The first of The Hex Tapes.Our latest project.


In 1846 the United States went to war with Mexico. An unlikely truce between the Americans and the Apache tribe, whose land was the quickest way to get to New Mexico, was soon put into place. The Apache were not too fond of the Mexicans after Mexico had put a bounty on their scalps around 1835. Groups of Apache natives started mounting raids on Mexican settlements. In retaliation for being hunted they would destroy the local mining villages and kill everyone who lived there. One of these groups of raiders was called the Coppermine Mimbreños and was led by Mangas Coloradas, a.k.a La-choy Ko-kun-noste (Red Sleeve) or Dasoda-hae (He Just Sits There). Mangas had led the Mimbreños (Tchihende) tribe for about 25 years as well as pulling successful and brutal raids against the Mexicans. Their land was west of the Rio Grande and included most of New Mexico. So when the U.S needed troops and safe passage through their land, Mangas and the rest of the Apache was there to fight and to escort them to Mexican territories. In 1846 when the U.S occupied New Mexico he signed a peace treaty which lasted for a little while, until gold miners began to destroy New Mexico’s Pinos Altos Mountains. In December of 1860 some of those miners attacked an encampment of Bedonkohe natives. After that, Mangas began attacking American settlements. After an incident known as the Bascom Affair where American military killed 6 tribesmen in Arizona, Mangas made an agreement with his daughter’s husband to drive all whites out of Apache territory. In January of 1863 Mangas decided to meet with military leaders at Fort McLane in New Mexico to discuss peace. He was arrested while under a flag of truce by Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West, saying: “Men, that old murderer has got away from every soldier command and has left a trail of blood for 500 miles on the old stage line. I want him dead tomorrow morning. Do you understand? I want him dead.” That night Mangas was tortured, shot and killed after he attempted to “escape”, he was tied down and the military men were poking him with red hot pokers to get him to run. Because Mangas was a big man, 6'6’’, the soldiers kept his skull and sent it to a phrenologist who sketched it for his book. After it was said to have been sent to the Smithsonian but has since been lost. Mangas never got a proper death ceremony as his skull has sadly never resurfaced. Pictured above: Mangas Coloradas, a map of his territory during his final years, a depiction of the Bascom Affair, the Pinos Altos Mountain in New Mexico, Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West the man who ordered Mangas’ death, and lastly the depiction of his skull from the 1873 book “Human Science” p. 1196 by Orson Squire Fowler.

The Phrenologist (1874). Lucius Rossi (Italian, 1846-1913). Oil on panel.

George Combe created a system of philosophy of the human mind that became popular because of its simplified principles and wide range of social applications that were in harmony with the liberal Victorian world view. Combe’s book On the Constitution of Man and its Relationship to External Objects sold over 200,000 copies.

This is Zeno, a juggler and equilibrist who travelled Australia with various music hall artists in the early 1900s, usually doing a double act with comedian Bob Hall. He balanced a lit lamp, and various other breakable things on the top of a billiards cue. I don’t know his real name despite much searchery, which is driving me crazy, but I know he wasn’t the same man as his contemporary Professor Carl Zeno, the charlatan bookie’s wife-stealing palmist, strongman, phrenologist, clairvoyant nudey-rudey stereoscopic peep-show proprietor (for a penny) and ju jitsu instructor who advertised variously from digs in Sydney, Melbourne, aaaall over Tasmania and New Zealand. They are minor characters in the novel I am writing, presently, while I’m down in this mental rabbit hole. It is possible that ‘mental rabbit hole’ does not make any sense. And searchery may not be an actual word. Just keep that all to yourself, thank you.

Picture from a cutting in a fan scrapbook held at the State Library of Victoria.
In a sense, demographic data were to twentieth-century racists what craniometric data had been to race scientists during the nineteenth. Like the phrenologists who preceded them, the eugenicists worked backward from classifications they defined a priori and declared a causal relationship between the data and race. Instead of measuring skulls, they counted inmates in state institutions. If statistics showed that immigrants were less healthy, less educated, and poorer than native-born Americans, that was deemed evidence of the immigrants’ inferior physical constitution, intelligence, and ambition.

