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Charles Murray

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Any serious inquiry into Charles Murray’s actual body of work must conclude that, if Murray is not a racist, the word “racist” is empty of meaning.
— Nathan J. Robinson[1]
I want to get rid of the whole welfare system, period, lock, stock and barrel — if you don't have any more welfare, you enlist a lot more people in the community to help take care of the children that are born. And the final thing that you can do, if all else fails, is orphanages.
—Charles Murray, describing his policy recommendation for the children of the American lower classes[2]

Charles Alan Murray (1943–) is an American political scientist with a long association with the conservative, libertarian think tank the American Enterprise Institute. He is best known for co-authoring The Bell Curve with Richard Herrnstein.Wikipedia[3]

Murray has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "white nationalist" and "one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the Black and Latino communities, women and the poor."[4]

Murray's career[edit]

The Peace Corps and counterinsurgency strategies[edit]

After college, Murray joined the Peace CorpsWikipedia stationed in Thailand, and during that time he used Thai prostitutes. He bragged about it to The New York Times, to prove that he was "not against sex" then telling the reporter, "You should have been so lucky."[5]

In an interview with racist Steve Sailer in 2003, Murray said, "There are aspects of Asian culture as it is lived that I still prefer to Western culture, 30 years after I last lived in Thailand."[6] In an interview with Bill Moyers,Wikipedia Murray said: "Essentially, most of what you read in my books I learned in Thai villages."[7]

In 1969 "Murray became an employee of American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of many contract social-science research firms employed by the Pentagon to develop counterinsurgency strategies in Southeast Asia."[8]

Wingnut welfare[edit]

The easy yet lucrative nature of a wingnut welfare career was noted by writer Adam H. Johnson.

Murray first caught the attention of the far right through an article he wrote for the Heritage Foundation, attacking the American social safety net.[9]

But in spite of Murray's opposition to welfare, Murray himself has relied on a form of welfare for most of his career, a form known as "wingnut welfare". Economist Paul Krugman characterized it as: "…the lavishly-funded ecosystem of billionaire-financed think tanks, media outlets, and so on (which) provides a comfortable cushion for politicians and pundits who tell such people what they want to hear."[10]

The easy yet lucrative nature of a wingnut welfare career was noted by writer Adam H. Johnson, who tweeted: "we talk a lot about profitable grifts but imo a far more interesting Q is what is the cushiest grift? (defined as the least work to highest pay ratio). AEI paid Charles Murray $380K in 2017 to, from what I can see, give a few radio interviews, write one testimony & four articles." (and yes all four article were about what happened at Middlebury in March of that year)[11]

In The Washington Post, in 2015, Tom Medvetz analyzed the benefits of being a creature of the think tank for Murray:

At one level, the dim view many social scientists take of Murray’s work might seem like an impediment to his public influence. But I would submit that it works distinctly to his advantage. Murray has spent the better part of his career at two conservative think tanks — the Manhattan Institute and the American Enterprise Institute — and by his own account, the fit has been of the fish-in-water sort. In my book on the history of American think tanks, Think Tanks in America,[12] I began with a vignette on Murray, who seemed to embody many of the peculiar characteristics of the think tank universe. Tracing the arc of his career, it was clear that each step on his path to the think tank — from his early stint with the Peace Corps to his later role as a government program evaluator — had conferred a piece of the overall skill set associated with the Washington "policy expert." A policy expert is a hybrid figure whose authority rests on a varied package of abilities: media savvy, a penchant for self-promotion, fundraising skill, political knowhow, and familiarity with the language and rhythm of policy debate, polished off with a patina of scholarly credibility.[13]

Murray's big career break came in 1982, when Manhattan Institute president William Hammett decided to fund and promote Murray:

At the time Hammett met Murray, in 1982, he was unemployed and was virtually unknown. Hammett was so taken with Murray's frontal attack on sacred liberal principles that he immediately signed him up to write a book on the subject. The usual right-wing foundations had declined to fund Murray's work, so Hammett agreed to victual the scholar for a year or so, even though the institute's treasury was almost empty.

When Murray's book on welfare, Losing Ground, appeared in 1984,[14] Hammett secured a grant from the Liberty Fund to hold a two-day conference in New York on "the Murray thesis", and he invited not only fellow-travelers and academics but also liberal journalists and card-carrying members of the intelligentsia. He mailed out a thousand copies of the book, and sent early favorable reviews to other potential reviewers, counting on the herd instinct. And he spent every available penny in the institute's budget to send Murray barnstorming around the country.[9]

Losing Ground[edit]

In Losing Ground Murray proposed that social safety net programs Aid for Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid be abolished.[15]

Murray exchanged letters with Christopher Jencks, over Jencks' review of Losing Ground. Jencks said Murray's use of statistics was misleading:

Murray cannot have it both ways. If the accounting period is to run from 1965 to 1980, as it usually does in Losing Ground, he cannot argue that social policy made the poor worse off in material terms, because the material condition of the poor improved dramatically over this interval. If the accounting period is to run from 1973 to 1980, as Murray wants it to for this particular set of statistics, he must face the fact that, at least according to the Census statistics on which the “official” poverty count is based, everyone lost ground after 1973. The typical American family’s real pretax money income dropped 6 percent from 1973 to 1980. The same thing happened to the richest 5 percent of American families. Why, then, should we expect the poor to have done better, especially when cash transfers to the poor were lagging behind both wages and inflation?

Murray’s use of health statistics is also misleading. Consider infant mortality. In 1965 infant mortality was twice as high among Blacks as among Whites. We managed to halve infant mortality among both Blacks and Whites over the next fifteen years. Murray’s letter suggests that this doesn’t really imply “progress” because infant mortality was still twice as high among Blacks as among Whites in 1980. This is misleading on two counts. First, it is misleading to suggest that Blacks have not made progress simply because whites have also made progress. Second, even if one changes the question and asks who benefited “the most” from these changes, it is the absolute reduction in mortality that matters, not the percentage reduction. Ask any mother: if the risk that her baby will die is high, halving the risk will be worth a lot to her. If the risk is low, halving it will be worth far less. If you then apply this logic to Black and White mothers, it should be obvious that Black mothers gained more than White mothers between 1965 and 1980.[16]

Considering how important Murray's work is to today's promoters of hereditarianism, it's interesting that Murray did not promote the hereditarian position on Black poverty, in Losing Ground but rather, the "Black culture" argument favored by Daniel Patrick Moynihan[17]:

For those who now criticize Murray’s arguments about race, the treatment of Black-White differences in Losing Ground is striking. Murray went out of his way to argue against race as a causal variable, arguing that "a black-white difference murkily reflects a difference between poor and not-poor, not a racially grounded difference." He was not racially innocent, however. He commented, for example, that the most "flagrantly unrepentant" of single mothers seeking assistance "seemed to be mostly black."

Black people were afflicted, he speculated. A sense of victimhood prevented them from taking responsibility for their own actions — a common refrain in the conservative backlash to the demands and qualified victories of the civil rights movements. At the time, Murray gave no credence to arguments about heritability of intelligence. As he pointed out later (saying "if you want to see how far I moved"), he even approvingly cited Stephen Jay Gould's critique of the racist underpinnings of intelligence testing, The Mismeasure of Man.[8]

And then came Linda Gottfredson and Richard Herrnstein and the Pioneer Fund.

The Bell Curve[edit]

See the main article on this topic: The Bell Curve

In The Bell Curve,[3] Murray and Herrnstein (Herrnstein died the month that the book was published) would combine the anti-social safety net policies of the Republican Party with the hereditarian claims of Herrnstein and Gottfredson, bolstered by the "science" of E. O. Wilson's partner in racialist theories, J. Philippe Rushton.

