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The Bell Curve’ and Its Sources

In response to:

The Tainted Sources of 'The Bell Curve' from the December 1, 1994 issue

To the Editors:

Charles Lane attacks my work on the intelligence of the Oriental peoples. The object of his attack is to discredit the late Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s book, The Bell Curve, which cites and uses my studies.

My work on the intelligence of the Oriental peoples has shown that their average IQ is about 5 IQ points higher than that of whites in the United States and Europe. I have published and summarised 25 studies which all point to this conclusion.

Lane criticises my work on two grounds. Firstly, he argues that it has been discredited by a study by Harold Stevenson and his colleagues. Stevenson compared 250 children in Minneapolis with 250 children in the Japanese city of Sendai and found no difference between their intelligence. The reason for this is that the mean IQ in Minneapolis is about 5 IQ points higher than in the rest of the United States. This was first shown among the military draft in World War One and was confirmed from tests on the draft for the Vietnam war. Thus the Minneapolis results confirm the numerous other studies showing the high IQ of Orientals. Lane is apparently ignorant of this flaw in Stevenson’s work, which has been published in the main-stream literature and of which everyone working on this issue is aware.

Lane’s second criticism of my work is that some of it has been published in the journal Mankind Quarterly, which he alleges has a “white chauvinist agenda.” If this were true, the journal would surely have refused to publish my work showing that Orientals have higher IQs than whites. The fact that the journal did publish this work shows the absurdity of Lane’s charge.

Furthermore, of my 25 papers cited in The Bell Curve, only 3 have been published in Mankind Quarterly. To reject the whole corpus of my work on these trivial grounds reveals Lane as a bigoted ideologue rather than a serious scholar.

Richard Lynn
Professor of Psychology
University of Ulster
Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Charles Lane replies:

Professor Lynn is distorting my article. I made two points about his work on “Orientals.” The first was that Harold Stevenson and Hiroshi Azuma had refuted a 1982 Lynn claim that Japanese IQ was ten points higher than that of whites, on the grounds that Professor Lynn was trying to compare two samples which were not in fact comparable. Professor Lynn’s letter does not even address this issue. My second point was not that Professor Lynn’s work had been “discredited” by a study by Harold Stevenson. Rather, I showed that the methodology of the Stevenson study was superior to that in two comparisons of Asians and Europeans carried out by Professor Lynn. I said this because the Stevenson study constituted “a sufficient body of data obtained from identical tests that are comparable except for race”—the criteria for legitimate cross-cultural comparison laid down in The Bell Curve itself—whereas Professor Lynn’s comparisons did not. (Stevenson compared US whites with children from both Japan and Taiwan, not just with children from Sendai, Japan, as Professor Lynn says.)

Is it at all relevant to this discussion of schoolchildren in the 1980s that Minneapolis military recruits of eight decades ago and three decades ago might have had better than average scores on the armed forces qualifying tests of their respective eras? Not unless Professor Lynn wants to posit that Minnesotans represent some kind of extra-intelligent white sub-race (descended from the preponderantly “Nordic” immigrant population of the state?) whose essential genetic attributes have remained unchanged through a century of social and demographic flux. If so, then the very notion of “white American” begins to lose whatever coherence it had.

Even Murray and Herrnstein don’t know quite what to make of Professor Lynn’s claim about Minneapolis’s alleged IQ superiority, relegating it to the following footnote: “Lynn has noted that the mean white IQ in Minnesota is approximately 105, well above the average for the American white population. On the other hand, it is possible that the cities chosen in Japan and Taiwan were similarly elevated” (The Bell Curve, p. 717).

As for Professor Lynn’s description of the Mankind Quarterly, of which he has been a contributor and editor for over two decades—including the period when the journal was directly controlled by the outspoken Scottish white supremacist Robert Gayre—it is laughable. I didn’t try to discredit his “whole corpus” of work based on this association. Rather, I made a critique of specific points based on my reading of the evidence. In this connection, it is noteworthy that Professor Lynn does not attempt to defend his spurious claim that the average IQ of black Africans is only 70—a refutation of which occupied a considerable part of my article.

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