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As a term, scientific racism denotes the contemporary and historical theories that employ anthropology (notably physical anthropology), anthropometry, craniometry, and other disciplines, in fabricating anthropologic typologies supporting the classification of human populations into physically discrete human races that are claimed to be superior or inferior, specifically in a historical context of ca. 1880 to 1930. Scientific racism was thus most common during the New Imperialism period (ca. 1880s–1914), in the second half of the 19th century, and used in justifying white European imperialism.
After the end of the Second World War (1939–45) and the occurrence of the Holocaust, scientific racism in theory and action was formally denounced, especially in UNESCO's antiracist statement "The Race Question" (1950): "The biological fact of race and the myth of ‘race’ should be distinguished. For all practical social purposes ‘race’ is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth. The myth of 'race' has created an enormous amount of human and social damage. In recent years, it has taken a heavy toll in human lives, and caused untold suffering." However, the statement acknowledged that different human races exist. Beginning in the later 20th century, scientific racism has been criticized as obsolete, and as historically used to support or validate racist world-views, based upon belief in the existence and significance of racial categories and a hierarchy of superior and inferior races.
The term "scientific racism" is pejorative as applied to contemporary theories, such as in The Bell Curve (1994), which investigated racial differences in IQ, concluding that genetics explained at least part of the IQ differences between races. Critics argue that such works are motivated by racist presumptions unsupported by available evidence. Publications such as the Mankind Quarterly, founded as an explicitly "race-conscious" publication, have been accused of scientific racism for publishing articles on controversial interpretations of human evolution, intelligence, ethnography, language, mythology, archaeology, and race subjects. The pejorative label, "scientific racism", criticizes studies claiming to establish a connection between, for example, race and intelligence, and argues that this promotes the idea of "superior" and "inferior" human races. Recent authors consider their work to be scientific and dispute use of the term "racism"; they may prefer terms such as "race realism" or "racialism".
In the 18th century, racialist written works proposed geographically based "scientific" differences among "the races"; notably, 17th- and 18th-century interpretations of natural history excluded the concept of evolution. In the 17th century, the historian Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658–1722) divided the French as two races: (i) the aristocratic "French race" descended from the invader Germanic Franks, and (ii) the indigenous Gallo-Roman race (the political Third Estate populace). The Frankish aristocracy dominated the Gauls by innate right of conquest, the contrary of modern nationalism.
In his time, Henri de Boulainvilliers, a believer in the "right of conquest", did not understand "race" as biologically immutable, but as a contemporary (racist) cultural construct. His racialist account of French history was not entirely mythical: despite "supporting" hagiographies and epic poetry, such as The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland, ca. 12th c.), he sought scientific legitimation by basing his racialist distinction on the historical existence of genetically and linguistically distinguished Germanic and Latin-speaking peoples in France. His theoretic racialism was distinct from the biologic facts manipulated in 19th-century scientific racism. (cf. Cultural relativism)
An early scientist who studied race was Robert Boyle, a 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor. Boyle believed in monogenism, that is, that all races, no matter how diverse, came from the same source, Adam and Eve. He studied reported stories of parents' giving birth to different coloured albinos, and he believed that Adam and Eve were originally white and that Caucasians could give birth to different coloured races. His views were described as both "disturbing" and "amusing" and were rejected by the scientific community.
During the Enlightenment period, concepts of monogenism and polygenism became popular. In these theories of racial origins, monogenism contends that all races have a single origin, while polygenism is the idea that each race has a separate origin.
Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), the physician, botanist, and zoologist, who established the taxonomic bases of binomial nomenclature for fauna and flora, was a pioneer researcher in biologically defining "human race". In Systema Naturae (1767), he established five human-race taxa: (i) the Americanus, (ii) the Asiaticus, (iii) the Africanus, (iv) the Europeanus, and (v) the Monstrosus, based upon geographic origin and skin color. Each race possessed innate physiognomic characteristics: the Americanus were red-skinned, of stubborn character, and angered easily; the Africanus were black-skinned, relaxed, and of negligent character; the Asiaticus race were yellow-skinned, avaricious, and easily distracted; the Europeanus were white-skinned, of gentle character, inventive mind, and bellicose; and the Monstrosus were mythologic human sub-races.
The sub-races were the "four-footed, mute, hairy" Homo feralis (Feral man); the animal-reared Juvenis lupinus hessensis (Hessian wolf boy), the Juvenis hannoveranus (Hannoverian boy), the Puella campanica (Wild-girl of Champagne), and the agile, but faint-hearted Homo monstrosus (Monstrous man) sub-races: the Patagonian giant, the Dwarf of the Alps, and the monorchid Khoikhoi (Hottentot). In Amoenitates academicae (1763), Linnaeus presented the Homo anthropomorpha (Anthropomorphic man) race of mythologic, humanoid creatures, such as the troglodyte, the satyr, the hydra, and the phoenix, incorrectly identified as simian creatures.
Georges Cuvier (1769–1832) the French naturalist and zoologist racial studies influenced scientific polygenism and scientific racialism. Cuvier believed there were three distinct races the Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow) and the Ethiopian (black). He thought Adam and Eve were Caucasian and that was the original race of mankind, and the other two races arose by survivors' escaping in different directions after a major catastrophe hit the earth 5,000 years ago. He theorized that the survivors lived in complete isolation from each other and developed separately.
Cuvier thought the Caucasian skull was the most beautifully shaped. He divided humanity into three races: white, yellow and black, and rated each for the beauty or ugliness of the skull and quality of their civilizations. According to Cuvier, a European, the White race was at the top, and the black race was at the bottom.
