The Wright Stuff: Echoes of The Bell Curve?

posted at 8:12 am on April 28, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

One of the stranger aspects of Jeremiah Wright’s speech came in the supposed neurological explanation of the differences between whites and blacks. Wright claims that the very structure of the brains of Africans differ from that of European-descent brains, which creates differences rooted in physiology and not culture:

“Africans have a different meter, and Africans have a different tonality,” he said. Europeans have seven tones, Africans have five. White people clap differently than black people. “Africans and African-Americans are right-brained, subject-oriented in their learning style,” he said. “They have a different way of learning.” And so on.

This sounds oddly similar to claims made in The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein, a book that created a firestorm of controversy with claims that race made a difference in IQ scores, among other claims. The two authors got reviled as racist enablers and their work became denigrated among a wide swath of researchers for seriously overreaching the science on which they relied for their conclusions. Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times that The Bell Curve was “a scabrous piece of racial pornography masquerading as serious scholarship,” and that the book was “just a genteel way of calling somebody a n****r.” The American Psychological Association dismissed the racial differences hypothesized as “unsupported”.

Interestingly, one other point got made about the book, and specifically about its co-author Murray. Murray had no experience as a psychometrist, but instead received his PhD in political science. One critic tied Murray and his efforts to establish physiological differences in brains through genetics and race to one of the foundations that purportedly help fund the research for the book:

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is a particularly interesting case. … Even more striking is that Bradley grants supported Charles Murray and the late Harvard psychologist Richard Hernstein while they wrote The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. According to PFAW, ‘the book was widely seen as a piece of profoundly racist and classist pseudo-science, and was denounced by the American Psychological Association.

Who was the critic? Julian Bond — of the NAACP. This comes in a footnote to his 2005 speech to the NAACP at their 96th annual convention. Apparently, they didn’t like the notion of physiological differences in brain structure three years ago, but had no problem with cheering Jeremiah Wright when he used their stage for his own “pseudo-science”.  (h/t: Right Wing Sparkle, who reminded me of the book.)


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Comments

Darn I thought it referred to the Art Bell curve.
Or even the Archie Bell and the Drells curve.

bbz123 on April 28, 2008 at 8:19 AM

Science is science when you like what it says. Global warming, ethanol, evolution… if it serves the cause then it’s science and you better not question it. Ask Ben Stein.

Cinematicfilm on April 28, 2008 at 8:21 AM

One man’s pseudo-science is another man’s Nobel Prize material.

It all depends on who’s pushing it.

Reverend Wright and Al Gore should do a lecture tour together. On the subject of “How To Browbeat People Into Obedience With Utter And Complete Nonsense.”

And for an encore, they can both explain why the Earth is really flat, and we never went to the Moon, either.

/sarc

cheers

eon

eon on April 28, 2008 at 8:21 AM

I would point out that the gaps in intellectual and moral seriousness between Charles Murray and Jeremiah Wright are massive.

Lee on April 28, 2008 at 8:25 AM

Put Jeremiah Wright in a period dress, and it’s likely he has a bright future with his Margaret Sanger one man show…

Wind Rider on April 28, 2008 at 8:26 AM

When critics of The Bell Curve dismissed it as racist and classist, the language alone tells you their critique was not a scientific critique, but a marxist one. In the marxist technique, there is no category of true vs. false. The only criteria for evaluating a scientific study are 1) the race and class of the author(s) and 2) the racial and class consequences of the narrative as an event, a speech act.

Similarly, Wright’s speech will be judged not by its truth or falsity, but by his race and class, and the racial and class consequences of his remarks. It’s practically axiomatic that he gets a free pass from marxists because he sticks it to the man.

True and false has absolutely nothing to do with things from the vantage point of the hard left.

jeff_from_mpls on April 28, 2008 at 8:31 AM

Wright claims that the very structure of the brains of Africans differ from that of European-descent brains, which creates differences rooted in physiology and not culture

How would Wright explain the brain of a bi-racial person like Obama? Or of the many African-Americans who have some white roots?

