Boris Lvin (bbb) wrote,
Boris Lvin

Дискуссия 45-летней давности в журнале "Technology and Culture"



Reviewed Work: Race. By John R. Baker. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. Pp. ix+625. £6.50 ($15.00).

This book will undoubtedly be read with the recent debate on "Jensenism" in mind, but the author, who is a well-known zoologist and cytologist, spent the last fifteen years researching the topic of race and is only incidentally concerned with these more recent quarrels. It is a pleasure to welcome a volume which shows evidence of great, scholarly knowledge in all the fields it touches upon. This is an important and impressive work which will undoubtedly become the classic one on the subject of race for a long time to come.

This book has four main parts, the first of which deals with the historical background of the arguments about race. It gives an entertaining and instructive introduction to the beliefs and prejudices of some twenty well-known writers and sets the stage for the properly scientific study of the topic which is to come. Readers with literary interests in particular will cherish the ironic tone with which Baker discusses these remote figures (e.g., Rousseau and Gobineau, Houston Chamberlain and Spengler), whose past eminence causes their names but not their doctrines to be remembered.

The second part deals with the biological background; with such things as hybridity, the meaning of "species" and "race," and some taxonomic and evolutionary theories. It closes with two chapters on color and odor, respectively. Race is defined as a kind of "subspecies."

In this sense, there obviously exist several human races. We tend to identify them in accordance with color, but Baker points out that this is not a very sensible procedure. Such terms as "colored" have no scientific meaning, and color altogether is much less important than many morphological characteristics, which are described in more detail in the next part. Baker does, however, discuss in some detail one human characteristic which seems of considerable importance, namely, odor. We share with the Negrids the doubtful advantage of being "smelly"; oriental people apparently are not, and they tend to look down upon us with some disgust because of these body odors which they regard with ill-concealed contempt. To be smelly, to them, is as much a term of denigration as the term "colored" is among some white groups; it has definite racial overtones.

Part 3 goes on to the study of selected human groups and may prove the most interesting part for many readers. Baker treats of the Europids, the Jews, the Celts, the Australids (Australian aborigines), the Sanids (Bushmen), and the Negrids. (Readers will soon get used to the -ids endings which are used to characterize various racial groups; Europids insteads of Europeans, and so on. At first, this manner of writing is a little annoying, or even comical.) He goes with particular thoroughness into the Negrids, assessing among other things foreign influences on their culture then going on to their indigenous culture and finally to various miscellaneous observations; he assesses the low level of culture reached on the whole by the Negrids but also discusses in great detail the environmental explanations which have been put forward to account for the facts; he shows that, on the whole, while some of the explanations apply to some of the groups concerned it is not really possible to account for all the facts by having recourse to environmental factors of the kind posited. These pages are among the most interesting in the whole book; they should be read by all those who wish to discuss intelligently the problem of racial differences.

The last part of the book deals with "criteria of superiority and inferiority." There are chapters on the assessment of cognitive ability (a term which Baker prefers to "intelligence"), the inheritance of cognitive ability, racial differences in cognitive ability, and the racial differences in achievemert. To many people who have heard of Jensen's thesis regarding the possibility of hereditary involvement in the lower grades of American Negroes on IQ tests these chapters will come as a welcome summary of the evidence as seen by someone uninvolved in the debate. It should perhaps be said here that Baker commenced his work on the book some fifteen years ago, long before Jensen wrote his famous monograph. He quotes Jensen at times but has clearly done his own homework - there is ample evidence in these chapters of close study of the original sources. It is of course this part of the book which deals with matters on which I might claim to have some direct knowledge; for the remainder I have read many of the sources but, being neither a zoologist nor an anthropometrist, could not claim to speak as an expert. I must admit that I was worried when I came to the last part; few nonpsychologists ever seem to get the arguments concerning the measurement of intelligence right, and it would have been a great pity had the book been spoiled by a failure in scholarship here. I need not have worried. While here and there Baker does not put the emphasis quite in the precise way in which I would have put it, nevertheless I could not find anything seriously wrong with his presentation. The reader may not like what he reads, but he may be assured that the argument and the evidence are both quite orthodox and in line with the best available opinion.

