Can I really be the only BPS member seeking retraction of racist science from British Psychological Society journals?


Here I discuss one of the most disgusting and offensive articles ever to appear in print:

J. Philippe Rushton (1990): “Race Differences, r/K theory, and a Reply to Flynn,” The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, Vol. 3, 5 (May): 195-98.

In spite of the furore created by this publication 30 years ago, this article remains published on the website of the British Psychological Society – here (May, 1990).

I find it difficult to understand how a professional body can maintain its position as a non-racist organisation while having these overtly racist publications on its website. Can I really be the only BPS member seeking retraction of racist science from British Psychological Society journals?

There is nothing covert about Rushton’s repugnant paper, which was given full approval by the editors of The Psychologist.  It  is one of the most blatant statements of undiluted racist science one could ever find in the 20th Century.

To restore as much of the dwindling faith in the BPS among its minority BAME and anti-racist members as possible, Rushton’s article should be retracted with a full public apology by the the Society.

“Expanding the data base”

Rushton attempted to justify his expanding racist science project in the following terms:

“Although the psychological study of race has focussed for over 70 years on the differences between blacks and whites in the United States, mainly on intelligence, where whites have been scoring consistently about 1 standard deviation higher than blacks, the explanation remains controversial...” [What an understatement that is!]

“My [i.e. Rushton’s] research broadened the data base on race by (a) including Mongoloid samples (one-third of the world’s population), (b) including other Negroid samples (most black people live in post-colonial Africa), and (c) considering variables in addition to IQ. I concluded that the racial group differences in intelligence are to be observed worldwide, in Africa and Asia, as well as in Europe and North America and that they are paralleled by more than 50 other variables including brain size, maturation rate, personality and temperament, sexuality, and social organisation (Lynn, 1987; Rushton, 1988a, 1988b; but see Zuckerman & Brody, 1988).

Such a network of evidence allows more chance of finding powerful theories than do single items. The central question is: Why should Caucasian populations average so consistently between Negroid and Mongoloid populations on so many variables? While socialisation obviously plays a significant role in achievement, sexuality, and social organisation, other observations such as the speed of physical maturation, morphology, and the production of gametes (indexed by the production of dizygotic two-egg twins in which the rate per 1,000 among Mongoloids is 4, among Caucasoids 8, and among Negroids, 16) imply the presence of evolutionary and therefore genetic influences. It is not simply IQ score differences that require explanation.”

“r/K evolutionary theory”

Rushton continues his diatribe: “The racial pattern is ordered by a theory from animal evolution in which r/K reproductive strategies are applied to human differences and in which Mongoloids are posited to be more K-selected than Caucasoids and Negroids. K-selected reproductive strategics emphasise parental care and are to be contrasted with r-selected strategies which emphasise fecundity, the bioenergetic tradeoff between which underlies cross-species differences in brain size, speed of maturation, reproductive effort, and longevity (Rushton, 1985, following Wilson, 1975). In studies of dandelions, fish, flies, milkweed bugs, and field mice, many of the covariant r/K traits are also found within species and to be genetic in origin. There is no reason why such analyses should not be applied to human differences. One analysis for example, contrasted within the Caucasoid population, the characteristics of the mothers of dizygotic twins who, because they produce more than one egg at a time can be considered to represent the r-strategy, with the mothers of singletons representing the K-strategy. As expected, the former were found to have a lower age of menarche, a shorter menstrual cycle, a higher number of marriages, a higher rate of coitus, a greater fecundity, more wasted pregnancies, an earlier menopause, and an earlier mortality (Rushton, 1987). Although the fit is not perfect, no other theory currently comes closer to explaining the known facts about racial group differences. Moreover, the data provided in Table 1 may be used to decide between reconstructions of human evolution. Data from molecular biology (blood group, serum protein, mtDNA and nuclear DNA) as well as the paleontological data, suggests a recent single-origin for the emergence of modern humans instead of older multi-regional origins (Stringer & Andrews, 1988; Simons, 1989). An African beginning is envisaged, perhaps even as recently as 140,000 to 290,000 years ago with an African-non African split perhaps only 110,000 years ago, then a European-Asian split about 41,000 years ago. Thus the sequence in which the races emerged in earth history parallels the phased linearity of the suite of r/K characters shown in Table 1. This parallel is not readily predictable from the multiregional origin models based on long periods of separation, in which no consistent pattern of character appearance is expected.”

