This thread is attracting quite the response from readers. One writes:

I come to this as a scientist. No topic is out of bounds as long as the discussion is rooted in facts and analytic objectivity. So, no, it is not fair for the student to be hounded and humiliated. Certainly a lot of the backlash is knee-jerk PC over-reach.

But for God's sake, she is just blundering all over a topic with no substantive core. It's like watching school children debate how Santa gets into chimney-less homes. As has been said before, there is no "race" at least not at the genetic level. There is a continuum of genetic diversity, but racial categories are a cultural construct. There is no objective "intelligence." Sure math and science are important, but they were not the key to survival in the evolutionary past and they are not the key to success in the modern economy that I participate in. Who knows what is that unnameable spark that makes someone synthesize disparate information, understand the interests of others, predict future trends, and create influence with others? That's the key to success but it can't be measured or predicted, and it certainly can't be allotted to one "race" over another. 

So when the student ignorantly bumbles into this false question, dropping one red herring after another, all in the name of making a non-sensical but offensive proposition "respectable", who can blame folks for wondering what the real agenda is behind such blather? Because it isn't some intellectual search for truth. It's either spectacular ignorance, or, dare I say it, racism.

Another writes:

Other readers are hitting most of the points that I want to see in response to the race and intelligence question (namely, the questionable existence of a single, measurable "intelligence"), but this particular reader deserves a short, direct reply:

The "descendants of fishermen from the coast of Africa" who came to North America weren't a natural population in any sense of that term. They were slaves. They were selected, either for their physical strength, or because they lacked the skills necessary to escape capture. These Africans were brought here for hundreds of years, prevented, by law, from intermarrying with the non-African population and were segregated from the general population by law and custom until very recently.

I do not deny for one minute that there may have been some kind of selective pressure on genes based on who was captured, who survived the awful journey, and who managed to live and have babies through the ordeal of centuries of slavery.  Aside from that, there's good history to suggest that a relatively small number of tribes in inland West Africa accounted for a substantial majority of the captured and enslaved.  That's a vital topic for investigation.

However, to suggest that there was no genetic intermingling between enslaved persons with those of European descent is to be drastically ignorant of the sexual history of slavery.  Anyone can easily notice when meeting people from sub-Saharan Africa how much darker their skin tone is than the group we call "African-Americans."  The reason is well known -- almost no person descended from enslaved Africans lacks for a substantial amount of European descent.  Give any person, particularly (but not exclusively) men, absolute power over the lives of others, and see what's likely to happen.

Perhaps nowhere has this been expressed so pithily as by James Baldwin in one of his debate with James Kilpatrick over miscegenation: "You're not worried about me marrying your daughter - you're worried about me marrying your wife's daughter. I've been marrying your daughter since the days of slavery!" Modern Americans descended from slaves not only have substantial contributions from the European gene pool, it would have been disproportionately from the southern elite.

Another

Your reader who talked about how blacks were 'selected' as slaves simply does not understand how evolution works.  There is absolutely no way to select for 'intelligence' by the single test 'who gets caught by slavers.'  If this were repeated over many, many generations, and no other genes were allowed into the gene pool, then maybe - just maybe - you'd be selecting for 'gets caught by slavers.'  This doesn't necessarily select against intelligence, of course.  Even the horrible conditions of the slave ships, where many died, only select - once - for 'survived a crossing in a slave ship.'  This might select FOR intelligence. 

And don't talk about 'slaveowner breeding programs' - they were virtually non-existent, and included plenty of slave owner genes invading the gene pool.  I'm sorry, but even the 400 years or so that black slavery existed were simply not enough time for these kinds of differences to haphazardly breed in to the group, and certainly not in the absence of a stringent and active program.

These arguments remind me of Charles Murray's idiotic "Jews bred for intelligence" arguments about how Eastern European Jews selected for scholarly-ness, or that you had to be able to read in ancient Judea to be a Jew.  Please.

Another:

I come to this as a scientist. No topic is out of bounds as long as the discussion is rooted in facts and analytic objectivity. So, no, it is not fair for the student to be hounded and humiliated. Certainly a lot of the backlash is knee-jerk PC over-reach. But for God's sake, she is just blundering all over a topic with no substantive core. It's like watching school children debate how Santa gets into chimney-less homes. As has been said before, there is no "race" at least not at the genetic level. There is a continuum of genetic diversity, but racial categories are a cultural construct. There is no objective "intelligence." Sure math and science are important, but they were not the key to survival in the evolutionary past and they are not the key to success in the modern economy that I participate in. Who knows what is that unnameable spark that makes someone synthesize disparate information, understand the interests of others, predict future trends, and create influence with others? That's the key to success but it can't be measured or predicted, and it certainly can't be allotted to one "race" over another. 

So when the student ignorantly bumbles into this false question, dropping one red herring after another, all in the name of making a non-sensical but offensive proposition "respectable", who can blame folks for wondering what the real agenda is behind such blather? Because it isn't some intellectual search for truth. It's either spectacular ignorance, or, dare I say it, racism.

Another:

I read The Bell Curve many years ago and was impressed with its methodology and analysis. Since then I've become much more skeptical, mainly because in my own experience I see that those with the higher IQs do not generally end up at the top of the heap in professions or in business. Having a high IQ and scoring well on the standardized tests get you a good first job due to a self-perpetuating and thus meaningless set of assumptions, but success over the long term has much, much more to do with what is loosely called emotional intelligence, the ability to understand, connect, and communicate with other human beings. In fact the longer you play out the reel the less important pure "intelligence" seems to matter.

But this calls into question the very definition of "intelligence," and for me that's where the bottom falls out for Murray's theories. Suppose that, rather than using the loaded term "intelligence" we said "the ability to score well on this particular test without regard to other aptitudes" or "the ability to hop on one leg while eating." No one would then care about the theory or its racial implications. And when you come right down to it, that about sums up the importance of Murray's book.

I think for many the discussion of race and "intelligence" is exciting because it seems so edgy, controversial, and even intellectually daring. But once you narrow the definition of "intelligence" enough to make the outcomes comport with reality, it's actually boring.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.