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The Pioneer Fund is a controversial American non-profit foundation that provides grants for research in heredity and human personality differences, as well as funding for groups advocating immigration reduction. Established in 1937 by several prominent eugenicists, the fund states that emphasis is placed on projects not likely to be financed by other institutions partly due to subject matters often considered controversial. The fund publishes the journal Mankind Quarterly, and is currently headed by psychology professor J. Philippe Rushton.

Two of the Pioneer Fund's most notable contributions and its largest funding recipients are the Minnesota Twin Family Study and Texas Adoption Project, which studied the similarities and differences of identical twins adopted by different families. Other notable contributions include funding some of the work of three much-cited psychologists in intelligence: Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, and Lloyd Humphreys. They have also funded leading ecologist Garrett Hardin, author of the essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons". The Pioneer Fund has been one of the main sources of funding for the partly-genetic hypothesis of IQ variation among races. This has generated a large amount of controversy ever since the 1994 publication of The Bell Curve, which drew heavily from Pioneer-funded research.

The fund has also generated controversy for its focus on eugenics. [1] The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights advocacy and anti-racism organization, has characterized the Pioneer Fund as a "hate group," defining hate groups as those which "attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics".[2] The SPLC cites the Pioneer Fund's funding of some organizations and individuals the SPLC considers racist, and the funding of race and intelligence research.[3] Although it has been strongly criticized by anti-racist groups and some scientists and journalists,[4] the criticism of the fund has not been an issue in the journals in its field,[5] and at least one prominent critic states that the fund's contribution has overall been "a weak plus".[6]

Current funding

Most of the Pioneer Fund's grants go to scientific research, including to researchers at 38 universities, and a smaller amount has gone to political or legal organizations, mostly to immigration reform/reduction organizations. This section's figures are from 1971-1996 and are adjusted to 1997 USD. [7]

Scientific research

File:Rushton headshot.gif

Professor J. Phillipe Rushton, grantee and current director

Many of the researchers whose findings support the hereditarian hypothesis of racial IQ disparity have received grants of varying sizes from the Pioneer Fund. [8] Large grantees, in order of amount received, are

  • Thomas J. Bouchard at the University of Minnesota
As compiled in 1997, the recipient of the largest amount of funding ($2.3 million USD) was Thomas J. Bouchard's landmark twin study, the Minnesota Study of Identical Twins Reared Apart (MISTRA), better known as the Minnesota Twins Project. The Minnesota Twins Project compared identical and fraternal twins who had been brought up in different families. Another notable twin study that was partially funded by the fund is the Texas Adoption Project, which compared adopted children to their birth and adopted families. The studies, along with similar studies, have demonstrated that as much as half of intelligence and personality are inherited (See Intelligence quotient#Genetics vs environment).
  • Arthur Jensen at the Institute for the Study of Educational Differences
  • J. Phillipe Rushton at the University of Western Ontario
Rushton is a central advocate of genetic differences between races in race and intelligence research and the current head of the fund since 2002. In 1999, Rushton used some of his grant money from the Pioneer fund to send out tens of thousands of copies of his controversial book Race, Evolution, and Behavior to social scientists in anthropology, psychology, and sociology, causing a great controversy. [9] The book advocates Rushton's controversial differential K theory.
Eugenicist and anthropologist Roger Pearson, founder of the Journal of Indo-European Studies [10], received over a million dollars in grants in the eighties and the nineties. [11] [8] Using the pseudonym of Stephan Langton, Pearson was the editor of The New Patriot, a short-lived magazine published in 1966-67 to conduct "a responsible but penetrating inquiry into every aspect of the Jewish Question," which included articles such as "Zionists and the Plot Against South Africa," "Early Jews and the Rise of Jewish Money Power," and "Swindlers of the Crematoria." [8]. The Northern League, an organization founded in England in 1958 by Pearson, supported Nazi ideologies and included former members of the Nazi Party [11].
  • Richard Lynn at Ulster Institute for Social Research (also on Mankind Quarterly editorial board)
  • Linda Gottfredson at the University of Delaware.

The Pioneer Fund funds research on the basis and correlates of human ability and diversity. Notable topics in this research are the heredity and neuroscience of intelligence.

Other notable recipients of funding include:

Note that the fund has only funded some of their research, not necessarily their most important contributions.



