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Graduate student statement on Charles Murray

| Tuesday, March 28, 2017

As educators and researchers, we, the undersigned graduate instructors, researchers and students of Notre Dame, hold ourselves and our students to the highest standards of reasoning and evidence. We teach our students that their arguments and conclusions must be based upon peer-reviewed research and well-reasoned arguments; we instruct them in logical fallacies and how to judge the legitimacy of their sources. We also teach our students, and recognize in our own work, that words have consequences. Based on his so-called research and evidence, Charles Murray would neither pass our classes, nor would he be accepted as a legitimate source of authority for our students’ work. Not only is his research shoddy and jejune, his arguments are profoundly racist and discriminatory. They are veiled attacks shrouded in pseudo-academic jargon and rhetoric, aimed at the most marginalized members of Notre Dame’s community. While reading his books in class as a vehicle for understanding contemporary eugenics and political discourse is one matter, elevating his views through the tacit acceptance provided by an invitation and a platform to speak — a platform not offered to those most deeply affected by his writings — is quite another.

In a post on Wednesday on RealClearPolitics, associate professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz defended his choice to invite Murray to speak on campus. Muñoz states that he invited Murray to encourage students “to think more deeply and thoughtfully about contemporary moral and political issues” and “to read thoughtful conservatives.” At issue is the fact that both these goals can be accomplished without undermining the other core values of higher education: instilling in students the ability to separate opinion from fact, rigorously interrogating truth claims, and recognizing and minimizing bias in research. Murray is not a “thoughtful conservative.” As faculty at Columbia University recently wrote: “Although his writings carry the rhetorical patina of science, Murray is largely regarded in academic circles as a rank apologist for racial eugenics and racial inequality in the United States.” The methods and arguments behind the racist conclusions presented in his most famous (co-authored) work, The Bell Curve, were immediately critiqued by scholars of all political persuasions, including conservatives like Thomas Sowell who specifically took Murray to task for his confusion of correlation with causation, and the unfounded leaps made to conclude that statistical differences in IQ scores were rooted in genetics.

Murray has not repudiated his earlier racist work. In fact, 2014 saw Murray endorsing another work of racist pseudoscience by Nicholas Wade — a work so egregiously bad that over 100 population geneticists signed a letter discussing “Wade’s misappropriation of research from our field,” concluding that “there is no support from the field of population genetics for Wade’s conjectures.” Instead, in Murray’s most recent work,“Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” increasing class division and inequalities are not said to be solely the domain of genes, but are also attributed to a breakdown in cultural values such as honesty and integrity on the part of those in the lower classes. This breakdown is held to begin during the early 1960s, exacerbated by the war on poverty and by civil rights legislation. In upholding a picture of white unity in the postwar period, his work pushes to the background the history of class conflict in American society. Given the above, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Murray’s principal funders are right wing neo-liberal think tanks and that his research draws on the work of those funded by white supremacist organizations like the Pioneer Fund.

Murray’s claims as an academic are specious; his arguments are pernicious to the extreme. They should be discussed in the classroom and the University, given their outsized role in contemporary social and political discourse; however, this engagement can and should be done without providing a platform that functions to legitimize Murray, putting his work on the same level as that of the serious academics he debates. In contrast to Murray, we take seriously our charge to undertake rigorous research, as well as to attend to the marginalized in our Notre Dame community. Indeed, to do so is central to the Catholic mission of this university, while Murray’s promulgation of racist and class-based eugenics, and the results of his inflammatory rhetoric, are diametrically opposed to the the rigorous pursuit of knowledge and to Notre Dame’s core principles. It is our duty as educators and researchers to stand against Charles Murray and the tacit validation of his cause through the University’s (we presume paid) sponsorship of his speech.


