DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK

I'm very excited about this piece for The Nation. It draws parallels between the contemporary rhetoric around "race and IQ" and other forms of scientific racism and the once wildly popular "racialist" movement in the US. It combined three popular ideas – eugenics, scientific racism, and immigration restriction – into a stew of white supremacist ideology that dominated both high- and low-brow circles from the end of the 19th to the mid-20th centuries.

The idea that scientific racism was repudiated after World War II is a myth that, if at all, only holds true among elites. Belief that there are scientific, genetic, or biological differences that prove the superiority of white Europeans has never gone away. People merely learned that it was not socially acceptable to say it out loud. Now it's becoming more acceptable and people are responding predictably.

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35 thoughts on “DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK”

  • I am laughing, at the 'superiority". I wrote about this several years ago:

    Recent archaeological studies have shown that up to forty percent of Northern Europeans' DNA is Neanderthal. That rather than as previously alleged out-competing them for resources or outright murdering them in their sleep, as is the white-man's way, the Cro-Magnon assimilated the Neanderthal they found as they migrated out of Africa and into Northern Europe. There is certainly plenty of good reason to do so, notable the acquisition of immunities the earlier Northern European inhabitants, themselves immigrants out of Africa tens if not hundreds of thousands of years prior, had developed.

    I laughed this off the other day – and have long joked there are Neanderthals amongst us – but it occurs that our Aryan white supremacist "victimist" population suffers not cultural delusions of genetic superiority but a romanticized genetic resentment harkening to when their what were and still are thought to be inferior ancestors were overran and assimilated by the "superior" migrant Cro-Magnon, Anatomically Modern Humans.

    Not as implausible as one group of humans entire ethinicity predicated on their ancestors having bred with "giants", or with "those who came from the sky".

    Seriously, look at these pussies… Fat asses, fat bellies, fat cheeks, chins and jowls; hairless, pink-skin prone to lesions, boils and burns; weak eyes, weak ears, weaker brains subject to irrational dependencies upon adolescent fairy tales to justify sex with children and keep the bed dry at night, stink like a restaurant grease pit on a hundred degree day all holding on to their little pee-pees like maybe they’re gonna lose it.

  • Paul Nations says:

    Hey Ed. Nice to see you in The Nation, hope there are many more to come.

    In regards to inclusion of Charles Lindberg and Henry Ford in your list of radicalism – those two pop up in very many lists of reprehensible Americans. Can you recommend any biographies of them that are not blinded by their achievements?

    Thanks for all you do.

  • The close ties between libertarian (capitalist) ideology and "race realist" science, prevalent in western socio-political discourse for about the last 300 years, often get omitted here. There are really two significant ways in which the two are intertwined:

    1) Capitalist imperialism in the 18-19th century gave rise to scientific racism (in the form of social darwinism and the creation and classification of racial categories) in an attempt to justify colonizing and enslaving the "lesser" races. You can still see echoes of this explicit mentality when imperialists make arguments in favor of "regime change", delivering democracy/liberty at the end of a gun, usually under the general explanation that "people in the ME only back the strong horse", "authoritarianism is inherent in the Russian soul", etc.

    2) In a post-colonial setting, capitalism often turns to "race science" to attempt to provide a holistic explanation for why some groups just happen to fail under the supposed prevalence of meritocracy. When it become impossible to blame individual laziness or "culture", capitalism turns to the "realism" that some groups are just inferior to others, justifying their collective oppression as a fact of dispassionate reality. Ultimately this isn't really that different from 1) in terms of how capitalism justifies oppression of minorities but is often far more insidious because the oppression is less explicitly visible.

  • Love your work, Ed, but after hearing Sam Harris speak on this topic and the controversy, I think it's wrong to rope him in with the horrendous NYT editorial page. I typically like Vox and Ezra Klein but I think this may be an occasion where they've gotten this wrong. Here's Sam's latest podcast which discusses the issue from his perspective, the first half or so of which I consider worth hearing. https://samharris.org/podcasts/title-122-extreme-housekeeping-edition/

  • Sam Harris is a racist dipshit defending point number 2 in my lengthy two-point analysis of the capitalist roots of race "science". The entire point of the Bell Curve (bankrolled by actual white supremacist group the "Pioneer Fund"), and Sam Harris' defence of it, is to literally support the idea that social inequality under capitalism is the result of a natural inferiority of some politically-constructed racial categories. https://theoutline.com/post/4024/andrew-sullivan-sam-harris-jordan-peterson-the-bell-curve?zd=1&zi=j66ioayp

