Rejected by his publishers and boycotted by his students, self-declared 'scientific racist' Chris Brand remains defiant. Olga Wojtas talks to him.
As Chris Brand set out last week for a lunch appointment, he was stopped by a departmental servitor bearing the local paper with the banner headline "I Live In Fear". "I don't think I said that," Brand murmured mildly. "They're in the car park," warned the servitor. "You'd better go the other way."
"They" were students, allegedly swelled by the Anti-Nazi League, protesting about Brand's views on the links between IQ and race. Brand now keeps his door in Edinburgh University's psychology department locked on the instruction of security staff, and the police are discreetly monitoring both the department and his home. Far from displaying fear, he seems rather to relish the attention. "I don't worry for the sake of it. Every sensible measure is being taken to protect me."
Publisher John Wiley & Sons last week withdrew Brand's book, The g Factor: General Intelligence and its Implications on the eve of publication, following a media storm over his comments on IQ and race. Wiley distanced itself both from the author's reported comments and assertions in his book which it described as "repellent".
Brand is no stranger to student protest. A decade ago, he departed as a director of studies after the honours psychology class formally complained about his alleged racism and sexism. The university says he decided not to continue in the pastoral role after complaints about his style of operation were discussed with him: Brand says he was asked to resign, with no reason given beyond his "lack of sensitivity".
One former student says that when she won the class medal, Brand commented how unexpected and shocking it was for someone from a working-class background to have done so well.
"That would have been nothing but a joke," Brand insists. "She was a star directee. I thought I had a good relationship with her. I don't think her family had any great academic achievement to its name, and I was saying she had a reasonable gene package working away even though she'd had an unpropitious start in life."
Brand is saddened that current students are boycotting his lectures rather than debating the book with him. "I'm disappointed that there weren't a few courageous enough to stand up for my freedom of speech."
He himself was one of around 50 international academics who condemned an unfavourable appraisal by the University of Western Ontario of psychology professor Phillippe Rushton, whose research places blacks as inferior to whites, and whites to orientals, in areas such as intelligence and sexual restraint.
"We saved him, and we saved the principle of academic freedom at the University of Western Ontario," he says. "I regard him as a very good scholar, and his views deserve very serious consideration - and sometimes rebuttal, as with all of us."
Brand presents his own views in an expansive, convoluted way, digressing to the rape of Nanking, 12th-century Muslim belief in the inferiority of Slavs, and lesbian orgasms. He places himself firmly outside the mainstream of professional psychology, and left the British Psychological Society ten years ago because its journal advertised posts for blacks only. "I wrote a jokey letter saying people who lived in Tower Hamlets needed a white psychologist because they were such racist bigots they wouldn't be able to get on with a black. To my surprise, they didn't publish it. I thought if you can't even have a dig at their affirmative action, what's the point of being a member?" The g Factor is his first book in 25 years at Edinburgh. He has not been a big researcher, he says, because he has always refused to wave the begging bowl, and the research councils are in any event unwilling to fund the very large scale projects he believes essential in differential psychology.
"Most psychological research is either focused on very special groups of people, such as epileptics or Down's syndrome, or just uses psychology students and anybody willing to volunteer, very middle class, very highly educated. That's idiotic, because you're not studying people across the whole of the IQ range."
His career would have been impossible without tenure, he says, and the erosion of tenure is forcing younger colleagues to make concessions and carry out mindless research in order to win funds, the new criterion of academic worth.
Asked about his future research, he replies that the anti-racism movement is coming to the end of the road, having done nothing for blacks and race relations, and the next menace to be tackled is feminism. "Of course, no two feminists agree with one another, although we expect this from girls, don't we? But what is wrong is that it denies female nature."
Feminism insists that women do not need to have babies, rejecting the enormous power of the maternal drive, Brand says. He believes women systematically disguise this drive from men, "because it is not politic to tell your man you love your children more than you love him." If they fail to have children, he warns, they instead become "dotty about cats".
He would like to research his theory that this maternal drive comes on stream only after the woman has borne or adopted a child, arguing that otherwise every girl would be pregnant by 13.
Meanwhile, he is investigating how to have The g Factor published. "I want the book to go ahead. I'm not going to say no to being famous and having a lot of money, the things academics barely dream of. It looks as if they're within reach."