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 Setting the Record Straight


The fact that the origins of the Pioneer Fund lie in the Darwinian-Galtonian evolutionary tradition, and the eugenics movement has guaranteed us our share of controversy. Further, we have supported behavioral genetic studies which have shown that the genetic component in human behavior is about 50% and, even more controversial, that it is more likely than not that there is a genetic component to between-group (sex, socioeconomic, and racial) IQ differences.

Some of those who strongly oppose behavior genetic and psychometric research have sometimes made bizarre and false charges against scientists who conduct these studies, subjecting them to harassment, including dismissal and threats of dismissal, stalled promotions, mob demonstrations, and threats of physical violence, even death. Some physical attacks have actually occurred. These politically motivated attacks on the Pioneer Fund and its grantees are documented in The New Know-Nothings by Morton Hunt, and Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe by Roger Pearson (see Bibliography).

Sadly, over the years, some of this innuendo, falsehood, and name-calling has been given credence and reported by the mass media. It is therefore necessary to review these false charges and, hopefully, lay them to rest. 

Q:      Why is there so much hostility against the Pioneer Fund if you are so above board and scientifically respectable? Can there really be so much smoke without any fire?

A:        The intellectual stakes are quite high. There are few questions more long standing and with more implications than what makes individuals, groups, nations, and races differ – nature, nurture, or both? If both, to what degree? “What are the causes of prejudice, love and hate, war and peace?” Deeply entrenched religious and political beliefs, as well as smaller scale theories of human nature, stand to rise or fall with the answers to these questions.

From our inception, the Pioneer Fund has helped our grantees seek honest answers to these questions through the scientific method. This causes fear in some people and groups who fear their own cherished beliefs may be refuted. 

Scientists who have dared to investigate the genetic and evolutionary basis of human behavior have had to endure being tagged as “Nazis” or “racists” by a cadre of politically motivated zealots. The majority of their targets have not been Pioneer grantees. Among the best known is Edward O. Wilson, whose Pulitzer Prize winning tome, Sociobiology, set forth an explanation for the social behavior of all animals – from ants to squirrel monkeys to human beings – in terms of one set of underling laws. One such critic, Richard Lerner, in his 1992 book Final Solutions: Biology, Prejudice, and Genocide, went so far as to claim that Wilson’s landmark book constituted a rebirth of the same kind of biological determinism that had culminated in the genocidal Armageddon of Hitler and the Nazis. Nazism and the Holocaust could never have occurred, he claimed, if an underlying ideology of genetic determinism and “survival of the fittest” had not already been widely accepted.

Even as recently as the 1990s, some of these zealots have accused behavioral geneticists who studied twins or carried out adoption studies of conducting “Nazi science.” Thankfully, such name calling in behavioral genetics has died down because so much evidence for the hereditarian view that some genetic factor is present in all human behaviors that attempts to play the “Nazi race card” are no longer credible and fast becoming risible. (Steven Pinker’s 2002 book, The Blank Slate, is a “must read” for those who are still skeptical of twin and adoption studies, their implications for understanding human nature, or about the opposition they recently engendered.)


Q:    But what about research on race differences? Surely this demands heightened scrutiny and merits legitimate criticism? Why did the Pioneer Fund support Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve?

A:      It was not the Pioneer Fund, which supported The Bell Curve or either of its two authors. They were supported by the Bradley Foundation. It is not surprising, however, that those who would like to remove The Bell Curve’s conclusions from public discussion attack the Pioneer Fund because much of the research it cited was conducted by Pioneer grantees. The driving force behind many attacks on Pioneer and The Bell Curve is the attempt to suppress any and all of the recent research on race and IQ.

The Bell Curve also reached some unpopular conclusions about social stratification in America. The book reported an original analysis of 12,686 youths followed over a twelve-year period. It showed that most young adults with high scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, regardless of ethnicity, went on to occupational success by their late 20s and early 30s, while many of those with low scores went on to welfare dependency. Herrnstein and Murray’s analysis also found that the average IQ for “African” Americans was lower than those for “Latino,” “White,” “Asian,” and “Jewish” Americans (see pp. 273–78 identifying IQs as 85 for Black, 89 for Latino, 103 for White, 106 for Asian, and 113 for Jewish Americans).


