Raymond B. Cattell and The Social Context of Science

Barry Mehler, Ferris State University

History and Philosophy of Psychology Bulletin Vol. 10, No. 2, 1998


In 1985, historian of psychology Michael Sokal wrote that "Psychology, more than most other sciences, can learn much from the past, and so should devote much attention both to its own history and to that of human beings at large" (p. 242). Taking the APA to task, Sokal commented, "unfortunately, much evidence suggests that APA authors . . . not only do not care about history but also, when they are forced to consider it, do so sloppily." Sokal pointed out that journals such as Science require "that any article - whatever its subject - that employs statistical methodology be refereed by statisticians." Just as expertise in any given area does not imply expertise in statistics, so too, "expertise in any area of psychology does not imply expertise in the history of that area" (Sokal, 1985, p. 242).

Historians of science have focused a great deal of attention on the idea of the social context of science. In fact, one reason why the history of eugenics has been so extensively examined in the past two decades is because it is an excellent example of the interaction between science and society. As a historian of science who has been studying the history of psychology and eugenics for over 20 years, I attempted to place Dr. Cattell's work in a context that clarifies the historiography of eugenics and Dr. Cattell's place within that historiography. In a 1997 essay, I suggested that ideologues of the radical right, and above all interwar fascists, have been uniquely and centrally involved in the development of eugenics and that

for all the heterogeneity of both eugenics and fascism, the special historical relationship between the two cannot be ignored. This relationship is exemplified in the work of the influential psychologist, Raymond B. Cattell. Cattell was an early supporter of German national socialism and his work should be understood in the context of interwar fascism. The new religious movement that he founded, "Beyondism," is a neo-fascist contrivance. Cattell now promulgates ideas that he first formulated within a demimonde of radical eugenists and neo-fascists that includes such associates as Revilo Oliver, Roger Pearson, Wilmot Robertson and Robert K. Graham. These ideas and Cattell's role in the history of eugenics deserve deeper analysis than they have hitherto received. Far from being of merely antiquarian interest, his work currently encourages the propagation of radical eugenist ideology. It is unconscionable for scholars to permit these ideas to go unchallenged, and indeed honored and emulated by a new generation of ideologues and academicians whose work helps to dignify the most destructive political ideas of the twentieth century (Mehler, 1997, p. 161).

A short essay such as this cannot possibly explore the thesis I have outlined here. However, I would like to advance the discussion of the social and historical context of Dr. Cattell's work by addressing the question of the centrality of his Beyondist ideology to his science and offering a clarification of what Cattell meant by "genthanasia" - a term that he coined to mean the "nonviolent intentional phasing out of a culture or group" (Hilts, 1997, p. A10; cf. Cattell, 1972, p. 221). During the email discussion leading up to these essays, Dr. Heather Cattell argued that her father's involvement with the publication, The Beyondist, was insignificant. According to her, "a few people tried to involve Dad" in "this obscure Beyondist newsletter" which never got beyond one or two issues and "is certainly not Dad's writing" (H. Cattell, 1998).

That the essay in The Beyondist was indeed R. B. Cattell's writing is made clear by a memo and draft circulated by John Horn in 1993. On 28 September 1993, John Horn - Cattell's protege and longtime associate - wrote a memo to which he attached a draft statement written by Raymond B. Cattell to the "self- appointed executive group" of the "Beyondism working group" (Horn, 1993). Horn identifies the draft, entitled "The Beyondist Society: First Annual Meeting" as "Ray's suggestion for the first Newsletter of the Beyondism Society," and comments that he "thinks it needs some editing, some modifications, some shortening, and some added to before it goes to hoards of folks" and he asked for comments. The draft was addressed to Cattell's closest associates including Herb Eber, Robert Graham, John Gillis, Richard Gorsuch, John Nesselroad, and Jack McArdle. McArdle and Eber, among others, have denied having any significant engagement with the group (see Blum, 1994; Links to Beyondism, 1993, p. 207).

In the 1993 draft Cattell states that "One major task we have to face is getting the ideals of Beyondism accepted in what is presently a hostile social atmosphere." Cattell contended that "Beyondism is an increasing acceptance of reality, and that involves dropping the emotional support of a loving omnipotent god." As an example of a reality that needed accepting, Cattell asked, "Should the more successful [nations] bolster up the less successful (as the U.S. does Somalia). . . ." Cattell's position is that the U.S. ought not interfere with natural selection by obstructing "natural self-genocide."