Anna Siebach-Larsen, Medieval Institute, CSLC
Todd P. Marek, Anthropology
Mallika Sarma, Anthropology
Amanda Cortez, Anthropology
Mauna Dasari, Biological Sciences
Jamee Elder, History and Philosophy of Science
Katie Osborn, English
Courtney Smotherman, Ph.D. in Literature
Mae T Kilker, Medieval Institute
Maggie Shum, Political Science
Gabriel Foster, Ph.D. in Philosophy
Rachel Oidtman, Biological Sciences
Brittni Bertolet, Department of Biological Sciences
Laura Grieneisen, Biology
Elizabeth A. Miller, Biological Sciences
Amy Nelson, Medieval Institute
Emily de Wet, Anthropology
Xavi Lanao, Philosophy
Heather Stanfiel, History
Matt Trentman, Biological Sciences
Amanda Bohne, English
Marjorie Housley, English
Jeremy Davidheiser, English
David Jansen, Biological Sciences
Katelyn Carothers, Biological Sciences
Elizabeth Baker, History
Chamara Moore, English
Sara Morrow, Anthropology
Stefan Freed, Biological Sciences
Kevin Gallin, English
Erik Fuhrer, English
A.L.Castonguay, History
Mary Chang, Biological Sciences
Carmella Vizza, Biological Sciences
Jeremiah Coogan, Theology
Laura M. Ortiz-Mercado, English
Caitlin Smith, English
Kelly Heilman, Biological Sciences
Jeremy Steeger, Philosophy
Arial Shogren, Biological Sciences
Karie Cross, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Nicole Winsor, English
Raquel Montanez-Gonzalez, Biology
Diana La Torre, Biological Sciences
Cait Stevenson, Medieval Institute
Benjamin Gombash, Biological Sciences
Taylor Quinn, Chemistry
Katherine O’Reilly, Biological Sciences
Elvin Morales, Biological Sciences
Lucas Korte, Dept of Art, Art History, and Design
Martin Sastri, Medieval Institute
Clyde Daly, Chemistry
Chissa Rivaldi, Biological sciences
Maryam Rokhideh, Anthropology and Peace Studies
Paul McEldowney, Philosophy
Rachel Hanks, English
Erik Larsen, Literature
Marjorie Harrington, English
Joao Santos, Mathematics
Angela Lederach, Peace Studies and Anthropology
Mark Brockway, Political Science
Emily Mahan, Medieval Studies
Mette Evelyn Bjerre, Sociology
Rieti Gengo, Anthropology & Peace Studies
Leslie MacColman, Sociology & Peace Studies
Justin Trupiano, Art, Art History, and Design
Anton Povzner, English


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Letter
  • J. C. Smith

    At least you argued maturely, rather than depriving him of his constitutional right to speak. Thank you.

    • Joel Castro

      No one deprived him of his right. He spoke. His speech was simply not respected.

      • hpd929

        It was respected by people who bothered to listen.

      • Tripper

        It was respected by the vast majority of the students, from what I understand. It was respected by anyone with a functioning brain.

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          People deserve respect. Ideas don’t.

  • Jw

    i suppose because he’s speaking on the topic of The State of White America it’s not germane to talk about his ideas on race science. so i have questions that pertain to his views on topics more related to The State of White America:

    “If you are drunk or high, to what degree can you say you are a victim 
when something bad happens to you? A question to take seriously.” http://bit.ly/2necjIC
i’d love to hear him go into more detail on this

    “There is a dirty little secret about the problem of out-of-wedlock births to poor women. The dirty little secret is that very large numbers of them are rotten mothers. And by rotten mothers I don’t mean all of them, obviously. But I do mean that there are very large numbers of children who are being left alone, all day and into the night, not because the mother is out searching for a job, but because she’s partying.” https://t.co/YBdlbqeiuo
    he should also talk about the research that has led him to this conclusion

    “Restoring economic penalties translates into the first and central
    policy prescription: to end all economic support for single mothers. The
    AFDC (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) payment goes to zero.
    Single mothers are not eligible for subsidized housing or for food
    stamps. An assortment of other subsidies and in-kind benefits disappear.
    Since universal medical coverage appears to be an idea whose time has
    come, I will stipulate that all children have medical coverage. But with
    that exception, the signal is loud and unmistakable: From society`s
    perspective, to have a baby that you cannot care for yourself is
    profoundly irresponsible, and the government will no longer subsidize
    it.” http://bit.ly/2nxye0Z
    i don’t really get this one

    • hpd929

      It’s pretty simple- not everything is the fault of the government or the fault of “society.” Some things are your fault.

