The Sharks of Marx: Science vs Censorship

Tobias Langdon


Some people want to understand the world and some want to control it. But some want to understand the world in order to control it. Science is offering better tools to tyrants, but this means that tyrants may be better able to deny science. If certain facts about the world are ideologically unacceptable, modern technology will make it easier for a tyrant to suppress them.

For example, the Western world is presently governed by the dogma of human equality, namely, that all groups are psychologically and intellectually equal and that any apparent differences are caused by environment and culture, not by genetics. It is highly inconvenient that, scientifically speaking, this dogma is either a naïve fantasy or a self-serving lie. Many dogmatists would therefore like to end the inconvenience by ending the science:

I’m torn over how to respond to research on race and intelligence. Part of me wants to scientifically rebut the IQ-related claims of Herrnstein, Murray, Watson and Richwine. For example, to my mind the single most important finding related to the debate over IQ and heredity is the dramatic rise in IQ scores over the past century. This so-called Flynn effect, which was discovered by psychologist James Flynn, undercuts claims that intelligence stems primarily from nature and not nurture.

But another part of me wonders whether research on race and intelligence — given the persistence of racism in the U.S. and elsewhere — should simply be banned. I don’t say this lightly. For the most part, I am a hard-core defender of freedom of speech and science. But research on race and intelligence — no matter what its conclusions are — seems to me to have no redeeming value. (John Horgan, Should Research on Race and IQ Be Banned?, Scientific American, 16th May 2013)

Horgan’s proposal is neo-Stalinist, but that isn’t surprising. The modern dogma of egalitarianism is based on Marxism and the doyen of the dogmatists, the Jewish-American biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002), was the Lysenko of our day. And who was Lysenko? He was a Ukrainian biologist who revived Lamarckism under Stalin and enforced belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Insisting that there was no true distinction between genotype and phenotype, he enjoyed power and prestige for decades. But now he is listed in the “Pseudoscientific biologists” category at Wikipedia. I hope that Gould joins him there one day.

Lysenko’s enemies were sent to slave-labour camps and paid with their lives for being genuine scientists. In the modern West, the consequences of disagreeing with the dogma of absolute racial equality have, so far, extended no further than loss of job and reputation. There is still a tradition of free enquiry and free speech to destroy before the communist ideal can be realized in America and Western Europe. The Polish philosopher and historian Leszek Kołakowski (1927–2009) was very familiar with that ideal, because communism ruled his homeland and drove him into exile. He wrote about Stalin’s tyranny in Main Currents of Marxism (1978), which discusses Marxism in three volumes from its foundations through its golden age to its breakdown. In the third volume he described the fate of the “eminent genetician” Nikolay Vavilov, who disagreed with Lysenko’s scientific nonsense. Vavilov was “arrested in 1940 and perished in the Kolyma concentration camp” (op. cit., pg. 103).

But Kołakowski goes on to misinterpret Lysenkoism in an odd and puzzling way:

The Lysenko affair illustrates the considerable degree of fortuitousness in the history of the [Stalinist] regime’s battle with culture. It is easy to see that ideology was much more clearly involved in questions of cosmogony [the study of the origins of the universe] than in the matter of the inheritance of acquired characters. The theory that the universe had a beginning in time is hard to reconcile with dialectical materialism, but this is not obviously the case with the chromosome theory of heredity, and one can easily imagine Marxism-Leninism triumphantly proclaiming that this theory resoundingly confirmed the immortal ideas of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin. Yet in fact the ideological struggle was especially acute in the case of genetics, and it was here that the party’s intervention took its most brutal form, whereas the agitation over cosmogony was much milder. It is hard to find any logical explanation of the difference: much depended on accident, on who was in charge of the campaign, whether Stalin was interested in the point at issue, and so on. (Leszek Kołakowski, Main Currents of Marxism: Vol. III, The Breakdown, 1978, ch. IV, “The crystallization of Marxism-Leninism after the Second World War,” p. 139)

I disagree with Kołakowski: I don’t think there was anything “fortuitous” in the regime’s choice of targets or that it is hard to find a “logical explanation” of the difference. Cosmogony, the study of the origins of the universe, relates to things that are beyond human control and beyond most people’s concern or understanding. Biology is entirely different: it deals with important contemporary social phenomena in the real world, not the heavens and the remote past. An authoritarian regime would prefer biology to be easily malleable and subject to a tyrant’s will. Stalinists mistook their preferences for reality, or rather, tried to impose their preferences on reality as they had in economics and sociology.

This proved impossible and “today no one has any doubt that Lysenko was an ignoramus and a charlatan” (op. cit., pg. 103). If science wins the modern battle about racial differences, Stephen Jay Gould will be described as an ignoramus and charlatan too. But don’t bet the farm on it.