When Murray met Herrnstein[edit]

In 1986, Charles Murray met Linda Gottfredson and her husband Robert Gordon when they asked him to join them for a panel discussion at a meeting of the American Psychological Association.Wikipedia. Also participating was Raymond CattellWikipedia a racialist and inventor of his own religion, "Beyondism" and Richard Herrnstein who had become famous for his claims that socio-economic hierarchies were the result of innate, genetically-endowed intelligence.[18] The panel was scheduled to kick off the "Project for the Study Intelligence and Society" backed by the Pioneer Fund.[8]

(While Gottfredson was at the University of Delaware, she argued that although only racists such as the Pioneer Fund were willing to financially support her work, it did not mean her work was outside of the "mainstream.")[19]

The hereditarian true-believers influenced — or perhaps confirmed — Murray's own views on race, intelligence and socio-economic hierarchies:

Murray was then in his early forties, newly famous for a policy book that seemed to provide all the data needed to roll back the War on Poverty. He fell in love with the methodology of the intelligence researchers and their unwavering focus on Black-White differences. His encounter with this crew of psychologists and sociologists transformed him. Uniting the Pioneer Fund crowd was the scientifically unpopular belief that the black-white gap in intelligence was not only real but also unlikely to disappear over time, regardless of the various programs of intervention ginned up by well-intentioned social reformers. As Murray wrote in a letter co-authored with Herrnstein in 1991, “he became increasingly aware of how many of his assumptions in Losing Ground had to be rethought.”[8]

The Pioneer Fund would be especially useful to Murray and Herrnstein, "They cite in their book no fewer than thirteen scholars who have benefited from Pioneer Fund grants in the last two decades — the grants total more than $4 million. Many of The Bell Curve's sources who worked for Mankind Quarterly were also granted Pioneer money."[20]

The Bell Curve was controversial when it was published, prompting an editorial from The New York Times:

The book has already ignited bitter controversy, and that is no surprise. It declares settled what many regard as an unresolved argument over whether I.Q.'s have scientific merit. Moreover, Mr. Murray's record as a political ideologue who uses social science data to support his policy preferences touches a tender spot in American intellectual history on the issue of race and intelligence.

The notion that one group could be genetically superior to another has a long and sordid history in this country and abroad. Bigots purported to find "scientific" evidence that blacks, or American Indians, or Jews, to name three targets, were of inferior stock. Even supposedly objective scholars lent their talents to such racism.[21]

The popular contemporary view of The Bell Curve was that it was a targeted attack on Black intelligence, as when Al Franken joked at the 1996 White House Correspondents Dinner:

By the way, also here tonight is Charles Murray who I understand has been hard at work on a sequel to "The Bell Curve" entitled Jazz, the Music Created by Morons.[22]

Boosted by Andrew Sullivan[edit]

Andrew Sullivan promoting Charles Murray, 2021 - allies for 30 years

Over the objection of staffers, Andrew Sullivan, editor at The New Republic decided to print an excerpt of The Bell Curve in the October 31, 1994 issue of the magazine.[23] Sullivan would continue to praise, defend and promote Murray for the next thirty years.[24][25][26]

Gottfredson's mainstream claim[edit]

The public reaction against The Bell Curve was strong enough that Linda Gottfredson published a defense of The Bell Curve in The Wall Street Journal.[27] Gottfredson claimed that The Bell Curve's racialist claims were scientifically "mainstream" but as the Southern Poverty Law Center observed, "The only thing linking many of Gottfredson’s co-signers to the field of IQ research at all was a commitment to the idea of innate racial differences in intelligence."[28]

Gottfredson's article would become a kind of founding document for the International Society for Intelligence Research as many of the signers would go on to have roles, including Gottfredson, in that organization. The document is also included on the International Society for Intelligence Research's website under "Resources — Articles about Intelligence." The document is described as "…a classic. It’s one of the best overviews of intelligence, its causes, and its consequences."[29]

Murray appeared at the 2009 annual conference of the International Society for Intelligence Research.[30]

The hereditarian political tradition[edit]

In Contemporary Psychology Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., a Pioneer Fund money recipient[31] frequent attendee of International Society for Intelligence Research events,[32] [33] [34] and champion of the claims of J. Philippe Rushton [35] placed The Bell Curve firmly in the hereditarian political tradition:

The Bell Curve has a simple but powerful thesis: There are substantial individual and group differences in intelligence; these differences profoundly influence the social structure and organization of work in modern industrial societies, and they defy easy remediation. In the current political milieu, this book's message is not merely controversial, it is incendiary. As scholars such as Daniel Moynihan, Arthur Jensen, and E. O. Wilson have learned, the mainstream media and much of the scientific community have little tolerance for those who would question our most cherished beliefs. Herrnstein and Murray have received similar treatment. They have been cast as racists and elitists, and The Bell Curve has been dismissed as pseudoscience, ironically by some commentators who broadly proclaim that their critique has not benefited from a reading of the book. The book's message cannot be dismissed so easily. Herrnstein and Murray have written one of the most provocative social science books published in many years. The issues raised are likely to be debated by academics and policymakers for years to come.[36]

Bell Curve aftermath[edit]

Once the dust of The Bell Curve controversy settled down, and as in the case of Losing Ground, Murray was accused of data misuse:

Once Murray’s fellow social scientists finished peer-­reviewing his data, some accused him of massaging his results to produce the book’s central assertions — that I.Q. tests are a good measure of general human intelligence, that intelligence is largely heritable and that there is little government can do to improve the lot of people who are born less smart.[37]

In its analysis of The Bell Curve, the Brookings Institute stated, "The book’s basic premise–that IQ is becoming the decisive force in determining economic rewards and social position – is demonstrably false."[38]

Barack Obama on The Bell Curve[edit]

Barack Obama, at the time a civil rights attorney, shared his thoughts about The Bell Curve on National Public Radio in 1994:

The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn’t new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. The arguments against such dubious science aren’t new either. Scientists have repeatedly told us that genes don’t vary much from one race to another, and psychologists have pointed out the role that language and other cultural barriers can play in depressing minority test scores, and no one disputes that children whose mothers smoke crack when they’re pregnant are going to have developmental problems.

Now, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn’t interested in prevention. He’s interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it’s artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It’s easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray’s calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, real or perceived, that minorities may enjoy. [39][40]

Charles Murray predicts[edit]

A history of Murray's predictions

Hereditarians have been known to predict that their racialist claims will be proven correct, sometime in the future.

In 2005, in response to the Edge "annual question" "WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?" Pinker wrote: "The year 2005 saw several public appearances of what will I predict will become the dangerous idea of the next decade: that groups of people may differ genetically in their average talents and temperaments." He included a plug for Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence: "In June, the Times reported a forthcoming study by physicist Greg Cochran, anthropologist Jason Hardy, and population geneticist Henry Harpending proposing that Ashkenazi Jews have been biologically selected for high intelligence, and that their well-documented genetic diseases are a by-product of this evolutionary history."[41]

In 2009, also in Edge, Jonathan Haidt wrote:

The protective "wall" is about to come crashing down, and all sorts of uncomfortable claims are going to pour in. Skin color has no moral significance, but traits that led to Darwinian success in one of the many new niches and occupations of Holocene life — traits such as collectivism, clannishness, aggressiveness, docility, or the ability to delay gratification — are often seen as virtues or vices. Virtues are acquired slowly, by practice within a cultural context, but the discovery that there might be ethnically-linked genetic variations in the ease with which people can acquire specific virtues is — and this is my prediction — going to be a "game changing" scientific event. (By "ethnic" I mean any group of people who believe they share common descent, actually do share common descent, and that descent involved at least 500 years of a sustained selection pressure, such as sheep herding, rice farming, exposure to malaria, or a caste-based social order, which favored some heritable behavioral predispositions and not others.)

I believe that the "Bell Curve" wars of the 1990s, over race differences in intelligence, will seem genteel and short-lived compared to the coming arguments over ethnic differences in moralized traits. I predict that this "war" will break out between 2012 and 2017.[42]

Missing heritability[edit]

2009 was the year hereditarians began to come to terms with the realization that genetic studies, which they expected would prove their racialist beliefs, had failed to deliver, a phenomenon called "missing heritability". As Brendan Maher wrote in Nature in November, 2008, "When scientists opened up the human genome, they expected to find the genetic components of common traits and diseases. But they were nowhere to be seen."[43]

From a science-based perspective, it has become clear that there is no basis for even the starting proposition of hereditarianism, that there are clearly-defined human races. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al.'s tour de force 1994 book The History and Geography of Human Genes analyzed a massive number of worldwide DNA samples, finding no evidence distinct races, but instead finding gradations (clines) of DNA across the world's populations.[44][45]

Rushton or his critics[edit]

In The Bell Curve, Murray and Herrnstein had defended their use of the studies of J. Philippe Rushton in an appendix, where they claimed that, while Rushton was not a crackpot or a bigot, they didn't know for sure if his speculations about Black people were correct, "We cannot at present say who is more nearly right as a matter of science, Rushton or his critics… we expect that time will tell whether it is right or wrong in fact."[46]

However, immediately after The Bell Curve was published, Murray began predicting the eventual vindication of the American hereditarian assumption. As he said to Robert Siegel in October 1994, "I would ask for you to have me back in three or four years, and let's see who is right on this issue."[47] Murray made similar prediction over the years and was mocked in 2019 on Twitter.

