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viewpoint

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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