Cuvier wrote about Caucasians (Europeans):
The white race, with oval face, straight hair and nose, to which the civilised people of Europe belong and which appear to us the most beautiful of all, is also superior to others by its genius, courage and activity.
Regarding Negros, Cuvier wrote:
The Negro race... is marked by black complexion, crisped of woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose, The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe: the hordes of which it consists have always remained in the most complete state of barbarism.
One of Cuvier's pupils, Friedrich Tiedemann, was one the first persons to make a scientific contestation of racism. He argued based on craniometric and brain measures taken by him from Europeans and black people from different parts of the world that the then common European belief that negroes have smaller brains and are thus intellectually inferior is scientifically unfounded and based merely on the prejudice of travellers and explorers.
Johann Blumenbach from Germany and Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon from France were believers in monogenism, the concept that all races have a single origin. They also believed in the "degeneration theory" of racial origins. They both said that Adam and Eve were Caucasian and that other races came about by degeneration from environmental factors, such as the sun and poor dieting. They believed that the degeneration could be reversed if proper environmental control was taken, and that all contemporary forms of man could revert to the original Caucasian race.
They thought Negroid pigmentation arose because of the heat of the tropical sun. They suggested cold wind caused the tawny colour of the Eskimos. They thought the Chinese relatively fair skinned compared to the other Asian stocks because they kept mostly in towns and were protected from environmental factors. Buffon said that food and the mode of living could make races degenerate and differentiate them from the original Caucasian race.
I have allotted the first place to the Caucasian because this stock displays the most beautiful race of men.
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon believed humanity was only 6000 years old (the time since Adam). Many scientific racialists pointed out at the time that it would have been difficult for races to change so markedly in genotype and phenotype in such a short period of time. Believing in monogenism, Buffon thought that skin colour could change in a single lifetime, depending on the conditions of climate and diet.
John Hunter (1728–1793), a Scottish surgeon, said that originally the Negroid race was White at birth. He thought that over time because of the sun, the people turned dark skinned, or "black". Hunter also said that blisters and burns would likely turn white on a Negro, which he believed was evidence that their ancestors were originally White.
Christoph Meiners (1747–1810) was a polygenist; he believed that each race had a separate origin. He was a very early practitioner of scientific racialism. Meiner studied the physical, mental and moral characteristics of each race, and built a race hierarchy based on his findings. Meiners split mankind into two divisions, which he labelled the "beautiful White race" and the "ugly Black race". In Meiners' book The Outline of History of Mankind, he said that a main characteristic of race is either beauty or ugliness. He thought only the White race (excluding Slavs) to be beautiful. He considered ugly races to be inferior, immoral and animal like. He said that the dark ugly peoples were distinct from the white beautiful peoples by their "sad" lack of virtue and their "terrible vices".
According to Meiners:
The more intelligent and noble people are by nature, the more adaptable, sensitive, delicate and soft is their body; on the other hand, the less they possess the capacity and disposition towards virtue, the more they lack adaptability; and not only that, but the less sensitive are their bodies, the more can they tolerate extreme pain or the rapid alteration of heat and cold; the they are exposed to illnesses, the more rapidly, their recovery from wounds that would be fatal for more sensitive peoples, and the more they can partake of the worst and most indigestible foods ... without noticeable ill effects.
Meiners said the Negro felt less pain than any other race and lacked in emotions, Meiners wrote that the Negro had thick nerves and thus was not sensitive like the other races, he went as far to say that the Negro has “no human, barely any animal feeling” he described a story where a Negro was condemned to death by being burned alive, half way through the burning the Negro asked to smoke a pipe and smoked it like nothing was happening while he continued to be burned alive. Meiners studied the anatomy of the Negro and came to the conclusion that the Negro have bigger teeth and jaws than any other race, as the Negro are all carnivores. Meiners claimed the skull of the Negro was larger but the brain of the Negro was smaller than any other race. Meiners claimed the Negro was the most unhealthy race on earth because of the Negro's poor diet, mode of living and lack of morals.
Meiners also claimed the "Americans" (by which he meant American Indians) were an inferior stock of people. He said they could not adapt to different climate, different types of food or modes of life, and that when exposed to such new conditions, they lapse into a “deadly melancholy”. Meiners studied the diet of the Americans, and said they fed off any kind of “foul offal”. He thought they consumed very much alcohol. He believed their skulls were so thick that the blades of Spanish swords shattered on them. Meiners also claimed the skin of an American is thicker than an ox.
Meiners wrote that the most noblest race was the Celts, and they were able to conquer various parts of the world, were more sensitive to heat and cold and their delicacy is shown by the way they are selective about what they eat. Meiners claimed Slavs are an inferior race, "less sensitive and content with eating rough food”, he described stories of Slavs eating poisonous fungi without coming to any harm. He claimed that their medical techniques were also backwards: he used as an example their heating sick people in ovens, then making them roll in the snow.
In Meiners' large work entitled Researches on the Variations in Human Nature (1815), he studied the sexology of each race. He claimed that the African Negroids have unduly strong and perverted sex drives, whilst only the White Europeans have it just right.
Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, he was also a polygenist. He believed each race had separate origins because they were so racially diverse. Voltaire found biblical monogenism laughable, as he expressed:
It is a serious question among them whether the Africans are descended from monkeys or whether the monkeys come from them. Our wise men have said that man was created in the image of God. Now here is a lovely image of the Divine Maker: a flat and black nose with little or hardly any intelligence. A time will doubtless come when these animals will know how to cultivate the land well, beautify their houses and gardens, and know the paths of the stars: one needs time for everything.