Human Accomplishment[edit]

Often hereditarians, whether they are political scientists, psychologists or biologists feel the need to explain art and what makes it good.[48] Murray demonstrated this tendency by publishing Human Accomplishment.[49] The book was proclaimed "brilliant" and "audacious" and "a new science of human accomplishment",[50] but in a 2017 Current Affairs article critiquing the book's methodology, Nathan J. Robinson called it "his little-read 2003 book Human Accomplishment". Robinson continued, "If you want evidence proving Murray a 'pseudoscientist,' it is Human Accomplishment rather than The Bell Curve that you should turn to. In it, he attempts to prove using statistics which cultures are objectively the most 'excellent' and 'accomplished,' demonstrating mathematically the inherent superiority of Western thought throughout the arts and sciences."[1]

Coming Apart[edit]

Murray's Coming Apart, published in 2012, avoids the issue of race by focusing on the White working class.[51] Because Murray is blinded by the hereditarian premise, he does not engage with socio-economic realities that impact the working class. This is evident in The New York Times review of the book, when Nicholas Confessore provided a series of facts in answer to Murray's question about the behaviors of the lower classes:

And he is also skeptical that working-class whites are employed less because they can’t find decent jobs. How can the economy have anything to do with it, he asks, when the decades in question have included periods of rapid economic growth?

Perhaps because not everyone has shared in that growth. While Murray’s new upper class was taking home an ever greater share of national wealth, incomes for almost everyone else were stagnating. During the decade preceding the 2008 bust, according to the Census Bureau, median family income in the United States dropped from $61,000 a year to $60,500.

Indeed, in comparison with the early 1960s, American workers today are less likely to have pensions, less likely to be able to support a family on a single income and, until the much-reviled ObamaCare law kicks in, less likely to be able to afford health insurance if their employer doesn’t provide it. Working-class whites are different from the cognitive elite in at least one way: They have less money.[37]

These economic facts were as available to Murray as to anybody working for The New York Times. But Murray does not want to know these facts: his entire wingnut welfare career is based on telling right-wing plutocrats that socio-economic problems have nothing to do with the self-serving decisions of the plutocracy, but rather the bad choices of the mentally incompetent poor.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead[edit]

In 2014 Murray was promoting himself as a curmudgeon,[52] and the American right was happy to accept him as their favorite crusty old right-wing uncle, evident in Forbes' review of his book The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. Forbes described Murray as a "genius" and the book as "a must-read for all ages." The opening of the review gives a glimpse into Murray's cozy relationship with the libertarian establishment:

I first met Charles Murray on Super Bowl Sunday in 2007. Murray was at Cato Institute co-founder Ed Crane’s house, and to say that it was a thrill to watch football with this legendary thinker would bring new meaning to understatement.

Among lots of other books penned by him, Murrary[sic] profoundly changed the poverty debate in Losing Ground, gave life to the only perfect ideology with What It Means To Be a Libertarian, and then he explained in endlessly interesting fashion how the vital few have transformed the world for the better in Human Accomplishment. Murray dislikes redundancies (more on that in a bit), but to insert "brilliant" before Charles Murray is to be redundant.[53]

Middlebury College incident[edit]

But in spite of the efforts of Murray and the American right to rehabilitate his image, Murray continued to be associated with the hereditarian claims of The Bell Curve. As a result, he has sometimes received hostile responses whenever he has ventured outside of right-wing safe spaces.[54][55] Students had protested Murray many times in 2016-17.[56][57][58]

Murray was invited to give a speech at Middlebury College in 2017 by a student chapter of the American Enterprise Institute. The AEI had been Murray's employer since 1990.[59] Students at Middlebury disrupted Murray's speech.[60]

As with E. O. Wilson and his "water incident", Murray was happy to use the incident to present himself as a martyr for free speech, publishing an opinion piece in Newsweek, "Charles Murray: My Free Speech Ordeal at Middlebury" about the incident.[61]

Sam Harris[edit]

In his effort to present Charles Murray as a free speech martyr, Sam Harris interviewed Murray on his podcast. Harris was a named (by Bari Weiss) member of the Intellectual Dark Web, a group of people who favor hereditarian explanations for human behaviors — Michael Shermer who believes that Rushton's racialist claims are correct, is another named member. The hereditarian online magazine Quillette was said by Weiss to be the media source most associated with the IDW.[62]

The Vox article, "Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ" notes:

Charles Murray, the conservative scholar who co-authored The Bell Curve with the late Richard Herrnstein, was recently denied a platform at Middlebury College. Students shouted him down, and one of his hosts was hurt in a scuffle. But Murray recently gained a much larger audience: an extensive interview with best-selling author Sam Harris on his popular Waking Up podcast. That is hardly a niche forum: Waking Up is the fifth-most-downloaded podcast in iTunes’s Science and Medicine category.

In an episode that runs nearly two and a half hours, Harris, who is best known as the author of The End of Faith, presents Murray as a victim of "a politically correct moral panic" — and goes so far as to say that Murray has no intellectually honest academic critics. Murray’s work on The Bell Curve, Harris insists, merely summarizes the consensus of experts on the subject of intelligence.[63]

The interview demonstrated that both Murray and Harris were devoted to the hereditarian premise, with Harris claiming, "For better or worse, these are all facts… In fact, there is almost nothing in psychological science for which there is more evidence than for these claims."

Harris would later defend The Bell Curve by linking to an article in Quillette,[64] written by Ben Winegard and Bo Winegard, the human biodiversity twins.[65]

Scott Lemieux shared his response to the incident and to Harris on the blog Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Nobody is entitled to any public forum. I don’t advocate or defend violence against Murray (let alone third parties), and in most cases when a speaker has a forum they should be permitted to speak. But nobody is entitled to any particular forum, and Murray’s white supremacy should not be given any legitimate forum. Members of a college community are eminently justified in ex ante criticism of choices to bring Murray to campus. Presenting Murray’s views as subject to reasonable debate — even if you, like Andrew Sullivan, also include multiple critical challenges — is extremely pernicious. To present him as a serious intellectual and victim of political correctness, as Harris apparently did, is simply beyond the pale.[66]


Officially, Murray retired in 2018, but it was mainly a bureaucratic distinction. His public activities, especially for the hereditarian cause, did not abate. In an interview noting his retirement, with NPR's Michel Martin, Murray denied his influence on the racist right:

Martin: Well, there is intellectual — one more question on this point before we move on — but there is an intellectual wing, if I can call it that, of the alt-right that does rely on tropes of racial difference tied to what they claim are intellectual differences. And I wonder if you think you may have contributed to that unwittingly and how you feel about that?

Murray: If I contributed to it, it's not because of anything that Dick Herrnstein and I wrote. It's because of what people want to say we wrote.[67]

Murray appears to be completely oblivious to the significance of his own actions. In 2017, Nathan Robinson addressed Murray's obliviousness in an article "Why Is Charles Murray Odious?":

…[it's] extraordinary that Charles Murray can believe the negative reaction to him must be irrational and politically motivated. For while it is true that people unfairly attribute positions to Murray that he does not hold, the positions he actually does espouse in his work are, if anything, more extreme than even the most unsympathetic public portrait of him has depicted. People who see Charles Murray being violently hounded off college campuses might wonder what the fuss is about, and why left-wing protesters become so viscerally angry with Murray rather than dealing with his arguments. But while I am strongly opposed to the tactic of shutting down speakers on campus, it's important to realize that the rage at Charles Murray is entirely justified. For it can be very easily proven that Murray is a man with a strong racial bias against Black people, insofar as he fails to respect them as equal human beings and believes them to be, on average, inferior to white people in matters of intelligence, creativity, and inherent human worth. Any serious inquiry into Charles Murray's actual body of work must conclude that, if Murray is not a racist, the word "racist" is empty of meaning. I do not necessarily believe Charles Murray thinks he is a racist. But I do believe that a fair review of the evidence must necessarily lead to the conclusion that he is one.[1]

Human Diversity[edit]

After retirement, the mask came off completely - Charles Murray pledges his undying loyalty to professional racist Steve Sailer

Although the AEI publicized Murray's retirement,[68] Murray's career activities continued as before — he continued to publish books and make appearances. The major change appears to be that Murray doubled-down on biological determinism.

