This is a far too gentle review of a book that should be ripped apart for
its biological determinism and implicit scientific racism. --PG
* Blueprint by Robert Plomin: latest intelligence genetics book could be a
gift for far-right *
November 5, 2018 8.28am EST

   1. Eric Joyce <>

   Doctoral Candidate in Education, University of Bath

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In the prologue of his new book Blueprint
psychologist Robert Plomin explains that he has been waiting 30 years to
write this. In part, he says, his “cowardice” in the face of the personally
and professionally “dangerous” nature of his work on genetics put him off
until now.

The book’s central theme is laid out from the very start. DNA can “tell
your fortune from the moment of your birth, it is completely reliable and
unbiased”. Plomin then takes the reader through his scientific research
into twins and the human genome, and argues that genetics bring huge
implications for parents and public policy alike.

DNA is the major systemic force, the blueprint, that makes us who we are.
The implications for our lives – for parenting, education and society – are

On the science, Plomin has previously expressed his support for Richard
Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s racial premises in their notorious 1994
book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life
The Bell Curve is highly controversial because it claims black Americans
are on average significantly less intelligent than white – and suggests
that genetics plays a major role in this.

Plomin was a leading signatory of The Mainstream Science on Intelligence
<>, a statement
issued by a group of academic researchers in support of The Bell Curve’s
racial “science” and originally published in the Wall Street Journal in
December 1994. Below is an extract:

The bell curve for whites is centred roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve
for American blacks roughly around 85 … Heritability estimates range from
0.4 to 0.8 … indicating genetics plays a bigger role than environment in
creating IQ differences.

This is a view about genetics, race and intelligence Plomin has not
expressly disavowed
And based upon this “scientific” view of race, Herrnstein and Murray make
specific policy proposals in their book, such as a radically reduced
welfare state and the end of affirmative action.

Plomin, on the other hand, does not mention race at all in Blueprint – as
with his recent book which looked at the role of genetics in education G is
for Genes
This seems an extraordinary omission given the explosive implications of a
scientific theory underpinned by an assumption of racial difference in

Plomin also insists in Blueprint that “no specific policy implications
follow from finding that inherited DNA differences are by far the most
important source of individual differences”. But policy at present is based
entirely upon environmental factors, like social need or the type of school
a child attends. A shift to allocating public resources according to
people’s DNA would have the most profound policy implications imaginable.
Personalising education

Indeed, in G is for genes, Plomin and co-author Kathryn Asbury argue that a
child’s education should be “personalised” through the use of preschool DNA
testing and followed by regular IQ testing. In Blueprint, Plomin explains
that “if all you know about people is their DNA, you can indeed predict
their school achievement”.

But if Plomin’s science as laid out in the statements he has made –
including his support for the one published in the Wall Street Journal – is
correct, education led by DNA and IQ testing would surely be racialised.
This would mean most black children would receive a “personalised”
education aimed at learners of below average intelligence – who can be
expected to make only modest academic achievements due to their genes. This
in itself seems worthy of mention in a book which has taken 30 years to

* Read more: The IQ test wars: why screening for intelligence is still so

David Gillborn, a professor of critical race studies as Birmingham
University, noted
that in a 2015 BBC interview <>,
Plomin himself described his approach to the racial implications of his
work as “softly, softly”. This was because, he said, reporting on his views
on racial difference “is a distraction to my research”.

In Blueprint, Plomin’s account of his renowned longitudinal study
of twins – since he arrived in the UK from the US in 1994 – is fascinating.
His account of Genome Wide Association Studies (GWASs)
based on vast data banks, and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms
<> – tiny snippets of
genetic information which together create our human traits – is gripping.

Yet in the end with Blueprint, there exists a risk that readers end up
impressed by Plomin’s account of his science without being aware of the racial
and social implications of his theory
<>. And
in the context of a resurgent right wing across the world looking for
“scientific” reasons to elevate race in public policy
this seems profoundly irresponsible.

Maybe Plomin thought this was the right way to tackle the more difficult
history associated with his work. But scientific racism
has never gone away. And ultimately, by avoiding the issue, his latest book
could well attract unwanted attention from the wrong type of readers.

*Robert Plomin was approached and declined to comment.*