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The Mismeasure of Man [Revised & Expanded] (1981)
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393314251, Paperback)How smart are you? If that question doesn't spark a dozen more questions in your mind (like "What do you mean by 'smart,'" "How do I measure it," and "Who's asking?"), then The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould's masterful demolition of the IQ industry, should be required reading. Gould's brilliant, funny, engaging prose dissects the motivations behind those who would judge intelligence, and hence worth, by cranial size, convolutions, or score on extremely narrow tests. How did scientists decide that intelligence was unipolar and quantifiable, and why did the standard keep changing over time? Gould's answer is clear and simple: power maintains itself. European men of the 19th century, even before Darwin, saw themselves as the pinnacle of creation and sought to prove this assertion through hard measurement. When one measure was found to place members of some "inferior" group such as women or Southeast Asians over the supposedly rightful champions, it would be discarded and replaced with a new, more comfortable measure. The 20th-century obsession with numbers led to the institutionalization of IQ testing and subsequent assignment to work (and rewards) commensurate with the score, shown by Gould to be not simply misguided--for surely intelligence is multifactorial--but also regressive, creating a feedback loop rewarding the rich and powerful. The revised edition includes a scathing critique of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, taking them to task for rehashing old arguments to exploit a new political wave of uncaring and belt tightening. It might not make you any smarter, but The Mismeasure of Man will certainly make you think. --Rob Lightner
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:21 -0400)
This book was immediately hailed as a masterwork when first published in 1981, the answer to those who would rank people according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits. And yet the idea of innate limits--of biology as destiny--dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to "The Bell Curve," whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by biologist Gould. In this revised edition, Dr. Gould traces the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness. Further, he has added five essays on questions of "The Bell Curve" in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general.--From publisher description.
2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.
An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.
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