Race, Evolution, and Behavior

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Race, Evolution and Behavior
Race evolution and behavior.jpg
Cover of the unabridged third edition of Race, Evolution and Behavior
Author J. Philippe Rushton
Country United States
Language English
Subject Evolutionary psychology
Publisher Transaction Books, later The Charles Darwin Research Institute
Publication date
1995, 1997, 2000
Pages 388
ISBN 978-0-9656836-1-6

Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective is a controversial book (first unabridged edition 1995, third unabridged edition 2000) written by J. Philippe Rushton. He served as a professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario and, until his death from cancer on October 2, 2012, the head of the Pioneer Fund.

Rushton argues that race is a valid biological concept and that racial differences frequently arrange in a continuum across 60 different behavioral and anatomical variables, with Mongoloids (Orientals, East Asians) at one end of the continuum, Negroids (blacks, sub-Saharan Africans) at the opposite extreme, and Caucasoids (Europeans, Middle Easterners, North Africans) in the middle.[1]

The book was generally received negatively, its methodology and conclusions being criticized by many experts. The aggressive marketing strategy also received a lot of criticism. The book received positive reviews by some researchers, many of whom were personally associated with Rushton and with the Pioneer Fund which funded much of Rushton's research.[2] The book has been examined as an example of Pioneer's funding of "scientific racist" research,[2][3] while psychologist Michael Howe has identified the book as part of a movement, begun in the 1990s, to promote a racial agenda in social policy.[4]


The book grew out of Rushton's 1989 paper, "Evolutionary Biology and Heritable Traits (With Reference to Oriental-White-Black Difference)".[5] The 1st unabridged edition was published in 1995, the 2nd unabridged edition in 1997, and the 3rd unabridged edition in 2000.

Rushton argues that Mongoloids, Caucasoids, and Negroids fall consistently into the same one-two-three pattern when compared on a list of 60 different behavioral and anatomical variables. (Rushton's 2000 book, like other population history works, e.g. Cavalli-Sforza 1994, uses the terms Mongoloid, Caucasoid, and Negroid to describe these groups broadly conceived, but these terms have since been replaced in the scientific literature—the MeSH terminology as of 2004 is Asian Continental Ancestry Group, African Continental Ancestry Group and European Continental Ancestry Group.)[6] Rushton uses averages of hundreds of studies, modern and historical, to assert the existence of this pattern. Rushton's book is focused on what he considers the three broadest racial groups, and does not address other populations such as South East Asians,Australian aboriginals. The book argues that Mongoloids, on average, are at one end of a continuum, that Negroids, on average, are at the opposite end of that continuum, and that Caucasoids rank in between Mongoloids and Negroids, but closer to Mongoloids. His continuum includes both external physical characteristics and personality traits.

Citing genetic research by Cavalli-Sforza, the African Eve hypothesis, and the out of Africa theory, Rushton writes that Negroids branched off first (200,000 years ago, Caucasoids second 110,000 years ago, and Mongoloids last 41,000 years ago), arguing that throughout all of evolution, more ancient forms of life (i.e. plants, bacteria, reptiles) are less evolved than more recent forms of life (i.e. mammals, primates, humans) and that the much smaller variation in the races is consistent with this trend. "One theoretical possibility," said Rushton "is that evolution is progressive and that some populations are more advanced than others". Rushton argues that this evolutionary history correlates with, and is responsible for, a consistent global racial pattern which explains many variables such as worldwide crime statistics or the global distribution of AIDS.

r/K selection theory[edit]

