Louis Agassiz – a “Racist”?

(This article was originally written in May, 2021.)

I was watching a video as part of schoolwork, and the person in the video was using a map to show the distribution of accidents in some section of the state of Massachusetts. It was not an entertaining or interesting video, not by any means, my only penchant to watch it being the act of finishing it and the hope of moving forward from there. Before I finished the video, I set my eyes to the details of the map and the location names. 

I found a cemetery, and I wished to see what names were buried there, so I searched for it on Wikipedia. I saw Louis Agassiz, the eminent biologist. It was pleasing to me to see the name of a scientific man from whom I had been recently studying from interests of my own. When I returned to finish the video, I saw Agassiz’s name again; this time, a location dedicated to his memory. The map brought some inspiration to me when I would not have guessed it. This is the sort of inspiration that I must see when I am doing things that seem fruitless or of no actuating motive to myself. Now I am reminded of Louis Agassiz the biologist; and I am eager to learn more about his life and work once the tedium has ceased for several months.

Louis Agassiz

If the reader isn’t yet aware, the Jews have recently made it their avocation to take down the names of scientific men where they have been dedicated, from statues to school buildings and other memorials. Their beliefs must be wrong, the Jews say, because they were “racist”, “sexist”, and even “anti-Semitic”. And if I remember correctly, the Jews at Stanford University recently removed a memorial of Agassiz which was on their campus. The names of the biologists David Starr Jordan, of Stanford (probably the most distinguished student of Agassiz’s), and Joseph Le Conte, of the University of California, Berkeley, have likewise been removed from the universities wherever they were formerly publicly remembered.

Contrary to the claims of the popular Jewish media, Agassiz was not a “racist”, at least as far as my knowledge can tell. Although he believed that the crossing of widely divergent races of mankind was a fallacy, biologically speaking, and that the races of mankind had a disparate (“polygenism”) rather than a common origin (“monogenism”), he also believed that Negroes in America “should be equal to other men before the law”. Perhaps his most famous statement on race crossing was that the social instability of Brazil was the result of a “decadence that results from cross-breeding which goes on in this country to a greater extent than elsewhere. This cross-breeding is fatal to the best qualities whether of the white man, the black, or the Indian, and produces an indescribable type whose physical and mental energy suffers.” 

Biologically speaking, and speaking only of recorded fact, the belief that in crossing two races one is necessarily left with a hybrid that is inferior to both parent races is incorrect. “Deterioration is not a certain consequence of racial amalgamation, in spite of the opinion of Louis Agassiz” (Edward Murray East, chapter 10, Heredity and Human Affairs, 1927; see also Samuel Jackson Holmes, chapter 11, The Trend of the Race, 1921; David Starr Jordan, “Biological Effects of Race Movements”, Popular Science Monthly, September, 1915; and Harvey Ernest Jordan, “The Biological Status and Social Worth of the Mulatto”, Popular Science Monthly, June, 1913).

The evidence from the study of cross-breeding in man has shown that on average, the hybrid is intermediate in its qualities to the original parental races and not inferior to both. If there is a divergence in the possession of certain qualities between the parental types – say, either of the parents belonging to a race with an intelligence differing on average from the race of the other parent, the hybrid will tend to be intermediate in regard to that quality. If one parent belongs to a race with an IQ averaging 100, the race of the other parent having an average IQ of 70, the offspring will tend to have an IQ in between those of the parent races, or an IQ closer to 85 than to 100 or to 70; in general, it will not be an IQ below the average of either race. And in some cases the half-breed can be intellectually more capable than both parents, as was the case with Booker Washington. The crossing of races which differ intellectually, says Eugen Fischer, “yields a product that is between these races intellectually”. And, according to the same authority, “The assumption that half-breeds are always worse than both parents intellectually – or even morally – is incorrect.” (Translation from Hans-Walter Schmuhl.)

Now, this is perhaps a crude summary of the matter, and perhaps intelligence, as a supposedly complex hereditary characteristic, is not the best example to use in connection with this problem. But the fundamental principles hold for the mental qualities as the physical, and the former are of much greater import than the latter.

The problem put before the biologist, then, is not whether the hybrid is necessarily inferior to both races from which he is descended; the question is whether a superior type can be had from the crossing of two particular races. The evidence shows little for the latter. The hybrid might be superior to the “less capable” race in intelligence, for example, yet his intelligence remains inferior to that of the remaining parental race. No gain is made on the part of the so-called “superior race”; the advantages gained from race crossing by the “lesser” race are typically at the expense of the “superior race”; it means an elevation for one race, but a possible degrading effect on mankind at large. Race crossing, in my opinion, should only ever be encouraged if a new type that is superior to both races can be produced. But from recourse to the relevant literature, biological investigation would seem to rarely support such a view.

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