*Trigger warning for extreme racism*
A peer-reviewed journal by the name of “Personality and Individual Differences”, published a paper in March 2012 titled, “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?” (full paper available at link), by two psychologists. The psychology bit is important, because the paper is essentially looking at biology, and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of qualification in biology that the two authors of the paper have.
I strongly caution you regarding the racism in this paper. It is abhorrent and awful. The commentary below delves a bit into who the authors are, my WTF in relation to the contents of the paper, and how fucked up the whole thing is. The paper is a hard read, and this whole post may be triggering.
One of the authors is J. Philippe Rushton, who has been widely described as racist:
Jean Philippe Rushton (born December 3, 1943) is a Canadian psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario who is most widely known for his work on racial group differences, such as research on race and intelligence, race and crime, and the application of r/K selection theory to humans in his book Race, Evolution and Behavior (1995). His work has been heavily criticised by the scientific community, and it has been widely described as racist, as has the Pioneer Fund, the research foundation he has been head of since 2002.
Psychologist Donald Templer followed with a scathing and hilarious attack on the blindness of his profession. He has been fascinated by group differences ever since he was a child, and this interest has shaped his academic career. He says denying group differences in ability is costly because it puts unqualified blacks in positions of authority. Whites are twenty times more likely than blacks to have IQs of 130 or above, and these are the people who should be decision-makers.
“There are too many psychologists who poison the minds of their students,” said Prof. Templer. By refusing to acknowledge innate intelligence differences, psychologists encourage white guilt that weakens a psychologist’s capacity to deal with the social problems that blacks pose. Also, it is absurd to blame test bias for low IQ scores. “If blacks score low on an intelligence test,” said Prof. Templer, “I would say that constitutes powerful evidence for its validity.” Many psychologists enjoy giving racial sensitivity training, but it would be much more useful if they treated white guilt. Many psychologists recommend psychological therapy for black prisoners, but Prof. Templer disagrees: “They need 60 hours a week of work therapy. That would give them less time for manufacturing alcohol and weapons, trafficking drugs, and giving each other AIDS.”
Prof. Templer was just as scathing about the grievances of blacks against whites. Many claim high incarceration rates are genocide because they prevent blacks from having children. In Prof. Templer’s view, “the reduced procreation of criminals of all colors is a beneficial side effect of incarceration… If imprisoning criminals is genocide, then I am for genocide.” If Americans are serious about deterring crime, they should farm criminals out to Third World and Communist countries “that have real prisons and real punishment.” (from here)
So, upfront we know that the authors of the study definitely have an angle they’re going to pursue. We can’t rely on this study to not be looking for the answers that they aim for. This is important as part of the study is a meta-analysis, and there is no demonstration that in their study they considered data that did not tie in with their own biases/theory.
So, the introduction of the essay starts initially simply enough describing why animals and humans have different hair, skin, cuticle, feather and eye colours. It then moves into a description of how darker pigmented animals are more aggressive and sexually active than lighter pigmented animals – you can see where this is going already. And then BANG! “In humans, darker skin also correlates with lower IQ (Rushton & Jensen, 2005)”, yes for no reason whatsoever, some direct racism with a quote from one of his own papers. I think if you’re going to make such a claim, especially in the introduction, you’d want a million other papers backing up your point. There ends the introduction with that lovely comment and self citation.
So onto the body of the paper, and where you’d hope that things would start to make a bit more sense. The paper starts off with a study of over 40 vertebrate species where pigmentation plays a role in aggression and sexual activity, because clearly as humans are also vertebrate animals, we’d be just the same as lions, sheep, deer, four species of fish, four species of reptile, a toad, and 36 species of birds. Notice that there isn’t a single monkey or ape in that list. No close relatives of humans where you could look at behaviour in the wild and perhaps match it to humans (also problematic since humans really are individually their own species and you don’t compare sparrows and eagles to look at similar behaviours). Another study of a tortoise displayed behavioural traits based on pigmentation. And if you placed darker pigmented baby animals with lighter pigmented ones (darked maned lions for example), they were still more aggressive than their lighter pigmented relatives/adopted family.
You can really see where this is going can’t you.
They do include a caution from one of the other authors they’ve cited for this study, but they seem to mention it and then completely ignore it:
However, Ducrest et al. (2008) cautioned, because of genetic mutations, melanin-based coloration may not exhibit these traits consistently across human populations.
The authors then completely get wrong one of my favourite biological studies and mangle it beyond recognition. This is the study on the domestication of silver foxes in the former USSR. Yes it was a study that saw the destruction of thousands of kits that didn’t pass the grade and was rather brutal, but it was a fast track demonstration of evolution and domestication. The study is described in detail in this blog post.
So according to the authors of this paper, it was the domestication of these foxes, with the reduced aggression that went along with it, that changed the pigmentation of their fur, despite the fact that they were already called silver foxes, and despite their wild colouration being:
Silver foxes display a great deal of pelt variation: some are completely black, save for the white tail tip, while others are bluish-grey, and others may have a cinereous colour on the sides. (Wikipedia)
(cinereous – ashen grey)
So really, this paragraph in their study doesn’t prove anything, so we’ll move right along. Really, when it comes to domestication of any animal, it’s generally a case of neoteny (thanks to James for remembering that word).
