Scientific Racism

James Thompson writes:

“Scientific Racism” is an oxymoron. The truth cannot be racist, and lies cannot be science. If you say something truthful about a racial difference then that is true, not a lie, and not racism. If you say something about racial groups which is untrue, then that is not science, it is false, and science has to correct mistakes as soon as possible.

Scientific racism is a contradiction in terms.

Nonetheless, the epithet “scientific racism” is often thrown at any study of racial differences as if, whatever the outcome of the research, the mere investigation transgresses some a priori truths. The argument seems to be: “we know that racial differences do not exist, so those who argue against that view are wrong, whatever their investigations may suggest”. In simple terms, if a person can be considered a racist, then the fact that they “do science” is simply another one of their fiendish tricks. The scientific part becomes an additional outrage, a vain attempt to prove true something already known to be wrong.

The blanket condemnation of evidence-seeking is not always applied to differences which have medical connotations. Race-based differences in vulnerability to illnesses is often exempt from hostile criticism. A welcome respite. However, the evolutionary processes which affect the organs of the body are not guaranteed to leave the brain above the audit, somehow exempt from selection. If one genetic group differs in one regard it is worth studying if they differ in other regards.

It may not be obvious at first, but if you want to combat racism and sexism you need the benchmark of open discussion about racial and sexual differences. Otherwise, how do we know which claims about group differences are clearly wrong and which are right? These are empirical matters and you need to establish the truth before you can demonstrate what deviates from it. The most effective way to find the truth is free and open inquiry into all group differences. We should be on the side of those who want to know more, not those who want to know less. We should oppose those who want other people to know less, while they are free to find out as much as they can, and then decide what to hold back.

I know that some researchers will want to hold back findings which they believe will halt their careers. It is a tough choice. I sympathize with their dilemma, and look forward to the day when they can all publish their findings openly.

The study of racial differences has been criticized as pseudo-science. Of course, one should be against pseudo-science, as one should be against pseudo-journalism, and pseudo-outrage and pseudo everything. But why should one branch of science be called pseudo, and another not? All branches of science depend on maintaining scientific standards whatever the topic is. Any errors need to be corrected by better methods. There is as much scope for error when comparing racial groups as when comparing social class groups. Selection criteria are rarely pure, and can be subject to confounding.

We should aim for high standards in everything we investigate. One way to achieve that is to examine the ideas we love with as much ferocity as the ideas we find repellent. That will keep us closer to the truth.


* ALL you racist pseudoscientists will get RationalWiki articles.

* I’m reliably informed Emil Kirkegaard is suing Smith over his RationalWiki article and also some comments made elsewhere. However, Kirkegaard hasn’t done himself any favours. If you’re suing someone for alleged defamation – the worst thing you can do is create an article smearing the person you claimed has defamed you. I noticed Kirkegaard created an article on his website viscously attacking Smith filled with silly insults such as “he’s ugly”, dubious claims of mental illness and unemployment, that Smith has blocked on search-engines after sending legal complaints about defamation. According to Smith, he’s not living on welfare and isn’t mentally ill – Kirkegaard made all this up and doesn’t provide any evidence.

This will surely back-fire on Kirkegaard in court.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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