Q:      But the Pioneer Fund has supported researchers such as Audrey Shuey, Henry Garrett, Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, and J. Philippe Rushton? Didn’t they all set out to prove that Blacks are inferior?

A:      Pioneer grantees are not interested in “proving” that any one group has a particular average IQ or anything else. They carry out scientific research in which the chips fall where they may and publish their results. Pioneer grantees are no more interested in “proving” that the average IQ of Jewish Americans is 113, or East Asians, 106, than they are in “proving” that the average IQ of African Americans is 85 or that of Africans south of the Sahara, 70. Moreover, while existing research has converged on showing that genes account for about 50% of the variation among Whites living in the Western world, the causes of average group differences are still open to debate. Many of them could be the result of cultural factors.  

Hundreds of studies on millions of people now show that around the world, the average IQ for East Asians centers around 106; for Whites, about 100; and for Blacks, about 85 in the U.S. and 70 in sub-Saharan Africa. Average group differences are about the same for what are termed “culture-fair” tests, and even for the simplest reaction-time tasks —where all you have to do is react to the appearance of a light or a sound. The average Black-White difference is also about the same for college and university application tests on the Scholastic Achievement Test and the Graduate Record Examination, as well as for tests for job applicants in industry or the military. Since these test scores are the best predictor of occupational success in the modern, technological, global economy, the group differences have important social consequences.


Q:       But doesn’t reporting that Blacks have a lower average IQ than other groups provide a justification for rolling back affirmative action programs, creating conditions of “benign neglect,” or worse?

A:      It is important to reiterate, once more for the record, that the Pioneer Fund takes no policy positions. Most of those who study group differences, however, have repeatedly emphasized that individuals are individuals, that the full range of variation occurs within all the major groups, and that no policies necessarily stem from the finding of any average group difference. Most libertarians and political conservatives would likely oppose affirmative action and the extension of welfare regardless of what scientific evidence finds out about race and IQ. Similarly, liberals, progressives, and populists would likely support such policies.

In the 1960s, when twin and adoption studies began to replicate the older findings from the 1920s and 1930s about the genetic basis of schizophrenia, many researchers were unfairly tagged as doing “Nazi science.” Critics claimed that if schizophrenia were found to have a genetic basis, it would provide a rationale for neglecting the mentally ill. The exact opposite has occurred. Millions have now benefited from our increased understanding of the biological and genetic bases of a host of conditions. Finding the genetic and biological factors involved increases the opportunity for alleviating human distress.                   

Although many Pioneer grantees work from a default hereditarian model of 50% genetic and 50% cultural, some have focused their research on the environmental factors that can ameliorate low IQ scores. One Pioneer-funded grantee working in South Africa has identified a specific type of coaching that has raised test scores for both African and non-African students, with the largest gains found for Africans. We believe that the discoveries supported by our grants constitute important contributions to human knowledge and, thereby, human welfare.


Q:        Then what are the Pioneer Funds views on race differences? What does the Pioneer Fund conclude from the research on this controversial subject that you have supported? 

A:        The Pioneer Fund takes no position on this or any other issue. Although some Pioneer scientists have concluded that the preponderance of evidence now available makes it more likely than not that there is some genetic component in the average Black-White IQ group difference, other Pioneer scientists disagree. Pioneer grantees have published a wide variety of opinions and conclusions.  

Scholars and scientists follow their own research trajectories and readings of the literature. There is no requirement that Pioneer’s grantees march in lockstep—quite the opposite. Harry F. Weyher, Pioneer’s third president (1958–2002), described several “pie in the face” fights among Pioneer’s “fractious academics” in his preface to Richard Lynn’s history of the Pioneer Fund, The Science of Human Diversity. Conjecture and refutation, not signing on to some agenda or article of faith, is the way science moves forward.


Q:        What about Jensen, Rushton, and Lynn? Don’t they espouse hereditarian views on the race-IQ issue?

 A:      Their most recent books and articles present the technical evidence on which they reach their conclusion that there is some genetic component in the Black-White difference in average IQ. For example, they point to the fact that the race differences in average IQ show up worldwide, are highest on the general factor of intelligence, which is also the most heritable factor, and remain even in cases of trans-racial adoptions.