"Outrage has been good to Charles Murray"[edit]

In 2020 Murray published a book that recalled the arguments in The Bell Curve. In its review of Human Diversity,[69] The New York Times wrote:

Outrage has been good to Charles Murray. Far from being the victim of "a modern witch burning," as the neuroscientist and podcaster Sam Harris has described him, Murray has been able to cloak himself in the mantle of the embattled intellectual, the purveyor of forbidden knowledge, while comfortably ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, the influential think tank, for three decades. His previous book, Coming Apart, which examined a balkanized America through the lens not of I.Q. but "cultural differences" between wealthy and poor white Americans, was warmly received. "I’ll be shocked if there's another book this year as important," David Brooks wrote in his column in this newspaper. The violent actions of protesters when Murray appeared at Middlebury College in 2017 were widely deplored.

With Human Diversity, Murray tries to stoke some of the same controversy that powered The Bell Curve — which sold 400,000 copies in its first two months after publication — although more cautiously; Human Diversity is thick with reassurances to the reader, and caveats that individuals ought to be judged on their own merits. "I’m discussing some of the most incendiary topics in academia," he writes, hastening to add that "the subtext of the chapters to come is that everyone should calm down."[70]

Psychologist Eric Turkheimer said, "The vast majority of Human Diversity could have been written by Arthur Jensen in 1990."[71]

The title, Human Diversity is very close to "human biodiversity", a pseudoscience founded by racist Steve Sailer. Murray had known Sailer since at least 2003 when he was interviewed by Sailer. [6] By January 2021, Murray was declaring his undying solidarity with Sailer, when Sailer was threatened with having his Twitter account cancelled for making racist claims about Black people.[72]

In its discussion of the book, New Republic said:

Murray has long used his notoriety as a marketing ploy. Despite a lack of scientific credentials and a penchant for relying on dubious sources, he has cast himself as a heroic investigator who is simply after the truth. As Jeet Heer wrote two years ago, he sees himself "as a kind of pulp fiction hero — Robert Langdon, the protagonist of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, comes to mind — who uncovers dark secrets that the elites are hiding from the masses."[73] In this case, the dark secrets all just happen to make the case that we should cut public assistance programs. But this truth-hunting posture has turned him into a cause célèbre for organizations concerned about “cancel culture” and political correctness run amok—the attacks on race science become attacks on academic freedom and freedom of speech itself.[74]

Facing Reality[edit]

Tom Scocca retweeting Charles Murray justifying employment discrimination

A review of Human Diversity said that it was "thick with reassurances to the reader, and caveats that individuals ought to be judged on their own merits."[70] But a month after Murray published his next book, Facing Reality: The Two Truths about Race in America, in June 2021,[75] he demonstrated beyond question that those reassurances and caveats had been absolute, shameless lies. In July Murray was on Twitter, advocating race-based employment discrimination. Being Black, in Murray's worldview absolutely trumps being an individual who "ought to be judged on their own merits."[70]

Theodore R. Johnson, in his review in The Washington Post, wrote:

In his latest offering, Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America, Murray doubles down on the assertions from the most controversial chapters in The Bell Curve by declaring two things: Black Americans, as a group, have lower cognitive ability than White Americans, and Black Americans — again, as a group — are more criminally violent than other races and ethnicities. His argument is straightforward in its proclamation that to resolve society’s wicked problems, we must first accept that group differences in cognition and adverse social behaviors, not systemic racism, bear a significant share of the responsibility for racial socioeconomic disparities.[76]

After facing the indisputable reality of Charles Murray's extreme racism, the mainstream media gave this book far less attention than Murray's previous books. Steve Sailer complained about that[77] and Razib Khan moaned, "I am one of the few people willing to write about" the book.[78]. In the review, Khan mentioned he was Murray's friend.

Facing Reality was simply the same old rehashing of the American hereditarian assumption, which has been around since before J. Philippe Rushton tried to codify it as "science".

Murray's political and moral agendas[edit]


It usually begins with Ayn Rand[edit]

In 1971, Jerome Tuccille published a "satirical memoir" called It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand in which he noted how influential Rand was in gaining converts to Libertarianism.[79] Charles Murray is a good example. Writing in The Federalist, Murray admits that Ayn Rand was a big influence on his early years, and shares his love of Rand's novels, like Atlas Shrugged and its fantasy of blue collar workers who don't even want to strike because owners pay them high wages out of the goodness of their hearts. Although even Murray has to admit (thanks to reading two excellent Rand biographies published in 2012, Goddess of the MarketWikipedia and Ayn Rand and the World She MadeWikipedia) that Rand was a self-deluded, drugged-up, hypocritical crackpot.[80]

A Personal Interpretation[edit]

Murray is a devout libertarian. In 1997 he published What It Means to Be a Libertarian A Personal Interpretation, called a "manifesto" in The New York Times review.[81]

The hereditarianism of The Bell Curve is the perfect tool for the political goals of libertarianism. Libertarianism says public funds should not be used to help the poor, and hereditarianism says why: because the poor are too stupid to be helped.

Universal basic income[edit]

Towards the end of his official career, Murray found a new tactic to try to destroy the American social safety net: universal basic income:

The UBI is to be financed by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women[note 1] and every other kind of welfare and social-services program, as well as agricultural subsidies and corporate welfare.[82]

In calling out single women — presumably he means single mothers — Murray demonstrates that he hasn't forgotten a major purpose in shredding the social safety net: telling those women they "did wrong", as described in the next section.

Welfare mothers vs. prostitutes[edit]

A month after The Bell Curve was published, The New York Times published a profile of Murray that was revealing of Murray's character and his moral compass:

He genially professes "a lot of common ground" with his liberal antagonists, only to tick off his agenda: abolish welfare, abolish food stamps, abolish subsidized housing. Murray even wants to end child support payments to unwed mothers, arguing that physical unions acquire their legitimacy only through marriage. What would he tell a young, unwed mother? "I don't want society to say to her, 'You made a mistake,' " he says. "I want society to say, 'You did wrong.'"[5]

Like many right-wing hypocrites, while Murray would be happy to deny any aid to a young unwed mother, because she "did wrong" in having sex outside of marriage, Murray is unashamed of his own non-marital sex. Rather, he brags about it:

Murray explains that he and a Peace Corps friend once sat for 12 hours at a place called the Patpong Terrace, interviewing bar girls as they returned from their liaisons, taking "all sorts of intimate notes about who did what, that I don't care to repeat." The resulting document became an underground thriller among his friends.

Murray also makes clear that he did more than take notes, though he theatrically objects to hearing the women described as prostitutes. "Don't use that word," he says. "They were women of the evening. Courtesans. We liked them, and they liked us.

"In a lot of the places you had to woo the ladies," he continues. "It involves money on the man's part, yes, but it also involves consensual relations."

He understands that he is describing a pastime not usually associated with a defense of the two-parent family. "I'm trying to tell you I'm not against sex," he says, characteristically blunt.

"You," Murray concludes, "should have been so lucky."[5]

No doubt it never crossed Murray's mind that the "courtesans" he had used might become pregnant, and what that would mean to their lives. But perhaps this is another example of Murray's obliviousness. Murray is not against sex — and not against non-marital sex — for himself, and presumably not against it for the men of his class who can afford easily-discarded sexual liaisons.

Another interpretation is that Murray is so devoted to the principles of libertarianism that he believes single mothers who receive welfare, and therefore cause a financial burden to taxpayers, would be more moral if they instead avoided hunger for themselves and their children by resorting to the free enterprise of prostitution.

Murray is somewhat conflicted about prostitution. While he appears to believe it's a positive good in the 1994 New York Times article, in 1987 he used prostitution as an example of the "broken windows" theory.[83] He can be seen in a video on YouTube, during an interview, posted by the right-wing libertarian organization "Free to Choose" saying:

…my chances if I were to walk six blocks east of where I'm sitting right now, my chances of getting mugged are fairly small. But six blocks east of here, my chances of having insults shouted at me, of seeing somebody sprawled out on the sidewalk, drunk. Of being accosted by a hooker. They're pretty high. This is unpleasant…[84]

The orphanage solution[edit]

Charles Murray hates the welfare system, as he told David Brinkley on ABC's This Week and his solution to the destruction of the safety net for struggling parents was orphanages, "I want to get rid of the whole welfare system, period, lock, stock and barrel — if you don't have any more welfare, you enlist a lot more people in the community to help take care of the children that are born. And the final thing that you can do, if all else fails, is orphanages."[2] His influence on the Republican Party was apparent when House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that poor children should be put in orphanages.[85]

Right-wing pundit Glenn Loury testified to Murray's influence, "You cannot understand the changes in American welfare policy that began in the '90s if you don’t read Losing Ground."[86]

White trash vs. crossburners[edit]

The New York Times article was also revealing of Murray's hereditarian views:

…Murray grabs his laptop computer and demonstrates his research technique. How much can 15 I.Q. points be expected to raise a person's earnings? The machine, packed with data on 12,000 Americans, whirrs and makes a tongue-clucking sound, before spitting out its answer — $6,654 a year. "See how fun this is!" he says.