      • Jw

        wow that’s a pretty interesting idea

        • hpd929

          The government won’t read the book for you, though. You need the SPLC to do that.

  • hpd929

    How many people signing this statement -or, indeed, commenting here- can answer the following questions about The Bell Curve without looking up the answers?

    1. Who, in addition to Charles Murray, authored The Bell Curve?
    a. David Bernstein
    b. Robert Putnam
    c. Richard Herrnstein
    d. David Brooks

    2. What is the subtitle of The Bell Curve?
    a. Intelligence Differences Between the Races
    b. Race and Educational Achievement in American Society
    c. Intelligence in American Culture
    d. Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

    3. How many chapters does The Bell Curve have?
    a. 10
    b. 17
    c. 22
    d. 25

    4. In which chapter is the issue of race and intelligence discussed?
    a. 5
    b. 9
    c. 13
    d. 18

    5. Which publisher published The Bell Curve?
    a. Harvard University Press
    b. Routledge
    c. Free Press
    d. Knopf

    If you can’t answer these basic questions then it is reasonable to assume that you haven’t even looked at the book and don’t know what you are talking about. You are being told whom you should hate and then obeying orders. Is that a disposition characteristic of scholars?

    • Jw

      this is cool that you wrote this up

      • hpd929

        You don’t know the answers? That’s okay. Walk to the library, get a copy of the book, and educate yourself.

  • Matthew Bartilotti

    I was hoping that this article broke down exactly what they thought was racist about Murray’s book (which they probably did not read), but all they did was rewrite the sentence “Murray’s work is racist and evil” again and again.

    • hb

      “his research [is] shoddy and jejune”

      “confusion of correlation with causation,”

      “unfounded leaps made to conclude that statistical differences in IQ scores were rooted in genetics”

      “endorsing another work of racist pseudoscience by Nicholas Wade — a work so egregiously bad that over 100 population geneticists signed a letter discussing ‘Wade’s misappropriation of research from our field,'”

      “his work pushes to the background the history of class conflict in American society.”


      They said he uses bad science to defend the belief that some races are more intelligent than others. I thought why that would be racist kind of went without saying. You have to be pretty dumb to need it broken down more than that.

      • hpd929

        Every IQ study ever done has found that median IQ varies considerably between racial groups. Murray simply reports that fact. If it is bad science, then do a study that *doesn’t* find this variation. Do you want to present an alternative study? Or just squawk about racism?

        • Tripper

          We know the answer.

      • Punta Venyage

        See hpd929’s comment…

        It doesn’t matter how we feel about the facts. The facts are the facts! Do you want to pretend that the median IQ is the same across all groups so that we can all feel better? Is your sense of self worth really this fragile?

      • Tripper

        Do they have evidence that there are absolutely no IQ differences between races? Because it’s not like Murray is the only one who has found it. All these “graduate students” do is cut and paste insults from leftist websites.

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          Is anyone who disagrees with you a leftist?

  • MC

    I honestly would like clarification on how he is tied to eugenics because I do not see him advocating for forced sterilization or abortion anywhere. The conclusions he draws from his data, whether corrupted or not, are not on their own enough to be called eugenic. They must be accompanied by an ethical statement that comments on the inherent worth of the person based on these factors or advocates for policies that would remove these members from society. He does neither, in my understanding of his work.
    To point out disparities in IQ is not enough to be considered a eugenist. For example, it is a fact that there are members of society with lower IQs based on mental disabilities. Some societies approach that fact with supportive services and protection of those vulnerable members, while others use that fact to advocate for selective abortion and forced sterilization. Both are operating from the same common knowledge of the limitations of those members based on their IQs, but the ethical framework of each society responds in different ways. I am unconvinced that Murray’s work has indicated a response to his findings on IQ that could be in any way classified as eugenic.
    Interestingly, nobody was worried about eugenics when a politician known for her impassioned advocacy of abortive rights came to speak, despite the fact that there are distinctly eugenic strains in the historical and modern pro-choice movement and despite the fact that the practice of abortion goes directly against hundreds of years of Catholic social teaching on human dignity.