The infamous Table 1: full of stereotypes but totally lacking in scientific evidence

Screen Shot 2020-07-04 at 09.06.35.png

What were the editors thinking?

Unsurprisingly, the publication in The Psychologist of Rushton’s non-peer reviewed paper created a storm of controversy. In July 1990: the magazine’s Editors apologised, but remained in post. Glynis Breakwell and Graham Davey, Honorary Editors of The Psychologist, replied as follows:

“The article by Rushton, for which the Honorary Editors took pre-publication responsibility, was not reviewed by independent referees, but was published as a reply to the earlier critical article by Flynn. In order to provide a balanced coverage of this topic, the Honorary Editors also arranged for a further reply to the Rushton article to be published in the same issue. Although the majority of the material in the Rushton article had been published previously in journals elsewhere, the Honorary Editors admit that it was a serious error that the article was not submitted for independent review. Among other things, the process would have subjected the table in the paper to greater critical scrutiny. The Honorary Editors agree that the scientific content of the table is below the standard which is required by The Psychologist and regret its publication. Publication of an article in The Psychologist does not constitute an endorsement by the Society of the views expressed by the author, and this disclaimer appears in every issue of The Psychologist. However, both the Honorary Editors and the Psychologist Editorial Committee have acted on the concerns expressed by members of the Society over this issue (including some members of Council), and have introduced an explicit policy for dealing with academic articles published in The Psychologist. In the future, all academic articles (and replies) appearing in The Psychologist will have been reviewed by at least two independent referees, and any articles that are signalled by reviewers as likely to cause offence will be published only with the consent of the Managing Editor and the Psychologist Editorial Committee. The Honorary Editors deeply regret any offence that this series of articles may have caused to some members. We hope that having made editorial procedures explicit, The Psychologist can continue to provide members with a forum for the discussion of controversial issues in contemporary psychology.”

The BPS President, Peter Morris,  forgave the unforgivable:

“As President, on behalf of Council, I welcome the frank and positive response by the Honorary Editors published above. I wish to express my confidence in them, the Editorial Committee and the new procedures that they have introduced.”

What a derogation of any reasonable expectation of the duty of a President that was.

October, 1990: Hans J Eysenck defends Rushton

As if matters could not get any worse, Hans J Eysenck could not resist the opportunity to leap in to defend Rushton, and while so doing, the Pioneer Fund, and one of the most welcoming journals to racist science, his own journal Personality and Individual Differences, in one foul swoop:

“In your July issue you have published a letter by a group of psychologists from Manchester University, concerned with your decision to publish a paper by Professor J. P. Rushton. In this letter they quote a report which appeared in the Independent on Sunday on 4 March, stating that Rushton’s research was funded by the Pioneer Fund, which was accused, on the basis of hearsay evidence and contrary to the facts, of “having known links with extreme right-wing activists and members of the American Nazi party”. The letter goes on to state that I have received grants from the Pioneer Fund, and that I am Editor of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, and they go on to say: ‘In the circumstances, we have instructed the University Library to cancel our subscription to Personality and Individual Differences, and have written to Professor Eysenck and to the publishers, Pergamon Press, informing them of our decision.” (No such letter has in fact been received.)

