Open Letter to the A.P.A.
From Prof. Raymond B. Cattell
December 13, 1997
I have been accused of being a racist, and I feel it necessary to set the record straight concerning my beliefs on race issues. It is unfortunate that the APA announcement regarding the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in Psychological Science has brought misguided critics' statements a great deal of publicity. This award is by its very name based on scientific accomplishments. The scientific accomplishments that prompted my nomination for this award have certainly not been biased by my political, social, or religious beliefs. Yet as a result of an award I never requested, I was appalled to find myself accused of racist beliefs in newspapers worldwide. I therefore find it necessary to correct misunderstandings and misrepresentations of my beliefs. It is unfortunate that the corrections I make here are not likely to receive the same publicity as the original accusations.
The accusations have been based on (a) incorrect interpretations of my statements, (b) statements taken out of context, and (c) statements I made as a young man in the 1930's which I later amended based on subsequent observations. In this letter I summarize what I believe and what I do not believe, in terms that I hope will be clear to APA members and non-members alike. To the extent that any other statements I have made, in the 1930's or at any other time, conflict with statements I make in this letter, I would like to publicly retract those statements.
I believe in equal opportunity for all individuals, and I abhor racism and discrimination based on race. Any other belief would be antithetical to my life's work. Those who would state otherwise have misunderstood or misrepresented my position. I will attempt to explain how my work, for example in developing one of the first culture-fair (non-verbal) intelligence tests, or in my Beyondist beliefs in a religion based on science, is fully aligned with these statements.
Beyondism is based on the principle that evolution is good. From this principle I derive many other beliefs, because anything that advances the evolution of our species is good, and anything that hinders evolution is not good. It follows that equal opportunity is essential to allow individuals to make the most of their abilities and to contribute to human progress. I believe my 1987 book, Beyondism: Religion from Science, is consistent with my current thinking as stated in this letter and is the best summary of this religion and my beliefs concerning it.
I have looked at statements by certain critics and I must say I am amazed at the degree to which they have twisted my position to fit their model of my beliefs. I object to their writings; their presentation reeks with all the little tricks that journalists use. They have extensively quoted from material that is sixty years old. They have taken statements out of context. They have quoted loaded terms I have used and then surrounded them with "paraphrased" statements of the rest of my words that are completely inaccurate representations of my position. Admittedly there are words among my voluminous writings that are subject to misinterpretation, but it is quite unfortunate that I must respond to misrepresentation of this degree.
One area of confusion concerning my beliefs arises from my statements about how evolution can be applied to groups, including nations and races, not just to individuals. Groups have failed and succeeded over the centuries, and it is important to civilization to understand why. Evolution among groups requires the existence of diverse groups with different political systems, values, cultures, and racial mixtures. The relative success of these different groups is part of nature's experiment. I presently believe that in order to allow the best results of such an experiment, both racially homogenous and racially mixed nations are important, because either might be a better way for human beings to organize. This Beyondist view of nations lets competition, rather than war, solve intergroup conflict. I have lived through two major wars first hand. As a teenager I worked in a military hospital and saw the carnage. Beyondism offers an intelligent, non-violent alternative to war.
There has also been confusion about my beliefs on racial differences in intelligence, and I have been accused of being a "racial supremacist". While there may be statistically significant differences between the average I.Q. scores among different races, there is no conclusive scientific evidence from studies to date to substantiate such a claim: the studies of which I am aware have measured abilities that are influenced by education, culture, and environment, and have not used the culture-fair intelligence tests I have advocated. Thus these measurements have been subject to bias from differences in culture and environment. In any case, I believe that any average racial differences are much smaller than the individual differences within races, which makes racial discrimination scientifically invalid as well as morally wrong.
Another area of confusion has been in the semantics of terms I have used. In particular, I have used the term "eugenics" to refer to selective reproduction. Hitler committed atrocities in the name of eugenics and racial purity. As a result, these terms have taken on a very negative connotation with which I never wished to be associated. We must long remember the evil actions of Hitler lest we repeat the mistake of the German people who followed his utter lunacy to violate the most fundamental of human rights (Beyondism 1987, p. 199).
The world was a quite different place when I was growing up in the 1920's and 1930's. Employment, housing, and the legal system were rife with racist beliefs and practices. The statements I made in my early 20's represented the Zeitgeist of the time, reflected in writings by H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Beatrice and Stanley Webb (founders of the Labor Party), and the eminent statisticians Ronald Fisher and Karl Pearson. The events of the following decade had a major impact on my view of racism, eugenics, war, and the world.
I do believe in voluntary eugenics as a means to contribute to the evolution of the human race. For example, I believe that thoughtful, concerned people (regardless of race) should be encouraged to have more children; I have been concerned for some time that the most intelligent individuals have shown the lowest birth rate, and there is strong evidence that a significant part of intelligence is inherited.
The application of eugenics to intelligence is perhaps more controversial than some other applications, for example in avoiding the birth of children with Down's syndrome or Tay Sachs disease. However this is my opinion, that the science of eugenics should be voluntarily applied and encouraged through education in order to increase the number of people likely to contribute to mankind's advancement as well as to decrease the number of people with disabilities. We have an opportunity to improve the quality of life for the human race.