Raymond Cattell

Raymond B. Cattell was by any measure one of the most prolific and influential psychologists of the 20th century. Cattell was a pioneer in the study of personality and the development of psychometric tests, for which he received numerous awards over his lifetime.

About Raymond Cattell

He also spent decades working to develop and promote a “scientific religion,” Beyondism, which was based on eugenic ideology and an obsession with “competition” between racial groups. Cattell was an early supporter of National Socialism and adherent of Nazi racial theories, which he continued to preach (while simultaneously trying to obscure their origins) until his death in 1998. Although the publicity-shy Cattell never became as well-known or controversial as other, more high-profile “race researchers,” his influence within the field of psychology and his legions of devoted students have made him one of the most significant contributors to modern scientific racism.

In His Own Words:
“Suppose, as may well be the case, that one of these races is naturally courageous, self-sacrificing and enterprising and the other less so. The group will continue to prosper owing to the activities of inventors and explorers of the first race, who, as is generally the rule, will not pass on the usual number of children to the next generation. The nation will be successful in war because the same race has actively responded to the call to arms and to self-sacrifice. Throughout these activities, this first race will on an average be giving more to the group than it can itself recoup. Eventually only the second race will inherit the group advantages acquired largely by the first racial compound. Then like a huge parasite which has devoured its host, will the nation be bereft of all the qualities that gave it power, remain a monstrous frustration of evolution, a biological abortion able in virtue of its inherited wealth, to do untold damage to neighboring races naturally more capable. The hatred and abhorrence which many peoples feel for the Jewish (and to some extent Mongolian) practice of living in other nations, instead of forming an independent, self-sustained group of their own, comes from a deep intuitive feeling that somehow it is not ‘playing the game.’ Because our unbiologically-minded civilization cannot perceive or appreciate any intellectual causes for these feelings they are readily branded as ‘prejudice’ by would-be intellectuals.”
Psychology and Social Progress, 1933

“What is a necessity for Beyondism — and one difficult for the comfort-loving liberal intellectual to understand — is some mechanism for expansion of successful cultures and retraction of moribund societies. Imitation of successes will not alone guarantee this. Incidentally, the lack of a wisely-evaluating and lawful process for expansion offers a constant threat of war, as surely as screwing the saucepan lid down promises some ultimate explosion. The emotionality which has developed journalistically around such terms as "imperialism" and "colonialism” blinds the public to the fact of life. The fashion of making "imperialism" an obscenity should not blind us to the logical necessity in natural selection of ensuring greater population and resources to societies which make a better adjustment to the natural world.”
—“Ethics and the Social Sciences: The ‘Beyondist’ Solution,” Mankind Quarterly, 1979

“Societies in the past that have become too pluralistic, like India, and the old Mediterranean countries like the Roman Empire, didn't perceive the danger to moral standards that arose from having too many differing moral standards, too many differing religions, too many differing cultures. On the other hand, there are advantages to a country in having some diversity, in that each can be used as an experiment to see in which direction the group as a whole might advantageously go. I think that there's a happy medium on this matter of diversity, and it has probably been overshot in the U.S. at the present. Alienation is now quite severe, and it's partly due to wholesale, unchecked immigration. Few politicians seem willing to confront the issue. I think it might not be a bad idea to remove the inscription from the Statue of Liberty which calls for the ‘wretched refuse’ of the other countries to migrate here. This is not what you want to build a nation of.”
—Interview, The Eugenics Bulletin, 1984

"The mention of eugenics frequently evokes in uneducated people the response 'Oh, that’s what Hitler did.' This accident is the major obstacle to the proper understanding of the goals and methods of eugenics. Hitler actually shared many values of the average American. He aimed at full employment, family values, raising the standard of living, and countless other things, including the Volkswagen, which he designed himself for the average family. The man turned out evil in his militarism and his treatment of Jews and dissident Catholics, but that does not justify, to a rational person, calling all his attitudes mistaken. His attempt at eugenics broke the first law of eugenics: that it is the humane substitute for natural selection. It favors preventing births of those who would inevitably be miserable and incapable of living a normal happy life. It encourages the birth of those able to look after themselves and others, who invent and enrich the culture, who create jobs and who remain independent and self supporting.
The Beyondist, 1994

In 1997, the American Psychological Association selected Raymond Cattell to receive its Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychological Science, citing his “prodigious, landmark contributions to psychology,” which put him “among a very small handful of people in this century who have most influenced the shape of psychology as a science.” In response to this announcement, several scientists, scholars and researchers who track racism and far-right extremism raised concerns that the APA was honoring a man who had dedicated his life to promoting racism, fascism, and anti-Semitism. Historians Andrew Winston and Berry Mehler, psychologist William Tucker, and Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, all wrote to the APA pointing out that, as Winston put it, Cattell’s racism was “not a matter of a person holding private political views while doing commendable scientific work. These views on eugenics are his scientific views, and Cattell believes that his scientific work has provided the foundation for his politics. He has built an organization, the Beyondist Trust, to promote these views.”

