Raymond B. Cattell and The Social Context
Barry Mehler, Ferris State University
History and Philosophy of Psychology Bulletin
Vol. 10, No. 2, 1998
In 1985, historian of psychology Michael Sokal
wrote that "Psychology, more than most other sciences, can
learn much from the past, and so should devote much attention
both to its own history and to that of human beings at large"
(p. 242). Taking the APA to task, Sokal commented, "unfortunately,
much evidence suggests that APA authors . . . not only do not
care about history but also, when they are forced to consider
it, do so sloppily." Sokal pointed out that journals such
as Science require "that any article - whatever its
subject - that employs statistical methodology be refereed by
statisticians." Just as expertise in any given area does
not imply expertise in statistics, so too, "expertise in
any area of psychology does not imply expertise in the history
of that area" (Sokal, 1985, p. 242).
Historians of science have focused a great deal
of attention on the idea of the social context of science. In
fact, one reason why the history of eugenics has been so extensively
examined in the past two decades is because it is an excellent
example of the interaction between science and society. As a historian
of science who has been studying the history of psychology and
eugenics for over 20 years, I attempted to place Dr. Cattell's
work in a context that clarifies the historiography of eugenics
and Dr. Cattell's place within that historiography. In a 1997
essay, I suggested that ideologues of the radical right, and above
all interwar fascists, have been uniquely and centrally involved
in the development of eugenics and that
for all the heterogeneity of both eugenics
and fascism, the special historical relationship between the
two cannot be ignored. This relationship is exemplified in
the work of the influential psychologist, Raymond B. Cattell.
Cattell was an early supporter of German national socialism
and his work should be understood in the context of interwar
fascism. The new religious movement that he founded, "Beyondism,"
is a neo-fascist contrivance. Cattell now promulgates ideas
that he first formulated within a demimonde of radical eugenists
and neo-fascists that includes such associates as Revilo Oliver,
Roger Pearson, Wilmot Robertson and Robert K. Graham. These
ideas and Cattell's role in the history of eugenics deserve
deeper analysis than they have hitherto received. Far from
being of merely antiquarian interest, his work currently encourages
the propagation of radical eugenist ideology. It is unconscionable
for scholars to permit these ideas to go unchallenged, and
indeed honored and emulated by a new generation of ideologues
and academicians whose work helps to dignify the most destructive
political ideas of the twentieth century (Mehler, 1997, p.
A short essay such as this cannot possibly explore
the thesis I have outlined here. However, I would like to advance
the discussion of the social and historical context of Dr. Cattell's
work by addressing the question of the centrality of his Beyondist
ideology to his science and offering a clarification of what Cattell
meant by "genthanasia" - a term that he coined to mean
the "nonviolent intentional phasing out of a culture or group"
(Hilts, 1997, p. A10; cf. Cattell, 1972, p. 221). During the email
discussion leading up to these essays, Dr. Heather Cattell argued
that her father's involvement with the publication, The Beyondist,
was insignificant. According to her, "a few people tried
to involve Dad" in "this obscure Beyondist newsletter"
which never got beyond one or two issues and "is certainly
not Dad's writing" (H. Cattell, 1998).
That the essay in The Beyondist was indeed
R. B. Cattell's writing is made clear by a memo and draft circulated
by John Horn in 1993. On 28 September 1993, John Horn - Cattell's
protege and longtime associate - wrote a memo to which he attached
a draft statement written by Raymond B. Cattell to the "self-
appointed executive group" of the "Beyondism working
group" (Horn, 1993). Horn identifies the draft, entitled
"The Beyondist Society: First Annual Meeting" as "Ray's
suggestion for the first Newsletter of the Beyondism Society,"
and comments that he "thinks it needs some editing, some
modifications, some shortening, and some added to before it goes
to hoards of folks" and he asked for comments. The draft
was addressed to Cattell's closest associates including Herb Eber,
Robert Graham, John Gillis, Richard Gorsuch, John Nesselroad,
and Jack McArdle. McArdle and Eber, among others, have denied
having any significant engagement with the group (see Blum, 1994;
Links to Beyondism, 1993, p. 207).
In the 1993 draft Cattell states that "One
major task we have to face is getting the ideals of Beyondism
accepted in what is presently a hostile social atmosphere."
Cattell contended that "Beyondism is an increasing acceptance
of reality, and that involves dropping the emotional support of
a loving omnipotent god." As an example of a reality that
needed accepting, Cattell asked, "Should the more successful
[nations] bolster up the less successful (as the U.S. does Somalia).
