October 9, 2013

Galton and Boas go head to head

A reader writes:
As a Galton enthusiast you might find these photos interesting. They show one of the entrances to the Social Sciences Research Building, completed in 1929 and part of the neogothic UChicago quad ("the city gray").  
 With an implied parity, twin reliefs of Francis Galton and Franz Boas stare at each other above the doorway. They look like a couple of logos from the Sunday night ESPN coverage of that storied rivalry, nature vs. nurture. They remind me, every time I walk beneath them, that it was not too long ago that a scholar could respectably have an interest in heredity as well as culture.

The relief of the much-demonized Galton is used by Chicago's statistics department as its logo. U. of Chicago stats professor Stephen M. Stigler is the foremost spokesman for the importance of Galton in the development of statistics.

Galton and Boas seem like a good balance. The intellectual climate in 1929 was well-modulated: the hereditarians were respected, but the environmentalists had landed some solid punches on the Darwinians' worst ideas. Both sides were upping their games due to this competition.

According to historian Carl Degler's In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought, the tipping point into dogmatic blank slate extremism was the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 (not the coming to power in 1933 of the Nazis, as history was later rewritten). The sudden inability of businessmen to donate magnificent new buildings for intellectuals to work in led to an Agonizing Reappraisal of human nature: Hey, maybe those Bolshies are on to something!

It was a little bit more complicated than that, but never underestimate the intellectual appeal of piles of money and the revulsion that the disappearance of the big bucks generates in the brainy.


Anonymous said...



josh said...

Are you sure it wasn't just the Rockefeller-funded Social Science Research Council coordinating research. The SSRC was founded in 1923, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller foundation was merged with the Rockefeller foundation in 1929. Remember LSR was heavily on the nurture side, founding Spelman College and having family connections going back to the abolitionists and the underground railroad. (and by the way, check out the "undernews" on Laura Spellman Rockefeller.) The LSRF was entirely devoted to the nurture cause, focusing their research on "child development" and "behaviorism". These were the bastards who ended up giving us Bauhaus *and* the suburbs after all.

Beardsley Ruml is an interesting guy. He created the SSRC (along with Charles Mirriam), he ran the LSRF, he was director of the NY Fed and Dean of Social Sciences at U Chicago. Beardsley created the fellowship program for the SSRC which would train the next generation of social scientists. He then handed over the reins to Louis Wirth, who had been a Communist (with a capital "C") while at the U of Chicago (and also wrote most Myrdal's book for the Carnegie Foundation). Ruml, obviously would have known that and the good folks at the Rock Foundation would have known what Ruml was. JDR jr. was, unlike his father, actively engaged in running the RF.

Here's an interesting chart.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh.

Someone else who thinks he knows how to fix the skills gap in the US:


Anonymous said...


Steve, I don't know if you've seen this weeks copy of the New Scientist magazine, but there's a very interesting article in there describing the work of an academic, one Peter Turchin, the gist of whose work seems to chime in with the generality of Stevedom.

Anonymous said...

Steve - way off topic - but you seem to be on one of your "manic" binges, and I don't know where else to file it.

But I think that Wayne Allyn Root has finally cracked the "birther" mystery.

And this is big.

Really, really big.

And so very iSteve-ish: Root thinks that Obama's grades in high school [and then at Occidental] were so awful that Obama couldn't get into the Ivy League even with a minority set-aside quota slot.

And Root thinks that it was Obama himself who concocted the "Born in Kenya, Raised in Indonesia" scam, which gave Obama the last little piece of exoticness that he needed to con his way into Columbia and then Harvard:

Obama is 100% Red, White & Blue American Born

My guess is that Obama couldn't pull a scam like this while still in high school, because prim-n-proper banking executive Madelyn Payne Dunham would have none of it, but after he got to Occidental, he started running with the children of foreign potentates, like Mohammed Hasan Chandoo, [COVERED HERE AT iSTEVE and also HERE], and Obama witnessed first hand just how much nonsense that the foreign students were able to get away with, and that's when he decided to launch the Kenyan/Indonesian scam.

At that point, some time around his sophomore year at Occidental, Chandoo was leaving town, so Obama was losing his on-campus sugar daddy, and prim-n-proper Madelyn Payne Dunham was no longer in the picture, to scold him against doing anything improper, and so the stars were perfectly aligned for Barry to go for it - to reinvent himself as a new man.

