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Intelligence Polemics


By Peter Shapiro

Aside from Richard Herrnstein, one of SDS's prime targets this year has been William Shockley, a professor of Engineering at Stanford and a major proponent of the theory that intelligence is primarily dependent upon heredity.

This week, the Stanford administration decided not to allow Shockley to teach an accredited course on his controversial theories. In a statement delivered Monday, the administration said Shockley could not teach the course because the topic of genetics falls outside of his field. The statement also said that the course, as Shockley described it, seemed "polemical" and thus inappropriate for classroom instruction. "The level of objectivity of the proposed course is at least troubling," it concluded.

Shockley--who won a Nobel prize for inventing the transistor in 1956--has studied the hereditability of intelligence off and on since 1964. The most controversial of his many theories on the subject is a belief that nature has "color-coded" the human race: the darker someone's skin, says Shockley, the lower his intelligence is likely to be. "Every percentage point of black blood a person has in him lowers his I.Q. one point," he maintains.

Herrnstein--who has been lumped with Shockley by protesters--disagrees sharply on the issue of racial differences in intelligence. He says that although blacks score lower on the average on intelligence tests, this difference may be due to the long history of discrimination against blacks.

On the decision not to let Shockley teach his genetic theories, Herrnstein is hesitant to label Stanford unfair. He has not seen an outline of Shockley's proposed course and says. "I can't tell whether this is a case of political orthodoxy preventing certain kinds of views from being presented."

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