Scientific racism: Wikis


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Scientific racism is the use of scientific, or ostensibly scientific, findings and method to investigate differences among the human races, often in support of, or to validate racist world-views, usually based upon belief in the existence and significance of racial categories — typically with a hierarchy of superior and inferior races. As a term, scientific racism denotes the contemporary and obsolete scientific theories that employ anthropology (notably physical anthropology), anthropometry, craniometry, and other disciplines, in fabricating anthropologic typologies supporting the classification of people into genetically discrete human races. As such, they are used to support political and ideologic racial supremacy, the notable examples are the anti-Semitic propaganda of Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow racial segregation of the Southern United States.

Scientific racism: Physiognomic differences among the human races (Harper’s Weekly).

Scientific racism was most common during the New Imperialism period (ca. 1880s–1914), in the second half of the 19th century, wherein theory conflated with racism in justifying white European imperialism. An example were the “human zoos” of caged, non-white people exhibited during colonial exhibitions promoting the benefits of white colonialism to such colored peoples. Since the end of the Second World War (1939–45) and the occurrence of the Holocaust, scientific racism in theory and action was formally denounced, especially in The Race Question (18 July 1950), the UNESCO moral condemnation of racism and official debunking of scientific racism: “The myth of ‘race’ has created an enormous amount of human and social damage. In recent years, it has taken a heavy toll in human lives, and caused untold suffering”.[1]

Contemporarily, the phrase scientific racism is an accusation and a description of historical racist propaganda claiming the existence of biologically discrete human races. The scientific racism usage proposes the cultural term ethnic group in stead of the false, “biologic” term race.



Lothrop Stoddard, Ph.D.

Scientific racism features racialist theories — usually postulating a master race (usually NordicAryan) — that philosophically concord with eugenics, the science and practice of the selective breeding of people. In 1883, the statistician Francis Galton (1822–1911) established the field of, and coined the term, eugenics; at the end of the 19th century, the science and term had been popularized as synonymous with human-breeding quality-control, despite the primary eugenics concept being the control and promotion of the quantification and analytic measurement of physiognomic "desirable traits", to so establish "truly proper breeding".[2] Throughout the 1930s, 'negative eugenics' was quite influential to Nazism, and one of the philosophic basis of the racial policies and the eugenics program of the Third Reich (1933–45) — which became realised in the Holocaust, the Nazi Final Solution to “the Jewish Problem” in Germany.

Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (1864)

Nonetheless, as a sociologic belief, eugenicism is not an intellectual continuum, because not every influential author of and upon Nazism was an anti-Semite; for example, the French historian Arthur de Gobineau (1816–82) was a philo-semite who established the "Jewish race" atop the racial classifications he concocted; theories that much influenced Nazism, yet the Nazis had to adapt his philo-Semitic racialism to German anti-Semitic conditions. Besides the French An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853–55),[3] other scientific racism works that substantively influenced Nazism included the American tracts The Passing of the Great Race (1916, 1924), by Madison Grant, [4] and The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (1920), by Lothrop Stoddard.[5]

Because scientific racism is based upon "race" and "intelligence", which are scientific fuzzy concepts, the term “scientific racism” is a pejorative adjective applied to contemporary theories, such as in the The Bell Curve (1994), claiming that scientific evidence show significant evolutionary differences among the human races and ethnic groups. As such, “scientific racism” criticizes human genetics studies claiming to establish a connection between race and intelligence, to so establish the existence of a “natural racial hierarchy”, hence, there exist discrete, “superior” and “inferior”, human races.

Early scientific racism

Hippocrates of Cos (Paul Rubens, 1638).

In The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (2006), Benjamin Isaac reports that scientific racism is rooted in Græco–Roman antiquity. [6] Yet earlier, in The Human Races According to Kant (Les races humaines selon Kant, 2004), Raphaël Lagier countered said interpretation, emphasizing the very different scientific method established by modern biology in the 19th century.[7] Prof. Isaac discusses the predecessor roles of Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Galen, in the formulations of the modern, scientific racist Weltanschauung (world-view).

The prime example of (proto) scientific racism is the 5th century BC treatise Airs, Waters, Places, by Hippocrates, about which Pseudo-Aristotle notes to Hippocrates: “The idea that dark people are cowards, and light people courageous fighters, is found already in Airs, Waters, Places.”[8] Furthermore, in the 1st century BC, the Roman writer, architect, and engineer, Vitruvius (70–25 BC), relying upon the racial theories of the Greek Stoic polymath Posidonius (ca. 135–51 BC), said: “ . . . those races nearest to the southern half of the axis are of lower stature, with swarthy complexions, curly hair, black eyes, and little blood, on account of the sun. This poverty of blood makes them over-timid to stand up against the sword . . . On the other hand, men born in cold countries are, indeed, ready to meet the shock of arms with great courage and without timidity”.[9]

Homo monstrosous Patagonian giants: Voyage au pole sud et dans l'Oceanie (Voyage to the South Pole, an in Oceania), by Jules Dumont d'Urville.

In the 18th century, there appeared racialist publications, proposing geographically-based “scientific” differences among “the races”; notably, 17th- and 18th-century interpretations of natural history excluded evolution. In the 17th century, the historian Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722) divided the the French as two races: (i) the aristocratic “French race” descended from the invader Germanic Franks, and (ii) the indigenous Gallo-Roman race (the political Third Estate populace). The Frankish aristocracy dominated the Gauls by innate right of conquest — the contrary of modern nationalism.

