us that anti-social behavior, such as the high black crime rate, has little or nothing to do with 300 years of oppression, or poverty, or bad schooling, but is a product of lower intelligence.

Messrs. Shockley, Jensen and even Herrnstein a generation ago were ridiculed and castigated by other scientists, sociologists, columnists and other Americans. But this new book is more widely accepted today because of the deepening racial polarization that hangs over America like an ominous storm cloud.

Messrs. Murray and Herrn stein have written an excuse for the white majority to adopt public policies that otherwise would be regarded as unconscionable. They offer a jacket apologia saying: ''We are not indifferent to the ways in which this book, wrongly construed, might do harm.''

I suppose they are mindful of the ways in which Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitism and his declarations of Aryan supremacy helped turn Nazi Germany into a monster. But it has long been obvious that Mr. Murray is trying to use ''scientific'' assertions of black inferiority to change public policy in America. He created a media sensation months ago with his assertion that white girls are having illegitimate babies in rates approaching that of ''less intelligent'' black girls, and that to save America, Congress must wipe out the welfare system.

It seems justifiable to imprison millions of young black men for even trifling offenses if you believe they are genetically inclined to criminal behavior.

It becomes easier to oppose college diversity programs allocating scholarships to blacks if you believe the money is better spent on whites who presumably have higher IQs.

Emphasizing the claim that blacks ''on average'' are 15 points less intelligent than whites gives a big boost to those who oppose affirmative-action programs in government agencies, private corporations and other establishments. Minds of white employees can whirl with the assumption that, statistically, the black person getting a good job has taken it from some white person who is more intelligent.

Messrs. Murray, Jensen, Shockley and others have recoiled at charges that they are racists. But the impact of their ''psychometry'' is to move a society toward treating people as superior or inferior groups and races, not as individuals.

The Murray-Herrnstein book is just another curse upon an

already troubled America.

8, Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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