Further, they note that these race differences in average IQ are paralleled by a matrix of sixty other traits, including brain size, rate of growth, rate of dizygotic (two-egg) twinning, hormone level, temperament, sexual behavior, fertility, lifespan, crime, and family stability. On each of these 60 traits, East Asians consistently fall at one end of the continuum, Blacks fall at the other end, and Whites fall in between—often close to East Asians. The consistency of this race-behavior matrix of traits around the world makes it unlikely that only social factors are involved.

The now widely accepted “Out of Africa” theory provides one gene-based explanation for the race-IQ-behavior matrix. Originating in Africa about 150,000 years ago, with an exodus beginning about 100,000 years ago, the farther north the various ancestral populations migrated, the more they encountered the cognitively demanding problems of gathering and storing food, gaining shelter, making clothes, and raising children successfully during prolonged winters. These ecological pressures selected for individuals with larger brain size, slower rates of maturation, lower levels of sex hormone, and the other racial differences.


Q:      But isn’t race “just skin deep”? Don’t most scientists now agree that "race" and "IQ" are arbitrary social constructions, not biological realities?

A:      According to Jensen, Lynn, and Rushton (among others), the scientific evidence, including the most recent genetic studies, shows that race is not a mere social construct. But you needn’t take their word for it. 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.”

The fuzziness of racial definitions does not negate their utility. Empirical findings have confirmed the validity of “race” and “IQ” across cultures and methodologies for decades. Of course, all racial differences are averages. Individuals are individuals and there is much overlap across all groups on all traits.


Q:      Some critics of Pioneer would rule all such evidence as inadmissible because it is a product of racism. How do you respond?

A:      Today most scholars engaged in the serious study of race do so from either the race-realist or the hermeneuticist perspective. On the one side, race-realists view race as a natural phenomenon to observe, study, and explain. They believe that human race is a valid biological concept, similar to sub-species or breeds or strains. On the other side, hermeneuticists view “race” as an epiphenomenon, a mere social construction, with political and economic forces as the real causal agents. Rather than conduct their own research and argue from evidence, hermeneuticists research those who do and argue as to motivation. Alternative and intermediate positions certainly exist, but the most heated debate currently takes place between advocates of these polar positions.

The researchers associated with Pioneer tend to be race-realists. It is not inaccurate or unfair to locate most of our critics in the hermeneuticist camp. A few of them have even stooped to the classic tactics of unscrupulous lawyers, “When the facts are not on your side, argue a point of law; when the law is not on your side, argue the facts; when neither the facts nor the law is on your side, attack the character of your opponent!”

One recent hermeneuticist effort, which eschewed science but embraced name-calling, is William Tucker’s 2002 book on The Funding of Scientific Racism, published by the University of Illinois Press (see Bibliography). The book’s dramatic cover art depicting an MRI brain scan held out the promise of a high-tech critique of the scientific research on race, brain size, and intelligence. Instead, the book took the low road, invoking 131 references to “Nazis” in 213 pages of text, or one every page and a half. Other hot-button “hate” words sprinkled throughout the text included “Ku Klux Klan,” “racist,” “fascist,” “Third Reich,” “Hitler,” and “Holocaust.” Such constant repetition of “Nazi” and the like while withholding the most recent scientific evidence, establishes the propagandistic nature of Tucker’s book. 

Another recent hermeneuticist effort came from Paul Lombardo, a lawyer and bio-ethicist at the University of Virginia, in an article published in the 2002 issue of the Albany Law Review, which graciously opened its pages to Professor J. P. Rushton, Pioneer’s new president, for a detailed and timely response. Some of the Q&A on this webpage is taken from that exchange.


Q:        Professor Lombardo, in his Albany Law Review article charged that the Pioneer Fund was established in 1937 by “pro-Nazi” Americans, “in hopes of duplicating Nazi legal and social policy,” and that since its founding, Pioneer has promoted a “white supremacist,” “pro-Nazi,” “racist,” and “anti-democratic” political agenda. How do you respond.