    "Harris’ defense of Murray’s debunked claims, which mostly involved accusations that Murray was silenced by the PC police, employed familiar tactics. Like James Damore, the former Google employee who was fired (or “Fired4Truth,” as he put it in his Twitter handle) after sending his coworkers a lengthy, incoherent memo on the genetic inferiority of women last summer, Harris insisted that a few cherry-picked controversial studies represented objective truth. On Murray’s assertions, Harris said on the podcast that “these are all facts. In fact, there is almost nothing in psychological science for which there is more evidence than these claims.” Any scientific writing that contradicts Murray and Herrnstein’s nonsense from 1994 — and there is a lot — must be “the product of a politically correct moral panic.” In his mind, it simply cannot be that their research on IQ was flawed and designed to retroactively justify racist views. The Bell Curve is eternal truth, pure and unfalsifiable.

    Despite the copious use of scientific terminology and the word “facts” in Harris’ apologia, he presents a fundamentally anti-scientific outlook, clinging to the conclusions of a dusty old tome that confirms his prejudices and ignoring any and all research that contradicts them. Harris’s attempt to portray dubious and highly controversial views on race as incontrovertible “scientific consensus” does a disservice to the actual scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and the theory of evolution — both of which are a lot more important to the survival of the human species than a supposed IQ gap between arbitrary and heavily intermixed racial groupings."

  • HoosierPoli says:

    The absurdity of the whole debate really falls into stark relief when you swap labels around. Instead of "IQ" substitute "obesity". Obesity is pretty heritable (if your parents are obese you're more likely to be obese). Nobody denies that there are certain genetic factors which play a role. And yet if you asked people about the obesity epidemic, nobody would say "Fat people just have bad genes, nothing to be done about it". It's obvious to everyone that environmental factors are orders of magnitude more important to whether someone is obese, to the point where trying to measure genotype/phenotype correlations would probably be impossibly noisy.

    The fact that the debate about obesity and the debate about race/IQ work so differently is proof that the race issue is changing the way otherwise functional brains deal with the statistics, and gives observers in Ed's camp the very real suspicion that old, bad habits are twisting the so-called "facts".

  • New York Times’ increasingly off-the-rails op-ed page gave genetics professor David Reich the opportunity to write that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races.’”

    What part of Professor Reich's article do you disagree with?

  • schmitt trigger says:

    Another famous and notable eugenicist:
    Nobel laureate William Shockley, one of the transistor co-inventors and seminal pioneer of Silicon Valley.

    If you have the time, read his biography:
    "Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age"

  • Ed, I love to get tired of congratulating you on publishing in prestigious journals.

    But I agree with Michael on Sam Harris; from listening to several videos I think it's unfair to include him in your list of distinguished racists. He seems to be attracted to the subject of differences between ethnicities because it's intellectually taboo, he has an immature attraction to the "forbidden" per se and enjoys the attention it gets him.

  • Alice Johnson says:

    He’s not racist, he just enjoys hosting prominent racists and defending their work. For the controversy.

    You heard it here first, San Harris is a 4chan troll who promotes racist ideology for the lulz.

  • "It never went away, it just went into hibernation" – pretty sure that's the same as going away. Ed has offered the "point and splutter" refutation of race science. That's not going to work. The evidence is piling up, it's appearing in the New York Times, and it'll no longer be enough to invoke ghosts from the past like Madison Grant. The better alternative would be to simply say "yeah there might be differences – so what?"

  • This is a virtue-signalling pile-on, plain and simple. If you don't want to have a discussion about the data on the genetic component of IQ and the current mainstream science on the topic because you're scared your poor widdle fee-fees might get hurt, then please STFU and go away. Don't try and destroy the reputations and careers of the people who are in good faith trying to have rational discussion of the topic.

  • For decades genetic researchers have sought the hereditary factors behind intelligence, with little luck. But now gene studies have finally gotten big enough—and hence powerful enough—to zero in on genetic differences linked to IQ.

