The greatest danger which today confronts the white race

I needed to look at R.A. Fisher’s review of John Maynard Keynes’s treatise on probability, which was published in Eugenics Journal, which I was trying to figure out if JSTOR has, and that led me to this, written by Yale geographer Ellsworth Huntington in 1923.  I know you all know early 20th-century attitudes around race were weird but it’s good to actually look at chunks of it from time to time.

Nevertheless, the greatest danger which today confronts the white race in general and the United States in particular is probably the dilution of a fine, capable racial inheritance with stocks of less capacity, both white and colored. In the clear and forceful manner that is characteristic of his entire book the author points out that “the East can underlive the West” and thereby drive out the westerners wherever the two attempt to compete on equal terms. This is true not only of Asiatics but of eastern and southern Europeans. Whenever such people mingle with those of higher heredity, they do not lift the superior type to a higher social level, as is often supposed, but actually drive it out, or rather prevent it from being born, as is rapidly happening in New England. This is not because the lower type is biologically the “best” but because it is willing to increase and multiply regardless of its own standard of living and that of its  children. The higher types, on the contrary, refuse to lower their standards by rapid multiplication and therefore die out. The forceful way in which this great truth is brought out makes Mr. Stoddard’s book deserve not only careful reading but careful thought in order that its conclusions may be acted upon.

There’s probably something to be said about the relationship between the rhetoric of race struggle in 1923 and the rhetoric of disruptive innovation now, but not by me.  By the way, New England turned out fine, as far as I can tell.

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4 thoughts on “The greatest danger which today confronts the white race

  1. David Einstein says:

    Many people are surprised at the debt that statistics has to eugenics. Galton, K. Pearson, and Fischer were all committed eugenists.

    The University of Adelaide has many of Fischer’s works online. http://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/3860

    For example http://hdl.handle.net/2440/15180 (I hope that works).

  2. Joseph Nebus says:

    The eugenics backing of so much statistics work seems to me to get mentioned at least in pop mathematics treatments that come into statistics work. The intro to statistics books that I’ve seen (which isn’t many, lately) have been quieter about that, although I’m not sure whether that’s because of embarrassed moving on past the eugenics stuff, or because math textbooks prefer to keep their historical bits to sidebar paragraphs printed with a color photograph of somebody to make the pages look like they don’t contain so much math.

  3. NDE says:

    I’ve read that in an earlier age astrology was a major application and driver of spherical geometry…

  4. harrison says:

    I feel like statistics has enough PR problems without the eugenics connection coming into play; it’s really no surprise that it tends to get downplayed.

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