The negro race is a species of men different from ours as the breed of spaniels is from that of greyhounds. The mucous membrane, or network, which nature has spread between the muscles and the skin, is white in us and black or copper-colored in them.
The colonial American doctor John Mitchell took up a study of climate and race and wrote a book in 1744 called An Essay upon the Causes of the Different Colours of People in Different Climates in the book he claimed that the first race on earth had been a brown and reddish colour, he said "that an intermediate tawny colour found amongst Asiatics and Native Amerindians" had been the “original complexion of mankind” and that others races came about by the original race spending generations in different climates.
Samuel Stanhope Smith wrote an essay titled Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species in 1787, in the essay Smith claimed that Negro pigmentation was nothing more than a huge freckle that covered the whole body as a result of an oversupply of bile, which was caused by tropical climates.
Benjamin Rush, a Founding Father of the United States and a physician, proposed that being black was a hereditary skin disease, which he called "negroidism," and that it could be cured. Rush believed non-whites were really white underneath but they were stricken with a non-contagious form of leprosy which darkened their skin color. Rush drew the conclusion that "Whites should not tyrannize over [blacks], for their disease should entitle them to a double portion of humanity. However, by the same token, whites should not intermarry with them, for this would tend to infect posterity with the 'disorder'... attempts must be made to cure the disease."
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) was a German philosopher who encouraged the examination of man’s inner self rather than making inferences about the inner self based upon the exterior physical self. In 1775, Kant published Of the Different Human Races which proposed natural or purposive causes of variation, as opposed to mechanical law or a product of chance. He distinguished four fundamental races: Whites, Blacks, Kalmuck, and Hindustanic, and attributed the variation to differences in environment and climate, such as the air and sun, but clarified by saying that the variation served a purpose and was not purely superficial. Kant argued that human beings were equipped with the same seeds (Keime) and the natural predispositions or characteristics (Anlagen) that were expressed were dependent upon climate and served a purpose due to the circumstance. After this process had occurred, it was also irreversible. Therefore, race could not be undone by changes in climate. “Whichever germ was actualized by the conditions, the other germs would retire into inactivity."
Kant wrote On the Different Races of Man (Über die verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen, 1775), as an attempted scientific classification of human races.
The yellow Indians do have a meagre talent. The Negroes are far below them, and at the lowest point are a part of the American people.
Lord Kames was a polygenist, he believed God had created different races on earth in separate regions. In his book Sketches on the History of Man in 1734 Home claimed that the environment, climate, or state of society could not account for racial differences, so that the races must have come from distinct, separate stocks.
Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) presented a strong evolutionist account of history in the Lectures on the Philosophy of History (Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, 1837) chronicling the development of the historical Geist (Spirit) through serial realisations of Volkgeister (Folk Spirits).
Hegel's philosophy of history was explicitly biased towards Europe, especially the Prussian state, conceived as the ultimate historical achievement, i.e. the End of History. In his chapter on the "Geographical Foundings of Universal History" Hegel said that "each People represented a particular degree of the development of the Spirit", thus forming a "nation"; however, that nationalism is not based upon racial (physical) particularities, rather it concerns the historico–geographic site where the Geister unfold. Informed by Montesquieu's theory of climatologic influence upon cultural mores and law Hegel developed in The Spirit of the Laws (1748), contrasting historical peoples with ahistoric savages:
It is true that climate has influence, in that sense that neither the warm zone, nor the cold zone, are favourable to the liberty of man, and to the apparition of historical peoples.
Unsurprisingly, Hegel thus favoured the Geist in temperate zones, and finally wrote an account of "universal history" chronicling the Oriental World, the Greek Antiquity, the Roman, the Christian World, and the Prussian World. In the same Lectures he said that "America is the country of the future", yet "philosophy does not concern itself with prophecies", but with history. Hegel’s philosophy, like that of Kant, cannot be reduced to evolutionist statements, nevertheless, it justified European imperialism until the First World War (1914–18). Likewise, some of Montesquieu’s œuvre justified "scientifically-ground" Negro inferiority consequent to the climate’s influence.
Hegel declared that:
Africa is no historical part of the world." Hegel further claimed that blacks had no "sense of personality; their spirit sleeps, remains sunk in itself, makes no advance, and thus parallels the compact, undifferentiated mass of the African continent.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), who naturalistically attributed civilizational primacy to the white races who gained sensitivity and intelligence via the refinement consequent to living in the rigorous North climate; to wit:
The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste, or race, is fairer in colour than the rest, and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmins, the Inca, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention, because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers, and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want, and misery, which, in their many forms, were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature, and out of it all came their high civilization.
Charles White, a physician and surgeon, believed that races occupied different stations in the Great Chain of Being and he tried to prove with science that human races have distinct origins from each other. He believed that Whites and "Negroes" were two different species. White was a believer in polygenism, the idea that different races had been created separately. His Account of the Regular Gradation in Man (1799) provided the empirical science for polygenism. White defended the theory of polygeny by refuting French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon's interfertility argument – the theory that only the same species can interbreed – pointing to species hybrids such as foxes, wolves and jackals, which were separate groups that were still able to interbreed. For White each race was a separate species, divinely created for its own geographical region.
