by James A. Bacon
Virginia Tech President Tim Sands deserves credit for backing the invitation of Dr. Charles Murray, author of the controversial “Bell Curve,” to the Pamplin College of Business. He was apologetic and wimpy, and he perpetuated the lies of the ideological left, but in the end he stood up for the idea that universities are places where unpopular ideas can be discussed.
As is to be expected, some members of the university community were aghast at the invitation issued to Murray, who in Sands’ words “is well known for his controversial and largely discredited work linking measures of intelligence to heredity, and specifically to race and ethnicity — a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics.” In the usual manner of the left, campus voices denounced his views as “deeply offensive” for promoting a “white supremacist agenda,” and objected to his invitation to speak.
The cries rose to the point where Sands responded with an open letter to the university community. While the topic of Murray’s speech was expected to fall within the scope of a lecture series on capitalism and freedom, he wrote, “the audience will find it difficult not to relate the context of Dr. Murray’s remarks to his earlier statements on race and intelligence. Yet there is room in the intellectual life of the university for perspectives that sharpen our critical thinking skills and evoke thought and discussion on topics such as ethics, morality, logic and the scientific method.”
“This will not be the last time that a student group, a faculty member or the administration invites a speaker whose views will be regarded by some in our community as repugnant, offensive or even fraudulent,” Sands said. “While we cannot prevent others from finding their place on each of these axes, let us set an example for free speech AND civil discourse.”
Murray applauded Sands for defending intellectual freedom, but he did not appreciate the way the university president characterized his work.
Let me make an allegation of my own. President Sands is unfamiliar either with the actual content of The Bell Curve — the book I wrote with Richard J. Herrnstein to which he alludes — or with the state of knowledge in psychometrics.
I should begin by pointing out that the topic of the The Bell Curve was not race, but, as the book’s subtitle says, “Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.” Our thesis was that over the last half of the 20th century, American society has become cognitively stratified.
Click here (trigger warning!) to read the rest of Murray’s response which summarizes the findings of “The Bell Curve” and explains how it bears little resemblance to the way it has been portrayed by people who have never read it. Perhaps some people have misused Murray’s work, I don’t know. But blaming Murray for the words of people over whom he has no control is like blaming Wagner for Hitler’s holocaust, Einstein for the dropping of the atom bomb, or American leftists for Stalin’s Holodomor. (Never heard of it? Look it up.)
It was grotesque for Sands to tar Murray by association with “fascism, racism and eugenics.” I suppose he had to throw a sop to the little Stalins at Virginia Tech who would purge every offending ideology if they could. But in the end he did the right thing. Let us hope that the university ensures that Murray is allowed to give his speech without disruption by student brown shirts.There are currently no comments highlighted.