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The Tainted Sources of ‘The Bell Curve’

For all the shock value of its assertion that blacks are intractably, and probably biologically, inferior in intelligence to whites and Asians, The Bell Curve is not quite an original piece of research. It is, in spite of all the controversy that is attending its publication, only a review of the literature—an elaborate interpretation of data culled from the work of other social scientists. For this reason, the credibility of its authors, Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein, rests significantly on the credibility of their sources.

The press and television have for the most part taken The Bell Curve‘s extensive bibliography and footnotes at face value. And, to be sure, many of the book’s data are drawn from relatively reputable academic sources, or from neutral ones such as the Census Bureau. Certain of the book’s major factual contentions are not in dispute—such as the claim that blacks consistently have scored lower than whites on IQ tests, or that affirmative action generally promotes minorities who scored lower on aptitude tests than whites. And obviously intelligence is both to some degree definable and to some degree heritable.

The interpretation of those data, however, is very much in dispute. So, too, are the authors’ conclusions that little or nothing can or should be done to raise the ability of the IQ-impaired, since so much of their lower intelligence is due to heredity. Murray and Herrnstein instead write sympathetically about eugenic approaches to public policy (though they do not endorse them outright). It is therefore interesting that Charles Murray recently expressed his own sense of queasiness about the book’s sources to a reporter from The New York Times: “Here was a case of stumbling onto a subject that had all the allure of the forbidden,” he said. “Some of the things we read to do this work, we literally hide when we’re on planes and trains. We’re furtively peering at this stuff.”1

What sort of “stuff” could Murray mean? Surely the most curious of the sources he and Herrnstein consulted is Mankind Quarterly—a journal of anthropology founded in Edinburgh in 1960. Five articles from the journal are actually cited in The Bell Curve‘s bibliography (pp. 775, 807, and 828).2 But the influence on the book of scholars linked to Mankind Quarterly is more significant. No fewer than seventeen researchers cited in the bibliography of The Bell Curve have contributed to Mankind Quarterly. Ten are present or former editors, or members of its editorial advisory board. This is interesting because Mankind Quarterly is a notorious journal of “racial history” founded, and funded, by men who believe in the genetic superiority of the white race.3

Mankind Quarterly was established during decolonization and the US civil rights movement. Defenders of the old order were eager to brush a patina of science on their efforts. Thus Mankind Quarterly‘s avowed purpose was to counter the “Communist” and “egalitarian” influences that were allegedly causing anthropology to neglect the fact of racial differences. “The crimes of the Nazis,” wrote Robert Gayre, Mankind Quarterly‘s founder and editor-in-chief until 1978, “did not, however, justify the enthronement of a doctrine of a-racialism as fact, nor of egalitarianism as ethnically and ethically demonstrable.”4

Gayre was a champion of apartheid in South Africa, and belonged to the ultra-right Candour League of white-ruled Rhodesia.5 In 1968, he testified for the defense at the hate speech trial of five members of the British Racial Preservation Society, offering his expert opinion that blacks are “worthless.”6 The founders of Mankind Quarterly also included Henry E. Garrett of Columbia University, a one-time pamphleteer for the White Citizens’ Councils who provided expert testimony for the defense in Brown v. Board of Education;7 and Corrado Gini, leader of fascist Italy’s eugenics movement and author of a 1927 Mussolini apologia called “The Scientific Basis of Fascism.”8

Mainstream anthropologists denounced Mankind Quarterly. “It is earnestly hoped that The Mankind Quarterly will succumb before it can further discredit anthropology and lead to even more harm to mankind,” G. Ainsworth Harrison wrote in a 1961 article in Man, the journal of Britain’s Royal Institute of Anthropology.9 Bozo Skerlj, a Slovene anthropologist who had survived Dachau, resigned in protest from his post on the editorial advisory board of Mankind Quarterly, saying that he had joined unaware of the journal’s “racial prejudice.”10 Undaunted, Mankind Quarterly published work by some of those who had taken part in research under Hitler’s regime in Germany. Ottmar von Verschuer, a leading race scientist in Nazi Germany and an academic mentor of Josef Mengele, even served on the Mankind Quarterly editorial board.11

Since 1978, the journal has been in the hands of Roger Pearson, a British anthropologist best known for establishing the Northern League in 1958. The group was dedicated to “the interests, friendship and solidarity of all Teutonic nations.” In 1980, Pearson resigned from the ultra-right World Anti-Communist League in a struggle with members who said he was too far to the right.12 But Mankind Quarterly didn’t change. Pearson published eugenically minded attacks on school integration by two American academics, Ralph Scott and Donald Swan, who were alleged to have pro-Nazi affiliations; reports on a sperm bank in which geniuses have deposited their superior genetic material; elaborate accounts of the inherited mental inferiority of blacks; and the fact that Jews first came to South Africa because its gold and diamonds were “attractive” to them.

