PQC: Folks, caution! big big red flags. A writer who employs “holocaust denier” as the sword, looks up to Southern Poverty Law Center as authoritative judge, and trusts IPS as righteous, legitimate, thought police is not a thinker but a well trained statist parrot!
Nevertheless she still has some points. I still enjoy reading this. I still want to know what she had to say in this book in its entirety. A well trained parrot does have good information! It’s all up to the listeners 🙂
Inside the Fold
After the war, intellectual racists forged new networks
The Second World War marked an unlucky turning point in the life of Reginald Ruggles Gates.
Born in 1882, Gates was one of those well-to-do, gentlemanly race scientists who were so common in the nineteenth century. He was a colonial type who believed that other races were different human species and a eugenicist who supported segregation in the United States. He would certainly be considered a racist by modern standards, but at the time his views weren’t uncommon. They didn’t get in the way of his career or his standing in society. He was successful and well respected.
To get a sense of who Gates was, I’ve come to the Maughan Library at King’s College London, where his archive was moved after he died in 1962. It is off Chancery Lane, housed in a vast nineteenth-century Gothic Revival building that was once Britain’s Public Record Office. I leaf through his personal papers, slowly building a mental portrait. Sepia photographs show him to be smartly dressed, sporting a neatly clipped moustache. Gates had grown up in a wealthy family with thousands of acres of land across Nova Scotia, Canada, before he moved to Britain, where he was briefly married to Marie Stopes, a fellow member of the Eugenics Society. He enjoyed a career as a plant geneticist, becoming professor of botany at King’s College in 1921, and later a fellow of the Royal Society. He seems to have had a passion for travel, too, for understanding human difference across the world. His collection of scientific papers spans work from almost every continent.
Before the war he was clearly riding high. After the war, though, it all changed.
Gates found, to his confusion and disappointment, that he was now being left out in the cold by an establishment that had once welcomed him. His papers were rejected by scientific journals more than they had ever been. The reason was simple: deeply shaken by the genocidal use of eugenics by the Nazis in Germany, the world was turning its back on any research that resembled their theories of racial hygiene. The enthusiasm for studying race—once almost fashionable in scientific circles—was on its way out. Researchers who, like Gates, weren’t wise enough to get with the new program, who chose instead to cling to their unpalatable politics, found themselves flung from the warm center of academic life to its chillier margins.
Yet he couldn’t figure out why. “What interests me about it is his incredulity,” I’m told by Gavin Schaffer. “He seemed genuinely surprised.” In a sense, Gates was a man caught out by time. While Francis Galton and Karl Pearson had the good fortune to die before they could witness race science reach its most brutal peak, others survived long enough to see the political mood change—and then suffer the consequences.
At every opportunity, Gates refused to budge from his belief in racial superiority and inferiority. Wherever he found himself professionally hindered, he imagined himself to be the victim of a Jewish plot to derail his work. Schaffer recounts one especially bad experience, in 1948, when Gates was working briefly at Howard University, the historically black college in Washington, DC. “A petition was got up to remove him because of allegations that he was a racist—which he was. But he was stunned by that,” Schaffer says. “He articulated his understanding of that as a manifestation of an international Jewish conspiracy, as opposed to just understanding that, in a historically black university, the kind of work that he did and the kind of things that he said were always going to be challenged.” Even when he agreed to leave Howard, Gates grumbled in private that only a few “ignorant Negroes” were fit to be in a university at all.
In later life he turned to travel, his wide-ranging interest in human differences taking him all over the world. He visited Cuba and Mexico to study “mixed-race” people and Japan and Australia to observe indigenous communities, and made a number of trips to India, a country that became a particular source of fascination. Browsing his personal collection of scientific papers in the library, I’m startled to discover there’s even one on the blood groups of the Sainis in parts of Punjab—a study that may well have included relatives from my father’s branch of the family.
What Gates could never accept was that the world was moving on, leaving those like him behind.
When it came to how the world thought about race, a wider political shift was under way. It was most clearly signposted in 1949 when more than a hundred scientists, anthropologists, diplomats, and international policy makers met in Paris under the umbrella of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, to redefine race. A British-born American writer and anthropologist, Ashley Montagu, led the charge against scientific racism and its horrific legacy, taking his cue from a wave of social scientists who had already long argued that history, culture, and environment were really behind what people thought of as racial difference.
