Today, Charles Murray’s latest book, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class was released. I won’t write a full review of the book here because there is a possibility that I will be writing one for a scholarly journal.
Having read the main text of the book, though, there are some thoughts that I think should be made public as this stage:
First, I don’t think anyone should be put off by the title. When Murray announced the book’s tentative title on Twitter, I reacted this way:
In reality, much of what Murray (2020) discusses is common knowledge among population geneticists, evolutionary psychologists, behavioral geneticists, neuroscientists, and differential psychologists. (To be fair, though, few people will have a strong grasp of every topic that Murray covers.) To those who are already familiar with the scientific research on these topics, the search for anything controversial in Human Diversity will be in vain.
This is not the first time Murray has tackled a controversial topic in an uncontroversial way. In the past, I have pointed out that The Bell Curve (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994) is not as inflammatory as its reputation would lead one to believe (Warne, Astle, & Hill, 2018). I’m afraid that Human Diversity may suffer a similar fate, mostly because any outrage or controversy will arise from people who are not acquainted with the relevant scholarly literature (or deny its basic empirical foundation). That’s a shame, because there is a lot of good information in Human Diversity (Murray, 2020) that would benefit society if more people were aware of it.
Second, Murray (2020) is incredibly fair to people who disagree with the central tenets of his book. Blank slatists (e.g., Jared Diamond), ideologically motivated scientists (e.g., Richard Lewontin), and the guardians of leftist orthodoxy (e.g., Angela Saini) are never discussed in demeaning of derogatory terms. Indeed, some of them get better treatment than they deserve. When they are wrong, Murray presents the data demonstrating such and moves on.
Finally, Murray (2020) is extremely cautious throughout the book. He is not proposing a sweeping new theory of human society, nor is Murray so in love with his ideas that he overlooks shortcomings. Suggestions and conclusions are based in the most solid research, and anything beyond that is clearly labeled as tentative. No one can accuse Murray of overreach.
I still have three appendices (totaling 36 pages) and 64 pages of scholarly notes to read. I need to sort through that information before I write a scholarly book review (if a journal will take one from me). But for most readers, the main text holds enough lessons to be highly informative.
Herrnstein, R. J., & Murray, C. (1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life. New York, NY: Free Press.
Murray, C. (2020). Human diversity: The biology of gender, race, and class. New York, NY: Twelve.
Warne, R. T., Astle, M. C., & Hill, J. C. (2018). What do undergraduates learn about human intelligence? An analysis of introductory psychology textbooks. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6, 32-50. doi:10.1037/arc0000038