Which white kids drop out of high school? More buttons, more whirring — only those with low I.Q. scores and lower-class parents. "White trash," Murray says. While "that's obviously a generalization," he explains whom he has in mind — people "sitting at home in their undershirts drinking, and they really don't care anyway." Murray's persona in print is that of the burdened researcher coming to his disturbing conclusions with the utmost regret; but at the moment, he seems to be having the time of his life. "It really is social science pornography," he says.[5]

The New York Times article quotes Murray referring to himself as a "bright kid." It also notes that as a teenager, Murray burned a cross:[5]

In the fall of 1960, during their senior year, (Murray and some friends) nailed some scrap wood into a cross, adorned it with fireworks and set it ablaze on a hill beside the police station, with marshmallows scattered as a calling card.

[Denny] Rutledge [(a co-conspirator)] recalls his astonishment the next day when the talk turned to racial persecution in a town with two black families. "There wouldn't have been a racist thought in our simple-minded minds," he says. "That's how unaware we were."

A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. "Incredibly, incredibly dumb," he says. "But it never crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds."

This calls into question Murray's self-assessment as a "bright" kid. How many high school seniors from the white trash class, a group that Murray considers his intellectual inferiors, would be so "oblivious"?

It seems more likely that rather than obliviousness, Murray lied.

Murray lived in Newton, Iowa, just 35 miles east of Des Moines, the capital of Iowa. The Des Moines Tribune ran multiple stories about cross-burning prior to the fall of 1960, including one in Henderson, North Carolina in February,[87] Albuquerque, New Mexico in March,[88] and Jacksonville, Florida in August.[89]

It was national news when the KKK burned a cross in front of the house of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 27, 1960.[90]

A cross-burning in Iowa City[edit]

Graphic from The Des Moines Register article[91]

Closer to home, the Tribune carried several stories about a cross-burning at the State University of Iowa, which is 83 miles east of Newton.

On April 29, 1960:

A cross was burned on the lawn in front of the home of Miss Helen Reich, assistant director of student affairs at the State University of Iowa, late Thursday night. Miss Reich telephoned police about midnight to report the burning cross, which was about five feet high and had a crossbar about three feet long.

Police said neighbors had telephoned about a half hour earlier to report a number of cars had driven around the block several times in the area. The office of student affairs has been instrumental in the effort to remove race restrictions from the constitutions of several fraternities at the university. Committee Secretary President Virgil Hancher Thursday approved a new provision in the university Code of Student Life making any fraternity that fails to abolish discrimination subject to remedial action. Miss Reich is secretary of the Committee on Student Life, an organization of 15 faculty and staff members and two students, which adopts the code. She also is an aide to Dean of Students[.]

M.L. Huit, who announced Thursday an investigation is under way to find the ringleaders in a noisy demonstration by men students in front of women's residence halls Tuesday night Dean Huit said disciplinary action would be taken against the leaders of the demonstration, which it was reported was in protest against a 10:30 week night curfew for coeds.

Miss Reich said she had just turned out her lights preparatory to going to bed a few minutes before midnight when there was a knock at the door. She went to the front door and saw the cross, then telephoned police. Officers said the wood cross was covered with cloth which had been soaked in kerosene.

"I have no explanation," said Miss Reich of the cross-burning. "Nobody I know is mad at me." She has been with the office of student affairs since 1942.[92]

The next day the newspaper reported that eight students had been suspended. Dean of Students M. L. Hunt said university officials believed it was "merely a prank".[93] On May 2 it was reported that "The eight State University of Iowa students who were suspended Saturday in connection with a cross-burning incident, were back in their classes Monday pending an appeal of their suspension."[94] The next day it was reported that the students, all members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, had been reinstated at the request of the committee on student discipline.[95]

It would be remarkable if Murray, a high school senior planning to attend college, was unaware of the significance and the gravity of cross-burning.

Continuing decline into racism[edit]

After Murray retired from AEI, his devotion to hereditarian politics and his association with racialists and racists became apparent through his social media activities.

Steve Sailer[edit]

Charles Murray frequently defended, promoted and admired Steve Sailer via tweet.

In 2022 a right-wing media outlet, Ricochet, associated with the right-wing blog Powerline, platformed a conversation between Sailer and Murray. The conversation was published in two parts, and was hosted by Steven F. Hayward, a right-wing serial recipient of wingnut welfare.[97] Hayward claims Murray and Sailer had never met[98] , either unaware of the 2003 interview, or not counting the interview as a meeting.[6]

Emil Kirkegaard[edit]

Charles Murray admits to funding racialist extremists on Twitter, encourages others to join him

Murray is an ally of Emil Kirkegaard, and has promoted him and retweeted him several times[99][100][101][102] and funded Kirkegaard and Bo Winegard.

Bo Winegard and Aporia[edit]

Murray participated in a conversation with hereditarian Helmuth Nyborg a Danish admirer of Rushton[103], in which they complained that non-white immigrants to the United States and Denmark weren't assimilating American or Danish culture quickly enough.[104] The discussion was hosted by the racist pseudoscience online magazine Aporia which employs Bo Winegard as Executive Editor and Noah Carl as editor.[105] It is Aporia's ambition to "widen the Overton window"[106] which is race pseudoscience-speak for "mainstream race pseudoscience beliefs."[106]

Richard Hanania[edit]

Murray is a great admirer of right-wing, racist extremist Richard Hanania not only retweeting him, [107] but praising his book "The Origins of Woke" effusively:

Until now, the only contemporaneous book I was sorry not to have written was Christopher Caldwell's Age of Entitlement. Now I'm also sorry not to have written this one.[108]

Hidden Figures[edit]

During his retirement, Charles Murray decided to launch a new project: tear down Hidden Figures, the book written by Margot Lee ShetterlyWikipedia about the contributions of Black women to the NASA space program, focusing on three mathematicians, Katherine Johnson,Wikipedia Dorothy Vaughan,Wikipedia and Mary Jackson.Wikipedia[109]

Murray published a PDF that implied that Johnson was a liar and/or delusional despite NASA's official biography of her confirming the details of her work at NASA.[110] Murray had two collaborators, Harold Beck and Kenneth A. Young, former NASA employees.[111]

Young got the project started, suspecting a conspiracy involving "journalists, politically correct politicians and bureaucratic activists."

…in early December 2016, I received an email from Ken Young, one of the key people in the Manned Spacecraft Center’s Mission Planning and Analysis Division during the 1960s. I had interviewed Ken while Catherine Cox and I were writing our history of the Apollo program. Ken and I hadn’t been in touch for more than thirty years. His email read in part:

I could send along a thread of emails from mid-2015 to this fall from various “human space pioneers” whose names you would recognize (e.g., Dr. Chris Kraft, Glenn Lunney, Jerry Bostick, Hal Beck, Clay Hicks, etc.) but Hal suggested I just ask you to Google one name (which you may well recognize from PC news, a book, and movie called Hidden Figures coming in January): Katherine Johnson.

Suffice it to say, the majority of us who actually worked every US human spaceflight program from Mercury to ISS, believe you will find that fine lady, who is still alive at about 93, is at the center point of what is perhaps the most egregious instance of REVISIONIST space history ever! Not saying it’s all her doing. There have obviously been journalists, politically correct politicians and bureaucratic activists who have run with the “hidden” stories!