Europeans have seven tones, Africans have five.

African-Americans invented jazz, blues, gospel, rock & roll, and soul, as a result of having two fewer tones than European-Americans? Could have fooled this musician, especially after having learned the “black national anthem” Lift Every Voice And Sing. And if anyone wants to play some of the old Spirituals, prepare yourself for some chord structures that even Beethoven could not have imagined.

Bigfoot on April 28, 2008 at 8:34 AM

The attacks on this book and other studies like it come from political biases and not scientific sources.
.
No one would have any trouble with saying that Blacks are physically superior. You need only follow any organized sport where they are allowed to compete freely and they dominate.
.
The same is true in the intellectual sphere. Whites, Asians and certain ethnic or religious groups dominate. Do an analysis of the Nobel prize winners and it becomes obvious.
.
This is not to say that anyone less equal in ability has any less rights because of it. It is simply an obvious fact that if one were to select a group of human beings and class them by either nationality or race, it would be impossible for both of them to be equal. One would lead in one area and the other in another.

FactsofLife on April 28, 2008 at 8:42 AM

I predict MSNBC will give Jeremiah Wright his own show. Has to happen. Just has to. What… this guy is crazier than Olberman? It would be a perfect fit.

Sugar Land on April 28, 2008 at 8:53 AM

Can this be used to explain why black football players never pass the ball?

dm60462 on April 28, 2008 at 8:58 AM

As a black choir teacher noted (on 60 Minutes several years ago?) because of their interior nasal structure, Africans of black heritage, in general do have a different, more structurally-resonant tonality to their vocalizations. (Like a mild echo-chamber effect, biologically.)

But I doubt this is the tonality that Rev. Wright meant.

He has fallen into the famous Clap Trap that standard-issue racebaiters often end up at the bottom of.

Somebody throw him a ROPE-A-DOPE!

profitsbeard on April 28, 2008 at 9:02 AM

If the voters in this country succumb to this putrid racist garbage then they deserve their fate. Wright is not “describing” the state of the world he is generating racial hatred.

rplat on April 28, 2008 at 9:09 AM

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has an earned PhD, which puts him in the ‘Outlier’ category of any statistical bell curve describing the population of the United States. When focusing upon his race, Rev. Wright is in the same category as Condoleeza Rice, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, again, very exclusive company on the very outskirts of a rather skewed bell curve.

So he’s complaining?

SeniorD on April 28, 2008 at 9:19 AM

There is a reason liberals don’t attack any of the specific assertions made by the book The Bell Curve – it can’t be done. It’s simply a raw compilation of statistical data. Criticizing that is like calling someone “racist” for saying that there are more black players than white players in the NBA. It would of course be possible to debate the reasons for that discrepancy, but liberals don’t do that. In response to absolutely incontrovertible data, the liberal brain doesn’t reel – it explodes. Self proclaimed “liberal scientists” don’t address any of the facts, they instead intentionally misquote the authors – and not just a little bit either. They condense a 1500 page compilation of (incredibly mundane) charts and graphs into a single quip of inflammatory rhetoric: “All niggers are evil.”

The problem most people have in addressing liberalism is that we keep thinking of it as being about politics. It really isn’t. Liberalism is simply an enabling of the subjective mindset that substitutes CARING for THINKING. All of the political positions typically associated with liberalism flow from that.
Liberals constantly – even rabidly – segregate people into racial subsets when it suits their purposes. But then they attack someone who does the same thing in a way that doesn’t fit their current set of popular memes, and they respond violently. That’s not random; it fits the liberal pattern perfectly. Believing that spending other people’s money to fix arbitrarily assigned “social inequalities” makes a liberal FEEL GOOD and it takes no individual effort from him personally.

