The dismissal of Christopher Brand will not end speculation on the link between race and intelligence. Julia Hinde reports
Last Friday's decision by Edinburgh University to sack self-proclaimed "scientific racist" Christopher Brand marks a break in a year-long saga that has seen the psychology lecturer at the centre of repeated controversy.
In April last year, publishers John Wiley rejected The g-Factor: General Intelligence and its Implications, the 53-year-old former prison psychologist's first book in years at Edinburgh, on the eve of its publication. Days earlier, Brand was quoted in newspapers saying that black people were less intelligent than whites and that single women with low IQs should seek males with higher IQs to father their children. The publisher distanced itself, describing his comments as "repellent".
In June, Edinburgh University, which had stood by Brand's right to free speech two months earlier, launched an investigation into his teaching methods. In October, the university's psychology department was found guilty of an error of judgement in appointing Brand convenor of an ethics committee, and in November he was suspended from teaching after publishing an Internet newsletter questioning the merit of bringing paedophilia charges against Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Gajdusek, 73, who was jailed for 18 months by a Maryland court. In his newsletter, Brand also suggested some forms of child sex were not harmful, depending on the age and intelligence of the participants.
This week, Edinburgh's disciplinary tribunal concluded that aspects of Brand's conduct - in particular his public comments about paedophilia - were "of a disgraceful nature", adding: "What makes Mr Brand's case extraordinary is the way he has courted further controversy." It stressed the importance of academic freedom, but added that academics also had a responsibility to act with care.
This week's edition of Brand's newsletter, however, defended the former lecturer against what it described as the "grave blow" Edinburgh had struck against "academic freedom in Britain". "If the verdict 'guilty of gross misconduct' is allowed to stand against Brand, many other British academics could easily be dismissed by their 'universities' as soon as the anti-Nazi league or a few hardcore feminists put in political demands for their resignations," it warned.
Brand's theories on the link between race and intelligence are undoubtedly controversial. His book supported the longstanding but controversial notion that intelligence can be measured (by way of IQ tests) and that there is a general intelligence factor, or "g". The blurb for The g Factor reads: "Tests involving symbols (words, numbers, graphics) are all correlated: a person in the top 10 per cent of the population on one test will seldom be below average on another. Scores on most mental tests seem to reflect one common psychological factor - general intelligence or g". The really controversial element of Brand's argument is his assertion that differences between people's "g" factor can be measured, and that such differences are hereditary.
But these ideas are not particularly novel. In 1969, Arthur Jensen caused similar controversy in the United States when he claimed that race differences in IQ scores were a consequence of the heritable differences between blacks and whites, rather than of an inadequate education system in a racist society. Jensen's lectures, like those of Brand, were boycotted by students.
A decade of controversy followed, but as Steven Rose, director of the Open University's brain and behaviour research group, says, the 1980s saw a lull in the debate. The same arguments over genetics and environmental influences re-emerged in the mid-1990s with the publication in 1995 of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, which says individuals' differences in cognitive ability are well described by a single factor of intelligence, whose distribution in the population, the bell curve, has a substantial genetic basis.
Over the past three decades Jensen, professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has published widely. Many of his papers have admittedly kept off the controversial topic of the genetic basis for racial differences in intelligence, but Jensen too has had publication difficulties. His new book, also called The g-Factor, was rejected at a late stage by Wiley in July last year. Only now, after approaching six publishers, is the text in production.
"With all my previous books the first publisher I approached took them," says Jensen, who adds that the "climate has changed" and "that publishers are somewhat cautious". "The interesting thing I have found this time is that psychology editors have liked the book and referees have liked it, but management doesn't want to publish. I think Brand brought to the attention of higher management at Wiley that my book was being considered. Everything might have gone smoothly if top management had not been alerted by Brand."
In an interview last year Jensen criticised Brand's handling of the media. "I've learned to be a little more circumspect in dealing with the press," he said. "You don't say foolish things like calling yourself a scientific racist. I don't think he (Brand) realises the meaning and implications of it. I think the idea of a scientific racist is an oxymoron anyway - if it's scientific, it isn't racist, and if it's racist, it isn't scientific. I would resent it if anyone called me a scientific racist or any other type of racist.
"I think he (Brand) brought problems on himself. It was a very unwise statement. The media took it and ran with it. He made it easy for them to attack him. They would have had an awfully hard time attacking what he said in the book."
But Jensen contends that "it's certainly not the end of the debate". His book, which he describes as the first comprehensive work exclusively on the "g" factor since Charles Spearman's in 19, is due for publication in March.
Others, including Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, continue to keep the subject in the spotlight. Only last week Lynn provoked outrage by suggesting that racial differences in IQ were genetically determined by thousands of years of evolution in different climates.
In a new book, The Scientific Study of Human Nature, he states that dramatic changes in climate experienced by early humans in the northern hemisphere led to the evolution of greater intelligence and this explains differences in IQ between races. Lynn says that when early humans moved north from Africa they encountered very different conditions, which led to the selection of genes for intelligence.
"Survival during these conditions required an increase in intelligence in the Caucasoids and Mongoloids. The severest environment was that of northwest Asia, which had much colder winters than Europe, and this explains why the Mongoloids have evolved the highest intelligence level," he explains.
Steven Rose, a vociferous critic of ideas linking genes, race and intelligence, concedes the debate will continue. "It will not simply go away because one person laid himself open to charges," he says. "The issue is not going to go away because racism has not gone away. When it finally does, these will be seen as trivial non-questions. I think it would be a great mistake if Brand now paraded himself as a martyr."
As for Brand, according to a recent Internet newsletter, he now plans to work on a biography of turn-of-the-century psychologist William McDougall, who held posts at Cambridge and Oxford before going to Harvard in 1920. "My next year or two will belong to William McDougall," Brand says in the newsletter. "McDougall merits a biography not only as a scholar who wisely resisted behaviourism, materialism, environmentalism and collectivism, but as a upstanding man of courage, independent-mindedness and fortitude."
Brand is seeking legal advice about appealing against Edinburgh's decision. "I am OK and will do my best to fight on from home," he says. A fighting fund may also be set up.
FROM BRAND'S LATEST NEWSLETTER:
"Paedohysteria is merely thelatest instantiation of rabid social environmentalism which seeks ceaseless support for countless 'victims of society' - especially 'victims' of men. I oppose hysterical environmentalism in general ... I regard feminism, political correctness and paedohysteria in their current forms as posing a serious threat to the West."