In his time, Henri de Boulainvilliers, a believer in the “right of conquest”, did not understand “race” as biologically immutable, but as a contemporary (racist) cultural construct; however, his racialist account of French racial history was not entirely mythical — despite “supporting” hagiographies and epic poetry, such as The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland, ca. 12th c.) — he sought scientific legitimation, by historically basing his racialist distinction of the existence of genetically-discrete Germanic and Latin races in France; nonetheless, his fantastical, theoretic racialism was distinct from the biologic facts manipulated in 19th-century scientific racism. (cf. Cultural relativism)

Carolus Linnaeus, (J.H. Scheffel, 1739).

Carolus Linnaeus (1707–78), the physician, botanist, and zoologist, who established the taxonomic bases of binomial nomenclature (for fauna) and binary nomenclature (for flora), also was a pioneer researcher in biologically defining “human race”. In Natural Systems (Systema Naturæ, 1767) he established five human-race taxa: (i) the Americanus, (ii) the Asiaticus, (iii) the Africanus, (iv) the Europeanus, and (v) the Monstrosuous, based upon geographic origin and skin color. Each race possessed innate physiognomic characteristics: the Americanus were red-skinned, of stubborn character, and angered easily; the Africanus were black-skinned, relaxed, and of negligent character; the Asiaticus race, were yellow-skinned, avaricious, and easily distracted; whereas, unlike the character-imbalanced colored people, the Europeanus were white-skinned, of gentle character, inventive mind, and bellicose; and the Monstrosous were mythologic human sub-races.[10]

Johan Friedrich Blumenback

The sub-races comprised the “four-footed, mute, hairy” Homo feralis (Feral man), the animal-reared Juvenis lupinus hessensis (Hessian wolf boy), the Juvenis hannoveranus (Hannoverian boy), the Puella campanica (Wild-girl of Champagne), and the agile, but faint-hearted Homo monstrosous (Monstrous man) sub-races, comprehending the Patagonian giant, the Dwarf of the Alps, and the monorchid Khoikhoi (Hottentot). Furthermore, in Amoenitates academicae (1763), Linnaeus presented the Homo anthropomorpha (Anthropomorphic man) race of mythologic, humanoid creatures, such as the troglodyte, the satyr, the hydra, and the phoenix, incorrectly identified as simian creatures.

In the late 18th century, the History of Jamaica (1774), by Edward Long, a British colonial administrator, presented a simple race classification. In On the Natural Varieties of Mankind (1775), a foundational work of scientific racism, the German physician and anthropologist Johann Blumenbach proposed monogenism — mankind has a common genetic ancestry, the races are evolutionarily related. Whereas the anatomist Samuel von Sömmering and the philosopher Christoph Meiners proposed polygenism — mankind has discrete genetic ancestries; the races are evolutionarily unrelated.

19th century racial theories

The scientific classification established by Carl Linnaeus is requisite to any human racial classification scheme. In the 19th century, unilineal evolution (aka classical social evolution) was a conflation of competing sociologic and anthropologic theories proposing that Western European culture was the acme of human socio-cultural evolution. The ideologic proposal that social status is unilinear — from primitive to civilized, from agronomic to industrial — became popular among philosophers, including Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Auguste Comte. In said context, the Christian Bible was interpreted to sanction slavery, and, from the 1820s to the 1850s, was an oft-cited, pro-slavery legalism used in the antebellum Southern United States, by writers such as the Rev. Richard Furman and Thomas R. Cobb, for the de jure and de facto enforcement of the racialist idea that negroes had been created unequal, and thus suited to slavery.[11]

Indigenous Races of the Earth Before Origin of Species (1850), Josiah Clark Nott and George Robins Gliddon dishonestly implied that "Negroes" were a creational rank between “Greeks” and chimpanzees.[11]

In An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853–55), Arthur de Gobineau proposed three human races, and that miscegenation led to the collapse of civilization. Polygenist theory proposed different genetic origins of the species Man, thus making it conceptually possible to conceive different, biologically discrete, human races, and so classify people as animals are classified — without rights. In On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859), by Charles Darwin, proved culturally influential in assessing the place of the species Man in Nature; and in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) he reports no racial distinctions indicating that the human races are discrete species; to wit:

It may be doubted whether any character can be named, which is distinctive of a race and is constant . . . they graduate into each other, and . . . it is hardly possible to discover clear, distinctive characters between them . . . As it is improbable that the numerous, and unimportant, points of resemblance, between the several races of man, in bodily structure and mental faculties (I do not here refer to similar customs) should all have been independently acquired, they must have been inherited from progenitors who had these same characters. — The Descent of Man (1871) [11][12]

In establishing a sole human species, Darwin contrasted the “civilized races” with the “savage races”; like most of his contemporaries — except the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace — he did not distinguish “biological race” from “cultural race”. Moreover, beyond the biology, he note that savage races risked extinction more from white European colonialism, than from evolutionary inadequacy; moreover, scientific racism was epitomised with in the phrase survival of the fittest, an 1864 coinage by Herbert Spencer.[11][13] In the 1940s, the term Social Darwinism denoted ideologies, including pre-Darwinian racialism and racism, derived from facile interpretations of evolution by natural selection. (cf. Racialism)

At the 19th century’s end, scientific racism conflated Græco–Roman eugenicism with Francis Galton's concept of voluntary eugenics in the form of coercive, anti-immigrant government programs influenced by other socio-political discourses and events. Such institutional racism was effected via Phrenology, telling character from physiognomy; craniometric skull and skeleton studies; thus skulls and skeletons of black people and other colored volk, were displayed between apes and white men.