On the other hand, trying to look at reality and figure out how this complicated and scary world we live in actually works takes individual effort. People who have developed a sense of responsibility may consider that effort ultimately rewarding. But that’s not the way the undeveloped mind sees it; thinking is not EASY and it’s not particularly FUN. So if people are taught from a young age that doing what comes naturally and acting on your feelings is not only socially acceptable, but is actually superior to thinking like an adult, that kind of anti-philosophy is going to be very seductive. So-called “liberal” political aims are not goals that liberal thought is designed to achieve; they are the opposite: liberal political positions flow downhill; they always follow the intellectual path of least resistance.

logis on April 28, 2008 at 9:22 AM

FactsofLife on April 28, 2008 at 8:42 AM

I believe the above post has the facts correct. As I recall the book didn’t come to a strong conclusion but rather a suggestion.

There has been a somewhat similar controversy about female and male brains. In this case there are anatomical differences. Females have more neurons in their smaller craniums. This is accomplished by having smaller neurons with fewer connections per neuron. They also have stronger connections between the left and right lobes resulting in greater flexibility and some additional ability to adjust after some strokes. In a limited way females do think differently than we males with fewer but more complex neurons.

burt on April 28, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Who was the critic? Julian Bond — of the NAACP

And this from a guy who has demanded class protection(s) and affirmative action.

His speech was marked by historical references to the struggle for civil rights, a strident defense of affirmative action

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A02EED81231F930A25754C0A96E958260

Speakup on April 28, 2008 at 9:35 AM

Murray had no experience as a psychometrist, but instead received his PhD in political science.

Following that line of argument, very few of us Hot Air commentors are “qualified” to participate here, since we lack advanced degrees in political science, public policy, or media studies.

Lee on April 28, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Just a tiny correction – the word for someone trained in this field is “psychometrician,” not “psychometrist.” I should know – I am one. The Bell Curve came out when I was in graduate school, and it was quite interesting to see the firestorm that it generated. My only hope was that, if nothing else, it would get people familiar with and talking about statistical terms. For some, it did, but I have the suspicion that many people who criticized the book never actually read it.

kimberly on April 28, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Nothing like having it both ways. Gives you an answer for everything. Preacher, not politician? Charlatan, in the least.

ej_pez on April 28, 2008 at 9:58 AM

What are the odds that if you remove the names of the authors of “The Bell Curve” and replace them with the names Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright, it would be welcomed with peace prizes and fellowships at Ivy League schools?

dish on April 28, 2008 at 9:59 AM

Blacks are physically superior
FactsofLife

World’s Strongest Man? Nah.

faraway on April 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Why hasn’t the NBA become irrelevant in this discussion? With the influx of European players & the global basketball oraganizations with equal talent, why is this sample still being used as a point of reference?

ackrite55 on April 28, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Well, Wright has certainly added a bizarre twist to the controversy. Which dizzy topic to choose? 5 beats? black keys? rhythm? God Damn America? gosh, where to start.

eaglesdontflock on April 28, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Instead of the right saying “The left would say this about us if..”, why dont we have someone from the right standing up to racist fools practicing Black Liberation Theology and preachers espousing eugenics?

faraway on April 28, 2008 at 10:09 AM

logis on April 28, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Nicely done.

The American Psychological Association dismissed the racial differences hypothesized as “unsupported”.

This was the only quote Ed chose that is meaningful to The Bell Curve. The rest is racialist tripe from the race-hustlers Bond and Herbert.

Jaibones on April 28, 2008 at 10:16 AM

I read the Bell Curve when it was published.

Correct or incorrect I knew it was social poison.

Right brain, left brain? Unprovable hyperbole.

Social poison.

Is this the racial discussion that Obama promised us?

bongo on April 28, 2008 at 10:20 AM

To use to Politically Correct phrase – African-American Churches have always been involved in politics. Since no European-American Churches experience religion as their African-American brothers and sisters, we cannot approach them as equals. Thus, Rev. Wright is able to stand his ground and wrap Black Liberation Theology around his shoulders to prevent other Christian Churches from questioning his theology. Win-Win for Rev. Wright there.

