Discussing and reading from the book "The mismeasure of man"
BROADCAST: 1980 | DURATION: 00:56:18
Discussing and reading from the book "The mismeasure of man" with the author Stephen Jay Gould.
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Studs Terkel One of the mysteries to me is how a theory that I, I can describe in no other way than barbaric is able to come back again and again the genetic differences between people. You know, the symptom of a a racial inferiority or something called sociobiology I'll ask you about or something about the innate aggressiveness of the human being and of course thinking that goes along with it, is well, how can you stop wars? And I was thinking of of people whom, whom you think would know better, going along with it. Well fortunately we have young biologists and older ones, too. And in this instance someone who teaches history of science and biology and geology at Harvard. Stephen Jay Gould who's brilliant, who won the National Book Award for I think,"The Panda's Thumb" and wrote before Darwin. We talked about creationism, too, and everything else. And his new book, "The Mismeasure of Man," is he really just devastates the whole idea of intelligence tests, IQ tests as currently offered. And so in a moment my guest is Stephen Jay Gould and "Mismeasure of Man." Where do we begin? Steve Gould, where do we begin? How would you explain Shockley-Jensen? A magazine interest commentary, Take Me Seriously, the idea that there a genetic a genetic inferiority of the Blacks as to- how would you explain that?
Stephen Jay Gould I think one has to go way back to a recognition that virtually any society that is those in control of it have to construct an ideology to justify their continued rule. And what more convenient than a notion that those large groups of people who have disadvantaged positions are there by virtue of their own innate biology. In my book I begin with Socrates' tale on the Republic about how people are fashioned differently in the depths of the earth. Some people are fashioned of gold, others of silver, and others of brass. And Socrates then goes on to construct a rationale for class divisions. However, the difference is that Socrates knows it's a lie. He says he's just yeah he says I'm just constructing this in order to get the people to believe it for the necessary social stability. The difference between that and biological determinism that is the notion that there is genetic or biologically innate levels of attainment and achievement in this world is more a product of the last couple of centuries and is in many ways more pernicious because the people who preach it believe it.
Studs Terkel Well, I'm thinking of, what about a man, the enlightened jurist, you know, the man one of the great dissenters, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and a certain decision he made in the case and of course it's shocking to hear him quote it. In, in fact you use it on the cover and it's in the book itself. We have quoting Holmes. Why don't you read it? You, you know the quote.
Stephen Jay Gould Sure. This is upholding the sterilization law in the state of Virginia in 1927. The famous case of Buck versus Bell. Carrie Buck was a young woman and she's still alive, in fact, who had given birth to a child judged to be feeble-minded. She herself by the criteria, the false criteria those days, was judged to be feeble-minded and she was said to have had a feeble-minded mother, making therefore three generations of feeble-minded people. In the Supreme Court case, the right of the state of Virginia forcibly to sterilize Carrie Buck was upheld by Oliver Wendell Holmes. When in fact by an eight to one vote with only, in fact, it was a conservative justice, the Catholic justice on the court at the time whose name escapes me is the only dissenter and not for reasons that we would call liberal ones. And Oliver Wendell Holmes gave this famous decision upholding Virginia's sterilization law in which he essentially said, "Look the state has a right to claim the lives of the best young men in war. Certainly it has the right to call upon feeble-minded people for this lesser sacrifice. Three generations of imbeciles are enough." That's the famous line of the tragedy and sadness of this. There were sterilization laws in some 30 states in the United States. They were never as vigorously enforced as they were say in Nazi Germany where millions of people, I think, were sterilized. But in Virginia where it was most actively enforced, thousands of people were forcibly or unknowingly sterilized right through to 1960s. And last year, this came to light when the director of a Virginia hospital went through his old records and found out how many people had been sterilized in his own hospital. And this led some reporters to go find Carrie Buck's sister, Doris, who was sterilized without her knowledge. She was told she was going in for an appendix operation in 1928 and all her life tried to conceive a child. Desperately wanted a child. Never had one, of course, and only last year discovered why it was and she'd been sterilized also supposedly because of feeble-mindedness. Well both she and Carrie are still alive. They're perfectly ordinary people.
Studs Terkel Of course your, your, your book itself, "Mismeasure of Man," goes back in the very beginnings, too, and there is a text, the subtext of the whole thing that- we think of science as something objective. And you're saying there is no such thing, that the human aspect is in it throughout, that it's subjective.
Stephen Jay Gould Scientists are human beings like everybody else. I don't deny that there is truth in the world and that we can approach it. Galileo was right, the church had to make its peace because its peace with him because the Earth goes around the sun to be sure. So it's not as though I don't. I'm not a subjectivist. I'm not a relativist. I don't think there aren't answers to certain questions nonetheless because science is done by human beings particularly in those socially sensitive areas where there isn't hard scientific data. You get this curious phenomenon or perhaps not so curious with a history of what's supposed to be a scientific subject is really much more a mirror of social conditions, social prejudices, changing historical context than it is of any approach towards
Studs Terkel If we could jump around, [unintelligible] your book goes way back to craniometry. We'll come to that and Darwin and before and Louis Agassiz his own theory. And throughout, these men have certain points of view, to begin with don't they? And they fit, somehow they fit their conclusion like a [unintilligible].
