The colour of intelligence

April 26, 1996

Rejected by his publishers and boycotted by his students, self-declared `scientific racist' Chris Brand remains defiant.

On Friday April 12, as arranged by my then publishers, John Wiley & Sons, I gave a 75-minute telephone interview to a Sunday newspaper reporter. The journalist and I covered all the main questions in my book, The g Factor, about human differences in general intelligence (g) - Can you measure it? What is it? Nature and/or nurture? Do differences matter? Yet the printed article dealt mainly with "race" - a topic that makes up only 10 per cent of the book.

The g Factor points to the recent triumph of g over other hypothetical mental abilities. The g factor accounts for more variance than all other mental abilities put together; and tests for it have the same properties for white and black testees and are demonstrably "fair". I say that g involves principally an ability for the intake (much more than output) of information. I also try to take the sting out of anxieties about eugenics, to explain and defend the methods of twin and adoption studies, and to offer a 75 per cent estimate as the "broad" (not necessarily transmissible) heritability of IQ differences. Using recent findings, I contest efforts to play down the importance of IQ.

Asked by the journalist whether I was a "racist", I expressed the conventional hope that I was not. I pointed out that I preferred to explain things (illiteracy, unemployability, out-of-wedlock births etc) in terms of IQ, not race. However, I said I was content to be called a "scientific racist" since I believe race and psychology have deep links (most likely genetic).

By Wednesday of that week, I was on Sky TV and in steady demand from Scottish newspapers. Since political correctness seems to prevail in certain quarters of the media, even humdrum pronouncements about race are news. Such sudden media spotlighting of well-known phenomena is par for the course in differential psychology. The immediate boycotting of my lectures was thus no surprise. Nor was the damaging article by The Scotsman - using ten-year-old complaints of "racism" and "sexism" that had led me to resign in disgust as a director of studies but which had never actually been shown to me. Nor was the studied indifference of some of my departmental colleagues unexpected; nor was their decision to allow third-year students a choice between my lectures and a new "reading course".

I could be thankful for small mercies: at least I was not the subject of criminal inquiries by the police, as Phil Rushton had been at the University of Western Ontario. And the leader of the boycott had plainly revealed the students' sub-academic attitude by telling the Daily Mail that "listening to Brand's views would have implied we agreed with him". What was new to me, however, was the craven withdrawal of my book from publication.

Legal advice asserted that I could probably enforce publication and marketing or regain my copyright and find another publisher. But both options involved lawyers' fees that would run into thousands of pounds. Thus I had no option but to give repeated interviews explaining my position until someone took pity on me.

Understandably enough, Edinburgh University wanted such interviews to be as restrained as possible; so I could see the prospect of press interest fading fast. I decided to separate the issue of my scientific position from that of the withdrawal of the book. I would discuss my "racism" only with people who could show that they had read proof copies. This would mean my scientific ideas had to be seen in context; and it might keep up demand for the book. But I would interview freely about the challenge to academic freedom from New York's brigades of political correctness. Thanks to a former student, The g Factor could at least go out on the Internet.

Will all this work? The big questions for me are whether the issues will prove newsworthy in the US, and whether my position will appeal to several big-name publishers who (friends say) are considering my book. One colleague thrilled me by saying I had restored the department to its former glory. But, shorn of my book, it has been a lonely week. It will be a relief to see support from colleagues in print.

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