Is defending The Bell Curve an example of intellectual honesty?
Draper remained on the board of the Pioneer Fund until he died in 1972. A recent official history of the organization, produced in-house, describes him glowingly as "distinguished or aristocratic, tending toward the chivalrous," and as a disinterested funder of disinterested science. The book also praises Laughlin. Am I missing something? These are people who openly admired the people who committed the worst crime in human history. They never disavowed that admiration or denounced that crime. (Nor did they later apologize for their virulent opposition to racial integration and civil rights in America.) The organization they created in turn persists, totally unreformed and totally unembarrassed, into the new millennium, to watch as its white supremacist ideas slip into semirespectability via The Bell Curve. And yet it is we "liberals" who deserve suspicion for wondering: Could this sordid history possibly be apposite to the contemporary "race realists'" single-minded obsession with demonstrating the intellectual deficiency of blacks? If maybe, just maybe, the inability to utter one word of acknowledgment or apology or remorse might somehow offer a clue as to why vast reams of relevant data get ignored or distorted every time Rushton or Murray presents their "dispassionate" case?
So sorry. Have I ceased to be a liberal "in the classical sense"? I forgot the rules of the game. To Andrew Sullivan, then, you speaker of truth to power: game, set, match! Yours is the highest honesty, the greatest moral courage!
The information in this article comes from Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man;Stefan Kuhl's The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism; The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and The Pioneer Fund by William H. Tucker;and Paul Lombardo's paper "The American Breed," from the Albany Law Review.
Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large. He is working on a book about the 1980s.