Franz Ignaz Pruner was a medical doctor who studied the racial structure of Negros in Egypt. In a book which he wrote in 1846 he claimed that Negro blood had a negative influence on the Egyptian moral character. He published a monograph on Negros in 1861. He claimed that the main feature of the Negros skeleton is prognathism, which he claimed was Negros relation to the ape. He also claimed that Negros had very similar brains to apes and that Negros have a shortened big toe which is a character which connects the Negros close to apes.
The scientific classification established by Carl Linnaeus is requisite to any human racial classification scheme. In the 19th century, unilineal evolution (aka classical social evolution) was a conflation of competing sociologic and anthropologic theories proposing that Western European culture was the acme of human socio-cultural evolution. The ideologic proposal that social status is unilinear — from primitive to civilized, from agronomic to industrial — became popular among philosophers, including Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Auguste Comte. In said context, the Christian Bible was interpreted to sanction slavery, and, from the 1820s to the 1850s, was an oft-cited, pro-slavery legalism used in the antebellum Southern United States, by writers such as the Rev. Richard Furman and Thomas R. Cobb, for the de jure and de facto enforcement of the racialist idea that negroes had been created unequal, and thus suited to slavery.
In An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853–55), Arthur de Gobineau proposed three human races, and that miscegenation led to the collapse of civilization. Polygenist theory proposed different genetic origins of the species Man, thus making it conceptually possible to conceive different, biologically discrete, human races, and so classify people as animals are classified — without rights. In On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859), by Charles Darwin, proved culturally influential in assessing the place of the species Man in Nature; and in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) he reports no racial distinctions indicating that the human races are discrete species; to wit:
It may be doubted whether any character can be named, which is distinctive of a race and is constant . . . they graduate into each other, and . . . it is hardly possible to discover clear, distinctive characters between them . . . As it is improbable that the numerous, and unimportant, points of resemblance, between the several races of man, in bodily structure and mental faculties (I do not here refer to similar customs) should all have been independently acquired, they must have been inherited from progenitors who had these same characters. — The Descent of Man (1871) 
In establishing a sole human species, Darwin contrasted the "civilized races" with the "savage races"; like most of his contemporaries — except the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace — he did not distinguish "biological race" from "cultural race". Moreover, beyond the biology, he note that savage races risked extinction more from white European colonialism, than from evolutionary inadequacy. In the 1940s, the term Social Darwinism denoted ideologies, including pre-Darwinian racialism and racism, derived from facile interpretations of evolution by natural selection. (cf. Racialism)
In contrast to most of Darwin's supporters, Ernst Haeckel put forward a doctrine of evolutionary polygenism based on the ideas of the linguist and polygenist August Schleicher, in which several different language groups had arisen separately from speechless prehuman Urmenschen, which themselves had evolved from simian ancestors. These separate languages had completed the transition from animals to man, and, under the influence of each main branch of languages, humans had evolved as separate species, which could be subdivided into races. Haeckel divided human beings into ten races, of which the Caucasian was the highest and the primitives were doomed to extinction. Haeckel was also an advocate of the out of Asia theory by writing that the origin of humanity was to be found in Asia; he believed that Hindustan (South Asia) was the actual location where the first humans had evolved. Haeckel argued that humans were closely related to the primates of Southeast Asia and rejected Darwin’s hypothesis of Africa.
Ernst Haeckel also wrote that Negroes have stronger and more freely movable toes than any other race which is evidence that Negroes are related to apes because when apes stop climbing in trees they hold on to the trees with their toes, Haeckel compared Negroes to “four-handed” apes. Haeckel also believed Negroes were savages and that Whites were the most civilised.
Another polygenist evolutionist was Karl Vogt he believed that the Negro was related to the ape. He wrote the White race was a separate species to Negroes. In Chapter VII of his lectures of man (1864) he compared the Negro to the White race whom he described as “two extreme human types”. The difference between them, he claimed are greater than those between two species of ape; and this proves that Negroes are a separate species from the Whites.
At the 19th century’s end, scientific racism conflated Græco–Roman eugenicism with Francis Galton's concept of voluntary eugenics in the form of coercive, anti-immigrant government programs influenced by other socio-political discourses and events. Such institutional racism was effected via Phrenology, telling character from physiognomy; craniometric skull and skeleton studies; thus skulls and skeletons of black people and other colored volk, were displayed between apes and white men.
In 1906, Ota Benga, a Pygmy, was displayed as the "Missing Link", in the Bronx Zoo, New York City, alongside apes and animals. The most influential theorists included the anthropologist Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936) who proposed "anthroposociology"; and Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), who applied "race" to nationalist theory, thereby developing the first conception of ethnic nationalism. In 1882, Ernest Renan contradicted Herder with a nationalism based upon the "will to live together", not founded upon ethnic or racial prerequisites. Scientific racist discourse posited the historical existence of "national races" such as the Deutsche Volk in Germany, and the "French race" being a branch of the basal "Aryan race" extant for millennia, to advocate for geo-political borders parallel to the racial ones.
The Dutch scholar Pieter Camper (1722–89), an early craniometric theoretician, used "craniometry" (interior skull-volume measurement) to scientifically justify racial differences. In 1770, he conceived of the facial angle to measure intelligence among species of men. The facial angle was formed by drawing two lines: a horizontal line from nostril to ear; and a vertical line from the upper-jawbone prominence to the forehead prominence. Camper’s craniometry reported that antique statues (the Græco–Roman ideal) had a 90-degree facial angle, Europeans an 80-degree angle, Blacks a 70-degree angle, and the orangutan a 58-degree facial angle — thus he established a racist biological hierarchy for mankind, per the Decadent conception of history. Such scientific racist researches were continued by the naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772–1844) and the anthropologist Paul Broca (1824–80).
