Sam Harris, Charles Murray, and the allure of race science – Ezra Klein Mar 27, 2018, 1:00pm EDT


This is not “forbidden knowledge.” It is America’s most ancient justification for bigotry and racial inequality.

Javier Zarracina/Vox

On Monday morning, I woke up to a tweet from Sam Harris, the bestselling author and popular podcast host, referencing a debate we never quite had over race and IQ.

Harris is touting a New York Times op-ed by David Reich arguing that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races.’” Reich is careful in his claims about what is known as of yet. He says that “if scientists can be confident of anything, it is that whatever we currently believe about the genetic nature of differences among populations is most likely wrong” — a level of humility often absent in this discussion. He goes on to slam researchers who, discussing race and intelligence, claim “they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes.” I do not find this column as troubling as Harris seems to think I will.

The background to Harris’s shot at me is that last year, Harris had Charles Murray on his podcast. Murray is a popular conservative intellectual best known for co-writing The Bell Curve, which posited, in a controversial section, a genetic basis for the observed difference between black and white IQs.

Harris’s invitation came in the aftermath of Murray being shouted down, and his academic chaperone assaulted, as he tried to give an invited address on an unrelated topic at Middlebury College. The aftermath of the incident had made Murray a martyr for free speech, and Harris brought him on the show in part as a statement of disgust with the illiberalism that had greeted Murray on campus.

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