Sunday, October 7, 2012

J Philippe Rushton is dead

J. Philippe Rushton (1943-2012), one of the leading practitioners of what has come to be called "scientific racism," died last Tuesday from cancer.  A professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario, he was unapologetically consistent in his racist assertions about the meaning of the biological and cultural variation across the human species.  Among other things, he argued that:
  • Humans can be divided into three distinct biological races, which he labeled Mongoloid, Caucasoid, and Negroid.
  • These three races can be ranked on a scale of "intelligence," as measured by "IQ," with Mongoloids highest, Negroids lowest, and Caucasoids in between.
  • Penis size is an index of intelligence: Negroids, the lowest in IQ, have the biggest penises; etc.
  • The biological concept of r/K selection can be applied to the different human "races." Mongoloids, who are K-selected, have the fewest children and take the best care at raising them, while Negroids, being r-selected, have many children and are relatively careless with them.
There's a lot one could say about Rushton, but I'm not sure it's worth it.  His ideas were straight out of the 19th century tradition of explaining human variation, both biological and cultural, in essentialist, racist terms.  Although this paradigm has been thoroughly debunked by anthropologists since Boas, there remains a group of psychopaths who refuse to let go. Some are gone, like William Shockley and Glayde Whitney; others linger on, like Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, and other fans of the Pioneer Fund and Mankind Quarterly who worry that the "white race" is being "diluted" to the "degeneration" of humankind.

Rushton's misapplication of r/K-selection is typical.  This concept describes reproductive strategies that are generally present at the level of biological order or even higher, rather than at the level of species, and certainly not at the level of "races" (i.e. subspecies).  Among humans, having more or fewer children is a cultural adaptation, not a biological one.  Indeed, this particular cultural trait has changed over time even among "whites" who have moved from farming (which favors having more children) to industrial (favoring fewer children) lifeways.

I'll leave you with another of Rushton's bizarre ideas, one that I frequently share in my anthropology classes: that a nation's intelligence or "IQ" is somehow indexed to its gross domestic product (GDP).  Forget the history of colonialism, exploitation, and deliberate underdevelopment carried out by Europeans in much of the "low-IQ/low-GDP" world.  Instead, just smile at Rushton's "IQ of Nations":

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