[Paleopsych] Ottawa Citizen: Rushton Revisited

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Fri Oct 7 01:07:41 UTC 2005

Andrew Duffy
The Ottawa Citizen
October 1, 2005
et seq.

Research that supports Philippe Rushton includes the work of anthropologist 
Henry Harpending. Mr. Harpending led a study that suggested Ashkenazi Jews -- 
Jews of European descent -- have evolved an enhanced intellectual ability. 
Albert Einstein, above, for example, is part of the Ashkenazim bloodline, as 
are half of the world's chess champions. The research points to a millennium of 
discrimination in Europe that forced Jews into intellectual occupations and the 
fact that they consistently married within their own community.

Controversial Canadian professor Philippe Rushton, best known for shocking the 
world in 1989 with a paper arguing some races were smarter than others, is back 
with another study saying blacks are not as genetically gifted as whites or 
East Asians. Sixteen years ago, his theory was incendiary. This time around, it 
was greeted with a shrug. What's changed?

Has he softened his views? Have we grown tired of him? Or have advances in 
science made him more palatable?

Andrew Duffy investigates.

- - -

In January 1989, when University of Western Ontario psychologist Philippe 
Rushton presented a research paper at the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science in San Francisco, it triggered an academic maelstrom.

His paper, which argued that genetic evolution has created identifiable IQ gaps 
among groups of East Asians, whites and blacks, was denounced by scientists on 
the conference floor. Why would he launch such an inquiry? How, they demanded, 
could he draw findings from intelligence tests that were culturally biased?

Then-premier David Peterson called him a racist and demanded that he be fired 
by the university. The police launched a hate crimes investigation. Security 
concerns forced him to deliver lectures by videotape.

Mr. Rushton became part of the Canadian lexicon, an epithet. He also became the 
most famous university professor in the country, a guest on The Geraldo Rivera 

All of which makes the muted reaction to Mr. Rushton's latest academic paper so 

In June, Mr. Rushton and University of California psychology professor Arthur 
Jensen published a 60-page study in Psychology, Public Policy and Law, a 
journal of the American Psychological Association. In it, the scholars 
presented 10 categories of evidence, including military and academic tests, 
brain size and adoption studies, to support their contention that East Asians 
as a group enjoy an evolutionary advantage over whites, and whites over blacks, 
that has contributed to measurable intelligence gaps between them.

"Neither the existence nor the size of race differences in IQ are a matter of 
dispute, only their cause," the authors wrote.

The cause of that difference is contentious. Some blame the tests, arguing that 
they measure a narrow, western notion of intelligence. Others say intelligence 
is primarily determined not by genetics but by environmental factors: poverty, 
nutrition, parental education, discrimination, the quality of local schools.

But Mr. Rushton and Mr. Jensen posit that 50 to 80 per cent of the IQ gaps 
between racial groups can be explained by genetics, by the gift of inherited 

That theory, they contend, holds important policy implications since it 
suggests that society must accept that group differences will repeatedly reveal 
themselves in scholastic achievement and other important measurements of 

"Ultimately," they wrote, "the public must accept the pragmatic reality that 
some groups will be over-represented and other groups under-represented in 
various socially valued outcomes."

In other words, those who design social policy should not seek to create 
equality between racial groups -- an impossible outcome in Mr. Rushton's mind 
-- but learn to live with the statistical differences.

"You absolutely have to accept that Chinese people are going to be 
under-represented on the basketball team, and that black people are going to be 
under-represented in high school graduates," Mr. Rushton said in a recent 

"That is just a fact of life. And it really doesn't matter how much lower you 
will place the bar, you will never equalize those outcomes, it is impossible."

The findings, Mr. Rushton notes, do not apply to individuals, but to groups. 
It's an idea that he believes must be taught in schools. "Even kindergarten 
children are capable of learning that although boys are typically taller than 
girls, many girls are taller than the average boy," he says.

Although seemingly as incendiary as ever, Mr. Rushton's latest ideas have 
generated little response from scientists or politicians, police or protesters. 
It has led even Mr. Rushton to ask: What has changed?