A:        The sheer implausibility [of the claim] that an organization founded by “crypto-Nazis” in 1937 could have survived World War II (1941–1945) without challenge should have called into question the veracity of the entire article. Indeed, all of Pioneer’s founders capable of doing so participated in the war against the Nazis (see Founders). Outlandish charges like this betray the fear, desperation, and intellectual bankruptcy of certain opponents of the Darwinian-Galtonian perspective.


Q:        The University of Illinois Press and the Albany Law Review are hardly tabloids. How could Tucker’s and Lombardo’s critiques have been published in such prestigious outlets if they are nothing but the defamatory nonsense you claim?

A:     The blank slate, anti-Darwinian-Galtonian mindset that swept college campuses in the 1960s, achieved the status of a virtual faith among the intelligentsia and in academia in the 1990s, as once radical students became tenured professors, media pundits, and even the presidents and prime ministers of countries. The following examples are illustrative.  

The coverage by ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings on November 22, 1994 was especially one-sided. In two four-minute segments, called “The American Agenda,” one segment covered The Bell Curve and the second dealt with the Pioneer Fund. The announcer stated, “Many established scientists charge that what the Pioneer Fund pays for is not good science.” Somber voices spoke of eradicating inferior people, arresting Blacks solely because of skin color, race superiority, and mentally ill Jews. This voice-over was punctuated by references to Hitler and scenes of emaciated victims in Nazi death camps. There was no attention given to science by this major network, only the attempt to produce a Pavolovian reaction through claims of guilt, though by very remote association.

Another example of such misleadingly emotive journalism is the long article by Adam Miller in the October 20, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Entitled “Professors of HATE”—in five inch letters—it devoted an entire page to a photograph of (now Pioneer president) J. P. Rushton’s face, darkened, and sinisterly superimposed on a Gothic university tower. The article also included a photograph of Pioneer-supported philosophy professor Michael Levin, shortly before he authored the book Why Race Matters, showing him leaning into an eerie blue-green light to match the description of him as “coiled, ready to pounce.” The accompanying story recklessly claimed, “Pioneer Fund researchers have promoted many of the same policies for tailoring the gene pool as did their Nazi precursors.”  It ended with a quote from another Pioneer grantee, demographer Daniel R. Vining, who is confined to a wheelchair, saying that under a Nazi-eugenics policy “I probably would have been exterminated myself.”

Another example appeared in the November 1994 issue of Gentleman’s Quarterly entitled "The Mentality Bunker." Photographs of grantees with distorted faces were published in the brown tint reminiscent of vintage photographs from the Hitler era, and allegations were made that the Pioneer Fund was “Laying a pseudoscientific rationale for [fascism].” Another example is provided by Charles Lane, then a senior editor of The New Republic, who stated in The New York Review of Books that The Bell Curve relied on “tainted” sources, mainly from scientists funded by Pioneer.


Q:      Didn’t Colonel Wickliffe P. Draper, one of Pioneer’s founders, donate millions of dollars to support racial segregation? Didn’t he and some other pioneer Board members or grantees oppose integration? Doesn’t this prove that the Pioneer Fund is “racist to its core?”

 A.       This distorted and one-sided picture is far from the truth. Pioneer’s founders and grantees have been far from monolithic as to the causes and consequences of the average Black-White IQ difference. Draper and some Pioneer grantees acting as individuals – did oppose court-ordered racial integration. Others, however, supported it. The evidence clearly contradicts any claim that the Pioneer Fund’s Board of Directors marched in lock step with Colonel Draper in all his views and opinions or with White supremacists. A more accurate picture can be obtained by considering the well-documented statements by Harry H. Laughlin (Pioneer’s 1st president, 1937-1941), Frederick H. Osborn (Pioneer’s 2nd president, 1941-1958), and John M. Harlan (a founding member of Pioneer, 1937-1954, who would later become a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court).

Harry H. Laughlin, later to become Pioneer’s first president, 1937–1941, testified before the U.S. Congress in 1924 about the massive World War I Army intelligence testing. He noted that whereas 23.9% of White Privates scored “Superior” or “Very Superior,” 38.9% of Negro Officers and 83.62% of White Officers did too. Even if the overall percentage of Blacks falling in the highly intelligent category was lower than that for Whites, Laughlin’s demonstration of the overlap in test scores for the two races, and the emphasis he placed on taking the individual into account, show a much more nuanced analysis than was typical, even in academia, at that time. Laughlin’s progressive views were any but those of a “White supremacist.” 