    • Jw

      how often do you think about eugenics exactly?

  • Punta Venyage

    It’s a shame that moronic uncritical thinking like this is represented like this among members of the university faculty.

    Since when did professors get so scared of ideas? You people should be ashamed for promoting mob rule mentalities where “let’s get a group of people who don’t like you and project outrage” is an acceptable form of counterargument. The best way to sharpen your own opinion is by hearing the strongest argument from those who disagree with you. Have you failed to learn even this simple fact of intelligence over the course of getting your PhDs (which, outside of the hard sciences, are starting to appear more and more as worthless to society)?

    You are trying to project moral superiority, authority, and popularity – very base level emotional appeals rather than logical argument and you are contributing your influence towards lazy thinking rather than encouraging SHARP and INQUISITIVE minds for the next generation, which is your implicit fiduciary responsibility!

    And why is it that it is ALWAYS the left who tries to silence opposing viewpoints like this? I have never seen conservatives assemble like the left does to make sure that a opposing viewpoint gets suppressed. It seems that those on the right are far and away more willing to engage in discussions containing opposing viewpoints, looking to offer counterarguments at every turn, as opposed to running away, pointing the finger, and calling names.

    Rather than this sorry excuse of an attempt, you would have benefited others far more by offering your own analysis of i.e. why median IQs differ among population groups. Make yourselves and your years of academic study useful and provide some meat for the discussion instead of acting like 5 year olds with expanded vocabularies.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Inform yourself on what the 1st amendment means. The 1st amendment means that you’re allowed to express your opinions without being censored by the government. It doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t criticize you when they disagree with you. By criticizing Murray, people are exerting their 1st amendment rights. Or is the 1st amendment only valid when people say things you agree with? That’s “moronic”.
      And by the way, not everyone who disagrees with you is “the left”. Inform yourself on that as well.

    • Tripper

      “And why is it that it is ALWAYS the left who tries to silence opposing viewpoints like this?”
      Because conservatism makes much more sense, so if people are able to hear both sides, that is what they will choose.

  • Tripper

    “Based on his so-called research and evidence, Charles Murray would neither pass our classes, nor would he be accepted as a legitimate source of authority for our students’ work. ”

    Whatever is produced in your “classes” wouldn’t even be worthy for Mr. Murray to use as toilet paper. Mr. Murray has a BA from Harvard. You don’t. He also has a PhD from MIT. You definitely don’t. He is a world-renowned researcher and author. You’re not, and never will be.

    Mr. Murray is one of the foremost intellectuals in this country. His research shapes the public discourse. Meanwhile, you sign a letter completely ignorant of reason or thought.

    P.S. “racist” is not a scientific term. Notre Dame – I have no idea how these people got into the pre-eminent Catholic school in America, but you need to do better.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      You used a lot of “non-scientific” terms in your comment.

      • Tripper

        That’s all you got?

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          You were the one complaining about “non-scientific” terms…

          • Tripper

            Yes, because the authors complain about Murray’s research techniques and their validity, but their complaints are nothing but leftist shame-terms like “racist”. They provide no actual evidence that Murray’s research was faulty. The FACT is that races do differ in average IQ. I’m not sure why that’s so horrible. IQ isn’t everything. And his latest research discusses the deteriorating conditions in much of working class America. Back when liberals actually cared about the working class they might have appreciated this.

          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            Is “leftist shame-terms” scientific? And if you think that Trump cares about the working class, you must be really blind.

  • Tripper

    “Murray’s claims as an academic are specious”
    Again, Harvard BA, MIT PhD, and much smarter than any of you…real scientists don’t use the left-wing smear term “racist” 10 times in a letter. Do better Notre Dame.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      If you get so triggered by the use of the word “racist”, maybe you are one.