Neoteny, also called juvenilization, is one of the two ways by which pedomorphism can arise. Pedomorphism is the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles, and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. In neoteny, the physiological (or somatic) development of an animal or organism is slowed or delayed. In contrast, in progenesis, sexual development occurs faster. Both processes result in pedomorphism. Ultimately this process results in the retention, in the adults of a species, of juvenile physical characteristics well into maturity and pedogenesis (paedogenesis), the reproduction in a neotenized state.
Neoteny is one of three dimensions of heterochrony, or the change in timing of developmental events: acceleration (faster) vs. neoteny (slower), hypermorphosis (further) vs. progenesis (not as far), and predisplacement (begins earlier) vs. postdisplacement (begins later).
Domestication has involved selection for behavioral characteristics that characterize young animals so, since “behavior is rooted in biology”, domestication has resulted in an array of similar neotenous physical traits having arisen in various domesticated animals. Such neotenous physical traits in domesticated animals such as dogs, pigs, cats, and recently foxes are floppy ears, changes in reproductive cycle, curly tails, piebald coloration, fewer or shortened vertebra, large eyes, rounded forehead, large ears and shortened muzzle. (Wikipedia)
Let’s now move into where the comparison with random non-relatives of humans means that the authors can be as racist as they possibly want to be. They’ve attempted to convince you that dark pigmented animals are more aggressive and sexually active than light pigmented animals, and now they apply this directly to humans. The same humans who are self aware, and are strongly influenced by their environment and social conditioning. The same humans who are great and/or horrible to each other. The same humans who do amazing things, build amazing nations, discover amazing things, and who are incredible capable.
Anyway, the paper proposes:
A first examination of whether melanin based pigmentation plays a role in human aggression and sexuality (as seen in non-human animals), is to compare people of African descent with those of European descent and observe whether darker skinned individuals average higher levels of aggression and sexuality (with violent crime the main indicator of aggression). Internationally, we found Blacks are over-represented in crime statistics relative to Whites and Asians. … Since victims’ surveys tell a similar story, the differences in arrest statistics cannot just be attributed to police prejudice.
There is no discussion of institutional racism and how that would affect incarceration rates. There is also no discussion of whether the crime statistics were for certain types of crimes, and also no discussion of how non-white people are sentenced for longer periods than whites in Western nations. There is also no citation for the “victims’ surveys” as to where, when or how that data was considered. There is no attempt here to demonstrate rigorous studies, but to push an agenda that the authors have.
The authors quote Richard Lynn, another author who has been accused of racism and who has written in support of eugenics. Lynn is also on the board of the Pioneer Fund with Rushton.
Later they detail how in African and Caribbean nations there is higher rate of violent crime than in Western or Asian nations, with no detail on how effective judicial systems and support for the rule of law makes that possible in some nations and not in others.
Then the authors detail how black people report themselves as having more sex and feeling less guilty about it, as if feeling guilty about having sex is something that is inherently natural and right with the world. The authors also point out that the percentage of HIV/AIDS suffers in the US is disproportionately black, and then go on to state that the white/black divide for sub-Saharan Africa in relation to HIV/AIDS is also disproportionally black despite those nations having small white populations. The authors make no comments on other reasons why HIV/AIDS is at the alarming percentage it is in developing nations, and how organisation such as the Catholic church have added to the problem by telling people that condom use will give you AIDS.
The authors then touch on Rushton’s r/K selection theory in relation to race. Wikipedia describes the theory and it’s issues as follows:
Rushton’s book Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995) uses r/K selection theory to explain how East Asians consistently average high, blacks low, and whites in the middle on an evolutionary scale of characteristics indicative of nurturing behavior. He first published this theory in 1984. Rushton argues that East Asians and their descendants average a larger brain size, greater intelligence, more sexual restraint, slower rates of maturation, and greater law abidingness and social organization than do Europeans and their descendants, who average higher scores on these dimensions than Africans and their descendants. He theorizes that r/K selection theory explains these differences. Rushton’s application of r/K selection theory to explain differences among racial groups has been widely criticised. One of his many critics is the evolutionary biologist Joseph L. Graves, who has done extensive testing of the r/K selection theory with species of drosophila flies. Graves argues that not only is r/K selection theory considered to be virtually useless when applied to human life history evolution, but Rushton does not apply the theory correctly, and displays a lack of understanding of evolutionary theory in general. Graves also says that Rushton misrepresented the sources for the biological data he gathered in support of his hypothesis, and that much of his social science data was collected by dubious means. Other scholars have argued against Rushton’s hypothesis on the basis that the concept of race is not supported by genetic evidence about the diversity of human populations, and that his research is based on folk taxonomies.
Just when I thought the paper couldn’t get any more racist, it delves into an incredibly nasty bucket of racism at this point, suggesting that Africans produce more children but care less for them, while Asians have less children and care more for them, with Europeans somewhere in the middle. It also goes on to suggest that white imperialism is due to the superior nature of being white.
Overall, this essay is poorly constructed (who introduces a new theory in their conclusion?), incredibly racist, incredibly biased, and I can’t believe it’s been published at all. If anyone tries to use it to support their own racism, or to claim that they aren’t at all racist, but those of African descent are just inferior, tell them to fuck off, and/or point to the incredible racism of the authors. I’m now going to have a shower after delving into that bucket of disgusting.