Frederick H. Osborn, later to become Pioneer’s second president, 1941–1958, was one of the first to emphasize, in his 1934 book, that while African Americans averaged lower than Whites on the Army intelligence tests in World War I, Blacks from five northern states averaged slightly higher than Whites from eight southern states. (See Lorimer & Osborn, 1934, pp. 140-141). Osborn concluded that the cultural environment strongly influenced test scores, as well as heredity. He made this point even more forcefully in his 1940 book, Preface to Eugenics, where he wrote that there was “no evidence” for hereditary factors in racial differences. Throughout his professional life, Osborn remained explicit in his opposition to “racial prejudices” and their intrusion into research. (See Osborn, 1951, pp. 218, 320, 322–24; 1968, 85–86).

John M. Harlan, a founding member of the Board of Directors in 1937, resigned in 1954 on his appointment to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A year later, as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he voted with the unanimous majority in Brown II, the second of the historic decisions, which first outlawed school segregation and then set forth the means of relief. Then in 1967 Harlan voted with the majority to strike down the Virginia Racial Integrity Act, an anti-miscegenation law.

Contemporary Pioneer grantees and board members are far from being “white supremacists.” Richard Lynn (1977, 1982), a past grant recipient and currently a board member, was the first behavioral scientist to report, in the prestigious journal Nature, that East Asians averaged higher on Western-based IQ tests than did Europeans. Another grantee, Philip E. Vernon (1982) reviewed dozens of studies in his classic book, The Abilities and Achievements of Orientals in North America, which corroborated Lynn’s findings, and made the race-IQ debate truly international in scope, extending it beyond IQ scores in the United States. Rushton’s (1995) Race, Evolution, and Behavior goes well beyond IQ scores and shows that East Asians average higher than Whites on a host of traits.


Q:        Didn’t Draper support “repatriating” Blacks to Africa? 

A:      Draper’s interest, such as it was in the Repatriation Movement was quite separate from the Pioneer Fund. Further, some historical perspective is necessary. The movement had a long history of support, and from 1917–1923 was popular among a great many African Americans. In 1822, freed American slaves established Liberia on the West Coast of Africa with a capital at Monrovia—named after U. S. President James Monroe—as a haven for other freed slaves. Abraham Lincoln later considered repatriation during the Civil War (1861–1865). Harry Weyher (president of Pioneer from 1958 to 2002), who knew Draper well, noted that Draper’s main interest was in the Black-led voluntary repatriation movements such as that of Marcus Garvey, which enjoyed a great deal of support in the Black community. Henry Garrett, another director of Pioneer who knew Draper personally, publicly stated (in the 1960 issue of Science magazine) that Draper had “never proposed a plan for sending Negroes back to Africa nor does he advocate such a scheme.” Also, it must be realized that after World War I supporters of Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations argued for the self-determination of all peoples, each with its own national home. 


Q:      Professor Lombardo’s critique of the Pioneer Fund in the Albany Law Review listed thirteen Pioneer Grants between 1975 and 2001 as evidence for his allegation of Pioneer’s support of “white supremacy.”

A:      Even by Professor Lombardo’s own standards, this highly selective list does not support his claim.  (The webpage on the Pioneer Fund Grantees provides a more representative sampling.) Item #5 in his list is P. E. Vernon’s classic book, The Abilities and Achievements of Orientals in North America. This book reviewed dozens of studies, which demonstrate that East Asians average higher on intelligence tests than do Whites. Lombardo’s item #12, J. P. Rushton’s book, Race, Evolution, and Behavior, also documents that East Asians have higher average IQ scores. His item #13, R. Lynn’s A History of the Pioneer Fund, gives a wealth of counter-evidence which refutes Lombardo’s conspiracy theory about  “Nazi connections,” “white supremacy,” and “hidden agendas.” Lombardo either overlooked or deliberately omitted most of the information found in these sources.


Q:      Didn’t Pioneer’s first president, Harry H. Laughlin, advocate sterilization of the defective? Didn’t the Nazis then take up his ideas, which then led to the Holocaust?

