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August 2, 1995

The Science and Politics of Racial Research

Author Affiliations

Wilmette, Ill

JAMA. 1995;274(5):433. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530050081043

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This thought-provoking work chronicles the scientific studies on genetic differences in intelligence and shows how such findings have "been played as a trump card in political arguments on the side of repression" for more than a century. Starting with 19th-century anthropologists whose conclusions were used to justify American slavery, Tucker (an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University) meticulously describes ways in which science has been used to justify pernicious political agendas, whether they be slavery, school segregation, welfare cuts, forced sterilization, selective medical care, or genocide.

"ways in which science has been used to justify pernicious political agendas"

Many of these examples are, of course, well known and equally well chronicled. But what distinguishes Tucker's work is his emphasis on the distinction between the science and its use—a distinction that he regards as ultimately dangerous. All the political proposals he describes were premised on the assumption that biological inferiority

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