Race and Intelligence?

I was recently surprised to learn in a pyschology class of a professor at the University of Western Ontario by the name of Dr. J. Philippe Rushton. Apparently he is known for his work on the relationship between intelligence and racial difference and for his controversial book, Race, Evolution and Behavior. Beyond this, I know very little about his research and its legitimacy. I’m curious to know the thoughts of those who are more familiar with his work.  

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6 thoughts on “Race and Intelligence?

  1. I was an undergrad at Western in the late 80’s when Rushton first came to notoriety for a research paper he published ostensibly linking intelligence to physical factors of race. He made positive correlations to intelligence from factors such as cranium size (larger for whites that black, larger for asians than caucasians), and negative correlations from factors such as penis length, yes, really!

    While I no longer recall the name, his research was proven to be funded by a very right-leaning think tank. He was roundly criticized by both students and his peered but defended by the university administration on the grounds of academic freedom. He was (and is still) considered a quack.

  2. Philippe Rushton has been funded by the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund is a New York based research funding trust that takes pride in keeping “the naturalist perspective alive” on issues of race, heredity, behavioural genetics, etc. The Pioneer Fund seeks to “restore the Darwinian-Galtonian perspective”.

    A CBC writer wrote an excellent response to Rushton’s work in 2005: http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_strauss/20050504.html

    Although it is fair to say that he is considered a quack- I think that it’s important not to discount the tremendously influential ‘naturalist’ perspective in understanding human behaviours through genetics.

    The Pioneer Fund website is here: http://www.pioneerfund.org/

  3. Racism by any other name is still racism.
    There are correlations between foot size and intelligence too – bigger feet, smarter people – its true! Babies have really small feet and as they grow they score higher on IQ tests….see proof!
    Correlations about race are reductive and racist. Scientific rhetoric is mostly taken as fact and scientists are mostly understood as experts – leaves little, if any room for critically questioning scientific findings. Most scientific studies find exactly what they set out to find – surprising?
    I’d suggest that you always critically question such racist assumptions. Academic freedom is important, yes, but I’d suggest you always factor in a person’s level of privilege.

    Good find!

  4. Rushton was also known for the conclusions he drew from his racial hierarchy of intelligence (Asians at the top, Caucasians in the middle, “Negroes” at the bottom). He claimed that black people were less able to exercise sexual self-control, hence got AIDS at higher rates than whites or Asians. He related this to different evolutionary patterns – high-investment (have sex with one person and have few offspring and invest lots of resources in each one – Rushton thought whites and Asians did this) and low investment (have sex with lots of people and have tons of offspring but don’t invest much in any individual one – this was attributed to blacks, explaining their alleged promiscuity). He’s a racist loon, but he was getting published in the most prominent mainstream social science journals up to the 90s.

  5. “Although it is fair to say that he is considered a quack- I think that it’s important not to discount the tremendously influential ‘naturalist’ perspective in understanding human behaviours through genetics.”

    Actually, he is well respected. As are many of the other hereditarians such as Arthur Jensen, Linda Gottfredson, and Satoshi Kanazawa. You can read the abstract for Rushton’s latest work in “2011 The International Society for Intelligence Research Conference” bulletin.

    As for the hereditarian position, I outlined it on a blog called “Race, genes, and disparity.” (abc102.wordpress.com). Personally, I find a partial hereditarian hypothesis compelling and I find it rather telling that environmentalists can only rely on dissimulation, obfuscation, and name calling to make their case.

  6. “Rushton was also known for the conclusions he drew from his racial hierarchy of intelligence (Asians at the top, Caucasians in the middle, “Negroes” at the bottom).”

    Speaking purely in terms of statistical averages, globally the correlations are not incorrect. That is, globally, West SS African descendants, on average, do have lower IQs, do have higher rates of HIV, do have higher rates of two egg twinning, etc. relative to some other ancestrally delineated populations. So Rushton is just interpreting what is know — though apparently not well known — from a Galtonian frame. Is it less racist to point out such behavioral and phenotypic differences and attribute them to “circumstance” and “culture”? The “racism” charge seems to be tied to valuations, which are foreign to (modern) evolutionary thinking. Whether they are caused by environment, happenstance, culture, genes, or gene-culture interactions the behavioral differences aren’t “bad” — so why would pointing them out be?

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