“The word race is itself racist,” Montagu wrote in his influential 1942 book Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Both intellectually and culturally ahead of the curve, he explained in an article in American Anthropologist, “What a ‘race’ is no one exactly seems to know, but everyone is most anxious to tell. . . . The common definition . . . is based upon an arbitrary and superficial selection of external characters.” As anthropologists and geneticists were learning, individual variation within population groups, overlapping with other population groups, turned out to be so large that the boundaries of race made less and less sense. This was one reason why nobody had ever been able to agree on exactly how many races there were. Three, or four, or five, or several, there was never a consensus. The concept of race was as slippery as jelly, defying any effort to pin it down. In the end, academics had to concede that it probably wasn’t an accurate or reliable way to think about human variation.
Montagu emphasized the likelihood that humans were genetically pretty much identical, and that in any case, our ancestral roots were certainly the same. Other anthropologists who had studied human diversity had already suggested that differences between humans were not only marginal but also formed a continuum, each so-called race blurring into the next. What really made people and nations seem different was culture and language, neither of which is hereditary.
It was on the back of work like this that UNESCO, in July 1950, released its first statement on race, stressing unity between humans in a concerted effort to eradicate what it saw as the outcome of a “fundamentally antirational system of thought.” It was meant to be the last word on the subject, to flush away racism once and for all. “Scientists have reached general agreement in recognizing that mankind is one: that all men belong to the same species, Homo sapiens.”
The next few decades would be crucial to dismantling the idea that race was real and to proving Montagu right. In 1972 a landmark paper exploring the true breadth of human biological diversity appeared in the annual edition of Evolutionary Biology, written by a geneticist, Richard Lewontin, who later became a professor at Harvard University. Dividing the planet up into seven human groups, based roughly on old-fashioned racial categories, Lewontin investigated just how much genetic diversity there was within these populations compared with the genetic diversity between them. What he found was that there was far more variation among people of the same “race” than between supposedly separate races; he concluded that around 85 percent of all the genetic diversity we see is located within local populations—93 percent if you widen the net to continental populations. In total, around 90 percent of the variation lies roughly within the old racial categories, not between them. There has been at least one critique of Lewontin’s statistical method since then, but geneticists today overwhelmingly agree that although they may be able to use genomic data to roughly categorize people by the continent their ancestors came from (something we can often do equally well by sight), by far the biggest chunk of human genetic difference is indeed found within populations.
Lewontin’s findings have been reinforced over time. An influential 2002 study published in Science by a team of scientists led by geneticist Noah Rosenberg, then at the University of Southern California, took genetic data from just over a thousand people around the world and showed that indeed as much as 95 percent of variation is within the major population groups. Statistically this means that although I look nothing like the white British woman who lives next door to me in my apartment building, it’s perfectly possible for me to have more in common genetically with her than with my Indian-born neighbor who lives downstairs. Being of the same “race” doesn’t necessarily mean we are genetically more similar.
In the long run, then, Ashley Montagu’s position on race has been vindicated.
Mark Jobling, a respected professor of genetics at the University of Leicester, tells me that if there were a global catastrophe and all life were wiped out save just, say, Peruvians, 85 percent of human genetic diversity would be safely retained. “That just reflects the fact that we are a young species,” explains Jobling. H. sapiens is relatively new, and being so new, we’re still closely related to one another.
The greatest genetic diversity within Homo sapiens is found in Africa, because this continent contains the oldest human communities. When some of our ancestors began to migrate into the rest of the world sometime between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, the groups that moved were genetically less diverse than the ones left behind for the simple reason that they were made up of fewer people.
The human variation we see across different regions today is partly the result of this “founder effect.” Of course, groups of people have average physical differences, as a result of their biological and environmental histories. It has been estimated that ten thousand generations separate every single one of us from the original little band of people in what is now Africa, but we look different because of the characteristics we happened to take with us we migrated. As these small migrant populations spread, bred, and adapted to their local environments, they began to look ever more different from the relatives they left behind generations earlier and more like each other. And as small members of these groups, again, left for new territory, they would become slightly genetically different again because of a serial founder effect.
All of this didn’t happen in big clumps or clusters, but rather like more of a mesh, as people mated with those they encountered on the way, sometimes traveling further away and sometimes moving back. If everyone in the world had their genomes sequenced, says Jobling, you wouldn’t find hard borders between them, but gradients, with each small community blending into the next, the way hills blend into valleys. The racial categories we are used to seeing on census forms don’t map onto the true picture of human variation.