A:      The idea that a few crypto-Nazi, Anglo-Americans dominated the eugenics movement is ludicrous and wrong. The history of the eugenics movement is not at all what Lombardo, Mehler, Tucker, and a few other hostile critics represent to their readers. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century was a worldwide intellectual current, which spanned the political spectrum from Tory to Socialist. The First International Eugenics Congress was held in London in 1912 with ex-British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour delivering the inaugural address, and with later British Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition to appeasing Hitler, Winston Churchill, as Honorary President.

In the early twentieth century, eugenic laws were enacted in Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Australia, and Latin America. The first sterilization law in the U.S. was passed in Indiana in 1907. By 1913, most social scientists that wrote on eugenics and heredity favored sterilization of those whose offspring were likely to become a burden on the state. By 1917 fifteen more states had enacted laws that applied to “socially inadequate” people, “mental defectives” and others. In Washington and Nevada, the laws were particularly stringent, and in Missouri they bizarrely included chicken thieves.

In 1922, to rule out such anomalies, Laughlin codified many of these into a uniform sterilization law that would include: the feeble minded, the insane, criminals (including the delinquent and wayward), the epileptic (which included Laughlin himself), the inebriate, the diseased, the blind, the deaf, the deformed, and the dependant (including orphans, ne’er-do-wells, the homeless, tramps and paupers). By these standards, a large part of the American population might qualify. Seen as excessive, this was part of the reason eugenics began to fall out of favor.

Eugenic thinking continued to be popular through large segments of the society throughout the 1920s. In 1927, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes supported state-mandated sterilization of the mentally retarded in the Buck v. Bell decision. Writing for an eight-to-one majority that included noted civil libertarian Louis Brandeis, Holmes penned the often quoted line; “[t]hree generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Although many conservative Americans at that time, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Graham Bell, J. C. Penney, and Oliver Wendell Holmes were enthusiastic about eugenics, so were many left-of-center Americans. These included Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) and even radicals like Emma Goldman and Hermann J. Muller—a future Nobel laureate for his work in genetics, who was a Marxian Socialist and an admirer of the Soviet Union where he worked for several years. Even some religious thinkers of both the Christian and Jewish persuasions advocated eugenic principles. For all their political differences, eugenicists shared a concern for promoting the fertility of healthy and productive individuals and for discouraging the fertility of the sick and dependent in whom they took a genuine, if patronizing interest.

The Great Depression (1929–1932) hastened the decline of eugenic thinking because it became obvious that socio-economic forces also played a major role in determining people’s life outcomes.  Millions who had been productive workers suddenly found themselves unemployed and dependent. After World War II eugenics fell into further disrepute, because it became associated with Hitler’s genocide. The word was dropped from many organizations’ names.  In 1954, the Annals of Eugenics was renamed the Annals of Human Genetics; in 1963, the University of London’s Department of Eugenics changed its name to the Department of Genetics; in 1969, the American Eugenics Society changed its journal’s name from Eugenics Quarterly to Social Biology and three years later (1972) renamed itself The Society for the Study of Social Biology; also in 1969, in the United Kingdom, the Eugenics Society changed the name of its journal from Eugenics Review to the Journal of Biological Science, and in 1988 changed it own name to the Galton Institute.  Most historians of the eugenics movement recognize that the scientists involved embraced the study of biology, demography and genetics.  Many “eugenic” scientists continued their work but jettisoned the term, now one of opprobrium.

Undoubtedly, the eugenics movement includes several dark episodes in American history.  However harshly today we may judge support for policies such as sterilization of those deemed to be “unfit,” prohibition of racial intermarriage, and severe restrictions on immigration—it is wrong to equate these ideas with “Nazism,” gas chambers, and some of the worst mass murders, war crimes, and crimes against humanity ever committed.   


Q:      But didn’t Laughlin want to exclude Jews from American society? Didn’t he testify to that effect before Congress in support of the 1924 Immigration Act that reduced the number of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europeans?