Claimed Average Differences Among Blacks, Whites, and Asians

from Race, Evolution, and Behavior

Blacks Whites Asians¹
Brain size
Cranial capacity (cubic centimeters) 1,267 1,347 1,364
Cortical neurons (millions) 13,185 13,665 13,767
IQ test scores 85 100 106
Cultural achievements Low High High
2-egg twinning (per 1000 births) 16 8 4
Hormone levels Higher Intermediate Lower
Sex characteristics Larger Intermediate Smaller
Intercourse frequencies Higher Intermediate Lower
Permissive attitudes Higher Intermediate Lower
Sexually transmitted diseases Higher Intermediate Lower
Aggressiveness Higher Intermediate Lower
Cautiousness Lower Intermediate Higher
Impulsivity Higher Intermediate Lower
Self-concept Higher Intermediate Lower
Sociability Higher Intermediate Lower
Gestation time Shorter Longer Longer
Skeletal development Earlier Intermediate Later
Motor development Earlier Intermediate Later
Dental development Earlier Intermediate Later
Age of first intercourse Earlier Intermediate Later
Age of first pregnancy Earlier Intermediate Later
Lifespan Shortest Intermediate Longest
Social organization
Marital stability Lower Intermediate Higher
Law abidingness Lower Intermediate Higher
Mental health Low Intermediate Higher
Source: 2nd Special Abridged edition, Race, Evolution, and Behavior (p. 9).
Further information: r/K selection theory and Life history theory

Rushton writes that his collection of 60 different variables can be unified by a single evolutionary dimension known as the r and K scale. His theory attempts to apply the inter-species r/K selection theory to the much smaller inter-racial differences within the human species. While all humans display extremely K-selected behavior, Rushton believes the races vary in the degree to which they exhibit that behavior. He argues that Negroids use a strategy more toward an r-selected strategy (produce more offspring, but provide less care for them) while Mongoloids use the K strategy most (produce fewer offspring but provide more care for them), with Caucasoids exhibiting intermediate tendencies in this area.

He further asserts that Caucasoids evolved more toward a K-selected breeding strategy than Negroids because of the harsher and colder weather encountered in Europe, while the same held true to a greater extent for Mongoloids. Rushton argues that the survival challenges of making warm clothes, building durable shelter, preserving food, and strategically hunting large animals all selected genes for greater intelligence and social organization among the populations that migrated to cold climates.

Rushton invokes genetics to explain his data arguing that purely environmental theories fail to elegantly explain what he sees as such a consistent pattern of both behavioral and physiological differences, but instead just provide a long list of ad hoc explanations. Rushton argues that science strives to organize and simplify data, and seeks the simplest explanation possible, and claims that r/K selection theory explains all of his data parsimoniously.


According to Richard R. Valencia, the response to the first edition of Rushton's book was "overwhelmingly negative", with only a small number of supporters, many being, like Rushton, Pioneer Fund grantees, such as Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin and Richard Lynn.[7]

Valencia identified the main areas of criticism as focusing on Rushton's use of "race" as a biological concept, a failure to appreciate the extent of variation within populations compared with that between populations, a false separation of genetics and environment, poor statistical methodology, a failure to consider alternative hypotheses, and the use of unreliable and inappropriate data to draw conclusions about the relationship between brain size and intelligence. According to Valencia, "experts in life history conclude that Rushton's (1995) work is pseudoscientific and racist."

Validity of the concept of race[edit]

Richard Lewontin (1996) argued that in claiming the existence of "major races", and that these categories reflected large biological differences, "Rushton moves in the opposite direction from the entire development of physical anthropology and human genetics for the last thirty years. Anthropologists no longer regard "race" as a useful concept in understanding human evolution and variation."[8] The anthropologist C. Loring Brace (1996) concurred, stating that the book was an amalgamation of bad biology and inexcusable anthropology. It is not science but advocacy, and advocacy of 'racialism'"[9]

Validity of the data and the methodology of aggregating the data[edit]

In the book, Rushton uses a methodology he calls "aggregation" of evidence. This approach involves taking hundreds of studies, both modern and historical, giving them equal weight regardless of the quality of the data or the size sample in each study, to produce averages that demonstrate the racial patterns he asserts. The expectation is that the law of large numbers will make individual flawed results cancel one another out.

