* "The black-white IQ difference {is } about 15 points in the U.S. ... "

* "In the United States, blacks of above-average socioeconomic status have not averaged as high IQ as whites of lower socioeconomic status."

* "The question here is not whether {group } differences {in mental test performance } are cultural or genetic in origin. The point is that they are real and that their consequences are real."

So this is Charles Murray's heresy, the incendiary declarations about race and IQ that have landed him and his co-authored book, "The Bell Curve," on the cover of Newsweek, the New Republic and the New York Times Magazine, and landed him in the liberal pantheon of bigoted pseudo-science.

Well, no. The quotations above are from "Race and Culture" (Chapter 6: "Race and Intelligence") published two months before "The Bell Curve." The author is Thomas Sowell, the Stanford economist and social scientist. Sowell is black. And his interest in ethnic differences in mental capacity is even broader than Murray's.

Starting with Cicero's observation 20 centuries ago that Britons were too stupid to make good slaves, Sowell offers a worldwide survey of ethnic differences in intelligence. They are ubiquitous. "Among Indians in colonial Malaya, for example, Tamils had higher scores than Gurkhas, and both had higher scores than Bengalis in Bengal." In math, he points out, ethnic Chinese schoolchildren outperform the English in Hong Kong, the Malays in Singapore, the Indonesians in Indonesia. In the United States, East Asians outperform whites.

With the phenomenon of ethnic IQ differences so universal, Sowell is quite relaxed about the American black-white difference. He notes (in a passage I purposely truncated above) that "the black-white IQ difference of about 15 points in the U.S. has been matched by the IQ difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews in Israel or between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland."

Murray's "Bell Curve," on the other hand, is more narrowly focused on ethnic differences in the United States. In particular, it marshals voluminous validation for the black-white IQ differences that Sowell and others have noted. For this, Murray has been subjected to fierce personal attack. To take an example almost at random, sociologist Alan Wolfe writes that "Murray and {co-author Richard} Herrnstein may not be racists, but they are obsessed by race. They see the world in group terms and must have data on group membership."

An interesting charge, given the fact that for the last two decades it is the very liberals who so vehemently denounce Murray who have been obsessed by race, insisting that every institution -- universities, fire departments, Alaskan canneries -- "must have data on group membership."

It is they who have oppressively insisted that we measure ethnic "over-" and "underrepresentation" in every possible field of human endeavor. To take only the latest example, on Sept. 26 the federal government proposed that banks making small business loans be required to ask the applicant's race and gender.

Not a month goes by when I do not get a survey of some sort in which I am asked to identify myself by race. (As a rule, I refuse.) Here is a liberal establishment forcing racial testing and counting for every conceivable activity, and when a study comes along which does exactly that for SATs and IQ, the author is pilloried for being obsessed by race.

In fact, Murray is obsessed by class. "The Bell Curve " is a powerful, scrupulous, landmark study of the relationship between intelligence and social class, which is what the book is mainly about. It is secondarily about differences among ethnicities (they are not addressed until Chapter 13), which is what the fuss is about.

I have two difficulties with the book. First, I see no reason to assume that group differences in intelligence (as opposed to individual variation) have anything to do with genes. The more plausible explanation is Sowell's: Ethnic differences in intelligence, which change over time (the British have come up smartly since Cicero), are due to culture, that part of the environment which, unlike socioeconomic status, is unmeasurable.

Second, I have trouble with Murray's recommendations about what to do with the fact of inequality. He offers a kind of conservative multiculturalism in which each ethnicity finds its honored niche in society according to its own areas of excellence and distinction.

I distrust all multiculturalism, liberal or conservative. The Balkans amply demonstrate the perils of balkanization. My answer is simpler: Stop counting by race. Stop allocating by race. Stop measuring by race. Let's return to measuring individuals.

It seems hopelessly naive to propose this today. But it was not naive when first proposed by Martin Luther King Jr. and accepted by a white society that was finally converted to his vision of color-blindness. Instead, through guilt and intimidation, a liberal establishment has since mandated that every study of achievement in American life be broken down by race. "The Bell Curve" takes that mandate to its logical conclusion.

Enough. As both Murray and Sowell explicitly state, knowing the group score tells you nothing about the individual. Well, we have now seen the group score. Let's all go back to counting individuals. How many of Murray's critics will agree to that?