Is Quillette Right? Are Scientists Afraid to Discuss Race? (Spoiler: No)

Child huddling under blankets in bed.

Are scientists really hiding from the truth of racial differences?

Quillette, the online magazine, bills itself as a space where academics are free to explore “dangerous ideas.” They crow about their “commitment to the search for objective truth.” The implication is, of course, that academics have few venues to explore these “dangerous ideas” because of a smothering orthodoxy about what can and cannot be studied or said. This is a creaky trope among the American right wing who have been complaining about liberal/leftist domination of the universities at least since World War II if not before.

One of these “dangerous ideas” is race science.  In layman’s terms Quillette provides a forum for the idea that black people are just stupider than white people, evolution made them that way, and to reject this idea is to be against Darwin. It is nonsense, of course, but my question today is: is it true that this scientific truth has not been discussed in mainstream scientific literature? Has this stupid dangerous idea been suppressed by our lefty universities? Because they are committed to “objective truth” you would expect them to supply evidence for this suppression but they never do. Let’s look at the record, shall we?

An envelope

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations

In Quillette view, cowering scientists will never know if “crime is genetic” because they “are afraid to ask”Another article assures us that “There is arguably no topic more incendiary (about which scholars say less, ironically) than race differences in general, and in particular, race differences in behavior and achievement.”

We actually have data on how scientists use race in their scientific work. Historian Evelyn Hammonds shows us that race has always been a topic of scientific inquiry in the United States. Sociologist Ann Morning’s study of scientific writings and teachings on race shows that race is a very common topic of investigation in science and medicine; a finding underscored by Dorothy Roberts,  Michael Yudell, Kelly Happe, Catherine Bliss,…. well you get the idea. Every time you turn around there is a new book on the topic. A Google Scholar search for “race AND science” returns just shy of 24,000 hits in 2019 alone.  Scientific discussions of race are thick on the ground, contrary to what Quillette would have you believe.

Even on hot-button issues like race and IQ, there is ample evidence of vigorous public and technical discussion. Every few years a book trumpeting race science appears. One of the latest was New York Times science writer, Nicholas Wade’s, A Troublesome Inheritance (2014). A high-profile writer and a major publisher.365 customer reviews on Amazon263 citations in Google Scholar. This is hardly evidence that the case for racial differences in physical, cultural, or cognitive capacities has been swept under the rug.

Another example is the notorious Bell Curve (1994) which was a bestseller. The book generated several other books discussing its central claims (see here, here, and here for examples). It has been cited over ten thousand times according to Google Scholar. The book generated so much argument and debate that the American Psychological Association convened a special panel to summarize the current research on intelligence in 1996 and another one in 2012Quillette‘s claim that that racial science has not been discussed widely is laughable in the face of the gigantic literature generated just on this single book.

We could continue down this road a while: Arthur Jensen’s 1969 article on race and intelligence has been cited over five thousand times according to Google Scholar. Audrey Shuey’s Testing of Negro Intelligence (1958) has been cited over six hundred times and had a second edition come out in 1982.

Why does Quillette claim that scientists are afraid to discuss race given the wealth of contrary evidence? Well, it is because much of this literature on race and science serves to debunk Quillette‘s warmed-over 19th century approaches to race. Indeed, the race/IQ argument had largely collapsed by the end of the 1920s. The leading race psychologist of the 1920s was Thomas Russell Garth. In his book, Race Psychology (1931) he abandoned his earlier claims about true racial differences in intelligence and temperament. Psychologist Graham Richards explains:

The empirical research was inconclusive, the opposition’s arguments were more powerful, and the new paradigms more interesting and productive. Failure to admit this was irrational. Those unable to accept the message were thus victims of a cognitive quasi-psychopathology and became marginalized within the discipline. The stage was set for the numerous theories of racism that emerged from the mid-1930s onwards. (p. 26)

Richards concludes, “In the end, following Garth, most [race psychologists] conceded scientific defeat.” Far from being brave Galileos, scientists who maintain the reality of racial differences in IQ are a rump faction holding on to outdated methods and arguments. And they wrap it in a lie that race is too hot a subject for scientists to discuss rather than the truth is that it has been argued out over the last century and their side lost on scientific grounds.

