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TOO CLEVER BY HALF
PROFESSOR RICHARD LYNN of the University Of Ulster has produced a body of research designed to prove that ‘blacks’ are less intelligent than ‘whites’. A major influence on the authors of the controversial bible of the New Right The Bell Curve, Lynn now stands accused of “a truly venomous racism, combined with scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity.” Report: Eamonn McCann.
Eamonn McCann, 22 Feb 1995
AN ARTICLE in this month’s edition of the Scientific American accuses the Professor of Psychology in the University of Ulster, Richard Lynn, of misusing data to make it seem to support racist conclusions and of betraying “a scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity.” The academic journal declares it “a shame and a disgrace” that an influential book about race and genetics published in the US last year should have used Lynn’s research as evidence. The issue of Scientific American containing the attack on Lynn and his methods is available in the University of Ulster’s library in Coleraine.
However, the indications last week were that the University of Ulster administration will continue to stand by Lynn. Academic staff at the university, which has campuses in Coleraine, Derry and at Jordanstown near Belfast, have created no furore over his continued presence as their colleague. Officers of the students’ union have been openly hostile to campaigners objecting to his presence in their midst.
One of Lynn’s colleagues in the Department of Psychology has told Hot Press: “As far as we know, Lynn is due for retirement at the end of this year. The general feeling is that we should just let this happen. He’s seen as something of an eccentric, not an evil sort of person.”
Lynn isn’t regarded as an eccentric elsewhere. The denunciation of him in the Scientific American comes in a review by Leon J. Kamin of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, a hugely influential, and controversial, book published last year. Kamin is psychology professor at the Northeastern University in Boston.
Written by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve has become one of the key texts of the New Right now in the ascendancy in US politics and is regularly cited in support of proposals to reverse anti-discrimination measures and slash expenditure on social programmes. Within two months of its publication there were 400,000 copies in print. This is a phenomenal figure for what purports to be a specialised, academic work.
Lynn is the single most quoted “authority” in the book. The authors describe him as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences” and say that they have “benefited especially” from his advice.
Lynn’s “research,” conducted at Coleraine – much of it consisting of statistical analyses of other researchers’ data – is crucial to the book’s core argument that different races and social classes have different levels of intelligence and that these are genetically determined: that black people and the poor are congenitally stupider than white people and the rich and that this is why they find themselves at the bottom in society. All striving after equality is futile; political concern for the disadvantaged is plain silly.
The book concludes with a ringing affirmation that “Affirmative action, in education and the workplace alike, is leaking a poison into the American soul . . . It’s time for America once again to try living with inequality, as life is lived.”
Prof. Kamin examines the Lynn research on which these conclusions are based. For example, Herrnstein and Murray make much of a 1991 paper by Lynn which, on the basis of a review of 11 African IQ studies, “estimated the median black African IQ to be 75.” Lynn’s paper in turn had depended heavily on a 1989 publication by a researcher, Ken Owen, which Lynn hailed as “the best single study of the Negroid intelligence.”
But, as Prof. Kamin now points out, Owen didn’t assign IQs to any of the groups he tested, merely reported on deviations between them. The IQ “score” was, in Prof. Kamin’s phrase, “concocted” by Lynn. And anyway, Kamin reveals, Owen himself had made clear that low scores by blacks couldn’t be put down to genetics. The tests were conducted in English and, Owen wrote, “the knowledge of English of the majority of black testees was so poor that certain (of the tests) . . . proved to be virtually unusable.” Owen added the further caution that the tests assumed that Zulu pupils were familiar with electrical appliances, microscopes and “Western type of ladies’ accessories.”
Lynn ignored these factors. In plain terms, he misrepresented the data before him in order to draw the racist conclusion which he was aiming at and which was then accepted as valid by the Bell Curve authors.
Prof. Kamin goes on: “The remaining studies cited by Lynn, and accepted as valid by Herrnstein and Murray, tell us little about African intelligence but do tell us something about Lynn’s scholarship. One of the 11 entries in Lynn’s table of the intelligence of ‘pure Negroids’ indicates that 1,011 Zambians who were given the Progressive Matrices had a lamentably low average IQ of 75. The source for this quantitative claim is given as ‘Pons 1974; Crawford-Nutt 1976’.
“A.L. Pons did test 1,011 Zambian copper-miners, whose average number of correct responses was 34. Pons reported on this work orally; his data were summarised in tabular form in a paper by D.H. Crawford-Nutt. Lynn took the Pons data from Crawford-Nutt’s paper and converted the number of correct responses into a bogus average ‘IQ” of 75. Lynn chose to ignore the substance of Crawford-Nutt’s paper, which reported that 228 black high school students in Soweto scored an average of 45 correct responses on the Matrices – higher than the mean of 44 achieved by the same-age white sample on whom the test’s norms had been established and well above the mean of (Ken) Owen’s coloured pupils . . .
“Lynn’s distortions and misrepresentations of the data constitute a truly venomous racism, combined with a scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity.” In non-academic terms, Professor Kamin is suggesting that Lynn is a bigot, a liar and a fraud.
Over the past two years in Ireland only Hot Press, on three occasions, and the Irish Times education supplement, once, have reported on the nature of Richard Lynn’s work at Coleraine and the use to which it is being put in the US and elsewhere. Attempts by the Anti-Nazi League and by a number of journalists to interest other publications and the broadcasting media in the matter have failed.
Last year, the Irish Independent gave Lynn a full page to review The Bell Curve(!) and then refused to print letters criticising his hardly-surprisingly enthusiastic endorsement of it and drawing attention to his own prominent role in the formulation offices in Middle Abbey Street went entirely unreported outside the far-Left press and An Phoblacht and was subjected to score by passing Independent journalists.
Lynn is an associate editor of a foul publication, Mankind Quarterly, which specialises in giving racist filth an academic veneer and is greatly cherished by neo-Nazi organisations on both sides of Atlantic. Over the past 20 years he has been the fifth biggest beneficiary in the world of grants from the Pioneer Fund, a US-based outfit which has for decades been funding campaigns to keep the “white race” pure.
Lynn is not an eccentric or a minor figure working in an academic backwater. With the success of The Bell Curve it has become clear that he is important and influential. He has been assiduous for many years in supplying race-hate organisations with material to cloak their arguments in seeming credibility. The credibility he offers them depends greatly on his position as Professor of Psychology in the University of Ulster at Coleraine.
Is it not about time the students and staff there spat him out?