Stephen Jay Gould Sure, science until this generation was essentially done entirely by wealthy white males who had very definite social attitudes to the world and reflected it necessarily in their science. You have to realize also that say the 19th century, among white males, the notion that say Blacks were inferior or women innately inferior was accepted by virtually everyone, even the great liberal heroes. Even the Abraham Lincolns certainly didn't believe in Black equality. Lincoln's position, which you can call the liberal position in the 19th century, was that Blacks were inferior. But that was no excuse for slavery. Individual Blacks could achieve well- in any case even if they were inferior, one should still grant freedom and the right to achieve as much as is possible. There, there was hardly a notion of equality at all present among the
Stephen Jay Gould Darwin was in the context of the 19th century, a remarkably humane and liberal man. His fulminations against slavery and "The Voyage of the Beagle," are are masterpieces of prose. In fact, he wrote a wonderful line which I use as the frontispiece quote to my book in which he says, it really epitomize the whole subject. "If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature but by our institutions, then great is our sin." It's a wonderful line and summarizes everything I'm trying to say. Nonetheless, he, he, too, certainly didn't think that women were the intellectual equals of many. He had a rather high opinion of Blacks. But he had a very low opinion of the people who cheered [unintelligible]. It wasn't as though he didn't have attitudes the native of [unintilligible] certain races.
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh it was a leading science in the 19 century. My book is basically about the fallacy in biological determinism on one particular subject, that is the attempt to measure intelligence in a single number located in the head. And they've been two great acts to this drama, this phony drama. The 20th-century act is the hereditarian theory of mental testing where you try and find what's in the head by subtly asking questions that will reveal it. The 19th-century method was much cruddy. You just measured the volume of the head, a craniometry.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah. It's an, it's an ridiculous idea. There's no correlation between the size of the brain and intelligence though the thoughts of the 19th century the range is so great and that's what you were mentioning before that includes under superior functioning brains as small as Anatole France's, who had a cranial capacity of about a thousand cubic centimeters to Tolstoy, [unintilligible] pardon me, who had a cranial capacity above 2000. It just isn't and the main correlation is with body size.
Studs Terkel So this was one of the ways they say that and that was pretty much demolished. And now, of course we jump around. So we come to the IQ, the intelligence test. Now we're [speak] of the Binet-Simon test, don't we? Binet. Now, he originally had a pretty good idea.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah. Binet, to my mind was entirely benev-, had entirely benevolent intent in devising what became the Standford-Binet test. I'll tell the story briefly. He was commissioned by the French commissioner of education in 1905 to construct a test to use as a rough and ready guide to identify those children who were not benefiting from ordinary schooling so that they could be taken out, put in special classes and helped. You see the whole assumption was that you are identifying in order to help. It wasn't a theory of limits and Binet said don't call this intelligence whatever you do because if you call it intelligence then people will start assuming that it's a real thing in the head. It's not. It's just a rough and ready guide to identify children who need help on the assumption that they can be helped. And that's why he made this funny test which is such a hodgepodge of different things. You counted coins. You did some logical reasoning. You did some numerical operations. You're counted stamps. You did number sequences with-
Stephen Jay Gould A complete hodge podge. Yeah, always numbers. And the Binet IQ test when brought to America was perverted into this hard hereditarian version where it was thought. That's why it's called the Stanford-Binet because it was brought here by Lewis M. Terman, who's a professor of psychology at Stanford. Now his ideas was totally different.
Stephen Jay Gould About the time, a little before. And, became popular in World War I when the Army tested one and three-quarter million people with the first written versions of the IQ test. But it was Terman's idea that IQ was a single number expressing an innate biological absolute limit upon people's achievements. Totally different concept from Binet's. If Binet's own intent had never been turned around and perverted, there never would have been a great difficulty.
Stephen Jay Gould This is one of the original questions that Terman put in the Standford-Binet. And it goes something like this, an Indian goes into a town and he sees a man. He sees something strange, he's never seen before and afterwards he makes the comment. He walks sitting down. What was the man riding? Now the interesting thing is that the only acceptable answer that Terman would mark correct was "bicycle." But you have to see what assumptions are built into that. Of course what's built into that is the Indian's dumb. That he sees somebody on a bicycle. He doesn't know what to do with it. So he says walks and see, now my first reaction was that it was, the man was on a horse and the Indian in fact was being a subtle satirist. They say that white man's a lazy so and so. He's walking. But, but you have to get into Terman's frame of mind where the Indian has to be a dumb
Studs Terkel And you really did [have?] Boas, Franz Boas who I thought pretty much demolished these guys until they come back. He was telling the story of an old Italian, who was it now, who instead of fitting the routine, saw somebody with a crucifix.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah. This is on the Army mental tests where you had a complete a picture and that is said to be a mark of innate intelligence and there was one house that didn't have a chimney. The only right answer was to put the chimney. Well there was one Italian recruit who took the test and he put a crucifix on the door because where he lived in Italy there always was a crucifix and that was the missing part
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah the Army mental test which was supposedly tests of innate intelligence had such wonderful questions as Christy Mathewson is A: a movie star, B: a business leader, C: a baseball pitcher. [laughter] That was innate intelligence. Amazing.
