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For Whom the Bell Curves: Advisor to Johnson’s Levelling Up Ally Hosts Race Science Extremist

Nafeez Ahmed reveals how a pioneer of scientific racism was hosted at British universities by a charity with close Conservative Party and Government ties

Michael Gove’s bookshelf with books by David Irving and Charles Murray. Photo: Sarah Vine/Twitter

For Whom the Bell CurvesAdvisor to Johnson’s Levelling Up Ally Hosts Race Science Extremist

Nafeez Ahmed reveals how a pioneer of scientific racism was hosted at British universities by a charity with close Conservative Party and Government ties

A Ministry of Justice appointee – who advises a ‘close ally’ of the Prime Minister behind the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda – has hosted one of the world’s foremost pioneers of scientific racism at an event organised by a charity which works with the Government.

The event, involving a white nationalist extremist who has amplified research funded by a notorious Nazi eugenics foundation, was also supported by a former senior Conservative Party MP and Cabinet Minister. 

It was organised by Dr James Orr, a Cambridge University academic and advisor to Toby Young’s Free Speech Union. 

The event was hosted by Trinity Forum Europe – a self-described Christian charity that runs events at Oxbridge universities, as well as at Whitehall for Government civil servants. 

It thus raises urgent concerns about the UK Government and the ideological views of those being given Government appointments.

The Bell Curve

The event organised by Dr James Orr featured white nationalist academic Charles Murray – the author of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.

This was a hugely influential book among white supremacist circles, published in 1994, which claimed that black people tend to have lower IQs – not just due to environmental factors, but to genetics.

The bulk of the claims made in the book came from pseudoscientific research funded by the Pioneer Fund – a Nazi eugenics foundation with links to the notorious Nazi SS officer Josef Mengele. Murray has praised Pioneer Fund researchers and directors including antisemites.

The online event took place on 12 November, as part of a series of talks by the Trinity Forum Europe – a registered charity that hosts events at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and St Andrews. The online event programme – led by Dr Orr – attempts “to unite the different university campuses” on a weekly basis, according to the charity’s website, and the charity has also “branched out to host events at Whitehall for Christians within the senior Civil Service.”

Murray was in conversation at the event with Rob Henderson, a PhD candidate at Cambridge University. He did not respond to Byline Times‘ request for comment.

Trinity Forum Europe has close ties to the Conservative Party. Its executive director is Jonathan Aitken – a former Cabinet Minister and Conservative MP for 23 years. His political career ended when he pleaded guilty to charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and he served 18 months in prison, during which he rediscovered his Christian faith. He went on to become ordained in the Church of England. 

Despite the fact that he is no longer officially involved in politics, the Conservative Party has provided Aitken with parliamentary access.

In September 2020, it was revealed that he had held a parliamentary pass continuously since at least December 2015, awarded to him by then-Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow – despite former MPs who had received a prison sentence for a year or more being ineligible. More recently, Aitken has spoken out in the wake of Conservative Party corruption revelations to say that there are “too many rules” for MPs and that people probably have to just “trust MPs”.

In 2019, Aitken’s charity launched the Trinity Forum Whitehall. Since then, it has held two events with the Government at Admiralty House involving senior civil servants.

Neither Jonathan Aitken nor Trinity Forum Europe responded to Byline Times‘ requests for comment. Instead, the charity’s website was suddenly taken down.

‘The Academic KKK’

The Trinity Forum Europe event listing for Charles Murray’s talk described him as “one of the most accomplished social scientists alive today” and “the author of numerous important and penetrating diagnoses of contemporary America” – including mentioning The Bell Curve, which Murray co-authored with Richard Herrnstein. 

According to an academic at Cambridge University who spoke to Byline Times on condition of anonymity, Trinity Forum Europe events are regularly advertised to staff and students at the university. 

“Charles Murray is basically the academic KKK,” said the scholar.

According to the Washington DC-based Southern Poverty Law Centre – the leading civil rights law firm that tracks extremist groups in America – Charles Murray is a white nationalist extremist who uses “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor”.

His book The Bell Curve was widely critiqued by geneticists, biologists and other experts for being “scientifically flawed” at the time of its publication and ever since

In May 2020, The Bell Curve was noticed in photographs of Michael Gove’s bookshelf released by his wife Sarah Vine. Just three months earlier, Boris Johnson aide Andrew Sabisky had resigned over revelations that he was a vocal supporter of scientific racism after his past statements about race and IQ came under public scrutiny.

Gove, who is currently Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, refused to comment at the time, and did not respond to questions from this newspaper about whether he agrees or disagrees with Charles Murray’s claims.

Murray’s pseudoscience argues that black people, women, the poor and Latinos are overall genetically inferior – and that the rise in their birth rate therefore explains the rise in inequality between racial groups.