    A year ago, no gene had ever been tied to performance on an IQ test. Since then, more than 500 have, thanks to gene studies involving more than 200,000 test takers.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610339/dna-tests-for-iq-are-coming-but-it-might-not-be-smart-to-take-one/

    Nothing to see here, these genes are of course the only genes in the history of research that have no connection to ethnic ancestry

  • I read The Bell Curve years ago at the suggestion of a conservative acquaintance, and decided the book had no relevance for me, the idea that genius might be more common here than there did not seem to require such a doorstop of a book, which didn't pretend that there weren't geniuses to be found in any variety of people. If the book was crafted as a sort of dog whistle, to provide talking points for people of ill will, than it makes sense, because the science in it is insubstantial and irrelevant.

  • I read this post, then the ensuing comments hoping to find evidence rebutting of the kinds of population studies described in "The Bellcurve."

    Having read the book and listened to all of the attendant hand-wringing that has recently followed Charles Murray's deplatforming, I suspect that the majority of people making claims about racism either are ignorant to the actual contents of the book and intentionally virtue signalling, or have a severely warped view of how we should relate to people in our society.

  • Other Tim, the book is not wicked, but wicked people have used it. And what use is it anyway? Not to determine educational investment, one doesn't wish to poorly serve potential genius, which occurs in any shade, or poorly serve those who could best use vocational training, also in any shade. Certainly of no use in guessing any random person's intelligence, unless on enjoys the embarrassment of discovering said random person has expertise you lack. The book could be a great doorstop.

  • "The Bell Curve" is also going on a quarter-century old. I wonder what the current state of mainstream scientifi–YOU CAN'T ASK THAT!!1

  • Not 3 new trolls, but 3 people who are giving Charles Murray and Sam Harris the benefit of the doubt. They spent a long time talking about this on Sam Harris' podcast, specifically addressing how this is a lightning rod topic when it should really be about the dispassionate analysis of self-reported data.

    Okay, so you disagree with Charles Murray's positions…can anyone spell that out for me with a specific counterfactual to his thesis or are we just going to scream the word "Racist" as loud as we can until the conversation is effectively shut down?

    Is the entire discipline of psychometry and population statistics defunct because of this book or is there perhaps room to review, criticize, and improve on the conclusions drawn 25 years ago from the available data?

    They specifically discuss how the sequencing of the human genome and modern data models could overturn the conclusions from the book, as well as take care to ensure that they highlight the differences between profiling statistical populations versus applying stereotypes to individuals.

    It seems to me the most reasonable and classically Liberal approach to Murray's work is to refute it with superior logic and more thorough analysis, not an emotional appeal or by shouting him down.

    Again, I came in here to find such an appeal from people with whom I normally agree. Instead it seems to just be dog piling. I read this blog every week and don't usually post, but this is a particularly difficult topic for me to understand because I really don't see the source of all the vitriol directed at people who seems to be seeking insight through data, not some kind of quasi-fascist eugenics plan.

  • @Ten Bears:

    I laughed this off the other day – and have long joked there are Neanderthals amongst us – but it occurs that our Aryan white supremacist "victimist" population suffers not cultural delusions of genetic superiority but a romanticized genetic resentment harkening to when their what were and still are thought to be inferior ancestors were overran and assimilated by the "superior" migrant Cro-Magnon, Anatomically Modern Humans.

    To echo one of Sam Harris's points, the reason you're able to laugh about it is that it's the Europeans that genetic testing revealed to be the descendants of Neanderthals. It's politically acceptable to make jokes about the ancestry of white people.

    Had the testing show Neanderthal genes to be a feature of only those of African descent, you laughing about it would mark you as a white supremacist.

  • "To echo one of Sam Harris's points, the reason you're able to laugh about it is that it's the Europeans that genetic testing revealed to be the descendants of Neanderthals."

    Neanderthals were fucking scum until we found out that we're all some part neanderthal.

    I'll believe a book like "The Bell Curve" (or any of that futurist shit written by assholes like the Laffers) has any value when they take two or more groups and put them in IDENTICAL circumstances and then see how they do. Put a group of the best educated lawyers, m.d.'s. economists and venture capitalists in the Kalahari desert along with a group of the indigenous peoples there. Those skinny little bastards as uneducated as it is possible to be (by academic standards of the west) will survive. The other group might, unless they have been inoculated with enough western values to say, "Fuck those assholes, they're losers!".