Then it would only become a crisis about 25 years later, when Barry decided to run for President, and he had to desperately whitewash away any remaining evidence of the old lie [such as what was still sitting on his original publisher's website, as recently as 2007].

Root's theory explains so much, Steve.

It really makes sense. It ties togther almost all of the loose ends.

The only piece of the puzzle still missing would be an explanation for how Stanley Ann Dunham was able to show up in Seattle, Washington, as a freshman at the U of W, in mid-August of 1962, just 10 days or two weeks after Obama was ostensibly born in Hawaii.

If Root's theory is correct, then the most likely explanation is that Frank Marshall Davis knocked up Stanley Ann at a much younger age than the standard timeline would have you believe, and that Obama was born much earlier than August 4, 1961.

But I really feel like Root is onto something here.

PS: I knew a black guy in the high school class of 1979 [same class as Obama], who, from the point of view of normal Ivy League smarts, was just a total moron, but everyone in the entire high school went freaking celebratory nuts when he got offered a full ride to an Ivy League school [and I doubt that he scored even a dime more than 1100 on his SATs, if that - he always struck me as more of a "1000" kinduva guy].

The fact that Obama didn't get offered a full ride to the Ivies straight out of the Punahou School says to me that Obama's grades and test scores [back circa 1978/1979] were simply horrible.

Which would be completely consistent with Root's hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

Always remember Franz Boaz's two foremost disciples: Ruth Benedict (somewhat forgotten in popular memory and mostly confined to academic circles) and of course the anthropologist and pre-Oprah oracle, Margaret Mead.

If we want to see the worst abuses of Franz Boas's work, read some of Margaret Mead's works and theories or better yet, watch some of Oprah's early episodes that deal with nature vs nurture.

Anonymous said...

I was watching Panic in Needle Park(interesting but not great movie), and having sex is commonly referred to as 'balling'.

It used to be so common at one time but vanished almost overnight. Why do some words become so prominent but then disappear so quickly?

I don't miss the term. It is the one of the ugliest term I can think of. You get the mental image of a sack of balls slapping up and down on the woman's backside.

C. Van Carter said...

Take a look at professor Samuel N. Harper (one of Moldbug's finds), the son of Chicago’s first president. A sample of his "scholarship".

Anonymous said...

I don't miss the term. It is the one of the ugliest term I can think of. You get the mental image of a sack of balls slapping up and down on the woman's backside.

It is an ugly term and I dont miss it either. But I didnt have that picture in my head. But I have now, thanks to you.;-)

Anonymous said...

This has a nice piece on Stanley Kauffmann.



Edward Murray also wrote


I'm not the biggest fan of Wild Strawberries and La Strada, but it's a good book nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

Friedkin A.


Anonymous said...

Of all notions advanced by Galton the one of them, at least, is accorded militant ignoring: the use of dogs to "smell" detect human features, espcially medical illnesses. Of course the odd American complex of bathing three times a day and eating all manner of unnatural "food" (and avoiding clean water @ a gallon a day for
drinking ) removes odor from Nature to an extent Galton would not have surmised. Dogs have long been known in Chinese culture for the capacity to detect by smell many forms of psychosis.

pat said...

Normally I abjure thread hijacking but this thread is already thoroughly hijacked with the comment about Wayne Allen Root's theory on Obama's school records.

So I will indulge myself with a comment on the 'Panic in Needle Park' comment which was also 'off topic'.

Panic in Needle park was not exactly a B Movie but it was a minor movie on an ugly subject. It starred an unknown actor who was cast undoubtedly because he was small, wormy and unattractive. He was everyone's idea of what a pathetic street junkie looked like. He was of course Al Pacino.

Pacino was destined at that time to play secondary leads usually as a villain. He was fated for a career in the kind of roles played so well by Michael Wincott. Of course Pacino was never even half the actor Wincott is.

But Coppola miscast him as Michael Corleone. Coppola got a lot of heat over casting Brando but the real flaws in casting were James Caan (not big or sexy enough), Pacino (not pretty enough), and the old fat washed up wrestler who played Luca Brazzi (not intimidating at all).

In the book Michael had male beauty like a young Monte Cliff or Jose Carreras. If he doesn't have real looks the whole broken face sub-plot falls flat.

Jimmy Caan played many parts but in none of them was he the guy that women swooned over. Casting him - a mid-sized white bread actor - ruined another aspect of the book.