Studs Terkel Well, I got to tell you a story since you mentioned Christy Matthew- rather coincidence. I once did a script about Christy Mathewson. I was writing a radio script and I said to my wife, "Well it's failry intelligence by Christy Mathewson." "Who is he?" I said, "How dare you?"
Stephen Jay Gould Sure.
Studs Terkel Right. So this comes to Black and white. Now I have, something to try out on you. Let's say a test is framed and the Black kid does very badly. Now, the little middle-class white kid does very well. But suppose I put the question another way. Suppose I had a Black woman write the questions. "Tell me about your grandmother." Now, in the white home maybe the grandmother is in a nursing home or is Sun City and the little girl has never seen her grandmother. She'd been put away, nicely. Nope she doesn't know a thing about her grandma. Well, the little Black kid. He's got a- he lives with grandmother whom he calls his aunt. And she lives there and he tells a very funny story. He's told me about a man, carrying a head in his hand and she was laughing. I'm doing an actual story, by the way. And she was laugh- when I was laughing. I know she made that story up but oh it was funny! Now who'd be the brighter of the two? If the question were asked, "Tell me about your grandmother."?
Stephen Jay Gould To me the funniest example of this is what Arthur Jensen now thinks is the absolutely culturally unbiased measure of intelligence, something is called reaction time, where you see how quickly when lights flash, for example, somebody can press a button. Well I'll bet anything what with the computer game revolution, that reaction time is now culturally increasing very rapidly because of people playing these games.
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah.
Stephen Jay Gould By biological determinism, I mean the theory that social stratification in society is biologically conditioned, that people are in the positions that they are primarily as a result of the way they're made rather then way in which they've lived.
Studs Terkel But I'm, I see I'm always wondering how come? Wasn't this demolished again and again? Madison Grant was exposed and you mentioned Cyril Burt. We'll come to that, was exposed as engaging in fraudulent activities and others were biased by scientists, anthropologists like Boas. How come they come back?
Stephen Jay Gould They continually exposed and the next generation comes back with a somewhat subtler version. Craniology was exposed. The hereditarian theory of IQ is subtler [unintelligible] of them were exposed to come back with something else. I think basically it's too convenient a rationale for the preservation of social systems as we find them and especially in times when there's a conservative trend in politics in general.
Studs Terkel Yeah I'm thinkin' one of my favorite poems. I'm not saying it's a great poem but a poem I like very much is Edmund Markham's "Man with the Hoe," and in your book, in "The Mismeasure of Man," Stephen Jay Gould has a reference here to Henry Fairfield Osborn who was a very distinguished and highly- he was the director of the highly prestigious American Museum of, the Museum of Natural History.
Stephen Jay Gould Yes.
Stephen Jay Gould Yes.
Stephen Jay Gould H.H.
Stephen Jay Gould H.H. Goddard was a leading American psychologist. He was the director of research at the Vineland School for so-called feeble-minded people in New Jersey and he was a great believer. He's the one who invented this myth of the so-called Kallikak families. Family of innate, of innately inferior people who lived in the Pine Barrens and were breeding like crazy and he used that as propaganda to try and argue for the sterilization of so-called feeble-minded people. But he was a great believer that intuitively trained or pardon me, intuitively insightful people could recognize the feeble-minded at sight. He didn't even think he had to give tests to them. So he could watch people getting off the boat at Ellis Island. He knew who ought to be sent back. And one of his best evidences was, he took a look at Millet's painting, "The Man with the Hoe," and he said Markham was a sentimental-
Stephen Jay Gould sentimental liberal idiot because he wrote this line you know, "Bowed by the weight of centuries, he leans upon his hoe. Gazes of the ground. The emptiness of ages in his face and on his back the burden of the world." And the whole essence of the poem of course is that the man with the hoe has been brutalized by social conditions. But God had said,"No," of course not. Just look at the painting. You can tell that the man is an imbecile. [laughter]
Studs Terkel That
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah.