There are reported links between various past contributors to its science journal Mankind Quarterly and Nazism. Italian biologist and Mankind Quarterly associate editor Corrado Gini authored an article titled "The Scientific Basis of Fascism" and was once a scientific advisor to Mussolini. The editorial board member Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer was Josef Mengele's mentor before and during the Holocaust and is suspected of being his collaborator. [1][2][3]. The already mentioned Roger Pearson was a former editor.

Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, circa 1920s-1940s, measures two twin girls as part of an anthropometric study of heredity.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization, lists the Pioneer Fund as a hate group citing the fund's history, its funding of race and intelligence research, and its connections with some individuals the SPLC considers racist.[4]. They also state: "Race science has potentially frightening consequences, as is evident not only from the horrors of Nazi Germany, but also from the troubled racial history of the United States. If white supremacist groups had their way, the United States would return to its dark days. In publication after publication, hate groups are using this "science" to legitimize racial hatred.

In Calling Our Nation, the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations publishes a piece by a New York psychologist surveying the work of Jensen, Garrett and numerous others.

National Vanguard, the publication of former physics professor William Pierce (see The Alliance and its Allies) and his neo-Nazi National Alliance, runs a similar piece that concludes that "it is the Negro's deficiency ... which kept him in a state of savagery in his African environment and is now undermining the civilization of a racially mixed America."[5]

In accord with the tax regulations governing nonprofit corporations, Pioneer does not fund individuals; under the law only other nonprofit organizations are appropriate grantees. As a consequence, many of the fund's awards go not to the researchers themselves but to the universities that employ them, a standard procedure for supporting work by academically based scientists. However, in addition to these awards to the universities where its grantees are based, Pioneer has also made a number of grants to other nonprofit organizations, essentially dummy corporations created solely to channel Pioneer's resources directly to a particular academic recipient—a mechanism apparently designed to circumvent the institution where the researcher is employed [6][7].

Although the fund typically gives away more than half a million dollars per year, there is no application form or set of guidelines. Instead an applicant merely submits "a letter containing a brief description of the nature of the research and the amount of the grant requested." There is no requirement for peer review of any kind; Pioneer's board of directors—two attorneys, two engineers, and an investment broker—decides, sometimes within a day, whether a particular research proposal merits funding. Once the grant has been made, there is no requirement for an interim or final report or even for an acknowledgment by a grantee that Pioneer has been the source of support, all atypical practices in comparison to other organizations that support scientific research [8].

Responses to criticisms

The Pioneer Fund's history after its 1937 incorporation focused on improving hereditary characteristics, which at the time was pursued through the scholarly field eugenics. The scientific community had enthusiasm for what they saw as the promise of eugenics, and most developed nations employed some form of it, most commonly compulsory sterilization of those considered to have incurable hereditary diseases. High school and college textbooks from the 1920s through the 40s often had chapters touting the scientific progress to be had from applying eugenic principles to the population. Following WWII, however, eugenics became associated with the brutal policies of the Nazis and fell out of favour. Still, a few nations maintained large-scale eugenics programs, including compulsory sterilization of mentally handicapped individuals, as well as other practices, until the 1970s.

In addition to this historical focus of the Pioneer Fund, some of the fund's previous members and grantees, including its main founder Wickliffe Draper, have supported ideas that are now disapproved of, such as racial segregation. The fund's administrators state that criticism should be directed at these past individuals, not the entire organization, which has funded notable scientific work. Today, the fund officially holds no political positions and denies any inappropriate bias in choosing grantees.

Some of the areas funded by the Pioneer Fund are often controversial areas of research, especially among the lay population. Scientists have noted a substantial difference in public opinion and majority scientific opinion regarding the influence of heredity on personality and cognitive ability (behavioral genetics), which is a main area of research funded by the Pioneer Fund. The study of the disparity between racial groups in average cognitive ability test scores (race and intelligence) is even more controversial. Additionally, some of the fund's grantees are advocates of the belief that such differences are almost entirely genetic, as opposed to being driven mostly by environmental variation.

The Pioneer Fund has stated that it rejects racism, and has claimed that it is the victim of smear campaigns waged by those who consider a discussion of race to be taboo. In addition, it has asserted that the majority of the criticism that has so far been directed at the Fund falls into such categories as to make it more-appropriately directed at individuals than at an organization as a whole.