In 1906, Ota Benga, a Pygmy, was displayed as the “Missing Link”, in the Bronx Zoo, New York City, alongside apes and animals. The most influential theorists included the anthropologist Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936) who proposed “anthroposociology”; and Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), who applied "race" to nationalist theory, thereby developing the first conception of ethnic nationalism. In 1882, Ernest Renan contradicted Herder with a nationalism based upon the "will to live together", not founded upon ethnic or racial prerequisites. Scientific racist discourse posited the historical existence of “national races” such as the Deutsche Volk in Germany, and the “French race” being a branch of the basal “Aryan race” extant for millenia, to advocate for geo-political borders parallel to the racial ones.

Craniometry & physical anthropology

Pieter Camper

The Dutch scholar Pieter Camper (1722–89), an early craniometric theoretician, used “craniometry” (interior skull-volume measurement) to scientifically justify racial “differences”. In 1770, he conceived of the “facial angle” to measure intelligence among species of men. The facial angle was formed by drawing two lines: a horizontal line from nostril to ear; and a vertical line from the upper-jawbone prominence to the forehead prominence. Camper’s craniometry reported that antique statues (the Græco–Roman ideal) had a 90-degree facial angle, Europeans an 80-degree angle, Blacks a 70-degree angle, and the orangutan a 58-degree facial angle — thus he established a racist biological hierarchy for mankind, per the Decadent conception of history. Such scientific racist researches were continued by the naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844) and the anthropologist Paul Broca (1824–80).

Scientific racism exposed: The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

In the 18th century, an early physical anthropologist, the American physician Samuel George Morton (1799–1851), collected human skulls from world-wide, and attempted a logical, classification scheme. Influenced by contemporary racialist theory, Dr Morton said he could judge racial intellectual capacity by measuring the interior cranial capacity, ergo a large skull denoted a large brain, thus high intellectual capacity, conversely, a small skull denoted a small brain, thus low intellectual capacity; superior and inferior established.

The craniometric data yielded Morton the information with which to determine the evolutionary point at which Caucasians ceased being racial Caucasians, and the evolutionary point where began racial Negro-ness. The craniometry of Ancient Egyptian skulls determined that the ancient Egyptians were white people, not black-skinned Africans. Dr Morton’s major monographs, Crania Americana (1839), An Inquiry into the Distinctive Characteristics of the Aboriginal Race of America (1844), and Crania Aegyptiaca (1844) synthesize his racialist presumptions. In Crania Americana, he reported that the mean cranial capacity of white skulls was 87 in.³ (1,425cm³); the mean cranial capacity of black skulls was 78 in.³ (1,278cm³); and the mean cranial capacity of red skulls was 82 in.³ (1,344cm³).

Nonetheless, in The Mismeasure of Man (1981), the historian of science Stephen Jay Gould reported that Samuel Morton falsified the craniometric data with over-packed skulls, to so produce results that would legitimize the racist presumptions he was “scientifically” proving. In 1873, Paul Broca, founder of the Anthropological Society of Paris (1859), found the same pattern of measures — that Crania Americana reported — by weighing specimen brains at autopsy. Other historical studies, proposing a black race–white race, intelligence–brain size difference, include those by Bean (1906), Mall (1909), Pearl (1934), and Vint (1934).

Monogenism and polygenism

Dr Josiah Clarke Nott, MD (1860s)

Samuel Morton’s followers, especially Dr Josiah C. Nott (1804–1873) and George Gliddon (1809–57) extended Dr Morton’s ideas in Types of Mankind (1854), claiming that Morton’s findings supported the notion of polygenism — mankind has discrete genetic ancestries; the races are evolutionarily unrelated, and is predecessor of the modern human multiregional origin hypothesis. Moreover, Morton, himself, had been reluctant to espouse polygenism, because it theologically challenged the Christian creation myth espoused in the Bible.

Later, in The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin proposed the single-origin hypothesis, i.e. monogenism — mankind has a common genetic ancestry, the races are related, opposing everything that Creationism and the polygenism of Nott and Gliddon proposed.

Enlightenment racial classification

Immanuel Kant

A few years later, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), the celebrated symbol of the Enlightenment’s philosophy of progress and humanism, wrote On the Different Races of Man (Über die verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen, 1775), an attempted scientific classification of human races. Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) presented a strong evolutionist account of history in the Lectures on the Philosophy of History (Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, 1837) chronicling the development of the historical Geist (Spirit) through serial realisations of Volkgeisten (Folk Spirits).