Why were his ideas so controversial 15 years ago but not now? Has Canada grown 
tired of him? Or have advances in genetic science pulled his theories into the 

Mr. Rushton says he would like to believe that his erstwhile critics have been 
silenced by the scientific force of his latest publication. But he's not that 

"In fact, I think the opposite is the case," he says. "It is just bad news to 
many people. So the best thing to do is just to avert the eyes and carry on, 
keep their heads in the sand."

There's no doubt that Mr. Rushton suddenly finds himself in an increasingly 
crowded field of inquiry.

In the 1980s, Mr. Rushton was viewed as a rogue academic. But today, a small 
army of scientists is exploring the genetic foundation of intelligence, and the 
genetic differences between people of African, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern 
and European descent. Their work flows from the landmark Human Genome Project, 
which found slight differences in the pattern of DNA among ethnic groups.

In June, for instance, the Journal of Biosocial Science published a paper by a 
team of University of Utah scientists who suggested that Ashkenazi Jews -- Jews 
of European descent -- have evolved an enhanced intellectual ability through 
natural selection.

The researchers, led by anthropologist Henry Harpending, found that Ashkenazim 
score higher on IQ tests than any other ethnic group to which they can be 
reliably compared. Six times as many Ashkenazim as Europeans score in the 
"genius range" above 140 on IQ tests.

Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler are part of the Ashkenazim 
bloodline, as are half of the world's chess champions. In the U.S., Ashkenazim 
have won 27 per cent of the Nobel Prizes awarded to Americans, while making up 
just three per cent of the population.

Mr. Harpending and his colleagues concluded that natural selection has played a 
role in boosting the group's brain power.

According to their theory, a millennium of discrimination in Europe forced Jews 
into intellectually challenging occupations as bankers and merchants -- jobs 
then considered distasteful for Christians. Since European Jews married 
consistently within their own community, and since successful merchants tended 
to have larger families than less successful ones, a process of natural 
selection took place whereby genes that enhanced intelligence became more 

(The researchers went on to hypothesize that the same genes that enhance 
intelligence may trigger neurological diseases, such as Tay-Sachs, Gaucher's 
and Niemann-Pick, that have an unusually high incidence among Ashkenazim.)

"Absolutely anything in human biology that is interesting is going to be 
controversial," Mr. Harpending has said in defending his study.

Earlier this month, another study made news in Mr. Rushton's once-isolated 

Published in the magazine Science, the University of Chicago study suggested 
that the brain continues to evolve rapidly because of the influence of two 
genes that help determine its size. What's more, the study said, the genes are 
more readily found in some populations, such as in Europe and East Asia, than 
others, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Again, the report's conclusions held nettlesome social implications.

Mr. Rushton, however, said he was "delighted" with the University of Chicago 
study, which identified, for the first time, a gene related to brain size.

"This is exactly what all theory has to predict," he says.

Mr. Rushton says that study, much like the work on the Ashkenazim, has lent 
respectability to his own work. "Here is another ethnic group (the Ashkenazim) 
that has been identified, genetically, as possessing a higher IQ," he says.

"So if nature has not made every population group in the world exactly equal in 
mean IQ, if there is one somewhat above, then it's quite possible to find one 
or two somewhat below?"

Mr. Rushton believes that he has always been a mainstream psychologist. The 
only difference now, he argues, is that the mainstream has been enlarged by the 
work of other scientists exploring the genetic basis of race, intelligence and 

Still, many of his colleagues continue to regard Mr. Rushton as academic nitro: 
a volatile and destructive force best left on the shelf.

The journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law, took the unusual step of 
including three rebuttal essays when it published his most recent study. "What 
good is research of the kind done by Rushton and Jensen supposed to achieve?" 
asks one of the critics, Yale University psychologist Robert Sternberg.

Mr. Sternberg suggests the question to which Mr. Rushton has devoted himself 
has no value except to those cynics who would use it to justify discrimination. 
"Does science," he asks, "really want to provide that ammunition?"

Mr. Rushton and Mr. Jensen offer an explosive response to that question.

