Who's a Genius?
Schockley on Eugenics and Race by Roger Pearson; prefaced by Arthur Jensen. pb. 304 pp $28 Scott Townsend Pub POB 34070 N.W. Washington D.C. 20043
TOGETHER WITH Jensen and Eysenck Professor William Shockley was one of the first to break the 1960's taboo on frank discussion of issues such as racial differences in average intelligence. As such he was demonised by the media as a "far-Right extremist" and his message depicted as a crude attempt to justify racist bigotry. This volume is a collection of his writings and lectures which attempts, and largely succeeds, in giving a balanced picture of the man and his views.
Prior to his intervention in the race debate in the 1960s, Shockley had achieved fame and distinction as the solid-state physicist who headed the three-man team which in 1948 at Bell Telephone Laboratories invented the transistor. For this revolutionary innovation, which was to transform the world, Shockley and his co-workers were awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize for Physics. Subsequently he became Physics Professor at Stanford University.
According to Shockley his interest in the apparently very distinct area of human genetics and ethnicity was sparked by reading a newspaper article about a case in San Francisco in which a teenager of exceptionally low intelligence had been hired to throw acid into the face of a delicatessen proprietor. "The perpetrator of this heinous crime was the son of a woman whose own IQ was only 55 and who could remember only nine of the names of her 17 illegitimate children."
Shockley then began studying the relevant scientific literature and became increasingly concerned about the dysgenic effect of findings indicating that birth-rate was inversely related to IQ, which suggested that average IQ would decline over future generations. And that there were significant differences, largely due to heredity, between the average measured intelligences of Blacks and Whites in US society, which might significantly account for the low social and economic position of Blacks in that society and their consequent anger, soon to be violently expressed in urban riots across America. He then expressed his concerns ever more loudly and publicly to his fellow scientists and the public, resulting in a growing storm of controversy and attempts to smear and silence him. Attempts well recounted by Dr. Pearson in his very readable introduction to this book.
Shockley was not, contrary to his media portrayal, personally politically "Right-wing" at all. He publicly supported both legalising abortion and the Head Start program of extra teaching for ghetto children, both anathema to the US right. He also publicly locked horns with American conservative mouthpiece William F. Buckley, who joined forces with liberals in attacking Shockley's alleged "racism."
In fact, as this book shows, Shockley was not a "racist" in the sense of hating Blacks or anyone else. His concern was with humanity as a whole. As he put it in a 1969 press release "I propose as a social goal that every baby born should have a high probability of leading a dignified, rewarding and satisfying life regardless of its skin colour or sex. To understand hereditary cause and effect relationships for human quality problems is an obligation of the scientifically responsible brotherhood. I believe also that this goal can best be achieved by applying scientific inquiry to our human quality problems."
[The remainder of this review by Mark Ashton is available in the print version of The Scorpion.]