A popular career move for pro wrestlers these days is in action movies. Wayne Johnson (the Rock) is the wrong ethic group but he can credibly project menace. He would be a decent Luca Brazzi. But the old, fat, arthritic guy Coppola actually cast scared no one.

Just sayin'.


Anonymous said...

"in mid-August of 1962" = "in mid-August of 1961"

Geoff Matthews said...


In Lenny Montana's defense, he did work for the Colombo crime family.
Sure, he was old, but the original actor died of a stroke, so it could have been worse.
Or did the mob only make it look like a stroke?

Cail Corishev said...

"You get the mental image of a sack of balls slapping up and down on the woman's backside."

Well, I do now.

The one that bothers me is people teaching their boys to call their genitals "junk." Yes, let's teach them that their manhood is garbage. It'll save the feminists time when they get older.

Anonymous said...

"Panic in Needle park was not exactly a B Movie but it was a minor movie on an ugly subject. It starred an unknown actor who was cast undoubtedly because he was small, wormy and unattractive. He was everyone's idea of what a pathetic street junkie looked like."


Slate says Didion put a lot into it(though it's based on a book by James Mills).

I don't like it. It was one of those New Hollywood films that tried to be 'different' and 'real', but the two characters are just boring and uninteresting. Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver also deal with urban decay and corruption, but the personalities are engaging. Maybe most 'losers' are more like the dull characters of Panic, but I just don't care. If I wanna see losers act like losers, I'll just look out my car window at junkies in city streets.

Even so, I found it interesting as a personal socio-docudrama of the period. What-was-shown was less interesting than who-was-seeing. Didion and her hubby Dunne were too old to be part of counterculture. They were intellectualish writers by nature and profession. They surely didn't know junkies and other such losers cluttering up new New York on first hand basis. And yet, the city was full of them by the late 60s and early 70s.

So, the real panic in the film is less about junkies and drugs but about liberals who are anxious about what is happening to their great city, what is happening to young people, what is happening to a sweet white girl who ends up like the one in the movie.

Though the film is heavy on realism, there is an detached essay-istic mode of clinical observation. We don't get inside the characters' minds. No matter how intimate the close up, we see through the bemused eyes of Didion and Dunne who are trying to make some out of the reality but feel flustered by the sheer soul-social calamity of it all. Maybe they didn't want to get too close cuz it's so ugly, putrid, and pointless.

Scorsese's MEAN STREETS, in contrast, run, fight, hide, and feel with the characters.


You're wrong about Pacino in THE GODFATHER. He can be a beautiful actor. Just look at him in the wedding scene in Sicily. Watch the breeze sweep his hair. Or look at him in Carlito's Way. Or consider his sleaze-as-art act in Glengarry Glen Ross. He does an ugly thing so beautifully.

And Caan was great as Sonny. He's not supposed to be the pretty guy women swoon over. Women like him because he's tough, forceful, and said to be BIG. (Even his stupid wife has to demonstrate how BIG it is. I guess that's why Eddie Murphy said in DELIRIOUS, 'ya must be Italians.')

Anonymous said...

Maybe Panic in Needle Park should have used non-pro actors or actual junkies.

When a film goes for hard realism but has a lot of well-trained actors working so hard to be 'real', it doesn't work.

Realism can be incorporated into professionally acted movie, but if a film is out to convince us that we are seeing something like REAL reality, you need something more natural and spontaneous-feeling than Good Acting, no matter how natural-seeming it is.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I think that the August 4th "summer" birthdate is the key to all of this.

Back in the 1970s, all young men had to register with the Selective Service by their 18th birthdays.

And the high schools were all over it - constantly reminding the boys that they needed to register - and sometimes even setting up Selective Service recruitment tables right there in the school so that the boys could just walk by and sign up on the spot.

So that if Barry had had, say, a February or a March or an April birthday, then his senior year Guidance Counselor at Punahou would have been nagging him for weeks: "Barry, you have got to register for Selective Service, and you have got to decide what to do about that Indonesian Passport on your eighteenth birthday - whether you are going to surrender the passport, or whether you are going to declare dual citizenship, or whether you are going to consider yourself to be an Indonesian as an adult".

But none of that would have happened at Punahou, because Barry would have been only 17 at graduation, circa early June of 1979, so he would have had the whole summer to "think" about it [really to FORGET about it] before his birthday in August.

My guess is that Barry probably spent the summer of 1979 so high on marijuana and liquor [and maybe even on cocaine] that goodness only knows what paperwork he might or might not have gotten around to actually filling out and submitting.

