Dr. Philippe Rushton

1943-2012

Statement from the Department of Psychology regarding research conducted by Dr. J. Philippe Rushton.  Approved at a department meeting held 22 June 2020. 

John Philippe ("Phil") Rushton was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology from 1977 until his death in 2012.  

Although Rushton published on a variety of topics in the field of personality and individual differences, much of his research was racist, and attempted to find differences in intelligence between racialized groups and to explain them as caused by genetic differences between races.

Although Rushton ceased teaching for the Department of Psychology in the early 1990s, he continued to conduct racist and flawed studies, sometimes without appropriate ethics approval [1] for two more decades. Much of this research was supported by the Pioneer Fund, a foundation formed in 1937 to promote eugenicist and racist goals.  The fund was headed by Rushton himself for many years (2002-2012).  Indeed, Rushton was the largest recipient of Pioneer Fund grants at the time of his death [2].  Further, he directed funding from this foundation to editors of some of the journals in which he published.  Rushton also created an offshore private promotional organization called the Charles Darwin Institute to promote his writings [3].

In addition to ethical concerns about the nature and funding of his research, Rushton’s work is deeply flawed from a scientific standpoint.  Rushton’s works on “race and intelligence” are based on an incorrect assumption that fuels systemic racism, the notion that racialized groups are concordant with patterns of human ancestry and genetic population structure.  This idea is rejected by analysis of the human genome: racialized groups are not distinct genetic populations [4].  What Rushton described as “races” are a socially created categories, and do not reflect patterns of human inheritance or genetic population structure.  Rushton also inappropriately tried to apply an ecological theory developed to explain differences between species’ reproductive strategies (r/K selection theory) to putative differences in parental care between racialized groups, an approach that has been thoroughly debunked (e.g. [5,6]).  Moreover, Rushton’s work is characterized by a complete misunderstanding of population genetic measures, including fundamental misconceptions about the nature of heritability [7] and gene-environment interactions during development.  His work has been criticized, often by other Western University faculty members [e.g., 7,8], on many other grounds.  In some cases, Rushton’s work has failed to replicate or stand up to reanalysis [e.g., 9,10]. In other cases, his papers ignored alternative explanations or competing evidence that did not support his racist hypotheses [8]. 

Despite its deeply flawed assumptions and methodologies, Rushton’s work and other so-called “race science” (currently under the pseudonym of “race realism”) continues to be misused by white supremacists and promoted by eugenic organizations.  Thus, Rushton’s legacy shows that the impact of flawed science lingers on, even after qualified scholars have condemned its scientific integrity.  Academic freedom and freedom of expression are critical to free scientific inquiry.  However, the notion of academic freedom is disrespected and abused when it is used to promote the dissemination of racist and discriminatory concepts.  Scientists have an obligation to society to speak loudly and actively in opposition of such abuse.

 

[1] Charles Lane, Response to Daniel R. Vining, Jr., New York Review of Books, Vol. 42, Number 5, March 23, 1995

[2] https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/pioneer-fund

[3] https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/jean-philippe-rushton

[4] Yudell, M., Roberts, D., DeSalle, R., & Tishkoff, S. (2016). Taking race out of human genetics. Science, 351(6273), 564-565.

[5] Anderson, J. L. (1991). Rusthon’s racial comparisons: an ecological critique of theory and method. Canadian Psychology 32, 73-83.

[6] Allen, G., Eriksson, A. W., Fellman, J., Parisi, P., & Vandenberg, S. G. (1992). Twinning and the r/K reproductive strategy: A critique of Rushton's theory. Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae: twin research41(1), 73-83.

[7] Bailey, R. C. (1997). Hereditarian scientific fallacies. Genetica99(2-3), 125-133.

[8] Cain, D. P., & Vanderwolf, C. H. (1990). A critique of Rushton on race, brain size and intelligence. Personality and individual differences11(8), 777-784.

[9] Peregrine, P. N., Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (2003). Cross-cultural evaluation of predicted associations between race and behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior24(5), 357-364.

[10] Cernovsky, Z. Z., & Litman, L. C. (1993). Re-analyses of JP Rushton's crime data. Canadian J. Criminology35, 31-36.