Arthur Jensen was 89, but Phil Rushton was only 68, and died of complications from Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal gland.
Both men spent their careers battling for the truth, mainly the truth about the nature of intelligence, its heritability, and its distribution. Both men also endured years of insults, professional ostracism, andendless lies about what they thought and wrote. Both withstood these torments with great calm and cheerfulness, and always replied politely and generously, even when their critics were ignorant and insulting. They were gentlemen as well as scholars.
I’m not sure that many young scholars will follow in their footsteps. Our period is, if anything, more ferociously closed minded than ever, and not many people have the courage to seek or defend the truth when there is a heavy price to pay for doing so.
It was my privilege to know both of these remarkable men.
My first encounter with Arthur Jensen was entirely indirect. It was in 1970, shortly after he shot to notoriety because of that famousarticle on race and IQ in the Harvard Educational Review. [PDF] I was a student at Yale, and Jensen had been invited to give a lecture. Like virtually everyone on campus, I was an uncompromising egalitarian and I was sure Jensen was wrong, but I wanted to hear what this wicked man had to say.
When I got to the lecture hall, there was a crowd outside but no one was allowed in. The talk had been canceled because of threats of violence. Most of my friends were happy: The “racist,” they said, had been defeated. Although, as I say, I was convinced Jensen was completely wrong, it seemed cowardly and shameful to silence a man, no matter what his views.
It didn’t occur to me, though, that I was behaving shamefully in my own way. I knew nothing about genetics or IQ testing—nothing at all—and yet I was convinced I was right Jensen was wrong. I wasconvinced I knew better than a scientist who had studied the subject thoroughly. How embarrassing to have been such an arrogant ignoramus! But that is how our species works. Most of us just soak up whatever we hear around us, and I had heard only one thing. And what is maybe even more important, most of us would never dare have an opinion that was unfashionable, and Jensen was about as unfashionable as you could get.
The thugs who shut down Jensen’s talk accomplished at least one thing. Probably it was thanks to them that it took me another 15 years to realize that Jensen was right, and that I was wrong. I’m sure Jensen would have given a calm, factual talk and perhaps I would have avoided a decade of ignorance if I had heard him speak.
Jensen was almost the prototype of the cloistered academic without any political axe to grind. Until 1967, he had believed, just like most people, that differences in IQ—both for individuals and groups—are almost entirely governed by childhood environment. In fact, he even got a Guggenheim fellowship to do research for a book he planned to write on how cultural deprivation depresses the intelligence of blacks.
As part of his research, he looked into the genetics of intelligence, with the expectation that he could simply dismiss it as a factor. Jensen’s PhD was in psychology, and he had never studied much genetics, but the deeper he got into the subject, the more his views began to change, and he experienced a complete reversal. The result was that famous 1969 article in which he reached several very important conclusions:
- IQ tests are valid and reliable and are not biased against minorities.
- There is a substantial genetic contribution not just to individual differences in IQ, but to group differences.
- Because of social mobility, genes for high IQ are concentrated in the higher social strata—in other words, it may help to have a well-connected family, but people climb the social ladder mainly because they are smart.
Well, you can imagine how the lefties reacted. They reacted just as they would today.
Yale was not the only place where Jensen was silenced. For a while, everywhere he went his lectures were cancelled. At UC Berkeley, where he was a professor, there were so many threats against himthat he always filed his movements in advance with the campus police so two officers could to with him wherever he went and protect him. Police warned Jensen’s 11-year-old daughter not to walk to the bus station two blocks away. Jensen’s correspondence was routed through the campus police in case of letter bombs. There is a very account of this, by the way, in Roger Pearson’sbook, Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe.
Through it all, Jensen was cheerful. What worried him most was that other faculty members would see what had been done to him and would be afraid to say anything controversial. He wasn’t worried about threats to his own safety. He was worried threats to science and to truth-seeking.
Jensen continued to do research and to write books and papers, and gradually he was able to lead a normal life.
By the time I met him in 1992, he had more publications and citations than virtually anyone else in psychology. At that first meeting, he gave me an interview that went on for hours. I discovered that Jensen was like all genuinely accomplished men I have met: He had striking insights on subjects in many fields, not just his own.
