We can just post the same article over and over again!

Like this one, from The Nation a bit more than a year ago.

Judging by the headlines, pseudo-scientific racism is making a comeback. Nineties-relic Charles Murray (The Bell Curve) is popping up on campuses and in conservative media outlets, much to the delight of those who think his graphs confer legitimacy to their prejudices. Atheist philosopher and podcaster Sam Harris is extolling Murray’s highfalutin version of racist graffiti as “forbidden knowledge.” New York Times’ increasingly off-the-rails op-ed page gave genetics professor David Reich the opportunity to write that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races.’” And Andrew Sullivan, as ever, is fervently repackaging Gilded Age eugenics for a 21st-century audience.

Wow. Nothing has changed. Those same people are still pontificating away over the same tired bigotries.

You might be saying, “It’s only been a year, change takes time,” and I’d agree with you…except if you read the rest of the article, it’s all about the long history of racist pseudoscience. If a year isn’t enough, is a century?

Names like Alexis Carrel, Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, and Ernst Rüdin mean little today. But a century ago, they were in the top tier of public intellectuals—the Neil deGrasse Tysons and Carl Sagans of their age. They stood at the confluence of three popular trends at the turn of the century. One was scientific racism—the attempt to leverage reason and the scientific method to “prove” the inherent superiority of the white, northern European race (a conclusion that conveniently doubled as the premise). The second was eugenics, which represented the misappropriation of Darwinian evolution to human social outcomes. Third was rising apprehension at the immigration feeding the transition of the United States from an agrarian backwater to an industrial colossus.

Apparently not. All three of those trends are still going strong.

I guess I’m going to have to cling to life for at least another century to see the headlines change.


  1. chrislawson says

    It’s not just Old Timey eugenicists. The Bell Curve was published 25 years ago and Charles Murray is still getting positive media exposure for his misappropriation of statistics and genetics.

  2. Dunc says

    I guess I’m going to have to cling to life for at least another century to see the headlines change.

    I doubt that would be long enough.

  3. hemidactylus says

    There was a confluence of a fourth trend of administrative state technocracy and progressive interventionism. Grant himself was a Hitler inspiring eugenicist but also tied to the conservation movement, national parks, and wildlife management. Bohemian Grove too perhaps.

    There are distinctions to be made within threads of progressivism, but also between that, Gilded Age, and callous Spencerian laissez faire evolutionism. None of which answers to the name of social Darwinism BTW. It’s complicated,

  4. hemidactylus says

    For more on Madison Grant see
    Defending the master race: conservation, eugenics, and the legacy of Madison Grant by Jonathan Peter Spiro. Fun fact: “In August 1917, Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn traveled to California to attend the summer encampment of the exclusive Bohemian Club. This annual gathering of the Golden State’s movers and shakers took place in the Bohemian Grove, the club’s forest enclave sixty miles north of San Francisco.”

    And for distinctions between eugenics and Spencerian laissez faire see stuff written by Thomas Leonard. I think his book Illiberal reformers : race, eugenics, and American economics in the Progressive era covers it.

  5. says

    To all those think pieces on the so-called superiority of the white race:

    AAPA Statement on Race and Racism

    Race does not provide an accurate representation of human biological variation. It was never accurate in the past, and it remains inaccurate when referencing contemporary human populations. Humans are not divided biologically into distinct continental types or racial genetic clusters.

    Instead, the Western concept of race must be understood as a classification system that emerged from, and in support of, European colonialism, oppression, and discrimination. It thus does not have its roots in biological reality, but in policies of discrimination. Because of that, over the last five centuries, race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world. In this regard, race is real, as is racism, and both have real biological consequences.