    Racism is what is is, pal.

  • Put a group of the best educated lawyers, m.d.'s. economists and venture capitalists in the Kalahari desert along with a group of the indigenous peoples there. Those skinny little bastards as uneducated as it is possible to be (by academic standards of the west) will survive.

    I may be getting Murray wrong here but I think one of his points is that yes, you are completely correct. Intelligence schmintelligence in a situation like that.

    IIRC the reasoning for some of his, um, thought-provoking social policy positions is this: for almost all of recorded human history small variations in intelligence didn't mean shit. Being the smartest serf in the field or the smartest slave in the galley did not convey any sort of advantage. If you got a bunch of the smartest serfs and slaves all together in one place, big deal. You were still serfs and slaves and nothing changed.

    But now, in 21st century America, in particular in certain postcodes of certain cities in 21st century America, being a bit smarter than everyone else can lead to incredible wealth. Being the smartest peasant in Gaul – or the smartest person dumped in the Kalahari – means nothing, but being the smartest programmer in Silicon Valley is a golden ticket.

    For the very first time in human history intelligence can make you rich. And when all the intelligent rich people get together in the same places in 21st century America, hello social inequality feedback loop.

  • "being the smartest programmer in Silicon Valley is a golden ticket."

    Partly true. The REAL golden ticket is being a Vampire Squid who latches onto the smart programmer.

  • The race/IQ discussions ignore the verboten topic that the American white population and black population are not significantly different from a genetic standpoint, thanks to the slave owners' propensity for sex with their slaves (see, e.g., Thomas Jefferson and those described in Mary Chestnut's diary; see also, Strom Thurmond).

  • If a topic is verboten that means it's not being ignored – it's being forbidden. Which is the point.

  • " Being the smartest serf in the field or the smartest slave in the galley did not convey any sort of advantage. If you got a bunch of the smartest serfs and slaves all together in one place, big deal. You were still serfs and slaves and nothing changed."

    So, all of the stories about various cultures being flipped upside down and destroyed by the serfs and slaves are as ahistorical as the JEEZUZ novels or, for instance, "The Bell Curve"?

    2nd class citizens get 2nd class educations (or worse, or none at all). I talk to "exceptional" NOTwhite people nearly every day. I actually seek them out–they represent something like 2% of the population where I live–and do you know what makes most of them exceptional? They have genuinely decent educations. Why is that? I don't know. Some part of it is down to raw intelligence; the rest is a soup of variables the recipe for which does not, apparently, scale up for the rest of their fellow 2nd class citizens.

    White europeans destroyed the societies of Africa, IndoChina, the Americas, the Philipines, Hawaii and the rest of Micronesia and Polynesia and largish chunks of China.
    The Japanese managed to avoid colonization by white europeans until Commodore Perry brought them JEEZUZ and democracy at the end of a naval rifle.

    The white saviours replaced illiterate*, falsegodzsworshippin', backwards, tribalistic, superstitious, xenophobic indigenous rulers with university educated, Christian, technologically superior, hyper-nationalistic, superstitious, xenophobic imported rulers or, if they got REALLY lucky with native Jannissaries or, in a pinch, a co-opted former ruler like the hawaiian kings, the last empress of China or the local to national "chieftains" of various states that they added to their respective empires.

    The natives who went "white" were rewarded with SOME power and the attendant bling for keeping the locals in line and dealing with administrative duties, such as extra-judicial executions of other locals that got uppity or looked like they might be thinking about it.

    So, bullshit.

    * They could not read english, spanish, german, french, russian, belgian, italian or other "civilized" languages–all of which were taught, as needed for the simple-minded locals to understand the requirements and regulations of their new, improved Christian (almost exclusively) rulers. But the teaching always took place AFTER the treaties were signed, so's they couldn't read the body of the documents, nevermind the weaselfuckwords in the small font.
    "If a topic is verboten that means it's not being ignored – it's being forbidden. Which is the point."

    Not seeing YOUR point, here.

  • So democommie, is your position that 100% of the social outcomes described in The Bell Curve are a byproduct of environmental influence?

  • "So democommie, is your position that 100% of the social outcomes described in The Bell Curve are a byproduct of environmental influence?"

    My position is that the Bell Curve is the opposite of a peer reviewed study. It has as much value as any other non-peer reviewed study.

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