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah, Madison Grant was the president of the New York Zoological Society in New England. Patrician, Yankee type who was the leading so to speak genteel, respectable scientific racists of the day and "The Passing of the Great Race" which I think was first published in 1916 was the leading racist tract in America of the 20s directly influenced through [phone rings] Hüsker Stewart Chamberlain and others. The Nazi movement in Germany. But Osborn wrote a preface to this in which he writes about the great loss of white youth in World War I, for example. And he writes, oh this is talking about the Army mental test arguing that the war may have even been worth it, even for all its deaths, if the war inspired the Army to allow psychologists to test all these people and if the testing of people finally once and for all established the differential worth of different groups, and he wrote, "I believe these tests were worth what the war cost even in human life." Isn't that remarkable when you think of the carnage in World War I, pardon me, getting back to the quote, "If they serve to show clearly to apt people the lack of intelligence in our country and the degree of intelligence and different races who are coming to us in a way which no one can say is the result of prejudice, we have learned once and for all that the Negro is not like us. So in regard to many races and sub-races of Europe, we learn that some which we had believed possessed of an order of intelligence perhaps superior to ours." Obviously, he's talking about Jews even though he doesn't says it. "Were far inferior." And in fact, thus ends the quote, but this kind of propaganda that arose as a result of the Army mental tests were in large measure responsible for the very restrictive quotas that was set up. I think immigration restriction was in the air anyway. Would have happened.
Studs Terkel The Immigration Act of 1924. That by the way, it's interesting you mentioned Henry. You mentioned Henry Fairfield Osborn. Henry Cabot Lodge, the Boston Brahmin Senator was one of the key figures behind the immigration laws of 1924 which limited of course, Mediterranean people.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah. The laws were set up in a really curious way. That, as I said, restrictions in the air anyway and it would have happened but the laws were set up virtually to eliminate or to slow to a trickle the immigration of people from southern and eastern Europe, the ones who were judged to be inferior under these tests which of course were only a test of accommodation to America. You know who Christy Mathewson was and if you look at immigration statistics you realize why people from southern eastern Europe were doing poorly is that they were the most recent arrivals. The character of immigration changed after 1890. So they set up the law of 1924 establishing quotas as two percent of those people from any nation who were in the United States in 1890. Now why [unintelligible] passed 1924 they use the 1890 census. The answer, of course, is that's when immigration changed and they used 1890 they could keep out because there were very few southern and eastern Europeans. Very few Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles. And the only group that couldn't keep out which was an embarrassment to them were the Irish who they would have liked to kept out. Mostly come in the 1840s. But you can't always get a completely consistent
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah in some respects we're better off. We, we don't have the universal IQ testing that for example my experience as a child of New York City. And I don't think as many people believe that IQ measures intelligence. But certainly that's still with us. Mr. Shockley is running for the Senate from California, and I don't think he's going to get very far. Jensen's still pushing the innate inferiority of Blacks.
Stephen Jay Gould Sociobiology is a set of complex set of notions, some of which are reasonable in application to some animals in evolutionary theory. Basically, it's an attempt to construct a kind of hyper Darwinian theory of social behavior in which you take the behavioral repertoire of an organism. You break it into little pieces, and then you try and posit why natural selection would operate for the attainment of these beseech behavior is adaptive and you to try and explain it in terms of natural selection. As soon as you try and make an explanation in terms of natural selection it necessarily has to be genetic because Darwinism is a theory about genetic variation. Now for ants, that might work. [I mean?] the intelligence of ants, sufficiently limited their behavior sufficiently stereotypical that the items of ant behavior may very well, for the most part, have individual genetic basis. Try to extrapolate that to humans. Well, first of all, how do you even parcel out the complexities of human behavior into items that are then optimized by natural selection. And even if you could, how can you possibly find a biological substrate for behaviors that are so inextricably, culturally-
Stephen Jay Gould Sure,
Stephen Jay Gould Right. That aggressivity is a thing. To me it's just a state of behavior that's part of a spectrum that runs from aggressivity to peacefulness. In some sense aggressivity is part of our biological potential. But to argue that it's a "thing," the genetic variants for "it," that people are selected to be aggressive, it just didn't make any sense in the light of the flexibility of human behavior
Stephen Jay Gould If you make a much too strict application of basic Darwinism. After all, Darwinism is about getting more of your genes into future generations. That's what you want to do as a Darwinian agent and that probably has precious little to do with human cultural evolution. But that leads to a notion if you want to take that view and apply it to human systems, which I don't think you should. But usually very selfish behavior is adaptive because that's now you get more [unintelligible]. You know, if you're a man you should go out and father as many children as you possibly can and just worry about yourself in your own genetic contribution.
Stephen Jay Gould Not at all. As I say, there are aspects of sociobiology probably work for the behaviors of some animals but it's the uncritical adoption of such a harsh Darwinian line of thinking. The complexity of human behavior that really make no sense and do put it as a social phenomenon very much with these other notions.
