“As the author of ‘Losing Ground’ (1984), which argued that social programs do more harm than good, and then, with Richard J. Herrnstein, of ‘The Bell Curve’ (1994), which theorized a genetic basis for class and IQ differences between blacks and whites, (Charles) Murray has repeatedly managed what for a scholar is too rare a feat to be entirely accidental: to capture the national spotlight by arousing public ire. Is it any surprise that his latest book seems intended to inflame passions once again?
Published on Oct. 21 by HarperCollins and accompanied by a publicity release optimistically anointing it ‘his most ambitious and controversial work yet,’ ‘Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950’ is well timed to stir debate. At a moment of considerable East-West tension, when the phrase ‘clash of civilizations’ has rarely had greater currency, Mr. Murray has issued what he says is a mathematically precise global assessment of human achievement, a ‘résumé’ of the species in which Europeans like Shakespeare, Beethoven and Einstein predominate and in which Christianity stands out as a crucial spur to excellence. Equally provocative, he maintains that the rate of Western accomplishment is currently in decline.” —New York Times