In the 19th century, an early physical anthropologist, the American physician and polygenist Samuel George Morton (1799–1851), collected human skulls from worldwide, and attempted a logical, classification scheme. Influenced by contemporary racialist theory, Dr Morton said he could judge racial intellectual capacity by measuring the interior cranial capacity, hence a large skull denoted a large brain, thus high intellectual capacity, conversely, a small skull denoted a small brain, thus low intellectual capacity; superior and inferior established. After inspecting three mummies from ancient Egyptian catacombs, Morton concluded that Caucasians and Negroes were already distinct three thousand years ago. Since the bible indicated that Noah's Ark had washed up on Mount Ararat, only a thousand years ago before this, Morton claimed that Noah's sons could not of possibly account for every race on earth. According to Mortons theory of polygenesis, races have been separate since the start.
In Morton's Crania Americana Morton claimed based on Craniometry data, that the Caucasians had the biggest brains, averaging 87 cubic inches, Indians were in the middle with an average of 82 cubic inches and Negroes had the smallest brains with an average of 78 cubic inches.
In The Mismeasure of Man (1981), the historian of science Stephen Jay Gould claimed that Samuel Morton had falsified the craniometric data, perhaps inadvertently over-packing some skulls, to so produce results that would legitimize the racist presumptions he was attempting to prove. A subsequent study by the anthropologist John Michael found Morton's original data to be more accurate than Gould describes, concluding that "[c]ontrary to Gould's interpretation... Morton's research was conducted with integrity."
In 1873, Paul Broca, founder of the Anthropological Society of Paris (1859), found the same pattern of measures — that Crania Americana reported — by weighing specimen brains at autopsy. Other historical studies, proposing a black race–white race, intelligence–brain size difference, include those by Bean (1906), Mall (1909), Pearl (1934), and Vint (1934).
Samuel Morton’s followers, especially Dr Josiah C. Nott (1804–1873) and George Gliddon (1809–57) extended Dr Morton’s ideas in Types of Mankind (1854), claiming that Morton’s findings supported the notion of polygenism — mankind has discrete genetic ancestries; the races are evolutionarily unrelated, and is predecessor of the modern human multiregional origin hypothesis. Moreover, Morton, himself, had been reluctant to espouse polygenism, because it theologically challenged the Christian creation myth espoused in the Bible.
Later, in The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin proposed the single-origin hypothesis, i.e. monogenism — mankind has a common genetic ancestry, the races are related, opposing everything that the polygenism of Nott and Gliddon proposed.
One of the first typologies used to classify various human races was invented by Georges Vacher de Lapouge (1854–1936), a theoretician of eugenics, who published in 1899 L'Aryen et son rôle social (1899 — "The Aryan and his social role"). In this book, he classified humanity into various, hierarchized races, spanning from the "Aryan white race, dolichocephalic", to the "brachycephalic" "mediocre and inert" race, best represented by the "Jew." Between these, Vacher de Lapouge identified the "Homo europaeus (Teutonic, Protestant, etc.), the "Homo alpinus" (Auvergnat, Turkish, etc.), and finally the "Homo mediterraneus" (Neapolitan, Andalus, etc.) Vacher de Lapouge became one of the leading inspiration of Nazi anti-semitism and Nazi racist ideology.
Vacher de Lapouge's classification was mirrored in William Z. Ripley in The Races of Europe (1899), a book which had a large influence on American white supremacism. Ripley even made a map of Europe according to the alleged cephalic index of its inhabitants. He was an important influence of the American eugenist Madison Grant.
Furthermore, according to John Efron of Indiana University, the late 19th century also witnessed "the scientizing of anti-Jewish prejudice," stigmatizing Jews with male menstruation, pathological hysteria, and nymphomania. At the same time, several Jews, such as Joseph Jacobs or Samuel Weissenberg, also endorsed the same pseudo-scientific theories, convinced that the Jews formed a distinct race. Chaim Zhitlovsky also attempted to define Yiddishkayt (Ashkenazi Jewishness) by turning to contemporary racial theory.
Joseph Deniker (1852–1918) was one of William Z. Ripley’s principal opponents; whereas Ripley maintained, as did Vacher de Lapouge, that the European populace comprised three races, Joseph Deniker proposed that the European populace comprised ten races (six primary and four sub-races). Furthermore, he proposed that the concept of "race" was ambiguous, and in its stead proposed the compound word "ethnic group", which later prominently featured in the works of Julian Huxley and Alfred C. Haddon. Moreover, Ripley argued that Deniker’s "race" idea should be denoted a "type", because it was less biologically rigid than most racial classifications.
Joseph Deniker’s historic contribution to racial theory was La Race nordique (the Nordic race), a generic, racial-stock descriptor, which the American eugenicist Madison Grant (1865–1937) presented as the white racial engine of world civilization. Having adopted Ripley’s three-race European populace model, but disliking the "Teuton" race name, he transliterated la race nordique into "The Nordic race", the acme of the concocted racial hierarchy, based upon his racial classification theory, popular in the 1910s and 1920s.
Statens institut för rasbiologi and its director Herman Lundborg in Sweden were active in racist research. It was responsible for an eugenics program which affected 63,000 people and continued until 1975. Furthermore, much of early research on Ural-Altaic languages was colored by attempts at justifying the view that European peoples east of Sweden were Asian and thus of inferior race, justifying colonialism, eugenics and racial hygiene. Swedish racism was an important ideological precursor for the later Nazism.