They argue that their research is important because "we will never make 
progress in race relations if we operate on the belief that one segment of 
society is responsible for the plight of another segment and that belief is 

They suggest that policy-makers and judges have mistakenly ascribed "the 
underachievement of black people to prejudice and discrimination by white 
people," rather than to genetic disadvantages. Mr. Rushton and Mr. Jensen then 
cite the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Brown v. Board of Education of 
Topeka, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, as an example of a 
decision based on just such a wrong-headed assumption.

Mr. Rushton claims to be interested only in truth and in the dissemination of 
science, even when it's politically unpopular.

Yet there's no denying that Mr. Rushton also has a nose for controversy that 
even Geraldo Rivera would envy.

He has written that Asians, as a group, have larger brains and exhibit more 
intelligence, family stability and sexual restraint than whites, and whites 
more than blacks. He has conducted a mass mailout of a book that propounds that 
theory to social scientists across North America.

Then, three years ago, he became president of the Pioneer Fund, a foundation 
incorporated in 1937 with the goal of "race betterment, with special reference 
to the United States." Among other things, it funds scientific studies that 
examine the differences between human beings based on gender, race and class.

The Pioneer Fund has a checkered history. One of its first funding grants in 
1937 paid for the U.S. distribution of a Nazi Party film on eugenics. The 
fund's primary benefactor, Wickliffe Draper, was interested in the idea of 
repatriating U.S. blacks to Africa and later offered significant financial 
support for legal battles to oppose the racial desegregation of schools in the 

That activity has led critics to charge that the Pioneer Fund hides an ugly 
political agenda behind its veil of science. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a 
non-profit advocacy organization, bluntly calls it a hate group.

Soon after accepting the job of Pioneer Fund president, Mr. Rushton authored a 
detailed defence of the foundation. He characterized it as a ground-breaking 
scientific enterprise inspired by the spirit of Charles Darwin.

"The directors of Pioneer Fund have always believed it is important to 
investigate the biological basis of traits like intelligence, the causes of 
racial and other group differences and the factors affecting demographic 
change," he wrote. "Because some Pioneer grants have reached what some believe 
are politically unpalatable conclusions on these topics, they, and Pioneer, 
have become unpopular in some circles. We in no way apologize for supporting 
supporting this research...

"We also believe it is unscientific and counterproductive to tag any and all 
such research as 'Nazi' or 'racist.' "

Geneticists once seemed poised to eliminate race entirely from the field of 
science, to make Mr. Rushton obsolete.

In the early 1970s, Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin argued that the genetic 
differences between races were so infinitesimal that researchers would have no 
reason to sort people into classifications such as black, white and Asian.

His belief that race is "biologically meaningless" became an article of faith 
for many academics.

Then, in 2000, a seismic scientific event, the Human Genome Project, reordered 
the world of biology and made scientists take a fresh, new look at our genetic 

At first, the DNA research seemed to affirm Mr. Lewontin's message of equality 
and brotherhood. The 13-year project found that humans share with each other 
99.9 per cent of their genetic heritage. All people possess the same basic set 
of genes, the researchers announced. The differences between individuals and 
races, they said, owe themselves to variations in a tiny fraction of the three 
billion letter sequence in the human genome.

Rather than explore what unites us, however, scientists have seized upon 
discovering exactly what separates us.

That's because scientists believe the variation between people holds the answer 
to the genetic riddle of diabetes, heart disease, strokes and cancer.

It's widely acknowledged that diseases are not evenly distributed among ethnic 
groups and races. Sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder, is considerably more 
common among those with African ancestry. Hemochromatosis, an inherited 
disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron, is not found among 
Indians or Chinese, yet more than seven per cent of Swedes suffer it.

The incidence of hypertension, prostate cancer and kidney failure is higher 
among blacks than whites (although some of that variability can be tied to diet 
and lifestyle).

Scientists believe that mapping the DNA variability between races and ethnic 
groups may lead them to the genetic triggers of disease, which in turn, could 
produce important drug breakthroughs and treatments.

Canadian scientists are now part of a $185-million international effort to 
produce a detailed map of human genetic variation. The International Haplotype 
Project will chart the common DNA sequence variations between major ethnic 
groups based on the DNA of Han Chinese in Beijing, Japanese in Tokyo, Yoruba in 
Ibadan, Nigeria, and Utah residents with ancestry from northern and western 

As more researchers explore the relationship between genetics and race, more 
have come to the conclusion that Mr. Lewontin was wrong.