Baker's discussion of racial differences in cognitive ability and achievement is thorough, scholarly, and well documented. He looks carefully at the possibility of environmental causes of racial differences and comes to the conclusion that these may account for some, but certainly not all, of the observed difference. What is Baker's final conclusion? It is easy to misquote complex arguments, and consequently it may be safest to allow the author to provide his own summary: "To the reader who has followed this account of a vast and very diverse subject throughout the long journey to the present page, it is perhaps unnecessary to point out the coherence of the available evidence bearing on the ethnic problem" (p. 533). This coherence is provided by the remarkable fit between primitive morphology and lack of cultural achievement and cognitive ability. "The Australids, shown to be primitive by morphological criteria, did not progress on their own initiative beyond the food-gathering status; nor did those classic prototypes of paedomorphosis, the Bushmen or Sanids." (Paedomorphosis is briefly defined as the influence of larval characters upon adult organization; the concept is too complex to be discussed meaningfully here.) "A parallel conclusion is forced upon us if we look at the results of cognition and attainment tests carried out on members of various races living under conditions of civilized life. The Mongolids and Europids did best in both of these types of tests; they were followed (at some distance) by the Indianids, and the Negrids were still less successful. In conformity with these results, the races among which civilization originated and advanced were the Mongolids and Europids; two Indianid subraces approached nearer to civilization then any other taxon, and indeed in certain respects (though certainly not in others) one of these subraces advanced to an impressively high level of culture; and here again the Negrids fell behind. The reader will not have overlooked the fact that repeatedly, in each relevant context, the possibility of environmental causes has been reviewed in some detail and rejected as an insufficient explanation of the facts" (p. 533).

Baker explicitly denies concern with practical problems in his book; hence he does not deal with possible technological considerations. Contrary to popular belief, there are several of these. The first concerns the implications for teaching methods of the realization that intelligence is largely inherited and that races may inherently differ in IQ. Jensen has suggested making use of abilities independent (or largely so) of IQ, such as associative learning, which may be of considerable use in learning skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. This ought clearly to be explored far more than it has been so far. Other possibilities, still this side of science fiction, concern the use of drugs, such as glutamic acid, which have been found in several studies to increase the IQ of subnormal humans (and rats) but not affect average or bright organisms. A second technological problem concerns the optimal allocation of pupils to different "streams" or "tracks" within a given school and the provision of special educational facilities for ESN (educationally subnormal) children. The recent court rulings making the use of IQ tests for this purpose illegal are the equivalent of Luddite machine-smashing tactics. Many readers might have welcomed discussion of these and other applied topics; perhaps Baker's lack of knowledge in these fields caused him to remain entirely within the field of his major expertise. We are all indebted to him for what he has provided. There is now a need to spell out the technological and other applied consequences of these findings.


*DR. EYSENCK is professor of psychology at the University of London, director of the Experimental Laboratories at the Institute of Psychiatry, and psychologist to the Maudsley and Bethlem Royal Hospitals. Among his books are The IQ Argument, The Measurement of Intelligence, and The Inequality of Man.




To the Editor:

As a member of the Society for the History of Technology and as an interested reader of Technology and Culture, I write to protest the racist opinions in H. J. Eysenck's review (15 [October 1974]: 666-69) of John R. Baker's Race. Eysenck says there are "implications for teaching methods of the realization that intelligence is largely inherited and that races may inherently differ in IQ" (p. 669). That he and Jensen, whom he cites as an authority, believe this is widely known, but that does not make what they believe true. There is a significant body of analysis that contradicts the notions of Eysenck and Jensen. The debate need not be repeated here or in pages of Technology and Culture. It is important, however, that the journal not be used for racist propagandizing with questionable opinions being presented as probable facts.


*DR. FRUCHTBAUM is associate professor of history and philosophy of public health, Columbia Univer




To the Editor:

I was profoundly disturbed by Professor Harold Fruchtbaum's letter (p. 615) in the October 1975 issue of Technology and Culture in which he asked that certain "questionable opinions" not be printed in the journal.