The biologist Douglas Wahlsten (2001) criticized the approach for doing "nothing to reduce bias in sampling and measurement". He notes that the studies used employ hugely varying sample sizes (and some clearly biased), methods of measuring, and environmental conditions. He wrote: "In my opinion, most of the data raked into one big pile by Rushton are worthless for scientific analysis and should be excluded. Unfortunately, Rushton has not done the hard work of separating the potentially valuable data from the trash. He misleads unwary readers by claiming that averaging many studies can overcome poor research methods."[10]

Brace in his review claimed that Rushton makes unsupported claims about sub-Saharan African societies."[9]

r/K theory as an explanation for the data[edit]

Rushton has been criticised for his use of r/K selection theory to explain alleged differences between his identified "races". Evolutionary Biologist Joseph L. Graves (2002) notes that the theory had long lacked support and had been invalidated before Rushton's book was written. According to Graves, Rushton's claim (still present in the third edition and without any acknowledgement of counter-evidence), that r- and K-life history theory was 'a basic principle of modern evolutionary theory' "supports my view that Rushton does not understand life history theory. Thus he employs it incorrectly and through this error his work serves racist ideological agendas."[11]

Lieberman (2001), noting that many animal species do not follow the predictions of r/K theory, has criticised Rushton's classification of arctic conditions as more "stable" than tropical ones, and also his selection of very few environments compared to the variety that human beings have occupied.[12] Brace, in a comment to the same piece, writes that Northern mice, foxes, and deer are not better endowed intellectually than their tropical relatives, and the same is true for virtually all other animals with Arctic and tropical representatives.[12]

Rushton's claims that variations in IQ and behaviour can be predicted and found from his application of r/K selection theory has also received criticism. Scott MacEachern (2006) criticised Rushton's assertion that mental deficits are visible in an evolutionary context, with such cognitive differences existing prehistorically as well. According to MacEachern, an examination of the archaeological record does not support this assertion. As such, regional differences in IQ test score results should not be ascribed to variations in human evolutionary development.[13]

Peregrine et al. (2003) argued, even though using "three versions of the ‘race’ variable, each representing one of the apparent definitions that Rushton used", that "Rushton’s predictions do not find much support, regardless of how ‘race’ is operationalized." They used data from the "186-society Standard Cross-Cultural Sample" and found no statistical support for the predicted associations between "race" and behavior.[14]Francisco Gil-White, wrote of Peregrine's work: "The authors are not doing justice to their own findings. It is not true that "Rushton’s predictions do not find much support"; what is true is that Rushton’s predictions are completely contradicted."[15]

Psychologist David P. Barash notes that r- and K-selection may have some validity when considering the so-called demographic transition, whereby economic development characteristically leads to reduced family size and other K traits. "But this is a pan-human phenomenon, a flexible, adaptive response to changed environmental conditions of lowered mortality and greater pay-off attendant upon concentrating parental investment in a smaller number of offspring [...] Rushton wields r- and K-selection as a Procrustean bed, doing what he can to make the available data fit[...]. Bad science and virulent racial prejudice drip like pus from nearly every page of this despicable book."[16]

Failure to separate environment from genetics[edit]

Barash (1995) criticised Rushton's use of data without taking socio-economic variables into account. "[Rushton] points to the higher frequency of low birth weight babies among black Americans, data that are undeniably consistent with an r-selection regime, but which might also be attributed to poor nutrition and insufficient prenatal care, and which, not coincidentally, have other implications for behaviour, IQ not the least.[16]

Mailing controversy[edit]

The 1st special abridged edition published under the Transaction Press name in 1999 caused considerable controversy when 40,000 copies were "mailed, unsolicited, to psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists, many of whom were angered when they discovered that their identities and addresses had been obtained from their respective professional associations' mailing lists."[17] The director of Transaction Press Irving Louis Horowitz, although he had defended the original edition of the book, "condemned the abridged edition as a 'pamphlet' that he had never seen or approved prior to its publication."[17] A subsequent 2nd special abridged edition was published in 2000 with a rejoinder to Horowitz's criticisms under a new entity called The Charles Darwin Research Institute.[17]

According to Tucker, many academics who received the book unsolicited were outraged at its content, calling it "racial pornography" and a "vile piece of work"; at least one insisting on returning it to the publisher.[3] Hermann Helmuth, a professor of anthropology at Trent University, said, "It is in a way personal and political propaganda. There is no basis to his scientific research."[18] Francisco Gil-White wrote "Race, Evolution, and Behavior is a tiny, self-published book (a pamphlet, really), that Rushton takes the trouble to mail to people who never requested a copy, such as myself."[19]

As an example of Pioneer Fund activity[edit]

