Summer Reading 2019

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Every year, for the past 15 years, I’ve had a Summer Reading assignment. The first book selected in 2005 was War Against the Weak by Edwin Black. This was an eye-opener. The eugenics movement in the United States was not discussed in the history courses I took when I was young.

In 1994, a controversial book on the role of intelligence in economic and social stratification was published. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray challenged readers to reflect on the differences in intellectual capacity. I purchased the book but never found time to read it. It was always on a to-do list for the future.

Now that I’m retired, time, and motivation, make this the choice for Summer 2019.

As I prepare to read The Bell Curve, I have 25 years of negative reviews to put aside if I hope to read it objectively. Charles Murray, the surviving author, continues to be harassed by folks who think they know what he documented in the book. This makes my motivation clear: what did Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray really say?

My approach will be as objective as I have been with my mathematics research. Identify the main thesis and determine if the analysis supports the thesis.

There is no room for editorializing on this book until the analytical reading is complete. However, the details of the authors arguments will lead to personal observations on the validity of their approach. Hopefully this will not be perceived as opinion. The authors use data sets and statistical analyses of those data sets to support their claims. I will draw on my mathematics background to review that analysis.

Some of the opinions about the book have referenced subsequent analyses to dismiss their work. That does a disservice to the authors. They used data and results that were available when they wrote the book. Having reviewed the bibliography, the documentation is extensive. As a result, this summer read will extend beyond a summer reading period.

In addition, I’m halfway through Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Since this book was on my Reading List for 2019, I will continue this through the summer also.

Hope your Summer Reading list is as challenging as mine.

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