In the United States, scientific racism justified Black African slavery to assuage moral opposition to the Atlantic slave trade. Alexander Thomas and Samuell Sillen described black men as uniquely fitted for bondage, because of their "primitive psychological organization". In 1851, in antebellum Louisiana, the physician Samuel A. Cartwright (1793–1863), considered slave escape attempts as "drapetomania", a treatable mental illness, that "with proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented". The term drapetomania (mania of the runaway slave) derives from the Greek δραπετης (drapetes, "a runaway [slave]") + μανια (mania, "madness, frenzy") Cartwright also described dysaethesia aethiopica, called "rascality" by overseers. The 1840 United States Census claimed that Northern, free blacks suffered mental illness at higher rates than did their Southern, enslaved counterparts. Though the census was later found to have been severely flawed by the American Statistical Association, John Quincy Adams, and others, it became a political weapon against abolitionists. Southern slavers concluded that escaping Negroes were suffering from "mental disorders". 
At the time of the American Civil War (1861–65), the matter of miscegenation prompted studies of ostensible physiological differences between Caucasians and Negroes. Early anthropologists, such as Josiah Clark Nott, George Robins Gliddon, Robert Knox, and Samuel George Morton, aimed to scientifically prove that Negroes were a human species different from the white people species; that the rulers of Ancient Egypt were not African; and that mixed-race offspring (the product of miscegenation) tended to physical weakness and infertility. After the Civil War, Southern (Confederacy) physicians wrote textbooks of scientific racism based upon studies claiming that Black freemen (ex-slaves) were becoming extinct, because they were inadequate to the demands of being a free man — implying that Black people benefitted from enslavement. In 1850 Louis Agassiz commissioned a series of daguerreotypes of slaves of Columbia South Carolina for studying of races; four portraits are available at:
Scientific racism played a role in establishing Apartheid in South Africa. In South Africa, white scientists, like Dudly Kidd, who published The essential Kafir in 1904, sought to "understand the African mind." They believed that the cultural differences between whites and blacks in South Africa might be caused by physiological differences in the brain. Rather than suggesting that Africans were "overgrown children," as early white explorers had, Kidd believed that Africans were "misgrown with a vengeance." He described Africans as at once "hopelessly deficient," yet "very shrewd."
The Carnegie Commission on the Poor White Problem in South Africa played a key role in establishing Apartheid in South Africa. According to one memorandum sent to Frederick Keppel, then president of the Carnegie Corporation, there was "little doubt that if the natives were given full economic opportunity, the more competent among them would soon outstrip the less competent whites". Keppel's support for the project of creating the report was motivated by his concern with the maintenance of existing racial boundaries. The preoccupation of the Carnegie Corporation with the so-called poor white problem in South Africa was at least in part the outcome of similar misgivings about the state of poor whites in the American South.
The report was five volumes in length. At the turn of the century, white Americans, and whites elsewhere in the world, felt uneasy because poverty and economic depression seemed to strike people regardless of race. White poverty contradicted notions of racial superiority, and hence it became the focus of "scientific" study.
Though the ground work for Apartheid began earlier, the report provided support for this central idea of black inferiority. This was used to justify racial segregation and discrimination in the following decades. The report expressed fear about the loss of white racial pride, and in particular pointed to the danger that the poor white would not be able to resist the process of "Africanisation".
Although scientific racism played a role in justifying and supporting institutional racism in South Africa, it was not as important in South Africa as it has been in Europe and the United States. This was due in part to the "poor white problem", which raised serious questions for supremacists about white racial superiority. Since poor whites were found to be in the same situation as natives in the African environment, the idea that intrinsic white superiority could overcome any environment did not seem to hold. As such, scientific justifications for racism were not as useful in South Africa.
Stephen Jay Gould described Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race (1916) as "the most influential tract of American scientific racism." In the 1920s–30s, the German racial hygiene movement embraced Grant's Nordic theory. Alfred Ploetz (1860–1940) coined the term Rassenhygiene in Racial Hygiene Basics (1895), and founded the German Society for Racial Hygiene in 1905. The movement advocated selective breeding, compulsory sterilization, and a close alignment of public health with eugenics.
Racial hygiene was historically tied to traditional notions of public health, but with emphasis on heredity — what philosopher and historian Michel Foucault has called state racism. In 1869, Francis Galton (1822–1911) proposed the first social measures meant to preserve or enhance biological characteristics, and later coined the term "eugenics". Galton, a statistician, introduced correlation and regression analysis and discovered regression toward the mean. He was also the first to study human differences and inheritance of intelligence with statistical methods. He introduced the use of questionnaires and surveys to collect data on population sets, which he needed for genealogical and biographical works and for anthropometric studies. Galton also founded psychometrics, the science of measuring mental faculties, and differential psychology, a branch of psychology concerned with psychological differences between people rather than common traits.
Like scientific racism, eugenics grew popular in the early 20th century, and both ideas influenced Nazi racial policies and Nazi eugenics. In 1901, Galton, Karl Pearson (1857–1936) and Walter F. R. Weldon (1860–1906) founded the Biometrika scientific journal, which promoted biometrics and statistical analysis of heredity. Charles Davenport (1866–1944) was briefly involved in the review. In Race Crossing in Jamaica (1929), he made statistical arguments that biological and cultural degradation followed white and black interbreeding. Davenport was connected to Nazi Germany before and during World War II. In 1939 he wrote a contribution to the festschrift for Otto Reche (1879–1966), who became an important figure within the plan to remove populations considered "inferior" from eastern Germany.