And something else about Jensen struck me: his complete lack of bitterness. He wasn’t at all angry at his attackers; just baffled. Why couldn’t they be reasonable and look at the data? To him, what mattered were data. It was his job to follow the data wherever it led and he couldn’t understand anyone who didn’t see it that way.
By the mid 1990s, Jensen was hard at work on what was to be his crowning achievement, The g Factor, but he couldn’t find a publisher. The publishing industry was terrified of IQ and race. Methuen and The Free Press, which had been Jensen’s traditional publishers, would not touch the book, but finally Praeger Publishers accepted the manuscript.
I wrote a review of it shortly after it was published in 1998. [The Definitive Word On Intelligence, American Renaissance, September 1998] It is an extraordinary work of science. It is 648 pages long, and although Jensen always wrote very clearly, it deals with difficult subjects. You can imagine how pleased I was when Jensen told me it was the best account of the book anyone had written. He said he knew many of his associates and friends would never read it, and wanted to know if he make copies to send to people.
However, he said he was worried about sending out an article that contained an important error. I had written that if you match black and white children for brain size you will find that they have the same IQs. That was wrong. If you match black and white children for IQ you will find they have the same brain sizes, but the relationship does not work the other way. There are other factors besides brain size, including efficiency of the brain, and if you want to match blacks and whites to be matched for intelligence, all those criteria have to be met. So similar brain size is a necessary but not sufficient condition for finding blacks with the same IQs as whites. Jensen insisted that you get things right.
The g Factor is a milestone in our understanding of intelligence, and yet it is now essentially out of print. A new copy will cost you $103 on ebay, and the cheapest second-hand copies are $70. There is noKindle edition. Needless to say, discredited rubbish like Steven Gould’s Mismeasure of Man is widely available.
With the help of people like Hans Eysenck, Philippe Rushton, Richard Lynn, Linda Gottfredson, Thomas J. Bouchard, Helmuth Nyborg, and Michael Levin, Jensen eventually convinced most real experts that genes account for 50 to 80 percent of variation in individual IQ and contribute substantially to group variation. Within that circle of experts, Jensen was something of demi-god.
In 2003, his colleagues published a 642-page collection of articles that were both tributes to a great scientist and major contributions to the field. It is called The Scientific Study of General Intelligence: Tribute to Arthur R. Jensen. Although the public and the media continued to think of Jensen as some kind of demon, he at least had the satisfaction of winning the deepest respect of the smartest people in his field.
Unfortunately, that book will cost you $200 in paper, and the Kindle edition is $172. This seems crazy to me. I’ve never heard of a Kindle book that costs so much.
Arthur Jensen was very conscious of dysgenic trends and was worried that the great achievements of Western civilization were going to be lost. It distressed him to think that after evolving to the point of producing Beethoven and Puccini and Shakespeare, our species might degenerate to the point that no one, or maybe just a handful people would have the brains to appreciate genius at this level.
However, Jensen had no racial consciousness. When I spoke to him about dysgenics and race, this is what he said:
“I’m merely interested in the preservation of civilization, regardless of where it is. Some people are so afraid, of say, the Asians taking over in this country. Well if they can take over and do a better job than the rest of us, if they preserve the great things of both Western and Asian civilization, I don’t think the world will be worse off. Race and color and national origin and that sort of thing, don’t really matter much to me at all. I’ve just never thought along those lines.”
It may seem odd that Arthur Jensen of all people, should have said, “race doesn’t really matter much to me at all,” but I think he was expressing himself accurately. Race interested him as a scientificproblem, but he had not personal interest in it as a white man.
This may disappoint the people in this room, but it shows how utterly objective he was about the whole question. Unlike us, he didn’t care if whites disappeared, so long as there was someone left to take care of our civilization.
This complete absence of any political commitment makes it all the more remarkable that Jensen stayed in a specialty that provoked so much hatred and animosity.
This single-minded pursuit truth is what science is supposed to be about—and almost never is. This spirit of disinterested inquiry is badly, badly needed in every scientific subject that causes controversy: global warming, homosexuality, sex differences, disposal of nuclear waste, genetically modified crops, etc. There are not nearly enough Jensens to go around. We were incredibly lucky that this extraordinary man chose to study intelligence.