Pearson’s Institute for the Study of Man, which publishes Mankind Quarterly, is bankrolled by the Pioneer Fund, a New York foundation established in 1937 with the money of Wickliffe Draper. Draper, a textile magnate who was fascinated by eugenics, expressed early sympathy for Nazi Germany, and later advocated the “repatriation” of blacks to Africa. The fund’s first president, Harry Laughlin, was a leader in the eugenicist movement to ban genetically inferior immigrants, and also an early admirer of the Nazi regime’s eugenic policies.13

The Pioneer Fund’s current president, Harry Weyher, has denied any Nazi or white supremacist connections. But the fund’s current agenda remains true to the purpose set forth in its charter of 1937: “race betterment, with special reference to the people of the United States.” In a letter in 1989, the fund proposed that America abandon integration, on the grounds that “raising the intelligence of blacks or others still remains beyond our capabilities.”14 The fund not only underwrites Mankind Quarterly and many other Pearson publications, but has also provided millions of dollars in research grants to sustain the “scholars” who write for it and serve on its editorial board.15

Which brings us back to Murray and Herrnstein. They cite in their book no fewer than thirteen scholars who have benefited from Pioneer Fund grants in the last two decades—the grants total more than $4 million. Many of The Bell Curve‘s sources who worked for Mankind Quarterly were also granted Pioneer money.16

Most of The Bell Curve does not explicitly address the relationship between race, genes, and IQ—as Murray has taken great pains to point out. Rather, the book couches its arguments about the impact of IQ on social behavior in terms of class, mostly using examples drawn from data on whites. But in view of the characteristic overlaps between race and class in American society, the insinuation is that all the connections between social pathology and low IQ which the authors find for whites must go double for blacks. It is only after one factors in their argument that IQ itself is mostly inherited (however hedged that argument may be), that the racial connotations of their policy prescriptions become evident.

And many of The Bell Curve‘s most important assertions which establish causal links between IQ and social behavior, and IQ and race, are derived partially or totally from the Mankind Quarterly—Pioneer Fund scholarly circle. The University of California’s Arthur Jensen, cited twenty-three times in The Bell Curve‘s bibliography, is the book’s principal authority on the intellectual inferiority of blacks. He has received $1.1 million from the Pioneer Fund.17 To buttress Jensen’s argument, Murray and Herrnstein draw on a book edited by University of Georgia psychologist R. Travis Osborne (the book, co-edited by former Mankind Quarterly editorial advisory board member Frank McGurk, is also cited by Murray and Herrnstein as an authority on the link between low IQ and criminality: pp. 277, 339). Osborne, the recipient of $387,000 from Pioneer, once testified as an expert witness for plaintiffs in a federal suit to overturn the Brown v. Board of Education decision.18

Other scholars who have received substantial amounts of money from Pioneer include Robert A. Gordon, a Johns Hopkins sociologist cited by Murray and Herrnstein on the causal link between low IQ and black criminality (pp. 321, 327, and 338); Linda Gottfredson of the University of Delaware, cited on the disproportionate representation of lower-IQ blacks in the professions; and University of Pennsylvania demographer Daniel Vining, Jr., a former Mankind Quarterly editorial advisory board member, cited on incipient “dysgenesis,” or biological decline, in America, owing to the falling birthrate among the most intelligent members of society.19


The tainted funding of some of the scholars Murray and Herrnstein cite does not by itself invalidate those scholars’ findings. After all, history is full of examples of scientists who were pilloried as crackpots in their own times but are hailed as geniuses today. However shocking it may be that some of Murray and Herrnstein’s sources have chosen to affiliate themselves with such organizations, their work—and those parts of The Bell Curve that draw upon it—must be judged on the scholarly merits.

Take the case of Richard Lynn. A professor of psychology at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, Lynn was particularly influential in guiding the two authors of The Bell Curve through their review of the literature. In the book’s acknowledgments, they say they “benefited especially” from the “advice” of Lynn, whom they identify only as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences” (pp. xxv, 272).

Lynn is an associate editor of Mankind Quarterly, and has received $325,000 from the Pioneer Fund.20 One of his articles expressed support for the view that “the poor and the ill” are “weak specimens whose proliferation needs to be discouraged in the interests of the improvement of the genetic quality of the group, and ultimately of group survival.”21 He has also written that the genetic mental superiority of the Jews may be a happy Darwinian byproduct of “intermittent persecutions which the more intelligent may have been able to foresee and escape.”22

Lynn’s work is cited twenty-four times in The Bell Curve‘s bibliography.23 It is used to support three important claims: that East Asians have a higher average IQ than whites; that most immigrants come from groups with subpar IQs; and that the IQ score of blacks in Africa is “substantially below” the American black average. Each of these seemingly discrete claims has a key role in the formulation of The Bell Curve‘s broader suggestions about the relationship among race, heredity, IQ, and social structure.

  1. 1

    Jason DeParle, “Daring Research or Social Science Pornography?” The New York Times Magazine, October 9, 1994, p. 51.

  2. 2

    Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve (Free Press, 1994).

  3. 3

    According to the bibliography of The Bell Curve, and to back issues of the Mankind Quarterly, the seventeen are W.J. Andrews, Cyril Burt, Raymond B. Cattell (eight citations), Hans J. Eysenck, Seymour Itzkoff, Arthur Jensen (twenty-three citations), Richard Lynn (twenty-four citations), Robert E. Kuttner, Frank C.J. McGurk (six citations), C.E. Noble, R. Travis Osborne (three citations), Roger Pearson, J. Philippe Rushton (eleven citations), William Shockley, Audrey Shuey, Daniel Vining (three citations), and Nathaniel Weyl.