The target of Professor Fruchtbaum's letter is a review, which appeared in volume 15 ([October 1974]: 666-69), of a book by John Randal Baker entitled Race. Baker, an eminent Oxford cytologist, has long held the opinion that the human races are unequal, and his book explores that thesis in the context of a general study of race. While his argument on the "ethnic problem" as he calls it is not finally compelling, it spins a remarkable web of evidence drawn from many fields including zoology, physical anthropology, psychology, and history of biology and carefully patterns it in accordance with the canons of reasoned discussion, without a trace of racial animosity and with no more propagandistic effort than is inevitable when a scientist pub lishes his research.

The review was written by H. J. Eysenck, the British psychologist who has been embroiled in the controversy over race and intelligence. Eysenck was duly impressed by the range and quality of Baker's learning, outlined the plan of the book, summarized its conclusions (with which he is evidently in agreement), and, along the lines of his own special interests, called for efforts to apply Baker's theoretical conclusions in the fields of education and clinical psychology. Baker's conclusions and Eysenck's recommendations are clearly controversial and will understandably offend the sensibilities of many scientists and scholars.

For me the review was valuable mainly because it called my attention to an important book. As a longtime reader of Technology and Culture, I am strongly in favor of the editor's policy of extending the horizons of the history of technology beyond the terrain of nuts, bolts, and gears. The origin(s) of Homo sapiens and possible connections between the studies of physical anthropology and early technology are marginal, but far from irrelevant, to the larger studies of tech nological and general history. Nonetheless, there is no accounting for the caprices of a readership, and some readers may reasonably object and argue on scholarly grounds that Baker's book is too far afield to be properly reviewed in Technology and Culture, that the reviewer's recommendations are unsound, that the editor's judgment is defective, or whatnot. Even that Fruchtbaum finds Eysenck's opinions repellent is no threat to intellectual freedom; but what concerns me about his letter is that he "protest[s]" (he does not, mind you, analyze or even discuss) what he peremptorily describes as Eysenck's "racist opinions," he asks that the journal be closed to such "racist propagandizing," and he informs us that Eysenck's views may not be "true." (Let us forever bear in mind that in another case where intellectual freedom was at stake Galileo held a crucial opinion that was untrue - in fact, it was dead wrong, for the tides are not caused, as Galileo insisted they were, by agitation induced by the earth's motion.)

Because Fruchtbaum eschews the process of reasoned discourse and, instead, bases his objections on political and ideological judgments, his letter is deadly dangerous to the republic of scholarship. If Fruchtbaum believes that Baker or Eysenck has somehow violated the norms of research, he has every right (indeed, almost the obligation) to criticize and expose those violations. If, as he correctly remarks, Eysenck's opinions are "questionable," that only means they are to be questioned, not suppressed because they are inconsistent with this or that political or ideological bias. (In anticipation of the pious rejoinder that condemnation of "racism" is no mere bias, I might point out that what Fruchtbaum considers "racist" Baker, Eysenck, and many others, myself included, consider honest research and scholarship.) If, further, the editor has allegedly violated the norms of scientific publication, that allegation must likewise be discussed and substantiated. (In this regard I think it would be fitting if Fruchtbaum studied the paper, Freedom and Authority in Scientific Publication, Society for Freedom in Science, Occasional Pamphlet no. 15 [Oxford: Department of Zoology, University Museum, December 1953], which John Baker read at the 1953 Hamburg conference on Wissenschaft und Freiheit.)

I doubt that Fruchtbaum wishes to see the world of learning reduced to a state where academic vigilantes prey on each other and on nonvigilant colleagues, where scientists and scholars who hold unpopular views are intimidated by ideological assaults, and where editors are crucified on the cross of conformity with some privileged formulation of the "truth." It is no comfort that intellectual freedom is rarely abrogated, the Brunos, Galileos, Spinozas, and Vavilovs forming only a short list in the annals of scholarship. For, however infrequent that abomination, once it becomes dark at noon and the vigilantes hood themselves up, none of those who devote themselves to study will be safe from a knock on the door.


*DR. DORN is associate professor of the history of science and technology and head of the Humanities Department at Stevens Institute of Technology
Tags: racism

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.