The views Winston referred to were the tenets of Beyondism, a “religion” developed by Cattell which claimed to provide “scientific” foundations for morality and ethics, based on Cattell’s racist interpretations of evolutionary theory. Cattell defined the “indispensable, central concepts” of evolution and of Beyondism as “1) that there must be genetic and cultural variation; 2) that it must be followed by natural selection for adaptation. (Genocide by man is questionable; but with the actions of genocide by nature we must be in harmony); and 3) that both have their meaning with regard to a given or potential environment.” He also defined “secondary principles” of his system emphasizing the importance of natural selection on groups, arguing that “one must recognize also the truth that individuals, regardless of their own characters, live or perish with the culture-genetic group to which they belong.”

In Cattell’s view, “culture-genetic groups,” or races, were the only meaningful unit of society, and maintaining their integrity was of paramount importance to him. He deplored the idea of integration, arguing that “to treat alien individuals as if they belonged to the same race, simply because their intelligence is on the same high or low level, is a mistake, for constitutional differences of greater importance are being overlooked.” Thus, Cattell argued, in a predominately white society, “a more advanced member of the negro race” could never be as valuable as, for example, “a less gifted Scot.” Racial solidarity was more important than skills or abilities:

The social ideals, the tempo of life, the recreations, the ways of thinking, the virtues of and sins that excite attention are all dependent in a considerable measure on the inborn characters. Whenever a nation has been forcibly put together from differing races, we find a social life unnecessarily disjointed, weak, and feverish. There are thousands of misunderstandings, produced by individuals working for different goals in different ways, and at different speeds. Think of the English in Ireland. Examine more closely the contacts of English and Welsh in business, politics, and education. Think of the Jews anywhere.

Although Cattell disapproved of any racial integration (even, as the above quote shows, between the English, Irish, and Welsh “races”), he considered the presence of Jewish communities in predominantly non-Jewish nations to be a particular problem. Jews were, to Cattell, “intruders,” characterized by “cowardice, treason and avarice” as well as “a crafty spirit of calculation.” The proper reaction to “the Jewish practice of living in other nations” by their non-Jewish neighbors was “hatred and abhorrence.” Many of Cattell’s views on Jews were borrowed explicitly from Hans Günther, the chief proponent of Nazi Rassentheorie (racial theory), and Mathilde Ludendorff, a neurologist, psychiatrist and mystic who, as William Tucker describes, was “critical of Hitler for not being sufficiently anti-Semitic.”

Cattell also feared “mixture of the blood between racial groups.” He claimed that “[i]n a pure race, the inheritance of impulses in each individual is bound to be well balanced. The innate forces which are the innate material of character-building must have reached a certain compatibility and potential power of good integration. If two such races inter-breed, the resulting re-shuffling of impulses and psychic forces throws together in each individual a number of items which may or may not be compatible of being organized into a stable unit.”

Unsurprisingly, given these views, Cattell was an explicit supporter of fascism, and the Third Reich in particular. In 1938, he argued that the rise of the Axis powers “should be welcomed … as reassuring evidence that in spite of modern wealth and ease, we shall not be allowed to sink into stagnation or adopt foolish social practices in fatal detachment from the stream of evolution.” He did eventually condemn the Holocaust as immoral, although he was primarily concerned with the fact that Nazi atrocities made it more difficult for people “to think objectively on the inheritance of individual differences in mental characteristics.” He was reluctant to unequivocally condemn genocide, but he preferred what he called “genthanasia,” or the “phasing out” of unfit racial and cultural groups “by educational and birth control measures,” as opposed to “literally killing [racial minorities] off.”

Thus, while the Nazi gas chambers were a bridge too far, Cattell argued, as William Tucker has pointed out, “that the black population should be systematically eliminated, and that, to attain this goal, all blacks should be involuntarily sterilized and confined to restricted areas.” Although he later became more circumspect in how he described his eugenic aims, Cattell never repudiated his support for Nazi eugenics or the “genthanasia” of the global black population; even as late as the 1990s, he was urging that famine-stricken Somalia, for example, be left to “cultural economic failure and natural self-genocide.”

Cattell’s obsession with eugenics influenced his pronouncements on a variety of political issues. In Cattell’s mind, thinking “biologically” or “scientifically” meant supporting far-right positions on many hot-button topics. In a 1984 interview with The Eugenics Bulletin, Cattell touched many of these, saying that

[i]nstances of neglect of eugenics are all around us. I haven't seen a single reference in all the current discussions on jobs for women to the dysgenic effect of having more women employed full time so that they can't beget as many children. This amazes me, this current trend in which women get so involved in their professions that they cannot take time off to have children. In addition, of course, there are lots of things in the economy that could be changed. For example, taxing those of higher social status more tends to be dysgenic, and this should be changed.

Cattell went on to tell his interviewer that educational and intelligence-based minimum requirements for voting were “needed if democracy is to work,” and that welfare “appears to act as a stimulant for higher birth rate among those who cannot look after their children on their own. Monetary advantages are given to those who have the most children. This is what one would like to see at the upper level, but instead it is being brought about at the lowest level.”