Tainted Sources

When Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve was first published in 1994, Charles Lane wrote a very sharp critique in the New York Review of Books focusing on the “tainted sources” of the book. Lane noted that The Bell Curve relied heavily on a cohort of scholars who wrote for the Mankind Quarterly. Lane could have added that these scholars in turn tended to cite each other’s work, rather than more mainstream research in psychology and anthropology. In effect they created a feedback loop to promote their own way of looking at the world.

What, you may ask, is wrong with the Mankind Quarterly? Why is it tainted?

Since the publication of Lane’s article, much more scholarly research has been done on the Mankind Quarterly cohort. It might be useful to take a look at it. A few historical facts and quotations are in order:

1. Roger Pearson, anthropologist, cited in The Bell Curve and actively involved in the Mankind Quarterly as an editor and writer. In a letter to a friend in 1958 Pearson wrote, “I am entirely with you on your efforts to obtain Federal aid to American Negroes who wish to return to Africa.” Pearson is obsessed with the issue of “race suicide,” a problem he defines in very broad terms.  In his 1966 book Eugenics and Race he wrote: “If a nation with a more advanced, more specialized, or in any way superior set of genes mingles with, instead of exterminating, an inferior tribe, then it commits racial suicide.”

2. Robert Kuttner, biologist, cited in The Bell Curve, and an editor at and writer for the Mankind Quarterly. Kuttner was an avid “Nordicist” believing that “the Nordic” was “the natural leader of the white race.” (To quote from the title of a 1958 article). He was very frank about the origins of Nordicist ideology: “In recent times Gobineau, Chamberlain, Nietzsche, Wagner, Bismarck, and Hitler have added to the Nordic’s insight of his own destiny.” What was this destiny? “The Nordic is our best hope. If he cannot be aroused to fight for Europe and the White Race, then no other group can either, and disaster is inevitable….      [T]he Nordicist doctrine, whatever the follies committed in its name, stands today as one of the chief bulwarks of civilization, of European civilization. If the races of Europe wish to survive as creative, unmixed, biological configurations, they had better promote a greater awareness of Nordicism in the sleeping Nordic.” Kuttner argued that a UNESCO panel on race couldn’t be trusted because it included an East Indian scholar (Humayun Kabir) and an African-American scholar (E. Franklin Frazier). Kuttner asked, “how else could these men deliberate on race but to oppose the entire concept out of understandable personal motives?”

3. Frank C.J. McGurk, psychologist, cited in The Bell Curve and a writer for the Mankind Quarterly. McGurk came to prominence in the early 1950s as a supporter of segregation, a position popular with writers for the journal.

4. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, geneticist, is not cited in The Bell Curve but he was part of the Honorary Advisory Board of the Mankind Quarterly and thus sheds some light on the politics of the journal.  About von Verschuer I’ll simply quote from an article by Andrew S. Winston:

In a 1941 race hygiene textbook, [von Verschuer] called for “a complete solution to the Jewish question”; by 1944 he could publicly declare that “the dangers posed by Jews and Gypsies to the German people had been eliminated through the racial-political measures of recent years” (quoted in Proctor, 1988, p. 211). During the war, in his position at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, von Verschuer had urged his former graduate student and assistant, Josef Mengele, to take up the opportunity for unique research possibilities at Auschwitz (see Kühl, 1994; Proctor, 1988). It is not trivial to mention Mengele in this context. Both Mengele and von Verschuer shared the view that the study of twins was the premier method of genetics. Accordingly, Mengele sent the results of his “experiments” at Auschwitz, including body parts, to von Verschuer for further analysis (see Proctor, 1988, p. 44.) Despite the supposed pervasiveness of the postwar “equalitarian dogma,” von Verschuer was called to the prestigious chair of human genetics at Münster in 1951. His reputation as a “neutral scientist” was restored, despite that fact that a postwar German investigation described him as “one of the most dangerous Nazi activists of the Third Reich,” and declared that he should not be permitted to teach (quoted in Proctor, p. 307).

Note: the facts and quotes for this posting are taken from John P. Jackson Jr.’s Science For Segregation: Race, Law, and the Case Against Brown v. Board of Education (New York University Press, 2005) and Andrew S. Winston’s “The Context of Correctness: A Comment on Rushton” (Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, Vol 5, No. 2, 1996, pages 231-250).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s