G. W. F. Hegel

Hegel’s philosophy of history was explicitly biased towards Europe, especially the Prussian state, conceived as the ultimate historical achievement, i.e. the End of History. In his chapter on the “Geographical Foundings of Universal History” Hegel said that “each People represented a particular degree of the development of the Spirit”, thus forming a “nation”; however, that nationalism is not based upon racial (physical) particularities, rather it concerns the historico–geographic site where the Geisten unfold. Informed by Montesquieu’s theory of climatologic influence upon cultural mores and law Hegel developed in The Spirit of the Laws (1748), contrasting historical peoples with ahistoric savages:

It is true that climate has influence, in that sense that neither the warm zone, nor the cold zone, are favourable to the liberty of man, and to the apparition of historical peoples.[14]

Arthur Schopenhauer

Unsurprisingly, Hegel thus favoured the Geist in temperate zones, and finally wrote an account of “universal history” chronicling the Oriental World, the Greek Antiquity, the Roman, the Christian World, and the Prussian World.[15] In the same Lectures he said that “America is the country of the future”, yet “philosophy does not concern itself with prophecies”, but with history.[16] Hegel’s philosophy, like that of Kant, cannot be reduced to evolutionist statements, nevertheless, it justified European imperialism until the First World War (1914–18). Like-wise, some of Montesquieu’s œvre justified “scientifically-ground” Negro inferiority consequent to the climate’s influence. Moreover, This racialist and evolutionist philosophy was developed by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), who naturalistically attributed civilizational primacy to the white races who gained sensitivity and intelligence via the refinement consequent to living in the rigorous North climate; to wit:

The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste, or race, is fairer in colour than the rest, and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmins, the Inca, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention, because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers, and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want, and misery, which, in their many forms, were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature, and out of it all came their high civilization. [17]


Cephalic Index William Z. Ripley's European cephalic index map, The Races of Europe (1899).

One of the first typologies used to classify various human races was invented by Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936), a theoretician of eugenics, who published in 1899 L'Aryen et son rôle social (1899 — "The Aryan and his social role"). In this book, he classified humanity into various, hierarchized races, spanning from the "Aryan white race, dolichocephalic", to the "brachycephalic" "mediocre and inert" race, best represented by the "Jew." Between these, Vacher de Lapouge identified the "Homo europaeus (Teutonic, Protestant, etc.), the "Homo alpinus" (Auvergnat, Turkish, etc.), and finally the "Homo mediterraneus" (Neapolitan, Andalus, etc.) Vacher de Lapouge became one of the leading inspiration of Nazi anti-semitism and Nazi racist ideology.[18]

Vacher de Lapouge's classification was mirrored in William Z. Ripley in The Races of Europe (1899), a book which had a large influence on American white supremacism. Ripley even made a map of Europe according to the alleged cephalic index of its inhabitants. He was an important influence of the American eugenist Madison Grant.

Furthermore, according to John Efron of Indiana University, the late 19th century also witnessed "the scientizing of anti-Jewish prejudice," stigmatizing Jews with male menstruation, pathological hysteria, and nymphomania.[19][20] At the same time, several Jews, such as Joseph Jacobs or Samuel Weissenberg, also endorsed the same pseudo-scientific theories, convinced that the Jews formed a distinct race.[19][20] Chaim Zhitlovsky also attempted to define Yiddishkayt (Ashkenazi Jewishness) by turning to contemporary racial theory.[21]

The Nordic race

Joseph Deniker
Madison Grant, creator of The Nordic race term.

Joseph Deniker (1852–1918) was one of William Z. Ripley’s principal opponents; whereas Ripley maintained, as did Vacher de Lapouge, that the European populace comprised three races, Joseph Deniker proposed that the European populace comprised ten races (six primary and four sub-races). Furthermore, he proposed that the concept of “race” was ambiguous, and in its stead proposed the compound word “ethnic group”, which later prominently featured in the works of Julian Huxley and Alfred C. Haddon. Moreover, Ripley argued that Deniker’s “race” idea should be denoted a “type”, because it was less biologically rigid than most racial classifications.

Yet, Joseph Deniker’s historic contribution to racial theory was la race nordique (the Northern race), a generic, racial-stock descriptor, which the American eugenicist Madison Grant (1865–1937) transformed into the Nordic race, the white racial engine of world civilization. Having adopted Ripley’s three-race European populace model, but disliking the “Teuton” race name, he transliterated la race nordique into "The Nordic race", the acme of the concocted racial hierarchy, based upon his racial classification theory, popular in the 1910s and 1920s.

Finland: The Svecoman movement

A language strife developed in the Grand Duchy of Finland in the 19th century, supported by Finnish-speaking nationalists, the Fennomans, which aimed at raising the majority language, Finnish, from the peasant status it had during the Swedish reign to the position of a national language and status. These were opposed by the Swedish speaking minority living in Finland, called Svecomans and best represented by the linguist Axel Olof Freudenthal (1836–1911), who defended the use of the Swedish language against Finnish. Svecomans were influenced by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840) and others racialist theorists, and thus considered that Finland was separated into two discrete "races", one speaking Finnish, and the other, "superior one", the "Germanic race," spoke Swedish.

USA: slavery justified

Dr. Samuel Cartwright, M.D.
Racialist differences: “a Negro head . . . a Caucasian skull . . . a Mongol head”, Samuel George Morton, 1839.