Let me now turn to Philippe Rushton. The first time I ever saw him was on the Geraldo Rivera television program. It was in 1989, shortly after his ground-breaking work on race differences first began to get wide attention. One of the guests was Barry Mehler[Email him] of Ferris State University, who has tried to make a career of denouncing scientists if he doesn’t like their research. Prof. Mehler was so happy he could hardly control himself. “I amtrained in unmasking academic racism,” he shouted, “and you are a racist!” Rushton replied quietly, “I am an academic, yes.”
Another guest was a black man named Charles King, who clearly understood nothing Rushton was saying. “Are you saying I am your inferior?” he thundered. “No,” replied Rushton, “I am saying we are different.” The whole program was a remarkable contrast of reasonable explanations and unflappable good manners on the one hand, and screaming ignorance on the other.
I met Rushton not long after that impressive performance, and through the many years that followed, the qualities I saw on that program never left him. He was also polite to a fault, even in the face of the vilest provocation. But it is as a man of science that he will be remembered
Like so many people who end up in our camp, Rushton did not start out as a dissident. He grew up with conventional views but changed his mind when he realized that his views weren’t supported by the facts. Again, we see the same interest in the data that was Arthur Jensen’s passion.
Rushton grew up in England and moved to Canada, but he spent a sabbatical year in US Berkeley, in 1981. Berkeley is a diverse place, and Rushton couldn’t help noticing that in a multi-racial society, people care most about their own group. Hispanics supported recognition of Spanish as an official language, Jews were interested in what was happening in Israel, and blacks associated with and supported each other. This led to Rushton’s Genetic Similarity Theory, according to which people are most altruistic towards those to whom they are biologically close, and less altruistic and can even be hostile to those who are biologically distant.
This led naturally into a study of race differences—differences in intelligence and brain size, in particular —but Rushton’s scope broadened to include all physiological and behavioral race differences. This was what resulted to his application of r-K theoryto human races and his brilliant 1995 book, Race, Evolution, and Behavior. If you don’t know what r-K theory is, read that book. It will change the way you see our society.
Needless to say, Rushton suffered the same kinds of attack and hostility as Jensen. The media went crazy, of course, with calls for him to be fired from University of Western Ontario, even though he had tenure. The Premier of the Province of Ontario even tried to pressure the president of the university to fire him. Thugs disrupted his classes, even attacked him physically.
The Attorney General of Ontario began a police investigation to see whether Rushton had broken laws banning the promotion of “ hatred against any identifiable group.” Rushton could theoretically have gone to prison for two years, but after eight months of investigation, the authorities declared that Rushton was “loony but not criminal.”
Throughout it all, Rushton was the perfect gentleman and scholar.
Rushton had a close association with American Renaissance. He spoke at no fewer than six AR conferences, and was invariably the main attraction. The first time he spoke, in 1996, a fascinated audience kept him on his feet for more than an hour past the scheduled end of the Q&A period. Rushton mentioned to me afterwards that his legs were aching, but that it was a pleasure to speak to such a well-informed group.
Rushton had agreed to speak at the conference we held last year here in Tennessee, but he had to withdraw, saying his health would not allow him to travel. Still, I was shocked to hear that he had died that same year.
Rushton and Jensen knew each other, of course, and they collaborated on a number of papers. In fact, I think the best short summary of the race-and-IQ question ever written was a 2005 paper they wrote together, called “Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability.”
Those two men had a tremendous influence on an important circle of scholars. The facts about race and intelligence are essentially settled, and there isn’t much debate among real experts. And yet, sometimes it seems we as far as ever from any public recognition that important traits are heritable, much less that racial differences are heritable.
As far as public policy is concerned, Jensen could have been a plumber and Rushton could have been an interior decorator. But they were not those things, and during very productive careers they built up a formidable body of knowledge. It will be the job of others, of people like us, to try to apply that information to the real world. The best tribute to these great scientists is to make their work known to as many people as we can.
And, now, I have talked enough, and in the time we have left, I would like to hear from you about your own reminiscences of Art Jensen and Phil Rushton.