. . ." Cattell's position is that the U.S. ought not interfere
with natural selection by obstructing "natural self-genocide."
The first issue of The Beyondist was published
in November 1993 with the draft essay in revised form. The quotes
from the previous paragraph had been edited out of the final draft,
but it is clear that the essay in The Beyondist was Cattell's
own words. In response to a request from this author, Dr. Cattell
sent me the first issue of the The Beyondist in June 1994
along with a personal handwritten letter in which he states: "At
present we are a 'still small voice in the wilderness' but progress
will put our views in the public eye before long."
In his 1972 monograph on Beyondism, Cattell recommended
that First World countries allow Third World countries "to
go to the wall" when they collapse into chaos, mass famine,
and genocide. He argued that foreign aid to underdeveloped Third
World countries is a mistake. Incompetent and obsolete societies
are not fit for the competitive struggle for existence. What he
called for, according to Richard Lynn was "not genocide,
the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But
we do need to think realistically in terms of 'phasing out' of
such peoples (Cattell, 1972, pp. 219-221; Lynn).
In 1991, sociologist Pierre Van Den Bergh of the
University of Washington delivered an address, "Nation-Building:
A Blueprint for Genocide?" before the First International
Congress on Prejudice, Discrimination and Conflict, held in Jerusalem,
Israel. Professor Van den Bergh pointed out that, at a minimum,
two-thirds of all people killed by states since 1945 have been
internal victims of genocide or politicides. "Estimates of
internal blood baths yield totals of 6.8 to 16.3 million victims
- megadeaths - between 1945 and 19.87, depending on whose figures
one accepts... However one wants to classify acts of state sponsored
murder it is clear that since World War 11, three-fourths of all
fatalities were caused by states killing their own citizens ..."
Genthanasia is simply an obsfucation of genocide.
There is no such thing as "natural self-genocide." What
happened in Somalia was not natural - it was the result of political
conflict, and those who died were victims. What Cattell calls
genthanasia, Van den Bergh calls ethnocide and genocide committed
by elites. Throughout much of Africa, small western-educated elites
have inherited an alien colonial system of government perpetuated
by minority rule through corruption and violence; these elites
have appropriated all organs of state control for private exploitation
and gain through a complex network of nepotism and ethnic favoritism.
This is about as nationalist as the Sicilian Mafia or the Medellin
When it was announced in the July 1997 APA
Monitor that Raymond B. Cattell was to receive the American
Psychological Foundation's prestigious Gold Medal Award for Life
Achievement to the Science of Psychology, it was noted that Dr.
Cattell decided to work in psychology because it "would be
the most direct way to solve the political and economic problems
around him" (APF recognizes, 1997. p. 48). In other words,
Dr. Cattell's science was intended to solve social and political
problems. I believe that, when viewed in historical context and
despite his protests to the contrary, it is clear that Cattell's
notion of "phasing out" what he calls "moribund
cultures" is little more than support for genocide.
APF recognizes psychologists for lifetime
achievement. (1997, July). APA Monitor, p. 48.
Blum, D. E. (1994, January 5). NCAA Panel
Under Fire. Chronicle of Higher Education, 40, A47-A48.
Cattell, Heather E. P. (Cattell@CCNET.com)
(1998 September 13). Re: HPPB Special Issue. Email to Barry
Mehler et. al. (email@example.com).
Cattell, R. B. (1972)., A new morality
from science: Beyondism. New York: Pergamon.
Cattell, R. B. (1993). The Beyondist Society:
First Annual Meeting. Unpublished manuscript.
Hilts, P. J. (1997, August 15). Group delays
achievement award to psychologist accused of fascist and racist
views. TheNewYorkTimes, p. A 10.
Horn, J. (1993, September 23). Members of
the Executive Committee, Beyondism Foundation. Unpublished
Links to Beyondism raise many questions. (1993,
December 14). USA Today.
Lynn, R. Review: A New Morality from Science:
Beyondism." by R.B. Cattell. Pergamon Press, New York,
1972. Pages xvii and 482. Irish Journal of Psychology 2
#3 (Winter 1974) pp. 205-209.
Mehler, B. (1997). Beyondism: Raymond B. Cattell
and the new eugenics. Genetica, 99, 153-163. Revised
version available online: http://www.ferris.edu/htmls/othersrv/isar/bios/cattell/genetica.htm
Sokal, M. (1985). APA publications and the
history of psychology (comment). American Psychologist,
Van Den Bergh, P. (1991, July). Nation-building:,
A blueprint for genocide? Paper presented at the First
International Congress on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Conflict,
Posted 12/17/98, slightly revised from original