The Thinking 

Rushton on Race Differences

October 8, 2012


J. PHILIPPE RUSHTON, the Canadian professor of psychology who died last week, wrote a very succinct “Question and Answer” chapter to an abridged version of his well-known book Race, Evolution and Behavior, the book that made him the object of so much hatred and political pressure.

I highly recommend this chapter, as well as the entire, very short abridged book, especially to anyone who is new to the extensive evidence of race differences in physical traits and behavior, and to Rushton’s theory of why these developed over time. Many people say race is not a meaningful concept and is purely a social construct. Rushton answers this question. Here is an excerpt:

 Q: You write as if race is a valid biological concept. Aren’t you only repeating the stereotypes of 18th and 19th century Europeans?

 A: True, there is a 200-year history of “European” research on race. But similar descriptions were made by Arab and Turkish writers nearly 1,000 years earlier and some can even be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Today, new methods of genetic DNA analysis agree with the original classifications made by early European scientists based on their observations.

 Q: But isn’t race “just skin deep”? Don’t most scientists now agree that race is a social construct, not a biological reality?

 A: Biological evidence shows that race is not a social construct. Coroners in crime labs can identify race from a skeleton or even just the skull. They can identify race from blood, hair, or semen as well. To deny the existence of race is unscientific and unrealistic. Race is much more than “just skin deep.”

 Q: Your three major racial categories overlap and it isn’t possible to assign each person to a race. So isn’t your three-way racial classification scheme somewhat made-up?

 A: Yes, to a certain extent all the races blend into each other. That is true in any biological classification system. However, most people can be clearly identified with one race or another. In both everyday life and evolutionary biology, a “Black” is anyone most of whose ancestors were born in sub-Saharan Africa.

 A “White” is anyone most of whose ancestors were born in Europe. And an “Oriental” is anyone most of whose ancestors were born in East Asia. Modern DNA studies give pretty much the same results.

 Q: Doesn’t the Out of Africa theory imply that we are “all Africans under the skin”?

 A: Yes and no. The theory is that Homo sapiens first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Then some groups migrated north about 1 10,000 years ago into Europe and Asia. A further split took place between the “ancestral Whites” and the “ancestral Orientals” about 40,000 years ago. True all humans are brothers (and sisters). But we all know that brothers and sisters can still be very different from one another.

 Q: All Whites aren’t the same. All Blacks aren’t ahke. Neither are all Orientals. Isn’t there more variation within races than between them?

 A: There is a lot of variation within each of the three races. The full range of variation will be found within any of the major racial groups. Still, group averages are important. Each racial group has a bell curve distribution with some people at the high end and some at the low end, and most people in the middle. [cont.]

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