I’ll leave it at that. And, should you and Catherine, for whatever reason: 1. Retired and just too weary of controversy; 2. Too busy to "tilt any windmills"; 3. Rightly fear being labeled a skeptic, or even worse, a racist (I still have my copy of your taboo work The Bell Curve)…


Young often uses exclamation points and all caps in his accusations. He implied Johnson was a liar, while ranting about the Presidential Medal of FreedomWikipedia:

We should have raised some eyebrows — like bringing it to the attention of the Inspector General of NASA — about 1.5 years ago when this started to snowball from some “innocent misremembering” (to be kind) in interviews of an ancient lady who understandably exaggerated her role in EARLY Mercury, then let no-doubt leading questions expand into out-and-out falsehoods about her Gemini and Apollo "achievements"! The saddest thing is that I could easily name (and prove) that we in MPAD alone in Houston had black engineers and mathematicians who truly contributed a thousand times more than ANYONE at Langley to Apollo’s success — and they NEVER received ANY award — much less a presidential Medal of Freedom![111]

While Young believed the alleged misattribution was due to Johnson lying, combined with a conspiracy, and possibly intra-organizational rivalry between the Houston and Langley (Virginia) NASA offices, Murray believed that the most plausible reason for the alleged misattribution was because Johnson was delusional:

If the material in this document is correct and the edifice of achievements in manned spaceflight attributed to KJ is without foundation, it is natural to wonder how it all got started. Margot Shetterly didn’t do it. As Hal Beck takes pains to point out, the Internet was filled with false information about KJ’s achievements when Shetterly began her research for Hidden Figures. When I agreed to post Hal Beck’s and Ken Young’s commentaries, I assumed that we were looking at KJ’s war stories that got better and better as the years passed, as war stories tend to do. I now have another theory of the case. I emphasize that it is speculative; no more than my attempt to devise a plausible explanation that is consistent with the known facts.

At the center of my theory is KJ’s conversion of the algorithms and analyses supporting the design of the Mercury Space Flight Network into a formal technical note, TN D-233, over a period from sometime in 1959 to its publication in September 1960. My hypothesis is that what happened during the preparation of TN D-233 was truly momentous — not for manned spaceflight, but for Katherine Johnson…

Ken Young and his good friends[edit]

There isn't much information available about Ken Young online. He gave an interview in 2001 for the NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project to Kevin Rusnak and mentions both Beck and Murray, and calls them each his "good friend."[112] Ten years before the interview, Young had wanted Murray to write an exposé on the Space Station FreedomWikipedia:

I was trying to think of how to phrase it. Apollo—I was interviewed several times by Charles Murray, who wrote Apollo: The Race to the Moon. He was a good friend. Years after his book came out—which I just got my copy back from a gal I loaned it to over in Building 4 for four years. She dropped it on my desk. Her name's Allison, by the way. I got it the day Allison hit, tropical storm Allison hit.

I talked to Charles years after he wrote his book, which is an excellent book. I'm sure you read it.

Rusnak: It's on the shelf right behind you.

Young: Oh, is it? And his wife Catherine [Bly Cox]. I said, "Charles, you've got to—" This is probably in '88 or '90 or '91, maybe. I said, "You've got to write Space Station Freedom," at that time. I said, "You think Apollo was interesting."

He said, "I'm not into writing exposés." He wouldn't touch it. He was, meanwhile, working on his Bell Curve, which is also another interesting book. I'll tell you, he caught hell for that one. But he wouldn't touch it, it was so political. I could tell a bunch of stories about it, but I'm not going to. Suffice it to say, it should have taken — I had a little chart for years where I plotted the number of years from inception to flight, starting with Mercury, then Gemini, then Apollo, eight years. Skylab actually was probably four years, but it didn't kind of count because it was Apollo hardware. And then ASTP didn't count, and then Shuttle was twelve years from when we started in '69 to '81. So you extrapolate that exponential curve, and I'd predicted roughly sixteen years, fifteen years, for Station from start, from '83 or so. It turned out to be pretty close, but even it was a little short…[112]

Young couldn't convince Murray to write an exposé about Space Station Freedom because, Murray said, he was "not into writing exposés." Apparently Murray changed his mind for Hidden Figures.

Why Charles Murray is odious[edit]

Charles Murray, racist troll [113]

In spite of Young's request to publicize his claims, Murray refused to take him up on his project until he received pushback to his racist trolling on Twitter:

There matters lay until the spring of 2023, when I made a joke on Twitter (never a good idea) about the press’s uncritical reporting of black high school students who were said to have proved the Pythagorean theorem using trigonometry, a feat previously thought to be impossible. In the Tweet, I wondered when we could expect to see the movie “Hidden Trigonometricians.”[111]

Murray saw a tweet about a Popular Mechanics article about two Black teenaged girls who were said to have "proven the Pythagorean theorem with trigonometry"[114] and his response was to go onto Twitter and express doubt that they were correct, predict their failure would be covered up by Popular Mechanics and compare them, insultingly, to the women portrayed in Hidden Figures.

Providing an excellent answer to Nathan J. Robinson's question: "Why is Charles Murray odious?"

Far from a failure covered up by Popular Mechanics, Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson were in the news a year later, because per the Guardian "Teens who discovered new way to prove Pythagoras’s theorem uncover even more proofs."[115]

"Never heard of Katherine Johnson or her calculations"[edit]

In Murray's paper, Ken Young claimed people who should have heard of Katherine Johnson had not.

Those of us in the Rendezvous Analysis Branch of MPAD and the Flight Crew Operations personnel in the Flight Operations Directorate who did that work never heard of her or her “precise time” of the Lunar Module’s liftoff. More specifically, J. David Alexander, our leading lunar rendezvous expert, who had come to MSC in 1963, was among those at MSC and MPAD in the early days who had never heard of Katherine Johnson or her calculations.[111]

This echoes the opening of Margot Shetterly's epilogue to Hidden Figures:

It's the question that comes up most often when I tell people about the black women who worked at mathematicians at NASA: Why haven't I heard this story before? At this point, more than five years after I began the research that would become Hidden Figures, I've fielded the question more times than I can count…[116]

One possible answer could be that women's STEM work has always been overlooked, or their contributions denied credit[117] even into the second decade of the twenty-first century:

Women in science are less likely than their male counterparts to receive authorship credit for the work they do, an innovative new study finds.[118] Researchers for the first time used a large set of administrative data from universities that revealed exactly who was involved with and paid on various research projects. The data were linked to authorship information on patents and articles published in scientific journals—to see which people who worked on individual projects received credit in the patents and journals and who did not. Results, published today June 22, 2022 in the journal Nature, showed that women who worked on a research project were 13% less likely to be named as authors in related scientific articles compared to their male colleagues.

"There is a clear gap between the rate at which women and men are named as coauthors on publications" said Julia Lane, a co-author on the study and a professor at New York University. "The gap is strong, persistent, and independent of the research field."[119]

Considering that Hidden Figures is about the careers of Black women in the southern United States, working in the middle decades of the twentieth century, before the civil rights movement achieved the end of segregation and many other forms of legal discrimination, it seems probable that women like Katherine Johnson received less credit than they deserved.

Apollo: The Race to the Moon[edit]

In his NASA interview, Young mentioned the book Murray wrote with his wife Catherine Bly Cox, no longer in print, called Apollo: The Race to the Moon.[120] The book received praise for its accuracy, with the exception of a review by astronaut Michael CollinsWikipedia who noted:

  • By omitting the flight crews, however, Mr. Murray and Ms. Cox do produce an exaggerated assessment of what Mission Control could and could not do. Kranz & Company were superb, no doubt about it, but they were not omnipotent. They were on the ground, and we were elsewhere. They could only wait to hear how our dockings turned out, or sit fiddling their thumbs while we were starting our motor on the back side of the moon to return home.
  • The authors also say that "writing definitive history is a solemn undertaking and 'Apollo' was not. Our objective has been to tell stories." And they are very good ones indeed, although a reader might jump to the conclusion that Kennedy's decade was mostly fun and games. It was not, for me at least.[121]

Had he wished, Collins could have speculated on why Murray and Cox portrayed the Kennedy decade at variance from Collins' own experience. Perhaps, as a right-wing pundit, Murray was disinclined to give Kennedy credit. But unlike Murray in 2023, Collins didn't have an agenda, and generously adds that the portrayal was not accurate "for me, at least."

Not-so-hidden motivations[edit]

Reactions to Murray's claims about the book Hidden Figures

Like Murray, Ken Young appeared to have an agenda. He quoted from Hidden Figures, "At the Cape, a behind-the-scenes camera captured extensive footage of the astronaut as he walked through each station of the trip he had already taken hundreds of times in NASA simulators. (217)" to which Young responded, "Perhaps 'dozens,' not 'hundreds.' More hyperbole!"

The point of Murray's document is to argue that Katherine Johnson's calculations were not as important to the project of manned space flight as the book Hidden Figures claims. A possible exaggeration about walks in NASA simulators — this objection is dependent on Young's memory of and knowledge of all possible trips — has no bearing on the document's point — but it does show that Young is on a mission. And leaving in that kind of nit-picking reflects on Murray, who edited the document.

