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Jewish World Review June 28, 2002/ 18 Tamuz, 5762

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Murdering The Bell Curve

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | At least we finally have liberals on record admitting there is such a thing as IQ.

Six years ago, Eric Nesbitt, a U.S. airman assigned to Langley Air Force Base, was brutally murdered by Daryl Renard Atkins, a repeat violent criminal. It was a heinous and pointless murder: Atkins already had Nesbitt's money and car when he unloaded his gun into the defenseless airman. According to a cellmate, Atkins later laughed about the murder.

After hearing the (overwhelming) evidence against him, a jury sentenced Atkins to death.

Last week, the Supreme Court overturned that sentence. The court ruled that the Constitution makes Atkins ineligible for the death penalty if he can prove he is "retarded." In other words, Atkins avoids his capital sentence if he is at least smart enough to know how to fail an IQ test.

Consider what "retarded" means in this context. It does not mean that Atkins could not understand the difference between right and wrong. The law already accounts for that possibility with the concept of legal insanity. It does not mean he could not assist in his own defense. The law already accounts for that possibility with the concept of legal incompetence.

Nor, incidentally, does it mean that Atkins was so retarded that he could not plan a crime, murder a man and then hide the gun. (The police never retrieved the murder weapon.) Indeed, the jury heard the evidence that Atkins was retarded, but still voted to impose the death penalty.

He's just dumb -- not an uncommon trait among violent criminals. As far back as 1914, criminologist H.H. Goddard concluded that "25 percent to 50 percent of the people in our prisons are mentally defective and incapable of managing their affairs with ordinary prudence." Crimes of violence in particular -- murder, rape and assault -- are all correlated with low IQs.

Thus, the Supreme Court has now prohibited the death penalty for precisely those people who are most likely to commit death-penalty level crimes.
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As noted in the excellent new book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. liberals acknowledge the concept of IQ only when attacking Republican presidential candidates or trying to spring a criminal from death row. The court has prohibited IQ tests from being used in hiring as a violation of the Civil Rights Act (Griggs v. Duke Power Co.). But to limit a killer's culpability, IQ tests are evidently completely reliable.

Back when Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein's book "The Bell Curve" was released, liberals denounced the idea of intelligence as a sadistic ploy. Yale University psychologist Robert Sternberg was widely quoted as saying that IQ accounts for less than 10 percent of the variation in human behavior -- including the tendency to commit crimes. "Would you want to make your entire national policy around something that has less than a 10 percent effect?" No, it turns out -- only a national policy prohibiting the death penalty.

The New York Times made the sophisticated argument that one of the authors of "The Bell Curve" (Murray) was "a political ideologue." While admitting that "The Bell Curve" had created "an aura of scientific certitude," the Times warned that other scholars would soon "subject its findings to withering criticism." (Not yet, but soon!) The Times was especially irritated that the book had "ignored the huge gaps in understanding the precise nature of intelligence" and dismissed arguments that low test scores proved only "biased testing."

But now liberals are overjoyed that such a biased test purporting to measure "intelligence" -- a subject that we don't even vaguely understand -- is going to be used to empty the nation's death rows. In an editorial titled "The Court Gets It Right," the Times gushed, "there are scores, perhaps even hundreds, of inmates whose low IQs will now qualify them for a sentence reduction to life in prison."

Now that the topic of "The Bell Curve" is a matter of constitutional law, rather than "pseudo-scientific racism," "indecent, philosophically shabby and politically ugly," "disingenuous" and "creepy" -- all quotes from the liberal New Republic on the book -- let's turn to the guys who were experts in the field before liberals admitted it was a field.

According to "The Bell Curve," the truly retarded are far underrepresented in the criminal population because those with very low IQs "have trouble mustering the competence to commit most crimes." As Justice Scalia put it in dissent, the court's portrayal of the retarded as "willfully cruel" does not comport with experience. To the contrary, he said, "being childlike generally suggests innocence rather than brutality."

But we've got liberals on the record: The New York Times claims that no matter how heinous their behavior, people with low IQs have "little understanding of their moral culpability."

If IQ is such a reliable predictor of behavior, will liberals finally agree to use it as the sole basis for admission to University of Michigan Law School? Also, can we get the SAT scores of Times editor Pinch Sulzberger now?


JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right.

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