I find this curious in the extreme. The authors of this letter apparently believed implicitly the account published in a newspaper. They made no effort to contact me or the Pioneer Fund to discover whether there was any truth in the allegation. They misquote, in a totally misleading fashion, the charter of the Pioneer Foundation. According to their letter, this says that it will help research into “problems of race betterment”; the charter says ” … problems of human race betterment”; the omission makes the sentence suggest a totally inappropriate preoccuption with racial problems. They did not enquire what the research was that the Pioneer Fund had subsidised, (it was in fact concerned with the psychophysiology of intelligence and personality, and with the universality of the three major dimensions of personality in a number of different countries). They never mention that when I applied for these grants, there had been no suggestion even, however false, of the accusations now made against the Fund. They thus proceeded to deprive staff and students of the psychology department of the services of one of the most cited and influential journals of personality research in the world. This surely is McCarthyism carried ad absurdum! What, one might ask, have the fundraising efforts of an individual to do with the quality of a journal he is editing? “Sentence first, verdict afterwards”, as Alice remarked in another famous Wonderland.

The writers of the letter may be interested to learn that the journal has been accused of being unfair to Rushton. A well-known evolutionary ecologist has stated, in a letter: “I have read the published commentaries on Dr Rushton’s theory, e.g. that by Zuckerman and Brody in Personality and Individual Differences. These commentaries range from scientifically bad to awful, with the aforementioned one the worst.” (This letter is one of 45 letters by known experts in the fields covered by Rushton’s paper, supporting his scientific integrity, and protesting the persecution he suffered from enemies of academic freedom. This testimony by experts should be seen against the allegations in letters published by you, written largely by non-experts, students, etc.) In our Journal, we try to maintain the cherised scientific tradition of objectivity, and of giving critics a chance to voice their criticisms. We do demand better evidence than uncorroborated and slanted newspaper reports which apparently constitute sufficient 450 evidence for the members of the Manchester University psychologists who so hastily decided to cancel the subscription to Personality and Individual Differences. For readers who are interested in what the President of the Pioneer Fund has to say in reply to the insinuations by the Independent on Sunday, they may write to me to obtain a letter written in answer and signed by a number of recipients of grants from that Fund, (the Independent on Sunday refused to print it; it has since printed a very much shortened version). This may serve to give the other side. Wild accusations without foundation in fact were one of the foundations of the evil Nazi creed; so was the politicisation of all human activities, including science. It seems a pity to see such trends emerge here!

Hans J Eysenck, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of London, Editor-in-Chief of Personality and Individual Differences

It’s a small world. The journal that Hans J Eysenck founded, recently retracted an article by…

yes, you guessed it, J Phillipe Rushton.

Personality and Individual Differences Retracts Rushton and Templer Article

I quote from the journal’s statement:

“Personality and Individual Differences has taken the decision to retract the review article Rushton, J.P., Templer, D.I. (2012). Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals? Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 4-8. This retraction comes after a thorough review of the published article, the sources cited within the article, and critical comments from readers. The retraction notice is currently being finalized and will appear in the journal imminently.”

It is to this journal’s discredit that it chose not to retract dozens of articles by Hans J Eysenck found to be unsafe by King’s College London.  But that is another story,  to be taken up later.

If Eysenck’s own journal, can take down Rushton’s filth, is it not long overdue that the British Psychological Society does the same?

The CEO of the BPS, recently claimed: “If we really want to positively influence psychology, to encourage it to be the diverse profession that it needs to be, then we have to get our own house in order first.”

A golden opportunity exists here for the British Psychological Society to ‘get its house in order’ by retracting all racist science articles from its journals.

It’s never too late to do the right thing: to retract, say sorry, and move on.

Published by dfmarks


5 thoughts on “Can I really be the only BPS member seeking retraction of racist science from British Psychological Society journals?

  1. Rest assured that you are not the only psychologist who recalls this shameful act by the BPS – back in 1990, a small of assistant and trainee clinical psychologists in Humberside wrote to the BPS in protest and resigned from the society in disgust at this act of condoning Rushton’s pseudoscientific ‘academic racism’ on the part of the BPS. I subsequently rejoined the BPS in the late 1990s and I am genuinely shocked that this article is still available to read via the BPS (from which I have resigned for the second time in my career).

%d bloggers like this: