The Pioneer Fund was first incorporated in March of 1937, its principal purpose then as now being “To and research into the problems of heredity and eugenics in the human race” (Lynn, p. 559). Both works under review purport to tell the story of the Pioneer Fund, but they could hardly be more different. Richard Lynn's book (apparently a commissioned volume) presents itself as reporting the research of dedicated scientists, men (mostly) who carried out important and honorable work despite being harassed by political extremists. William H. Tucker's book, written as an exposé, describes many of the same individuals as racists who used the Fund's resources to oppose racial integration and all other aspects of the civil rights movement. As in his earlier book, The Science and Politics of Racial Research (1996), Tucker seems almost to delight in quoting the ghastly and offensive views held by racist ideologues.

Could both accounts be right? Because the answer depends in part on one's definition of racism, a candidate definition will be tentatively offered below. First, however, we must look more closely at the books themselves. A good place to begin is with what they say about Wickliffe P. Draper, the independently wealthy New England gentleman who provided Pioneer's money. Lynn literally dedicates The Science of Human Diversity to Draper, whom he calls “Scholar, Soldier, and Philanthropist” (unnumbered dedication page). No such favorable adjectives appear in Tucker's volume, where Draper is described as providing “lavish, anonymous support for Southern efforts to oppose equal rights for blacks” (p. 42). Pioneer's undisclosed donations to racist political projects, says Tucker, “represented Draper's real agenda” (p. 42).

Lynn’s book begins with a self-serving 53-page Preface by Harry Weyher, President of the Pioneer Fund from the 1950s until his death in 2002. After that, some 400 more pages are devoted to listing the 40 or so individuals who have received Pioneer grants over the years. Each of the major grantees get a flattering photograph, an efficiently written account of their contributions (scientific or otherwise), and a brief bibliography. The list begins with Audrey Shuey, whose 1958/1966 book The Testing of Negro Intelligence was published by the Pioneer Fund because no standard publisher would take it. Many of the other grantees have become fairly well-known; they include Arthur Jensen, Hans Eysenck, Thomas Bouchard, David Lykken, Linda Gottfredson, Philippe Rushton, and Richard Lynn himself. Others have remained relatively obscure, but Lynn is proud of them all and never breathes a word of criticism.

Lynn reserves his highest praise for William Shockley, the Nobel physicist who became obsessed with race, crime, and reproduction in the 1960s. At the time many of us found Shockley a particularly odious racist, but to Lynn he was “a courageous and tireless campaigner for research into the causes of human and race differences and for thoughtful consideration of eugenics” (p. 193). Perhaps this is because Lynn himself, like Shockley, is particularly worried about “dysgenic fertility” (i.e., the tendency for the poor and incompetent to have more children than the rich and smart, with allegedly dreadful consequences for the average intelligence of the population in the long run). He has even written a book about it (Lynn, 1996), undeterred by the fact that mean IQ scores have been rising (not falling!) for about a century. (For other positions on dysgenics, see Neisser, 1998.)

What does Tucker have to say about all those grantees? Unlike Lynn, he does not seem very interested in their research and does not try to describe it. Moreover, he insists that he “vigorously support[s] the right of scientists to pursue the research of their choice and to announce their results without fear of threat or harassment” (p. 8). What he does object to—much more vigorously—are the political activities that Draper and his successors have covertly supported for so many years. Tucker reports those activities chronologically, beginning with the openly racist politicians who flourished in the early 20th century and continuing right up to Philippe Rushton and the other current directors of the Pioneer Fund. By the 1960s, “Pioneer was firmly controlled by virulent opponents of civil rights and Nazi sympathizers” (p. 63). Tucker describes these activities in considerable detail: Societies were founded, journals published, large-scale mailings distributed, and so on. There was even a sophisticated legal challenge to school desegregation, mounted in a Georgia court (Stell v. Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education; Tucker pp. 112–117). Tucker follows various paper trails to show that Draper’s money supported much of this, and I am inclined to believe him.

Both books make it clear that Draper always provided the money but deliberately stayed out of the limelight. The first President of the Pioneer Fund was one Harry Laughlin, a much more public person. Like Draper, Laughlin is described very differently by our two authors. They agree, however, that he was a vigorous advocate of mandatory sterilization for the mentally retarded. He even served as an expert in the case of Buck v. Bell (decided by the Supreme Court in 1927), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously concluded that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Lynn is rather sympathetic to Laughlin's (and Holmes's) position, defending it against modern criticism: “Some accounts question whether Carrie Buck was mentally retarded...[but] these criticisms do not stand up” (p. 28).

Laughlin also served as a congressional witness in connection with the Immigration Act of 1924. As one would expect, he strongly advocated screening out the wrong kind of immigrants. Lynn's presentation of Laughlin's views makes them sound almost reasonable: “At that time, many Americans began to feel concerned about the large numbers of these new immigrants. Some of them believed they would cause cultural problems....Some questioned the average intelligence of these new immigrants as well” (p. 26). Reasonable? A look at Tucker's book gives us a very different take on Harry Laughlin. The logic of his argument soon led him (like many other “eugenicists”) to open and enthusiastic admiration of Hitler's Germany. A virulent anti-Semite, Laughlin added the Nazi phrase “Race Hygiene” (Rassenhygiene) to the masthead of his publication Eugenical News, and described Hitler's achievements as a “triumph of biological thinking” (Tucker p. 47). All in all, this is not a person one would like to know.