The Fund writes on their website that one should consider the historical context surrounding such beliefs, as many mainstream scientists of the first half the twentieth century supported racialist policies that would be unacceptable today (though at least as many did not). The Fund denies that Wickliffe Draper's views on race left a serious influence on the Fund's decisions, despite the common thread which has run through the Fund's grant-making throughout its existence.

Charles Murray, co-author of the Bell Curve, addressed the fund's history in response to criticism of it: "[T]he relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today's Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to the relationship between Henry Ford and today's Ford Foundation."[12] In the 1920s, Henry Ford authored anti-Semitic literature. A response to this comparison is that unlike the Pioneer Fund, the Ford Foundation is not still funding researchers who have a systematic tendency to make claims asserting the genetic basis of a given group's intellectual inferiority.

Behavioral geneticist David T. Lykken wrote "If you can find me some rich villains that want to contribute to my research - Khaddaffi, the Mafia, whoever - the worse they are, the better I'll like it. I'm doing a social good by taking their money... Any money of theirs that I spend in a legitimate and honorable way, they can't spend in a dishonorable way" [13]

Science writer Morton Hunt received Pioneer funding for his book and wrote: "One could spend hundreds of pages on the pros and cons of the case of the Pioneer Fund, but what matters to me--and should matter to my readers--is that I have been totally free to research and write as I chose. I alerted Pioneer to my political views when making the grant proposal for this book but its directors never blinked." [14]


  1. Lombardo, Paul A. (2002). "The American Breed": Nazi Eugenics and the Origins of the Pioneer Fund. Albany Law Review, vol. 65, p. 743
    Rushton, J. Philippe (2002). The Pioneer Fund and the Scientific Study of Human Differences. Albany Law Review 66:209.
    Lombardo, Paul A. (2002). Pioneer's Big Lie. Albany Law Review, vol. 66, p. 207
  2. Southern Poverty Law Center Map of Hate Organizatons. Retrieved July 16, 2006.
  3. Berlet, Chip. Into the Mainstream: An array of right-wing foundations and think tanks support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable. Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved July 16, 2006.
  4. The leading critics of the fund have largely been the SPLC, IQ critic William H. Tucker, and historian Barry Mehler and his Institute for the Study of Academic Racism.
  5. Searches within Intelligence and Personality and Individual Differences on ScienceDirect show only mentions in acknowledgments and in two positive reviews of Richard Lynn's book on the fund. Researchers who have been the subject of criticism for accepting grants from the fund have long argued the public debates have been disconnected from the expert debates. Robert A. Gordon, for example, replied to media criticisms of grant-recipients: "Politically correct disinformation about science appears to spread like wildfire among literary intellectuals and other nonspecialists, who have few disciplinary constraints on what they say about science and about particular scientists and on what they allow themselves to believe."(Gordon 1997, p.35)
  6. According to critic Ulric Neisser, who was the chairman of the APA's 1995 taskforce on intelligence research. Neisser gave support for Richard Lynn's argument in a review of Lynn's history and defense of the fund, The Science of Human Diversity: A History of the Pioneer Fund (2004). Though race and intelligence research "turns [his] stomach," Neisser stated that "Lynn's claim is exaggerated but not entirely without merit: 'Over those 60 years, the research funded by Pioneer has helped change the face of social science.'" Neisser concludes, in agreement with Lynn and against William Tucker's critical 2002 book The Funding of Scientific Racism, that the world was ultimately better off having had the Pioneer Fund: "Lynn reminds us that Pioneer has sometimes sponsored useful research - research that otherwise might not have been done at all. By that reckoning, I would give it a weak plus."
  7. Mehler, Barry. Pioneer Fund Grant Totals, 1971-1996. Retireved July 16, 2006.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Mehler, Barry (July 7, 1998). Race Science and the Pioneer Fund Originally published as "The Funding of the Science" in Searchlight, No. 277.
  9. Tucker, William H. [ Conclusion: Pioneer or Pamphleteer] The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund.
  10. The Journal of Indo-European Studies via A. Richard Diebold Center for Indo-European Language and Culture.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Tucker
  12. Murray, Charles (May 1995). "The Bell Curve" and its critics. Commentary, v99 n5 p23(8).
  13. Patricia Ohman (7 March 1984). Do they get what they Pay for? Minneapolis City Pages, p. 8.
  14. Hunt, Morton (1998). The New Know-Nothings: The Political Foes of the Scientific Study of Human Nature Transaction Publishers: ISBN 0-7658-0497-2


See also

External links


Opinion pieces

Scholarly studies


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