In the United States, scientific racism justified Black African slavery to assuage moral opposition to the Atlantic slave trade. Alexander Thomas and Samuell Sillen described black men as uniquely fitted for bondage, because of their “primitive psychological organization”.[22] In 1851, in antebellum Louisiana, the pysician Samuel A. Cartwright (1793–1863), considered slave escape attempts as “drapetomania”, a treatable mental illness, that “with proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented”. The term drapetomania (mania of the runaway slave) derives from the Greek δραπετης (drapetes, “a runaway [slave]”) + μανια (mania, “madness, frenzy”) [23] Cartwright also described dysaethesia aethiopica, called “rascality” by overseers. By 1840, the political challenges to American slavery increased; yet the 1840 census indicated that Northern, free blacks suffered mental illness at higher rates than did their Southern, enslaved counterparts. Moreover, Southern slavers concluded that escaping Negroes were only suffering from “mental disorders”, and the census mental health data became a political weapon against abolitionists.[2]

At the time of the American Civil War (1861–65), the matter of miscegenation prompted studies of ostensible physiological differences between Caucasians and Negroes. Early anthropologists, such as Josiah Clark Nott, George Robins Gliddon, Robert Knox, and Samuel George Morton, aimed to scientifically prove that Negroes were a human species different from the white people species; that the rulers of Ancient Egypt were not African; and that mixed-race offspring (the product of miscegenation) tended to physical weakness and infertility. After the Civil War, Southern (Confederacy) physicians wrote textbooks of scientific racism based upon studies claiming that Black freemen (ex-slaves) were becoming extinct, because they were inadequatee to the demands of being a free man — implying that Black people benefitted from enslavement. In 1850 Louis Agassiz commissioned a series of daguerreotypes of slaves of Columbia South Carolina for studying of races; four portraits are available at: [24]

Scientific racism and eugenics

Stephen Jay Gould described Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race (1916) as "the most influential tract of American scientific racism." In the 1920s–30s, the German racial hygiene movement embraced Grant's Nordic theory. Alfred Ploetz (1860–1940) coined the term Rassenhygiene in Racial Hygiene Basics (1895), and founded the German Society for Racial Hygiene in 1905. The movement advocated selective breeding, compulsory sterilization, and a close alignment of public health with eugenics.

Racial hygiene was historically tied to traditional notions of public health, but with emphasis on heredity — what philosopher and historian Michel Foucault has called state racism. In 1869, Francis Galton (1822–1911) proposed the first social measures meant to preserve or enhance biological characteristics, and later coined the term "eugenics". Galton, a statistician, introduced correlation and regression analysis and discovered regression toward the mean. He was also the first to study human differences and inheritance of intelligence with statistical methods. He introduced the use of questionnaires and surveys to collect data on population sets, which he needed for genealogical and biographical works and for anthropometric studies. Galton also founded psychometrics, the science of measuring mental faculties, and differential psychology, a branch of psychology concerned with psychological differences between people rather than common traits.

Like scientific racism, eugenics grew popular in the early 20th century, and both ideas influenced Nazi racial policies and Nazi eugenics. In 1901, Galton, Karl Pearson (1857–1936) and Walter F. R. Weldon (1860–1906) founded the Biometrika scientific journal, which promoted biometrics and statistical analysis of heredity. Charles Davenport (1866–1944) was briefly involved in the review. In Race Crossing in Jamaica (1929), he made statistical arguments that biological and cultural degradation followed white and black interbreeding. Davenport was connected to Nazi Germany before and during World War II. In 1939 he wrote a contribution to the festschrift for Otto Reche (1879–1966), who became an important figure within the plan to remove populations considered "inferior" from eastern Germany.[25]

Popular racist ideology

A caricature of Saartjie Baartman, called the Hottentot Venus. Born to a Khoisan family, she was displayed in London in the early 19th century that sparked the indignation of the African Association. She was examined by French anatomist Georges Cuvier and then died in 1815. Her remains were conserved until 1974 at the Musée de l'Homme and have since been returned to South Africa on Nelson Mandela's request.

Human zoos, sometimes called "ethnographic exhibitions" or "Negro villages," were objects of anthropology and anthropometry and also an important means of bolstering "popular racism." Human zoos were popular from the 1870s until World War II, and the concept survived into the 21st century. Ethnographic zoos were often predicated on unilinealism and a version of Social Darwinism. Many placed indigenous people (particularly Africans) in a continuum between Europeans and the non-human hominids.

Fundamental to scientific racism, unilinealism claimed Western culture was the contemporary pinnacle of social evolution. It was upheld by famous thinkers such as Auguste Comte (1798–1857), Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917), Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–1881), and Herbert Spencer (1820–1903). Social evolutionism attempted to scientifically formalize social thinking, and was later influenced by the biological theory of evolution.

Displaying human beings in cages to demonstrate scientific racist theories was common in the second half of the 19th century. The 1889 World Fair in Paris had as major attraction a "Negro village" where 400 indigenous people were displayed. Carl Hagenbeck, a German merchant in wild animals, exhibited in 1874 Samoans and Sami people described as "purely natural" populations. Two years later, he sent an emissary to Sudan to capture wild beasts for his circus attractions, along with Nubians. Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, son of Edouard Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and owner of the Parisian Jardin d'acclimatation, presented Nubians and Inuit in 1877.

In 1906, Madison Grant, head of the New York Zoological Society, had Congolese pygmy Ota Benga displayed at the Bronx Zoo in New York City alongside apes and other animals. At the behest of Grant, a prominent eugenicist, the zoo director placed Ota Benga in a cage with an orangutan and labeled him The Missing Link, illustrating that in evolutionary terms Africans like Ota Benga were closer to apes than were Europeans. Historians Pascal Blanchard et al. said:

Human zoos, the incredible symbols of the colonial period, and the transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, have been completely suppressed in our collective history and memory. Yet they were major social events. The French, Europeans, and Americans came in their tens of millions to discover the “savage” for the first time in zoos or “ethnographic” and colonial fairs. These exhibitions of the exotic (the future “native”) laid the foundations on which, over an almost sixty-year period, was spun the West’s progressive transition from a “scientific” racism to a colonial and “mass” racism affecting millions of “visitors”, from Paris to Hamburg, London to New York, Moscow to Barcelona. . . . [26]

The 20th and 21st centuries

Scientific racism continued through the early twentieth century, and soon intelligence testing became a new source for racial comparisons. Before the Second World War (1939–45), scientific racism remained common to anthropology, leading to programs of eugenics, compulsory sterilization, anti-miscegenation laws, and immigration restrictions in Europe and the United States. The war crimes and crimes against humanity of Nazi Germany (1933–45), discredited scientific racism in academia — but racist legislation based upon it remained in some countries until the late 1960s. Despite the obsolescence of craniology and physical anthropology, racialists and Racism|racists]] try to use the matter of race and intelligence to establish superior- and inferior-race classifications.

