Sully: Still Supporting Racism

Whenever folks try to rehabilitate Andrew Sullivan, he is quick to remind us why he is so detestable.

As for the "science" of the Bell Curve, see this:

''The Bell Curve'' inflamed readers when it was published three years ago by arguing that economic and social success in America had become largely a matter of genes, not education, environment or other factors over which society might exert control. The chilling genes-are-destiny thesis, laced with racial overtones, was greeted with furious criticism. But much of the initial criticism was ill informed and driven by ideology.

It could hardly have been otherwise. The book's authors, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, did not release their statistical findings -- the only important original contributions in the book -- for formal review by scholars before publication. Their runaround obstructed response by other social scientists, who needed time to appraise hundreds of pages of statistical analysis. Now, three years later, scholars have caught up, shattering the book's core claims.
. . . [T]he book's evidence is riddled with mistakes. Two stand out.

The first error flows from biased statistics. The book tries to determine whether I.Q. or family background is a better predictor of success. I.Q. is easily measured. But family background is not. The authors' simplistic index incorporates parental income, education and job prestige, but leaves out numerous components of a child's upbringing.

That creates a statistical mirage, or bias, because statistical tests inevitably underestimate the impact of factors that are hard to measure. Mistakes in measuring family background obliterate the ability of statisticians to detect its impact on future success. Thus, as James Heckman of the University of Chicago has convincingly argued, the book's finding that family background is a weak precursor of success reflects its biased methods rather than the workings of American society.

Also compelling is evidence about the second notable error -- that the authors' measure of intelligence is by no means immutable, as their thesis requires. Prof. Derek Neal of the University of Chicago and Prof. William Johnson of the University of Virginia have shown that scores on the measurement used by Mr. Herrnstein and Mr. Murray, the Armed Forces Qualification Test, depend on how much schooling individuals have completed. Put simply, the more students study in school, the better they do on the test. So what the authors call immutable intelligence turns out to be what others call skills -- indeed, teachable skills.

This mistake turns the message of the book on its head. Instead of its sighing surrender to supposed genetic destiny for poor children, there's a corrected message: Teach them.

Andrew Sullivan remains a shameful figure in our public discourse.

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  • Display: Sort:
    For more actual science (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 11:31:14 AM EST
    Until Sully recognizes he has issues (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 11:43:07 AM EST
    there is no way the blogosphere can rehabilitate him. I wonder what is corporate paymasters will have to say about his embracing the "The Bell Curve"?

    And James Watson's (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 11:54:12 AM EST
    outrageous statements.

    People who fall for people like (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 11:43:38 AM EST
    Andrew Sullivan remain shameful figures in our public discourse.

    Didn't he make a fool of himself (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by andgarden on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 12:43:11 PM EST
    in a fight he picked with you a couple of years ago over this?

    Lawrence Summers (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 12:48:00 PM EST
    He also defends sexism.

    Yup (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 12:50:43 PM EST
    Like many of his fellow "conservatives" (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by kovie on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 04:49:26 PM EST
    I view Sullivan not so much as a racist, warmonger, ideologue, etc. (although they certainly are all these and more), as I view him and them as idiots, liars and nuts, pretending to know what they're talking about when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. They are, always have been, and always will be, a rather odd collection of individuals drawn together with certain shared fears, biases, limitations, pathologies and goals, under the collective banner of something that they unironically call "conservatism", for the precise purpose of preserving and realizing their shared fears, biases, limitations, pathologies and goals.

    They are, really, little more than surreal versions of comic book villains or the Salieri character in Amadeus--failed, insecure and unstable mediocrities who simply could not, and would not, accept their less than lofty stations in life, who decided to band together to "show them". I would bring up an obvious historical comparison from mid-20th century, but all the Godwinites out there would complain, so I won't. But that doesn't make it any less obvious, and fitting.

    And isn't it the ultimate irony that THEY should be pointing out how OTHERS suffer from below-average IQ and that THIS accounts for their failure!

    But then there's no lack of people who think that they could have done a better job than Joe Torre out there who actually believe it. It takes all types.

    God was in a really nasty mood the day that he sent down these meshugunahs to pester us, and clearly didn't quite think through the consequences.

    One potential problem is see with this (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 12:51:20 PM EST
    is that for the kind of people dumb enough to fall for the crap that "The Bell Curve" poisons their minds with, slamming and discrediting "The Bell Curve" may end up discrediting 'the bell curve', a valid and useful scientific, statistical and mathematical tool.

    Was the title of the book, consciously or not, a set up? Or is is being used as one now?

    Now Sullivan's predicting John Stewart's demise (none / 0) (#10)
    by Latrell on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 09:12:16 PM EST
    Sullivan is clearly wacked out. He's posting on his site now that he expects John Stewart and Colbert to wane in popularity. His reasoning is absurd. Notice he says nothing of the long run of nutballs like Limbaugh and Hannity because he just assumes they are solid performers (kind of like when he called Cheney a "hot Daddy").

    confusion again (none / 0) (#11)
    by diogenes on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 09:17:13 PM EST
    If blacks have lower avarage IQ's because of reasons of poverty, family background, residual effects of slavery, or anything not to do with genetics, then doesn't the bell curve still hold?  It may be the bell curve and not MIT's "racism" that explains why MIT has lots of Asians and few blacks.  Sort of like saying that if the average black man can jump two inches higher than the average white man then there will be a lot more elite black jumpers in the NBA than their proportion in the population.
    The book also claimed that Asians, including eskimos, have higher avarage IQ's than caucasians.      This is hardly a white supremacist setup.
    It is very well accepted that intelligence is fifty percent inherited.  Teach the kids, but don't get upset if the racial proportions at MIT or in the NBA aren't perfectly matched.

    There's a lot of garbage here (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by andgarden on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 09:45:36 PM EST
    but this:
    It is very well accepted that intelligence is fifty percent inherited

    Takes the cake.


    The most important parameter of (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 02:10:36 PM EST
    "success" is sufficient desire to achieve it.

    "Ten foot pole" (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Mon Oct 22, 2007 at 09:50:56 PM EST
    Given the social effects of bigotry, perhaps the scientific research needs to be funded by the government, although any scientist who ends up with the "wrong" results will be pilloried.
    Read studies of identical twins, including identical twins reared apart.  About fifty percent of intelligence and personality is determined by genetics.