First in Beauty, First in Might
Gerry Dorrian shoots the messenger
How to Judge People by What they Look Like, by Edward Dutton (ebook), £5.00, 2017, 106 pp (standard paperback page equivalent), Available from Amazon, reviewed by GERRY DORRIAN
It would be nice to live in a society in which looks don’t matter but we’re nowhere near. Beyoncé Knowles’ father recently revealed that her relatively light skin for a black person was her entrée into the charts, although she also lightens it with make up. But surely the point is to look beyond appearances, like good students of Plato?
Dutton gives us an insight into why people of colour lather themselves with lightening treatments, some of which include mercury. He is an adherent of the hereditarian hypothesis, which states that people of different races (whatever those are) inherit different capacities for cognitive development. Limiting himself to the “Big 3”, he informs us that black people, white people and northeast Asians tend to have IQs that increase in that order, with white people closer to northeast Asians than black people*. It is not clear why he omits brown people.
Hereditarian assumptions have real-world consequences. If black children are thought to lack the potential to do as well academically as white children, this will effect funding to schools, depending on whether they have more black than white pupils. The relatively small number of black people in the civil service, and their virtual absence from the higher levels of the European Union’s institutions, indicates that hereditarian assumptions are thriving.
Moving beyond skin colour, Dutton associates male homosexuality with “mental instability”. Concerning his link between eating disorders in women and sexuality, those who work with such women also see a link, but not the one that Dutton posits of wishing to be more attractive to men. Rather, eating disorders leading to malnutrition often pull fat off the breasts and hips, masculinising a woman’s figure, taking her out of the sexual marketplace.
Again, he suggests that men who are high in testosterone tend to be of shorter stature because they expend their energy in bodybuilding and in looking sexually attractive. But high testosterone levels in young men tend to stunt their growth by stopping bones in the legs and arms from elongating earlier than men with normal or less than normal levels of testosterone.
Physiognomy, the art of discerning someone’s character by their looks, was banned by Henry VIII, as Edward Dutton records. Reductionism reduces complex and interacting systems – in this case relationships between how people look and how they act – to a small number of factors. Martin Luther King left us a better basis with which to judge people when he advised us to judge them on character.
Gerry Dorrian writes from Cambridge
*Editorial note – Gerry Dorrian omits the all important words “on average” here. Moreover, egalitarian assumptions also have “real-world consequences”. As the late J Philippe Rushton remarked in Race, Evolution, and Behaviour, “For some, it would have been better if Mother Nature had made people, genetically, all the same…However, we are not all the same”.