The aim of the original 1950 UNESCO statement wasn’t just to set out the science in a clear way, but also to change the culture, to make people think differently about this idea that they had lived with for so long, that had done incalculable damage to millions of lives. The statement emphasized that what we see as race is likely to be only a superficial variation on one theme. Most of the visible difference is cultural. The UNESCO statement poured cold water on entrenched racial stereotypes. Furthermore, it made clear that there was no proof that different groups of people differed in their innate mental characteristics, including intelligence and temperament.
It marked a crucial moment in history, a bold universal attempt to reverse the deep-seated damage that had been done by racism—and perpetuated by science—for at least two centuries. And to some extent, it worked. Whether we realized it or not, all of us thought about race differently after that. Racism was no longer fashionable. Scientists and anthropologists by and large got behind UNESCO, and their work in the coming decades would largely reflect that.
But this wasn’t the end of it.
Despite the changing public mood around race, some researchers just couldn’t bring themselves to ditch a body of work they had been cultivating for decades. Many didn’t agree with UNESCO’s claim that biology supported the idea of a universal brotherhood. A few couldn’t accept that there were no mental differences between racial groups. And they weren’t all racists. Some of them were respectable, eminent scientists at universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, who simply wanted the statement to be revised with more scientific precision and qualification.
But one of the most passionate voices of all belonged to Reginald Ruggles Gates.
“What Gates called for, time and again, was the objective continuing study of race . . . because he thought that his position was grounded in true science,” explains Schaffer. He and others felt that UNESCO was stepping outside the bounds of what biology could actually claim, that it was ignoring facts in favor of liberal, antiracist politics. “The biologists who countered it, what they wanted was the continuation of their own expertise, which they had asserted over twenty, thirty years. They agreed that the Nazi state was completely wrong in the way it had used race, and that other political actors had been completely wrong, but they felt that the study of race would profit from further work. I think, to them in that period, they felt they wanted work on race to continue, and they felt that other people wanted it to stop.”
The pressure worked, at least in part. In 1951 UNESCO got a team of experts together to publish a new statement whose language was tempered to account for the lack of consensus around the biological facts. The changes were subtle, but revealing. For instance, instead of saying that scientists had “reached general agreement” that we were one human species, the revised statement was gently altered to say that scientists were “generally agreed.” In short, it had to make clear that not every expert could accept even the most basic fact that we all belonged to the same species.
Despite concessions like these, Gates failed to keep race science alive in the same way as before. By now it had been all but lifted out of the laboratory. The academic study of race no longer had a place within the realms of biology. Whether all biologists liked it or not, by the second half of the twentieth century, race belonged to the social sciences, to the study of culture and history. It was understood to be a social and political construction, not a concept borne out by biology. Old-fashioned race researchers and eugenicists had to move on or be sidelined.
At that point, Schaffer explains, “The biologists just go into themselves a bit. They go back to their work, they go back to their labs.” They move into newer fields, such as genetics, evolutionary biology, and psychology. They also begin to look for difference at the molecular level rather than at the surface. “As long as you weren’t hell-bent on the kind of politics that were going to call your position into threat, yes, why not.” The older, somewhat cruder, and more controversial ways of studying human difference, using anatomy and twin studies, were now treated with suspicion. By the 1950s the word “race” was so unfashionable in scientific circles that it was barely used anymore.
Veronika Lipphardt, a historian at University College Freiburg, in Germany, has noted that the 1950s saw new institutes dedicated to the study of human variation open around the world. There was one in Bombay, another at Columbia University in New York, and one at the Federal University of Paraná in Brazil. A politically correct scientific terminology emerged. Researchers began referring to groups as “populations,” and occasionally as “ethnic groups.” But the departure from the old race science wasn’t quite as complete as it might have been. Although the parameters of research had changed, the racial categories were still alive in people’s minds. They were still active in people’s everyday lives, playing out in the racism of the real world. For scientists to suddenly stop thinking about humans in racial terms was impossible so long as everyone out there still thought about themselves and others that way. So they couldn’t help but look for racial difference, to subconsciously force this way of thinking into their work.