A picture of a squirrel next to a sign that says "Nut-land."

How Quillette feeds scientific racist nutjobs

Quillette‘s writers assure us that they certainly aren’t racist. Racism, they tell us is a moral/ethical wrong. But searching for scientific truth about the reality of race is completely disconnected from that moral/ethical stance. Science tells us black people are dumber than white people and it is just foolish to think that claim has anything to do with treating black people differently than white people. Oh sure:

“It is doubtless true that demagogues and charlatans have used real and imagined data about racial differences to support abhorrent policies and to foment racial strife. And it is also doubtless true that the suggestion that racial groups may vary on socially valued traits contradicts contemporary egalitarian norms.”

But that has nothing to do with Quillette! By scientifically nailing down just exactly how much dumber black people are than white people are Quillette is actually furthering an anti-racist agenda! You see:

Denying the reality of race leaves a vacuum for extremists to exploit. If moderates and progressives refuse to discuss human racial variation, then only the most extreme and often deplorable people will. We can assure you that if we don’t talk about it as research scientists, it will not prevent racial demagogues from using it to support ugly and intolerant social policies. And it will also cede the scientific high ground to those demagogues, compelling moderates and progressives to resort to semantic games or purposeful obfuscation and straw man arguments. [emphasis in original]

This pretzel logic is utter nonsense. The “racial demagogues” who “support ugly and intolerant social policies” are not filling a great void, they are citing Quillette itself. They recognize that the magazine is great resource for mainstreaming their belief in human inequality. The article from which I took the two block quotations above is reprinted in full at American Renaissance. AmRen (as it calls itself) is a big fan of Quillette‘s writers (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here…there’s more but you get the picture). For those who claim to have the “scientific high ground” Quillette‘s writers sure supply the racial demagogues with a lot of copy.

The same sort of story could be told about Vdare‘s relationship with Quillette and “Claire Lehman, the pretty editrix of Quillette” (see herehere, here, or here). The True Nazis over at Stormfront have been known to cite Quillette on “Equalitarianism and Progressive Bias.” At least one neo-Nazi at Stormfront agrees with Quillette that antiracists, not racists, are responsible for racism:

It is true, the loony Left created the new Far Right upsurge. The Double-standards in the way they the Left treats White People compared to Blacks, left many Whites in despair, angry and frustrated, fuming at the injustice they suffer. The backlash has started.

Contrary to Quillette, it is not those of us who deny the biological reality of race that give aid and comfort to racists, it is Quillette that does so. There is no dearth of scientific writing on race, there are thousands of papers and books on the subject. That most of it rejects the antiquated approaches of Quillette does not mean it doesn’t exist. Sometimes a minority viewpoint is not represented by a Galileo but by those who are simply unable to grasp that they are stuck in the science of a century ago.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

14 thoughts on “Is Quillette Right? Are Scientists Afraid to Discuss Race? (Spoiler: No)

  1. I used to debate some of the more intelligent race realists. It was mostly in the HBD blogosphere, such as hbdchick. But I finally realized that even the cream of the crop among them were not honest actors. There simply was no way to have meaningful dialogue because their minds were so trapped within an ideological reality tunnel.

    The evidence they used was so selectively limited that it was tiresome. In the end, they weren’t particularly well informed people beyond a very narrow set of sources that they endlessly relied upon. The vast array of scientific evidence was largely unknown to them.

    I found dealing with such people to not only be irritating but, worse still, to be boring. Their arguments were so predictable. And they were incapable of responding to new evidence, other than to throw out pre-packaged rationalizations and forever falling back on favored just-so stories.

    It was pointless wasting my precious time on them. I realized that simply by arguing with them I was giving them legitimacy and credibility, in treating them as people worthy of being included in public debate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ” It is nonsense, of course,”
    Well, so this is all you have against all those thousands of IQ measurement studies? LOL.