United States

In the US, eugenicists such as Harry H. Laughlin, and Madison Grant sought to “scientifically” prove the physical and mental inadequacy of certain ethnic groups to justify compulsory sterilization and restrict immigration, per the Immigration Act of 1924; compulsory sterilization continued until the 1960s and later.

Carleton S. Coon

An influential publication was The Races of Europe (1939) by Carleton S. Coon, president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists from 1930 to 1961. Coon was a proponent of Multiregional origin of modern humans. He divided Homo sapiens into five main races:

Coon's school of thought saw increasing opposition in mainstream anthropology after World War II. Ashley Montagu was particularly vocal in denouncing Coon, especially in his Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. By the 1960s, Coon's approach had been rendered obsolete in mainstream anthropology, but his system continued to appear in publications by his student John Lawrence Angel as late as in the 1970s.

Justified racial segregation

In the late 19th century, the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) US Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutional legality of racial segregation, under the doctrine of “separate but equal” was intellectually rooted in the scientific racism of the era, like-wise popular support for it.[27] Later, in the mid 20th century, the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) decision rejected racialist arguments about the "need" for racial segregation — especially in public schools. By 1954, 58 years after the Plessy v. Ferguson upholding of racial segregation in the US, American popular and scholarly opinions of scientific racism and its sociologic practice, had evolved.[27] Subsequent to the Supreme Court’s desegregation of American public schooling, in 1960 there appeared the Mankind Quarterly journal as a venue for scientific racism. It is criticized for extremist right-wing politics, anti-Semitic bent, and espousing academic hereditarianism.[28] The magazine was founded in 1960, partly in response to the socially liberal Brown v. Board of Education legal decision.[29][30]

Civil rights era

In April 1966, Alex Haley interviewed American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell for Playboy. Rockwell explained why he believed blacks were inferior to whites, citing a study by G.O. Ferguson that showed black people who were part white outperformed "pure-black niggers" (Rockwell's words) on a test. Rockwell's use of these statistics is a textbook example of a statistical fallacy used to propagate scientific racism.[31]

Following the United States Civil Rights Movement, many scientists who previously studied racial differences moved to other fields. For example, Robert Yerkes, who previously worked on the World War I Army intelligence testing, moved to the field of primatology.

Nazi Germany

The Nazi Party and its sympathizers published many books on scientific racism, seizing on the eugenic and anti-Semitic ideas with which they would later become associated, although these ideas had been in circulation since the 19th century. Books such as Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes ("Ethnology of the German People") by Hans F. K. Günther and Rasse und Seele ("Race and Soul") by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss attempted to scientifically identify differences between the German, Nordic, or Aryan people and other, supposedly inferior, groups. German schools used these books as texts during the Nazi era.

In the early 1930s, the Nazis used racialized scientific rhetoric based on social Darwinism to push its restrictive and discriminatory social policies. During World War II, Nazi racialist beliefs became anathema in the United States, and Boasians such as Ruth Benedict consolidated their institutional power. After the war, discovery of the Holocaust and Nazi abuses of scientific research (such as Josef Mengele's ethical violations and other war crimes revealed at the Nuremberg Trials) led most of the scientific community to repudiate scientific support for racism.

South African Apartheid

Scientific racism played a role in establishing Apartheid in South Africa. In South Africa, white scientists, like Dudly Kidd, who published The essential Kafir in 1904, sought to "understand the African mind." They believed that the cultural differences between whites and blacks in South Africa might be caused by physiological differences in the brain. Rather than suggesting that Africans were "overgrown children," as early white explorers had, Kidd believed that Africans were "misgrown with a vengeance." He described Africans as at once "hopelessly deficient," yet "very shrewd."[32]

The Carnegie Commission on the Poor White Problem in South Africa played a key role in establishing Apartheid in South Africa. According to one memorandum sent to Frederick Keppel, then president of the Carnegie Corporation, there was "little doubt that if the natives were given full economic opportunity, the more competent among them would soon outstrip the less competent whites".[33] Keppel's support for the project of creating the report was motivated by his concern with the maintenance of existing racial boundaries.[33] The preoccupation of the Carnegie Corporation with the so-called poor white problem in South Africa was at least in part the outcome of similar misgivings about the state of poor whites in the American South.[33]

The report was five volumes in length.[34] At the turn of the century, white Americans, and whites elsewhere in the world, felt uneasy because poverty and economic depression seemed to strike people regardless of race.[34] White poverty contradicted notions of racial superiority, and hence it became the focus of "scientific" study.