Neil Risch, widely regarded as one of the world's leading geneticists, has been 
a key figure in the still emotion-charged debate. Mr. Risch has argued that 
small genetic differences have evolved between races because of the geographic 
isolation of generations of sub-Saharan Africans, Caucasians, Asians, Pacific 
Islanders and Native Americans.

Mr. Risch has shown that researchers, by analyzing DNA, can correctly match an 
individual's self-described race in 99.9 per cent of cases. There was a greater 
chance, he said, that researchers would incorrectly guess an individual's 
self-described gender.

"There is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from 
research and public policy points of view," Mr. Risch, now director of the 
Center for Human Genetics at the University of California, concluded in a 2002 
paper in Nature Genetics.

Even Francis Collins, the former director of the Genome Project, conceded as 
much last year when he told Nature Genetics that the project's researchers 
probably overstated their case about the insignificance of biology's connection 
to race.

"It is not strictly true that race or ethnicity has no biological connection," 
he said. "It must be emphasized, however, that the connection is generally 
quite blurry."

The focus of the debate has now shifted to how scientists should properly 
categorize their findings about genetic variation.

Those like Mr. Risch believe that race is a legitimate method, but others argue 
that using race is unnecessary and sensational. The second school of thought 
holds that differences between people would more properly be expressed in terms 
of group "genetic markers" that correspond with different parts of the globe.

Most scientists today accept that genetics plays some role in human variation 
and that some combination of hereditary and environmental factors determine 

That point is conceded by two of the three critics who respond to Mr. Rushton's 
latest publication in Psychology, Public Policy and Law.

The more challenging question is whether the IQ gap that has been identified 
between Asians, whites and blacks is fixed or changeable.

What can be done to raise group IQs and, more importantly, academic achievement 
levels among specific race and ethnic groups?

Charles Murray, co-author of the bestselling 1994 book The Bell Curve, recently 
published an essay in Commentary magazine in which he argued that, at the very 
least, educational outcomes can be improved. "Dropout rates, literacy and 
numeracy are all tractable. School discipline, teacher performance and the 
quality of the curriculum are tractable. Academic performance within a given IQ 
range is tractable," he wrote. "The existence of group differences need not and 
should not discourage attempts to improve schooling for millions of American 
children who are now getting bad educations."

New York University psychology professors Lisa Suzuki and Joshua Aronson argue 
the danger of Mr. Rushton's theory flows from the implication that IQ gaps are 
largely immutable. It's an idea, they say, that could diminish support for 
affirmative action hiring and pre-school educational programs aimed mostly at 
impoverished, black Americans.

For his part, Mr. Rusthon said that while black academic achievement can be 
improved, and while the IQ gap can be somewhat narrowed, there will never be 

Parents, he said, easily accept the idea that some of their children are more 
gifted intellectually or physically than other ones. As a society, he argued, 
we have to accept the same notion.

"It's very harmful, this philosophy we currently have, which is that anybody, 
all of us, we can just reinvent ourselves. We can grow and change and develop 
into something very different, that somehow we're not constrained genetically.

"The more you can realize who you are earlier, and that includes race and IQ, 
then personally the more you can accept it, the easier it will be."

Mr. Rushton contends his ideas are controversial today only because they do not 
dovetail with popular religious and political dogmas about everyone being born 
equal. "It's not happy news for a lot of people, so in that sense it is 
controversial," he said.

He takes particular offence to the suggestion that his work is unnecessary and 
offers no meaningful social insight. Indeed, his response to that criticism is 
made of more Rushton nitrogylcerin, the kind that no amount of science is ever 
likely to defuse.

"If it really was a colour blind society, and nobody even noticed race, maybe 
there would be some more justification for it (the criticism)," he told the 

"But people are pulling their hair out and are saying, 'What about Toronto the 
Good? Where did it go to?' What about Ottawa? I'm sure it is the same? What 
about Montreal? I'll bet you it's the same. I'll bet it's the same in every 
bloody city in Canada where you have black people. It's inevitable that it 
won't be. So there you go."

More information about the paleopsych mailing list