If neo-Stalinism wins the battle by shutting down research on the genetics of IQ — and especially the science of race differences in IQ, that will represent the victory of politics over science, of language over legitimate research. In Main Currents of Marxism, Kołakowski is writing a history of that struggle. The book describes the authoritarian crypto-theology of Karl Marx and the various adaptations of it made by Marx’s followers. As is well-known, Marxism became very entrenched and entirely mainstream within Jewish communities beginning in the latter nineteenth century. A disproportionate number of prominent Marxist intellectuals were, like Marx himself, ethnic Jews, including the Hungarian György Lukács (1885–1971) and members of the Frankfurt School like Theodor Adorno (1903–69), Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) and Ernst Bloch (1885–1977).

Marxism can be interpreted as a crypto-rabbinic cult in which the old patterns of Jewish life — charismatic, authoritarian rabbis expounding complex texts to their strictly policed disciples — were disguised as philosophy and economics for the modern world (see Ch. 6 of Culture of Critique, passim). It is significant that Kołakowski uses the theological term ex cathedra when describing the dogmatism of philosophers like Lukács and Adorno. The term literally means “from the seat” and refers to the pronouncements made by a pope or bishop:

It would be hard indeed to find a more striking example of anti-rationalism than that afforded by Lukács’s own philosophy of blind faith, in which nothing is proved but everything asserted ex cathedra, and whatever does not fit the Marxian schemata is dismissed as reactionary rubbish. (Op. cit., ch. VII, “György Lukács: reason in the service of dogma,” p. 286)

As with many other Marxists, his [Adorno’s] work contains no arguments but only ex cathedra statements using concepts that are nowhere explained; indeed, he condemns conceptual analysis as a manifestation of positivist prejudices to the effect that some ultimate “data,” empirical or logical, can provide philosophy with a starting-point. (Op. cit., ch. X, “The Frankfurt school and ‘critical theory’,” p. 367)

Marxism is an ideology for those who like issuing orders to reality and controlling the world with words. That is what unifies “the amazing variety of uses that can be made of Marxist doctrine” (op. cit., “Herbert Marcuse: Marxism as a totalitarian Utopia,” p. 396). It is much easier to talk or write than to conduct science, after all, and because words can be used to invent utopian worlds with a prima facie plausibility. Kołakowski describes how the “cultural atmosphere” of the early Soviet Union “had an adolescent quality, common to all periods of revolution: the belief that life is just beginning, that the future is unlimited, and that mankind is no longer bound by the shackles of history” (op. cit., “Controversies in Soviet Marxism in the 1920s,” p. 47).

It is interesting, then, to see what happened in the Soviet Union to mathematics, the most objective science of all. Mathematicians may choose what to study, but they cannot choose what to discover, because they cannot revoke the laws of logic. According to Kołakowski:

Mathematical studies were scarcely ever “supervised” ideologically in the Soviet Union, as even the omniscient high priests of Marxism did not pretend to understand them; consequently, standards were upheld and Russian mathematical science was saved from temporary destruction. (Op. cit., “Marxism as the ideology of the Soviet state,” p. 102)

However, the natural sciences were not so fortunate:

A particularly blatant example of aggressive Stalinism was the ideological invasion of the natural sciences. Apart from mathematics, which was left unscathed, the campaign of Marxist regimentation affected all branches of science in some degree: theoretical physics, cosmology, chemistry, genetics, medicine, psychology, and cybernetics were all ravaged by the interference which reached its peak in 1948–53. (Op. cit., “The crystallization of Marxism-Leninism,” p. 131)

If we take a panoramic view of the history of those years we may perceive a certain gradation of ideological pressure, corresponding roughly to the hierarchy of the sciences established by Comte and Engels. Pressure was almost zero in mathematics, fairly strong in cosmology and physics, stronger still in the biological sciences, and all-powerful in the social and human sciences. The chronological order roughly reflected these degrees of importance: the social sciences were regimented from the outset, while biology and physics were not controlled until the last phase of Stalinism. In the post-Stalin era it was physics that first regained its independence; biology followed after a certain time, while the humanistic sciences remained under fairly strict control. (Op. cit., “The Crystallization of Marxism-Leninism,” p. 139)

So even under Stalin, mathematicians were free to pursue and publish the truth in their specialized field, however unfree they were in other parts of life. Mathematics is beyond even a tyrant’s control. But some Marxists have dreamed of subjugating it, like the German Karl Korsch (1886-1961):

Thus not only the social but the natural sciences are historical and practical “expressions” of a particular social “totality” and of class-interests. The revolutionary movement, in abolishing society as we know it, abolishes not only its philosophy but all other sciences. Korsch maintains that when the present order is overthrown even mathematics will have to be transformed; though he adds that it would be foolish for a Marxist to claim that a new, Marxist mathematics can be put into operation at the present time. (Op. cit., ch. VIII, “Karl Korsch,” p. 315)

A “new, Marxist mathematics” is as impossible as a new, Marxist gravity or new, Marxist sun. There is no prospect of Marxism reforming maths, and Korsch revealed both his megalomania and his ignorance in proposing it. But there is a prospect of a Marxist pseudo-mathematics enforced on pain of torture and execution. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948) is a satire on Stalinism and its dream of total power. The ruling ideology in the novel is called IngSoc, or “English Socialism,” and is enforced by an organization called simply the Party. When Winston Smith, the Everyman of the novel, is musing on IngSoc and its implications, he reaches a conclusion implicit in, but unrealized by, the Stalinism that inspired Orwell:

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. … The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. (Op. cit., Part 1, ch. 7)

But it isn’t granted: under torture in the Ministry of Love, Winston is forced to accept that all of existence, physical and mental, is under the control of the Party and its ideology IngSoc:

“But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.”