The next president of the Pioneer Fund, Frederick Henry Osborn, had milder eugenical views; so mild, in fact, that by 1956 he was forced to resign his post. His successor, Harry Weyher, was a lawyer with views more in accord with Draper's own. The 40 years of Weyher's presidency were a time of profound change in American society. For the Pioneer Fund, it meant bad news as well as good news. The bad news, of course, was the success of the civil rights movement. All of Pioneer's Fund strenuous political efforts (as chronicled in Tucker's book) were unable to stem the tide of school desegregation, affirmative action, and other developments that most of us regard as progress. On the other hand, some of the research projects funded by Pioneer (as chronicled in Lynn's book) did produce important findings.

Not all of that research concerned Black/White differences. The Pioneer Fund has consistently been interested in the heritability of human traits, including intelligence and personality traits as well as specific genetic disorders. In those areas there has been a seismic shift of opinion among behavioral scientists: Where pure environmentalism once prevailed, it is now generally agreed that genetic factors make substantial contributions to individual differences. Here Lynn's claim is exaggerated but not entirely without merit: “Over those 60 years, the research funded by Pioneer has helped change the face of social science” (p. 537).

Where racial differences are concerned, the issue is not yet resolved. Pioneer-sponsored research has indeed shown that the Black/White IQ difference is substantial, that it appears consistently in virtually every study, and that it has diminished very little over the years since research began. The difference is larger on abstract reasoning tests than on tests of cultural knowledge, and it remains substantial in studies that control for socioeconomic status. Nevertheless, there is also evidence that environmental factors contribute to the difference, so the question remains open. (For reviews see Neisser, Boodoo, Bouchard, Boykin, Brody, Ceci, et al., 1996, or Jencks & Phillips, 1998.)

In the closing years of the 20th century, the activities of the Pioneer Fund continued to be political as well as scientific. Those activities included vigorous opposition to immigration; more exactly, to the immigration of non-Whites into the United States. At present, the Board of Directors includes Richard Lynn himself as well as J. Philippe Rushton, who became President of the Pioneer Fund after Weyher's death. One of its most recent projects was the widespread free distribution of a small book by Rushton, an abridged version of his Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995). The book presents his “evolutionary” theory of race differences, which I will not describe here because it turns my stomach.

So we come back to the questions. Are all these people racists, or are some of them serious researchers? Can one be both? A racist, presumably, is a person who holds an attitude called “racism.” But what is that? Oddly, neither of the books under review offers a definition. It is with some trepidation that I propose one here, but it seems necessary to do so if we are to move beyond name-calling.

  1. The essential core of racism, to my mind, is a deeply held conviction that members of some particular group are less worthy—somehow less entitled to respect or dignity or rights—than are the members of one's own group. There is often a further conviction that contact with such individuals is somehow contaminating; among other things, it may lead to what racists call “miscegenation” (i.e., the birth of mixed-race children).

  2. For such an attitude to count as racism, the group in question must be defined by what used to be called “blood” (i.e., descent from other members of the same group). A person is an X (member of the target group), if and only if his parents (or at least some of his ancestors) were Xs. Different historical versions of racism have used different criteria to define their targets. The Nazis, for example, had strict rules about how much Jewish ancestry made a person a Jew. American racists often define people as “Black” if they have any Black ancestors at all; this is called the “one drop of blood” principle. Note the asymmetry: In such a belief system, one drop of White “blood” does not make a person White. Racists usually regard membership in the target group as all-or-none: Whatever the technical criterion, a person either is or is not a Black, a Jew, and so on. (Similarly, opponents of racism often assume that a person either is or is not a racist.)

  3. There may be an accompanying belief that members of the targeted group are de facto enemies, deliberately working against the interests of one's own group. This attitude is common during wars, but the conviction that certain groups are “secretly plotting against us” may be held even in peacetime. (It often goes with anti-Semitism.)

  4. There may be a belief that members of the target group are intellectually or physically inferior to one's own people (in certain respects), but this is not a necessary aspect of racist attitudes. (For example, it does not typically go with anti-Semitism.)

  5. Contrariwise, there may be a belief that members of the target group are intellectually or physically superior in certain respects: Jews are clever, Asians are intelligent, and Blacks have rhythm and ability in sports.

Once the criteria of racism have been laid out in this way, it becomes obvious that they need not all go together. People who hold beliefs 1 and 2 are racists whether or not they assent to 4 or 5. (They might simply not care about ability differences.) By the same token, someone who believes that a given group has inferior or superior skills in some areas (i.e., who holds beliefs 4 or 5, might not hold 1 and 2 at all. It doesn't seem appropriate to apply the term racist to such a person. By this definition, we cannot conclude that people are racists just because they accept grants from the Pioneer Fund. Other evidence would be needed to reach that conclusion in individual cases.

How about the Pioneer Fund itself? Has it made a positive contribution, or would the world have been better off without it? Such counterfactuals are notoriously difficult to decide. The world would surely be better off if there were no racists at all, but that is not an option. Would history have taken a different turn without Harry Laughlin's expert testimony on sterilization and such matters? It is hard to be sure, but anyway he would probably have testified even without Draper's support. The Pioneer Fund's later efforts in the battle against school desegregation and civil rights, so carefully documented in Tucker's book, were lost causes that ended as complete failures. All things considered, I doubt that the Pioneer Fund's political activities have made much difference one way or the other. The world would have been much the same without them. On the other hand, Lynn reminds us that Pioneer has sometimes sponsored useful research—research that otherwise might not have been done at all. By that reckoning, I would give it a weak plus. As for who is a racist, that no longer seems worth worrying about.