It's certainly possible that there are inaccuracies in Hidden Figures: disagreements on recollections of long-past events are not uncommon, as shown by E. O. Wilson's "water incident". And Murray's own book was disputed by an expert eyewitness. Tom Wolfe's well-known book on the space program The Right StuffWikipedia was lauded for its accuracy, but some took issue with its portrayal of astronaut Gus Grissom.[122]

Although Murray's document mentions Johnson's age several times, it doesn't reveal the ages of Young and Beck, who were near contemporaries of Johnson, who died at age 101 in 2020. They were likely to be at least in their mid-80s. And in spite of Murray's frequent claim of "falsifiability," much of Murray's argument depends on the memories of Young and Beck.

It's also possible that Beck and Young were motivated by resentment. Johnson achieved fame at least as much for her identity as her career accomplishments. As a Black woman during the age of Jim Crow, she had to surmount incredible obstacles to achieve a career at NASA and her story is truly inspirational. Meanwhile history is unlikely to remember either Young or Beck, except for a couple of interviews by NASA,[123][112] and their association with Charles Murray.

As for Murray's possible motivation, to borrow a phrase from Charles Murray's document, "I have a theory of the case. I emphasize that it is speculative; no more than my attempt to devise a plausible explanation that is consistent with the known facts": Charles Murray's career is staked on the mental inferiority of Black people, so much so that in 2021 he justified discrimination against a hypothetical Black job applicant who was equally qualified for a position as a hypothetical white one. And he admitted that he decided to publish the critique of Hidden Figures out of revenge for the negative reaction he received when he cast doubt on an accomplishment of two Black teenagers. Murray is on a mission to show that any accomplishment by Black people, especially Black women, must be considered doubtful.

For the legacy of Charles Murray to succeed, Black people must fail.

Why take Charles Murray seriously?[edit]

Nathan J. Robinson said it well:

Some people may say that I have taken Charles Murray too seriously here. His work, so the argument goes, is self-evidently worthless and racist, so why bother dealing with his claims rigorously or carefully? Doesn’t a serious examination of Murray’s work "legitimize" him? By parsing his texts in detail, and making sure to be fair to them, I am spending more time than this man is worth. But while I understand this perspective, I do not share it. Charles Murray, like it or not, has already been legitimized by his very public presence. He is supported by a major think tank, his books are put out by mainstream publishers. While I believe his body of work is socially worthless and filled with a vile anti-black bigotry, and that anyone who publishes his books or invites him to speak is complicit in spreading prejudice, avoiding confronting his claims directly only helps bolster his case to the public that he is being persecuted by people who cannot deal with his arguments. Murray says that The Bell Curve is "relentlessly modest" and "mainstream science cautiously interpreted."[124] Unless one proves otherwise, people might be tempted to believe him.[1]

See also[edit]

  • Peter Thiel — Right-wing billionaire who Murray teamed up with in 2011 to argue that "too many kids go to college";[125] more recent reporting suggests Thiel-backed academic network(s) may host/promote Murray and his work.[126]

External links[edit]


