Controversial London professor linked to theories on race and brain size died Tuesday
London Community News
By Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Controversial social psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, whose name was indelibly linked with his theories of race and brain size, has died at the age of 68.
Rushton, a professor at Western University since 1977, died Tuesday at the London Health Sciences Centre of Addison’s disease.
The British-born Rushton published more than 200 academic papers and five books during his career but was best known for Race, Evolution and Behavior: A Life History Perspective.
The uproar caused by his 1989 paper that led to the book provoked then-Ontario premier David Peterson to say he should be fired. Rushton and environmentalist and geneticist David Suzuki argued the theories in a highly publicized debate in 1989.
Rushton presented his notorious findings to the American Association for Advance of Science convention in January 1989, and was “hit with a hailstorm of hostile questions,” the Star reported at the time.
He contended that three races ranked in 1-2-3 order, with Asians first in brain size, intelligence, family stability, sexual restraint and mental stability, followed by whites and then blacks.
“I was not a great fan of his research,” said UWO Dean Brian Timney, who was the undergraduate chair in the psychology department at the height of the controversy.
“I think his research was flawed. The methodologies were inadequate to support the claims he made.”
Rushton “had taught very little since the 1990s” and in the past decade was exclusively a research professor, Timney told the Star.
“He was a paradox. As an individual, he was a gentleman, always collegial and friendly,” the dean said. But Rushton also “seemed desperate to get the word out” about his views on race and intelligence.
Occupational psychologist Dr. Paul Irwing, who collaborated frequently with Rushton, praised his “trememdous scientific integrity and courage.”
Irwing, a lecturer at the University of Manchester, is himself a controversial figure for his data analysis that concluded men had higher IQs than women, based on a survey of 20,000 test scores.
He called Rushton’s most recent work on a “genetic similarity hypothesis” one of his most important contributions to the field.
The hypothesis, “basically an explanation of altruism,” says people are prepared to die for others because of a similarity in their genes, Irwing said.
“This potentially has applications to describe intergroup conflict in a very powerful way.”
Rushton also promoted his theories through the institute he founded in 1989, Charles Darwin Research.
- Torstar News Service