Though the ground work for Apartheid began earlier, the report provided support for this central idea of black inferiority. This was used to justify racial segregation and discrimination[35] in the following decades.[36] The report expressed fear about the loss of white racial pride, and in particular pointed to the danger that the poor white would not be able to resist the process of "Africanisation".[33]

Although scientific racism played a role in justifying and supporting institutional racism in South Africa, it was not as important in South Africa as it has been in Europe and the United States. This was due in part to the "poor white problem", which raised serious questions for supremacists about white racial superiority.[32] Since poor whites were found to be in the same situation as natives in the African environment, the idea that intrinsic white superiority could overcome any environment did not seem to hold. As such, scientific justifications for racism were not as useful in South Africa.[32]

Race and intelligence

Early IQ tests of soldiers during World War I have been criticized as measuring acculturation to the USA more than latent intelligence.[37] They included highly context-based questions, such as: "Crisco is a: patent medicine, disinfectant, toothpaste, food product" and "Christy Mathewson is famous as a: writer, artist, baseball player, comedian." Recent immigrants did poorly on such questions, and scores correlated most with the time spent immersed in American culture. Modern studies on race and intelligence have attempted to address these concerns, and remain subjects of intense debate because they continue to show differences between races.[citation needed]

Dorothy Roberts writes that the early eugenics movement in the US was strongly tied to older scientific racism used to justify slavery. Roberts writes that the development of eugenic theory paralleled the acceptance of intelligence as the primary indicator of human value. Eugenicists claimed IQ tests could quantify innate human ability in a single measurement, despite the objections of the tests' creator, Alfred Binet.[38]

Until the 1920s such work was regarded as science and faced little criticism. But soon, cultural anthropologist Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict began to note methodological errors and claim politics and ideology biased the work's conclusions. Through the 1920s and 1930s, the Boasian school of cultural anthropology slowly replaced physical anthropology in a bitter institutional battle, though the Boasians were later defeated.

Many geneticists and anthropologists, such as Julian Huxley and Alfred C. Haddon, denounced Nazi views on race and the studies purported to support them. Some works were even made into anti-racist propaganda and distributed as pamphlets. Many began to specifically identify Nazi Germany with racist attitudes previously accepted by scientists in Western Allied nations. After the war, the association with Nazism led to widespread denunciation of scientific research into racial differences.

International bodies such as UNESCO attempted to draft resolutions that would summarize the state of scientific knowledge about race and issued calls for the resolution of racial conflicts. In its 1950 The Race Question, UNESCO declared that "A race, from the biological standpoint, may therefore be defined as one of the group of populations constituting the species Homo sapiens", which were broadly defined as the Mongoloid, Negroid, and the Caucasoid "divisions" but stated that "It is now generally recognized that intelligence tests do not in themselves enable us to differentiate safely between what is due to innate capacity and what is the result of environmental influences, training and education."[2] To this day, the statement is controversial among some scientists who disagreed with its accuracy (such as R. A. Fisher), or its purpose (as a political declaration of scientific consensus). In 1978, the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice proclaimed no race was superior to any other, but, in contrast to the 1950 statement, relied more on "moral and ethical principles of humanity" rather than science.[39] The corresponding 2001 statement by UNESCO, Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity does not mention race at all, and does not justify its views on cultural diversity with science.[40] Views, or at least the language, of racial discourse, have clearly evolved over the half-century.

The view that differences in intelligence between races do exist, and moreover may be partly genetic (not just cultural) in origin, is supported by an extremely small percentage of contemporary academics in the field, though this fact is denied by some. For example, a chapter in the 1994 book The Bell Curve brought recent research on the subject to public attention, generating much controversy.

In 2007, James Watson, pioneer of DNA, was criticized after being quoted as saying that Africans were of different intelligence than others.[41]

Contemporary usage

Today, "scientific racism" refers to politically motivated research attempting to scientifically justify racist ideology. The accusation of scientific racism often is cast upon researchers claiming the existence of quantifiable differences in intelligence among the human races, especially if said differences are partly genetic in origin. Contemporary researchers, called scientific racists, include Arthur Jensen (The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability); J. Philippe Rushton, president of the Pioneer Fund (Race, Evolution, and Behavior); Chris Brand (The g Factor: General Intelligence and Its Implications); Richard Lynn (IQ and the Wealth of Nations); Charles Murray; and Richard Herrnstein (The Bell Curve), among others.[42]

The critics of these authors, such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, write that their works are motivated by racist presumptions unsupported by available evidence. The authors in turn reply that their work is objective, and that criticisms are motivated by professional prejudice, political correctness, and censorship. Publications, such as the Mankind Quarterly, an anthropology journal accused of scientific racism for publishing articles on controversial interpretations of human evolution, intelligence, ethnography, language, mythology, archaeology, and race subjects.[43]