Race, Evolution, and Behavior has been cited as an example of the Pioneer Fund's activities in promoting "Scientific racism". Valencia notes that many of the supportive comments for the book come from Pioneer grantees like Rushton himself, and that a 100,000 copy print-run of the third edition was financed by Pioneer.[7] The book is cited by psychologist William H. Tucker as an example of the Pioneer Fund's continued role "to subsidize the creation and distribution of literature to support racial superiority and racial purity." The mass distribution of the abridged third edition he described as part of a "public relations effort", and "the latest attempt to convince the nation of 'the completely different nature' of blacks and whites." He notes that bulk rates were offered "for distribution to media figures, especially columnists who write on race issues".[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rushton, J. P. (1995). Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective (2nd special abridged ed.). Port Huron, MI: Charles Darwin Research Institute. ISBN 1-56000-320-0. 
  2. ^ a b Valencia, Richard R. (2010). Dismantling contemporary deficit thinking: educational thought and practice. Taylor & Francis. p. 53. 
  3. ^ a b c William H. Tucker (2002). The funding of scientific racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-02762-8. 
  4. ^ Howe, Michael J. A (1997). IQ in question: the truth about intelligence. Sage. 
  5. ^ Presented at the Symposium on Evolutionary Theory, Economics and Political Science, AAAS Annual Meeting (San Francisco, CA, January 19, 1989)
  6. ^ The decline in usage of these terms can be seen year by year in a Google Scholar search, and the change of terms can be seen in, for example, the US National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), which in deleted the -oids (as well as terms such as Black and White) in favor of terms such as African Continental Ancestry Group:

    The MeSH descriptor Racial Stocks, and its four children (Australoid Race, Caucasoid Race, Mongoloid Race, and Negroid Race) have been deleted from MeSH in 2004 along with Blacks and Whites. Race and ethnicity have been used as categories in biomedical research and clinical medicine. Recent genetic research indicates that the degree of genetic heterogeneity within groups and homogeneity across groups make race per se a less compelling predictor.

  7. ^ a b Richard R. Valencia, Dismantling contemporary deficit thinking: educational thought and practice. Taylor & Francis, 2010, pg. 55
  8. ^ "Review: Of Genes and Genitals". Transition 0 (69): 178–193. 1996. JSTOR 2935246. 
  9. ^ a b "Review: Racialism and Racist Agendas". American Anthropologist, New Series 98 (1): 176–7. March 1996. doi:10.1525/aa.1996.98.1.02a00250. JSTOR 682972. 
  10. ^ Book Review of Race, Evolution and Behavior
  11. ^ Graves, J. L. (2002). "What a tangled web he weaves Race, reproductive strategies and Rushton's life history theory". Anthropological Theory 2: 2 131–154. doi:10.1177/1469962002002002627. 
  12. ^ a b Lieberman L (February 2001). "How "Caucasoids" got such big crania and why they shrank. From Morton to Rushton". Curr. Anthropol. 42 (1): 69–95. doi:10.1086/318434. PMID 14992214.  http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/sloth/lieberman-on-rushton.pdf
  13. ^ Africanist archaeology and ancient IQ: racial science and cultural evolution in the twenty-first century World Archaeology Volume 38, Number 1 / March 2006 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00438240500509918
  14. ^ Peregrine, Peter N.; Ember, Carol R.; Ember, Melvin (September 2003). "Cross-cultural evaluation of predicted associations between race and behavior". Evolution and Human Behavior 24 (5): 357–364. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(03)00040-0. 
  15. ^ Resurrecting Racism, Chapter 10
  16. ^ a b Barash D.P (1995). "Book review: Race, Evolution, and Behavior". Animal Behaviour 49: 1131–1133. doi:10.1006/anbe.1995.0143. 
  17. ^ a b c Weizmann, Fredric (November 2001). "Race, Evolution, and Behaviour: A Life History Perspective (Review)". Canadian Psychology. 
  18. ^ UWO Gazette Volume 93, Issue 68 Tuesday, February 1, 2000 Psych prof accused of racism
  19. ^ Resurrecting Racism, Chapter 10, Francisco Gil-White.

External links[edit]