Studs Terkel My guest is Stephen Jay Gould. It's a remarkably exciting book and a brilliant one and their case histories and the studies of the various scientists and pseudo ones down through the years and how our attitudes have changed and then prejudices and then recur. And it seems to be a never-ending battle. The book itself was published by Norton and two previous books of Professor Gould are "The Panda's Thumb," I think that won the National Book Award for Science and "Before Darwin." Ask you about again, social Darwinism, too. It's meaning. We can talk about that and also how that's become, how that's also part of the pattern of today it seems, too.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah. Social Darwinism itself was a theory which in a way so unfair to Darwin because it's based on the notion that evolution means progressive rise and Darwin himself didn't accept that. But social Darwinism was essentially a theory that arose in Victorian England as a way to justify poverty is biologically inevitable the notion being that there was a struggle for existence among people in the same sense that was among animals and the poor were those who had lost.
Studs Terkel We'll resume in a moment after this message. We're resuming the conversation with Stephen Jay Gould and "The Mismeasure of Man." So it goes way back. Socrates, because Plato went even beyond Socrates in speaking of inferior people those born to rule and those to be ruled and then this craniometry. And what is the polygenetic theory?
Stephen Jay Gould Oh, the theory of polygene was a wonderful socially conditioned mid 19th century home grown American theory which was very useful for those who wish to defend slavery as part of the natural order, which held that the different races of humans were actually separate species. That Adam and Eve of whom the Bible speak were only the ancestors of white people. And that Blacks and yellows were not only separate but separately created and inferior.
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah, Agassiz was one of the, who in fact built the building at Harvard in which I still work. He was a great naturalist. The first great European naturalist who came here and settled here at a time when American science was just beginning to develop. Agassiz became one of the great lions of American science because he was the first great European theorist in biology who'd come and stayed. And he although not himself a supporter of slavery but very much a biological determinist, was a leading a pusher of this so-called theory of polygene.
Stephen Jay Gould Yes without recognizing. Yes this we don't want to get into other outmoded philosophical assumptions that humans are somehow absolutely different. We're not. We're part of nature, we're an evolved part of nature, nonetheless, there, the evolution of consciousness and the development of cultural patterns of evolution make for a different process. You can't just-
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah, those were two of the terms of that came out of the cranium metric school. The main task of craniometry was just to measure how much was in the skull but they had other techniques, that is, they thought it certain sh-, not if you had more that was better. But also if you had certain shapes of skull that was better. Dolichocephalic means long-headed. And it was believed that-
Stephen Jay Gould -the relatively longer it was brachycephalic was wide-headed. That the more long-headed you were the better. Now it's just so happens that Nordics are highly dolichocephalic people. That worked pretty well until the great embarrassment was uncovered that Blacks were even more dolichocephalic than Nordics. They got around that in a most interesting way which shows how even if you generate numbers that doesn't mean you're not expressing prejudice primarily in your work. The argument was that, you see, the dolichocephalia, long-headedness of Blacks was of a totally different order. Because Nordics were long-headed because they their head was stretched out and they got more brain. Blacks were long-headed because their brain had been pushed in, that is, compressed. They became long-headed because they'd lost stuff on the sides and were stupid, whereas Nordics became long-headed because they gained more in the front.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh sure. That is again as I keep saying there's much about Maria Montessori, that liberal people of today can revere but she herself didn't doubt that people were born with certain innate limits. She thought that one could help a lot. And she measured the skull circumferences of the various kids in her class and tried to correlate it with their social class and thought she had established some
Studs Terkel As, as I I read your book, "The Mismeasure of Man," talkin' to Stephen Jay Gould. More I'm shocked by G. Stanley Hall who was a renowned and celebrated anthropologist I believe [unintelligible].
Studs Terkel In. Well, I quoted him in this particular book. It was again to establish ranks of races and sexes and try and argue according to the so-called theory of recapitulation, that [unintelligible] tongue twister ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny or that an individual, in the course of this life, goes through a stage. A set of stages that his ancestors. The assumption there being that the sup- that the adults of so-called inferior races would be like the children of superior races because it's chil- because the superior races were going through these old stages. So Hall tried to study the childhood behavior of whites to see if it was, right, to see if it was like the adult behavior.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yeah that in fact the whole image that Kipling uses, your new court sought- caught sullen people half devil and half child. And that notion that a Black person is a child comes right out of that theory of recapitulation if the adult Black is like a child. And under the theory recapitulation, Blacks are inferior. Teddy Roosevelt wrote an when he read that poem, wrote an interesting comment to Henry Cabot Lodge. He said, "It was mighty poor poetry but it made sense from an expansionist point of view."
Stephen Jay Gould No.
Studs Terkel And so we still talk about speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Stick toward whom? Or stick it to whom? "In your ear turkey," is a phrase that's popular or was popular a few years ago.