However, Rev. Wright may be considered a threat to the phony ‘Reverends’ Jackson and Sharpton. Neither one of them completed Seminary or had a congregation (beyond the MSM and bullhorns). Watch one or both of the race hustlers start to cozy up to Rev. Wright in the near future; especially if Comrade Obama wins the Brass Ring.

SeniorD on April 28, 2008 at 10:30 AM

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is a particularly interesting case. … Even more striking is that Bradley grants supported Charles Murray and the late Harvard psychologist Richard Hernstein while they wrote The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. According to PFAW, ‘

the book was widely seen as a piece of profoundly racist and classist pseudo-science, and was denounced by the American Psychological Association

Ha ha. The people that have a problem with the “bell Curve” tend to be on the left slope of it!

TheSitRep on April 28, 2008 at 10:33 AM

To use to Politically Correct phrase – African-American Churches have always been involved in politics. Since no European-American Churches experience religion as their African-American brothers and sisters, we cannot approach them as equals.
SeniorD on April 28, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Here is where this logic falls apart:
African-American Church: by definition racist
European-American Church: no such thing (if there was one, it would be on the news)

faraway on April 28, 2008 at 10:35 AM

I’ve actually read The Bell Curve; the Moon didn’t fall, and the Sun didn’t go dark. Really, Ed Morrissey, you could read it, too, and reply to it thoughtfully, rather than merely recycle the opinions of others.

As for Charles Murray’s not being a narrow specialist in psychometry, that specialty was Richard Herrnstein’s contribution. Consider your own work, and recognize that political commentary is not the function of any narrow specialty. Political commentators must remain generalists and use specialists well.

Kralizec on April 28, 2008 at 10:36 AM

Speaking of pseudo-science, it’s been awhile since there’s been a post on evolutionism …

corona on April 28, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Wright claims that the very structure of the brains of Africans differ from that of European-descent brains

I explained this on the other thread, but I will repeat it here. Wright was not saying that there was any genetic or structural differences between African Americans and European Americans. Everything he said at this point was referring to the work of Janice E Hale, an educator with a PhD in early childhood education who taught at Yale for 16 years. Specifically, he was talking about her book titled “Black Children: Their Roots, Culture and Learning Styles.”
Neither Wright nor Hale makes any claims about differing brain structures. The word “brain” only comes up one time in Hale’s book, and in a different context. Wright’s hemispherical description of Hale’s work may be simplistic, but he is not claiming that there are any “organic differences” in brain structures. What Wright and Hale are both talking about is learning styles, and the cultural differences that influence learning styles. One blurb on the back of Hale’s book says “I have encountered no other single work that emphasizes the significance of cultural and cultural experiences upon the development and educational advancement of African-American children in the US. Hale takes an important step in trying to find ways of improving the effectiveness of educational programs geared to black children.” They are both talking about cultural differences. You can find Hale’s CV here.

dave742 on April 28, 2008 at 11:12 AM

The analogy of Wright to Murray is compelling. Murray was bannished from the kingdom and then crucified at the alter of political correctness. But now what for Jeremiah Wright?

petefrt on April 28, 2008 at 11:18 AM

I read the Bell Curve just to see what the controversy was all about. I found it interesting and if people will admit it, full of common sense just from observing groups.

It’s true that as a general rule, Asians do better in school than whites who in turn do better than blacks. But it’s a bell curve, there are always individuals that outshine the group. But if people would stop freaking out about racism, the general findings could be used to bring about change in how things are taught.

Liberals always shut down the discussion with cries of racism! Whether it is the Bell Curve or immigration…if ya don’t tow the liberal line, you are a racist! Evil, evil, evil racist! Moohhhahahahahah(sinister, evil racist laugh)…

:)

StacyInTucson on April 28, 2008 at 11:23 AM

But now what for Jeremiah Wright? petefrt on April 28, 2008 at 11:18 AM

Nobel Prize for Biological Science bay-bee!