So some obvious questions:

1) Did Barry register with Selective Service by his 18th birthday?

2) Did Barry surrender his Indonesian Passport on his 18th birthday, and declare allegiance to the USA and to the USA alone?

3) Or did Barry fill out the paperwork necessary to become a dual citizen of Indonesia and the USA?

4) Or did Barry move forward considering himself to be solely a citizen of Indonesia?

5) Or did Barry just mope around in a marijuana-smoking haze all summer, and do nothing at all whatsoever?

My best guess is that Barry probably [at least] kept ahold of the Indonesian passport, rather than surrendering it, on August 4, 1979, and that's how he was able to travel to Pakistan, in 1981, when Americans were supposed to have been forbidden to travel there.

And because Barry never surrendered the Indonesian passport, he was able to concoct the "Born in Kenya, Raised in Indonesia" scam when he applied to transfer to Columbia, and AS WAYNE ALLYN ROOT POSITS, Barry made that application to Columbia, and then transferred and attended and graduated AS A FOREIGN STUDENT ON AN INDONESIAN PASSPORT!!!

It just makes so much sense.

It ties together almost all of the loose ends.

It explains why John Brennan's people had to go snooping around in Barry's State Department passport file during the 2008 campaign.

And it explains why poor Lt Quarles Harris Jr had to join Donald Young in the morgue.

All because Barry was such a loser and so high on drugs that he couldn't get into the Ivy League on a normal "African American" set-aside quota slot, and instead he needed the added boost of being a third world foreign exchange student with an exotic life's story.

I'm telling you, Steve, it really feels like Root is right about this - that Barry himself concocted the "Born in Kenya" myth just so that he could get into the Ivy League.

Anonymous said...

Re the President's grades and test scores. His Hawaiian high school certainly participated in the National Merit testing. As far as I can find out, there is no indication that Barry Obama placed even as a semi-finalist, although it would be a strange omission for him not to have taken the test. And all such schools post honor roll names frequently. It seems his was seldom, if ever, included.
The guy may be more word flashy than brain big?

Anonymous said...

The guy may be more word flashy than brain big?

If Barry had had even about an 1150 on his SAT at Punahou, then he should have been able to get an all-expense paid ride to a school like Columbia as a freshman on an African-American set-aside quota slot. Heck, maybe even Princeton/Harvard/Yale.

But the fact that Barry had to settle for a second-rate school like Occidental says to me that he probably scored something more like 980 on his SAT at Punahou*.

And that's precisely Wayne Allyn Root's new hypothesis: That to get that final extra little boost for the transfer into Columbia, Obama had to concoct the "Born in Kenya, Raised in Indonesia" scam, which got him over the final hurdle and accepted as a FOREIGN STUDENT attending Columbia.

It just makes so much sense.

It explains almost everything.

*Or maybe Barry was so high on drugs at Punahou that he didn't even bother to take the SAT, and that's why he had to settle for Occidental as a freshman.

Anonymous said...



"Her father, Berthold P. Wiesner, was a physician who pioneered human infertility treatment. He became a controversial figure, as he is now believed to have used his own sperm to sire perhaps 600 of the children his clinic helped to be born."


Anonymous said...


GOP imploding. Maybe a good thing. It is so utterly useless.

Anonymous said...

Steve - think about it.

Back when he was a senior at Punahou, in the fall of 1978, or the early spring of 1979, neither Grandma Madelyn nor his Guidance Counselor at Punahou would let him apply to college as anything but an American.

But then two years later, at Occidental, he's watched while Chandoo has been treated as royalty by everyone on campus - probably getting a "Gentleman's C" in all of his courses, without even attending class or turning in his assignments - and suddenly the lightbulb goes off in Barry's head.

"You know, I still have that old Indonesian passport, because I never surrendered it to the State Department like Grandma Madelyn kept nagging me to do. Heck, what if I were to get in on Chandoo's scam? What if I were to reinvent myself, from little Barry Soetoro Dunham, the Punahou Nerd, to big, bad, fire-breathing Barack Hussein Obama, the Kenyan-Indonesian Princeling? And all I need to do is to apply for my transfer as an Indonesian, rather than as an American..."

It just makes so much sense.

Helian Unbound said...

