Samuel Francis is among America’s best publicists. It is thus painful to read his praise (March 1995) of three materialist, pro-robot scientists, particularly the most materialist of the three, for whom civilization is determined by cold versus hot climates and their “cognitive demands.” In Philippe Rushton laudatio, Francis quotes the barbaric passage: “the cognitive demands of manufacturing sophisticated tools and making fires, clothing, and shelters (as well as regulating the storage of food . . .) would have selected for higher average intelligence levels than in the less cognitively demanding environment in sub-Saharan Africa. Those individuals who could not solve these problems of survival would have died o u t . . . ” Well, well, I did not know that this kind of primitive Darwinism was still around.

I ask Messrs. Rushton and Francis: Why, then, is Egypt’s civilization higher than that of the Eskimos? Why has India produced a greater architecture, poetry, and dance than Siberia? Why did American Indians produce the Maya, Aztec, and Inca empires amid a generally hot climate, and the Canadian Indians nothing of the sort?

The danger of talking about race is that such talk soon ends in determinism. And the question arises: What factors determined the determinist savant?

        —Thomas Molnar
Ridgewood, NJ

Dr. Francis Replies:

While I cannot speak for Professor Rushton, the questions raised by Thomas Molnar in criticism of the former’s evolutionary theory of racial differences in cognitive ability do not seem to mc to invalidate the Rushton thesis. Contrary to Dr. Molnar’s caricature of the Rushton theory as “cold versus hot climate” determinism, Rushton argues that environmental challenges in some regions served to select for populations with higher (largely hereditary) cognitive abilities. Climatic temperature is only one such determinant that is particularly relevant to racial differences between the ancestors of Northern Europeans and Asians on the one hand and those of sub-Saharan Africans on the other during the Ice Age. It remains plausible that, if higher cognitive abilities flourished in Egypt, India, or Central America, they did so because of the presence of selective pressures other than climatic temperature, while such pressures did not exist in certain other regions where civilization never arose.

Without a careful examination of the prehistories of these civilizations, it is not possible to specify what those pressures might have been, but it would provide useful work for students of civilization to investigate the matter.

With regard to the “three materialist, pro-robot scientists” (Murray, Herrnstein, and Rushton), they do not seem to differ from all other scientists, physical and social, in their scientific methodology and assumptions. It is curious that few people object when those methodologies and assumptions are applied to any natural or social phenomena other than race. Only when they are applied to the study of racial differences are the standard and commonly accepted methodologies and assumptions of modern science questioned and denounced—as “materialism,” “Darwinism,” “determinism,” and other epithets. Even those who do question modern science on philosophical grounds seem to suspend their objections conveniently when it comes to modern medical, engineering, and industrial applications of its presuppositions.

As for “determinism,” I have to dismiss this as something of a bugaboo. “Determinism” as I understand it means simply the idea that all events have necessary and sufficient causes. In the first place, I know of no one who seriously argues that by themselves the genetic bases of cognitive skills compel any particular behavior. In the second place, whether one accepts the abundant empirical evidence for genetic differentiations in behavior or not, surely no one denies that something caused some peoples to create and others not to create civilizations, and whatever that something might be, it is surely no less “deterministic” than human intelligence and the genetic forces that in large part determine it.