J. Philippe Rushton


J. Philippe Rushton : biography

December 3, 1943 – October 2, 2012

A number of articles in a 1989 issue of Behavioral and Brain Sciences criticized the theory. Judith Anderson said his work was based on statistically flawed evidence,Anderson,Judith. 1989. "A methodological critique of the evidence for genetic similarity detection", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p.518 John Archer and others said that Rushton failed to understand and misapplied the theory of kin selection,Archer, John. 1989. "Why help friends when you can help sisters and brothers?", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p. 519Daly, Martin. 1989. "On distinguishing evolved adaptation from epiphenomena", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p.520Tooby, John and Leda Cosmides. 1989. "Kin selection, genic selection, and information-dependent strategies", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p.542-44 Judith Economos said he was speculative and failed to define the concept of altruistic behavior in a way that it can become manifest and failed to show any plausible mechanism by which members of a species can detect the "altruism gene" in other members of the species,Economos, Judith . 1989. "Altruism, nativism, chauvinism, racism, schism, and jizzum", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p. 521-23. and Steven Gangestad criticized the theory for not being compelling in terms of its attractiveness as an explanatory model,Gangestad, Steven W. 1989. "Uncompelling theory, uncompelling data", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p. 525-26. C.R. Hallpike said Rushton’s theory failed to take into account that many other traits, ranging from age, sex, social and political group membership, are observably more important in predicting altruistic behavior between non-kin than genetic similarity,Hallpike, C. R. 1989. "Green beard theory", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p. 528 and John Hartung criticized him for failing to conduct an adequate control group study and for ignoring contradictory evidence.Hartung,John. 1989. "Testing genetic similarity: Out of control", BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (1989) 12:3 p. 529

Littlefield and Rushton (1984) examined degree of bereavement among parents after the death of a child. They found that children perceived as more physically similar to their parents were grieved for more intensely than less similar children.

Russell, Wells, and Rushton (1985) reanalyzed several previous studies on similarities between spouses and concluded there is higher similarity on the more heritable characteristics. Rushton and Nicholson (1988) argued that spouses are more similar on those cognitive tests that are more genetically influenced. Rushton examined blood group genes and found that sexually interacting couples had more similar blood group genes than randomly paired individuals.

Rushton and Bons (2005) examined personality, attitude, and demographic characteristics for similarity among different groups of people. Monozygotic twins resembled one another (r = .53) more than dizygotic twins (r = .32), pairs of spouses (r = .32), and pairs of best friends (r = .20). The monozygotic twins twins also chose spouses and best friends who were more similar to their co-twins’ friends and spouses than did dizygotic twins. The authors said there was a substantial genetic contribution to these effects in the twins. Similarity to social partners was higher on more heritable characteristics than on less.

Other researchers doing empirical research have found results compatible with the theory.

Race and intelligence

Rushton was a proponent of that idea that racial differences in IQ are partially related to genetic inheritance. Research areas includes brain size, effects of inbreeding depression on IQ, and effects of admixture.

Application of r/K selection theory to race

Rushton’s book Race, Evolution, and Behavior (1995) uses r/K selection theory to explain how East Asians consistently average high, blacks low, and whites in the middle on an evolutionary scale of characteristics indicative of nurturing behavior. He first published this theory in 1984. Rushton argues that East Asians and their descendants average a larger brain size, greater intelligence, more sexual restraint, slower rates of maturation, and greater law abidingness and social organization than do Europeans and their descendants, who average higher scores on these dimensions than Africans and their descendants. He theorizes that r/K selection theory explains these differences. Rushton’s application of r/K selection theory to explain differences among racial groups has been widely criticised. One of his many critics is the evolutionary biologist Joseph L. Graves, who has done extensive testing of the r/K selection theory with species of Drosophila flies. Graves argues that not only is r/K selection theory considered to be virtually useless when applied to human life history evolution, but Rushton does not apply the theory correctly, and displays a lack of understanding of evolutionary theory in general. Graves also says that Rushton misrepresented the sources for the biological data he gathered in support of his hypothesis, and that much of his social science data was collected by dubious means. Other scholars have argued against Rushton’s hypothesis on the basis that the concept of race is not supported by genetic evidence about the diversity of human populations, and that his research was based on folk taxonomies., American Psychologist, Vol. 60, No. 1, 46–59. A number of later studies by Rushton and other researchers have argued that there are empirical support for the theory. Psychologist David P. Barash notes that r- and K-selection may have some validity when considering the so-called demographic transition, whereby economic development characteristically leads to reduced family size and other K traits. "But this is a pan-human phenomenon, a flexible, adaptive response to changed environmental conditions…Rushton wields r- and K-selection as a Procrustean bed, doing what he can to make the available data fit[…]. Bad science and virulent racial prejudice drip like pus from nearly every page of this despicable book."