Mojave Mark on April 28, 2008 at 11:28 AM

But now what for Jeremiah Wright?

He becomes the new Goracle seeing as the whole “glowball warming” thing is fizzling out as a way of forcing the US into adopting a Marxist government.

He will get his Oscar, his Emmy and his Nobel prize within 3 years, too.

Nahanni on April 28, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Imagine, this 2008. Where the heck are my flying cars and why are people still stuck on Nazi racist thinking patterns from all sides? Flying cars will solve all the race problems.

Egfrow on April 28, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Wright shouldn’t try to speak for any race until he himself gets at least two neurons to rub together.

whitetop on April 28, 2008 at 12:55 PM

The Bell Curve was well researched and presented factual data which was not politically correct. It did not spend a lot of time on the implications of the research. The screams from the left at the time were very similar to the current screams when a expert disagrees with “global warming”. We have far too many people who react with smear tactics instead of reasoned discussion when their “favorite horse” is gored.

duff65 on April 28, 2008 at 1:19 PM

So I guess there is such a thing as “hate laundering,” whereby what is universally recognized as “hate” becomes something else after processing by a suitably-Liberal organization.

landlines on April 28, 2008 at 1:42 PM

I’ve actually read The Bell Curve; the Moon didn’t fall, and the Sun didn’t go dark. Really, Ed Morrissey, you could read it, too, and reply to it thoughtfully, rather than merely recycle the opinions of others.

Well said.

I have respect for Michelle Malkin, but I have to question her judgment in hiring liberals like Morrissey and the atheist Allahpundit to run her “conservative” blog.

2Brave2Bscared on April 28, 2008 at 2:18 PM

I think VDH is right. Obama (and Wright) will set race relations back 50 years.

whiskey_199 on April 28, 2008 at 2:46 PM

If you think Wright is not a total fruit and nutcake, try making this argument with the Diversity Compliance Officer:

The reason Joe was not hired to be the new manager is because he has an African brain, and we felt the job required a European brain for the additional logic. Joe will be considered for future openings which require an appropriate combination of tonal rhythms.

DaMav on April 28, 2008 at 2:52 PM

Apparently Jimmy the Greek was on to something…

Wyznowski on April 28, 2008 at 3:32 PM

I think VDH is right. Obama (and Wright) will set race relations back 50 years.

The Trojan Horse

Last year, I found the idea of an African American running for the presidency a positive sign for our nation. Although I could not support Obama due to his political views, my decision did not prevent me from approving of a black man competing for our most important office. It created visions of a huge wall falling down. At the time, the entire nation appeared to be experienced a sense of self-congratulation over the situation.

Yet, this reaction was muted by my surprise that the Democratic Party would allow a complete novice* to run for office. I admit that initially I thought Democrats were promoting an early Obama campaign in order to give their party a great public relations push among minority voters. Perhaps that was the intention among one part of their membership.

However, considering the daily revelations concerning Maoist radicals who orchestrated Obama’s magical rise through Chicago and national politics; now I suspect a Trojan horse has been rolling through the gates.

Instead of visions of a new racial harmony, I see Jeremiah Wright screaming that Americans would be racists to reject this gift of Obama; while Bill Ayers and his Maoist clique hide inside the wooden horse, ready to light the flames of revolution from beneath. “Swimming along with the fishes” as Mao once advised his followers; Hide your true intentions.

It appears too late for the black community to understand how the rest of the nation will eventually view this candidacy. They don’t appear to understand “it’s the politics” not the racial identity. Do they understand the level of fallout when Americans consider the Obama campaign as a deliberate attempt to deceive the public? Watching this growing anger between our communities feels as though I am attending the funeral of hope.