    The ten who are or were either editors or members of the editorial board are: Cattell, Eysenck, Itzkoff, Kuttner, Lynn, McGurk, Noble, Pearson, Shuey, and Vining.

  4. 4

    Robert Gayre, “The Mankind Quarterly Under Attack,” The Mankind Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 2 (October–December 1961), p. 79. Emphasis in original.

  5. 5

    Michael Billig, Die Rassistische Internationale (Frankfurt: Neue Kritik, 1981), p. 101. This is the German edition of Billig’s 1979 book Psychology, Racism, and Fascism (Birmingham, England: A. F. and R. Publications/ Searchlight, 1979).

  6. 6

    Billig, Die Rassistische Internationale, p. 97.

  7. 7

    Billig, Die Rassistische Internationale, pp. 103–104, and Adam Miller, “Professors of Hate,” Rolling Stone, October 20, 1994, p. 113. Garrett also wrote in 1961 that “Hitler’s persecution of the Jews has greatly oversensitized the American Jew toward anything which smacks of racial distinction. The pre-occupation of the Jews with racial matters today is evident in the activities of various Jewish organizations. Most of these belligerently support the equalitarian dogma which they accept as having been ‘scientifically’ proven.” Mankind Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4 (1961), p. 256.

  8. 8

    Billig, Die Rassistische Internationale, p. 104.

  9. 9

    G. Ainsworth Harrison, “The Mankind Quarterly,” Man, September 1961, p. 164.

  10. 10

    Bozo Skerlj, “Correspondence,” Man, November 1960, pp. 172–173.

  11. 11

    Billig, Die Rassistische Internationale, p. 106; Stefan Kuehl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 102–103.

  12. 12

    Kuehl, The Nazi Connection, p. 4; Miller, “Professors of Hate,” p. 113; and Tim Kelsey and Trevor Rowe, “Academics ‘were funded by racist American trust,’ ” The Independent, March 4, 1990, p. 4.

  13. 13

    Kuehl, The Nazi Connection, p. xv passim.

  14. 14

    Kuehl, The Nazi Connection, p. 6; Miller, “Professors of Hate,” p. 114; and Kelsey and Rowe, “Academics ‘were funded by racist American trust.’ “

  15. 15

    Miller, “Professors of Hate,” Kuehl, The Nazi Connection, pp. 9, 10, and Kelsey and Rowe, “Academics ‘were funded by racist American trust.’ ” See also copies of federal form 990-PF tax returns filed by the Pioneer Fund, which are available on microfiche at The Foundation Center, Washington, DC.

  16. 16

    The numbers were derived by cross-checking the Murray-Herrnstein bibliography with Kuehl, Billig, Miller, and Kelsey, back issues of Mankind Quarterly, and copies of federal form 990-PF filed by the Pioneer Fund.

  17. 17

    Miller, “Professors of Hate,” p. 114.

  18. 18

    Miller, “Professors of Hate,” p. 113.

  19. 19

    Miller, “Professors of Hate,” p. 114, and the federal 990-PF forms filed by the Pioneer Fund at The Foundation Center. Vining is also thanked in the book’s acknowledgments. The amounts of the Pioneer Grants are often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years. Another major recipient, J. Philippe Rushton of Canada’s University of Western Ontario, is cited eleven times in The Bell Curve bibliography, and receives a two-page mention in the book’s appendix (pp. 642–643) defending his highly controversial work. Rushton believes that blacks have been selected by evolution to have low intelligence. They have small heads, large genitalia, and other supposed racial features, because they developed in the warm savannah and jungle climates of Africa, where natural selection favored a reproductive strategy of high birth rates and low parental investment. In other words, Rushton believes that black people are genetically programmed to be irresponsible parents; he has also written that this genetic predisposition to sexual excess explains why so many blacks have AIDS

  20. 20

    Miller, “Professors of Hate,” p. 114.

  21. 21

    Richard Lynn, “Civilization and the Quality of Population,” Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring 1991), p. 123. This is another Roger Pearson publication.

  22. 22

    Richard Lynn, “Orientals: The Emerging American Elite?” Mankind Quarterly, Vol. 31, Nos. 1 and 2 (Fall/Winter 1990), p. 189.

  23. 23

    Six of the Lynn articles cited by Murray and Herrnstein appeared in Personality and Individual Differences, a British journal edited by Hans J. Eysenck. Eysenck is the recipient of $250,000 in Pioneer grants and a frequent contributor to Mankind Quarterly. In 1990, two years after the University of London barred Eysenck from taking any more funds from Pioneer, Lynn channeled $30,000 from one of his Pioneer grants to Eysenck. All told, eighteen of The Bell Curve‘s bibliographical citations are from Eysenck’s journal. See Pioneer Fund’s 990-PF forms at The Foundation Center, and Kelsey and Rowe, “Academics ‘were funded by racist American trust.’ “

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