Friday, February 02, 2024

Christopher Rufo Exposé: "Activist who led ouster of Harvard president linked to ‘scientific racism’ journal"

Interesting. Not at all surprised that Christopher Rufo is ideologically allied with a long, discredited history of "scientific racism." It gives me pause to think that my university—specifically, the business school—heartily welcomed him to make a presentation last fall despite his not being a scholar (see Laying Siege to the Institutions), but rather for his political views. You can learn about his position against Critical Race Theory (CRT) in K-12 here which morphed into an attack on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices and initiatives in higher education.

I did attend his lecture, by the way. My short row of seats combined with another was the only color in the room. I also noticed the overwhelming presence of a whole bunch of elder white males—hopefully, mostly not UT faculty—even if a number were certainly present.

Regardless, I'm glad that Rufo's ties to eugenics and his clear belief in the superiority of the white race finally came out. Old beliefs nevertheless die hard, especially those that give folks a sense of entitlement, however false and misguided, at best. At worst, they take their false, discredited white supremacist notions to purposely propel hateful, divisive, and anti-democratic policy agendas and campaigns.

-Angela Valenzuela 

Activist who led ouster of Harvard president linked to ‘scientific racism’ journal

Christopher Rufo recommends a newsletter to his readers that has published several supporters of discredited genetics theory

by Jason Wilson | January 31, 2024 | The Guardian
Christopher Rufo in Sarasota, Florida, on 25 January 2023. Photograph: Dirk/ZUMA Press via Alamy

The rightwing activist Christopher Rufo has links to a self-styled “sociobiology magazine” that is focused on the supposed relationships between race, intelligence and criminality, and which experts have characterized as an outlet for scientific racism.

At the time of reporting, Aporia was one of 19 Substack newsletters Rufo links to in the “recommended” section on his own newsletter, which according to Substack has more than 50,000 subscribers. Rufo also appeared on Aporia’s podcast, which has published flattering interviews with proponents of scientific racism and eugenics.

Rufo, a close ally of Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, and one of America’s most prominent activists fighting so-called “wokeism”, has repeatedly described his goal as “colorblind equality”, but his links to Aporia raises questions about Rufo’s proximity to extremists.

Most recently Rufo has been credited in conservative media and beyond with playing a central role in the ouster of former Harvard University president Claudine Gay, who is Black.

The Guardian emailed Rufo with questions on his apparent endorsement of Aporia, and how he reconciled that with his professed “colorblindness”. He did not respond directly to any questions put to him but instead made a crude sexual insult to a Guardian reporter.

Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said: “Rufo is hanging around with some seriously nasty people,” adding: “He can’t claim that this is a casual relationship.”

According to the newsletter’s own archives, Aporia was a March 2023 rebrand of Ideas Sleep Furiously, hitherto the personal newsletter of Briton Matthew Archer, now styled “editor in chief” of Aporia.

At that time, Aporia’s newly appointed “executive editor”, Bo Winegard, commenced his tenure with an article, titled Human Biodiversity: A Moderate’s Manifesto, in which he discussed purported “evidence that human populations vary in intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, partially because of genes”.

“Human biodiversity” gives its name to both a movement and a research paradigm that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes as the “latest iteration of a long tradition of scientific racism”.

Kevin Bird, a geneticist and a postdoctoral research fellow at UC Davis, said “‘human biodiversity’ is their euphemism for race science”, and added that “scientifically, Winegard has never done anything of note in this area”.

Winegard, a psychologist, was by his own account fired by Ohio’s Marietta College in March 2020 after a seminar he gave to a research group at the University of Alabama attracted protests and coverage in student media.

In that speech an audience member reportedly said that Winegard told his listeners that “people in colder climates, because of differences in brain size, have more propensity for cooperation”.

Winegard has continued to write in this vein on Aporia up to the present. In a 3 January article on the site titled “Yes, we should talk about race differences”, he wrote: “Thus, we must be honest about race. And that means we begin by noting that in the United States (and elsewhere in the world), different races have different average levels of intelligence as measured by IQ tests (and other measures of cognitive ability).”

As proof of this claim, Winegard cites researchers including the late Richard Lynn – a white nationalist, according to the SPLC – and the late Arthur Jensen, whom the SPLC calls “arguably the father of modern academic racism”.

The Guardian emailed Winegard questions about Aporia, his role there and aspects of his previous controversies. He replied with one line: “Is Charles Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man’ scientific racism?”

Another Aporia editor, Noah Carl, has also been the subject of previous academic controversy.

Carl is a sociologist who in 2018 was stripped of a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge University after the college that appointed him discovered that alongside his more legitimate work in sociology, he had simultaneously been publishing scientific-racist articles in outlets notorious for peddling scientific racism.

One of the outlets Carl published in, Mankind Quarterly, was founded “to make scientific racism respectable again”, according to the writer Angela Saini. It was for decades funded by the white nationalist Pioneer Fund, and the journal has been described as a “cornerstone of the scientific racism establishment”.