One example is blood type. When genetics started to become the preferred way to talk about human variation, hard hereditary variables such as blood type came under the spotlight. Categorizing by blood sounded more mathematical, less wishy-washy, than talking about skin color or hair texture. And in the process, blood became an obsession. It was already well known that the proportions of people with different blood types varied from population to population, because of a phenomenon known as genetic drift. In prehistory, as small founding communities of people migrated across the world, they took their own narrow subset of blood types with them. This is equivalent to your cousin, say, leaving home to set up a colony of her own. She may be closely related to you, but have a different blood type. As these communities got bigger, their particular blood types became the common ones. For example my own, B+, is shared by around a third of people in India, where my family are from, and less than a tenth of people in the United Kingdom, where I live. By studying which population groups have which blood types, researchers found they could open a window into how closely or distantly related these groups might be to each other.
In the postwar period the distribution of blood types became a hot topic in anthropology journals. In the 1960s the World Health Organization launched its own effort to document groups of people around the world, collecting data on skin pigmentation and hair form, but also on blood type, color blindness, and other genetic markers. When the blood of the Sainis of Punjab was collected and tested in 1961 by a pair of anthropologists at the University of Delhi, before the results were passed to Reginald Ruggles Gates in England, it was part of these bigger efforts. Similar tests were carried out in other Indian groups and castes. Ultimately thousands of people from different communities were gauged in the same way, and the same occurred all over the world. At least some of these scientists were searching for proof that race was real, that evidence for racial differences could be found at the molecular level.
Gates was one of these scientists. He just couldn’t let go of his belief in the old, hard, biologically rooted racial gaps. And he would never change. His final piece of work, entitled The Emergence of Racial Genetics, published posthumously in 1963, attempted to place the new genetics in the old framework of race. Part of the reason he pressed on with his commitment to races as meaningful categories, argues Schaffer, is that he sincerely believed that his own research was objective and that those challenging him were the ones driven by ideology. He saw himself as the bearer of truth, held back by an antiscience political agenda that was mistakenly trying to impose racial equality on the world. All the while he was receiving funding from segregationists in the United States.
Schaffer reminds me that it’s important to understand the psychology behind Gates’s conviction. When Gates complained that race research was being politicized, he was right. After all, following World War II and the bald brutality of the Holocaust, it would have been bizarre for any discussion of race not to be affected by politics. But what Gates failed to accept was that he was similarly affected by his own politics. “People like him must also position themselves within that model. People who defend race historically have also done so for political reasons,” he explains. “The science never becomes separated from political discourse.”
Gates wasn’t a pseudoscientist, even if he was a bit of a crank. But his failure to be professionally recognized wasn’t just a result of his beliefs. Editors of some of the scientific journals that rejected his work warned him that his methods were getting sloppy: he was relying on subjective interpretation rather than rigorous, intensive study. This slapdash approach may have been acceptable in the previous century, but it didn’t cut it in the world of modern science. By the end, Gates had few supporters left in the scientific community, as a result of both his abhorrent views and his weak research. When his death was announced in 1962 at a meeting of American anthropologists, reportedly there were cheers.
That said, history doesn’t move in a straight line. Ideas, even the worst ones, can go out fashion in one century and come back in another. Those who imagined that the end of World War II marked the abrupt death of race science were sadly mistaken.
In the final years before his death, when few scientific journals would touch his work, Gates decided to take matters into his own hands. If they wouldn’t publish him, he would publish himself.
He and a handful of like-minded researchers, some on the very darkest margins of science—including the former Nazi scientist Otmar von Verschuer and a British eugenicist, Roger Pearson, in 1960, established a journal of their own. Their aims were simple: to challenge what they saw as a politically correct, left-wing conspiracy around race and bring back some scientific objectivity. (Von Verschuer died in a car accident in 1969, soon after Gates. Pearson, the last of the group still alive, aged ninety in 2018, declined to give me an interview for reasons of ill health.)
They named their brave new enterprise the Mankind Quarterly.
The founders of this revolutionary journal regarded themselves as “the defenders of the truth,” says Schaffer; they even compared it to the Gospels. But to anyone who read it, it would have been immediately clear that the Mankind Quarterly was not as impartial as it claimed to be. In the early 1960s, when it was launched, South Africa was an apartheid state, the US civil rights movement was gaining momentum, and European colonies in Asia and Africa were winning independence. Race was high on the agenda everywhere, and the moral failures of the past were slowly being redressed. For racists who didn’t welcome this shifting tide, now was the moment to assert their position. And the Mankind Quarterly was happy to oblige. It waded deep into the politics of the time, using science—even if only in a loose way—as its weapon of choice.