“What are the stars?” said O’Brien indifferently. “They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.”

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

“For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?” (Op. cit., Part 3, ch. 2)

John Horgan, the scientist who wants to ban research on race and intelligence, is not quite fit for the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four. But he is getting there, because he thinks like O’Brien and puts ideology before science. Unlike O’Brien, he wants to stop science, rather than pervert it, but his predecessor Gould imitated O’Brien and perverted science in the cause of ideology. Gould’s award-winning best-seller The Mismeasure of Man (1981) was a polemic against “racist” brain-science and the concept of g, or a general factor of intelligence that underlies human cognition.

In the book, Gould accused the nineteenth-century American scientist Samuel Morton (1799–1851) of bias and unconscious manipulation in measurements of a collection of skulls from different racial groups. If the skull-collection had been lost or discarded, the truth might never have emerged. But now it has emerged and we know that it was Morton, not Gould, who carried out the true and impartial science:

Gould used the well-documented work of a long-dead man to make an argument that unconscious bias is widespread in science. He posed as a concerned critic, but thereby cast doubt on the validity of the scientific enterprise. He picked volume measurement and tabulation of averages as his target, making it seem as if the simplest and most objective observations – the Junior High-level science methods – were themselves subject to all-encompassing cultural biases. His paper and book are very widely read and cited by people who will never examine the primary evidence. Gould owed us a responsible reading and trustworthy reporting on that evidence. In its place, he made up fictional stories, never directly examined the evidence himself, and misreported Morton’s numbers.

This stuff really ticks me off. I don’t think that Gould’s errors can be written off as “unconscious bias”. Reading back over his 1978 article, I cannot believe that [the journal] Science published it. (Gould’s Unconscious Manipulation of Data, John Hawks’ weblog, 8th June 2011;  see also Kevin MacDonald, “Stephen Jay Gould: Next to Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius in the Devil’s Mouth at the Center of Hell“)

Gould lied to stop science. His British ally, the Jewish neuroscientist Steven Rose, was able to get even nearer the ideal of IngSoc:

Steven Rose has been accused of practicing what he preaches: having the government silence scientists whose ideas he dislikes. According to social scientist Volkmar Weiss, a dissident under the East German Communist dictatorship, Rose ratted him out to the East Berlin regime, setting in motion the crushing in East Germany of IQ research and human behavioral genetics. (Steve Sailer, James D. Watson: Broken by the PC Inquisition, Betrayed by the Righteous Right, VDare, 28th October 2007)

Steven Rose liked East Germany and the Marxism practised there. His support of a foreign tyranny has never done his career and reputation any harm. But he wasn’t the only fan of East Germany in British academia. Another fan was the philosopher Ralph Miliband, father of the present Labour leader Ed Miliband. This is Ann Carlton, one of Ralph Miliband’s former research-assistants, describing how he reacted to her story of a trip to Eastern Europe:

When I got to describing my cynicism at seeing a newspaper poster saying ‘Walter Ulbricht 99 per cent certain of being elected’, I realised just how agitated Ralph had become. He sprang to Ulbricht’s defence, and appeared to be blind to the East German dictator’s failings — he even refused to condemn the building of the Berlin Wall. I realised that Ralph was an enthusiast for the very regimes I had come to hate. In my three years at LSE [London School of Economics] as an undergraduate, I had sat through many a lecture and coffee bar discussion in which Marxists looked forward to the contradictions in capitalism leading to its collapse and to the advent of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But I was appalled by how hardline Ralph Miliband was. He must have known of the hardship suffered by people in Communist countries, but for him, I suppose, the end justified the means. The Communist countries were heading towards a Marxist heaven. There might be teething problems on the way; but things were better in East Germany than in Britain.

Ralph did not hate Britain. He just wanted to make it better by transforming it into a Communist state, and that meant destroying a lot of Britain’s social institutions because they promoted and buttressed social in-equality. The dictatorship of the proletariat would be preferable to Harold Wilson’s Labour government. (I was Ralph Miliband’s research assistant, and this is what he was like, The Spectator, 19th October 2013)

Ralph Miliband wanted to destroy the old Britain and create a new one ruled by Marxists like himself. That looks a lot like hatred to me. His son Ed Miliband was central to the New Labour government that massively and clandestinely increased immigration by non-Whites into Britain. Again, that looks a lot like hatred to me. It also looks a lot like treason. But Labour attacked the old Britain in another way. They strengthened laws against “hate” speech, trying to enforce the lie of racial equality. When it comes to race and racial difference, there’s a clear choice: Science or silence. For the Sharks of Marx, it’s silence every time.

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