1929 is probably as good a date as any. The Blank Slate wasn't purely a Marxist thing, but socialists of all flavors realized at some level that cultural determinism was necessary for their theories to work. As Malcolm Muggeridge put it in his "The Thirties," it was hard to find a Marxist university professor in 1930. By the end of the decade it was hard to find one who wasn't. Robert Ardrey has some excellent analysis of the Blank Slaters in "African Genesis" and "The Territorial Imperative."

NOTA said...

Anon 12:28:

Sounds like high fitness to me

Mr. Anon said...

It's interesting that naziism always gets sole blame for the decline into which eugenics fell. The communists were enthusiastic proponents of eugenics, happily killing their way to the New Soviet Man.

David Davenport said...

I was watching Panic in Needle Park(interesting but not great movie), and having sex is commonly referred to as 'balling'.

It used to be so common at one time but vanished almost overnight. Why do some words become so prominent but then disappear so quickly?

"Balling" is current slang for playing basketball. A "baller" is a basketball player.

Some slang is perishable. Twenty-three skidoo and Bob's your uncle, kiddo.

pat said...

I thank Geoff Matthews for the poop on Luca Brazzi. I didn't know he was a last minute replacement. That explains a lot.

In the book Sonny is the constant object of female attention and interest. There are lots of Hollywood male actors whose principal asset is their appeal to women. Jimmy Caan isn't one of them. I'm often wrong about such things but I think I'm right about this one.

Caan was on Johnny Carson shortly after the movie came out. They discussed his size. Everyone felt he was too small for the part apparently. So he 'acted' bigger and wore lifts.

All (or almost all) humans are sexually attractive when they are young. Even Pacino. All (or almost all) Hollywood actors are good actors the way that all major league center fielders are good athletes. It has to be that way. 99% of all actors are unemployed. Acting jobs pay a fortune. In other words there is plenty of competition.

Also the producers have millions invested in even the most modest movies.

Finally it's not clear to me that acting ability is rare. The guy who plays the Somali pirate in Tom Hanks' latest movie never acted before. He will probably get an Oscar nomination the way Haing Ngor did for his first time acting job.

So it's not surprising that Pacino was good. But there were dozens of other who would have been as good or better. I'm sure that half the restaurants in Southern California have an aspiring actor working as a waiter who would have made a better Michael Corleone.


Anonymous said...

Why has Kevin MacDonald been left out of the discussion? From the Culture of Critique:

Several writers have commented on the “radical changes” that occurred in the goals and methods of the social sciences consequent to the entry of Jews to these fields (Liebman 1973, 213; see also Degler 1991; Hollinger 1996; Horowitz 1993, 75; Rothman & Lichter 1982). Degler (1991, 188ff) notes that the shift away from Darwinism as the fundamental paradigm of the social sciences resulted from an ideological shift rather than from the emergence of any new empirical data. He also notes that Jewish intellectuals have been instrumental in the decline of Darwinism and other biological perspectives in American social science since the 1930s (p. 200). The opposition of Jewish intellectuals to Darwinism has long been noticed (Lenz 1931, 674; see also comments of John Maynard Smith in Lewin [1992, 43]).1
In sociology, the advent of Jewish intellectuals in the pre–World War II period resulted in “a level of politicization unknown to sociology’s founding fathers. It is not only that the names of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim replaced those of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer, but also that the sense of America as a consensual experience gave way to a sense of America as a series of conflicting definitions” (Horowitz 1993, 75). In the post–World War II period, sociology “became populated by Jews to such a degree that jokes abounded: one did not need the synagogue, the minyan [i.e., the minimum number of Jews required for a communal religious service] was to be found inor, one did not need a sociology of Jewish life, since the two had become synonymous” (Horowitz 1993, 77). Indeed, the ethnic conflict within American sociology parallels to a remarkable degree the ethnic conflict in American anthropology that is a theme of this chapter. Here the
22 The Culture of Critique
conflict was played out between leftist Jewish social scientists and an old-line, empirically oriented Protestant establishment that was eventually eclipsed:
American sociology has struggled with the contrary claims of those afflicted with physics envy and researchers . . . more engaged in the dilemmas of society. In that struggle, midwestern Protestant mandarins of positivist science often came into conflict with East Coast Jews who in turn wrestled with their own Marxist commitments; great quantitative researchers from abroad, like Paul Lazarsfeld at Columbia


Anonymous said...

"Caan was on Johnny Carson shortly after the movie came out. They discussed his size. Everyone felt he was too small for the part apparently. So he 'acted' bigger and wore lifts."

The size in question couldn't have been shown in any case.