Recruiting truly respectable scientists to the cause was a challenge, but not impossible. The earliest editions included articles by Henry Garrett, a former president of the American Psychological Association and the head of Columbia University’s psychology department. He was then one of the most powerful and eminent voices against desegregation in the United States. Most notably, in 1954, Garrett had testified to stop the integration of black and white schools in the state of Virginia, when a trial known as Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County went up to the Supreme Court. Hundreds of students at an underfunded all-black school, with no gym or cafeteria, who were sometimes forced to study in an old school bus, fought against separate schools on the grounds that they were being disadvantaged because of their color. The judge ruled against them. Under national pressure, this case went on to be combined with five other school desegregation cases brought before the Supreme Court in 1954 in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which finally declared that separate schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.
Writing in the Mankind Quarterly in 1960, Garrett wasn’t rolling back from his defeat, he was doubling down. Regardless of what the law said, for him, people of different races mixing with each other spelled certain disaster. “The weak, disease-ridden population of modern Egypt offers dramatic evidence of the evil effects of a hybridization which has gone on for 5000 years. In Brazil, coastal Bahia with its negroid mixtures is primitive and backward as compared with the relatively advanced civilization of white southern Brazil,” he wrote.
In another article for the journal, in 1961, Garrett laid into academics, politicians, and social reformers who didn’t accept the “common-sense” judgement that “the Negro was . . . less intelligent and more indolent than the white.” Like so many scientific racists before him, Garrett argued that this difference was evidence of civilizational superiority. He claimed that Africans had never produced anything of any great value. Could any African Negro, he charged, “compare with the best of the European whites: to compare, for example, with Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Acquinas [sic], Galileo, Voltaire, Goethe, Shakespeare or Newton?”
The twisting of facts to suit an ideological viewpoint would become a regular feature of the Mankind Quarterly. An especially cold-blooded article in 1966, by one of the journal’s editors, argued that Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans had been all but wiped out by European colonizers not out of greed or cruelty, but because it was a natural outcome of biology. “If the conquered are markedly inferior to the conquerors . . . they will always remain an outcaste element at the bottom of the social structure.” Interracial conflict, the writer argued, was the product of natural selection. Drawing parallels with the American civil rights movement, he added that it was virtually self-evident that racial integration would never work.
Articles like these didn’t go unnoticed in the scientific community. Almost as soon as the Mankind Quarterly appeared, disgusted anthropologists sent in letters of complaint, accusing the journal of trying to make scientific racism respectable again. A Slovene anthropologist, Božo Škerlj, who had mistakenly joined the Mankind Quarterly’s advisory board, only to be appalled by its “ostensibly racialist editorial policy,” entered into a public spat with the editors. Škerlj was particularly insulted by Gates’s accusation that his mental outlook—and presumably his objectivity—was affected by the fact that he had been imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp during the war. Gates noted, revealingly, that he would never have considered him for the position in the first place had he known about his internment.
In Science, one of the world’s leading journals, a reviewer called on scientists to take action “against this unwelcome, ill-founded unbiological outgrowth of racism.” But it made no difference. The reason the Mankind Quarterly had been created at all was the lack of scientific approval for the kinds of ideas its founders wanted to publish. The editors didn’t want or care about approval, they just needed a platform.
The other, deeper secret behind the Mankind Quarterly was that it had legs of its own. Support came indirectly from a reclusive, multimillionaire textile heir with a vested political interest in the articles the journal published. Wickliffe Draper was a diehard segregationist descended from a commanding officer in the Confederate Army on one side and the largest slaveholder in the state of Kentucky on the other. His family roots in North America dated back to 1648, with enormous wealth and property steadily amassed over the centuries. In his 2002 book The Funding of Scientific Racism, William Tucker, emeritus professor of psychology at Rutgers University, details Draper’s upbringing, one so privileged that a relatively weak academic record wasn’t enough to prevent him from getting into Harvard. In the early twentieth century at Harvard, Tucker writes, Draper would have been exposed to those at the forefront of the country’s eugenics movement. Draper was an intellectual racist looking for ways to spend his inheritance; the Mankind Quarterly would turn out to be the perfect vehicle for his racist views.
