Whitney on Rushton in Contemporary Psychology
Contemporary Psychology [December 1996], 41(12),
The Return of Racial Science
J. Philippe Rushton
Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective
New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1995. 334 pp. ISBN
Review by Glayde Whitney
If the mavens of Politically Correct could enforce
an Index Librorum Prohibitorum then you would not be allowed to
read this book. Serious scientific considerations of similarities
and differences among the living races of humankind have been
in eclipse for most of a century. With Race, Evolution and Behavior
author Rushton goes a good distance toward reinstating objective
scientific rationality to this important and sensitive area of
investigation. Here within a single cover are considered topics
of race with regard to intelligence, aggression and criminality,
sexual behavior, parenting behaviors, personality, rates of maturation,
sexually transmitted diseases, social stability, brain size, differential
rates of twinning, pharmaceutical reactions, and much more, along
with genes and evolution. Rushton reports that for over 60 variables
he has found the same pattern among races: "people of east Asian
ancestry (Mongoloids, Orientals) and people of African ancestry
(Negroids, blacks) define opposite ends of the spectrum with people
of European ancestry (Caucasoids, whites) falling intermediately,"
(p xiii). Although there is much variability among individuals
within each broad racial category, the average differences between
them are consistent in direction across diverse physical, behavioral,
and social variables.
To theoretically account for the consistent pattern
of differences across races for so many disparate variables requires
a high-level, broad conceptual framework. Rushton proposes a "gene-based
evolutionary theory" that utilizes concepts from population biology.
The r - K scale of reproductive strategy has been widely used in
many sociobiological applications. The symbol "r" initially denoted
"intrinsic rate of increase", while "K" is the symbol for "carrying
capacity of the environment" (MacArthur and Wilson, 1967). The individuals
of populations which have been r-selected tend to mature rapidly
and reproduce at a young age. The emphasis is on maximization of
number of offspring with less resources devoted to the care of each
individual offspring. The species which are r-selected often exist
at population densities that are well below the theoretical carrying
capacity of their environment; they experience high rates of death
due to unpredictable causes (disease, local famine). The r evolutionary
strategy has been to throw out lots of kids in the likelihood that
some might survive in a capricious world.
Individuals which are K strategists tend to live
in more predictable environments and they mature more slowly.
Rather than high rates of reproduction, there is delayed reproduction
and considerable resources are devoted to caring for the smaller
number of offspring which are produced. The K evolutionary strategy
has been to produce far fewer kids and to carefully nurture each
one through the most difficult times in a predictable world (think
winter blizzard). K-selected species tend to have more stable
and complex social structure than do r-selected species.
In order to emphasize that all humans tend to
be K-selected in comparison to many other species, Rushton has
referred to his theory as "Differential K Theory". Essentially,
the proposal is that African populations, evolving with a tropical
abundance of both food and diseases, are relatively less K-selected.
Relative that is, to Mongoloid populations which were more K-
selected in the harsh environments encountered during the last
Glacial epoch, or which are experienced today in cold climates.
There is a positive Darwinian selective advantage favoring more
forward planning, sexual restraint , parental nurturing, family
stability, and social structure in order to successfully raise
children across hard cold winters.
On many of the variables that are considered the
racial differences are not large and Rushton emphasizes "the indisputable
fact that much more research is needed. Objective hypothesis testing
about racial differences in behavior has been much neglected over
the past 60 years and knowledge is not as advanced as it ought to
be" (p. xv). In view of the near taboo on race as a causal variable
in the social sciences, it is interesting to consider how much do
we know and since when have we known it. The answers to these two
questions, as given in the chapter "race and racism in history",
as well as throughout the book, will likely surprise many psychologists
and social scientists educated in the last 60 years. We knew a lot
about race differences and we knew it prior to the early decades
of the twentieth century. Indeed, some of the race differences only
now being investigated (re investigated) have been known and have
been stable with regard to direction of average differences since
the first recorded contacts among the races. One example is the
case of brain size. Well known to Broca and other 19th century scientists,
then lost in a fog of misspeak and obfuscation and only now reemerging
as a stable and potentially important difference between races.
The context of progressive, socialistic, or communistic environmentalist-egalitarianism
in which the study of race differences went from being respectable
science to ideologically suppressed evil is a fascinating study
in itself (Degler, 1991; Pearson, 1991). The widespread abhorrence
of wartime excesses fed a mid- century frenzied denial of the legitimacy
of racial science from which we are just now emerging. It is in
large part this history of denial and demonization which marks Rushton's
book as a landmark volume.
