Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Greatest Collective Scientific Fraud of the 20th Century: The Demolition of Differential Psychology and Eugenics

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Greatest Collective Scientific Fraud of the 20th Century: The Demolition of Differential Psychology and Eugenics

Article excerpt

Supporters of differential psychology and eugenics were allowed to freely reflect on the importance of individual differences, on how to avoid dysgenic development, and even on how to improve the human condition. This basic proviso for meaningful scientific inquiries changed radically around 1950 when the topics were banned and their adherents demonized, despite supportive evidence. The present paper provides examples of typical attacks and analyzes the reasons for this bizarre deviation from normal science. It points to some of the people and institutions responsible, discusses the unfair tools they use, and illustrates how damaging their inexcusable intellectual corruption has been for the academic life at many modern universities. It remains an important future task to find ways of breaking the spell and return differential psychology and eugenics to normal science again.

Key Words: Academic fraud; Differential psychology; Eugenics; demonization; Political correctness; Institutional bias.


Until the first half of the 20th century scientists could openly talk about differential psychological (DP) and eugenics (E) questions, such as the origin and development of individual and group differences in intelligence and personality and the trans-generational consequences of genetically based individual differences in the presence of differential reproduction, and they were allowed to reflect on the most likely consequences of genetic differences for learning, education, occupation, amounting

life and society in general. There was little risk of negative repercussions, because most informed people realized that human nature also reflects important biological constituents. Stringent operational definitions of how and which genes affected development were sparse, as were knowledge of the precise nature of presumed environmental impacts. However, this has never prevented creative scientists from hypothesizing and testing all sorts of ideas believed to explain the development of individuals, groups and nations, and from discussing how to improve the human condition.

This is normal science, but it all changed radically around the mid-20th century. Notions of the human mind as a blank slate became common during the 1930s, and "... behaviorism and hostile anti-nature attitudes [came to] dominate, fuelled partly by communist ideology, partly by Nazi misuse of eugenics to promote nasty genocide programs (Nyborg, 2003, p. 451). DP and E fell into disrespect. Entire research topics were condemned, and specialists in the areas became increasingly demonized. Respected departments, learned societies, and journals closed or changed their name to something more "innocent" sounding, e.g. from Eugenics Education Society to Galton Institute in London, from Eugenics Quarterly in 1969 to Annals of Human Genetics, and from the American Eugenics Society to the Society for the Study of Social Biology, in 1973. Prominent proponents of DP and E became increasingly disgraced, sacked or even threatened with their life, and had good reason to worry about their career and family. Some self-censored or left the fields to take up less risky and more profitable mainstream research. Some discretely compiled relevant data for publication in more friendly times. Then, of course, there were the few stalwart scientists who dared stand up against the strong headwind and openly continue their research. They had to endure unbelievably vicious attacks from angry colleagues, hateful laypersons, and a biased press. The eugenicists "all ran for cover" and reclassified themselves as population scientists, human geneticists, anthropologists, demographers and genetic counselors (Glad, 2006).

These bizarre changes marked an extraordinary deviation from normal science. Typically scientists flesh out all sorts of theories great and small, well knowing that the more unexpected a theory is, the closer will it be subjected to critical scrutiny in the long self-correcting process of scientific advance. …

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