In March 1937 Draper incorporated the Pioneer Fund, a private foundation whose purpose was to disseminate information on human heredity and eugenics and provide race scientists who couldn’t find backing anywhere else with the cash they needed to carry on. The anthropologist Robert Wald Sussman explains in his 2014 book The Myth of Race that “Draper wanted to recruit scientific authorities with academic credentials and scholarly records who believed in the necessity of racial purity and [believed] that integration posed a threat to civilization.” In short, he was trying to build a scholarly argument to defend segregation. During the war his money was used to help distribute a Nazi propaganda film about eugenics to US schools and churches. But it was after the war that the fund really came into its own. In 1959 Draper set up what he called the International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics, to produce and publish documents on race. The association made it its aim to promote and distribute the Mankind Quarterly, to help turn it into one of the most important vehicles for race research in the world.
Tucker describes the original directors of the International Association for the Advancement of Ethnology and Eugenics as “probably the most significant coterie of fascist intellectuals in the postwar United States and perhaps in the entire history of the country.”
The Pioneer Fund’s priority from the beginning was to back distinguished scientists, the more well known the better, along with racist ideologues. “Grants to the former were intended to provide a façade of intellectual respectability for the latter, as well as results that could be used to justify their policies.” Cash gifts were routinely made to scientists who echoed Draper’s political sentiments, while thousands of copies of the Mankind Quarterly containing their work were sent out to a list of American political conservatives. The science and the politics operated hand in glove.
Unsurprisingly, then, according to Tucker, the journal made no concessions to political correctness. “This was going to be a publication frankly written by racists for racists,” he writes. The target audience didn’t appear to be the academic community at all, but racist movements searching for evidence that their prejudices might be rooted in scientific fact. “Nothing seemed too bizarre or too repugnant to receive the Mankind Quarterly’s stamp of approval.” One of the longest articles it published was titled “The New Fanatics,” which slammed American intellectuals who used their authority to support equal rights for black people. Sussman has noted that the book review section was in essence a bulletin board for publications that had anything to do with eugenics, where praise was lavished on new publications that were neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, or antiblack.
The editors’ intentions would have been clear to the journal’s readers. Many of the mainstream scientists who did bother to read the new journal saw straight through it. A scholarly review of the first three editions by the late British anthropologist Geoffrey Ainsworth Harrison, a former president of the Royal Anthropological Institute, was scathing. He complained that one of the editors hadn’t grasped the concepts of modern genetics, despite writing about them at length. He dismissed Henry Garrett’s work, too, as full of inconsistencies. He even threw in a comment about how many typographical errors there were. Although Harrison saw some value in studying human variation, he didn’t see what the Mankind Quarterly did as academically useful. “Few of the contributions have any merit whatsoever, and many are no more than incompetent attempts to rationalise irrational opinions. . . . It is earnestly hoped that The Mankind Quarterly will succumb before it can further discredit anthropology and do more damage to mankind,” he concluded.
But that didn’t happen. In fact, the journal kept going for many more decades, publishing scientists and not-quite-scientists at the margins of their fields, many of them personally bankrolled by Wickliffe Draper’s Pioneer Fund. The fund stuck to its aims even after Draper died in 1972. In his will, Draper left $50,000 to Henry Garrett alone. Despite all the criticisms it faced when it was first published, despite the widespread expectation that it wouldn’t last, the Mankind Quarterly never succumbed.
If you want to read it, it’s still around today.
When I contacted the German biochemist Gerhard Meisenberg, the current editor in chief of the Mankind Quarterly, I didn’t expect to hear back from him.
After all, this is a journal considered so inflammatory that the security filter of my home broadband provider in the United Kingdom automatically blocks it. So I’m surprised to not only hear from Meisenberg immediately, but that he seems perfectly happy to tell me whatever I want to know. He advises me that he became the editor of the Mankind Quarterly only within the last few years, and that his job is to “start the seemingly hopeless task to salvage this rundown journal,” betraying the possibility that he sees renewed interest for the ideas they publish. At the same time, he warns that he can only communicate with me through email—not because he considers the work he does to be inflammatory, but because it’s tricky to reach him by any other means right now. Since 1984 he’s worked at the Ross University School of Medicine, a for-profit private college based in Dominica, but he and his students recently found themselves kicked off the island by a hurricane. As a result, he’s teaching from a rented cruise ship elsewhere in the Caribbean.
I can’t call or see him, Meisenberg says, but we can write to each other. And what follows is a long and candid email exchange.
“I can tell you about how modern races evolved,” he tells me in his first message. It’s clear from the outset that he believes he has an understanding of the subject not shared by mainstream scientists. The reason he is so happy to talk is because I’m giving him the opportunity to enlighten me. “One hang-up for academic definitions of race is that academics like precise definitions and precise boundaries between categories. They use only their left brain hemisphere. The right one is atrophied. For them, when categories into which they slice the world lack clear boundaries, they seem to assume that the categories are invalid.”