    “Quillette‘s claim that that racial science has not been discussed widely is laughable” – yeah, these claims were discussed, but also many people were kicked out of their jobs (Noah Carl) stripped of their academic titles and honors (Richard Lynn, James Watson), and people and journalist are hysterical when they see their names.


    • 10,000 citations to the Bell Curve. I wish my own work was censored to this extent. Murray still sitting pretty at AEI. Jensen published hundreds of articles throughout his long career–pretty damn good for someone who consistently claimed the race/IQ topic was taboo. You, yourself, satate that there are “thousands of IQ measurement studies” out there? How can you possibly claim that such research is stifled and undiscussed?

      Watson, a doddering old man, forced to step down from an important leadership position that was mostly about fundraising not for his research or any publication but because he just blurted out that Africans are stupid. Gosh, that wouldn’t scare away possible funders would it?

      Lynn after a career where he was allowed to write and publish whatever he wanted was stripped of his emeritus title because the university belatedly realized he was a racist crank. Boo hoo.

      “Many people were kicked out of their jobs.” Really? How many? Got a list of names? Care to provide some documentation? What were the circumstances that this happened? Or did you just make that up?

      Carl publishing racist pseudoscience in the 21st equivalent of MANKIND QARTERLY and the university realized that they didn’t want to be associated to such crappy research that only served interests contrary to that of a university.

      The only reason y’all push this “We are being oppressed!” nonsense is that without it you have to face the fact that your methods are outdated and deeply, deeply flawed. And that when critics point out that white supremacist cite you and use your “research” to further their racist agendas the critics are absolutely right. I notice you didn’t respond to that part of my post.

      Take away the conspiracy argument and ya’ll look pretty damn foolish.


      • There’s also an interesting rhetorical trick these guys like to play, again and again, when they are challenged on a particular point in their argument: they pretend you are challenging some other, less controversial point and that YOU must therefore be uninformed. Roman even does it above: “so this is all you have against all those thousands of IQ measurement studies?” First, the point wasn’t to dispute those studies, but to dispute the claim that such work is considered “dangerous”. Second, not all “IQ measurement studies” deal with the topic of race differences, which is supposedly the “dangerous” topic that no scientists are allowed to talk about. Third, if Roman wants us to believe that all such studies deal with that particular topic (it’s not true, but suppose that it was), then that would of course be evidence *against* the claim that such work is zealously censored. Finally, as John aptly points out, these guys love to pretend that they are persecuted in the academy and that no one will give them a fair hearing—they’re modern-day Galileos’ and we are but an ignorant Church holding science back. Such rhetoric suits them and their fans very well, but it’s the rhetoric of cranks seeking a justification for why they aren’t taken as seriously as they believe they should be.


  3. Pingback: Links 9/1/19 | Mike the Mad Biologist

  4. I just saw a link to this essay from Mike the Mad Biologist, so I’m late to the party, but I wanted to thank you for making these points. I have read perhaps a dozen Quillette essays over the past couple of years, and they seem to be written, to a surprisingly large extent, by students, and typically read like a term paper. I suppose that Quillette publishes what it can get.


  5. Pingback: The Racist Right and “Equalitarianism” | Fardels Bear

  6. Pingback: Open Thread and Link Farm, The Bus Will Show Up Anytime Edition | Alas, a Blog

  7. Pingback: Race and IQ. Again. | Fardels Bear

  8. Pingback: Stephen Hsu and the Ethical Responsibility of Scientists | Fardels Bear

  9. Pingback: Stephen Hsu and the Upside-Down World | Fardels Bear

  10. Pingback: Watching the Whitewash | Fardels Bear

  11. Pingback: Alt-Right Pseudoscience – Part 2: The Free Speech Union and Scientific Racism – Byline Times

  12. Pingback: Douglas Murray The Black Lives Matter Report  | thebernays

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s