Studs Terkel But nonetheless we, we speak of today and not accidentally it must affect the young, the things you're talking about. The revival of long-discredited theories again you know, offered the strangest quarters credibility. So it has to affect- how did you find the camps? Not to wander about. Do, Do I think it's related.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh it certainly is. I think teaching 10 or 15 years ago was much more exciting. I mean kids might revile you but at least there are arguments now. And I'm not blaming the students because I see the conditions that give rise to it. But attitudes is so centered on becoming wealthy and successful and the whole notion there might be action through compassion for others, is almost dismissed as a kind of naive fantasy of one's elder brothers's and sisters of ten years ago. It's very sad.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh yes. I don't mean to say it's monolithic. In fact, it's very heartening to see how much activity has been generated around such issues as potential conflict in El Salvador and South African investments.
Studs Terkel But the idea of younger brothers and sisters of the 60 young people is interesting. This has to affect the very thing you're talking about. And so we have something called the criminal type that was studied some time ago. Lombroso spoke of that. This was when? This was
Stephen Jay Gould Eighteen seventy-six, Cesare Lombroso wrote a book called, "L'uomo Delinquente," or "Criminal Man," in which he argued that the cause of most criminality in fact did not arise from social circumstances but from the innate biology of criminals. That criminals were facts of nature and they represented those unfortunate human beings who were atavisms who were throwbacks to previous evolutionary stages. In other words they behaved like normal more primitives would but that counts as criminal behavior in white society. And the way you could tell them was to study their anatomy because you would see in their anatomy various signs of their apeishness. There was eve- some of the studies were so absurd. For example, someone in the 1880s, studied the feet of prostitutes and thought he had found that the toe of prostitutes was more prehensile that is grasping like that of monkeys and apes than the toes of ordinary women. [unintelligible] absurd.
Stephen Jay Gould There was certainly a move towards the Mikado's judgment so to speak. I, I mean obviously you don't make the punishment fit the crime, you make the punishment fit the criminal. And if someone was depraved by nature, then nothing could be done and so the extreme punishment, namely death, was certainly not an unreasonable.
Studs Terkel Really?
Stephen Jay Gould Yes he was, indeed. Tolstoy's last novel was in fact very much about the subject. It's about a man named Prince Nekhlyudov who is trying to understand a system that falsely condemned a woman who he himself had wronged. And so he goes out and he reads the works of criminal anthropology. Tries to find an answer for why it is that some people behave in a criminal fashion. And so this is what he writes. "He also came across a tramp and a woman both of whom repelled him by their half-witted insensibility in seeming cruelty. But even in them he failed to see the criminal type as it described in the Italian school of criminology." That's Lombroso and the others who I just describing who thought that criminals should look a little bit like an ape. "He saw in them only people who were repulsive to him personally, like others, who are, whom he met outside prison walls in swallowtail colts, coats wearing epaulets bedecked with lace. At first he hoped to find the answers in books and he bought everything he could find. He bought the works of Lombroso and Garofalo, who was a disciple of Lombroso, Ferri, [list] Maudsley and Tarde's are all the criminal anthropologists, read them carefully. But as he read, he became more and more disappointed. Science answered thousands of very subtle and ingenious questions touching criminal law but certainly not the one he was trying to solve. He was asking a very simple thing. Why and by what right does one class of people lock up torture, exile, flog and kill other people when they themselves are no better than those whom they torture, flog and kill? And for answers, he got arguments as to whether human beings were possessed with free will or not. The criminal propensities be detected by measuring the skull and so on. What part does heredity play in crime? Is there such a thing as congenital depravity?" That's the Tolstoy's last novel, "Resurrection.
Studs Terkel At the same time, she just. I met some during a visit. Jurode, Pennsylvania recently involving in my book. And these are hard working people these parents who objected to certain words in the book. Not the book, words in the book. I'm halfway [unintelligible]. And so I met their pastor. He came to see me, nice, genial sort of guy named Reverend Lawrence Flat. And as we're going along, I finally said, I asked, "Well, Reverend, Pastor, what is your view of the human race?" He looks at me and he says, "We are depraved," and he quotes a biblical quote and that, see. I think among the hard working people who object to our creationists, who object to a certain book, man basically is depraved. I'm no good. I'm not or have been told all my life, "I'm not worth much." they think. Therefore, what I read, if it reflects my life, must be depraved. And therefore, we have to come out of something supernatural not natural if we're a depraved people, see. We've done something wrong because why would our first ancestors be driven out of the garden if we didn't do
Stephen Jay Gould Well that's one convenient way to explain misery. You can explain misery as part of- there is a lot of misery in the world and if the reason for it can be something in a way external to us that it was the fall of our first ancestors, or God made us that way. Then perhaps we can comprehend it.
Stephen Jay Gould No, I mean, on the subject of creationism, I think there such a difference between its legitimately indigenous character in many parts of the country. I don't mean I think it's right by legitimately indigent. I just mean there's a historical basis for it. These aren't the people who are pushing to get evolution out of the classrooms. These are people who for generations in their local areas have believed it. The belief is one thing. It's those who are exploiting it. It's the Jerry Falwell's, it's the evangelical right. It's the ones who are making political capital and raising cash on the basis.