Scientific racism continued through the early 20th century, and soon intelligence testing became a new source for racial comparisons. Before the Second World War (1939–45), scientific racism remained common to anthropology, leading to programs of eugenics, compulsory sterilization, anti-miscegenation laws, and immigration restrictions in Europe and the United States. The war crimes and crimes against humanity of Nazi Germany (1933–45), discredited scientific racism in academia — but racist legislation based upon it remained in some countries until the late 1960s.
Before the 1920s, social scientists agreed that whites were superior to blacks, but they needed a way to somehow ‘prove’ this in order to back social policy in favor of whites. They felt the best way to gauge this was through testing intelligence. By interpreting the tests to show favor to whites these test makers’ research results showed minority groups, that weren’t just black, very negatively. This mentality went on for decades. Shaping public policy in favor of the dominate group was a defining form of scientific racism.
In 1908, Goddard translated the Binet intelligence test from French and in 1912 began to apply the test to incoming immigrants on Ellis Island. Some claim that in a study of immigrants Goddard reached the conclusion that 87% of Russians, 83% of Jews, 80% of Hungarians, and 79% of Italians were feeble-minded and had a mental age less than 12. Some have also claimed that this information was taken as “evidence” by lawmakers and thus it affected social policy for years. An interpreter that was present for the testing of immigrants had even pointed out to Goddard that the test was unfair to people who were unfamiliar with English and American culture, but Goddard disagreed. In contrast, Bernard Davis has pointed out that in the first sentence of his paper Goddard wrote that the subjects of the study were not typical members of their groups but rather were selected because of their suspected sub-normal intelligence. Davis has further noted that Goddard argued that the low IQs of the test subjects were more likely due to environmental rather than genetic factors, and that Goddard concluded that "we may be confident that their children will be of average intelligence and if rightly brought up will be good citizens."
An important factor within intelligence testing that many test makers overlooked at the beginning of the 20th century was the role of environment. If one group of people receive the best schooling with the most opportunities over another group then there is bound to be a big gap between the intelligence testing between the two groups. Most of the minority groups did not have access or the money to receive a good education during this time and this skewed the results of the intelligence tests to make it appear that whites were ‘naturally’ more intelligent. This only perpetuated the problem because universities only want intelligent people going to their schools and thus only those who received the best education got to continue their education, while those who received fewer opportunities were categorized as too stupid to continue their education. The American Psychological Association’s Board of Scientific Affairs has agreed that today’s IQ tests are not discriminative towards minority groups.
In his book The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould argued that intelligence testing results played a major role in the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924 that restricted immigration to the United States. However, Mark Snyderman and Richard J. Herrnstein, after studying the Congressional Record and committee hearings related to the Immigration Act, concluded "the [intelligence] testing community did not generally view its findings as favoring restrictive immigration policies like those in the 1924 Act, and Congress took virtually no notice of intelligence testing."
Juan N. Franco contested the findings of Snyderman and Herrnstein. Franco stated that even though Synderman and Herrnstein reported that the data collected from the results of the intelligence tests were in no way used to pass The Immigration Act of 1924; the IQ test results were still taken into consideration by legislators. As suggestive evidence, Franco pointed to the following fact: Following the passage of the immigration act (Franco, 1985), information from the 1890 census was used to set quotas based on percentages of immigrants coming from different countries. Based on these data, the legislature restricted the entrance of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe into the United States and allowed more immigrants from northern and Western Europe into the country. The use of the 1900, 1910 or 1920 census data sets would have resulted in larger numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe being allowed into the U.S. However, Franco pointed out that using the 1890 census data allowed congress to exclude southern and eastern Europeans (who performed worse on IQ tests of the time than did western and northern Europeans) from the U.S. Franco concluded that the work Synderman and Herrnstein conducted on this matter neither proved or disproved that intelligence testing influenced immigration laws and that it is up to counselors and psychologists to make legislators and the public aware of the weak connections between intelligence scores and academic ability.
The Nazi Party and its sympathizers published many books on scientific racism, seizing on the eugenic and anti-Semitic ideas with which they would later become associated, although these ideas had been in circulation since the 19th century. Books such as Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes ("Ethnology of the German People") by Hans F. K. Günther and Rasse und Seele ("Race and Soul") by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss attempted to scientifically identify differences between the German, Nordic, or Aryan people and other, supposedly inferior, groups. German schools used these books as texts during the Nazi era.
In the early 1930s, the Nazis used racialized scientific rhetoric based on social Darwinism to push its restrictive and discriminatory social policies. During World War II, Nazi racialist beliefs became anathema in the United States, and Boasians such as Ruth Benedict consolidated their institutional power. After the war, discovery of the Holocaust and Nazi abuses of scientific research (such as Josef Mengele's ethical violations and other war crimes revealed at the Nuremberg Trials) led most of the scientific community to repudiate scientific support for racism.
In the US, eugenicists such as Harry H. Laughlin, and Madison Grant sought to "scientifically" prove the physical and mental inadequacy of certain ethnic groups to justify compulsory sterilization and restrict immigration, per the Immigration Act of 1924; compulsory sterilization continued until the 1960s and later.