It will come as no surprise to learn that Rushton's
work, although well written and very readable, has not been greeted
with universal acclamation. Indeed. He has probably suffered as
much controversy and abuse stemming from his professional activity
as any modern psychologist in the "free world". Following a 1989
invited presentation of Differential K Theory at a meeting of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, a firestorm
of controversy arose. Although not widely reported in the United
States, an academic, governmental, and media circus played out in
Canada. The Premier of Ontario (analogous to a state governor) called
for the University to fire him. The Premier also asked the Ontario
Provincial Police to investigate whether he had violated the federal
criminal code of Canada. A leading Toronto newspaper kept a steady
stream of scurrilous editorials flowing until threatened with a
lawsuit, upon which they desisted. Canadian television news programs
propagandized and demonized Rushton's appearance with the insertion
of Nazi flim clips, as did Connie Chung of CBS's "eye-to-eye" infamy.
On the academic front the institution of tenure
saved Rushton's position at University, but not without cost.
His annual performance rating suddenly went to "unsatisfactory"
(as at most places a first step in laying the paper trail to eventual
dismissal) until legally challenged, at which point his rating,
as one of the most prolific researchers in his unit, went back
to the customary high level.
One of the most ignominious events involved a
covey of influential members of the Behavior Genetics Association
(BGA). Because of their field of research, investigators of behavior
genetics (even mousers and fruit fly devotees) have not been immune
from Nazi name-calling and attacks on their academic credibility.
Accordingly, the BGA had long established a "public and professional
affairs committee" to issue the occasional "official statement"
in support of attacked members. In a totally unprecedented turn-about
that committee was requested to disavow, on behalf of the BGA,
the member-in-good-standing Rushton and his research. When the
committee refused the afore mentioned covey took it upon themselves
to circulate widely a statement throwing Rushton to the wolves.
None of the attacks involved data or rational theory. Rather they
were emotional attacks on Rushton's "repugnant" insensitivity.
In the face of tenure protection, a move was
instigated to criminalize Rushton because of his research. In
what has been called "the worst attack on freedom of speech ever
perpetrated in Ontario", the Ontario Human Rights Commission investigated
for four years and then unceremoniously dropped the case (Leishman,
It is not just the political left that has trouble
acknowledging the legitimacy and importance of racial science.
Irving Horowitz (1995), Rushton's publisher, has written an interesting
account of the refusal of a leading conservative publication to
accept paid advertisements which announced the availability of
Race, Evolution, and Behavior.
More is the pity of these emotional rejections of
racial science, since it is often members of the "protected groups"
which suffer because of ideologically enforced politically correct
ignorance. As an example, it has been quite unacceptable to discuss
race differences in testosterone levels, although this taboo is
crumbling since it was noted that the hormone difference might be
causal to the substantial race difference in mortality due to prostate
cancer. In the U.S. the epidemic of murders of young black males
by young black males has reached such levels that even the most
ideologically committed can no longer deny reality.
The remarkable resistance to racial science in
our times has led to comparisons with the Inquisition of Rome
active during the Renaissance. It is probably not the case that
Pope Paul V and Cardinal Bellarmin were evil men. They were quite
well educated for their time and probably sincerely concerned
for the welfare of their society. Their duty was to prevent the
destruction of society that must surely follow if the heresies
were allowed. Now the Copernican heliocentric theory could be
tolerated; it was after all only a theory and Copernicus was dead.
Kepler's mathematical calculations could be tolerated; they were
after all quite mathematical and not likely to arouse the curiosity
of the common man. But Galileo Galilei went too far. He said it
was true. Come, look through his telescope. Not just a theory
but real observable data. Not in the past but here and now. Truth
from which who knew what evil might follow. Galileo Galilei was
arrested and forced to recant. Astronomy and the physical sciences
had their Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo a few centuries ago;
society and the welfare of humanity is the better for it today.
In a directly analogous fashion, Psychology and the social sciences
have today their Darwin, Galton, and Rushton. Discipulus est prioris
posterior dies [Publius Syrus].
Degler, C.N. (1991) In search of human nature: The
decline and revival of Darwinism in American social thought. New
York: Oxford University Press.
Horowitz, I.L. (1995) The Rushton file: Racial
comparisons and media passions. Society, 32,2, 7-17.
Leishman, G. (1995) Shoddy attack on free speech
is over. The London Free Press (Ontario), Dec. 2, opinion page.
MacArthur, R.H., & Wilson, E.O. (1967) The
theory of island biogeography. Monographs in Population Biology,
1. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.
Pearson, R. (1991) Race, intelligence and bias
in academe. Washington DC: Scott-Townsend Publishers.