Featured Post

PZ Myers dissects evolutionary psychology: brief, sharp and fabulous

I admit I LOL'd at the part about lighting up "like a Christmas tree." WATCH AND LEARN all IDWs!

The Brian Ferguson Interview

Friday, August 4, 2023

The Great Gatsby vs. race pseudoscience

The great American novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published 98 years ago. 

The most repugnant character in the book is Tom Buchanan. He is the brutal husband of Daisy, the former flame of Gatsby, with whom Gatsby is still in love. 

Tom was born into wealth, is an adulterer and breaks his mistress's nose for saying Daisy's name too many times. And he is indirectly responsible for Gatsby's murder.

But he still wasn't evil enough, so Fitzgerald made him an hereditarian.

This is from early in the novel:

“You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy,” I confessed on my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or something?”

I meant nothing in particular by this remark, but it was taken up in an unexpected way.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Coloured Empires by this man Goddard?”

“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.

“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”

“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we—”

“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”

“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.

“You ought to live in California—” began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.

“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and—” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “—And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”

Then towards the end of the book: 

“Self-control!” repeated Tom incredulously. “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out… Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.”

Flushed with his impassioned gibberish, he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.

As Rational Wiki notes:

The fictional book The Rise of the Colored Empires by "this man Goddard" mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a reference to both (Madison) Grant's Passing of the Great Race and his protegé Lothrop Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (the introduction of the latter was written by Grant). Both books were highly popular in 1920's high society.

I was reminded of this when I watched a video of a presentation given by Mat McGue as the ISIR Presidential Address for the 2017 conference of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR.) McGue references the "Great Gatsby Curve." I will be writing about that soon.

You can read The Great Gatsby online here.

Blog Archive