An urgent investigation has been launched by University College London into a senior academic who secretly hosted conferences on eugenics and intelligence for at least three years. The conference may be a breach of the Prevent guidelines issued by the government on campus extremism.
Dr James Thompson, an honorary senior lecturer at the university and member of the university’s Psychology department, has now been prevented from hosting further speakers.
Previous speakers at the London Conference on Intelligence include researcher and blogger Emil Kirkegaard who has supported paedophiles being allowed to have “sex with a sleeping child”, and psychologist and author Richard Lynn who has been labelled an “unapologetic eugenicist” by US research group Southern Poverty Law Center.
UCL said it was not aware of the conference which was an invitation-only group of 24 attendees. The university has said that whilst it is “committed to free speech”, it is also committed to combatting “racism and sexism in all forms.”
A spokesperson for the university has said: “Our records indicate the university was not informed in advance about the speakers and content of the conference series, as it should have been for the event to be allowed to go ahead.
“We have suspended approval for any further conferences of this nature by the honorary lecturer and speakers pending our investigation into the case.
“As part of that investigation, we will be speaking to the honorary lecturer and seeking an explanation.”
Thompson denies that the event promoted eugenics, instead saying “eugenics is one topic, but many topics are discussed.”
Thompson has written on the “intelligence differences” between children of various ethnicities. In a blog published last October, Thompson said: “Somewhere between 3 and 4 years of age, tests detect racial differences in intelligence between black and white children. By 7 years of life, the differences are stark.”
He has defended these comments on child intelligence: “I stand by it until people show me I’ve made an error.”
In response to Thompson’s ideas, scientific writer and broadcaster Adam Rutherford has said: “Human variation is, of course, real. But the proportion of genetic difference that is reflected in the characteristics that we can see is minuscule.
“What that means is that evolution is deceptive in this regard: we broadly use skin colour and hair texture – visual cues to class people into races but they are terrible reflections of overall genetic difference.
“In fact, there is more genetic diversity within Africa than in the rest of the world. Two black Africans are more likely to be more different to each other than they are to a white person or even an east Asian.”
Toby Young, journalist and advocate of free schools, attended the conference last May. Mr Young was recently embroiled in controversy after he was appointed to the board of newly established university regulator, the Office for Students. Mr Young subsequently resigned from the position after past comments he made about women’s breasts and “progressive eugenics” were discovered.
At a similar conference in Canada last year, Young described the lengths Thompson went to in order to keep the conference a secret.
“Attendees were only told the venue at the last minute, an anonymous ante-chamber at the end of a long corridor, called ‘lecture room 22’, and asked not to share this information with anyone else.
“One of the attendees, on discovering I was a journalist, pleaded with me not to write about the fact that he was there.”
“But these precautions were not unreasonable, considering the reaction that any references to between-group differences in IQ generally provoke.”
Oxford University Labour Club co-chairs Lizzy Diggins and Keir Mather provided a joint statement to the Oxford Student on Young’s resignation from the OfS board: “While we welcome the resignation of Toby Young, this is a short-term victory. It has distracted from a fight against the OfS itself, which has been established to further a dangerous Tory Higher Education agenda, an agenda that was not designed in the interests of students, staff or academics at our universities.”