# "The Bell Curve" debunked—liberal/conservative sources?

I’m not sure this is a GQ question, not sure about GD (I’d think not) so here it goes. Mods, please move if this is not the right place for this question. Thanks!

Someone I know mentioned the book The Bell Curve to me, and when I commented, “Hasn’t that been debunked already?” the response was, “Only by liberal sources.”

This made me curious. I was under the impression that it was thoroughly debunked from many sides, but I plead ignorance on the subject. I’ve never read the book or any of the books or other sources debunking it. Can anyone direct me to more information about this? Thank you!

Science is neither liberal nor conservative. Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man might be a good primer on the topic. I’m sure others will have plenty of references.

The bell curve properly applies to the probability distribution of sample means in the limit as sample size approaches infinity.
That said, it is a darned good approximation for many naturally occuring statistical distributions – especially when there are a large number of independent factors affecting the variable being studied. It is also useful as a “best guess” kind of distribution when the variable’s distribution is unknown.

It is a mistake to assume that all statistical data conforms to the bell curve. Most does not. Often, quite contentious and erroneous conclusions are drawn by people using the bell curve in situations when it is inappropriate to do so. But statistics is a subtle art at the best of times.

Mutter Mutter Mutter Read the OP properly!! :smack:

True, but this isn’t the biggest problem.

The most common error when analyzing statistical data is assuming correlation proves causation. Countless papers have been published by researchers who have erroneously made this assumption.

Here’s an example: Research proves there’s a correlation between poverty and crime. In high poverty areas, crime is high; in low poverty areas, crime is low. The researchers thus conclude that “poverty causes crime.” While there’s no question about a correlation between poverty and crime, we cannot say poverty causes crime. In this case, there’s very likely a third variable (not acknowledged by the researchers) that causes crime and causes poverty.

Thank you, everyone. This discussion is very interesting!

Wow. This thread brings back memories.

I don’t know if Google Group archives that far back, but you can look up Dwayne Hicks in alt.music.nat-imbruglia. For a while every thread ended up coming back to an ongoing IQ/Race discussion. The Bell Curve was frequently mentioned, as it seemed to be his only real source.

It probably won’t be very useful, as all I can find are vague references to previous discussions and I have a good idea of what to look for, but Mr Hicks was a pretty odd character and I hadn’t thought of him in years.

BTW, this is one of the most talked-about and least-read books. Would it be safe to say that that applies to both you and your friend? I haven’t read it, either, and probably never will. But I’d prefer to do that before trying to debate it. Failing that, all you’ll be able to do is trade opposing cites.

Astro, thanks so much for the link! I did do a search on this topic before starting this thread, but didn’t come up with anything. Guess I used the wrong keywords or something.

Yes, definitely this is so on my side, but I can’t speak for my friend.

I am not necessarily interested in debating the subject with my friend (or here either!). My friend is a very intelligent fellow but he has some very fixed beliefs and ideas. I don’t think it’s my mission in life to try to change his mind on some of the issues where we disagree, and besides, I haven’t got the energy to debate him right now anyway! But all I could say when he said what he did about The Bell Curve (only liberal sources debunking it) was, “Well, I wouldn’t know.” Because I don’t know. Don’t know jack shit! Hence, this thread!