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The Roots of the I.Q. Debate: Eugenics and Social Control

Eugenics Today

This is an excerpt from 'In Genes We Trust: When Science Bows to Racism,' by Barry Mehler, published in the Winter, 1994 issue of Reform Judaism and reprinted in the March, 1995 issue of The Public Eye: A Publication of Political Research Associates.

The revival of eugenics in North America has more to do with ideology and money than with science. A New York-based foundation called the Pioneer Fund, established in 1937 by textile heir Wickliffe Draper, has provided millions of dollars (more than $10 million from 1971-1992 alone) to behavioral scientists whose findings lend credence to racist ideas and eugenic solutions, as well as to anti-immigrant groups. Draper believed that genetics could be used to prove the inferiority of blacks and the superiority of the white Anglo-Saxon stock that first colonized the Eastern seaboard.

The Pioneer Fund's original charter outlines a commitment to work for 'racial betterment' through studies in heredity and eugenics and to 'improve the character of the American people' by encouraging the procreation of descendants of the original white colonial stock.

To help establish the Pioneer Fund, Draper asked Frederick Osborn, secretary of the American Eugenics Society, and Harry Laughlin, a supporter of Hitler's race ideology, to organize research projects and distribute pro-eugenic propaganda. Osborn believed the Nazi sterilization program was 'perhaps the most important social experiment which has ever been tried' (Summary of the Proceedings of the Conference on Eugenics in Relation to Nursing, Feb. 24, 1937).

Laughlin, director of the Carnegie Institute's Eugenics Record Office, had been honored in 1936 by the Third Reich for his contributions to Nazi eugenics. Laughlin accepted the award 'as evidence of a common understanding' between American and Nazi scientists on the importance of preserving 'the racial health' of future generations.

As one of the Pioneer Fund's first 'accomplishments,' it imported two copies of a Nazi propaganda film 'Applied Eugenics in Present-Day Germany,' adding English subtitles for American consumption. The film portrayed severely impaired people as freaks living in the splendor of a palatial sanitarium, while genetically-sound Aryan children lived in squalor.

The message was clear: too much money is wasted on 'life unworthy of living.' The Nazis produced more sophisticated versions as a means of preparing medical workers to commit mass murder in state-sanctioned euthanasia programs. During the Third Reich an estimated 200,000 mentally and physically disabled persons were murdered by lethal injection, deliberate starvation, and gas.

The Pioneer Fund has changed little since its inception. A December 11, 1977 New York Times article characterized it has having 'supported highly controversial research by a dozen scientists who believe that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.' In the 1960s Nobel Laureate William Shockley (1910-1989), a physicist at Stanford University who advocated programs of voluntary sterilization of people with lower than the average American IQ score of 100, received an estimated $180,000 from the Pioneer Fund.

Dr. Arthur Jensen, an educational psychologist who was recruited by Shockley to the racist cause in 1966, garnered more than a million dollars in Pioneer Fund grants over the past three decades. The investment yielded early dividends. Three years later, in an article published by the prestigious Harvard Education Review, Jensen attacked Head Start programs, claiming the problem with black children is that they have an average IQ of only 85 and that no amount of social engineering would improve their performance. Jensen urged 'eugenic foresight' as the only solution.

Fascist ideologist Roger Pearson, a Pioneer Fund beneficiary ($568,000 from 1981-1991) and author of Eugenics and Race, published by Willis Carto's notoriously anti-Semitic Noontide Press, argues that the white race is endangered by inferior genetic stock, but with proper use of modern biological technology, 'a new super generation' descended from 'only the fittest' of the previous generation can be produced. The first nation to adopt such a scientific breeding program, Pearson contends, 'would eventually dominate the rest of the world.'

In 1965 Pearson became editor of Western Destiny, a magazine established by Carto and dedicated to spreading fascist ideology. Using the pseudonym of Stephen Langton, Pearson then became the editor of The New Patriot, a short-lived magazine published in 1966-67 to conduct 'a responsible but penetrating inquiry into every aspect of the Jewish Question,' which included articles such as 'Zionists and the Plot Against South Africa,' 'Early Jews and the Rise of Jewish Money Power,' and 'Swindlers of the Crematoria.'

Despite Pearson's long history of association with neo-Nazi groups, he was appointed in 1977 to the original board of editors of Policy Review, a journal published by the respected Heritage Foundation, a conservative political research organization in Washington, D.C. Perhaps the clearest indication of Pearson's acceptance into the mainstream is the letter of support he received from then President Ronald Reagan, thanking Pearson for his 'substantial contribution to promoting and upholding those ideals and principles that we value at home and abroad.'

At the University of Western Ontario in Canada, psychology professor J. Phillipe Rushton, who has benefited from more than $441,000 in Pioneer Fund awards from 1981-92, argues that behavioral differences among blacks, whites, and Asians are the result of evolutionary variations in the reproductive strategies. Blacks are at one extreme, Rushton claims, because they produce large numbers of offspring but offer them little care; at the other extreme are Asians, who have fewer children but indulge them; whites lie somewhere in between (paper presented at the Symposium on Evolutionary Theory, Economics, and Political Science, AAAS Annual Meeting, Jan. 19, 1989). Blacks, according to Rushton, have larger genitals, making them more promiscuous, and smaller brains, making them less intelligent than whites and Asians. Using 60 different measures, Rushton ranks the races along an evolutionary scale with blacks at the bottom and Asians at the top.

Despite Rushton's controversial race theories, he has been embraced by the scientific mainstream, having been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the American, British, and Canadian Psychological Associations. He has published six books and nearly 150 articles, one of which appeared in the October 1986 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, under the sponsorship of Academy member E.O. Wilson.

In 1989 Rushton's colleagues in the Behavior Genetics Association (BGA) protested his views. Five key officers of the BGA circulated a letter dated February 17 to the membership, calling Rushton's work 'insensitive,' 'repugnant,' and 'dubious scientifically.' Today Rushton is an honored member of the BGA; those who had opposed him have either resigned or retired.

From 1991-92, the Pioneer Fund awarded $124,500 to philosophy professor Michael Levin of the City College of New York, who in 1991 wrote in the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies (edited by the anti-Semitic Roger Pearson): 'Race differences in intelligence and motivation are of the greatest significance for American society. Blacks. . .are reproducing more rapidly than whites. I have seen it estimated that 25 percent of the population will be black and less than 50 percent white by the middle of the next century. This contingency was not foreseen by the founding fathers, and it is an open question whether liberal democracy can be sustained by a population whose mean intelligence and self-restraint fall sufficiently below Caucasoid norms.' Dr. Levin's solution is to slow black population growth by ending public assistance.

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