SDS sent an open letter Wednesday to James Q. Wilson, professor of Government, and Martin L. Kilson, professor of Government, inviting the two to speak at a public debate in defense of Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology.
SDS said in the letter that Herrnstein, advocate of the hereditability of intelligence and author of IO in the Meritocracy, has refused to debate his book in public.
Wilson and Kilson should discuss Herrnstein's work in a public meeting because they have written "numerous" letters on his behalf, SDS said. The letter asked Wilson and Kilson to debate any time in the next three weeks.
Kilson said Wednesday that he is not willing to debate SDS over Herrnstein's work because "his work isn't in my field." Kilson also said that SDS is not interested in serious intellectual exchange.
Kilson defended Herrnstein's essay on IQ, calling it a "brilliantly executed essay; whatever its technical limitations are, they're probably not as strong as some of his critics have alleged."
Wilson declined to comment on the SDS letter Thursday stating that he has not yet received the letter. He said, however, that he "pretty much" agreed with Kilson's comments concerning the feasibility of a debate.
Katherine J. Moos '75, an SDS representative, said Wednesday, "no one on this campus, including Hernstein, is qualified to debate the scholarly points" raised in Herrnstein's book.
"But the point is that Herrnstein's book is more political than scholarly. So there's no reason that we can't have a political debate on the subject," she said.
Herrnstein denied Wednesday that his book is in any way political. "I'm not sure what my politics are. I expect my book to be evaluated by scholars," he said.
Herrnstein said that SDS has never asked him to publicly discuss his book. He added that he would turn down such a request from SDS. "They may have had a sudden change of heart, but after 20 months of dealing with SDS, I've never known them to be serious," he said.
"I wouldn't rule out the possibility of my taking part in any public discussions of my book," Herrnstein said. "But one reason for writing a book is so that you don't have to keep going over the same material," he said