One passage in the book reads: “The professional consensus is that the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists).”

‘Dysgenics’ refers to the study of how defective or disadvantaged traits emerge in a population or species due to a changing gene pool. The book continues: “Women of all races and ethnic groups follow this pattern in similar fashion. There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.”

An Ideology Borne of Nazism

The Southern Poverty Law Centre points out that 13 scholars on which The Bell Curve relies to substantiate its claims received funding from the Pioneer Fund. In fact, nearly all of the research cited in the book for its central claims about race and IQ were funded by this group. 

The Pioneer Fund is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which highlights how the organisation was founded by Nazi sympathisers with the purpose of promoting “racial betterment” and was originally set up to promote the “repatriation” of black Americans to Africa. 

Writing in the American Behavioural Scientist journal, Hampton University sociology professor Steven J Rosenthal described it as a “Nazi endowment specialising in production of justifications for eugenics since 1937”.

The Pioneer Fund’s relationship with Nazism is not trivial, but fundamental.

Henry Laughlin, who served as its president from its founding until 1941, opposed efforts to allow Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany entry into the US. He had testified in Congress that 83% of Jewish immigrants from eastern and southern Europe are feeble-minded and once claimed that the US and the Third Reich “shared a common understanding of… the practical application” of eugenic principles to “racial endowments and… racial health”.

Throughout the 1930s, Laughlin published articles in Eugenical News promoting Nazism and approving its antisemitic laws. In The Bell Curve, Murray praises Laughlin as “a biologist who was especially concerned about keeping up the American level of intelligence by suitable immigration policies”.

Wickliffe Preston Draper – the Pioneer Fund’s main founder who served on its board of directors until 1972 – had been inspired by a 1935 visit to Nazi Germany. Ironically, he learned that the Third Reich’s leading eugenicists were writing the racist and antisemitic Nuremberg Laws on the basis of inspiration from the American eugenics movement.

One of the organisations the Pioneer Fund bankrolls is the Ulster Institute for Social Research. A former founding board member of its journal – Mankind Quarterly – is Otmar von Verschuer.

During Germany’s Nazi regime, Verschuer was director of the Institute for Genetic Biology and Racial Hygiene until 1942, when he became the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin. Verschuer taught and mentored Josef Mengele – the notorious Nazi SS officer known as the ‘Angel of Death’ for performing medical experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz death camps.  

Today, the Pioneer Fund’s main grantee is the white supremacist think tank, American Renaissance, which hosts neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan activists.

Influencing the Government

Sources at Cambridge University confirmed that the event’s main coordinator was Dr James Orr – a lecturer in philosophy of religion at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Divinity. 

Dr Orr and Cambridge University did not respond to Byline Times‘ multiple requests for comment.

Dr Orr is the convener director of Trinity Forum Europe. He also sits on the board of advisors at the Free Speech Union – the organisation founded and directed by Toby Young. Byline Times has previously revealed how Young has publicly defended scientific racism funded by the Pioneer Fund. 


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In July, Dr Orr was appointed by the Government to join the Ministry of Justice’s advisory assessment panel to select a new chair for the National Mental Capacity Forum, which will feed into Government reforms of how the Mental Capacity Act is implemented.

One of the top issues for reform are racial disparities in the implementation of the Act, as black people are more than four times more likely than white people to be detained, and more than 10 times more likely to be discharged under a community treatment order requiring conditions on their lives. Critics of the Government’s proposals say that they fail to address systemic racism and therefore will simply change the forms of discrimination rather than reduce it. 

Dr Orr is also an advisor to Conservative MP Danny Kruger, who sits on the advisory board of Kruger’s New Social Covenant Unit – set up to promote the ideas in his influential 2020 ‘levelling up’ report commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Orr’s colleague, Professor Nigel Biggar, a theologian at Oxford University who chairs Toby Young’s FSU, is also an advisor to Kruger’s project.

In May, under Dr Orr’s direction, Trinity Forum Europe hosted Danny Kruger – widely recognised as a close ally of Johnson – to discuss the levelling up agenda. Danny Kruger and the Conservative Party did not respond to Byline Times‘ requests for comment.

The hosting of a white nationalist extremist at top British universities by a charity with close ties to both the Conservative Party and the Government raises urgent questions. 

It reveals how some calls for ‘free speech’ on campus are legitimising toxic ideologies that can be traced back directly to the Nazi Holocaust and pre-war anti-black racism. It also shows how Government ‘reform’ agendas around mental health and levelling up are vulnerable to being influenced by individuals who are actively mainstreaming scientific racism. 

The Ministry of Justice, Cabinet Office, and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities were contacted for comment.

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