On school performance in the United States, Meisenberg states, “Jews tend to do very well, Chinese and Japanese pretty well, and Blacks and Hispanics not so well. The differences are small, but the most parsimonious explanation is that much and perhaps most of this is caused by genes.” There is no scientific evidence for this; it’s just speculation. Nobody has ever found any genes linking ethnicity or race to school results. Like Henry Garrett half a century earlier, Meisenberg chooses to skip over the social, historical, and economic aspects of racial inequality. Rather, he believes that scientific evidence that doesn’t yet exist will explain the gaps eventually. He takes it as given that the answer must be biological.
“Of course we can use molecular genetics to figure out, for example, in what way intelligence-related genetic variants vary among different racial groups,” he suggests. “This will answer the question about race differences in intelligence once and for all. Good riddance [to] a stupid debate!”
He continues in this vein, with sensible statements punctuated by somewhat more bizarre ones. At one point he claims that “Europeans became brighter since antiquity, but then became stupider again since the 19th century.” At another point he asks, “Are different races genetically predisposed to think about the world in slightly different ways?”
Eventually I ask what attracted Meisenberg—neither a geneticist nor a psychologist, but a biochemist working at a medical school—to this scientific niche. What got him so interested in race?
“I am not particularly obsessed with race,” he replies. “But I got interested in the subject in the context of the question of why some countries are rich and others are poor.” He notes that there is “a 50-fold difference in per capita GDP between the poorest countries in the world and the advanced Western countries” and he believes that learning ability, which he sees as being tightly linked to intelligence, is what makes the difference to a country’s economic success. For him, this learning ability is programmed into a person’s—or a population’s—DNA. “In consequence, the question of whether there are genetic ability differences between people in different countries is perhaps the most fundamental question in development economics.”
He tells me, for instance, what a shame it would be for what he calls “low-IQ countries” such as Pakistan to lose their brightest citizens if they emigrate to the West. “This cripples the poor countries and makes it impossible for them to catch up,” he laments. If some nations don’t have the cognitive ability to catch up to Europeans and East Asians, they will “get stuck somewhere on the lower rungs of the developmental path.” At a stroke he condemns, without evidence, the whole world outside Europe and parts of Asia to genetically inferior status.
Meisenberg certainly seems bothered by the social implications of what he sees as immutable racial difference. He expresses a fear that the racial stock of smarter, wealthier nations is under threat and that this is a problem that urgently needs to be addressed, even if only by immigration control. “Populations that get too bright and too rich invariably slip into sub-replacement fertility and slowly breed themselves out of existence,” he writes, “while those that are stuck at a lower economic and cognitive level also get stuck . . . with continuing high fertility of the less educated sections of the population.” These could easily be the words of an early-twentieth-century eugenicist.
He, too, believes that the inferior might outbreed the superior.
The mystery for me as a journalist is not that scientific racists exist. There have always been those with prejudice of every persuasion in academia, and possibly there will always be. The bigger puzzle is how someone like Gerhard Meisenberg—a professor at a private university in the Caribbean—manages to keep the Mankind Quarterly afloat, and finds researchers to write the things that fill its pages. This requires networks, it requires coordination, and it requires funding. The fact is, across the world, old-style scientific race research of the kind his journal publishes is deliberately discouraged by science funding agencies and governments, not to mention deeply frowned upon within academia. It is as controversial as it was when the journal was founded. To do it independently, one needs resources.
Following the money trail is where the answers lie. Attached to one of his early emails, Meisenberg sends me a paper that attempts to describe how racial categories work. It was published in one of the 2017 editions of the Mankind Quarterly, authored by someone named John Fuerst, from an organization called the Ulster Institute for Social Research. I have heard of neither him nor it. When I do a check, the institute doesn’t appear in the UK’s list of officially recognized higher education bodies. It describes itself as “a think tank for the support of research on social issues and the publication of works by selected authors in this field.”
It turns out that since 2015, the Ulster Institute for Social Research has been publishing the Mankind Quarterly, along with a handful of books on race. On the Mankind Quarterly website, its address is given as a postal box in London. Meisenberg himself sits on its advisory council. How the institute is funded he won’t elaborate, revealing only that it operates on a shoestring budget. I find one link between the institute and an offshore company based in the Bahamas. “There certainly is no regular external funding from any outside source that I know of,” he tells me. “I guess it’s more a situation where someone may donate a larger sum, perhaps as part of a legacy. . . . That’s how most of these small foundations work.”