  1. emphasis added


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Why Is Charles Murray Odious? Nathan J. Robinson (July 17, 2017) Current Affairs
  2. 2.0 2.1 You've got to be taught to hate and fear. Eric Alterman (April 4, 2007) Media Matters for America
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994) Free Press. ISBN 0029146739.
  4. Charles Murray Southern Poverty Law Center
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography?' Charles Murray Jason Deparle (October 9, 1994) The New York Times
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Q & A with Charles Murray on Human Accomplishment Interview with Steve Sailer (October 16, 2003) (archived)
  7. Conversation with Charles Murray interview by Bill Kristol (2014) Conversations with Bill Kristol (archived)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 The White Man, Unburdened Quinn Slobodian, Stuart Schrader (July 2018) The Baffler
  9. 9.0 9.1 Intellectual Stock Picking James Traub (February 7, 1994) The New Yorker
  10. Wingnut Welfare and Work Incentives Paul Krugman (April 25, 2015) The New York Times
  11. we talk a lot about profitable grifts… by Adam H. Johnson (January 6, 2020) Twitter (archived from September 29, 2023).
  12. Think Tanks in America by Thomas Medvetz (2012) The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 022614366X.
  13. There's something about (Charles) Murray by Tom Medvetz (May 26, 2015) The Washington Post
  14. Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980 by Charles Murray (1984) Basic Books. ISBN 0465042317.
  15. The Battle Over 'Losing Ground' Review by Michael Barone (April 3, 1985) The Washington Post
  16. "Losing Ground": An Exchange Christopher Jenck’s (October 24, 1985) New York Review of Books
  17. Don't Be Like That Kelefa Sanneh (February 2, 2015) The New Yorker
  18. See E. O. Wilson#Herrnstein.
  19. Linda Gottfredson (March 29, 1990) University of Delaware Inter-departmental Memorandum
  20. The Tainted Sources of 'The Bell Curve' Charles Lane (December 1, 1994) The New York Review of Books
  21. The 'Bell Curve' Agenda (October 24, 1994) The New York Times
  22. By the way, also here tonight is Charles Murray who I understand has been hard at work on a sequel to The Bell Curve entitled Jazz, the Music Created by Morons. Al Fraken at the 1996 White House Correspondent's Dinner YouTube
  23. Race, Genes and I. Q. - An Apologia Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein (October 31, 1994) The New Republic
  24. A Reader's Guide to Andrew Sullivan's Defense of Race Science Max Read (November 29, 2011) Gawker
  25. Denying Genetics Isn’t Shutting Down Racism, It’s Fueling It Andrew Sullivan (Marcy 30, 2018) Intelligencer - New York Magazine
  26. Charles Murray On Human Diversity Interview with Charles Murray (May 28, 2021) The Daily Dish
  27. Mainstream Science on Intelligence: An Editorial With 52 Signatories, History, and Bibliography Linda Gottfredson (December 13, 1994) The Wall Street Journal
  28. Linda Gottfredson Southern Poverty Law Center
  29. International Society for Intelligence Research
  30. Charles Murray was interviewed by David Lubinski at the 2009 meeting in Madrid, Spain. (Retrieved November 1, 2023) International Society for Intelligence Research
  31. In Genes We Trust: When Science Bows to Racism Barry Mehler (Winter 1997) Reform Judaism
  32. ISIR 2004 Distinguished Contributor Interview: Thomas Bouchard, Jr. Timothy Bates' YouTube Channel
  33. 2010 International Society for Intelligence Research Conference ISIR Lifetime Contribution Award
  34. Behavioral Genetics of Intelligence: Its History to the Forefront of Big Data Advances (July 10, 2019) The Inaugural Pre-ISIR Conference Lecture Series
  35. quotation from Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective Third Edition by J. Philippe Rushton
  36. Breaking the Last Taboo Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr. (May 1995) Contemporary Psychology.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Tramps Like Them Nicholas Confessore (February 10, 2012) The New York Times
  38. Does The Bell Curve Ring True? A Closer Look at a Grim Portrait of American Society William T. Dickens, Charles L. Schultze, and Thomas J. Kane (June 1, 1995) Brookings
  39. Before Obama Was President, In His Own Words On NPR (January 10, 2017) National Public Radio
  40. Barack Obama: race denier & Bell Curve critic Transcript of the entire piece by Obama (November 29, 2018) Pinkerite
  41. What is Your Dangerous Idea - Steven Pinker (December 23, 2005) EDGE (retrieved via October 9, 2023)
  43. Personal genomes: the case of the missing heritability Brendan Maher (November 5, 2008) Nature
  44. The History and Geography of Human Genes by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al. (1994) Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691087504.
  45. Toward a new history and geography of human genes informed by ancient DNA by Joseph K. Pickrell & David Reich (2014) Trends Genet. 30(9): 377–389. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2014.07.007.
  46. The Bell Curve Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994)
  47. NPR Interview with Charles Murray (10-28-1994) NPR via Prometheism.
  48. See E. O. Wilson#Implications amok.
  49. Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 by Charles Murray (2003) HarperCollins. ISBN 006019247X.
  50. Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 About the Book (2003) AEI website
  51. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 by Charles Murray (2012) Crown Forum. ISBN 0307453421.
  52. The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life by Charles Murray (2014) Currency. ISBN 0804141444.
  53. Thirty-Five Tips On Getting Ahead From A Genius Who Has Already Made It John Tamny (June 15, 2014) Forbes
  54. Students walk out of Murray talk Georgia Parks (October 29, 2013) Duke Chronicle
  55. Speaking up: Charles Murray talk sparks student, faculty protests Anita Alem (April 9, 2014) The Rice Thresher
  56. Charles Murray Comes to Campus, Drawing Protest Isaac Lee (November 16, 2016) The Phoenix
  57. U. Affiliates silently protest, walk out of Charles Murray lecture Marcia Brown and Christopher Umanzor (December 9, 2016) The Daily Princetonian
  58. Controversial author Charles Murray’s visit sparks student protest Timothy Duke (November 2, 2017) The DePaulia
  59. How the Middlebury Riot Really Went Down Taylor Gee (May 28, 2017) Politico
  60. Bell Curve author Charles Murray speaks out after speech cut short by protests Danuta Kean (March 6, 2017) The Guardian
  61. Charles Murray: My Free Speech Ordeal at Middlebury Charles Murray (March 7, 2017) Newsweek
  62. Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web Bari Weiss (May 8, 2018) The New York Times
  63. Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett (May 18, 2017) Vox
  64. EZRA KLEIN: EDITOR-AT-LARGE Sam Harris (March 27, 2018) Sam Harris' blog
  65. Human Biological and Psychological Diversity Bo Wingegard, Benjamin Winegard and Brian Boutwell (January 17, 2017) Evolutionary Psychological Science
  66. Charles Murray is a Hateful Crackpot Whose Views Should Not Be Legitimized Scott Lemieux (May 19, 2017) Lawyers, Guns and Money
  67. Controversial Social Scientist Charles Murray Retires Interview with Michel Martin (January 7, 2018) All Things Considered - National Public Radio
  68. Charles Murray: Celebrating a New Chapter at AEI Arthur C. Brooks (December 21, 2017) AEI
  69. Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class by Charles Murray (2020) Twelve. ISBN 9781538744017.
  70. 70.0 70.1 70.2 Nodding to Caution but Still Courting Controversy Parul Sehgal (February 12, 2020) The New York Times
  71. More on Murray: What is Biological Determinism? Eric Turkheimer (January 29, 2020) Eric Turkheimer blog
  72. white nationalist fav Charles Murray here just casually asking Twitter to take his account in solidarity with VDARE and Unz Review contributor Steve Sailer @hannahgais (January 30, 2021) Twitter (archived from January 30, 2021).
  73. Charles Murray Is a Marketing Genius: Why the book "The Bell Curve" is still being debated 24 years later by Jeet Heer (April 11, 2018) The New Republic.
  74. Charles Murray Is Never Going Away Alex Shephard (January 28, 2020) The New Republic
  75. Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America by Charles Murray (2021) Encounter Books. ISBN 1641771976.
  76. A well-worn argument about race, intelligence and violence Theodore R. Johnson (June 25, 2021) The Washington Post
  77. How Many Reviews Has Charles Murray's "Facing Reality" Received in Its First Month of Publication? Steve Sailer (July 17, 2021) Unz Review
  78. Charles Murray’s ‘Facing Reality’—A Review Razib Khan (July 29, 2021) Quillette
  79. It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand by Jerome Tuccille (1971) Stein and Day. ISBN 0812814029.
  80. How Ayn Rand Captured The Magic Of American Life Charles Murray (October 16, 2014) The Federalist
  81. Leave It to the Elks James P. Pinkerton (January 19, 1997) The New York Times - Books
  82. A Guaranteed Income for Every American Charles Murray (June 3, 2016) The Wall Street Journal
  83. Bench Ansfield, How a 50-year-old study was misconstrued to create destructive broken-windows policing. Archived from The Washington Post, 27 December 2019.
  84. PRC Forum: Charles Murray Free to Choose Network - YouTube
  85. Orphanages Are No Solution New York Times Editorial Board (December 12, 1994) The New York Times
  86. In Defense of Charles Murray Glenn Loury (March 29, 2022) Glenn Loury Substack
  87. A Protest Walk by Negroes (February 27, 1960) Des Moines Tribune. Retrieved September 18, 2023
  88. Shun Negro Students at Little Rock (March 24, 1960) Des Moines Tribune. Retrieved September 18, 2023
  89. Jacksonville Violence Renewed: Bombs, Cross-Burning, Death Des Moines Tribune. (August 30, 1960). Retrieved September 18, 2023
  90. Martin Luther King, removes a KKK cross burned on lawn of his home, as his son Martin stands next to him, Atlanta, Georgia. April 27, 1960 Bridgeman Images
  91. An Eye Witness Recounts K.K.K. Rally by S. R. Abt (October 15, 1960) The Des Moines Register. Page 8.
  92. Burn Cross at Home in Iowa City (April 29, 1960) AP via Des Moines Tribune. Page 15.
  93. Suspend Eight in 'Cross' Case (April 30, 1960) Des Moines Tribune Retrieved September 18, 2023
  94. 8 Students Plan Appeal (May 2, 1960) The Des Moines Tribune Retrieved September 18, 2023
  95. Reinstate 8 Until Action on Appeal (May 3, 1960) The Des Moines Tribune Retrieved September 18, 2023)
  96. A Cultural Scorecard Says West Is Ahead Emily Eakin (October 25, 2003) The New York Times
  97. See the Wikipedia article on Steven F. Hayward § Career.
  98. A Conversation with Charles Murray and Steve Sailer, Pt. 1 Steven F. Hayward (January 23, 2022) Ricochet
  99. What I love about the article is that Gilman quotes… Charles Murray retweets Emil Kirkegaard (November 20, 2018) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2023).
  100. The Emil Kirkegaard article I linked to… by Charles Murray (July 9, 2023) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2023).
  101. Murray retweeting Emil Kirkegaard Charles Murray (August 28, 2023) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2023).
  102. Murray retweeting Emil Kirkegaard and Razib Khan (September 10, 2023) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2023).
  103. Introduction to the memorial issue for J. Philippe Rushton Helmuth Nyborg (2013) Elsevier
  104. Intelligence: Past, Present and Future | Charles Murray and Helmuth Nyborg (January 28, 2023) YouTube
  105. About Aporia.
  106. 106.0 106.1 Aporia - About Aporia
  107. His description of interactions with liberals re group differences… by Charles Murray (September 19, 2023) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2023).
  108. Until now, the only contemporaneous book… by Charles Murray (September 20, 2023) Twitter (archived from October 1, 2023).
  109. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016) William Morrow. ISBN 006236359X.
  110. Katherine Johnson Biography by Sarah A. Loff (Nov 22, 2016) NASA.
  111. 111.0 111.1 111.2 111.3 111.4 The Portrayal of Early Manned Spaceflight in Hidden Figures: A Critique by Harold Beck, Kenneth Young, and Charles Murray (2023).
  112. 112.0 112.1 112.2 [ Kenneth A. Young Interviewed by Kevin Rusnak] (13 June 2001) NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project: Edited Oral History Transcript
  113. What's the over/under on when it will be discovered the proof is invalid? by Charles Murray (May 1, 2023) Twitter (archived from May 3, 2023).
  114. Teens Have Proven the Pythagorean Theorem With Trigonometry. That Should Be Impossible. Two high schoolers just did what mathematicians have never been able to do. by Darren Orf (Mar 31, 2023) Popular Mechanics.
  115. Teens who discovered new way to prove Pythagoras’s theorem uncover even more proofs by Ramon Antonio Vargas (May 6, 2024) The Guardian
  116. Hidden Figures - Epilogue Margot Lee Shetterly (2016) William Morrow
  117. Why the ‘Mother of the Atomic Bomb’ Never Won a Nobel Prize Katrina Miller (October 2, 2023) The New York Times
  118. Women are credited less in science than men by Matthew B. Ross et al. (2022) Nature 608:135–145.
  119. Study first to use new dataset to show gender differences in scientific attribution (June 22, 2022) New York University
  120. Apollo: The Race to the Moon by Charles Murray & Catherine Bly Cox (1989) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671611011.
  121. Let's Hear It for the Earthbound by Michael Collins (1989) The New York Times.
  122. Author says 'Right Stuff' is wrong about Gus Grissom Scott L. Miley (January 10, 2013) CNHI News Service
  123. NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project Edited Oral History Transcript Harold D. Beck Interviewed by Rebecca Wright (December 9, 2004)
  124. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life - Richard J. Herrnstein, Charles Murray (1996): Afterword by Charles Murray (20 June 1995).
  125. Elizabeth Weingarten (October 11, 2011). "Too Many American Kids Go To College". Slate.
  126. Nafeez Ahmed (December 10, 2021). "Peter Thiel's Free Speech for Race Science Crusade at Cambridge University Revealed". Byline Times.