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A review of: John HARVEY (2012) (Email: email@example.com) Race and Equality: the Nature of the Debate. Ulster Institute for Social Research, pp 142, £15, ISBN 978-0-9568811-3-7
Written by a retired maths teacher, this book is concerned to explain the basic concepts of evolution and genetics, to show how variety is constantly thrown up at both individual and racial levels and to point out that denial of radical human differences (‘identegalitarianism’) reflects little but the political desperation of socialists and kindred utopian idealists. Harvey writes with aplomb – even sometimes too much, dismissing some socio-environmentalist answers to his many questions ex cathedra as “ridiculous”; and he sometimes burdens himself with unnecessary theorizing, e.g. as to the superiority of men – an unlikely thesis in view of the equal contributions of males and females to subsequent generations and roundly dismissed by no less a would-be chauvinist than Doctor Johnson (who observed that the law gave men more power just because in nature they had so little). But Harvey gets to the nitty-gritty of speciation, genetic bottlenecks, founder effects, genetic drift etc; and, though there are perhaps too many examples taken from animals, he includes plenty of observations which should be better known – e.g. that Darwin’s Origin of Species was subtitled as having to do with just those dreaded “races” which it has lately been the business of postmodern relativists and similar successors to sociology to contest.
Psychology itself does not take up much of the book. Thus there is no serious consideration of how the g factor and IQ (the biggest factors in human difference) were derived; nor of what intelligence really is or of how and why it is so important in determining human dominance hierarchies. More surprisingly, there is little effort to explain the key concept of heritability (whether narrow or broad) over which London School psychologists and their critics once took so much trouble. Again, Harvey has no idea of what to do about the human differences in which he believes – he is not overtly concerned to say that society and its educational system in particular should respond to merit. Needless to say, Sir Francis Galton, William McDougall, Raymond Cattell, Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen and Phil Rushton are unmentioned in the index.
Yet Harvey’s heart is clearly in the right place and he concludes with an engaging trot through the modern world’s ethnic differences and conflicts – e.g. observing that when the greatest egalitarian experiment collapsed, the USSR broke up along not political or economic but along ethnic lines, with its star state, the GDR preferring its ethnic link to West Germany than any other route of going its own way. The book is admittedly no match for Eysenck’s great hymns to human inequality (e.g. the 1967 Chapter 1 of Biological Basis of Personality); it has many typos; and it largely holds back from commitments about the major racial inequality of all, that between Blacks and Whites; but, in avoiding frightening the horses, it will enable technical and political advance for students who have found themselves passably enthusiastic about Steven [sic] Pinker’s (2003) The Blank Slate.