According to a report in the Independent newspaper in 1994, the institute received $50,000 the previous year from the Pioneer Fund. It was a period in which the fund, then based in Manhattan, New York, was particularly active. An investigation by the Los Angeles Times around the same time estimated that it was dispensing roughly a million dollars a year to academics, most of whom the newspaper claimed were looking for genetic differences between races. As well as giving grants to scientists, William Tucker has noted that between 1982 and 2000 almost $1.5 million was handed to lobbying groups favoring immigration reform in the United States.
If the Ulster Institute for Social Research really is operating on a shoestring today, part of the reason may be that the Pioneer Fund seems to have since declined to a standstill. “It is my strong sense that it is not nearly as influential as it once was, largely due to the deaths of the fund’s key players,” Tucker tells me. Staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center tell me that the Pioneer Fund has been fairly silent of late. As far as they can tell, in the last decade it has been gradually emptied of all its assets. In summer 2018 the Associated Press investigated the fund’s tax records and found that it had disbursed nearly $7.8 million between 1998 and 2016.
Wherever their funds come from now, it is clear that there is a small cadre of researchers, some with very few academic credentials, who are still publishing and citing each other’s research through organs such as the Ulster Institute for Social Research and the Mankind Quarterly. It is a closed, self-contained network. The same names crop up again and again. Richard Lynn, the assistant editor of the Mankind Quarterly, is also president of the Ulster Institute (one of its books is a tribute to him in his eightieth year). Lynn told the Independent on Sunday newspaper in 1990 that he had received grants from the Pioneer Fund. In 2001 he even published a history of the fund, titled The Science of Human Diversity. In his own published investigations, Robert Wald Sussman wrote that Lynn “does very little science and the ‘science’ he does is extremely poor.”
Edward Dutton, of Oulu University in Finland, the author of at least two of the Ulster Institute’s books, including one on racial difference in sporting ability, is also a regular contributor to the Mankind Quarterly. Another contributor, Tatu Vanhanen, a recently deceased Finnish political scientist, cowrote a book with Richard Lynn titled IQ and the Wealth of Nations, that appeared in 2002. Vanhanen was inspired to enter this area of research after reading up on evolutionary biology, which he interpreted as a way to explain interethnic conflict. He believed that political ideology could be used to serve people’s genetic interests by keeping them loyal to their own ethnic group. In one high-profile magazine interview in 2004 Vanhanen claimed that the average IQ of Finns was 97, whereas in Africa it was between 60 and 70. The comment caused a national scandal because Vanhanen’s son had just become prime minister of Finland.
Whatever the scientific merits of their work, the researchers in this group were and still are undeniably tight-knit. Most of them are largely unknown outside their circle but highly prolific within it. They have managed to build a thin veneer of scientific credibility that comes from getting published and cited, almost entirely by publishing and citing one another. And they keep finding new outlets for their work. The latest addition to this alliance is Open Differential Psychology, an open-access online journal that claims to have been set up in 2014 by a Danish research fellow at the Ulster Institute of Social Research called Emil Kirkegaard. It includes Gerhard Meisenberg and John Fuerst among its reviewers, and its published papers so far include a study of IQ in Sudan, and of crime among Dutch immigrant groups.
Even with the support of each other, those who write for the Mankind Quarterly rarely make much impact on science outside the shadowy recesses of the internet. But there have been a handful of higher-profile figures among them. Until his death in 2012, one was a Canadian psychologist, John Philippe Rushton, a former head of the Pioneer Fund and a professor at the University of Western Ontario. Rushton became notorious in academic circles for claiming that brain and genital size were inversely related, making black people better endowed but less intelligent than whites. Despite this, he was important enough to have his work read and reviewed by genuine scientists. One review in particular shone a spotlight on the kind of work that still routinely appears in the Mankind Quarterly. When Rushton’s book Race, Evolution, and Behavior was published in 1994, the University of Washington psychologist David Barash was stirred to write, “Bad science and virulent racial prejudice drip like pus from nearly every page of this despicable book.” Rushton seemed to have collected scraps of unreliable evidence in “the pious hope that by combining numerous little turds of variously tainted data, one can obtain a valuable result.” The reality, Barash concluded, is that “the outcome is merely a larger than average pile of shit.”