A:      The transcript of the testimony given by Laughlin before Congress in 1924 completely contradicts this charge. Had those who make this claim provided their readers with Laughlin’s full list of the make up of the new American nation, they could have put no such anti-Semitic spin on Laughlin’s proposals. Laughlin testified that:

The American race, then (omitting for the time being the descendants of persons who came to the United States involuntarily), is a race of white people who have fused into a national mosaic composed originally of European stocks (themselves mosaics), in rapidly descending proportion, as follows: Primarily, British, Irish, German, Scandinavian, French, and Dutch; secondarily, American Indian, Jewish, Spanish, Swiss, Italian, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian.


Pioneer’s critics often rely on selective quotation—sentence fragments full of ellipses, reliance on secondary opinions from like-minded others, plus outright misrepresentation.

It is true that Laughlin advocated limiting immigration and the uses of national quotas, but so did the U.S. Congress. The Johnson-Lodge Immigration Act of 1924 stipulated that the number of immigrants allowed into the U.S. from any one country in any one year be limited to two percent of the number of American citizens of that national origin in the 1890 census. The effect of the Act was to grant proportionately large immigration quotas to the countries of northwest Europe relative to those of southeast Europe and the rest of the world. In addition, the Act halted all Chinese and Japanese immigration. In so doing, it reflected the mainstream view of American society at that time.


Q:        Wasn’t Laughlin “preoccupied” with German Eugenics? Wasn’t the Eugenical News, which he edited during the 1920s and 1930s, filled with stories like “ Hitler and Race Pride,” and “Germany Seeks Babies”?

A:    It is true that some issues of the Eugenical News carried news from or about Germany, but there was no “preoccupation” with that country. For example, although the March–April 1932 issue carried the item on “Hitler and Race Pride,” it was only one of several foreign stories, including the “Origin of Japanese,” “Chinese in Manchuria,” “The Eugenics Society of Canada,” and “Eugenic Sterilization Proposed in Ontario [Canada].” The November–December 1932 issue provided a summary of the eugenic meetings held in Paris (France), London (England), New York City (USA), Brussels (Belgium), Lund (Sweden), Milan (Italy), Amsterdam (Holland), Munich (Germany), and Rome (Italy).  

All the volumes contained international stories. The November–December 1936 issue contained twenty-six headlined stories, one of which indeed was “Germany Seeks Babies.” However, it was immediately preceded by “Record French Family (in Quebec),” and “Baby Bonus (in Russia).” The 1938 volume carried stories on “Hungary Encourages Large Families,” “Marriage Loans for Swedish Couples,” “Declining Birthrate in Czechoslovakia,” “Italy Shows Declining Birthrate,” “Argentina Promulgates a Law for the Protection of Healthy Offspring,” “Eugenics Society of Canada,” and “Sterilization–Law in Finland.” It is obvious that claims of a preoccupation with Germany are without substance.


Q:        Didn’t Laughlin tell Congress in the 1920s and 1930s that three-quarters of all Jewish immigrants were feeble minded? Didn’t this lead to the U.S. closing its doors to Jewish immigrants, thereby eventually causing them to be sent to death camps.

A:        Nowhere in Dr. Laughlin’s voluminous writings is there any such statement. The charge is patently false. The statement seems to have originated in Adam Miller’s tabloid attack piece “Professor’s of Hate,” which appeared in the 20 October 1994 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, and seems to be a triple compounding of a lie. It illustrates the process by which once erroneous statements get a life, they are embellished and repeated for political purpose.

The statement concerning Jewish feeblemindedness is a distortion, not of anything stated by any scientist connected to Pioneer, – but by Henry H. Goddard, in the early part of this century. Here is what Goddard, who was a path-breaker in training the mentally defective, and had translated Binet’s intelligence test into English, actually said. Goddard wanted to find out if his translation was effective in identifying what were then termed “high-grade defectives” among immigrants, as it had already done among native-born Americans. He tested a group of 35 Jewish, 22 Hungarian, 50 Italian, and 45 Russian immigrants who were pre-selected to fall between “feebleminded” and “obviously normal” (the terms used at the time). Goddard found that the tests successfully categorized 83% of this pre-selected group of Jews, 80% of the Hungarians, 79% of the Italians, and 80% of the Russians. Goddard never claimed that 80% of all Jewish immigrants, or of any immigrant group were “feebleminded.” He did not even claim that “feeblemindedness” was hereditary.

