A century ago, the Dillingham Commission was charged with investigating the societal impact of immigration, particularly from Eastern and Southern Europe. The Congressional panel duly churned out a 41-volume report that, for all its regal language and intricate graphs, contains some of the vilest pseudoscientific drivel ever committed to print. Of particular interest to Microkhan is Volume 38, a 580-page behemoth entitled Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants. The report’s author, the well-known anthropologist Franz Boas, argues that certain European races possess unusually broad faces and short heads, which were then thought to be indicators of low intelligence and criminal tendencies. But Boas assures us that, after a generation or two in America, these races can become more, uh, “normal”:
The head form may conveniently be expressed by a number indicating the transversal diameter (or width of the head) in per cents of the diameter measured from forehead to the back of the head (or the length of the head). When the head is elongated (that is, narrow when seen from the front, and long when seen in profile), this number will be low; when it is rounded (that is, wide when seen from the front, and short when seen in profile), this number will be high. The width of the head expressed in percents of the length of teh head is about 78 per cent among Sicilians born in Sicily and about 83 per cent among Hebrews born in eastern Europe. Among Scilians born in America this number rises to more than 80 per cent, while among east European Hebrew born in America it sinks to 81 per cent.
This fact is one of the most suggestive discovered in the investigation, because is shows that not even those characteristics of a race which have proved to the be the most permanent in their old home remain the same under the new surroundings; and we are copelled to conclude that when these features of the body change, the whole bodily and mental make-up of the immigrants may change.
This drivel would be much more entertaining if it hadn’t had such serious policy consequences, including the eventual prohibition of all Asian immigration to the U.S.
When Microkhan comes across pseudoscientific relics of this nature, one question pops to mind: A hundred years hence, which of today’s most cherished scientific “facts” will be regarded as laughably backwards and misguided?