Lothrop Stoddard published many racialist books on what he saw as the peril of immigration, his most famous being The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy in 1920. In this book he presented a view of the world situation pertaining to race focusing concern on the coming population explosion among the "colored" peoples of the world and the way in which "white world-supremacy" was being lessened in the wake of World War I and the collapse of colonialism.
Stoddard's analysis divided world politics and situations in to "white," "yellow," "black," "Amerindian," and "brown" peoples and their interactions.Stoddard argued race and heredity were the guiding factors of history and civilization, and that the elimination or absorption of the "white" race by "colored" races would result in the destruction of Western civilization. Like Madison Grant (see The Passing of the Great Race), Stoddard divided the white race into three main divisions: Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean. He considered all three to be of good stock, and far above the quality of the colored races, but argued that the Nordic was the greatest of the three and needed to be preserved by way of eugenics. Unlike Grant, Stoddard was less concerned with which varieties of European people were superior to others (Nordic theory), but was more concerned with what he called "bi-racialism," seeing the world as being composed of simply "colored" and "white" races. In the years after the Great Migration and World War I, Grant's racial theory would fall out of favor in the U.S. in favor of a model closer to Stoddard's.
An influential publication was The Races of Europe (1939) by Carleton S. Coon, president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists from 1930 to 1961. Coon was a proponent of Multiregional origin of modern humans. He divided Homo sapiens into five main races:
Coon's school of thought was the object of increasing opposition in mainstream anthropology after World War II. Ashley Montagu was particularly vocal in denouncing Coon, especially in his Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. By the 1960s, Coon's approach had been rendered obsolete in mainstream anthropology, but his system continued to appear in publications by his student John Lawrence Angel as late as in the 1970s.
In the late 19th century, the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) United States Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutional legality of racial segregation, under the doctrine of "separate but equal" was intellectually rooted in the scientific racism of the era, like-wise popular support for it. Later, in the mid 20th century, the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) decision rejected racialist arguments about the "need" for racial segregation — especially in public schools.
By 1954, 58 years after the Plessy v. Ferguson upholding of racial segregation in the United States, American popular and scholarly opinions of scientific racism and its sociologic practice, had evolved. In 1960 the journal Mankind Quarterly started, which some see as a venue for scientific racism. It is criticized for a claimed extremist right-wing politics, anti-Semitic bent, and espousing academic hereditarianism. The magazine was founded in 1960, partly in response to the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education which desegregated the American public schooling.
In April 1966, Alex Haley interviewed American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell for Playboy. Rockwell explained why he believed blacks were inferior to whites, citing a study by G.O. Ferguson that showed black people who were part white outperformed "pure-black niggers" (Rockwell's words) on a test. The statistics used in the study and the excerpt from the Playboy article were used as an example of a statistical fallacy in the book Flaws and Fallacies in Statistical Thinking by Stephen K. Campbell.
International bodies such as UNESCO attempted to draft resolutions that would summarize the state of scientific knowledge about race and issued calls for the resolution of racial conflicts. In its 1950 The Race Question, UNESCO declared that "A race, from the biological standpoint, may therefore be defined as one of the group of populations constituting the species Homo sapiens", which were broadly defined as the Mongoloid, Negroid, and the Caucasoid "divisions" but stated that "It is now generally recognized that intelligence tests do not in themselves enable us to differentiate safely between what is due to innate capacity and what is the result of environmental influences, training and education."
Today, the term "scientific racism" is used to refer to research seeming to scientifically justify racist ideology. The accusation of scientific racism often is cast upon researchers claiming the existence of quantifiable differences in intelligence among the human races, especially if said differences are partly genetic in origin. Contemporary researchers include Arthur Jensen (The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability); J. Philippe Rushton, president of the Pioneer Fund (Race, Evolution, and Behavior); Chris Brand (The g Factor: General Intelligence and Its Implications); Richard Lynn (IQ and the Wealth of Nations); Charles Murray; and Richard Herrnstein (The Bell Curve), among others. This authors themselves, while seeing their work as scientific, may dispute the term "racism" and may prefer terms such as "race realism" or "racialism".
Current researchers investigating racial differences and arguing that they are biological are often accused of racism and that their research may harm society. Steven Pinker has stated that it is "a conventional wisdom among left-leaning academics that genes imply genocide." He has responded to this "conventional wisdom" by comparing the history of Marxism, which had the opposite position on genes to that of Nazism:
But the 20th century suffered "two" ideologies that led to genocides. The other one, Marxism, had no use for race, didn't believe in genes and denied that human nature was a meaningful concept. Clearly, it's not an emphasis on genes or evolution that is dangerous. It's the desire to remake humanity by coercive means (eugenics or social engineering) and the belief that humanity advances through a struggle in which superior groups (race or classes) triumph over inferior ones.
Jensen and Rushton point out that research has shown that also in a group with a lower average some individuals will be above the average of other groups. They also argue that when society is blamed for disparities in average group achievements that instead result from biological differences, the result is demands for compensation from the less successful group which the more successful group feel is unjustified, causing mutual resentment. Linda Gottfredson similarly argues that denying real biological differences instead cause people to seek something to blame causing hostility between groups. In the US, examples being the views that whites are racist or blacks are lazy. She furthermore argues that "virtually all the victim groups of genocide in the Twentieth Century had relatively high average levels of achievement Gottfredson has also disputed that a lower achieving group gains from denying or concealing real biological differences. An increasingly complex society built on the assumption than everyone can do equally well means that they who do not have this ability have increasing trouble functioning in most areas of life. They need various forms of special assistance which is not possible as long as the need is denied to exist.
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (March 2009)|
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