Stephen Jay Gould Cyril Burt was the leading English psychologist engaged in the subject of mental tests for most of the 20th century because he lived a long life. Began his career by spending 20 years as the chief psychologist for the London County Council which meant that he was responsible for the administration of mental tests in all London schools. He then assumed the most prestigious chair of psychology in England at University College London and he lived his whole life with a single idee fixe of the one idea that he pushed through 70 years of writing papers namely that intelligence was a single thing. It was an entity. It was inside the skull. You could give a number to it. It was measurable. And on the basis of that idee fixe, he certainly believed that a, a test could identify and that you could do it young. You could give children tests at a young age and pretty much assess the limits on their later general achievement. And as a result of his and other work, in fact, this may have been the most oppressive practical consequence that intelligence testing ever had anywhere in the world this century. For about 20 years in England, all children were tested at age 11 and on the basis of that single test of the IQ type, 80 percent was sent to schools of, from which it was virtually impossible to gain entrance to a university. You know 80 percent branded as uneducable to that level. Now, here's the interesting thing about Cyril Burt why he entered the news so much a few years ago is that he done a lot of other studies including all trying to show the hard hereditarian nature of intelligence. The main one being a study of identical twins reared apart, and it was found about five years ago that his data were fraudulent. He apparently just made them up.
Stephen Jay Gould Yup.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh he was enormously embarrassing. Hans Eysenck, his major supporter in the leading biolog- determinist of England initially said this is just a left-wing plot to discredit Sir Cyril. And now I think everyone understands that of course the charges were correct.
Stephen Jay Gould The theory of neonteny is a perfectly good theory which I think is an important part of human evolution which argues that often in evolution you get a change in developmental rate, a slowing down of developmental rate so that the descendants look like or in many ways are like the juvenile stages of ancestors. I think that has indeed happened in human evolution. We do have many characteristics like that of juvenile but not at all primates. Not only morphological characteristics but also our basically flexible approach towards life. But I think did a very curious thing in using an [organ?] from neoteny to support biological determinism, he argued that neoteny is good. So the more childlike you are the better and Blacks develop, that is their sensory motor development of Blacks is as young children quicker than that of whites and that's true so far as I know. But I think that see that Blacks are growing up quicker and that means that they are less neoteous and therefore stupider and that was a very peculiar argument to take something that one might in some naïve way at least have thought was a benefit.
Studs Terkel Mm
Studs Terkel Yeah. But one of these things throughout your book is also that the approach used by some of these is single. That is linear. You call it linear. It's a single that evolution itself is just one single line. You point out, like the branches of a tree.
Stephen Jay Gould I think it's the basic, the basic, deep underlying fallacy behind- I mean they're the immediate political fallacies but there's, there are deep fallacies. One is the notion of progress, the notion of linearity. Most of us still think of evolution even though any professional evolutionist will tell you what nonsense it is, and but we can't get that metaphor out of our head, the old chain of being, the notion of progress of innate improvement has characterized the history of life. The way I see that most. Whenver I go on a talk show, somebody will invariably ask me this question as though is the ultimate stumper that prove that evolution was wrong. "All right," they'll say. "All right Gould you say evolution. So I got one. You answer me this. How- you say people evolved from apes. Right?" I say, "Yeah, that's basically right" "All right if people evolve from apes, why are apes still around? You answer me that one!" And they think that completely demolishes the notion. But you see, cause what's behind that is the notion there is nothing but a unilinear ladder-like progress, that if people evolved from apes, then apes have to turn into people and then people turn to angels. [unintelligible] because of branch and bush. And humans branched off from the ape lineage. Apes are still around.
Studs Terkel And so it's funny. People will think [unintelligible]. Now this is related to economic theories, to social theories as well as to scientific and biological theories, too. It's all related, in a way.
Stephen Jay Gould Oh and it has been. You go right back Herbert Spencer, who essentially invented social Darwinism. He tried to apply these notions of inherent progress to the development of societies, to the development of the cosmos, to the development of technologies. And basically ended up constructing a 10-volume apologetics for, for Victorian England's colonialism.
Studs Terkel And so in the 20s when there was study of pellagra in the south, you know. And they said well that again this is nothing to do with the social conditions, has do with some mental deficiency.
Stephen Jay Gould That's
Stephen Jay Gould That's a very interesting story because it illustrates that these issues are not just abstract academic concerns. That ideas to put it bluntly, really can kill. Biological determinists, particularly Davenport, Charles Benedict Davenport believed that there were true diseases of poverty. That is, there are diseases of poverty. But they believed that the diseases of poverty were due to the unfortunate biology of poor people. That was very important in their system. And pellagra which was a disease that affected poor people and killed many, they had a great stake in arguing that people who suffered from pellagra were inherently prone to get it. Now Joseph Goldberger was able to show that it was a vitamin deficiency disease and could be cured easily in fact not only cured but cured easily. And yet his work was pretty much suppressed for a long time because there was such a stake of the Davenports and others in the notion that poor people were inferior by their very construction.