Perhaps the saddest result will be the impact on future black candidates. Obama is leaving an avalanche of debris behind the path he trods. Could many non-black voters believe another black candidate preaching unity to them? Obama’s deception has sown permanent seeds of suspicion among the public.

Successive black candidates will be faced with navigating a passage through the destructive trail of Obama. Their struggle to win the confidence of a nation will be far, far more difficult, if not impossible for decades. For that sad result, he should be ashamed. —-rags

* While some Republicans might accept a centralist Democrat minority candidate the reverse would not be true. Condi Rice or Colin Powell may have the resumes, but whether they could win widespread support is dubious. Neither one would be accepted by the Democratic Party with their credentials as conservative/ moderate minority candidates.

Ragnell on April 28, 2008 at 4:43 PM

Well said.

I have respect for Michelle Malkin, but I have to question her judgment in hiring liberals like Morrissey and the atheist Allahpundit to run her “conservative” blog.

2Brave2Bscared on April 28, 2008 at 2:18 PM

I’m grateful for the praise of my own comment, but I disagree with the remainder of the comment I’ve quoted. For one thing, it’s too little understood that among the American conservatives are many true liberals similar to John Locke and the American Founders; these attempt to protect men’s natural liberty from tyrannies either left or right. For another, it’s too little appreciated that the believers and the “atheists” need each other to disturb their settled dogmas. If one studies the believers and the atheists carefully, one may learn much about the divine.

Kralizec on April 28, 2008 at 5:45 PM

the atheist Allahpundit to run her “conservative” blog.

2Brave2Bscared on April 28, 2008 at 2:18 PM

Hey I resemble that! I may not believe in your god/gods/totems/candles etc. but I am more conservative than G.Gordan Liddy and Ted Nugent combined.

There is less correlation between conservatives and the religious than you know.

I don’t have many problems with the religious right but the religious left scares the crap out of me and brother, there are a lot of them too. I.E. Reverends Wright, Jackson and Sharpton.

TheSitRep on April 28, 2008 at 6:14 PM

“Murray had no experience as a psychometrist, but instead received his PhD in political science.”

This honestly has to be one of the dumbest single sentences I have ever read on Hotair.

Yes, Murray is not a psychometrist, but he CO-WROTE the book with Richard J. Herrnstein, one of the FOUNDERS of modern psychometrics. It sort of tales care of the problem, doesn’t it?

Regardless of what you think about the speculation (not claim) about racial differences in IQ in the book, why is this idiotic “argument” worth repeating on a serious conservative site?

Tino on April 28, 2008 at 6:19 PM

but I am more conservative than G.Gordan Liddy and Ted Nugent combined.

Maybe so; for all I know you could be the most conservative atheist on the planet. But Allahpundit, from everything I’ve seen, is no conservative. And Neither is Morrissey for that matter.

I think VDH is right. Obama (and Wright) will set race relations back 50 years.

I don’t think that’s true at all, but I sure as heck wish it was.

2Brave2Bscared on April 28, 2008 at 7:07 PM

This honestly has to be one of the dumbest single sentences I have ever read on Hotair.

That’s Morrissey for you! The intellectual equivalent of a Lima bean.

2Brave2Bscared on April 28, 2008 at 7:10 PM

It’s worth remembering that the authors of The Bell Curve bent over backwards to make it clear that they were NOT saying there were no high-intelligence blacks, women, etc. They pointedly encouraged readers to treat each person as an individual, not a member of some racial or ethnic group. Of course, the Left clings to their identity politics, so this didn’t go down well – or get much media mention, as I recall.

Me, I’ll cling to other things.

Rosmerta on April 28, 2008 at 9:15 PM

For some, it did, but I have the suspicion that many people who criticized the book never actually read it.
kimberly on April 28, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Bill Clinton was asked his opinion on the book The Bell Curve. His response? He said that he could not allow himself to read something that controversial.

When you think about it, isn’t that an incredibly bizarre thing for the leader of the free world to say about ANY book?

logis on April 28, 2008 at 9:27 PM