Psychologist Leon Kamin told the erroneous tale, in his 1974 anti-IQ book The Science and Politics of IQ, that Goddard found that immigrants in general scored badly and 83 percent of the Jews, 80 percent of the Hungarians, 79 percent of the Italians and 87 percent of the Russians were mentally defective. The late Stephen Jay Gould then repeated Kamin’s erroneous version, in his 1981 polemic, The Mismeasure of Man, and added the claim that Goddard’s test scores were partially responsible for 1924 legislation restricting immigration. Gould then blamed IQ testing for magnifying the toll of those lost in the Holocaust. Sadly, they both misrepresented the Goddard study.

Just as Kamin and Gould misreported the Goddard story, their media successors, especially Adam Miller, have now misattributed the distorted version to Harry H. Laughlin, a triple lie. It is worth noting that since the early days of IQ testing there have been studies of intelligence as measured by IQ among Jewish groups. Such studies typically yield a mean IQ above that of the general population, about 115, for whatever reason. Statements that Jews were feebleminded appear absurd on their face.

As far as we are aware, Laughlin made two main statements about Jewish IQ. The first is from a report he prepared, dated April 16, 1934, for the New York State Chamber of Commerce. He wrote:

The Jews are no exception to races which are widely variable in family-stock quality within their own race. There are superior Jews, and there are inferior Jews. Within the quotas of the countries of their birth our immigration laws welcome the Jews of any nation who can meet our standards of physical stamina, mental quality and morale fiber, but if they cannot meet such standards then, like Russians, Germans, Italians, Englishmen, Frenchmen--whether Huguenot or Catholic--and Swedes, they should not be admitted.

Laughlin prepared a subsequent report for the New York State Chamber of Commerce dated May 15, 1939 in which he wrote:

In his special contributions to American life as an immigrant the Jew ranks high in scholarship, in the learned professions, in music and in business, but he has been slow to assimilate to the American pattern of life.


Q:      Didn’t Laughlin receive an honorary degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1936?  Doesn’t this show his sympathy for Nazi Germany?

A:        This strained conclusion is silly. The University of Heidelberg, like other prominent universities, awards a number of honorary degrees each year. In the year in question (1936), Heidelberg’s list included Laughlin, and a number of other prominent scientists, among them the anti-Fascist Enrico Fermi, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who helped the United States develop the atomic bomb and whose wife was Jewish. Laughlin did not go to Germany, but was awarded the honorary degree in the United States.


Closing Thoughts

Both critics and defenders of Pioneer agree that our research program has been highly effective. Thus, left-wing critical theorists Stefanic and Delgado in their 1996 book No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations are Changing America’s Social Agenda, cite The Chronicle of Higher Education, which observed that “Whether people revere, revile, or review the Pioneer Fund from a safe distance, most say that it has successfully stretched [its] dollars a long way.” Even professional Pioneer basher Barry Mehler was forced to concede that, “The Pioneer Fund has been able to direct its resources like a laser beam.”

And our efforts have paid off. We believe that the discoveries supported by our grants constitute important contributions to the behavioral sciences. Despite all the harassment Pioneer Fund grantees have received, solely because they dared to examine controversial topics, they persevered and often won their arguments in campus debating halls, on TV shows, and most significantly, in the scientific journals. As science writer Malcolm W. Browne noted, in a joint review of Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve, Rushton’s Race, Evolution, and Behavior, and Seymour Itzkoff’s The Decline of Intelligence in America (also supported by Pioneer), entitled, What is Intelligence, and Who Has It?” in the New York Times Book Review (16 October 1994), “[t]he government or society that persists in sweeping their subject matter under the rug will do so at its peril.”

Despite strong pressure to do otherwise, the Pioneer Fund continues to act on the belief that it is a cardinal sin for scientists to suppress scientific knowledge. The Pioneer Fund remains dedicated to furthering the scientific study of human diversity. We are resolved to a better understanding of our similarities, our differences, our past, and our future—no matter how upsetting those findings may be to entrenched religious or political dogmas. We believe that ignorance, fear, and suppression of free enquiry have never served humanity well and that only by continuing research into human nature variation will we be able to understand fully what it means to be human.


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