See also


  1. ^ "The myth 'race' has created an enormous amount of human and social damage. In recent years it has taken a heavy toll in human lives and caused untold suffering." UNESCO, The Race Question, p. 8
  2. ^ a b Higgins, 1994
  3. ^ *Tucker, William. 2002. The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press; *Poliakov, Leon. 1974. Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe. New York, NY: Basic Books;* Biddiss, Michael D. 1970. Father of Racist Ideology: The Social and Political Thought of Count Gobineau. New York: Weybright and Talley
  4. ^ *Tucker 1994; *Mintz, Frank P. 1985. The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood.)
  5. ^ *Kühl, Stefan. 1994. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press;* Tucker 1994)
  6. ^ Princeton University Press, 2006
  7. ^ Raphaël Lagier, Les races humaines selon Kant, PUF, 2004. ISBN 9782130546573 (French)
  8. ^ Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, p. 356
  9. ^ Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, p. 83
  10. ^ Linnaeus, Carl. Systema Naturae (1767), p. 29
  11. ^ a b c d Price, R.G. (June 24, 2006). "The Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist". Retrieved 2008-01-06. 
  12. ^ "It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant... they graduate into each other, and.. it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them... As it is improbable that the numerous and unimportant points of resemblance between the several races of man in bodily structure and mental faculties (I do not here refer to similar customs) should all have been independently acquired, they must have been inherited from progenitors who had these same characters.", Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man p225 onwards,
  13. ^ "Quote Mine Project: Assorted Quotes". TalkOrigins Archive. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  14. ^ Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, 1828–1830, Chapter IV, Natural Conditions—The Geographical Foundings of Universal History; 1, General Definitions; A. Natural Conditioning, §5.
  15. ^ Hegel, ibid., Chapter V
  16. ^ Hegel, ibid., IV, 2, The New World, 4 (1 is the Introduction) "North America and its Destiny," excipit
  17. ^ Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays, Volume II, Section 92
  18. ^ See Pierre-André Taguieff, La couleur et le sang — Doctrines racistes à la française ("Colour and Blood — Racist doctrines à la française"), Paris, Mille et une nuits, 2002, 203 pages, and La Force du préjugé — Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles, Tel Gallimard, La Découverte, 1987, 644 pages
  19. ^ a b John M. Efron (History and Jewish Studies, Indiana University), Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-De-Siecle Europe, Yale University Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0300054408
  20. ^ a b Richard Bodek. "Review of John M. Efron, Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors & Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe", H-SAE, H-Net Reviews, May, 1996 (English)
  21. ^ Matthew Hoffman, From Pintele Yid to Racenjude: Chaim Zhitlovsky and racial conceptions of Jewishness in Jewish History, Vol. 19, n°1 / January 2005
  22. ^ Alexander Thomas and Samuell Sillen (1972). Racism and Psychiatry. New York: Carol Publishing Group.
  23. ^ Samual A. Cartwright, "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race", DeBow's Review—Southern and Western States, Volume XI, New Orleans, 1851
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ Kuhl, 1994.
  26. ^ **"Le retour des zoos humains (par Pascal Blanchard et Olivier Barlet)". Africacultures. October 28, 2005. ;**"From human zoos to colonial apotheoses: the era of exhibiting the Other by Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel and Sandrine Lemaire (English version)". Africacultures. October 28, 2005. ;**Black Deutschland, von Oliver Hardt
  27. ^ a b Race, Law, and Culture: Reflections on Brown v. Board of Education By Austin Sarat. Page 55 and 59. 1997. ISBN 0195106229
  28. ^ E.g., Arvidsson, Stefan (2006), Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, translated by Sonia Wichmann, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
  29. ^ "'Scientific’ Racism Again?': Reginald Gates, the Mankind Quarterly and the Question of 'Race' in Science after the Second World War," Journal of American Studies (2007), 41: 253–278 Cambridge University Press by Gavin Schaffer
  30. ^ Science for Segregation: Race, Law, and the Case Against Brown v. Board of Education. By John P. Jackson. ISBN 0814742718 Page 148
  31. ^ The statistics used in the study and the excerpt from the Playboy article were used as an example of a "statistical fallacy" in the book Flaws and Fallacies in Statistical Thinking by Stephen K. Campbell.
  32. ^ a b c Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa By Saul Dubow. 1995. ISBN 052147907X
  33. ^ a b c d The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race By Frank Füredi. Pages 66–67. ISBN 0813526124
  34. ^ a b The American Century: Consensus and Coercion in the Projection of American Power By David Slater and Peter James Taylor. Page 290. ISBN 0631212221 1999
  35. ^ Racially segregated school libraries in KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa by Jennifer Verbeek. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, Vol. 18, No. 1, 23–46 (1986)
  36. ^ Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History By Ann Laura Stoler. Page 66. ISBN 082233724X
  37. ^ Gould, Mismeasure of Man, p. 222-252.
  38. ^ Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts. Page 63. December 1998 ISBN 0679758690
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners — The Independent
  42. ^ Critical Social Issues in American Education By H. Svi Shapiro and David E. Purpel. page 228. 2005. ISBN 080584452X
  43. ^
  44. ^ "American Renaissance". Retrieved 2008-03-03.  "Race and racial conflict are at the heart of the most serious challenges the Western World faces in the 21st century."


  • Asseo, Henriette. 1997. The Gypsies During the Second World War, Vol. 1: From Race Science to the Camps. University of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 0-900458-78-X
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  • Mintz, Frank P. 1985. The Liberty Lobby and the American Right: Race, Conspiracy, and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
  • Kühl, Stefan. 1994. The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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  • Poliakov, Leon. 1974. Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Proctor, Robert N. 1988. Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Sapp, January 1987. Beyond the Gene: Cytoplasmic Inheritance and the Struggle for Authority in Genetics. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504206-9
  • Schaffer, Gavin. 2007. " 'Scientific' Racism Again?": Reginald Gates, the Mankind Quarterly and the question of "race" in science after the Second World War', Journal of American Studies, 41:2, 253–278.
  • Taguieff, Pierre-André. 1987. La Force du préjugé. Essai sur le racisme et ses doubles. Paris: Gallimard, La Découverte. ISBN 2-07-071977-4 (French)
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  • UNESCO. 1950. The Race Question.

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