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January 19, 2007

Shorter Charles Murray

Chad Orzel reads Charles Murray, so the rest of us don’t have to. (Warning! As close to a non-Work-safe link as one can get, without actually containing pron.)

Chad’s links pretty much tell you all you need to know:

Part I: The world is full of stupid people.
Part II: Too many stupid people go to college.
Part III: We should spend more money on the tiny fraction of people who are smart.

As Chad notes, Murray covers everything he touches with a thick coating of slime. Which makes one feel particularly icky when he, occasionally, does touch on something halfway sensible (the defects of No Child Left Behind, the scanting of gifted education). But, I guess, my ickiest moment came in reading the lede to part III

If “intellectually gifted” is defined to mean people who can become theoretical physicists, then we’re talking about no more than a few people per thousand and perhaps many fewer. They are cognitive curiosities, too rare to have that much impact on the functioning of society from day to day.

Couldn’t he, please, have chosen someone else to place at the top of his intellectual heap? AEI Fellows, perhaps?

Posted by distler at January 19, 2007 10:09 AM

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Re: Shorter Charles Murray

Lonely at the top, huh Jacques?

Posted by: Adam Rice on January 19, 2007 2:29 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Unwanted affection

Early on in my career, I decided that citations from certain people (who shall remain nameless) should count negatively in one’s citation count.

I feel the same way, here.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on January 19, 2007 4:10 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Shorter Charles Murray

Thanks, Jacques, for the link to the interesting article. It is nothing revolutionary but it is a useful summary of some basic observations.

Did you disagree with something that Murray wrote? If you did, I completely misunderstood what your disagreement was. I can’t imagine how a person with IQ above 100 could disagree with Murray’s somewhat tautological comments.

Have a nice day

Posted by: Lubos Motl on January 24, 2007 1:11 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Shorter Charles Murray

Maybe one problem with what Murray wrote is that smart people shouldn’t really need too much help from others!


“The power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.”

- Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), quoted by Feynman in the Preface to Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, also to be found at

This support Murray’s contention fully. But perhaps some of the intellectual baggage which smart people acquire proves unhelpful in critical social ways.

Some people trained in the ideas of Ptolemy acquired a loyalty to those familiar ideas, and became unwilling or unable to investigate other ideas.

This leads to the problem of the speed required for “smartness”: the tortoise versus the hare. Stupid people are sometimes categorized as “slow learners”, implying a retarded mental age compared to smart people. If true, then the distinction between stupid and smart is merely a matter of time.

If, due to say heresy issues, there is no competition in the development of a particular alternative idea, then even someone relatively stupid (with mostly B and few A grades for course modules) mave have plenty of time, years or decades, to work things out which smarter people are simply ignoring, because they are busy with something else (destined to fail). It is also true that some supposedly smart people come up with stupid ideas, such as Marx

BTW, according to Einstein’s first scientific work was called: “The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields”. That title would not be considered very smart now.

Posted by: nigel on February 22, 2007 3:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Shorter Charles Murray

It could be true that “Half of all children are below average in intelligence”, but I would have to ask if Mr. Murray is an educator or a geneticist. Also, it seems rather disturbing to me that an educator has the attitude of “it’s not my fault that test scores are too low….the kids are just dumb.” If I were a parent I wouldn’t want my kids to be educated by someone with THAT attitude.


Posted by: political forum on July 30, 2007 12:26 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

to Lubos

Any person with IQ above 120 can
see what the objection of Jacques
is. …

[Deleted by the Blog Owner. I don’t see any point in reopening this old argument. ]

Posted by: ori on August 5, 2007 4:21 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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