The first issue of The Beyondist was published in November 1993 with the draft essay in revised form. The quotes from the previous paragraph had been edited out of the final draft, but it is clear that the essay in The Beyondist was Cattell's own words. In response to a request from this author, Dr. Cattell sent me the first issue of the The Beyondist in June 1994 along with a personal handwritten letter in which he states: "At present we are a 'still small voice in the wilderness' but progress will put our views in the public eye before long."

In his 1972 monograph on Beyondism, Cattell recommended that First World countries allow Third World countries "to go to the wall" when they collapse into chaos, mass famine, and genocide. He argued that foreign aid to underdeveloped Third World countries is a mistake. Incompetent and obsolete societies are not fit for the competitive struggle for existence. What he called for, according to Richard Lynn was "not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of 'phasing out' of such peoples (Cattell, 1972, pp. 219-221; Lynn).

In 1991, sociologist Pierre Van Den Bergh of the University of Washington delivered an address, "Nation-Building: A Blueprint for Genocide?" before the First International Congress on Prejudice, Discrimination and Conflict, held in Jerusalem, Israel. Professor Van den Bergh pointed out that, at a minimum, two-thirds of all people killed by states since 1945 have been internal victims of genocide or politicides. "Estimates of internal blood baths yield totals of 6.8 to 16.3 million victims - megadeaths - between 1945 and 19.87, depending on whose figures one accepts... However one wants to classify acts of state sponsored murder it is clear that since World War 11, three-fourths of all fatalities were caused by states killing their own citizens ..."

Genthanasia is simply an obsfucation of genocide. There is no such thing as "natural self-genocide." What happened in Somalia was not natural - it was the result of political conflict, and those who died were victims. What Cattell calls genthanasia, Van den Bergh calls ethnocide and genocide committed by elites. Throughout much of Africa, small western-educated elites have inherited an alien colonial system of government perpetuated by minority rule through corruption and violence; these elites have appropriated all organs of state control for private exploitation and gain through a complex network of nepotism and ethnic favoritism. This is about as nationalist as the Sicilian Mafia or the Medellin drug cartel.

When it was announced in the July 1997 APA Monitor that Raymond B. Cattell was to receive the American Psychological Foundation's prestigious Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement to the Science of Psychology, it was noted that Dr. Cattell decided to work in psychology because it "would be the most direct way to solve the political and economic problems around him" (APF recognizes, 1997. p. 48). In other words, Dr. Cattell's science was intended to solve social and political problems. I believe that, when viewed in historical context and despite his protests to the contrary, it is clear that Cattell's notion of "phasing out" what he calls "moribund cultures" is little more than support for genocide.


APF recognizes psychologists for lifetime achievement. (1997, July). APA Monitor, p. 48.

Blum, D. E. (1994, January 5). NCAA Panel Under Fire. Chronicle of Higher Education, 40, A47-A48.

Cattell, Heather E. P. (Cattell@CCNET.com) (1998 September 13). Re: HPPB Special Issue. Email to Barry Mehler et. al. (mehlerb@yahoo.com).

Cattell, R. B. (1972)., A new morality from science: Beyondism. New York: Pergamon.

Cattell, R. B. (1993). The Beyondist Society: First Annual Meeting. Unpublished manuscript.

Hilts, P. J. (1997, August 15). Group delays achievement award to psychologist accused of fascist and racist views. TheNewYorkTimes, p. A 10.

Horn, J. (1993, September 23). Members of the Executive Committee, Beyondism Foundation. Unpublished memorandum.

Links to Beyondism raise many questions. (1993, December 14). USA Today.

Lynn, R. Review: A New Morality from Science: Beyondism." by R.B. Cattell. Pergamon Press, New York, 1972. Pages xvii and 482. Irish Journal of Psychology 2 #3 (Winter 1974) pp. 205-209.

Mehler, B. (1997). Beyondism: Raymond B. Cattell and the new eugenics. Genetica, 99, 153-163. Revised version available online: /ISAR/bios/Cattell/genetica.htm

Sokal, M. (1985). APA publications and the history of psychology (comment). American Psychologist, 40, 241-242.

Van Den Bergh, P. (1991, July). Nation-building:, A blueprint for genocide? Paper presented at the First International Congress on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Conflict, Jerusalem, Israel.

Posted 12/17/98, slightly revised from original