Editor’s note: I too counted Phil Rushton as a friend, although our research interests did not overlap to the extent that his did with Richard Lynn. It’s sad how all that money from the Pioneer Fund ended up supporting activities far removed from the intentions of those who created it.
In the summer of 2012 Phil Rushton’s health deteriorated from complications arising from Addison’s Disease. It was from these that he died on 2 October. This was a huge blow as he had been my closest friend and ally for the last twenty five years. I wrote his obituary for the journal Intelligence, of which I give a summary here.
Phil was born in 1943 in Bournemouth, England, where his father was a builder. He graduated in psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London, in 1970, and he obtained his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in 1973 for work on the development of altruism in children. He spent a year at Oxford and then obtained positions at universities in Canada, ending up at the University of Western Ontario.
Phil continued to work on the development of altruism in children and showed that altruism is present in three to five year old children in their play. He found that children’s altruism is influenced by the example of their parents who behave altruistically, for example by giving to others. He published his conclusions in 1980 in his first book Altruism, Socialisation and Society.
In the next few years, Phil formulated his genetic similarity theory that stated that people typically behave altruistically only to their own genetic group, while being indifferent or hostile to genetically different out-groups. He noted that there are consistent individual differences and that some children do not develop altruistic behaviour so readily as others. He investigated whether there are genetic differences in the propensity to develop altruistic behaviour in 1983 during a sabbatical year spent with Hans Eysenck in London, where he used the London twin sample to estimate the heritability of altruism, and also of the related personality traits of nurturance, empathy, aggressiveness and assertiveness. He found that all these traits have heritabilities of between 50 and 60 percent. He also found that the environmental factors affecting the development of altruism were not parental role models or socialisation techniques, but influences unique to each twin or what are technically termed non-shared environment.
At about the same time, Phil began to formulate his theory of race differences in r-K life history that he first published in 1985 and at greater length in 1995 in his book Race, Evolution and Behavior. The theory was drawn from biology, in which species are categorized on a continuum running from r strategists to K strategists; r strategists have large numbers of offspring and invest relatively little in them, while K strategists have fewer offspring and invest heavily in them by feeding and protecting them during infancy and until they are old enough to look after themselves. The K strategy is particularly strongly evolved in monkeys, apes and humans. Species that are K strategists have a syndrome of characteristics of which the most important are larger brain size, higher intelligence, longer gestation, and a slower rate of maturation in infancy and childhood.
Phil applied r-K life history theory to three major races: East Asians, Caucasoids (Europeans, South Asians and North Africans), and Negroids (sub-Saharan Africans). His theory was that East Asians are the most K evolved and Negroids the least K evolved, while Caucasoids fall intermediate between the two although closer to East Asians. He supported his theory by documenting that the three races differ on over 60 co-evolved sets of morphological, physiological, developmental, psychological and behavioural traits including brain size, intelligence, sexual behaviour, length of gestation, rate of maturation in infancy and longevity. His first theoretical explanation for these differences was that when people migrated out of Africa into Europe and North East Asia they encountered more predictable environments but he later abandoned this explanation and adopted my cold winters theory that colder environments exerted selection pressure for more K evolved life history strategies.
Phil’s r-K life history theory was his most important work and the one for which he will be most remembered. I regard it as a great innovative study integrating so many different phenomena into a unifying theoretical framework. Phil had exactly the right combination of characteristics required for innovative work, consisting of high intelligence, a sceptical attitude towards the consensus, the creative ability and motivation to formulate an alternative, and the integrity and courage to publish what he concluded was the truth despite the attacks that would inevitably follow. I urged him to elaborate his theory further by adding more races. In particular, East Asians should be split into North East Asians and South East Asians, Caucasoids should be split into Europeans and South Asians and North Africans, and Australian Aborigines and Native American Indians should be added. However, he did not take my advice. I have extended his theory to Australian Aborigines and shown that these are more r than Negroids.
From 1995 Phil apparently lost interest in his race differences in r-K life history theory and worked largely on intelligence and personality. He published papers documenting the low IQs obtained by black university students in South Africa and by Roma in Serbia, and the absence any decline in the IQ difference between blacks and whites in the United States that was first recorded in 1918.
In 2008 Phil began to work on the dimensional structure of personality. Hitherto, the consensus was that personality consisted of several independent traits such as Eysenck’s three and Cattell’s sixteen or more. Phil worked on the theory that there is a general factor of personality similar to g in intelligence. In the next three years he published a dozen or so papers demonstrating that this is the case, several of them in collaboration with Paul Irwing. In 2012, the journal Personality and Individual Differences devoted a whole issue in honour of Phil’s many contributions to which eleven of his friends contributed papers on his work on a wide range of issues.
On his death, Phil left the control of the Charles Darwin Research Institute in the his hands of his son Stephen. The history of this bequest is that Harry Weyher had run the Pioneer Fund for many years until his death in 2002 when he designated Phil as the president, and his own wife and me as directors. During the next years, Phil ran the Pioneer Fund and on 13 Feb, 2010, he transferred $900,000 from the Pioneer Fund to the Charles Darwin Research Institute of which he was the president and his son Stephen was a trustee. Stephen was an associate professor of education at the University of Southern Florida.
On 14 August, 2012, Phil transferred a further $1 million from the Pioneer Fund to the Charles Darwin Research Institute. At the same time he resigned as president of the Pioneer Fund and handed it over to me with what was left of its funds, about $1 million. Phil explained to me that his intention was that I would use the Pioneer Fund funds to support research on race differences and such other projects as I chose, and he would use the Charles Darwin Research Institute to support research on life history, heritability and his other interests.
Shortly after Stephen Rushton acquired control of the Charles Darwin Research Institute he changed its name to the JSP Education Foundation (JSP stands for John Stephen Philippe). It seems that his intention was to dissociate it from the evolutionary psychology his father intended should be supported. He has written to a correspondent: “The JSP Foundation is an entity completely outside of Pioneer Fund. I established a scholarship program here at the University of Southern Florida ”. The JSP Educational Foundation’s 990 return in 2012 gives the mission statement as follows: “The charity has expanded its charitable purposes to include educational opportunities for all youths and underprivileged children through programs that use sailing activities to teach teamwork, responsibility, reasoning, critical thinking and general life skills. The charity will also use its resources to support other exempt organizations including educational institutions with similar goals to help youths of all cultural backgrounds”.
This is a sad story. We would have hoped and expected that Phil would have left the Charles Darwin Research Institute funds in the hands of people in whom he could have had confidence that they would use these to further the causes in which he believed and for which they were donated. So, in the end, Phil let us all down and betrayed the trust placed in him. Phil also appointed Stephen as his literary executor and left his autobiography for him to publish. As of December, 2019, he has not got round to doing so.