Mae M. Ngai

They’re still doing exactly this

Love of Shopping is Not a Gene: exposing junk science and ideology in Darwinian Psychology

Anne Innis Dagg’s “Love of Shopping” is Not a Gene is a scathing, entertaining and extremely accessible geneticist’s critique of “Darwinian Psychology” – that is, the “science” of ascribing human behavior to genetic inevitability. Dagg, a biologist/geneticist at the University of Waterloo, identifies Darwinian Psychology as a nexus of ideological pseudoscience cooked to justify political agendas about the inevitability of social inequality, especially racial and sexual inequality.

One after another, Dagg examines the cherished shibboleths of Darwinian Psychology, examining the research offered in support of such statements as “Rape is genetic” or “Black people are genetically destined to have lower IQ scores than white people” and demolishes each statement by subjecting it to scientific rigor, including an examination of all the contradictory evidence ignored by proponents.

Dagg opens the book with what seems to be an issue of personal affront: the story that “many” animals practice infanticide as a means of eliminating the genetic competition. This claim originates in part with Craig Packer, who seemingly lost his head when Dagg dared to point out that the overall data suggested that lionesses, not lions, were apt to kill cubs, and not cubs born to other lionesses, but their own progeny, to give the remaining offspring a better chance of survival. When Packer was sent a paper to review, he sent Dagg a threatening note promising to go public with a “harsh” characterization of her as a “fringe scientist” with a “bizarre obsession.” Meanwhile, Dagg’s investigation of the references cited in support of infanticide among other animals, especially primates, finds them to be just as specious as the claims of infanticide among lions.

Dagg uses this incident as a springboard to consider the ideological baggage that accompanies claims from Darwinian Psychology: claims about the inevitability of war, the natural subservience of women, the ordained inferiority of visible minorities, and concludes that challenges to Darwinian Psychology are met with such virulence because DP’s claims offer comforting, ethical absolution for greed and violence. Undermining this comfort is a dangerous business.

For example, take the claims about the “natural” emergence of male-dominated hierarchies in other primates: at first, baboons were held to be the poster primates for the inevitability of bosses (especially male bosses). Chimps – much closer to humans – were ignored, because the research at the time suggested that chimps didn’t organize in hierarchical structures. Then, as baboons were shown to have a largely matriarchal structure, they were abandoned in favor of chimps, just lately “discovered” to have a male-dominated hierarchical system. Likewise sheep – where the intimidating ram is ignored in favor of the oldest ewe, not to mention the matriarchal lions.

Dagg moves through genetic pseudo-science for inherent “criminality” and the shameful history of this kind of “scientific policing” and then on to the claims for a “rape gene.” Here is where Dagg’s genetics background allows her to make mincemeat of the Darwinian Psych crowd (whose number includes few actual geneticists): in a discussion of how the mechanics of a “rape gene” would work – that is, the mechanism by which such a gene could be passed on to sons – Dagg shows the general nonsensical nature of this sort of claim.

Dagg also does a good job with the IQ-and-race crowd, first by demolishing their research methodologies (using non-normed IQ tests against varying populations from varying backgrounds) and then by showing that their flawed hypotheses about cranial capacity’s relationship to intelligence is not borne out by evidence, as many “brilliant” men’s brains have been found to be of sub-normal weight after death, and showing that environmental factors produce much wider differences in IQ than does cranial capacity. (She also describes just how bad the cranial capacity data cited in support of this hypothesis is, dating back a century to phrenologists and racist doctors, ignoring modern, comprehensive studies that show no appreciable “racial” difference in cranial capacity).

The book goes on in this vein for 200-some very entertaining pages. As a debunking of pseudo-science, this is very masterful; but it is even better as a piece of social criticism, a look at exactly why Darwinian Psychology has found such a receptive audience among ideologues, particularly from the right. Anne Dagg was my advisor during my brief tenure as a student in Waterloo’s Independent Studies program, and oversaw my work on genetic algorithms. She is now my colleague (I’m a “Scholar in Virtual Residence” at IS) and I was delighted to get a signed copy of Love of Shopping from her the last time I dropped in on the department.

“Love of Shopping” is Not a Gene: Problems With Darwinian Psychology