Prof. Gorsuch's Letter
To the A.P.F.
The "ancient Chinese curse" of "may you live in interesting times" came to mind with regards to Cattell's award and your role with the Foundation. One person can certainly make a fuss. I won't mind so much if the issue had merit, but it does not in this case.
There are 2 different issues here. First is whether awards already made for scientific merit can be withdraw on the basis of political or social views. I think the membership would be very upset if this were made policy. It is certainly against the notion of being a scientific group.
The second issue is the merit of the attacks. I feel I can speak to that issue because I was one of Ray's students, have followed his proposed "religion from science" which he calls Beyondism (and, as a Christian, have encouraged him to change some of his views but, to be fair, with the same notable lack of success that he has found trying to change some of my views), and have interacted with him on many occasions during the last 35 years.
The charge of racism is 180 degrees off track. He was the first one to challenge the racial bias in tests and to attempt to reduce that problem (he did not try to argue the tests were unbiased as the racists do but argued strongly for the existence of bias).
In conversation I have never heard comments from Ray that I would interpret as racist. Please remember that I studied with Ray at the start of the civil rights movement, and participated in that movement both in IL and TN. I was sufficiently involved so that my car was damaged when "rednecks" were trying to run us out of a county (or cause us to have an accident) and had a gun waved in my face. In Ray's lab at that time, a coworker turned out the "Scheier Report" which documented the existence of discrimination in a college town that thought it had none, one of his students was President of the local NAACP chapter, and another, as the Chair of The Committee for Liberal Action (a very ad hoc group), was leading the first demonstrations in Champaign-Urbana. And this was before the time that civil rights demonstrations were socially acceptable. None of us ever thought of Ray as racist. If people are known by whom they associate with, Ray can only be charged with providing a breeding ground for pro-integration activists.
The touchy point in the accusations are statements--taken out of historical and cultural context--about eugenics. Ray is a unreformed disciple of Darwin. A Darwinist believes the way to change a species is through selective breeding. And Ray so states this conclusion. To some Americans any hint of encouraging one group to have more children is politically incorrect. And yet Ray's position is exactly the one all Darwinists must endorse. If this is a problem, then the award should be withdrawn from many of those who have already received it for many of them are also Darwinists. Please note that Ray knows that some battles are better fought at another time and so has, in recent years, only discussed this at someone else's initiative. When he wrote some of the quotes from many decades ago, the issue was being actively debated among many scientists.
The Nazism charges are based on taking materials out of context in terms of what a book was attempting to do or out of its historical context. For example, I am attracted to some elements of Beyondism, namely its emphasis on getting empirical feedback on changes that a society makes so that we can all learn of the impact. And I like the emphasis on each culture (ethnicity is one basis for a culture) following its own path to maximize its own values and goals without supression from any other culture. Ray spends a lot of time on these issues which are diametrically opposed to what Hitler did. And the quotes to offset this extensive writing are sentences taken out of context in terms of the books, and, since many of these were written in the 1920-30s, out of historical context as well.
Let's bring this farce to an end. To do otherwise is not only to allow one or two extremists to intimidate us, but also to hurt a major scholar, and, third, to lead others to think that we listen to lousy scholarship.
Richard L. Gorsuch, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Graduate School of Psychology
Fuller Theological Seminary