The Public Interest

Social science and the moral muddle

Joseph Adelson

Spring 1994

ONE OF THE MANY reasons for admiring James Q. Wilson is that he has achieved his eminence without yielding to fashionable academic opinion. We saw this clearly in his writing on crime, above all in Crime and Human Nature, written with Richard Herrnstein. It did not shy away from examining individual constitutional dispositions to criminality, e.g., differences in physique, intelligence and temperament—nor did it avoid the issue of race. These questions were treated with such directness and probity as to mute excessive displays of scholarly displeasure, though there was much huffing and puffing privately. They had gone too far; they had taken biology too seriously; the next step is racism; and so on.

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