Another venue, OpenPsych, is a platform established by Emil OW Kirkegaard, a self-described eugenicist who explicitly advocates “race science”, and who serves as a senior fellow at the Ulster Institute for Social Research (UISR), an organization once headed by Richard Lynn – the same researcher whose data led to Winegard’s retraction.

For OpenPsych, where Carl has been a prolific contributor, he wrote in a 2016 paper that racial stereotypes are “reasonably accurate”.

Carl attended the eugenicist London Conference on Intelligence (LCI) at least twice, according to leaked programs from 2015 and 2016. The 2016 program quotes the 20th-century American psychologist Edward Thorndike on its cover: “Selective breeding can alter man’s capacity to learn, to keep sane, to cherish justice or to be happy.”

Carl has continued to write on the same themes at Aporia. In a November 2023 article titled “Surely liberals should support white nationalism?”, he concluded: “Is it odious to advocate ‘voluntary separation’ of the races? It’s odd, certainly, and doesn’t reflect my own view. But I wouldn’t call it odious.”

As well as publishing their own work, Aporia editors provide a platform for others’ articulations of scientific racism.

This month, for example, Aporia published an article by Peter Frost, “The Goldilocks zone between inbreeding and outbreeding”, which argues that “outbreeding” between humans who are too genetically distant from one another creates an increased risk of abnormal embryos.

The argument rests in part on data collected in a 1929 study, “Race crossing in Jamaica”, published by Charles Davenport, which it introduces blandly as “a Jamaican study”, and treats as neutral and reliable.

Davenport, however, was a prominent American eugenicist at the time when eugenics was informing public policy in the United States and beyond, leading to the passage of the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924, and contributing to programs of forced sterilization in 30 states, some of which persisted into the 1960s.

Davenport wrote that “race intermingling” – including the “mixing of European races” – was a danger to American society, and also that “a hybridized people are a badly put together people and a dissatisfied, restless, ineffective people”.

Of Frost’s article, Bird, the geneticist, said it was “old school race science”.

For Andrew Winston, a professor emeritus of psychology at Canada’s University of Guelph and a longtime critic of the encroachment of scientific racism in the field, such nods to eugenics reflect a historical pattern.

“This kind of race science keeps coming back into the mainstream, gets criticized heavily, and then diminishes it for a bit, perhaps, and then returns in some new form, depending on the general social context,” he said.

Beirich, the extremism expert, said: “All of these ideas have been debunked over and over again. The danger here is that eugenics and scientific racism have been historically used to justify terrible acts including genocide.”

Other recent articles on Aporia include Winegard’s “The case for race realism”, which reasserts that “underlying race differences in measured cognitive ability and violent crime … make large outcome disparities inevitable”; an article by Gregory Conner, a retired professor of finance, which argues for innate racial differences in intelligence; and two articles arguing high IQ among Jews has a basis in their genetics.

Aporia also publishes a podcast, which featured Rufo as a guest on 4 August, during which he took the opportunity to discuss his newly published book.

Like the journal, the podcast has otherwise featured proponents of eugenics and scientific racism.

Its 1 January episode, for example, featured a debate between Charles Murray and Helmuth Nyborg on the topic “are multicultural societies doomed?”

Charles Murray – a white nationalist according to the the SPLC – has been the center of repeated controversy since 1994, when his book The Bell Curve argued that class differences in the United States are determined by IQ. Critics at the time pointed out that Murray and his co-author, Richard J Herrnstein, had drawn extensively on Richard Lynn and other authors at Mankind Quarterly.

Helmuth Nyborg is a Danish psychologist who was suspended and reinstated in 2006 as a professor at the University of Aarhus over his research linking gender and intelligence, and in 2017 he spoke to the white nationalist American Renaissance conference.

In the Aporia podcast, Nyborg claimed to adduce scientific arguments against immigration and multiculturalism, saying at one point that “the more genetically inhomogeneous a population is, the more critical it becomes in terms of social unrule, or what you’ll call that social disturbance, criminality and so on”.

In the episode published immediately after Rufo’s interview, Winegard interviewed Steve Sailer, a blogger and founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute who has been described as a white supremacist.

On Rufo’s recommending the site to his readers, Bird said: “There’s nothing legitimate on biology or evolution or genetics that’s really been published by anyone at Aporia,” adding: “Pointing people towards that is pointing them toward unambiguous white supremacist propaganda and nonsense.

“There’s nothing of value there. There’s nothing that resembles real mainstream science. There’s nothing that resembles real discussions happening in the field. It can’t be anything other than racist propaganda.”

Beirich said of Rufo’s links that “it’s not surprising to find that a person who is playing footsie with eugenicists is also happy to attack diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education or a Black president of Harvard”.

By linking to Aporia and appearing on its podcast, she said: “Rufo is helping to bring back this despicable material and mainstreaming it.”

 This article was amended on 31 January 2024. Marietta College is in Ohio, not Georgia.

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