Stephen Jay Gould I don't really know that the most objectionable parts of the application to humans are popular but they've certainly got a lot of press and they reflect a variety of thing that many people want to believe.
Studs Terkel But I was thinking because here as evidence, is, is this Wilson? Yeah Wilson cites the prevalence reading from toward the end of Stephen Jay Gould's book, "The Mismeasure of Man." Wilson, the proponent of a- who's that now again? Not, not-
Studs Terkel E.O. Wilson cites the prevalence of warfare in history and then discounts any current disinclination to fight and quote, "The most peaceable tribes of today were often the ravages of yesteryear and will probably again produce soldiers and murderers in the future." And you say, "But of some people is a peaceable now than aggression itself cannot be coded in our genes. Only the potential for it. And oh, if innate only means possible or even likely in certain environments then everything we do is innate and the word has no meaning."
Stephen Jay Gould Yeah, I thought it's such a curious argument. He's trying to claim that aggressivity and nastiness are innate and the way he does it is by claiming that people who have been peaceful in fact, were in the past and will be nasty in the future. Well, maybe that's so but if their peaceable now it shows that, that entire range is available and can be elicited in appropriate social conditions. What else does it show?
Stephen Jay Gould Primarily.
Studs Terkel So this is "The Mismeasure of Man." And this just part of it, by the way. And I was thinking of, of, of this book and the two previous ones. You tackled some of, of these scientists who are often make the Sunday supplement. And very often make the New York Times Magazine. Very definitely that. And so what have you found today? Do you? How do you find at this moment the climate in, in the world of science, as you know it?
Stephen Jay Gould I think that with Reagan and the general rightward drift, particularly the disinclination to spend any money on social programs. Just think how convenient an argument it is. Oh well poverty exists because people are made that way and therefore all the spending all this money isn't going to do a great deal of good. So I think although I don't want to say that the situation now has anything like most of the times described in my book when there was virtual unanimity among scientists. I think in fact, the majority of scientists are now probably fairly anti-deterministic but there are still powerful forces that are producing more deterministic arguments that have social utility greater now than say 10 or 15 years ago in the United States. And so we will see the issue with us again.
Studs Terkel You know what? I'd, I'd like if you'd read the end. You're quoting from "The Once and Future King," [Yes-Gould] of T.H. White. Perhaps end with the reading of that and that's deal with the possibilities, of course. And a we're talking to Stephen Jay Gould. The book is, "The Mismeasure of Man," and Norton the publishers and it's a very exciting one indeed, and eye-opening, too. And of course, it makes things being they just jump right at you. A certain clarity there and how "mismeasure" is the word, isn't it? Yes.
Stephen Jay Gould Yes.
Stephen Jay Gould It's a wonderful little parable that was told by a badger at the end of "The Sword and the Stone," the first part of T.H. White's, "The Once and Future King." And the theme here of course is to illustrate that if there's anything that's essential to humans is this enormous flexibility that makes a mockery of these various attempts to say this particular behavior is innate and this particular behavior is inborn. And this number that you get on an IQ test is a permanent limit. Flexibility is the great theme.
Stephen Jay Gould [The
Studs Terkel Your colleague Dick Lewington. I was pointing out that Darwin had one flaw, he believed that nature was inflexible. That there was a contemporary, his name Wallace who believed in the, nature itself changes along with the products of nature.
Stephen Jay Gould Absolutely. Any event, the story that's told by the badger is that God creates all the animals as embryos. Then he brings them before him and he says,"Okay," God says to each embryo. "I will give you two things. Two features. Just tell me what you want." And each of the embryo makes what's ultimately a mistake. That is each of the embryo asked for some complicated but constraining bit of equipment. Now the lion asked for sharp teeth and claws and the deer asked for hooves and antlers and the human embryo comes before God's throne last and there's this dialogue. "Please God," says the human embryo. "I think that you made me in the shape which I now have for reasons best known to yourselves and that it would be rude to change." This by the way was also a commentary on the theory of neoteny that we were discussing earlier, that's the human being as an adult is like an embryo. "If I'm to have my choice, I will stay as I am. I will not alter any of the parts which you gave me. I will stay a defenseless embryo all my life doing my best to make myself a few feeble implements out of the wood iron and other materials which you've seen fit to put before me." "Well done!" exclaimed the creator, in delighted tone. "Here all you embryos, come here with your beaks your whatnots and look upon our first man. He is the only one who has guessed our riddle. As for you man, you will look like an embryo till they bury you. But all the others will be embryos before your might. Eternally undeveloped, you will always remain potential in our image, able to see some of our sorrows and to feel some of our joys. We are partly sorry for you man but partly hopeful. Run along then and do your best."
Stephen Jay Gould Thank